The myth of german better preparedness for a war in 1942 or 1944

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
12,276
#1
After the total German defeat in WW2, german generals (and not only) frantically began coming up with all kinds of excuses... The most frequent one being that it was not them that failed, it was that crazy dude Adolf.

One of the lines of argumentation is that the German army would have been better prepared and equipped later on (dates vary, some say 1942 , others 1944 etc..) but that Adolf jumped the gun.

Assuming the germans do not attack Poland in September 1939 however, I do not see how they would have done better had the war started in 1942 or later.

Greater Germany's GDP (the GDP numbers are of course disputed so these are are approximations) was AT BEST at par with that of the French + British ... This is an optimistic estimate that takes into account the fact that UK+France had to direct part of their GDP and military spend to their respective empires, whilst Germany did not have such a problem. While Germany spent more than the allies in the mid 30s on its military budget, by 1939 the allies were catching up... longer term Germany would not have been able to spend more than them thus it would not have gained any additional advantage from military spending (and likely would actually have lost ground). And this is without taking account the USSR which was also significantly increasing its military spent.

Germany was able to defeat France in about a month in May-June 1940... This was completely unexpected for the world at large, and for Germany itself... Its hard to see how they could have done better in 1942 or later

A separate topic is weapon systems development cycles... In 1939 germans had an overall qualitative edge (this varied depending on the weapons system, for example some French tanks were better )..... it is not evident that in 1942 or later that same edge would have been retained and/or improved (german tanks were improved as a result of their encounters with superior French and later soviet tanks... without an ongoing war I doubt they would have had the likes of panthers by 1943)

Re doctrine we can assume that without a hot war, allied doctrine would not have progressed much and the germans would have retained their edge.

Re the US we can assume that it would have remained neutral (this of cours assumes Japan does not get itself into a war until much later) and so its military spend would remain modest until it enters the war. However it is likely that , even though the Manhattan project would have started later, atomic research would have progressed anyway and the US would have been able to produce nuclear weapons quicker than the historical circa 3.5 years from US entry into the war (2 years perhaps ?)...

So it looks like Germany launching a war in 1942 or later would have met with less success than historically ...

Thoughts ?
 

macon

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
3,372
Slovenia
#2
Also soviet command was more confused in 1941 because of 1937 purges than it would be if war started in 1943.

In my opinion Germany was having no chance when it started a war in Russia. Production numbers were all against them.
 
Mar 2018
264
UK
#3
Eh, 1939 seems like the best year for Germany to attack. It's when the production differential is most in their favour IIRC, and they've had a few years to get start rearming after they tore away the Versailles restrictions.

Had France challenged the remilitarisation of the Rhineland in 1936 in force Hitler would merely have been one in a long list of failed 20th century dictators.
 

redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,391
Stockport Cheshire UK
#4
The British and French had started to build up their military and given their greater economic power the longer Hitler held off from any aggression the better they would be prepared in relation to Germany.
From an economic viewpoint 1939 was a now or never point, after this date the situation would only worsen for Germany.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
2,996
Dispargum
#5
The "Better off in 1942" theory did not originate in 1945. I was just reading in Churchill's account of WW2 that in August 1939, Mussolini told Hitler "You have previously promised that war would not come until 1942 and that is what I have been preparing for. If you're going to start a war now Italy is not yet ready." So it's not just German, British, French, Soviet, and American preparedness. You also have to consider Italy and probably Japan, too.

Yes, Britain and France began to rearm in 1938-39, but only in response to Germany's aggressive foreign policy - occupying the Rhineland, building the West Wall, and annexing Austria and Czechoslovakia. The Allies may not have begun rearming if Germany had refrained from annexing other countries. The Americans only began rearming after war broke out in Europe. If there had been no war in Europe in '39, '40, or '41 the Americans would have been much less prepared in 1942.

I agree that the Soviet recovery from the purge had nothing to do with events outside of the Soviet Union.

I also agree that given that by August 1939 the British and French were rearming then Germany was better off going to war sooner rather than later. Only if Britain and France are not rearming does it make sense for Germany to delay.
 
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caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,079
#6
There's no myth. German plans for re-armament were set to be complete by 1943 and Hitler had originally planned to attack Russia in 1944. His ambition, political greed, and tendency to gamble meant he pre-empted those plans with a series of annexations which led to Britain and France declaring war upon him over the question of Polish independence. Hitler indirectly let the war happen because he convinced himself that Britain and France would not intervene. France was divided and unwilling. Britain prone to appeasement. America approving of German central government and societal recovery. Japan and Italy like minded societies.

When the Second World War kicked off beyond Spain in 1939 the Germans were not well prepared. They faced potential invasion of the allies and the French had more tanks and heavier ones at that. As it turned out, the French invasion was feeble. Their vehicles unreliable. Their leadership mired in misconception and poor motivation. The British used to colonial domination and the effects of twenty years of peace. The success of the Third Reich until 1940 is startling but not inevitable. Lessons would be learned by the Allies. Even the French, whose resistance crumbled in July 1940, had belatedly begun to operate more efficiently on the ground and with considerable aggression. The British were well aware they were fighting for the survival of their nation.

The Third Reich meanwhile told its people that the war was a far off thing, an exercise in German superiority. Only after Stalingrad did they finally admit they had been beaten and persuade their population to accept the weight of total war. The Germans were not able to sustain their scale of conflict because they never had the resources to underpin it. Britain survived, but at great cost, still subject to rationing in the mid 1950's. Only America was better off. Huge surpluses in grain, rubber, steel, textiles, and a nation twice as wealthy as it had begun. maybe the Americans were no better prepared or motivated to engage the enemy, but they had involved themselves for their own profit and not without reason are the 1950's so large in the American popular history.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
7,686
#7
There's no myth. German plans for re-armament were set to be complete by 1943 and Hitler had originally planned to attack Russia in 1944. His ambition, political greed, and tendency to gamble meant he pre-empted those plans with a series of annexations which led to Britain and France declaring war upon him over the question of Polish independence. Hitler indirectly let the war happen because he convinced himself that Britain and France would not intervene. France was divided and unwilling. Britain prone to appeasement. America approving of German central government and societal recovery. Japan and Italy like minded societies.

When the Second World War kicked off beyond Spain in 1939 the Germans were not well prepared. They faced potential invasion of the allies and the French had more tanks and heavier ones at that. As it turned out, the French invasion was feeble. Their vehicles unreliable. Their leadership mired in misconception and poor motivation. The British used to colonial domination and the effects of twenty years of peace. The success of the Third Reich until 1940 is startling but not inevitable. Lessons would be learned by the Allies. Even the French, whose resistance crumbled in July 1940, had belatedly begun to operate more efficiently on the ground and with considerable aggression. The British were well aware they were fighting for the survival of their nation.

The Third Reich meanwhile told its people that the war was a far off thing, an exercise in German superiority. Only after Stalingrad did they finally admit they had been beaten and persuade their population to accept the weight of total war. The Germans were not able to sustain their scale of conflict because they never had the resources to underpin it. Britain survived, but at great cost, still subject to rationing in the mid 1950's. Only America was better off. Huge surpluses in grain, rubber, steel, textiles, and a nation twice as wealthy as it had begun. maybe the Americans were no better prepared or motivated to engage the enemy, but they had involved themselves for their own profit and not without reason are the 1950's so large in the American popular history.

German mobilization for war was not less than the allies early in the war,

Resource mobilization for World War II: the U.S.A., U.K., U.S.S.R., and Germany, 1938-1945* (Mark Harrison** Department of Economics University of Warwick)

https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/mharrison/public/ehr88postprint.pdf

two different figures different methods see link for detaiuls.

page 16 % GDp mobilized for war.
USA UK USSR Germany
1938 -/- 7/2 -/- 17/18
1939 1/2 16/8 -/- 25/24
1940 1/3 48/31 20/20 44/36
1941 13/14 55/41 -/- 56/44
1942 36/40 54/43 76/66 69/52
1943 47/53 57/47 76/58 76/60
1944 47/54 56/47 69/52 -/-
1945 -/44 47/36 -/- -/-

there are others, I could quote general germany mobilizses more of it;'s ecnomiy than the allies.
 
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Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
2,996
Dispargum
#8
No one is challenging the idea that the Allies ultimately outproduced the Axis Powers. But in 1938 Germany had an advantage because they started rearming before everyone else. The question is, Could Germany have converted that early advantage into a quick victory before the Allied rearmament caught up? The post-war Germans argued that had they waited until 1942 or even later their initial advantage would have been greater. Most of the posters in this thread agree that once the Allies began rearming circa 1938 Germany's initial advantage began to narrow, not widen.
 
Jan 2018
67
Iowa
#9
The one area more time would have helped Germany was the Navy - if they built the right types of ships. Bismark and her kind could not win WW2. A huge number of u-boats at the start of the war (whatever year it begins) would have likely forced Britain to sue for peace. Instead - Germany only put the resources in u boats after it was clear they could not win a naval war via conventional battle-wagons and cruisers.
 
Jul 2016
7,353
USA
#10
The one area more time would have helped Germany was the Navy - if they built the right types of ships. Bismark and her kind could not win WW2. A huge number of u-boats at the start of the war (whatever year it begins) would have likely forced Britain to sue for peace. Instead - Germany only put the resources in u boats after it was clear they could not win a naval war via conventional battle-wagons and cruisers.
Germany wasn't planning on fighting Great Britain in a naval war, so why would they allocate most of their resources and funding into pursuing the means to do that?

Who was Germany DEFINITELY planning on invading when Hitler too power in the mid 1930s? Not just Hitler, but desired by most of Germany, and especially the military officer junker class, the industrialists, etc. Austria, Czech Republic, and Poland. Those were the big targets, they included a lot of historic German land taken away at some point, lots of ethic Germans whose Hitler's govt was supporting. Many of the other nations in the immediate area, Romania, Hungary, etc., they were allied with the Germans, there would be no need or desire to invade them. France and Great Britain were not targets, besides wanting back Alsace Lorraine and the Rhinelands from the former (which could have been done without war). For natural resources, Hitler was not looking toward Africa or Asia, so he had no need to pursue a large navy to protect foreign interests, all the natural resources he wanted came from the East.

By and large, Germany's ambitions laid to the East. This concept of Germanic Manifest Destiny pre-dates Hitler's rise to power by nearly 50 years. Germans wanted this, they believed it was their destiny to conquer the Slavic lands and to subjugate and exploit the territory, agricultural and industrial, similar to how the Spartans did it to the Messenians.

This too would have obviously included the Soviet Union eventually, a combination of historic animosity toward Russia, Untermenschen racism toward Slavs, and communism, but they were not an immediate concern as Hitler's staff planners in the OKH (army HQ) told him the earliest they'd be truly ready for war would be 1946. Hitler wanted to cement Germany as the premier Central European power before invading the USSR.
 

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