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

Jan 2015
5,388
Ontario, Canada
#51
in 1936 I dont think Germany was in a position to attack Belgium if it were already engaged in a war with France
Well it certainly wasn't likely either way. But in a scenario where all out war breaks out the Germans wouldn't have much trouble invading Belgium. If they did they could effectively threaten the French coast, Paris, or the flanks and rear of the attacking French army.

Belgium wasn't ready whatsoever in 1936. They were at such a disadvantage that they broke the 1920 agreement and declared total neutrality. Which severely ruined French war plans and made it extremely difficult for the French to prepare in 1939.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,810
Sydney
#52
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" The French military operated on a system of professional soldiers, not mass mobilization of conscripts ?????

the French army worked on a professional core structuring a conscription system
the mass mobilization of conscripts was the very essence of the french military
except for this your post is pretty much spot on
a point none the less
the French totally believed that Britain was an indispensable element in any war with Germany
this led to the French government having to follows the rather Germanophile and Fracophobe Chamberlain government line ,
much to their disgust
 
Jan 2015
5,388
Ontario, Canada
#53
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" The French military operated on a system of professional soldiers, not mass mobilization of conscripts ?????

the French army worked on a professional core structuring a conscription system
the mass mobilization of conscripts was the very essence of the french military
except for this your post is pretty much spot on
a point none the less
Yes for an actual war scenario. Otherwise the French depended on their standing army to defend the Maginot Line and the Liege Fortifications (along the Albert Canal) while the nation could be mobilized for war. Without Belgian support half the plan was already in shambles. That is really the issue, the French military did not take offensive plans seriously because they depended on conscripts which not only damaged their market economy and production, it would have resulted in riots and serious losses in the Legislative Elections which happened only two months after the Rhineland Crisis. Second and most important, France was not in a position to fight an all out war for the reason that they depended on conscripts to supplement their standing army. French demographics were in severe decline since WW1, the French military would have been strapped to find adequate conscripts for this reason. It was due to this and other economic reasons that the French only counted on defensive doctrines, which required Belgian support for planning and carrying out these operations regardless.

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the French totally believed that Britain was an indispensable element in any war with Germany
this led to the French government having to follows the rather Germanophile and Fracophobe Chamberlain government line ,
much to their disgust
The problem with this narrative is that it was actually Stanley Baldwin who began the policy of concessions to Germany. In the mind of Stanley Baldwin and his successor Neville Chamberlain concessions to Germany were required to prevent Soviet incursions into Europe. British foreign policy under the Conservatives was fundamentally anti-Soviet. Technically their plan worked until 1939 when Stalin snatched Hitler away from them with the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. So we could say that the 1930's was a game between the West and the Soviet Union. Germany came in as a massive game changer. Both the West and the Soviets curried favour to bring Hitler on their respective side.

When 1939 exploded the expectation was that Stalin would side against Germany but he pulled the wool over their eyes and used this as a prime opportunity to expand the Soviet border towards Europe and Soviet influence within Europe. Actually Stalin's major concern was that the 1939 Polish conflict was actually a trick to embroil him in a war with Germany, and that the Allies would sign a separate peace once they had accomplished their political objectives. Which goes back to the old ideological assumption that Fascism is secretly just Capitalism. But the potential for German-Soviet cooperation was already there. The 1926 German neutrality agreement also included secret clauses for military cooperation and the sharing of military technology and doctrines. The Weimar Republic had sought to play the West and the Soviet Union against one another, after the Soviets had failed to take Warsaw of course and so Germany was in no immediate danger. Many elements of the Wehrmacht as well as the Foreign Office were in favour of a Soviet agreement, which Hitler resisted but given the circumstances of 1939 it provided a clear precedent for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Hence the lack of any real plan or coordination between Britain and France provided opportunities for unknown quantities such as Italy, Germany, Hungary, Romania and Poland to gain political capital in different ways. That being the case it is wrong to merely say "the West and the Soviets" because the aforementioned countries were also individual players. Not just that but also France and Britain had two separate agendas which happened to coincide on a few points but which were largely diverging since the mid-1920's.

France was seen as treacherous for signing the 1934/35 Franco-Soviet Pact; it was such an ill advised decision that even Poland signed the 1934 German-Polish Pact and contributed in large part to the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 1935. In 1936 the Polish told both France and Germany that Poland would not interfere with the clause that it could not unless Germany was invading France. The British did not trust France ever since, and France sort of walked around like a dog with its tail between its legs in 1938 and much of 1939. It is not merely that Stanley Baldwin or Neville Chamberlain distrusted France, since you can also find this under Churchill... and generally no one trusted France. As socially unstable and politically bipolar as France was it was largely regarded as something akin to the sick man of Europe, a great empire that was on the verge of collapse. Mussolini references French inability to hold a consistent foreign policy. Hitler mentions the political purges that occurred in France during the 1920's. Of course Churchill brings up the rapid French capitulation in 1940. The same reason why French society was unstable goes hand in hand with why France dreaded and was in fact unable to fight a long term war.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,810
Sydney
#54
" the French depended on their standing army to defend the Maginot Line "

the French standing army was made of the conscripts of the year with professional NCO and Officers
the colonial troops and the Foreign legion were tasked with protecting the colonies
the French Army extended conscription to two years under the Law of 16 March 1935.

There was no though of offensive into Germany whatsoever , any attack ,even if successful , would bump against the Rhine
the plan was to rush into Belgium and hold a defensive line on the river Meuse , not to invade Germany itself
WW1 had cost too much French blood , France could not and totally rejected another demographic weakening

As For Stalin pulling wool over the eyes of the Allied ,
Stalin first option was an alliance with the Western allied , they just were not serious about it

in spite of repeated offers , the Soviets were spurned by the Western allies ,
none more than during the miserable Munich episode
Mussolini was there but the Soviets were pointedly kept away in spite of several offers of support
up to the British insisting that president Benes not invoke the Czechoslovak-soviet treaty of support

Facing the military reality and at French insistence , a joint commission was send to discuss the terms of an alliance with Moscow
an allied military commission headed by Admiral Sir Reginald Drax, who lead the British delegation, arrived after some delays
they had traveled by ship to Leningrad and proceeded to the Kremlin where they held a serie of meeting in early august 1939
there they were told The Soviet would put up to 120 infantry divisions (each with some 19,000 troops),
16 cavalry divisions, 5,000 heavy artillery pieces, 9,500 tanks and up to 5,500 fighter aircraft and bombers on Germany's borders in the event of war in the west

When asked what forces Britain could deploy in the west against Germany , Admiral Drax said Britain had 16 combat ready divisions,
the soviets were amazed at such a low number .

Voroshilov reported to Stalin that the western envoys were not authorized to draft a treaty of alliance ,only to engage in exploratory talks
at the same time the Germans had been playing footsy with Moscow ,
a 20 august telegram offer of a Moscow meeting with Ribbentrop was accepted
the following day Ribbentrop had jumped into a plane and offered the outline of a non aggression treaty, a commercial treaty and some secret protocols
Stalin insisted on a personal letter from Hitler approving the proposal ,
he didn't want some form of compromising for nothing
the French envoys had a desperate effort on the 21th of august to get some alliance proposal
this crumbled when Molotov asked if they were abilited to conclude anything at all and if the British were in agreement which they were not
 
Jan 2015
5,388
Ontario, Canada
#55
Okay but I am not referring to the conscript rotation provided from "Nation at War" doctrines. I am referring to those professional soldiers which remained under arms as well as the veteran reservists. While the majority of the 20 or so Divisions were a sort of reservists supplemented by conscripts the troops which were most crucial were the trained soldiers. About 110,000 French troops were a professional standing army which manned the Maginot line, trained conscripts and provided NCO's during war time. Of these conscripts over 200,000 were trained each year and then rotated for half the year, for a total standing army of over 320,000 men by 1934. In 1935 they indeed extended the number of conscripts and the length of conscription for two years (undoing the 1928 reductions). Among other things such as army reform (which included more air and armour, as well as new combat doctrine for these) and a rewriting of French war plans. Either way it doesn't matter because the French did not have the time or means to mobilize the populace for a war against Germany in 1936. Hence why there could be no offensive plan, and why they went with the strategic defense of the Dyle Plan in 1940.

Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain all tried to negotiate with the Soviets. It was obscured every time due to British ideological opposition to Bolshevism. When Ramsay MacDonald (Labour, twice) tried to negotiate in the 1920's it was viciously opposed by Stanley Baldwin of the opposition. When Stanley Baldwin became Prime Minister as leader of the Conservatives (twice actually) he was forced to negotiate with the Soviets due to the existing geopolitical realities and he failed both times because he was strongly opposed to anything that might improve Soviet position or legitimacy, same with Neville Chamberlain, who was acting on existing policies and ideology. For this reason Stanley Baldwin began a policy of concession to Germany in 1935/36 (arguably it was actually Ramsay MacDonald).

However Germany already had a Soviet pact since 1926, so Soviet-German relations of the Weimar era predates British negotiations with Germany. Here is clear precedent for German-Soviet relations, which Hitler reprimanded as he in fact was in favour of collaboration with the West. Stalin saw this and interpreted it as the West collaborating with Fascism, not just that but the West directing Fascism against Stalin. Whether Stalin or the West was to blame for a failure in negotiations was not so much the point, rather that they both saw each other with mutual distrust and Britain's opinion was simply not in line with a Soviet agreement. The Conservatives' foreign policy was to contain the Soviets hence why they gave concessions to Hitler, why they disavowed the Franco-Soviet Pact, the Czechoslovak-Soviet Pact and why they decided to come to the defense of Poland (to keep the Soviets from doing so); also one of the reasons why Churchill wanted a Balkan offensive.

Ultimately Stalin interpreted this as the West being untrustworthy and won a diplomatic coup with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Whether he wanted a Pact with the West is also not the point. What is the point is that no agreement resulted and Stalin shifted to support Germany, in other words Stalin beat the West at their own game. However as I said before many within the Foreign Office and Wehrmacht were in favour of a Soviet agreement and staunchly against France and Poland. Whether Stalin's offers were revoked or not doesn't really matter in the immediate context because Stalin was not immediately threatened by Germany or the West. They did not push his hand to accept Molotov-Ribbentrop, the whole point of the British disposition was to keep Stalin out of the conflict. Stalin simply accepted a German agreement because it was advantageous and this collaboration which the West had wanted out of Germany was now at Stalin's disposition, and he realized this and exploited it as his conquests in the Baltic, Bessarabia, Poland and Finland demonstrate.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,810
Sydney
#56
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I can go with that , my hunch is that Stalin saw Hitler as a man who had said and written that he would destroy them
and that the British were his enemy too
a German Russia cooperation was the policy of Bismark ,
post WW1 a natural rapprochement of the two countries occurred with the Rapallo treaty which led to a serie of economic and secret military collaboration
there were some high ranking officers who saw an alliance with Soviet Russia as beneficial , especially against the hated upstart Poles .

Hitler came and he was a declared enemy ,
Stalin opposed him with a switch in policy of promoting "popular fronts " alliance with the Social democrats , being more friendly with the Western government
and actively supporting the Spanish government .
under the leadership of Britain , the French were told to stay quiet , the Spanish government was constrained , the Czech betrayed
the main argument of the chamberlain government to a formal alliance was the fate of the Baltic republics , falling under the USSR "protection"
Stalin thought this was rich , chamberlain had not shown such delicate feelings for the Czech
anyone with half a brain could conclude that any formal alliance would be the soviets doing the bleeding and the Western allies doing the watching

once he was sure this was the case , he decided to reverse the terms ,
supplying food and raw material to Germany would be a great economic deal ,
he could blackmail Germany or be bought off by the Westerners at his price
allowing the capitalists to rip each others to shred sounded great
whoever won was immaterial , both would be losers
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,166
#57
August 12, 1939 meeting between Italian Foreign Minister Ciano and Hitler at Salzburg, Austria - Hitler clearly stated he expected to have to fight England and France but had no intention of backing down over Poland.

Hitler on August 22, 1939, upon the occasion of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact: "We must be determined from the beginning to fight the Western Powers...The conflict with Poland was bound to come sooner or later. I had already made this decision in the spring, but I thought I would first turn against the West and only afterwards against the East...We need not be afraid of a blockade. The East will supply us with grain, cattle, coal...I am only afraid that at the last minute some Schweinhund will make a proposal for mediation..."

In his "Directive Number 1 for the Conduct of the War" issued on August 31, 1939 Hitler stated that he expected to be attacked in the west.
Nice info. However, the Directive is not a plan to attack the west but a statement of preparedness. The fact is Hitler gambled that Britain and France would not attack over annexations of minor nations in Europe. I agree he was deeply concerned about France in particular. They were, at the time, supposed to have the best army in the world. They had more tanks than Germany, and heavier ones too. His annexation of the Saar was under orders to retreat if France resisted. Of course Hitler knew there was a risk of hostilities from the western powers and indeed his desire to see a powerful Kriegsmarine cannot be merely Germanic pride. Note that in this case he was building a deterrent to the French and British naval forces that might easily blockade Germany's logistics and trade. In a sense he succeeded. Note the panic in British circles caused by movements of the Bismarck and Tirpitz. Nonethless, it is noticeable that the two German aircraft carriers, the Graf Zeppelin and Peter Strasser were never completed - the Graf Zeppelin served as a floating warehouse during the war and was used by the Russians for target practice in 1945, whilst the development of carrier borne aircraft (specifically the Bf109T and Ju87C) had been satisfactorily undertaken.

The fact remains that Britain and France told Germany to desist from aggression in Poland under threat of retaliation which Hitler gambled they would not do. Britain had leadership that was prone to appeasement and France was politically chaotic, its military led by an old man whose ideas were rooted in the previous century. Only when Hitler received a declaration of war did he turn his attention to the west, and indeed, his western defences were not particularly impressive previous to that situation.

That does not discount his intention to invade westwards. Nazi propaganda has some frightening imagery of what scale they were looking toward, with domination over Europe, Scandanavia, Asia west of Japanese influence, and Africa. Even the neutral countries would be subjects of annexation plans that were never proceeded with.
 
Jan 2015
5,388
Ontario, Canada
#58
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I can go with that , my hunch is that Stalin saw Hitler as a man who had said and written that he would destroy them
and that the British were his enemy too
a German Russia cooperation was the policy of Bismark ,
post WW1 a natural rapprochement of the two countries occurred with the Rapallo treaty which led to a serie of economic and secret military collaboration
there were some high ranking officers who saw an alliance with Soviet Russia as beneficial , especially against the hated upstart Poles .
Exactly there was an existing precedent for German and Soviet relations. Technically this was not reversed in spite of Hitler coming into power. Perhaps Stalin looked at it from this perspective.

It was not only the Wehrmacht but also the Foreign Office which saw a pact with the Soviet Union as being beneficial. Stalin probably saw this as a pragmatic decision, and so it was two pragmatists making an agreement to defeat Poland no less.

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Hitler came and he was a declared enemy ,
Stalin opposed him with a switch in policy of promoting "popular fronts " alliance with the Social democrats , being more friendly with the Western government
and actively supporting the Spanish government .
under the leadership of Britain , the French were told to stay quiet , the Spanish government was constrained , the Czech betrayed
the main argument of the chamberlain government to a formal alliance was the fate of the Baltic republics , falling under the USSR "protection"
Stalin thought this was rich , chamberlain had not shown such delicate feelings for the Czech
anyone with half a brain could conclude that any formal alliance would be the soviets doing the bleeding and the Western allies doing the watching
Chamberlain really only saw an agreement with the Soviet Union as a last resort. It was clear to Stalin that Hitler was the biggest chess piece, so he took away that chess piece and put it on his side. It was actually quite brilliant on his part. As we saw it was unlikely that Britain and France would have good coordination with Poland and USSR.

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once he was sure this was the case , he decided to reverse the terms ,
supplying food and raw material to Germany would be a great economic deal ,
he could blackmail Germany or be bought off by the Westerners at his price
allowing the capitalists to rip each others to shred sounded great
whoever won was immaterial , both would be losers
Stalin did not foresee the Germans turning on him in 1941 for those reasons. Especially when Hitler was still at war with Britain. Hitler would have been totally dependent on Soviet exports to continue the war, just as Chiang Kai-shek had been dependent on Soviet support since about 1925. Chiang was staunchly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist, but this did not prevent him from seeking Soviet aid. To Stalin WW2 was just the Capitalists destroying each other.
 
Dec 2018
51
Australia
#59
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 course 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 ...
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 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.
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.
Three points: Japan might have got into a war in 1942. This could have drawn much of the attention of the world towards Japan. This weakening of the British and French would have resulted in a much easier war once Germany decided to go for it.

Secondly as Chlodio said in the second quote. If Germany hadn't have continued to annex the remainder of Czechoslovakia, the British may not have started rearming. They also wouldn't have given their guarantees to the Polish government. They could then wait for 1942.

Lastly: someone (I can't find the post) said that the British and French would have added in radios to their tanks also allowing the supreme maneuverability necessitated by blitzkrieg. However they didn't know how effective it was until after Poland and to some extent after France had fallen so without the Polish war they could well have not relized the potential that the German methods had.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,810
Sydney
#60
It is true that WW2 could be said to have been when Hitler tore up the Munich agreement and occupied Prague
Chamberlain could have taken any abuse
but to have been made a public fool so soon made him overreact ,
which Hitler read as being just some diplomatic buffoonery
it is interesting to conjecture that if he had not taken Prague , he probably could have had Dantzig for the asking
 

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