Does luck explain German military successes up to end of 1941 ?

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,312
Technically speaking, if Hitler gets assassinated, this doesn't necessarily mean that Germany is going to fail to defeat France in 1940; it simply means that Hitler won't be around to see this if this still occurs.



Yep.



Yep. Also, the Allies foolishly break the Stresa Front as a result of Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia.



Was it in their capacity to actually do much? Still, it would have been nice to be up-front about this with the Poles before the war.



What's a better defense strategy?



Yep. Blame Woodrow Wilson for that for refusing to compromise with the Republicans in the US Senate--many of whom were actually willing to agree to a post-WWI treaty of alliance with Britain and France but opposed Wilson's quixotic fight for US entry into the League of Nations without any meaningful reservations (even though the former was much more important than the latter was).



The French couldn't have prevented the rest of metropolitan France from falling to the Nazis after the Nazis had already conquered Paris, though.



Yep.



Well, in regards to the USSR, Germany was probably helped by having Stalin come to power there after Lenin's death. Someone else might not have purged the Red Army officer corps so extensively in the late 1930s.
1. If Hitler gets offed, there may be no offensive at all, or at minimum the Manstein plan may not be implemented

4. Sending at least a couple of brigades (if not divisions) and some air units as soon as the agreement was signed would have given a stronger message to Germany that there would be war if they attacked....

5. Yes... The poles could defend behind their river lines .... The allies could have defense in depth..... the soviets could basically give up 400 or 500 km depth and defend behind the Dniepr to lake Peipus line....

7. This was not the first time in history that Paris had "fallen" (it had been declared an open city).... there were still plenty of defensible lines further south... Failing that there were the colonies
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,365
Does luck explain German success until 1941? They were fortunate in some respects, especially at the very beginning, when they were vulnerable in the west until Poland fell. Most of their success can be put down to daring moves, both military and political, whilst the opposing forces tended to be lacklustre. Certainly the French and British both suffered to a degree from 'Victory Disease' from the result of WW1. So no, luck does not explain it, although in such events luck is always a factor.

However, the factors that had brought success in the first few years would sap the chances of victories later. Germany also fell victim to some degree of their own victory disease, caught up in National Socialist fervour and the glory of those early blitzkriegs. You can see it the newsreels of the time. Ordinary people going crazy as Hitler addresses them, or civilians saluting him as he journeys past. There were reasons to be wary. Over extension of conquest, failing to complete the victory in the west, not seeing the true threat of American support, failure to supply forces with the equipment they most needed and often using a vast array of updated and captured weaponry adding to a monstrous logistics issue, reliance on external resources, and failing to create high production or capitalist support for industry (it was considered a jewish thing).

Turning on Russia that soon blew it for them. Hitler should have stuck to his original plan of 1944. As for Plan Z, the conquest of America, that was not going to happen until the eighties, or possibly the seventies at the earliest (Hitler said that), and the huge forces specified could only have been possible after a generation or two in armament expansion
 
Jan 2013
1,122
Toronto, Canada
high risk = low probability of successs.....

so if success (and serial success at that) ergo luck
High risk can mean a low probability of success or it can mean severe consequences if the event of failure.

No one was surprised that the United States remained neutral. The risk came from the potential consequences rather than the odds.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
23,762
SoCal
1. If Hitler gets offed, there may be no offensive at all, or at minimum the Manstein plan may not be implemented
Possibly, but please keep in mind that Nazi Germany didn't really have any good options in 1939-1940. If Nazi Germany is going to do nothing, then Britain and France will simply continue to rearm and eventually invade Germany once they're ready. Making peace with Britain and France might have only worked if Nazi Germany would have actually agreed to withdraw from all of Poland and possibly from Danzig as well. Time was not on Nazi Germany's side--hence the incentive to act quickly and to launch a strategy that, while being perceived as being extremely risky, at least had the potential of a huge payoff.

4. Sending at least a couple of brigades (if not divisions) and some air units as soon as the agreement was signed would have given a stronger message to Germany that there would be war if they attacked....
Agreed.

5. Yes... The poles could defend behind their river lines .... The allies could have defense in depth..... the soviets could basically give up 400 or 500 km depth and defend behind the Dniepr to lake Peipus line....
Agreed and makes sense.

7. This was not the first time in history that Paris had "fallen" (it had been declared an open city).... there were still plenty of defensible lines further south... Failing that there were the colonies
When else did the French end up winning a war after Paris fell?
 
Nov 2018
212
Wales
In WW2, it should be noted that up to and including 1942, the Germans had the best army in the world, period. This was due to the following:

After the Versailles Treaty, the Heer was limited to a mere hundred thousand souls, and of course they kept the best. This created a core of experts that studied the potential defense of Germany from their historical enemies - France, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Poland and the Austro-Hungarians. Historically, it was always possible to be engaged in a war with one opponent, when another could take advantage of the conflict, and attack from the rear. Therefore, German armies always needed quick decisive victories, and planned for such. This was always true, centuries before 'Blitzkrieg'.

The Germans studied military problems in far greater depth between the wars, and quickly understood that a mobile army would need to be motorized and wheeled, or at least the shock elements had to be. They also realised the necessity of radios, and other important elements of 3C, to join up different units, and that the Luftwaffe could have 'divisions' within a Corps, adding a 3rd dimension to any attack.

When Hitler came to power, the military suddenly got both finance and ample recruits to create a formidable army. Then they got around 3 years of being able to invade other peoples countries without actually fighting. This is important, because a German officer in 39-41 can actually concentrate on the combat, because other essential tasks are already second nature to them. This was not true of any of their opponents.

So with both theoretical and practical expertise amongst the officers, enthusiastic soldiers and prioritized funding from the government, it is no wonder that the Heer was as formidable as it was. At first, both the East and West tried to emulate the Heer but failed. Instead they had to learn to play to their own strengths instead, which only really started to happen late 42 onwards.
 
Apr 2014
416
Istanbul Turkey
In WW2, it should be noted that up to and including 1942, the Germans had the best army in the world, period. This was due to the following:

After the Versailles Treaty, the Heer was limited to a mere hundred thousand souls, and of course they kept the best. This created a core of experts that studied the potential defense of Germany from their historical enemies - France, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Poland and the Austro-Hungarians. Historically, it was always possible to be engaged in a war with one opponent, when another could take advantage of the conflict, and attack from the rear. Therefore, German armies always needed quick decisive victories, and planned for such. This was always true, centuries before 'Blitzkrieg'.

The Germans studied military problems in far greater depth between the wars, and quickly understood that a mobile army would need to be motorized and wheeled, or at least the shock elements had to be. They also realised the necessity of radios, and other important elements of 3C, to join up different units, and that the Luftwaffe could have 'divisions' within a Corps, adding a 3rd dimension to any attack.

When Hitler came to power, the military suddenly got both finance and ample recruits to create a formidable army. Then they got around 3 years of being able to invade other peoples countries without actually fighting. This is important, because a German officer in 39-41 can actually concentrate on the combat, because other essential tasks are already second nature to them. This was not true of any of their opponents.

So with both theoretical and practical expertise amongst the officers, enthusiastic soldiers and prioritized funding from the government, it is no wonder that the Heer was as formidable as it was. At first, both the East and West tried to emulate the Heer but failed. Instead they had to learn to play to their own strengths instead, which only really started to happen late 42 onwards.
This was the best explanation and summary of German military operation effectiveness and performance I have ever read. In total , in concept of operational methods and effectiveness , they studied and prepared a lot more than their rivals before World War I and inter war years. They focused on short quick and decisevely victorious campaign concept.
 
Nov 2018
212
Wales
This was the best explanation and summary of German military operation effectiveness and performance I have ever read. In total , in concept of operational methods and effectiveness , they studied and prepared a lot more than their rivals before World War I and inter war years. They focused on short quick and decisevely victorious campaign concept.
Thank you.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,312
In WW2, it should be noted that up to and including 1942, the Germans had the best army in the world, period. This was due to the following:

After the Versailles Treaty, the Heer was limited to a mere hundred thousand souls, and of course they kept the best. This created a core of experts that studied the potential defense of Germany from their historical enemies - France, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Poland and the Austro-Hungarians. Historically, it was always possible to be engaged in a war with one opponent, when another could take advantage of the conflict, and attack from the rear. Therefore, German armies always needed quick decisive victories, and planned for such. This was always true, centuries before 'Blitzkrieg'.

The Germans studied military problems in far greater depth between the wars, and quickly understood that a mobile army would need to be motorized and wheeled, or at least the shock elements had to be. They also realised the necessity of radios, and other important elements of 3C, to join up different units, and that the Luftwaffe could have 'divisions' within a Corps, adding a 3rd dimension to any attack.

When Hitler came to power, the military suddenly got both finance and ample recruits to create a formidable army. Then they got around 3 years of being able to invade other peoples countries without actually fighting. This is important, because a German officer in 39-41 can actually concentrate on the combat, because other essential tasks are already second nature to them. This was not true of any of their opponents.

So with both theoretical and practical expertise amongst the officers, enthusiastic soldiers and prioritized funding from the government, it is no wonder that the Heer was as formidable as it was. At first, both the East and West tried to emulate the Heer but failed. Instead they had to learn to play to their own strengths instead, which only really started to happen late 42 onwards.
I suggest this book



In particular the germans may have had some good tactics, and were good at limited operations.... But their tactics did not always work (one problem was the obsession with counterattack)... At the strategic level they were appalling...

The short war concept was also due quite a bit to their limited resources (chiefly Oil).... But what would happen if the ennemy refused to give up ? The germans did not really have an answer....

Early German successes, were mostly against small countries with token militaries.. The one exception was France, a "battlefield" that Germany had been familiar with for the past 70 years (note that they won the 1870 war without radios, planes or tanks with LESS casualties than in 1940) or more if you count the 1814-1815 campaigns... Even in 1914, success was close and perhaps would have been had if not for the russians moving into Prussia and a few german operational mistakes..... With the 1870 war in mind , the success against France in 1940 becomes less "exceptional"

Then early success against the USSR can mostly be traced back to the inadequate forward defense used by the soviets, the soviet bet that the germans would not attack in 1941 and Stalin's military incompetence... Still german casualties were quite heavy and unsustainable....
 
Sep 2013
462
France
Point 5... no it was not... There was no depth and no serious forces to counterattack ennemy breakthroughs.... Worse, the allies did nothing for about 9 months until the germans attacked......

7.... Neither Spain nor the USSR were on the axis side.... On the other side Britain + Canada + SA + ANZAC were on the french side... And the US was at the very least sympathetic to the allied cause..... Not even the most optimistic german plans were counting on France to surrender in 6 weeks....
Point 5: I was talking about the overall strategy. We cannot invade (too few, and our allies do not want to commit lot of troops on the continent), and we do not want a blood bath as was WWI. So we fight on a small front (Belgium) and rely on heavy fortifications on the east. On the other hand, German should have difficiulties to supply its loss, thanks to USSR neutrality (which was not the case, but which was hardly an evidence in the 20-30's). If you want a back-up force to counter attack, you have to take it from somewhere. With more troops near Sedan, german ofensive could have failed, it's true, but those panzer divisions were really fast and the allies were always too slow.

7... you have to understand the geo political view of France after the battle of France. Our few allies (UK + Canada + ANZAC if you want) commited how many troops on the front? For what effectiveness? To France HQ and overall perception, it was 0. The geo political situation of Europe was as following: USSR was more or less allied with Germany, France was surrounded with pro facists regimes, US president said that the US would not go to war this time, the tiny UK army had fled away. Those are the pure facts you have, in 1940, to make a decision. For lot of french generals, the deal was to let the storm pass, making an acceptable armistice, and for some of them (as Giraud did) keeping in reserve the possibility to strike back when an other army could have been raised.
 
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Nov 2018
212
Wales
I suggest this book



In particular the germans may have had some good tactics, and were good at limited operations.... But their tactics did not always work (one problem was the obsession with counterattack)... At the strategic level they were appalling...

The short war concept was also due quite a bit to their limited resources (chiefly Oil).... But what would happen if the ennemy refused to give up ? The germans did not really have an answer....

Early German successes, were mostly against small countries with token militaries.. The one exception was France, a "battlefield" that Germany had been familiar with for the past 70 years (note that they won the 1870 war without radios, planes or tanks with LESS casualties than in 1940) or more if you count the 1814-1815 campaigns... Even in 1914, success was close and perhaps would have been had if not for the russians moving into Prussia and a few german operational mistakes..... With the 1870 war in mind , the success against France in 1940 becomes less "exceptional"

Then early success against the USSR can mostly be traced back to the inadequate forward defense used by the soviets, the soviet bet that the germans would not attack in 1941 and Stalin's military incompetence... Still german casualties were quite heavy and unsustainable....
That book has very poor reviews.