Thank you for bringing back this thread KurtGodel.
I have enjoyed rereading parts.
Your thoughts on Manstein are pertinent and well made.
He was the man for the job and of the hour, undoubtably.
One wonders what might have happened, had von Mannstein been placed in charge of the German war effort. The Allies had an overwhelming advantage in terms of both manpower and industrial strength. But if the Germans could have achieved sufficiently brilliant generalship, 100% of the time, might that have been enough to balance out the Allies’ overwhelming strategic advantages?
The successful invasion of France was one example of brilliant generalship altering the strategic equation. That alone was insufficient to assure Axis victory, but it was a step in the right direction.
In 1940, von Manstein felt that the invasion of Britain was risky but necessary. Before Germany could invade Britain, it needed air superiority over British skies. It came close to achieving that. But then Winston Churchill launched attacks on German cities. The effect on German civilian morale was devastating. Hitler was in many ways a politician first; and wanted to do something to increase German morale. He therefore ordered retaliatory bombings against British cities, instead of making the RAF his primary target. But if Germany hadn’t let itself get distracted that way; it would probably have achieved the air superiority necessary for an invasion to work. With von Manstein as the invasion planner, there is an excellent chance it would have worked.
1941 represented a land grab against a Red Army unready for war. Von Manstein controlled a small but significant portion of this invasion force. Von Manstein’s portion moved significantly faster than the neighboring parts of the German Army. Had von Manstein been given control of the entire German eastern front, Germany would probably have taken Leningrad, and might also have taken Moscow. This isn’t Axis and Allies–the Soviet Union wouldn’t have had to hand over all its IPCs once Moscow fell. But even though Soviet resistance would have continued, the loss of all that additional land would have altered the Soviet strategic position.
The German summer offensive of '42–intended to capture the Caucasus and the Baku oilfields–would also likely have achieved more, at a more favorable exchange ratio, had von Manstein been in charge.
In '41, the German Army achieved a 10:1 exchange ratio against its communist foe. By '43, improvements in the Red Army had reduced the usual exchange ratio to 3:1. However, the Soviet Union had a prewar population of 169 million; as compared to only 69 million for Germany. Moreover, an increasingly large portion of Germany’s attention was being consumed by the Western democracies. In 1942, Germany and the Soviet Union each lost about 1 million soldiers at the Battle of Stalingrad. A tactical defeat of that magnitude had very serious strategic implications for a nation such as Germany. Germany’s strategic situation was such that it had to be tactically brilliant 100% of the time, because it simply could not absorb Stalingrad-like defeats. Had von Manstein been in charge from the get-go, Germany would probably have avoided the defeat at Stalingrad; significantly altering the strategic situation on its eastern front.
In the actual war, von Manstein used a series of tactical battles to chip away at the Soviets’ strategic advantages in manpower and materiel. He often achieved exchange ratios far beyond what would have been required for an outright German victory on the eastern front. Had he been in charge of the entire German eastern front; then enough such victories could have forced Stalin to the negotiation table. Germany could have ended the war against the Soviet Union in control of a very significant portion of the Soviets’ prewar population, industrial capacity, farmland, and oil supply.
Assuming Germany had (wisely) refrained from declaring war on the United States, the war would then be over; unless Britain insisted on fighting on from her colonial empire. There was a pro-war faction in the United States, which hoped to get the U.S. into WWII in much the same manner it had entered WWI. A long, dragged-out war between Germany and the British Empire would have given this pro-war faction additional opportunities to achieve its goals. But even if it did, Germany’s strategic situation would (by this point) be strong enough that an American victory would be far from reassured.