Could Germany have won WWII?



  • I’m about 1/3 of the way Lost Victories, written by Erich von Manstein. Von Manstein was Germany’s best general during WWII; and one of the best generals in human history. Lost Victories is highly informative; and one of the most intellectually honest WWII history books I’ve read.

    Von Manstein was a brilliant man frustrated by the less-than-stellar decisions made by his intellectual inferiors (just about everyone else). He also had the ability to think strategically; and to see the big picture. Most of those with whom he interacted thought purely in terms of tactics.

    Others in the German military had come up with an invasion plan for France–an invasion plan intended to capture some ports along the English Channel; to be used in a subsequent naval war against Britain. France as a major power would be left intact.

    Von Manstein pointed out that in attempting to limit Germany’s tactical risks, the generals had devised this plan had accepted an enormous level of strategic risk. Time was on the side of Britain and France. Also, the likelihood of Soviet intervention increased in proportion to German weakness. Trench warfare against France would gradually bleed Germany of its strength; increasing the risk of Soviet intervention.

    The only way to reduce Germany’s exposure to strategic risk was to accept the tactical risks associated with conquering France. Von Manstein therefore devised a plan intended to accomplish exactly this. German senior brass opposed the plan; and were initially successful in their efforts to keep it from Hitler’s ears. But they were unable to keep it from Hitler’s ears forever. Hitler ordered the plan adopted after hearing von Manstein describe it. However, the German brass shuffled von Manstein off to an irrelevant command to punish him.

    Because von Manstein wasn’t the one implementing the plan, some of its features were discarded. The Dunkirk evacuation would have been avoided had the original plan been left intact. Phase 2 of the plan–the elimination of the Allied forces near Paris–would also have been faster and far less costly.

    Von Manstein pointed out that Germany had only three military options for resolving a war against Britain: 1) an air and sea war against British shipping, 2) controlling the Mediterranean and British colonies bordering the Mediterranean, 3) invasion of Britain itself. He pointed out that option 1 would have required aircraft carriers Germany lacked; as well as a much larger sub force than the one Germany had. Option 2 would not have ended the war against Britain. Therefore, the only practical choice was option 3.

    He felt a plan should have been made to invade Britain before Germany had invaded France. And that physical preparations for this invasion should have started as soon as physically possible.

    He pointed out that after the fall of France, Britain was temporarily helpless, at least on land. And would have been even more helpless had the Dunkirk evacuation been avoided. A much smaller invasion fleet would have been required in 1940 than the Allies needed in 1944.

    In von Manstein’s view, the Luftwaffe squandered its strength on air battles deep inside Britain. The Luftwaffe was at a disadvantage in these battles–especially those which took place outside the range of escorting fighters. In his opinion, the Luftwaffe should have avoided significant action against the RAF until shortly before the invasion. At that point, it would impose a strong presence over the English Channel or areas near the invasion beachheads–places where the RAF’s range advantage would be at a minimum. Had the invasion of Britain unfolded according to von Manstein’s intentions, it’s quite possible the island would have fallen.

    Stalin wanted to create a situation in which the Western democracies paid most of the price of defeating the German military; after which he himself would occupy the bulk of German-held territory. His long-term goal was to conquer both Germany and the Western democratic portion of Europe. He therefore wanted Germany and the Western democracies to bleed each other white before the Soviet Union became involved in any major war. But if Britain fell, the Western democracies would be physically prevented from doing what Stalin wanted. Germany would not be bled white; making a Soviet invasion much less likely. Under those circumstances, Nazi Germany might never have fallen.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Could Germany have won WWII?  Yes.  Could it have done so simply by letting Mannstein have his way?  Probably not.  The factors that ultimately produced the Allied victory (which was in no way inevitable) were complex, and an Allied defeat would have required fundamental changes to those factors.  To quote from the final paragraph of Richard Overy’s book “Why the Allies Won,” in which he sums up his thesis: “The Allies won the Second World War because they turned their economic strength into effective fighting power, and turned the moral energies of their people into an effective will to win. […] Materially rich, but divided, demoralized, and poorly led, the Allied coalition would have lost the war, however exaggerated Axis ambitions, however flawed their moral outlook.”



  • @CWO:

    Could Germany have won WWII?  Yes.  Could it have done so simply by letting Mannstein have his way?  Probably not.  The factors that ultimately produced the Allied victory (which was in no way inevitable) were complex, and an Allied defeat would have required fundamental changes to those factors.  To quote from the final paragraph of Richard Overy’s book “Why the Allies Won,” in which he sums up his thesis: “The Allies won the Second World War because they turned their economic strength into effective fighting power, and turned the moral energies of their people into an effective will to win. […] Materially rich, but divided, demoralized, and poorly led, the Allied coalition would have lost the war, however exaggerated Axis ambitions, however flawed their moral outlook.”

    Could it have done so simply by letting Mannstein have his way?  Probably not.

    Before I’d started reading Manstein’s book, I would have agreed with you. Now, I’m beginning to think that Germany had a legitimate chance to invade Britain in 1940; and that this chance was squandered because people other than Manstein were running the German military. A successful invasion of the British home islands would not alone be sufficient to guarantee Germany safety against foreign invasion. But it would have significantly altered the strategic equation.

    an Allied defeat would have required fundamental changes to those factors.

    The two main factors were that the Allies had an overwhelming advantage in military production; and an overwhelming advantage in manpower. One possible way of addressing that would have been to invade the Soviet Union in the spring of '41 (after having successfully invaded Britain in 1940). Von Manstein would, of course, have been in charge of this Operation Barbarossa. With Britain largely neutralized, fewer German troops would need to be tied down in places like France or Norway; thereby freeing up more soldiers for the invasion. Had von Manstein planned the invasion, the primary target would have been Moscow. That city would likely have fallen in '41. The fall of Moscow would have meant the defeat of a large portion of the Red Army. In addition, the Soviet Union would have lost a considerable portion of its civilian population, industrial base, and transportation network. This last point is especially important; because without that transportation network the Red Army’s ability to launch unified offensives would have been greatly hampered.

    It is quite possible that, after having conquered a significant portion of the Soviet Union, Hitler could have made peace with Stalin. From Stalin’s perspective, that would have given him time to complete the process of getting America into the war against Germany. From Hitler’s perspective, this peace would have prevented the loss of additional German strength against the Soviet Union; thereby leaving it available to defend against an American invasion. An invasion which would be far more difficult, owing to the lack of a Britain-like base from which to launch it.

    Below are military aircraft production numbers. The first number listed is for '42; the second for '44.

    Germany: 15,000    41,000
    Britain: 24,000    26,000
    USSR: 25,000      40,000
    US: 48,000      96,000

    Even with Britain knocked out, Germany’s production in '44 would have been only 1/3 the combined Soviet-American total. This is why it would have been so important for Germany to fight the USSR and the US sequentially; rather than both at once. If by mid '43 Germany could obtain a favorable peace with the Soviet Union, it could then focus on securing itself against American invasion.

    In 1944, Germany began manufacturing small numbers of jets. Imagine a Nazi Germany of 1946; possessing Britain, France, and the western Soviet Union. This Germany would have had a significant technological lead over America in jets, rockets, handheld anti-tank weapons, tank design, assault rifles, land war tactics, advanced submarine design, and other areas. America would have had the edge in nuclear weapons technology, heavy bomber design, artillery, computer technology, and electronics. There is no guarantee of an American victory in a war such as that. In particular, Germany’s qualitative advantage in jet design could have compensated for both the Americans’ larger numbers of aircraft and their nuclear weapons technology. A nuclear bomb is useless if the plane carrying it gets shot down before reaching its target.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @KurtGodel7:

    Before I’d started reading Manstein’s book, I would have agreed with you.

    On that subject, since I don’t know Manstein all that well, I had a look at the Wikipedia entry for him and I noticed the following paragraph about his book: “Manstein’s war memoir, Verlorene Siege (Lost Victories), was published in West Germany in 1955 and translated into English in 1958 for worldwide distribution. The book was a highly acclaimed best-seller, critical of Hitler and his leadership style. Historians such as Liddell Hart see Manstein’s emphasis on the purely military aspects of the war, while ignoring the political and moral aspects, as a way for him to absolve himself and the high command of any responsibility for the events of the Holocaust. His favourable portrayal of himself had an impact on popular opinion; he became the centre of a military cult which cast him as not only as one of Germany’s greatest generals, but also one of the greatest in history. He has been described as a militärische Kult- und Leitfigur (“military cult legend”), a general of legendary—almost mythical—ability, much honoured by both the public and historians. Biographers, including Benoît Lemay, feel that his narrow focus on military matters to the exclusion of moral issues cannot be considered ethical.”


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    The new Wolfenstein game had me thinking about what an alternate Cold War between the US and Germany would look like given your scenario, Kurt.

    Wouldn’t a serious German invasion of Britain be enough to convince the American public to join the war in 1940? I assume we would scramble to send poorly trained and equipped troops to Britain, but who knows if that would be enough. Going to war early would also change our posture in the Pacific I imagine. It would create a very interesting domino effect for Japan as wlel.


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    A topic such as this one is at risk of going anywhere. “Could Germany have won the war?”, “What would the world have looked like after that?”, “How good was von Manstein?”, “How good are his books?” - these are all questions that we could talk about forever, probably without reaching agreement. And while it’s a nice idea to share some thoughts about WWII history on this forum, I don’t think we’ll be able to find the truth about events that historians dedicated extensive works and decades of research to.

    But if we want to analyze anyway, I think we should remain critical of whatever it is we’re talking about. For example, to answer the question: “Could Germany have won WWII?”, we should of course first establish what would constitute such a victory. To many people in Europe in the summer of 1940, it looked like Germany had won the war. And if at that point in time, peace with Britain would have followed, that might have been the final conclusion as well. Earlier, in 1939, if Britain and France would have allowed Hitler to get away with the conquest of Poland, it could also have been stated that Germany had won “the war” - although it probably wouldn’t have been called World War II in that case.

    So I’d say that an actual conquest of Britain, let alone the USSR or even the USA, was by no means a prerequisite to “win the war”. A favorable peace with these countries would have sufficed. In 1940, actual war existed only with the UK, and there was not so much a necessity to physically occupy that country, as a necessity to stop it from continuing the war. But Germany failed to find an effective way to do that. It’s doubtful that Sea Lion would have been successful against the might of the Royal Navy even if Germany had enjoyed air superiority - the Luftwaffe’s track record in naval operations was far from impressive. They confiscated Dutch freight barges to transport the divisions needed for the intended invasion, but how seaworthy would those have been? And even if the initial invasion would have succeeded, could continuation of their supply line across the English Channel have been guaranteed? Even if preparations on a D-day scale would not have been required (a point which seems valid in itself), Sea Lion wasn’t an operation that could have been launched straight away in June, 1940. And a few months of preparation would imply risking the autumn weather.
    All in all, I think the entire idea was a waste of resources on Germany’s side - resources that would have been more wisely spend on the U-boat fleet, the weapon that could really have tipped the balance. But it’s all hindsight of course.

    I haven’t read van Manstein’s book, but whether it’s indeed so “intellectually honest”, is doubtful. He may have been an excellent general, but he was also very good at promoting his own image as such, and “Verlorene Siege” was definitely part of that effort, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed. For example, this 1959 article states, in regard to his description of other German military leaders: “Es haftet der Eindruck: Alle haben Fehler gemacht, nur Manstein nicht.” (it creates the impression that everybody made mistakes, except Manstein), and this more recent review even calls the book “einer groben Verzeichnung der wirklichen Verhältnisse in der militärischen Führung des Dritten Reiches” (a gross distortion of the real circumstances of the military leadership of the Third Reich). I lack the expertise to either confirm or deny such accusations, but a word of caution when interpreting Manstein’s books seems in order. They were written for a purpose, and that purpose wasn’t necessarily the unveiling of the ultimate historical truth.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Herr:

    I lack the expertise to either confirm or deny such accusations, but a word of caution when interpreting Manstein’s books seems in order. They were written for a purpose, and that purpose wasn’t necessarily the unveiling of the ultimate historical truth.

    Winston Churchill understood this principle (and was suprisingly candid about it) when he said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”  The quote about Manstein’s book giving the impression that everyone made mistakes except Manstein himself is interesting and ironic because Hitler (of whom Manstein was supposedly very critical) was known for doing precisely the same thing: blaming everyone except himself when things went badly, and crediting himself with being a genius when things went well.


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    Good post Herr KaLeun, as usual.



  • Germany could have won an enlarged European War, but not a World War.



  • @ABWorsham:

    Germany could have won an enlarged European War, but not a World War.

    Why not ?

    The poor little British island once made an empire that ruled half the world. Why should the Huns be lesser men ?


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 '13 Moderator

    Morning Narvik.
    I have to agree with Worsham on this one. Germany could not win once America was in the (European) war. The landings in North Africa changed everything for them. They now had to look two ways and seriously expect  the loss of their ally and fear landings anywhere in Europe.
    Britain’s empire was built on its navy. Germany was never going to have one to rival Britain, especially now America was there. Germany’s Eastward expansion now had to be curtailed and production upped on aircraft manufacture. No shipping could be built.



  • @Narvik:

    @ABWorsham:

    Germany could have won an enlarged European War, but not a World War.

    Why not ?

    The poor little British island once made an empire that ruled half the world. Why should the Huns be lesser men ?

    The British controlled an Empire which was made up mostly of non industrial territories.

    The Germans were making war on the most industrial countries.



  • What if the Germans waged a war only against the Soviet Union, perhaps by baiting the aggressive Russians into initiating the combat to avoid British/French intervention? If victorious, they would solidly establish themselves as the dominant power in all of the Eurasian continent, and in an exceptional position for a later war.



  • @Alfalfa29:

    What if the Germans waged a war only against the Soviet Union, perhaps by baiting the aggressive Russians into initiating the combat to avoid British/French intervention? If victorious, they would solidly establish themselves as the dominant power in all of the Eurasian continent, and in an exceptional position for a later war.

    That is exactly what Hitler tried to do, he even wrote about it in Mein Kampf, and had Lebensraum in the East as political goal when he was elected. Too bad Poland ruined his great plans. Yes, if Poland had voluntarily just submitted to the Great Reich, then the Brits would have no reason to start another world war. But to put Sovjet union into submission is another thing. King Winter is a formidable opponent, he stopped the Swedes in 1700, Napoleon in 1812, Britain, France and Turkey in 1850, the Germans in WWI and the coalition of USA, Britain, France and the Whites in the Civil war 1919, and the Germans again in 1940. And USA did not dare to even try during the Cold War.



  • I am now about 60% of the way through von Manstein’s book. I’ve read many books, but off the top of my head I can think of few or none written by someone so intellectually disciplined. For those familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality system, von Manstein comes across as an INTJ. He clearly had the ability to think deeply about big picture strategy; when many of his fellow generals could not see beyond tactics. (Von Manstein was also a master tactician, but that is another story.)

    I also sensed a deep undertone of morality in his book. He had a military man’s honor–a soldier’s honor. Courage, self-sacrifice, patriotism, frank honesty, and concern for his men.

    He does not paint a picture in which some people are all good or others all bad. When a person whose military judgement he didn’t respect made a good military decision, he acknowledges it as such. When someone he liked or respected made what he felt was an error, he frankly pointed out the error.

    To address some of the specific issues which had been raised: victory for Germany would have meant security against foreign invasion. This security could not have been achieved by simply waiting on events. To the east, the long-term goal of Soviet foreign policy was world conquest. The FDR administration was strongly pro-Soviet; as was the government of France. There were many influential people in Britain who wanted that nation to adopt a pro-Soviet foreign policy; and by 1939 they’d become much more effective in influencing British policy than they’d been in '38.

    In such an environment, it would have been highly risky for Germany to rely on the good intentions of its neighbors for its own security. The diplomatic situation was unstable; and all that was needed was some spark to give the pro-war/pro-Soviet faction in the West an excuse to intervene.

    But if seeking a diplomatic solution was fraught with risk, the same could also be said about seeking a military and industrial means of securing Germany against foreign invasion. However, if this latter goal could be achieved, the solution would be more permanent. No one had ever imposed a Versailles Treaty on the United States. If Germany could achieve the same strength relative to Europe that the United States had in North America, her future would be assured regardless of unpredictable changes in the diplomatic equation.

    In the spring of 1940, Germany did not have a plan to invade Britain. After the fall of France, the German military was confused about what action to take next. They–including Hitler–hoped for a diplomatic resolution. But such hopes were completely unrealistic, as the British political leadership simply had no interest in any sort of negotiated settlement. In light of the diplomatic situation, Germany’s best, most straightforward way of resolving that war was to invade Britain.

    Von Manstein had a disciplined, cool-headed way of assessing risk. (This way of thinking goes far beyond just military decision-making.) The risks he took generally paid off; because they were calculated risks. If he thought he could take Britain–which he did–I would not want to bet against him.

    A successful invasion of Britain alone would not have secured Germany against foreign invasion. The second stage would have been to fight the Soviet Union. The Red Army was not ready for war in '41. That being the case, the primary aim of Barbarossa should have been to take Moscow in '41. Had that been the objective from the beginning, then with sufficiently good generalship it might well have been achieved. The objective would have been the city itself, as well as a large portion of the Red Army. With additional victories over the Soviet Union in '42, Germany could then negotiate a peace which would guarantee the future of the Reich for many decades to come.



  • I am not sure what I am reading here, Kurt, you say Hitler had no choice than to start a world war and kill 6 million Jews because that was the only way to make Germany a safe place ?


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    @Narvik:

    I am not sure what I am reading here, Kurt, you say Hitler had no choice than to start a world war and kill 6 million Jews because that was the only way to make Germany a safe place ?

    Please, feel free to reread KurtGodel7’s posts.  🙂



  • @KurtGodel7:

    To address some of the specific issues which had been raised: victory for Germany would have meant security against foreign invasion. This security could not have been achieved by simply waiting on events. To the east, the long-term goal of Soviet foreign policy was world conquest. The FDR administration was strongly pro-Soviet; as was the government of France. There were many influential people in Britain who wanted that nation to adopt a pro-Soviet foreign policy; and by 1939 they’d become much more effective in influencing British policy than they’d been in '38.

    In such an environment, it would have been highly risky for Germany to rely on the good intentions of its neighbors for its own security. The diplomatic situation was unstable; and all that was needed was some spark to give the pro-war/pro-Soviet faction in the West an excuse to intervene.

    If this is what AH wrote in Mein Kampf he could have fooled me. So you tell me it was necessary to kill and ethnical clean all German Jews to achieve domestic security, and to invade Russia, kill and ethnical clean 30 million Slaves and make Lebensraum to achieve security against communism, then kill and ethical clean all people in the rest of the world that was not Arian, just to achieve security to the German nation ? It sounds to me AH was building an empire, not securing a country, but as I said, he could have fooled me.

    Lets look at your other facts. It is true that Lenin wanted world domination, but you tell me Stalin wanted it too ? Stalin is not the man who said - Lets build socialism in Russia, and let the other people manage themselves, after the failure in the Spanish civil war ? And you tell me that the capitalist nations USA & UK did not help Germany build up its military forces as a buffer to the communist Sovjet Union ? The only time USA & UK did help Sovjet Union was after AH had start a world war and attacked both UK, Russia and USA, and forced them to be allies. You sir, read the wrong books.

    IMHO I figure the best way for Germany to achieve security would have been to build a strong defensive military force, that would deterrent any attack because of the high cost, and then make trade agreements with as many nations as possible, maybe even join alliances with democratic nations like UK and France, and most important of all, quit racist hate speeches against Jews and non-Arians. But as I said, my intellect is less compared to Manstein, so I may be wrong, man



  • @KurtGodel7:

    Von Manstein was a brilliant man frustrated by the less-than-stellar decisions made by his intellectual inferiors (just about everyone else).

    I guess he talks about AH as the less intellectual ?

    Generaloberst Lothar Rendulic blame AH too, for his less-than-stellar decisions.

    see link

    http://www.allworldwars.com/A-reflection-on-the-Causes-of-the-German-Defeat-by-Rendulic.html



  • @Narvik:

    If this is what AH wrote in Mein Kampf he could have fooled me. So you tell me it was necessary to kill and ethnical clean all German Jews to achieve domestic security, and to invade Russia, kill and ethnical clean 30 million Slaves and make Lebensraum to achieve security against communism, then kill and ethical clean all people in the rest of the world that was not Arian, just to achieve security to the German nation ? It sounds to me AH was building an empire, not securing a country, but as I said, he could have fooled me.

    Lets look at your other facts. It is true that Lenin wanted world domination, but you tell me Stalin wanted it too ? Stalin is not the man who said - Lets build socialism in Russia, and let the other people manage themselves, after the failure in the Spanish civil war ? And you tell me that the capitalist nations USA & UK did not help Germany build up its military forces as a buffer to the communist Sovjet Union ? The only time USA & UK did help Sovjet Union was after AH had start a world war and attacked both UK, Russia and USA, and forced them to be allies. You sir, read the wrong books.

    IMHO I figure the best way for Germany to achieve security would have been to build a strong defensive military force, that would deterrent any attack because of the high cost, and then make trade agreements with as many nations as possible, maybe even join alliances with democratic nations like UK and France, and most important of all, quit racist hate speeches against Jews and non-Arians. But as I said, my intellect is less compared to Manstein, so I may be wrong, man

    It is true that Lenin wanted world domination, but you tell me Stalin wanted it too ?

    Yes. There is absolutely no question Stalin wanted world domination. I’m very surprised to hear anyone suggest otherwise.

    And you tell me that the capitalist nations USA & UK did not help Germany build up its military forces as a buffer to the communist Sovjet Union ?

    The United States government adopted anti-communist foreign policies in 1948. But I’ve found no evidence to suggest that any major Western democracy cared about containing the communist threat prior to that year.

    To give a specific example: in the Polish-Soviet War, which occurred from 1919-'20, no major Western democracy sent soldiers to Poland’s aid. France did, however, send a few military advisors. On the other hand, the British government, under pressure from left-leaning trades unions, agreed to sell weapons to the U.S.S.R., but not to Poland.

    In 1920, the existence of the entire Polish state was in jeopardy. Poland asked the Western democracies for help. Instead of offering to send meaningful aid or exert significant diplomatic pressure on the USSR, the Western democracies advised Poland to make the best peace (surrender terms) it could. It was at that point that the Polish, alone and unaided, surprised the world by winning a victory near Warsaw. That victory was enabled in part by the courage and self-sacrifice of Polish servicemen, and in part due to the fact that Soviet communists were still in a state of civil war against the czarists.

    Is there reason to suppose that the Western democracies were more anti-communist in the '30s than they’d been in the '20s? In '35, France and the Soviet Union signed a defensive alliance. Czechoslovakia had also signed a defensive alliance with the U.S.S.R. that same year.

    For a period in 1935, France was governed by the Popular Front. The Popular Front consisted of the French Communist Party, the French Section of the Workers International, and the Radical Party. Daladier (Radical Party) served as Minister of War under this Popular Front government; because he was seen as having the correct anti-fascist, pro-communist attitude toward French foreign policy. Dalaider served as France’s prime minister during the crucial period April 1938 - March 1940.

    FDR’s administration was also strongly pro-communist. FDR’s first major foreign policy decision was to extend diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union. To justify this decision, his administration concealed and lied about the millions of Ukrainians who had been murdered in the Ukrainian famine. His administration later helped conceal other acts of Soviet mass murder. He sold Stalin to the American people as a benign figure: “Uncle Joe.” He even took a hand in distributing blatantly dishonest material; such as the pro-Soviet propaganda film Mission to Moscow.

    Stalin regarded Nazi Germany and the Western democracies as both equally enemies. His objective was to promote “anti-fascism” among Western democracies; thereby causing war between the democracies and Germany. The Soviet Union would initially stay neutral in this hoped-for war. Only after both sides had bled themselves white would the Soviets take a hand. First, they would seize large quantities of German and Eastern European territory, after having let the democracies do the hard work of destroying most of Germany’s military strength. Then, they would invade western Germany, France, and whichever other nations in mainland Europe were still under Western democratic control. By the time the Soviet invasion came, the democracies of Western Europe would have expended most of their soldiers in the “anti-fascist” war against Germany. FDR’s administration would have done nothing to prevent the Soviet invasion either of Germany, or later of France and Western Europe.



  • If there is lingering doubt about the pro-Soviet nature of FDR’s foreign policy, I’d like to address it here. Below is text quoted from the CIA.


    In the very year of the Teheran conference, [FDR] was reminded of hidden microphones when watching Mission to Moscow, a movie based on a book of that title by Joseph E. Davies, America’s second Ambassador to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Produced in 1943 with the President’s blessing, possibly even at his explicit request, this blatant piece of propaganda was designed to drum up public enthusiasm for a political shotgun wedding: It colored Stalin as a simple, practical man with whom one could do business; rhapsodized about Soviet construction, government, and politics; and justified the Soviet blood purges, [and] the Moscow show trials. . . .

    Attempting to forestall any criticism of the Soviet system, Davies even contrived to make a brief for bugging. In one scene, set in the American Embassy in Moscow, the Ambassador’s assistants warn him of listening devices, but he rebukes them severely:

    I say nothing outside the Kremlin that I wouldn’t say to Stalin’s face. Do you? . . . We’re here in a sense as guests of the Soviet government, and I’m going to believe they trust the United States as a friend until they prove otherwise. Is that clear?

    When the assistant persists that still, after all, there may be microphones, Davies, played with aplomb by FDR’s favorite actor, Walter Huston, cuts him off: “Then let 'em hear! We’ll be friends that much faster!”

    This cinematic scene was based on an actual incident. In 1937, when a bug was discovered directly over the Ambassador’s desk at the US Embassy in Moscow, the real Davies laughed it off. If the Soviets wanted to listen in, he told his incredulous staff–which included George Kennan, Charles Bohlen, and other skilled State Department diplomats–they would only obtain proof of America’s sincere desire to cooperate with them.

    FDR strongly approved of the film. In his assessment of Soviet politics, he was much closer to Davies, his second Ambassador, than to his first, William C. Bullitt.




  • OK, but do you have a comment to my allworldwars link ?



  • @Narvik:

    OK, but do you have a comment to my allworldwars link ?

    It was a good link. Many of the thoughts expressed in the link were also expressed by von Manstein. Nothing in the link was contradicted by von Manstein.

    Von Manstein wrote that Germany’s senior generals should, in '39 or early '40, have recognized that Germany could not win a long war against Britain and France. The only military means of avoiding such a war was to conquer France. But the generals didn’t develop a plan to conquer France. Instead, their preferred plan involved conquering Channel ports, for subsequent attacks on British shipping. He concluded that in avoiding the tactical risks associated with trying to conquer France, they accepted an enormous level of strategic risk.

    Von Manstein created an alternative plan–one designed to eliminate France’s ability to wage war. The German generals rejected this plan; and refused to show it to Hitler. Once Hitler finally learned of the plan, he adopted it instead of the one his generals had proffered. Von Manstein’s plan worked magnificently, and France fell.

    Hitler seems to have drawn several incorrect conclusions from this incident.

    1. His generals had let him down.

    It’s true that most of his generals had let him down. But Hitler could have responded by promoting his best generals above the others. The response he chose–putting himself in command of the Army as a whole, and later micromanaging the Eastern front–was not the right one.

    1. Hitler’s military judgement was superior to that of his generals.

    The fact that he showed better military judgement than most of his generals, in one instance only, does not mean he was the best military commander Germany had. The Soviets had an overwhelming numerical advantage over Germany. Von Manstein felt the best way to even the odds was to make the most of Germany’s advantages in mobility and superior generalship. But this, Hitler was not willing to do. He was unwilling to release forces from less crucial portions of the eastern front to focus on the most decisive portions. He was also unwilling to even temporarily relinquish any land, unless the situation absolutely demanded it. This tied Germany down in defensive battles; thereby making its tactics easier to predict and easier to counter.



  • Below is a list of Generaloberst Lothar Rendulic’s reasons why Germany lost the war. After each item on his list, I’ve given von Manstein’s impression.

    1. Excessive self-confidence of Adolf Hitler.

    Von Manstein stated that Hitler greatly overrated his own military competence. He also stated that in military situations, Hitler was sometimes too confident, sometimes not confident enough. He felt Hitler was guilty of willfully blinding himself to reality–of seeing things as he wanted them to be, rather than as they actually were.

    2. Overrating of importance of holding territory. (Wrong impressions gained from World War I.)

    Von Manstein strongly agreed with this! Time and time again, von Manstein described how valuable military opportunities had been wasted due to Hitler’s insistence on holding every last square foot of land.

    3. Increasing mistrust of Generals.

    From von Manstein’s book:


    ‘One thing we must be clear about, mein Fuehrer,’ I began, ‘is that the extremely critical situation we are now in cannot be put down to the enemy’s [numerical] superiority alone, great though it is. It is also due to the way in which we are led.’

    As I spoke these words, Hitler’s expression hardened. He stared at me with a look which made me feel he wished to crush my will to continue. I cannot remember a human gaze ever conveying such willpower. . . . I still went on talking, however, and told Hitler that things simply could not go on under the present type of leadership. I must, I said, revert to the proposal I had made to him twice already. To handle grand strategy he needed one thoroughly responsible Chief-of-Staff on whose advice alone he must rely in all matters of military policy. . . .

    ‘Even I cannot get the field marshals to obey me!’ he cried. ‘Do you imagine, for example, that they would obey you any more readily?’ . . .

    When I replied that my orders were always carried out, he made no further comment and brought the meeting to a close.


    4. Wrong ideas on air warfare. (Wrong development of the Air Force, too few fighters!)

    Von Manstein hasn’t explored this subject in detail. However, he has made references to Goering’s incompetence, and his tendency to over-promise and under-deliver.

    5. Commanding officers of the Waffen-SS units mostly insufficiently trained and not prepared for their tasks.

    Von Manstein agreed with this also. He stated that the Waffen S.S. units often received many of the best recruits–very high quality soldiers. But Waffen SS units’ losses were high in relation to their achievements. He’s created the impression that the Waffen SS hadn’t reached the same level of institutional competence as the German Army.



  • Yes, its easy to agree with Manstein and Rendulic. But AH,s grand mistake IMHO was too many fronts. If its true that Sovjet Union was the main threat to the security of Germany, then the Eastern Front would be decisive, and it would be rational to allocate all resources to that decisive front. But only 60 % of Germanys military force was used there, and this was unnecessary, because Germany had good flank protection both to north and south. It was no need to use half a million men in Norway and Finland, because Sweden was pro-Germany and would protect the iron ore mines against the Allies. And there were no need to use a million men in Balkans neither, because Greece would never allow UK to bomb the Ploesti oil fields from Greek territory, but AH did not trust the Swedes nor the Greeks. After the Vichy government was installed, it was no need to have a million men in France either. And to declare war against neutral USA and use so many resources in the Atlantic was plain stupid, and would only serve to strengthen an obvious defeat. On top of that, AH even made a domestic front, against the Jews.

    To wrap it up, Germanys best bet to win would be to ignore Norway, the Balkans, North Africa, the Atlantic and the Jews, and commit all 5 million men of the Army and Airforce, together with the one million allied soldiers, and go straight for Moscow. That would be a cut-throat victory, making everything else irrelevant. But then, AH would not be AH.


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