Most decisive battle of the Second World War
u ever see the movie,
CSA: Confederate States of America
its not that good but its something 2 watch if u r into this subject.
KurtGodel7 last edited by
Part 1 of 2
Thanks to everyone for their compliments! The things people wrote have inspired me to write another post along similar lines.
For hundreds of years, French foreign policy had been based on the idea of keeping Germany weak and divided. The Treaty of Versailles was consistent with that age-old policy. Large chunks of German territory were given to Poland, Czechoslovakia, and (in the case of the Rhineland) were put under French military occupation. Those territorial gifts also weakened Germany diplomatically, because Germany would naturally be at odds with some foreign nation that occupied German territory.
Poland and the Soviet Union went to war in 1919. No major Western democracy sent troops to help. By 1920 the Soviets were on the verge of achieving an outright victory, which would have allowed them to make Poland into the newest Soviet Socialist Republic. The Western democracies advised Poland to make the best peace treaty it could. Instead, Poland won a major victory outside Warsaw–a victory which allowed it to keep its freedom and independence.
The Western democracies were no more interested in stopping Soviet expansionism in the '30s or early '40s than they had been in the '20s. The treaty Britain and France signed with Poland in 1939 protected it against a German invasion but not a Soviet invasion. Moreover, that treaty misled the Poles into thinking France would launch a general offensive against Germany if Germany attacked. France was responsible for the fact that Poland occupied some of Germany’s territory in the first place. Its false promises to Poland’s leaders made them overconfident about their military options if Germany attacked. That overconfidence led Poland to reject the idea of pursuing a diplomatic option.
Allied diplomatic policy in 1939–and specifically that of France–was war-seeking. Had its goal been to prevent war and contain German expansionism, it would not have misled Polish leaders about its military intentions. Daladier, however, was firmly of the opinion that Hitler had to be stopped. France in general was distrustful of a strong Germany. Daladier firmly opposed the course of action Chamberlain had decided upon in 1938 at Munich. But the Soviet Union was not willing to go to war for Czechoslovakia, even though the two nations had signed a defensive alliance in 1935. Stalin regarded both Germany and the Western democracies as enemies, and hoped the two sides would bleed each other dry in a long war. With neither British nor Soviet support for the idea of Czechoslovakia holding onto its German territory, Daladier decided to unhappily go along with Chamberlain’s policy. But the mood was very different in 1939, and Poland became the opportunity to be the flashpoint for the war between France and Germany Daladier thought was necessary. Poland had to be misled and sacrificed for that war to occur, but that was evidently a price Daladier evidently was willing to pay.
It’s also worth paying attention to the actions of the communist parties in Western Europe. Prior to Hitler’s ascension to power, the leadership of the international communist party had believed that fascism was the penultimate step on the road that would ultimately lead a nation to communism. In the early '30s, German communists did not cooperate with other leftist groups in an anti-Hitler coalition government, but rather went their own way. After Hitler came to power, he placed the leadership of Germany’s communist party in concentration camps, improved the economy, improved wages and working conditions, strongly reduced the crime rate, and generally created a nation that was strongly unified, politically stable, and highly anti-communist. That result had to be very disappointing for a communist movement that had been hoping for instability, weakness, and subsequent communist revolution.
Communist leaders learned from that mistake and began formulating new policies instead. In 1936, the Popular Front government took power in France. Nearly 20% of that government’s seats came from the French Communist Party, with another 40% from the French Section of the Workers’ International. (The remaining 40% came from the Radical and Socialist Party–Daladier’s party.) (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_Front_(France) .) Daladier had been Minister of War under the Popular Front, and became the prime minister of France in the post-Popular Front France of 1938. In terms of foreign policy, Dalaider picked up right where the Popular Front had left off. (Which is one of the reasons the Popular Front government made him Minister of War in the first place.) During the mid- and late '30s, the far left was promoting “anti-fascism.” If the far left had its way, the Western democracies would fight Germany while the Soviet Union stayed neutral. This foreign policy was intended to give Stalin the conflict between his two sets of enemies that he wanted. If that kind of foreign policy seemed to do a much better job of advancing Soviet interests and Soviet expansionism than of promoting France’s interests, it was because that policy had been formulated in Moscow. In this case, the goals of the French communist and other radical leftist movements dovetailed almost perfectly with France’s centuries-old strongly anti-German foreign policy–the kind of foreign policy favored by Daladier.
France was not the only nation in which political leaders regarded communism with fondness, and Nazism with fear and hate. In the U.S., FDR’s vice president, Henry Wallace, believed that "both the American and the Russian revolution were part of ‘the march to freedom of the past 150 years.’ " See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_A._Wallace#Vice_President . Wallace ran for President in 1948, and advocated friendly relations with the Soviet Union and an end to the Cold War. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_A._Wallace#The_1948_Presidential_election ). Also from that section,
Wallace was endorsed by the Communist Party (USA), and his subsequent refusal to publicly disavow any Communist support cost him the backing of many anti-Communist liberals and socialists, such as Norman Thomas. Christopher Andrew, a University of Cambridge historian working with evidence in the famed Mitrokhin Archive, has stated publicly that he believed Wallace was a confirmed KGB agent, though evidence for this was never produced.
FDR’s views about the Soviet Union and communism seem to have been very similar to those of his vice president. The main difference was that FDR was more politically astute about avoiding potentially embarrassing public statements than Wallace had been. FDR did, however, gravitate to pro-Soviet propaganda whenever the opportunity arose to do so without paying a high political cost. The following propaganda poster is consistent with the pro-Soviet message his administration sent during WWII: http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc230/small/ More reading about FDR’s pro-communist leanings is available here: https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol47no1/article02.html
One of the conditions FDR agreed to at Yalta was to hand over citizens of the Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia to their respective governments, regardless of their consent. He also agreed to hand over captured German military personnel to whichever nation against which they had done the most fighting, which in practice meant that most German servicemen would be turned over to the Soviets. The highest scoring fighter ace in human history, Erich Hartmann, was handed over to the Soviets as a result of this provision. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Hartmann#Prisoner_of_war . FDR’s willingness to hand over large numbers of refugees and captured German servicemen to the Soviet Union demonstrates that he was willing to cooperate with the Soviet Union in anything, up to and including Soviet mass murder.
The nightmare scenario for Germany’s military planners was that in which Germany was encircled with anti-German diplomatic alliances over the short-term, and invaded by the Soviet Union in the long run. Western democracies would have remained neutral in the Soviet Union’s favor. Some of them–particularly France and Czechoslovakia, had defensive alliances with the Soviet Union and at least in the case of France had leaders who would have loved nothing more than to come in on the Soviet side. FDR would also have supported the Soviet Union to the maximum extent political circumstances allowed. Germany lacked the manpower, natural resources, and industrial strength necessary to win such a war, especially if it had remained confined to the borders it had in January of 1938.
The other question we need ask is whether Germany could have avoided war with the Western democracies. Daladier and FDR both wanted their respective nations to go to war with Germany; as did Winston Churchill. Their short-term failure to achieve the desired war was because of political constraints on their available actions. Hitler was responsible for the circumstances which led those political constraints to disappear, as well as those which led Churchill to replace Chamberlain in power. But might the political climates in France and the U.S. have slowly changed in favor of interventionism anyway? I have heard that isolationist U.S. newspapers were being bought up by those who favored interventionism. This suggests that institutional pressures–not just among political leaders, but also among those who were gaining control of the media–were being brought to bear to cause Allied policy to become gradually more interventionist. (And it was understood that the interventionism would be directed against Germany, rather than against the Soviet Union.)
The above is not to suggest that the Nazis’ military/foreign policy of the late '30s and early '40s was mistake-free. It was not. But the diplomatic options available to them were far narrower than many people realize.
The U.S. produced 2,000 military aircraft in 1939, and 19,000 in 1941. According to Adam Tooze, that dramatic increase in aircraft production was the result of decisions that had been made several years prior to 1941. The production increase may itself seem innocent enough, except that the other part of FDR’s foreign policy involved sending as much Lend Lease Aid as possible. American isolationists might stop FDR from getting a declaration of war unless the U.S. was attacked first. They would not stop him from turning American industrial strength against Germany, whether Germany attacked first or not.
KurtGodel7 last edited by
Part 2 of 2
The questions we need ask ourselves are these:
Should Germany have annexed Czechoslovakia in 1938?
Should Germany have invaded Poland in 1939?
Should Germany have invaded the Soviet Union in 1941?
In answer to the first question, Germany’s annexation of Czechoslovakia was part of its larger policy toward Eastern Europe. Nations which adopted an anti-German, pro-Soviet foreign policy–such as Czechoslovakia–would be punished. Nations which did the opposite would be rewarded. Nations which remained neutral in Germany’s favor would be left alone. By the spring of 1941, that policy had resulted in a situation in which nearly all the governments of Eastern Europe were either neutral or pro-German. That situation was much better, from the German perspective, than things had been in the mid-'30s. At that time the mood in Eastern Europe was decidedly anti-German, as governments anticipated that the Soviet Union and the Western democracies would unite in crushing Germany.
Germany’s annexation of Czechoslovakia also gave it access to more manpower, raw materials, and industrial capacity: the very things it needed to compete in a long war, or even a short one. On the other hand, Imperious Leader correctly pointed out that the annexation was very damaging to Chamberlain’s administration and to the credibility of his pro-German, anti-Soviet foreign policy. (A policy which Chamberlain’s enemies labeled “appeasement.”) The damage to British prestige largely explains why, by 1939, Britain had become far more anti-German than anti-Soviet. That represented a very serious diplomatic setback for Germany. The question is whether institutional and political forces in Britain would have forced a worsening of relations with Germany anyway. Might a gifted orator such as Churchill have eventually come into power even without Munich? Germany paid a very heavy diplomatic price in the short-term for taking all Czechoslovakia. But there’s at least a chance it might have had to pay that price anyway in the long run without having received more than just the Sudetenland in return.
- Should Germany have invaded Poland in 1939? In 1939, combined British and French military spending had exceeded Germany’s. Germany had reached the limit of the military spending it could afford. Britain and France had not. If war between Germany and Britain and France was inevitable, it was better (from the German perspective) for that war to occur in 1939 as opposed to later. The defensive alliance between France and the Soviet Union may also have played an important role in Hitler’s thought process. While the Soviet Union would not go to war to save France–defensive alliance or no defensive alliance–there was a very real chance–almost a certainty–that France would go to war to save the Soviet Union if Germany invaded. That alliance–plus the guarantees Britain and France had given to Poland–meant that Hitler could not strike out in any direction without going to war at very least against France. If, however, Hitler had remained within the confines the Allies had created for Germany after WWI (plus Czechoslovakia), Germany would have been extremely vulnerable to Soviet invasion after Stalin’s militarization and industrialization effort had been completed. As noted, the major Western democracies would have remained neutral in the Soviet Union’s favor, with many of their leaders preferring to join the Soviet side.
The war in 1939–and the conquest of France in 1940–opened up options for Germany. Now it could focus its army on its eastern front without having to worry about the French Army to the west. French industrial capacity, manpower, and natural resources also strengthened Germany, though not by as much as had been hoped. On the downside, British and American industrial capacity was now turned toward the destruction of Germany from the air. That fact severely constricted Germany’s future options, and forced it to choose between either acquiring a roughly equal amount of industrial capacity and labor, or else watch its cities and its people perish in flames.
- Should Germany have invaded the Soviet Union in 1941? There were a lot of reasons why an invasion seemed to make sense. During the Spanish Civil War, German and Soviet aircraft competed with each other as the fascists fought the communists. Observers from both Germany and the Soviet Union paid close attention to how their nations’ military hardware performed. In 1936, Soviet aircraft were at least as good as their German counterparts. But then in 1937, the Germans introduced new, significantly improved aircraft–aircraft which could go 100 MPH (160 km/hour) faster than had their predecessors. The Soviet Union responded with a massive effort to engineer its own radically improved aircraft designs. But by the spring of 1941, those new Soviet aircraft designs either had not yet been put into production, or else existed in very limited numbers. This meant that the Soviet Air Force was almost entirely obsolete; but that it would remain obsolete for only a limited period of time.
Another factor was that Stalin had purged the Red Army’s officer corps in the late '30s. I have heard it said that his reason for doing so was to eliminate the gentlemanly traditions of the old Russian Army, and to make his new army more thuggish. If that was his goal he certainly succeeded, as shown by the rape and mass murder perpetrated by the Red Army’s soldiers during and after WWII. But whatever Stalin’s motives for the purge may have been, it left the Red Army temporarily weakened. That weakness was exacerbated by its transition to a new doctrine. During the spring of '41, it was halfway between doctrines as it were, and in a position to adequately execute neither. The very poor performance of the Red Army during its invasion of Finland resulted from these sources of temporary weakness.
However, the limitations of Germany’s supply lines–which I mentioned in my earlier post–meant that Germany could only hope to conquer the western portion of the Soviet Union during the summer and fall of '41. German military planners had recognized this prior to the start of Barbarossa, but had hoped that the main strength of the Red Army would be enveloped and captured in the western territories Germany conquered. Prior to the start of the operation, German military planners had reckoned on a total Red Army strength of 200 divisions. They were off by a factor of three: by the end of the fall of '41, the Red Army consisted of a staggering 600 divisions! In contrast, the German Army was 150 divisions strong in the spring of '41–though a German division was somewhat larger than a Soviet.
Had the invasion of the Soviet Union gone as planned, Germany would have grabbed off large stretches of Ukrainian farmland (necessary to prevent starvation from the Allied food blockade), as well as the oil, manpower, and industrial capacity it required to counter the Anglo-American bombing effort. German military planners had underestimated the sheer size and strength of the Red Army, as well as the extent of the industrial capacity the Soviet Union could bring to bear on the war effort. The Soviet habit of moving whole factories eastward, away from the German invasion, meant the rewards were far fewer than expected. (As did the Soviets’ scorched earth policy.)
Imperious Leader is absolutely correct about the qualitative advantage the German Army had over the Red Army. But the Red Army made up for that with sheer numbers, and by the improvements in tactics, weaponry, and execution it had made since its Winter War against Finland. The Red Army of '43 or '44 was far more effective, on a man-for-man basis, than the Red Army had been in '40 or '41. While the German Army still had a significant qualitative advantage over the Red Army even in '43, that advantage was no longer enough to prevent sheer Soviet numbers from dictating the outcomes of battles.
Over 80% of German military deaths during WWII were caused by the Soviet military. The Nazi-Soviet war was the one place where the core of Germany’s military strength slipped away. It’s easy to say in hindsight that Hitler should not have done that. One reason hindsight is so easy is because we have information–especially information about the sheer scale of Soviet strength–unavailable to the German military planners of '40 and '41. If the Germans had known how many men the Red Army would be able to recruit during '41 and '42, and how many tanks, planes, and artillery pieces the Soviets would build, they almost certainly not have launched the invasion when they did.
The problem Hitler faced in the fall of 1940 was that Germany had to conquer something if it was to compete against the Anglo-American bombing effort directed against German cities, or prevent the famine the British food blockade would otherwise impose. One option that had been discussed would have been to use Libya as a base for a thrust into Egypt, and thence Syria and Persia. After Egypt fell, Hitler could also have turned part of his army south, into the heart of Africa. Persian oil would have taken the place of the Caucasus oil Hitler had hoped to gain from the Soviet Union.
The problem with all this is that the operation would have had to have been supplied from the Central Mediterranean. That, in turn, meant that Hitler would be placing heavy reliance on Italy’s military–and in particular its navy–to keep Britain from interfering with the Axis’ military transports. Anyone familiar with Italy’s record in WWII should realize why relying on the Italian military for anything would have been a very bad idea.
In the long run, Hitler could have built up a German presence in the Central Mediterranean. However, if Hitler lacked the industrial capacity to win an air and sea war against the British in the North Atlantic, would he have had the industrial capacity to win such a war against them in the Central Mediterranean?
Germany could have avoided such problems by using an overland route through Turkey instead. Turkey was neutral, but Turkish leaders could have been coerced into allowing the German Army through. Or, failing that, Turkey could have been conquered. The possession of Turkish and (subsequently) Persian territory would have allowed the later invasion of the Soviet Union to occur along a broader front.
The three things that kind of invasion would have gained for Germany would have been oil, a larger border with the Soviet Union, and more time during which to prepare for the invasion. However, that last factor would have been a mixed blessing, as the Soviets would also have had more time to prepare for the coming war. One or two additional years to prepare would have given the Soviets the chance to more fully recover from the officer purges, to fully implement their new army doctrine, to begin producing large numbers of their new, modern aircraft designs, and to make further progress down Stalin’s road of industrialization. A delay of a year or two would also have given the U.S. more time to expand its aircraft production. Germany’s military production would have expanded as well during this delay. But the lack of conquests from the Soviet Union would have meant that the production increase would have been smaller than the one historically observed. (Unless, of course, Germany had sent large numbers of Middle Easterners to German factories to do the work Soviet POWs would otherwise have done.)
Imperious Leader is absolutely correct to state that Germany’s military production was far stronger in relation to the Soviet Union’s in '43 and '44 than it had been in '41 and '42. But it needs to be pointed out that the Red Army would have experienced significant qualitative improvements between '41 and '43 even if Hitler had not invaded. That latter factor largely offsets the former. Delaying the invasion by a few years might not have helped Germany nearly as much as an analysis of industrial production figures alone might seem to suggest.
What if Germany hadn’t launched the invasion at all? In the long run, Britain and the U.S. would have simply outproduced Germany, and would have reduced its cities and its people to ash. Germany’s jets would have created a respite from the bombing, but sooner or later the Allies would have developed jets of their own. Once Stalin judged Germany’s strength had been sufficiently smashed by the Western democracies, the Red Army would have invaded.
Looking at the options Hitler had, I don’t see anything which would have prevented, with 100% certainty, a Soviet invasion and postwar Soviet occupation of Germany. Some of the options Hitler had were better than others, and he clearly made mistakes along the way. But even if he’d been mistake-free, there’s still a very solid chance Germany would have fallen to its far larger, stronger enemies.
But the assumption is still that USA would be involved in that war. If Germany was not involved in the war with USA long enough to defeat the Soviet Union, which was entirely possible in 41. Hitler could have just adopted a positive policy against the slavs, enlisting them in his cause to dump Stalinism. They could have easily overthrown him in this manner, but played true to their war of extermination which Stalin played up as a war for survival. Second, the campaign failed in 1941 for many reasons that we don’t need to cover, but lets just say they undervalued their own prospects and tried to do too many things at one time and at the wrong time.
Hitler could have also just enlisted Russia as a partner in carving up the British colonial empire, which would have given them at least a warm water port that they wanted for at least 100 years and English foreign policy effectively denied this ( just look at how they carved up the Ottomans and Middle east).
Stalin was not keen on getting dragged into another war and he remembered how Russia triggered the Kaiser into war from mobilization. He was much more interested in defeating France and UK whom tried to invade Russia and meddle in her Civil War 1918-23. Hitler was much more of an ally than France of UK. Hitler could have easily made good on this advantage and made some accommodation until UK was defeated. Once that was accomplished, the vacuum of power from UK leaving the scene ( and fighting from Canada) would make all of Africa and Middle east ripe for the axis partners.
At that point, the axis would just finish up and hold what they got, leaving further wars for other generations.
UK could not render any real fight from Canada and USA would be left alone and FDR could do nothing to trigger any war. UK and USA did not have the manpower to even come close to matching the combined armies of Germany, USSR, Italy and Japan, which would have been in control of the vast majority of the world population.
But this would be a Germany where Hitler lets his military win the war for him and put off the racial programs much further down the path.
If FDR could have had his DOW, then he could have done it before 12/41. But the nation was not at all interested in this prospect and with no trading partners left, how she got out of the depression would not have materialized and unemployment would languish into the 1940’s
And remember, the man died in 1945. Truman was probably less suited to direct the correct policy of the nation if faced with a defeated UK and Axis control over most of the world.
Zooey72 last edited by
No love for Kursk on this one eh? Moscow bought the Russians some time, Stalingrad was a huge defeat, but only at Kursk was the war decided. If the Germans had had a 1941 blitz on Russia in 43 than it would have reveresed their fortunes. As it happened, Hitler was an idiot and screwed things up (lucky for us).
For final victory the only role Japan played (or didn’t play) is that they did not attack the USSR. The extra troops from the far east is what made Stalingrad possible. W/O stalingrad you have no huge Russian victory that caused the eventual Kursk. So actualy the battle (that did not happen) that sealed the axis’s fate was Japan not attacking the USSR. Had they done that - even badly - it would have kept those Russian troops there and very likely could have changed the outcome of the war. The war in the pacific was a sideshow in comparison to what was going on in Europe. If the Germans did not win the Japs were destined to lose.
ghr2 last edited by
yeah, if germany never attacked russia, england woulda fell, hitler just didnt have the patience to wait england out and had 2 use all his pretty toys and the only target left for his tanks was russia. and germany still had a small chance to win even after they attacked russia, but lets face it, hitler wasnt a general and he made mistakes that say, rommel or other generals wouldnt have made.
Its not that easy, Germany did not have the Oil, Raw Materials, and Food Stuffs to sustain itself for a long war. Russia had sufficent quantities of all 3. Germany invaded Russia when it did cause of economic neccesity. Also, cause of the massive industrial/military advancements in the Soviet Union after the disaster in Finand, if Germany waited another year or 2, the Russian military would of been strong enough to handle Germany’s.