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German Army discussion (from Great Quotes III)

Discussion in 'World History' started by Kyriakos, May 19, 2017.

  1. Kyriakos

    Kyriakos Alien spiral maker

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    Well, tbf the germans were exceedingly lucky in how they defeated UK+France in Belgium, and i have often read that in most cases they would lose badly or have another stable front there as in ww1, so also would lose a little bit later. Apparently France spread out its larger and better tank force, and tried to reverse the loss of Holland (by some ww1-styled german army with no tanks, Holland sucks :) ) and Belgium, and got encircled by german use of tank-only groups and better ground-air coordination. So Germany was lucky in how it defeated France and forced Britain to evacuate in that phase of the war.
     
  2. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

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    Well, this is just not really accurate. The civilian side of the Nazi war effort was a complete and utter dumpster fire, but the German Army was extremely competent.

    Minor correction, the Panzer divisions weren't tank-only formations, the whole point of them was that they put together concentrations of tanks with motorized/mechanized infantry, artillery, anti-air, and so on.
     
  3. Thorvald of Lym

    Thorvald of Lym A Little Sketchy

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    Don't get him wrong, TB's a history buff and he knows it's not that simple. While he's writing specifically in reaction to a Marvel Comics plotline, he took the opportunity to call out the Wehraboos and dismantle the mythology surrounding Blitzkrieg. Certainly Germany had as many skilled commanders as it had Hermann Göring and Ratte blueprints—his point is, at the strategic level, its early victories relied as much on Allied blunders as they did OKW planning, and these Third Reich Triumphant alt-hists are a lot harder to justify than most authors like to admit.
     
  4. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

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    Yeah, the piece is a polemic but I'm now going to post a commentary that explains what he's wrong about because I just can't resist.

    By everything I can tell, this is completely false. The Czech tanks were used in the Battle of France, but they weren't actually the "mainstay" of the Panzer divisions, at least not according to any other source I can find, most of which reference only a few hundred being used in Fall Gelb.

    I would dispute this, these tanks weren't fast enough and not having radios was a big deal, and that's why they actually couldn't have been the "best" tanks. Gun and armor aren't the only things that make a tank "good."

    In a larger sense it's plain misleading to imply that because the French and British had better-armed and armored tanks, they could have beaten the Panzer divisions. The whole point there was that the Germans were a couple of steps ahead of the Western Allies in terms of operational doctrine - the coordination of all arms in a mobile campaign literally left the static-minded British and French commanders in the dust. The Germans also had vastly superior air forces, with the most technologically-advanced planes and the most experienced pilots in the world, which played a huge role in their quickly gaining air supremacy over France (which in turn was an extremely important factor in the success of the Blitzkrieg).

    It is accurate that the French suffered from terrible leadership.

    While Goering's assurance that the Luftwaffe alone could halt the evacuation played a role, the generally overextended, overworked condition of the German troops at this point (as well as somewhat justified worries about flanking attacks cutting off the spearhead) did too. But of course we don't want to acknowledge that because that would give Hitler credit for some sense.

    Obviously, this is quite correct, though there were a few notable (and, in my view, at least somewhat noble) exceptions.

    Ironically, this is what the Germans thought at the time, and they were wrong. The effects of the purges have been overstated. They weren't helpful, obviously, but they also didn't completely neuter the Red Army as a fighting force.

    The allies were still better than nothing, so portraying use of allied troops as a "mistake" is just comically wrong.

    The real intelligence failure was the drastic underestimation of the Red Army's strength, reserves, and manpower pool, which continued essentially until the end of the battle of Kursk at which point basically everyone with half a clue knew the Germans were utterly screwed.
    As a more minor point, it's simply not true that the Germans lacked an effective counter to the T-34 and KV. They lacked a tank that could fight either one on equal terms, but- as was the case in France - their operational doctrine more than made up for that. And in any case the standard German tactic against armor was to use the mobile anti-tank guns with the Panzer divisions to destroy enemy tanks, with the German tanks playing the role of bait to lure them into ambushes against a Pakfront.

    This I agree with, but this is like saying that Hitler lost the war by starting it. Which is true, because Germany's strategic position in World War II was all but impossible. Which is, ultimately, why they lost.

    This isn't really true, and in any case the Germans were still achieving very favorable casualty ratios in 1943-45, against well-led and much better-equipped and -supplied Allied armies. The reason is that the German Army had a level of operational competence that just wasn't matched by the Allied armies except in a few instances. The most obvious place this can be seen is in the quality of the German staff work, which handily surpassed that of the Allied armies even unto the end of the war. One obvious point: the Germans, outnumbered and in many cases outgunned, managed to overwhelm the Western Allies in 1940 in a campaign lasting close to six weeks, while the Western Allies in 1944-5, despite facing a bunch of old men and kids, and something like a couple of hundred German tanks on the Western Front, took almost a whole year to push into Germany and win the damn war.
     
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  5. Kyriakos

    Kyriakos Alien spiral maker

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    ^I don't like the "noble nazi" trope. It is why i didn't like (well, liked, and then unliked) your previous post.
     
  6. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

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    You mean post 830? Where did I say anything about noble Nazis?
     
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  7. Kyriakos

    Kyriakos Alien spiral maker

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    You didn't say it there, but you still expressed something which seemed like veiled admiration for Germany in ww2. Anyway, i think people should remember that Germany in ww2 wasn't just marketed as something incredibly criminal and mass-murdering, but actually was.
    A bit like how you see the CSA -- only hugely worse :)
     
  8. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

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    I frequently draw the same analogy ("heritage not hate" wouldn't apply to flying a swastika flag, one would think), but note that I'm simply talking about the level of military competence displayed by the German army, whereas you frequently make apologies for what the CSA was fighting for which is pretty different.

    The question of the German Army's criminality is separate from its capability. And it is plain wrong to say that the Germans sucked at fighting. My view is actually that being evil may have made them better at fighting, at least in a narrow sense.
     
  9. Kyriakos

    Kyriakos Alien spiral maker

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    So it is ok to like the hand of the murderer, just hate the murderer apart from some of his hand. Ok :jesus: ;) (well, a bit unfair here, but i think you can see the underlying issue; namely i view this as a bit dangerous)

    And no, ww2 Germany is not on the same level as the CSA, in fact not even ww1 genocidal Germany in Africa is the CSA; at least the CSA didn't genocide its slaves like that.
    Of course both are nasty, yet there are more than just a couple of degrees of magnitude difference imo..

    (and we are going off topic now :D )
     
  10. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

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    You miss the point, and since I'm sure you're fairly determined not to understand explaining further would probably be a waste of time.

    You should look into the mortality rates among slaves in the US, particularly in the early period.
     
  11. jackelgull

    jackelgull An aberration of nature

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    Attributing German military competence to the Nazis would be wrong, given that most of the operational and tactical improvements that the German army made were developed before the Nazis came into power. Even Blitzkrieg wasn't purely a Nazi invention - it was invented during the Wermacht time, it's just that the Nazis were enthusiastic about it.

    I believe being evil actually hindered the German army's ability - lots of manpower wasted in concentration camp, reduced the capability to draw from the manpower pool of local populations, lead to an ideological crusade the Germans couldn't win etc.

    Robert Lee's military competence does not diminish from the fact that he was defending an institution of great moral evil, and to suggest otherwise indicates a conqueror's mentality - that the military might of a side justifies any atrocity it commits. A disappointing mentality, but not surprising given the source.
     
  12. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

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    Well, yes and no. There was plenty of debate within the German officer corps about how best to organize and deploy the troops. The theoretical elements of Blitzkrieg were developed very soon after the First World War - but pretty much it was the Nazis who ensured that bold offensive operations would be undertaken, against the opinion of most of the conservative officers. For example, in the Battle of France the plan developed by the General Staff had been fairly conservative, by-the-book and all. It was Hitler who basically forced through the Manstein Plan over the objections of basically the whole General Staff.

    Oh, I definitely agree with this. That's why I said "in a narrow sense" - mainly, willingness to press the offensive whereas the Allies (Western Allies anyway) were hesitant to pursue operations that would result in serious casualties.
     
  13. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    To add to this, the original German plan was a short offensive to seize some Dutch and Belgian industrial plants, get a foothold on the coast, and then hunker down into trench warfare to await the inevitable French/British/Dutch/Belgian counterattack. Even that plan would have stretched German military capacity to the limit. After a plane carrying that plan got shot down in French territory the Germans switched up their plans.
    The resulting "Blitzkrieg" plan only worked because of factors completely unknown to the Germans; notably that the Franco-British commanders and political leadership were doing everything to keep the war (on land) localized. Allied intelligence knew how inadequate the German army was for sustained war and expected the Germans to come to a peace treaty and wanted to avoid a general European conflagration.* Hence why they faffed about invading Norway while the German army was still in Poland. The Blitzkrieg plan drew enough German troops away from the Franco-German border that even a half-hearted French offensive would have been a serious problem for the Germans in that area. The Blitzkrieg plan wasn't a bad one, but it is important to emphasize that any plan that relies on the enemy making three** catastrophic mistakes which you have absolutely no control over to avoid turning into a dumpster fire isn't that great of a plan.
    Plus, the distance from the German border to the sea was about a good day's drive, so it wasn't that hard to isolate the Franco-British army.


    *One of Adam Tooze's favorite statistics to show the German lack of resources was that at their height, the German petroleum reserve was about 2 million tons. In Britain, the petroleum reserve falling to 7 million tons was enough to set alarm bells off in every office in Whitehall. The result was that the British government started to disbelieve their intelligence reports because they didn't think anyone would be stupid enough to fight a land war in Russia with such a small petroleum reserve.
    **The three mistakes are, trying to avoid a general European conflagration by faffing about in Norway and sitting at the border, insufficient recon flights over the Ardennes (no matter how stupid sending armor through there might appear), and failure to hold back reserves to avoid encirclement.
     
  14. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

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    That's all true, and of course the plan was seen at the time by most of the people involved in it as fundamentally an act of desperation because Germany couldn't possibly survive a long war.
    But it really is true that the German operational doctrine was way, way more advanced than the Allies'. The main story in the East was the Soviets slowly learning to get on the Germans' level.
     
  15. Kyriakos

    Kyriakos Alien spiral maker

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    Not sure why this belongs in this thread, tbh, but maybe it has gone on enough? This isn't the 'why i think the ww2 german army was awesome' thread.

    And even if it was, the premise would be unsound, given the sheer luck it took to have Germany defeat a far better UK-French force in the Ardennes.
     
  16. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    Well, the German high command had been under orders to remilitarize since basically the day Hitler took office. That's quite a while to practice through trial and error. The French and British both starting remilitarizing later and were accompanied by a leeriness from the political branches who didn't want to be seen as aggressors (and they were hoping there wouldn't be another war). Allied doctrine was unfinished when war broke out and combined the weakest elements of Great War thinking and mechanized warfare thinking. For example, they had the idea of combined arms right -tanks spread throughout infantry battalions- but didn't have the technical and administrative support in place to coordinate efforts properly. There is a famous instance when during the retreat to Paris Charles de Gaulle found himself in command of a tank division, counterattacked, and threw back the Germans for several hours in disarray.
    By the end of the war German operation command was no better than the Allies and frequently worse. During the last year of the war, I think Zhukov remarked along the lines that "Hitler must have killed his generals like Stalin, because there is no way the ones I am facing could have conquered Poland". Plus, you know, Operation Overlord was one of the most complicated military operations ever put into practice requiring total coordination from at least five distinct branches (naval, land, air, action service, and intelligence service).

    Are either of us saying this? Saying the German army in the early days of the war was better organized than the Allies doesn't mean the German army was "awesome" unless the Greek language is far weirder than I have been lead to believe.
     
  17. Kyriakos

    Kyriakos Alien spiral maker

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    It just has less 'bar' sounds :/
     
  18. red_elk

    red_elk Warlord

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    WW2 German army wasn't awesome, it was just very competent and capable, unfortunately.
     
  19. PhroX

    PhroX Chieftain

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    It ties in with the third of your points, but for me the biggest mistake on the allies behalf was to switch to Plan D instead of their original Plan E - and that's not purely a hindsight thing, concerns about Plan D were raised at the time and ignored by Gamelin. Plan D was always risky - the payoff being that the war wasn't fought on French territory thereby avoiding the devastation seen in WW1. Defending along the Escaut would have put them in a far better position to react to the Sicklecut while also making it much more difficult for the Germans to quickly dash to the sea (as they'd be plenty of Allied troops close to their historical line of advance). The Germans will likely still make the breakthrough in the Ardennes but to continue that thrust into a war winning victory is unlikely with the Allied troops not overextended into Belgium. And even with the various problems the Allied, and in particular French, militaries faced in 1940, had they managed to bog the initial German attack down, then they're well positioned to win the war. For all that the Sicklecut was a fantastic success, Belgium and Northern France (and Holland which is much less likely to fall so quickly with Plan E as they would have destroyed all the bridges over the Waterline instead of leaving some intact for French forces) isn't actually that conductive to the kind of mobile warfare that Blitzkrieg promotes - the sheer density of military forces in the region mean that unless you can completely outflank your opponents the way the Germans did, there's a seriously limit on how far an attack can get before it simply runs out of steam in the face of constant resistance - which heavily favours the Allies more methodical, attritional, battle plans which resembled those used in the last months of WW1. Throw in the resource shortages you mentioned, and German is in big trouble - the plan they used was a desperate gamble they undertook because they had no other way to win.

    On another note, there is one massive consistent failure on behalf of the German military - logistics. It's quite remarkable how little attention German senior officers seemed to pay to it. Rommel is the perfect example of this. For all his tactical excellence, he had little comprehension of what was involved in keeping his troops able to fight, hence the disastrous North African campaign. The Afrika Korps never had any chance of taking Egypt, the Axis simply couldn't supply them even despite the downright heroic actions of the Italian merchant marine, and yet Rommel kept pushing onwards, far beyond his actual instructions, with the result that he ended up getting hammered and the final collapse of Tunisia was comparable to Stalingrad in terms of German losses (not to mention the huge number of trucks, something the Germans were always in very short supply of, lost trying to supply Rommel, which further hindered supply elsewhere). Similar things issues can be seen in the invasion of the Soviet Union in '41 - for all their battlefield successes, the Germans never managed to keep their logistics in order. Supply was what really cost them the Battle of Moscow - the sheer distance to Moscow meant that they simply couldn't keep their troops sufficiently supplied to carry out an offensive soon enough to prevent the Soviets reinforcing (and why the oft repeated claim that, had AGC not diverted south to fight in the Ukraine, they would have reached Moscow sooner and thus won is bollocks - had they tried, their supply lines would have been far, far worse, due to the railheads being hundreds of miles further from Moscow, with likely even worse results than historically). Of course, this isn't just a WW2 thing - one of the major factors in the failure of the Schlieffen Plan at the start of WW1 was that the Belgian railway network was insufficient to supply the German troops attacking into Northern France, something the German strategists had overlooked.

    Now, if you really want an incompetent military that somehow achieved remarkable success, look at the Japanese in the first 6 months of the Pacific side of WW2. Up until Midway, pretty much everything went perfectly for them, with their opposition being unbelievably stupid (seriously, there's no way an alt. hist. author would be able to get away with presenting the allies as useless as they were without being ridiculed) - which was utterly necessary for their crazy plans to work - and the moment something went wrong, it all fell apart and the next three years were basically mopping them up - they never actually posed any real offensive threat after that point.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2017
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  20. innonimatu

    innonimatu Warlord

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    It was the local superiority of the german airforce during the battle of France that did the allies in. And we probably should blame the british for that. I do not believe that the germans had a superior airforce, there was plenty of experimenting at the time n each of the countries involved, a mix of plane models in service. The germans just had more planes committed to this battle . Had the british fully committed their aviation to the continent before the actual invasion started, the panzers could have been haled and german infantry would have entered a meat grinder in France.
     

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