Revised view of German military strength and strategies

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,160
Sydney
Hitler had a good grounding in Geopolitics from his days in Landsberg prison , leading him to comment
“Landsberg was my university at state expense”
it directly influenced his writing of "Mein Kampf"

while no good tactician , his strategic vision was much better than those of the General staff
 

Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,633
Ontario, Canada
"Hitler's decisions were not (always) mad"

I'm struggling to think of even one decision that was mad. A lot of the examples cited are never given their proper context. By far his two worst decisions, allowing Rommel to do Alamein 2 and having Kesselring do the Tunisia campaign, all of which were prompted by a subordinate. The other terrible decision he made was allowing OKH and the generals on the Ost Front to do Operation Typhoon, again that was prompted by subordinates and their supposed professional know how. But no one really knows how much control Hitler had in allowing the operation to start, one kind of gets the impression that they put him on the spot and demanded it. Certainly though Hitler had no hand in the actual defeat that was Operation Typhoon, in fact just reading the accounts Hitler is never mentioned, somehow they found a way to blame him for it anyway.
 
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Mar 2019
1,952
Kansas
"Hitler's decisions were not (always) mad"

I'm struggling to think of even one decision that was mad. A lot of the examples cited are never given their proper context. By far his two worst decisions, allowing Rommel to do Alamein 2 and having Kesselring do the Tunisia campaign, all of which were prompted by a subordinate. The other terrible decision he made was allowing OKH and the generals on the Ost Front to do Operation Typhoon, again that was prompted by subordinates and their supposed professional know how. But no one really knows how much control Hitler had in allowing the operation to start, one kind of gets the impression that they put him on the spot and demanded it. Certainly though Hitler had no hand in the actual defeat that was Operation Typhoon, in fact just reading the accounts Hitler is never mentioned, somehow they found a way to blame him for it anyway.
Some of it can be put down to victory disease. The Germans went through Poland and attacked and defeated France in record time. So when the generals go to Hitler and says, we can do xxxx Based on what he has seen, he has no reason to doubt them.
 
May 2017
203
Monterrey
Hitler was gambling a lot with his decisions. One could say that his earliest decision were simply gambles that paid off due to the weaknesses of his enemies. Once those weaknesses were eradicated he continued gambling with far worse chances. It's like a gambler who wins big once and keeps on playing thinking his gonna win again, but in truth will just end up losing the shirt from his back.
 
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Lord Oda Nobunaga

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Jan 2015
5,633
Ontario, Canada
Some of it can be put down to victory disease. The Germans went through Poland and attacked and defeated France in record time. So when the generals go to Hitler and says, we can do xxxx Based on what he has seen, he has no reason to doubt them.
That was the rational which they applied in Russia. They thought that because they defeated Poland and France in record time, that they could do the exact same in Russia. Even when it was clear this would not happen, they still pushed for the same and demanded Operation Typhoon even conspiring to do insubordination.
 

Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,633
Ontario, Canada
Hitler was gambling a lot with his decisions. One could say that his earliest decision were simply gambles that paid off due to the weaknesses of his enemies. Once those weaknesses were eradicated he continued gambling with far worse chances. It's like a gambler who wins big once and keeps on playing thinking his gonna win again, but in truth will just end up losing the shirt from his back.
Thinking about it I'm not really sure where the gambling is. Maybe 1939 was a gamble in that Hitler expected Britain and France to back down. But once the war actually started it was clear that Britain and France could not provide any support to Poland, and this was so obvious that even the Polish army knew this before Case White had even begun.

With Poland out of the picture what would Britain and France do? It isn't like they could just invade Germany. Mind you in 1939 Case Yellow was still being planned and it wasn't even clear that the Germans would invade France. Chamberlain's impression at the start of 1939 was that the Germans could possibly keep rolling East and after taking out Poland they would then invade the Soviet Union. Case Red was postponed in favor of Case Yellow, after all. Case Yellow was ultimately decided by a reconnaissance of French deployments and war games which concluded that an Ardennes attack would be successful. So if anything the Germans did both Case White and Case Yellow with a pretty good guarantee that it would succeed. Norway was a complete gamble in so far as the operations were concerned since there was no telling whether it would succeed or not. It was still based on sound strategic logic and was a resounding success. That was probably the biggest gamble by far.

Maybe the real gamble was Operation Barbarossa in assuming that the Soviet Union would be defeated in 1941. But ultimately it wasn't Hitler that opted for Operation Typhoon. By September he was pretty certain that the campaign season had ended. The other thing is that Barbarossa was based on various plans which had existed since the 1930's and generally the Wehrmacht believed that it wouldn't have much trouble steamrolling the Red Army. Only other gamble I can think of was the 1944 Ardennes offensive.

Granted Hitler gambled more than Stalin did but there aren't that many examples over all.
 
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Apr 2018
34
Canada
Once upon a time, Hitler was a madman and never listened to his wise generals.
The Wehrmacht fought with bravery on the eastern front but Russian hordes overwhelmed it.
And so on.

Then we discovered Hitler's decisions were not (always) mad and the german generals wrote a lot of self-serving lies.
Is there a book collecting and explaining the new historical and military knowledge about the German side of things, after this revision?
A sort of "you knew this, but it was not right" book.
I don't know of a specific book.To my mind Hitler was first and foremost an opportunist and to a large degree a gambler.He had keen insight yet was inconsistent.He could deliver a sound and well reasoned presentation upon a military matter then in the course of the campaign issue unrealistic and set in stone directives.Paulus was the recipient of a stand fast order at Stalingrad by the Fuherer Befehl the most binding form of order .

In the 30's he was able to acquire territory by playing upon the weak willed western leaders desire to avoid another war and placating the russians until he was ready to implement his eastern war strategy.

He confided once that his military leaders did not understand the value of the political weapon which had served him well until the outbreak of war.He had stated in the Hossbach memorandums that all considerations were contingent upon the political circumstances of the moment.

For me his signal failure was a multi front war.

Had Hitler directed the general staff to study the problem of all the aspects involved in a cross channel invasion of England in the 30's then it is possible assuming that events played out more or less the same in case yellow that the western back door could have been secure.As it turned out the senior military leadership's apprehension over a 2 front war was magnified.

By 1944 germany was fighting in the east in the west in Italy retreating in the Balkans and desperately trying to stem the allied bombing offensive in the homeland.This presented an unsustainable strain upon human and material resources.

In Economics he was a mixed bag.

His advisors had warned him in the 30's of germany's limited industrial capacity, shortage of transport, reliance upon horsed transport, the lack of adequate road and rail networks to the east and scarce metal and oil supplies.Even taking into account captured machines and materials they argued that these deficiencies would have dire consequences in a long war..

Hitler largely brushed aside their concerns gambling that with the current political climate in europe the blitzkrieg tactics developed with an eye to short and decisive campaigns would mask any long term deficiencies by acquisition.He reasoned that the circumstances to strike were so favourable that to wait was to miss the political window.

This would work as long as germany did not become mired in costly and prolonged campaigns on too many fronts.

Yet concurrently as recorded in the Hossbach memorandums, where he laid down grand strategy at least as far as the east was concerned he focused mainly on economic benefits.

In 1942 onwards in russia Hitler was increasingly conscious of economic objectives.He often berated his senior commanders for only looking through the narrow lens of military action.

The Ukraine was to supply food, the Caucasus oil and the Donbas minerals and metals.His strategy was to acquire these regions and deprive the russians of their bounty.

A sound strategy until Stalingrad.Even putting aside the symbolic significance of the city one writer pointed out that if sixth army had masked the city and a combination of artillery and air power had been used to halt the oil barge traffic along the Volga then the russians would have been forced to use a much more circuitous route towards the Urals to supply the oil and gas needs of the armed forces which would have forced them into action much sooner than Zhukov would have desired.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,160
Sydney
On the whole I would rank the German military as superior to Hitler in tactics and operational art
Hitler was better in strategy and geopolitical strategy

The German high command idea of the war in the West was to replicate the old Schlieffen plan

....Like What !! pulling the same trick thrice ? both the Brits and French knew that was the plan and were fully prepared to counter it
it would have been a stalemate then an attritional defeat
Hitler understood something different had to be tried , even if horrendously risky
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,627
On the whole I would rank the German military as superior to Hitler in tactics and operational art
Hitler was better in strategy and geopolitical strategy

The German high command idea of the war in the West was to replicate the old Schlieffen plan

....Like What !! pulling the same trick thrice ? both the Brits and French knew that was the plan and were fully prepared to counter it
it would have been a stalemate then an attritional defeat
Hitler understood something different had to be tried , even if horrendously risky
Hitler was happy to invade france with the Generals plan in late 39 or 40 when the Germans where not ready and conditions do not suit it. Hitler was a surface dweller without any staretgic or tactical understanding what so ever. The Sycle cut plan just sounding more dynamic, Hitler could be fast talked by people willing to use emotive arguments. Hitler's obession with fornt line numbers, made the Lufwaffe and German army brittle organizations. (as enough spares were not manufactured) Hityler's idea of stragey was draweing lines on a map, no uynderstanding of logistics or what it actually meant on the ground.

Hitler blundered into ww2, declared war of USA , lashed from one set of priorities to another, appointed, yes me and corrupt cronies, created overlapping organizations and power structure. The poor decision making of german High commands (=yes competing high commands) was created by Hitler and staffed by poor choice by Hitler.

I don't see any basis for crediting Hitler with any real stratgic or geopolitical smarts.
 
Mar 2016
70
Germany
There are some books in German which I would recommend as starters for dealing with WWII, having a broader approach then just the military side, namely "Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg", in 10 books. No. 1, 4 and 8 are especially interesting for this question. In English there are a monstrous number of WWII books, a lot are garbage, a lot are good. You could have a look to some books of Richard Overy, like "Why the Allies Won" or "The Dictator's: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia".

Generally Hitler kept himself out of many military decisions usually, until about 1942 when his impact became stronger and stronger. His first desastrous entrance (besides starting the war by gambling of course) was his order to attack France shortly after victory over Poland in the fall of 1939 (when many units had ammunition left for 14 days use), despite the many failures of the German units which became apparent during the Poland campaign, and the uninspired planning at that time for the attack in the west. He did not force it through however and accepted the frequent delays till spring of 1940 which saw a much better trained and equipped army, despite it being still considerably weaker than the allied French and British forces.

Hitler, as all humans, was not this or that. For example he supported v. Manstein's plan of an attack through the Ardennes in 1940 and so took a big part in the final success of "Fall Gelb". There had not been many in the German high command who had had big hopes to defeat France, the strongest military power in Europe, for good reasons. Hitler's first and perhaps biggest military mistake was stopping the tanks shortly before Dunkirk on 24 May, but this was not his true own decision in the first place but a struggle in the German high command where he backed the wrong side, for dubious reasons. Hitler did not take a big part in the plans for Barbarossa which was mostly done by the staff of the high command of the Wehrmacht. Hitler presumably saved the German army from total defeat after the Russian counter attacks at Moscow in the winter of 1941 when he ordered a fanatical no retreat policy. On the other hand he had devastating effects on the German army with his denials to shorten the front and retreat from areas after the draw in the Kursk battle and the big Russian attacks from fall 1943 onwards.
 
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