Luftwaffe's biggest mistakes?

botully

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
3,547
Amelia, Virginia, USA
Radar was not the secret weapon that won the battle, it was the system that made use of it.
The Luftwaffe did not consider radar a priority target because they presumed that it only gave the British a limited ability to see that an attack was coming and send fighters to engage, something the Luftwaffe was not afraid of, because it wanted to engage the enemy and destroy them in combat. They totally failed to grasp how effective the fighter control system of the British was, radar did warn the RAF that the enemy was coming but the system gave the British minute by minute control of their squadrons and the ability to react to the ongoing situation as it developed, this gave the British the ability to not only intercept the enemy, but prevent the Luftwaffe from catching squadrons on the ground refuelling and avoid enemy fighter sweeps .

Radar warned the British the enemy was coming, but the control system enabled the RAF to fight the battle on their terms.
This is a crucial point. The German Freya was in some respects more advanced than the Chain Home array. The Germans captured a British radar set at Dunkirk and were not impressed. As you say, the system devised to take advantage of the radar was the real innovation. No one else had anything like it.
But of course the British were soon to decisively surpass the Germans in radar technology with the centimetric radars.
 
Oct 2016
1,174
Merryland
really good book by Dr. R.V. Jones titled 'The Wizard War', aka Most Secret War
he goes into detail on RAF and Luftwaffe electronic warfare competition.
turns out one of Jones' classmates @ Oxford was supervising one of the Luftwaffe's radar/radio program.
much of this involves 'beams', radio beams intended to guide bombers to their targets. planes could follow the beams independently in case they lost formation (easy to do in the dark) and this system promised better accuracy (high-altitude bombing, especially at night, notoriously unreliable). they would beam a series of 'dot' signals from one xmitter towards the target, and from another xmitter 'dashes'; when the signals crossed they became steady and the bomber knew it was the right place to drop.
the Brits learned to transmit a fake 'dash' signal over empty land to trick the Germans into bombing the wrong place.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,958
I read most of the publications that came out in Russia in attempt to discredit Suvorov. They are not convincing to me. His opponents often catch him on minor details. Perhaps you will advise any western researches discrediting Suvorov more convincingly? I have not come across such. None of his Russian opponents answered the main question: why did the Red Army which had been preparing for the previous ten years every day to repel a massive invasion from the West, was caught off guard. Although the second year of WWII ended - it was June 1941 - the Red Army was completely unprepared for defense. The configuration of its troops did not correspond at all to the tasks of repelling a massive invasion from the West. And its huge power was almost insignificant at the beginning of the German invasion.

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You can start here

Icebreaker (Suvorov) - Wikipedia

it includes

Suvorov's view that a Soviet invasion of Germany was imminent in 1941 is not shared by most historians.
A noteworthy rebuttal of Suvorov's thesis is contained in Colonel David Glantz's work Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War.

Summarising the western scholars' opinion on Icebreaker Hugh Ragsdale concludes that the book is "generally considered discredited" by now,whereas Jonathan Haslam notes that Suvorov's claims "would be comical were it not taken so seriously"


Why was the red army caught off guard ? Why were the French and British armies caught off guard in May 1940 although they had been AT WAR for about 9 months already ?.... (whereas the red army was not even mobilized for war).... So nothing exceptional about the state of unpreparedness of the red army in 1941... they were just not seriously expecting an attack, and certainly not an attack of that scale (a scale which was roughly twice that of the may 1940 operations)
 
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tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,958
It is a long story why Soviet army was unprepared. I am not going to go into it, since you will just ignore posts like you ignored all others. The short answer is that all signs from the Soviet intelligence, and Stalin himself, were convinced that the Germans will attack in '42 and not '41. It was already very late in June and the Soviets knew that the Germans were not stockpiling any winter clothing and were not issuing winter uniforms. The Red army was caught in rotation, as they were re-organizing their deployed units, so there was a lot of confusion at the onset. Especially since a lot of units were led by inexperienced political commissars.

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I'd add to that the following.... Assume you are sitting in the Kremlin in late May- early June 1941.... You'd probably have an assessment that would read something like the below

Does Germany intend to attack the USSR?

YES
  • Large and growing concentration of forces on the USSR borders
  • Reports from our spy network that Germany is preparing for an attack
  • Reports from British intelligence that Germany is preparing for an attack

NO
  • German forces have not prepared the winter gear necessary for a campaign in the USSR
  • German forces have just completed a campaign in the Balkans and will need several months to recuperate (German forces had needed 8 months between the end of the Polish campaign and the start of the French campaign)
  • Attacking the USSR would create an unwanted second front for Germany
  • Germany is benefitting from the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact economically, attacking the USSR would create massive issues for the Germany economy
  • There is nothing desirable in the USSR for Germany that Germany is not already getting through trade agreements
  • Germany has made no demands and no threats. It has no reason to attack the USSR and an attack on the USSR would not be consistent with the German modus operandi of these past years
  • Britain wants other countries to fight Germany. Reports of German preparations are likely to be British disinformation

On this basis would you run the risk of provoking a war with Germany by mobilizing your forces (mobilization precipitated WW1 or so it was believed) and making other agressive moves ?

Prior to that Germany had usually made threats and demands (Czechoslovakia, Poland) before acting.... As of June 1941 Germany had made no threats and seemingly did not have any serious demands regarding the USSR
 
Oct 2016
1,174
Merryland
great analysis Tomar
two more factors; Hitler was impatient and wanted his empire quick.
and the Nazis knew Moscow was building a large military and wanted to strike before it got too big.
I think Stalin fell into the I-believe-what-I-want trap.

I think most scholars agree that most of the German military was against Barbarossa. too much too soon.
 
Mar 2019
1,996
Kansas
I think most scholars agree that most of the German military was against Barbarossa. too much too soon.
Most scholars agree it never had a realistic chance of success. Even the German planners warned not to invade and that they could only guarantee logistical support beyond about 450km to 500km

The German generals assured Hitler they could wing it and make it work for them.
 
Oct 2016
1,174
Merryland
The German generals assured Hitler they could wing it and make it work for them.
one of the bad things I learned in the military (and out); sometimes the middle people assure the top people that the bottom people 'can do!' not sure how much the Generals gave him the 'no problem' and how much they stood up and said 'bad idea'. of course standing up to der Fuhrer was not always a good idea...
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
great analysis Tomar
two more factors; Hitler was impatient and wanted his empire quick.
and the Nazis knew Moscow was building a large military and wanted to strike before it got too big.
I think Stalin fell into the I-believe-what-I-want trap.

I think most scholars agree that most of the German military was against Barbarossa. too much too soon.
The invasion of Russia was really an Army mission (Heer), they were really the only ones whose concerns and comments really were considered, the Kriegsmarine was barely involved and the Luftwaffe doing a supporting role.

Those that didn't want to invade did so because Germany was not supposed to be ready for war until the mid-40s, based on the plans from the 30s. WW2 started as a border dispute, not a full blown plan to conquer all of Europe and Russia. German Heer generals and field marshals always had a very hard time grasping the strategic importance of anything because they rarely thought past the operational level (a product of about a century of German officer training mentality). So it was only Hitler worrying about how long it was going to take for the Soviet Union to strengthen itself, and how if they waited any longer Britain might make an alliance with the Soviet Union, so he had to knock them out of the war ASAP, as well as greatly desiring their natural resources, to make Germany self reliant on things like oil, which would solve lots of their problems while dealing with Britain in the future.

Hitler's initial idea was to take Leningrad and the Caucuses, it was Halder, the Chief of Staff of the Heer, who changed that to make the invasion a three pronged operation, with the main effort being in the center against Smolesk, towards Moscow. His plan was bread and butter for German military doctrine, win the war not by grand strategy but by operations, destroy the enemy's field army in battles of maneuver and then you can do whatever you want with them afterwards.

The central theme of Barbarossa was to destroy the central and southern fronts of the Red Army before they could retreat past the Dnieper River. And they almost did it too, only a fraction of the front line forces managed to escape. The problem was reserves. The Germans had massively miscalculated the size of the Red Army, its reserves, its ability to create and field units, and most especially its resolve, at all levels, tactical, operational, strategic, and political. What that meant was by the time they reached the Dnieper, which they had the fuel for, the Red Army was still in fighting shape. So the original plan failed, the Red Army was not destroyed, so they would have to drive deeper to do so.

And thus the emphasis on Moscow by the non-political thinkers of the Heer, who falsely equated Moscow with the likes of Warsaw and Paris, believing that if the capital was taken, the enemy would have no choice but to capitulate. The difference being that the govts of Poland and France had nowhere to go after their own capitols fell. Whereas the Soviets had thousands and thousands and thousands of miles to move eastward, where the Germans had no ability to reach, where they continue drawing on manpower.
 
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redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,864
Stockport Cheshire UK
I think most scholars agree that most of the German military was against Barbarossa. too much too soon.
No, that is an incorrect assumption.
Most of the generals who claimed they were against the attack only remembered this opinion in their post-war memoirs, there is no historical evidence that the vast majority of German generals were anything but enthusiastic for the attack.
 
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redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,864
Stockport Cheshire UK
Most scholars agree it never had a realistic chance of success. Even the German planners warned not to invade and that they could only guarantee logistical support beyond about 450km to 500km
It was the German Army's logistical staff who were the most sceptical about the attack, but they backed down when confronted by the army planners and Nazi leadership.
 
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