Hitler's military mistakes

Jul 2016
9,317
USA
Beg to disagree, holding North Africa secured all Southern Europe from assault (south France, Italy and Greece).
The other fact is that we are talking about a two year period between the arrival of the first Germans - March 1941 - and the defeat in Tunisia - May 1943.
This makes no sense. First, holding North Africa didn't even stop an amphibious assault of North Africa, let alone anywhere else. And nobody besides Churchill was even foolish enough to want to get involved in Mediterranean operations. And holding Southern France, Italy, and Greece wasn't a concern of Germany in '41, the Soviet Union was.

Second, Germany never held North Africa, they didn't even really try. Their early expeditionary force, the DAK, was simply to help the Italians in Libya who were being embarrassed by the British. Rommel massively expanded the conflict far beyond his mandate and orders, using success as an encouragement to chase the British further east to the point he even got Hitler on board (though not Halder or the OKW , who were not happy trying to supply Rommel's constant requests for more of everything). They only strengthened their forces in North Africa when it became apparent it had become a major theater after Torch had happened (which the Wehrmacht could not prevent). After that to survive they needed to either immediately evacuate (and with it the appearance of weakness) or reinforce failure. They chose the latter.

Overall the ONLY REASON Germany was involved in North Africa had nothing to do with its strategic location and everything to do with saving an ally from humiliation, an ally Hitler wanted to help. Had Italian forces not had great difficulty against the British, not a single German soldier would have been deployed there.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,334
On Malta

My humble opinion is this: the axis could have taken it in either 41 or 42, however that would have required making it a priority and diverting resource from elsewhere

Malta is a mere 100 km from Sicily and a mere 300 sq Km (roughly 25 x 12 km).... Those measurements mean that no place on the island was safe from shore bombardement.

The axis would have had overwhelming numbers in the air (and yes the fighter squadons on Malta fought well but they would have been overwhelmed) and at sea PROVIDED the italian fleet was put to good use... The british would not have risked their own fleet so close to axis air (they tried in Crete that did not work out well).... This would have of course cost a lot of oil , but the italian fleet was strong enough even after Taranto to be a major problem for the defenders... Landing a combination of glider, paras, commandoes and amphibious troops was quite possible with such heavy air and naval support..... The british could expect no reinforcements (although part of the axis air would have to be on the look out for potential naval relief attempts).

In 1941 the garrison seems to have been about 16 000 men (roughly the equivalent of one strong division) , enough for perhaps a frontage of 20 km (here the defenders would be helped by their central position on one hand, but their daytime movements would be hampered by ennemy air and naval fire)

The axis of course would have some technical difficulties in coordinating such a complex attack (italian and german air, italian and german ground troops, paras, italian navy, italian transports, submarines etc...) but overall it should have been doable....All they needed was one beachhead and they were in business... As allied landings would later prove, it is next to impossible to reduce a beach head against an ennemy that has air superiority and strong naval bombardement support....

Kesselring was seriously thinking about it, but Rommel kept on "stealing" the resources that were needed for the operation... So a matter of priorities really.... Instead of going off on his Alamein wild goose chase Rommel could have regrouped around Tobruk and that would have been a good time window to do the Malta invasion....
 
Jul 2016
9,317
USA
On Malta

My humble opinion is this: the axis could have taken it in either 41 or 42, however that would have required making it a priority and diverting resource from elsewhere

Malta is a mere 100 km from Sicily and a mere 300 sq Km (roughly 25 x 12 km).... Those measurements mean that no place on the island was safe from shore bombardement.

The axis would have had overwhelming numbers in the air (and yes the fighter squadons on Malta fought well but they would have been overwhelmed) and at sea PROVIDED the italian fleet was put to good use... The british would not have risked their own fleet so close to axis air (they tried in Crete that did not work out well).... This would have of course cost a lot of oil , but the italian fleet was strong enough even after Taranto to be a major problem for the defenders... Landing a combination of glider, paras, commandoes and amphibious troops was quite possible with such heavy air and naval support..... The british could expect no reinforcements (although part of the axis air would have to be on the look out for potential naval relief attempts).

In 1941 the garrison seems to have been about 16 000 men (roughly the equivalent of one strong division) , enough for perhaps a frontage of 20 km (here the defenders would be helped by their central position on one hand, but their daytime movements would be hampered by ennemy air and naval fire)

The axis of course would have some technical difficulties in coordinating such a complex attack (italian and german air, italian and german ground troops, paras, italian navy, italian transports, submarines etc...) but overall it should have been doable....All they needed was one beachhead and they were in business... As allied landings would later prove, it is next to impossible to reduce a beach head against an ennemy that has air superiority and strong naval bombardement support....

Kesselring was seriously thinking about it, but Rommel kept on "stealing" the resources that were needed for the operation... So a matter of priorities really.... Instead of going off on his Alamein wild goose chase Rommel could have regrouped around Tobruk and that would have been a good time window to do the Malta invasion....
Rommel being responsible for Malta not happening is true. And just a byproduct of German military culture as a whole, going back hundreds of years. Officers routinely disregarded orders from the highest levels if it interfered with them doing something audacious, that was the entire point of Auftragstaktik doctrine, it gave subordinate commanders the independence to do what they wanted. Sounds great until someone tells someone to do something, they do something else, and they fail. Which happened nearly as commonly as when they succeeded. But it was only when it succeeded that reinforced the behavior, dating back to times when Electors, later kings and emperors even, would give strict orders to subordinates and have them flagrantly disregarded. The behavior was rewarded because Prussian military culture emphasized commander's independence (a hand me down of Junker culture), but it caused many problems. An instance is North Africa. Rommel got away with attacking into Egypt because he was successful and German culture always encouraged and reinforced success. So Hitler rewarded him because he was winning.

That is simply how the Germans fought. For more info, read Robert Citino's The German Way of War. A very great eye opener that explains German military mindset, and even shows that Hitler didn't actually micromanage any more than previous high commanders tried, he just had better tools to ensure his orders were carried out (radios and wire communication). In the age of speedier and more efficient communication, its much easier to micromanage (which numerous Prussian and German commanders had tried to do in the past), and much harder to disregard orders when they know they can get you on the phone, or in person within 24 hours using airplanes, instead of relying on slow hand held ambiguous messages and orders carried by junior staff officers.
 
This makes no sense. First, holding North Africa didn't even stop an amphibious assault of North Africa, let alone anywhere else. And nobody besides Churchill was even foolish enough to want to get involved in Mediterranean operations. And holding Southern France, Italy, and Greece wasn't a concern of Germany in '41, the Soviet Union was.

Second, Germany never held North Africa, they didn't even really try. Their early expeditionary force, the DAK, was simply to help the Italians in Libya who were being embarrassed by the British. Rommel massively expanded the conflict far beyond his mandate and orders, using success as an encouragement to chase the British further east to the point he even got Hitler on board (though not Halder or the OKW , who were not happy trying to supply Rommel's constant requests for more of everything). They only strengthened their forces in North Africa when it became apparent it had become a major theater after Torch had happened (which the Wehrmacht could not prevent). After that to survive they needed to either immediately evacuate (and with it the appearance of weakness) or reinforce failure. They chose the latter.

Overall the ONLY REASON Germany was involved in North Africa had nothing to do with its strategic location and everything to do with saving an ally from humiliation, an ally Hitler wanted to help. Had Italian forces not had great difficulty against the British, not a single German soldier would have been deployed there.
The Soviet Union was no concern to Germany, trading was on (the last hours before Barbarossa soviet trains were moving to Germany), it was Hitler’s mistake to waste 1,5 million men and thousands of tanks and planes that could be better used elsewhere.

Even in occupied France the communist party was not working with the resistance as the western countries, Churchill on top, were not the best of friends with the Russians.

A fact is that over 70% of the italian merchant fleet was sank from Maltese subs and planes, putting so much stress on the DAK and limiting the operations.

For me, turning east was the biggest mistake as it approached two natural enemies and opened a pandora box due the massive demands that the Eastern from required.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,334
Peak of axis possession in NA was Líbia up to El Alamein. The only concern should coastal Marrocos and the garrison the major cities in Algiers, Tuniisia, Líbia, Egypt up to Turkey. Besides the Atlas, from Algiers to Egipt the south is void, there is no safer defense then the Sahara, the only threats would come from LRDG sort of strikes as no major offensive is possible. The low density of the population was another good reason why defense was not as demanding.

The fact is that Libyan oil could have explored by the aixes and a push through the Middle East would be less costly then the Barbarossa. Germany had peace with Russian to moving to the east instead of the south proved wrong.
Just a few years later the French could not hold Algeria with half a million troops against the local poorly equipped insurgents...

The terrain in some parts of Algeria and Morocco is quite difficult, the infrastructure was weak (meaning troop movement would be slow) and the distances are great.... making those areas near impossible to defend especially given the very long coastline....

You are right that a southern campaing would be less costly for the axis, but the problem was there was nothing to be gained there ... and the distances were just huge.... Without a railroad and without sea superiority I just dont see how the axis were going to supply their troops either east or west of Libya...They already struggled to supply them in Libya proper........ A serious southern campaign would require Turkey to side with the axis and preferably Spain as well..... Then by closing both Gibraltar and Suez the med would be denied to allied navies...(and even then the allies could take Morocco and be back in the game)
This would however require quite a bit of time, time which the germans felt they did not have
 
Just a few years later the French could not hold Algeria with half a million troops against the local poorly equipped insurgents...

The terrain in some parts of Algeria and Morocco is quite difficult, the infrastructure was weak (meaning troop movement would be slow) and the distances are great.... making those areas near impossible to defend especially given the very long coastline....

You are right that a southern campaing would be less costly for the axis, but the problem was there was nothing to be gained there ... and the distances were just huge.... Without a railroad and without sea superiority I just dont see how the axis were going to supply their troops either east or west of Libya...They already struggled to supply them in Libya proper........ A serious southern campaign would require Turkey to side with the axis and preferably Spain as well..... Then by closing both Gibraltar and Suez the med would be denied to allied navies...(and even then the allies could take Morocco and be back in the game)
This would however require quite a bit of time, time which the germans felt they did not have
True about the time point, Hitler was too focused on short term strategy.

Regarding Algiers, once again you are right but in 1941 natives were not a threat to European countries. Fact is that with Malta in aixes hands movement to NA would be easy, Alexandria (one of the key bases for the RN) could also be denied and several opportunities could arise in a long term strategy (Libyan oil, Middle East offensive, etc etc).

Another fact is that maneuvering in Algiers and marocco is tough, after operation torch and before kesserine the allies made their first para drops and it was a nightmare to use those forces right. A good defense on the marocco coast could secure the southern flank and save a lot of resources from the aixes.

In the end we are discussing hypothesis, the notion of “mistake” is always a personal opinion :)
 
Jul 2016
9,317
USA
The Soviet Union was no concern to Germany, trading was on (the last hours before Barbarossa soviet trains were moving to Germany), it was Hitler’s mistake to waste 1,5 million men and thousands of tanks and planes that could be better used elsewhere.

Even in occupied France the communist party was not working with the resistance as the western countries, Churchill on top, were not the best of friends with the Russians.

A fact is that over 70% of the italian merchant fleet was sank from Maltese subs and planes, putting so much stress on the DAK and limiting the operations.

For me, turning east was the biggest mistake as it approached two natural enemies and opened a pandora box due the massive demands that the Eastern from required.
How was the Soviet Union no concern in 1941 when Operation Barbarossa was launched?

It doesn't matter if you think turning east was a mistake. It was entirely inline with German strategic threat and political ideology. Pretty much all Germans besides the socialists and marxists, had wanted to militarily conquer the East since the late 19th century. They saw it as their manifest destiny. In 1940-41, Germany proved it couldn't knock Britain out of the war with a quick victory like it had done to Poland and France. The threat of a future British-Soviet alliance was real. Soviets were conducting a massive mobilization to ready their army for war. They'd just got mauled the winter of 40-41 in the Winter War and appeared weak. Hitler and his Nazi cronies believed the nation as a whole was weak to the point it would easily collapse. Either way, it was a much more realistic target for Germany than North Africa ever was, which was only ever a theater simply to bail out the Italians.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,067
The axis would have had overwhelming numbers in the air (and yes the fighter squadons on Malta fought well but they would have been overwhelmed) and at sea PROVIDED the italian fleet was put to good use... The british would not have risked their own fleet so close to axis air (they tried in Crete that did not work out well).... This would have of course cost a lot of oil , but the italian fleet was strong enough even after Taranto to be a major problem for the defenders... Landing a combination of glider, paras, commandoes and amphibious troops was quite possible with such heavy air and naval support..... The british could expect no reinforcements (although part of the axis air would have to be on the look out for potential naval relief attempts).
There was no where to land gliders other than the airfields, paratroopers dropping into defenders positions with AA guns is a slaughter. It;s a very small Island with desnity of defenders There is no place you could drop that would not be outside the range of AA guns.
 
Jul 2016
9,317
USA
There was no where to land gliders other than the airfields, paratroopers dropping into defenders positions with AA guns is a slaughter. It;s a very small Island with desnity of defenders There is no place you could drop that would not be outside the range of AA guns.
It would have been costly but doable. Acceptable losses. Remember, the "staggering" casualties taken by Fallschirmjäger and other troops that assaulted Crete were only high in relation to those lost in Poland and France. They were nothing to compared to what happened during Barbarossa, let alone the winter of 41-42 and subsequent years. By the time the operation to take Malta was set to occur, spring '42, Germany would have been willing to lose numerous divisions to achieve a legit operational victory.
 
Jan 2015
5,454
Ontario, Canada
The Murmsak Archangelsk provide much needed immedite supplies/.equipment in 1941, but never delat in large volumes. Have it the most importnat in 1941.

but the Persian route took a longtime to kick into any real volume, teh US built ports, railroads, etc and became a high volume route what mid 1943? in late 1943/44 bnecame importnat

So 1941/1942 there just was not the volume of other routes and the Vladivostok 1942 was most improtnat.
Vladivostok had its biggest effect around 1942. So roughly 1943, 1944 and 1945 they would have gained an incredible amount of supplies. But by 1943 the Soviets already had the Persian corridor and in 1944 access to Murmansk and Archangelsk. The northern ports were crucial in 1941 and much of 1942. The Persian corridor became a focus in 1942, which luckily coincided with the Volga network.


On Malta really quick... Kesselring was right. Rommel was the only one who was advocating for Alamein 2. Mussolini and Cavallero were both against the decision and preferred Malta. Somehow he managed to convince Hitler to green light it, can't remember why.