Hitler's military mistakes

Aug 2015
2,359
uk
#11
Declaring war on the US. As I've mentioned before, what is the point of declaring war on a country who you have no chance of attacking, but who is capable of sending huge numbers of men and equipment to attack you?

And for those who say that the US was about to declare war themselves; well, Hitler had invaded Poland and most of Western Europe and was now intent on taking Russia - and the US still hadn't declared war. Yes, it was likely they would, but considering Japan had just attacked Pearl Harbour then it could have been a case (understandably) that the US would look East rather than West. Who was the happiest man on the planet when Hitler declared war on the US? Probably Churchill.
 
May 2018
111
Houston, TX
#12
Declaring war on the US. As I've mentioned before, what is the point of declaring war on a country who you have no chance of attacking, but who is capable of sending huge numbers of men and equipment to attack you?

And for those who say that the US was about to declare war themselves; well, Hitler had invaded Poland and most of Western Europe and was now intent on taking Russia - and the US still hadn't declared war. Yes, it was likely they would, but considering Japan had just attacked Pearl Harbour then it could have been a case (understandably) that the US would look East rather than West. Who was the happiest man on the planet when Hitler declared war on the US? Probably Churchill.
For many intents and purposes, I think the U.S. (Roosevelt) was 'making war without declaring it' against Germany. (I think Roosevelt said something like that himself). And with lend-lease supporting Britain and Russia, the surveillance of and order to fire on u-boats, etc., Hitler was perhaps acknowledging what was de facto in place anyway.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,317
#13
Attacking Poland was a mistake - not with hindsight that shows us it would ultimately end in German defeat six years later - but because the UK and France had made it clear they would act against Germany if they invaded Poland. The difference between this and the situations with the Rhineland and Czechoslovakia was that the UK and France had essentially issued 'strongly worded letters' rather than a direct ultimatum or threat, unlike in the case with Poland. Although it has been argued that Hitler was encouraged by the lack of action taken against him between 36-8, he should have predicted that this time the Allies were serious and had been given enough time to rearm and prepare for war (more or less). The difference between disapproval and threat is very significant, and Hitler should have realised this.
Since I listed that example as well I can only agree with you. I'dd add that the germans got a dose of luck, served to them by the poles... The poles (like the French and the soviets after them) decided to defend their whole territory , a forward defense that helped the germans immensely (and an approach that forget one of Frederick -yes he was not polish- principles "He who defends everything defends nothing").
Had the poles focused on their "useful triangle" giving up some territory and defending behind their rivers (as the french had advised) the germans would have had a much harder time of it... It would have taken longer to conquer Poland (which the germans would eventually have done but at a higher cost), at least several more weeks, and perhaps several more months and with the onset of bad weather (since the attack started in September) things would have been difficult for Germany especially if the western allies were more agressive than historically....
That "worst case" scenario should have been present in the mind of german decision makers

Having said this your (and mine) interpretation is predicated on the postulate that Hitler wanted to avoid war with the western allies.. Based on that postulate the invasion of Poland is indeed a mistake

There is however a counter argument to this.. IF one postulates that Adolf in fact very much wanted a war with the western allies (but also wanted them to declare war on Germany to put himself in the position of someone who was reluctantly dragged into a war) then the invasion of Poland (itself presented as a "response" to alleged Polish attacks) is pure genius.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,317
#15
Declaring war on the US. As I've mentioned before, what is the point of declaring war on a country who you have no chance of attacking, but who is capable of sending huge numbers of men and equipment to attack you?

And for those who say that the US was about to declare war themselves; well, Hitler had invaded Poland and most of Western Europe and was now intent on taking Russia - and the US still hadn't declared war. Yes, it was likely they would, but considering Japan had just attacked Pearl Harbour then it could have been a case (understandably) that the US would look East rather than West. Who was the happiest man on the planet when Hitler declared war on the US? Probably Churchill.

While you are right that this is often mentionned as a major blunder, we need to try and mentally put ourselves in the mindset of people back in end 1941...

WW2 continues to shape our thinking to a large extent to his end, some 70+ years after it ended... It had only been 20+ years since WW1 ended , and WW1 shaped the thinking of many (if not all) top decision makers, many of whom (Hitler included) had been direct participants in WW1. In WW1 the US entered the war on the side of the allies even though Germany did not declare war on the US and the then German regime was not as abhorrent to the US as that of Adolf...... however the US contribution was limited (especially when one compares it to its WW2 role... but that comparison of course could not be made in 1941).

Fast forward to December 1941.. Japan attacked the US and the UK possession in Asia/pacific. Even the most optimistic japanophiles (including the japanese themselves) knew that a decisive japanese victory was out of the question... Geography dictated that no japanese forces of note could invade the US... In any case Japan could not even obtain a decisive victory in China (which coincidentally is about the same size as the US) which is next door. At best Japan could hope to inflict such losses on the US as to force it to agree to some form of honorable peace perhaps ceding some unimportant territories to Japan... In effect Japan was betting on a "shock and awe" effect and the germans must have known this.... Therefore by declaring war on the US (and following that declaration with U boat attacks as far as the US eastern coast) Adolf was reinforcing the "shock and awe" effect and in any case forcing the US to spread its forces between Japan and Germany thus giving Japan some breathing room... And in case of a peace he could then demand that Germany be part of the peace agreement, which would then remove the US threat for years ahead.... Plus US land and air forces in end 1941 were still weak and not really seen as a problem, so the declaration of war, from the German perspective carried more benefits than risks... of course that turned out to be VERY wrong , but this is hindsight.

In addition to this , the US was in effect supporting the UK. In 1940, in the "destroyers for bases" deal, the US "gave" the UK 50 destroyers... And while they were mostly old and out of shape, the sheer numbers were roughly twice that of the entire destroyer force of the Kriegsmarine.. To the germans it must have looked like a hit below the belt... this, in addition to US patrols and convoy escorts in the Atlantic made it likely that the US would simply at a time of its choosing declare war on Germany using one pretext or another....

Since Adolf was a firm believer in taking the initiative and in the "virtues of the attack" it then made sense to him, rather than wait for the US to act first, to declare war , thus supporting Japan, creating problems for the US and potentially positionning Germany to benefit from a peace deal with the US.
 
Last edited:

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,270
Europix
#17
In the case of Manstein's plan for the invasion of France, the idea did not originate with Hitler but he was an active proponent of it... Had it failed, we might be discussing it as one of his mistakes... It might seem strange since it succeeded beyond all expectations, but perhaps it can still qualify as mistake.. Notably because it forced Germany to invade both Holland (which had remained neutral in WW1 and would probably have been more useful to Germany and perhaps to Japan as a neutral in WW2 notably because of its oil in Indonesia) and Belgium
Considering the target - France - attacking Holland and Belgium wasn't a mistake nor a good thing: it was compulsory. Same thing can be said about Poland, considering Hitler's target was CCCP.

Military wise, we could call Belgium's invasion almost perfect: a brilliant airborne operation that broke the "Belgian lock" (reputed unbreakable ) followed by exploiting every singe weakness of the allies.

Poland's invasion was prepared by a master-peace treaty: the Ribentropp-Molotov.
 
Last edited:

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,317
#18
Considering the target - France - attacking Holland and Belgium wasn't a mistake nor a good thing: it was compulsory. Same thing can be said about Poland, considering Hitler's target was CCCP.
In WW1 Holland was not attacked... so no, not compulsory

And unless I am mistaken , in the 1870 war Belgium was not attacked either
 

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,270
Europix
#19
In WW1 Holland was not attacked... so no, not compulsory

And unless I am mistaken , in the 1870 war Belgium was not attacked either
Well, WWII wasn't nor WWI, nor 1870.

And that is something that Germans understood, but not Dutch/Belgians/French/British: when You replay a game, You don't play the same way. It's why the "unexpected" German success.
 
Jun 2015
5,713
UK
#20
Both he and his generals made key errors.

So much for "supermen"...

If Rommel had tanks on the Dr-Day beaches, this only would have further delayed the inevitable. The allies had air supremacy, and could thus bomb them. And if they did, then the German industrial complex could not have made more to replace them.

But for me, his biggest mistake was not having a grand strategy to defeat all those who opposed him, whether in practice or ideologically. And this was most of the world since there was never any way that Britain or France would tolerate him. Nor the USA, or USSR. Even Brazil and Argentina declared war on him late in the war, and Brazil had a large force in Italy.

Defeating France was one thing. But then Britain had a bigger empire, a larger navy, and larger colonies that could provide military, manpower, and materiel needs. And some prominent recent ex-colonies who would do the same, like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

And theen he wanted to exterminate all Slavs, and the USSR had more people than Germany, and more industrial capacity. And then the USA, which then like now was by far the biggest economy in the world, and agin with a far bigger population than Germany.

He really needed a phased approach, or even had some long-lasting Cold War type scenario, since he, Italy, and Japan were outnumbered in some serious ways in the conflict. Ultimately, I guess this is why they lost (and by not really co-operating, and having to bail weak allies).