If Hitler had been smart, would Germany have won?

Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2015 05:39 am
prometheus13 wrote:

"Probably what is most important is that Britain helped delay Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union by launching a counter-attack through Greece against the Italian army. Hitler was forced to send troops to re-enforce Mussolini, and as a result, Operation Barbarossa was launched six-weeks later than originally planned. Hitler's troops ran into the brutal conditions of Russian seasonal weather. Eventually, the Russian winter forced his army to a halt at Stalingrad, and it was there that the war turned against him. If he had been able to launch Barbarossa on time, the wehrmacht would have had enough time to push all the way to Moscow without being delayed by the winter. It's likely Russia would have fallen within eight or ten weeks."

The Barbarossa delay theory is so common among military historians as to constitute the conventional wisdom. The delay caused by the Ukraine campaign after Barbarossa began is another variation on the theme that if only the German army had gotten to Moscow sooner it would not have been subjected to the winter conditions it was so ill-equipped to handle .

Guderian, the Commander of the Panzer Corps in Russia, states that a shortage of winter clothing caused large manpower losses from frostbite, and that at times sub-zero temperatures "almost immobilized" his tanks as well as preventing machine-guns from firing, etc.; and even before this, according to the British military historian Liddell Hart, the use of wheeled transport trucks to move tanks resulted in their becoming bogged down by the Autumn rains,slowing down the lightning war. Field Martial von Rundstedt told Allied interrogators after the war that because of the Balkan campaign "we began at least four weeks too late".

The idea of getting to Moscow sooner was that it was a vital railway hub through which the Russians transported men and supplies to various fronts and that without it neither its manpower nor its manufacturing capacity could be brought to bear in a timely manner. ( Russia suffered from a shortage of transport trucks early in the war.) Moscow was also a great industrial area at a time when the relocation of critical war manufacturing to the country's interior and the ramped up factory output had not been completed, as well as the country's administrative center at a time when planning for a parallel command structure in another, safer location had not yet been implemented.

In fact though, it would have been necessary for the Germans to secure Greece anyway, since from airbases in Crete and Lemnos British bombers could strike the Romanian oil fields, which were Germany's main source of oil after the British naval blockade prevented Germany from importing oil from the Middle East. Britain might also have moved troops from North Africa into Greece at a critical moment, threatening the German position from a different direction.

As for Ukraine, von Mellenthin said that the drive on Moscow "might have yielded decisive results if it had been ruthlessly pursued as the dominating Schwerpunkt of the invasion" and that "Russia might have been paralysed" had the diversion of the conquest of Ukraine not occurred in August. But more than half a million Soviet soldiers were taken prisoner at Kiev alone, and the threat to the German army's rear, flanks, and supply lines from such forces during its drive on Moscow could have been catastrophic.

Finally, the late thaw that year left poor quality Eastern European roads deep in mud until mid-June, so an earlier invasion date was probably not feasible anyway.

Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2015 01:20 pm
Asherman wrote:

"4. Though German use of submarines gave it near supremacy in the Atlantic for a few years, its lack of a comprehensive navy was a disaster. To win Germany had to cut the supply line from the arsenals of America to Britain and the USSR. It failed to achieve that critical aim. Perhaps more and better submarines might have achieved the objective, but I don't think so ... see items 1-3 above. German submarines were just no match for Allied ASW resources and techniques in the long run."

Britain's navy was strong but it depended on its merchant marine to move men and machines as well as to supply the island nation with the goods necessary for functionality.

Speaking of British convoy losses in the Atlantic in late February 1941, Churchill told his private secretary John Colville: "It is terrifying. If it goes on it will be the end of us."

This despite the fact that Germany began the war with just 57 U-boats, only a small fraction of which were both operational and in action (as opposed to being at base or en route to or from base) at any given time. Doenitz, the commander of the U-boat war, wrote that "at the beginning of 1942, after two and a half years of war there were never more than ten or twelve boats actively and simultaneously engaged in our most important task, the war on shipping".

American politics was still so dominated by isolationism prior to Pearl Harbor that even the U-boat torpedoing and sinking of the U.S. destroyer Ruben James in October 1941 with the loss of 2/3 of its crew, as well as the earlier sinking of several American merchant vessels, did not bring it into the war.

Despite the possession of Ultra intelligence (from the breaking of the German Enigma cipher), Britain did not crack the U-boat cipher until the summer of 1941; whereas the Germans were exploiting insecure British codes to determine convoy routes already (Doenitz mentions such deciphered signals as being in use in April of 1940, though I don't know when the information was first available to the Germans).

A sufficiency of U-boats early on, before Allied technical and military developments intervened, might have forced Britain to capitulate on terms acceptable to the Germans, without the need for an invasion of Britain. It would also have rendered the British position in North Africa untenable, since shipping supplied and reinforced it; particularly if the Germans had seized Anglo-Arab oil supplies there.

With Britain agreeing to peace, France out of the war, and a non-aggression pact with the Soviets, and American involvement in a European theater of operations off the table (even assuming that a Pacific war with Japan was inevitable), the situation for Germany would have been quite different.

Reply Sat 5 Dec, 2015 06:17 pm
I wrote:

" A sufficiency of U-boats early on, before Allied technical and military developments intervened, might have forced Britain to capitulate on terms acceptable to the Germans, without the need for an invasion of Britain. It would also have rendered the British position in North Africa untenable, since shipping supplied and reinforced it; particularly if the Germans had seized Anglo-Arab oil supplies there."

To which I add: Malta was the forward base which put the Royal Air Force and Navy in striking range of convoys supplying German forces in North Africa, as well as giving the British domination of the skies over areas of the North African theater which were out of range to Luftwaffe fighter aircraft. The head of the German Navy, Admiral Raeder, had strongly urged the seizure of Malta in April, 1941, prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union.
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Reply Sat 5 Dec, 2015 07:12 pm
I wrote:

"In fact though, it would have been necessary for the Germans to secure Greece anyway, since from airbases in Crete and Lemnos British bombers could strike the Romanian oil fields, which were Germany's main source of oil after the British naval blockade prevented Germany from importing oil from the Middle East. Britain might also have moved troops from North Africa into Greece at a critical moment, threatening the German position from a different direction."

To which I add: Albert Speer wrote in November 1943 about the importance of the Balkans in supplying the element chromium, essential to the manufacture of planes, tanks, artillery, U-boats, tank shells, etc.; that should supplies from Turkey be cut off, loss of the Balkans meant the war would be over as soon as Germany's existing stockpile (plus the reserves in the distribution channels) were exhausted. At that time, chromium was the element in shortest supply.

While I don't have figures for Germany's chromium stocks prior to the Balkan campaign, they are unlikely to have been substantial prior to the securing of that source. Germany had a bad habit of undertaking wars with deficiencies of basic supplies. Even during the lull of the Sitzkrieg, in October 1939 after the fall of Poland, Germany had a monthly steel deficit of 600,000 tons and ammunition on hand for about one third of their divisions for about 14 combat days, according to General Thomas and the Quartermaster General von Stuelpnagel, in reports given at a meeting of October 10.
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Reply Sun 6 Dec, 2015 02:55 am
Enjoying reading this.
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Reply Sun 6 Dec, 2015 04:37 am
If Hitler had been smart, would Germany have won?

Yes, easily. There are a baker's dozen things which he could have done differently, any two or three of which would have won for him. The guy had more ways to win WW-II than to lose it and he miraculously found one of the ways to lose.

Starting the war with the 300 ocean-going U-boats which Doenitz wanted rather than trying to build battleships would have won for him. Simply not invading Russia would have won for him. The CCCP was on the edge of collapse internally by 37 or thereabouts, he could have simply waited five years and picked up the pieces he wanted for free.
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Reply Wed 13 Jan, 2016 04:04 am
I would like to offer a scenario whereby Germany could have won World War II with relatively small changes in its actual actions through the middle of 1941. I wish to state that I have no admiration for Nazi Germany nor for its political leadership; for me this is merely an interesting abstract exercise.

Much of this is based upon R.H.S. Stolfi's book, "Hitler's Panzers East: World War II Reinterpreted"; in this respect changes from that book represent either my own adaptation or misunderstanding. To extend Stolfi's scenario, I add one of my own devising based upon my reading of Albert Speer's book, "Inside the Third Reich". I should add that I found Bevin Alexander's book, "How Hitler Could Have Won World War II: the Fatal Errors That Led to Nazi Defeat" very informative, though his outlook is more conventional than that of Stolfi. I will also cite from the Soviet side in quoting from a collection of war memoirs titled "Marshal Zhukov's Greatest Battles" (Harrison Salisbury, editor).

First, note that historically the Germans did not begin the push to Moscow (Operation Typhoon) until September 30, because Hitler dithered irresolutely over inconsistent goals while arguing with his field commanders and staff officers over the correct course; then on August 25 Guderian (Army Group Center, the force driving to Moscow) was diverted to assist Army Group South in seizing the Ukraine, before returning to take part in Typhoon.

From this delay several important and ultimately fatal consequences proceeded: the Russians had extra time to construct substantial anti-tank fortifications in depth around the Moscow environs; they had time to build their armed forces up, and to transfer reserves from the far east; they had time to produce the highly effective T-34 tank in substantially increased numbers. The Germans, slowed both by their own self-made delays and these additional factors, were subjected first to heavy October rains which turned the roads into "bottomless mud along which our vehicles could only advance at a snail's pace and with great wear to the engines" (Guderian); and then after November frost made the road passable, subjected the Germans to freezing cold temperatures for which neither they nor their machine lubricants were prepared. (Alexander states that the number of frostbite cases rose to 228,000 and that tanks, machine weapons, radios, and locomotive boilers failed.)

By contrast, weather through the end of September was fine. Stalin did not even order the transfer of reserves from Siberia and Outer Mongolia until receiving word from his spy Richard Sorge about Japanese plans on October 5, after which weeks would go by until their appearance. As late as the start of October, the Germans had about 1,000 tanks for Typhoon, compared with 480 in Ivan Koneg's Western Front (of which only about 45 T-34 and KV-1 tanks) to oppose them, according to Alexander. (Guderian reported that numerous T-34 tanks went into action on October 11, up to which time the Germans enjoyed tank superiority, "but from now the situation was reversed".

Zhukov wrote that by October 7, "the enemy, having regrouped his forces on the Moscow aproaches, exceeded the combined strength of the Western, Reserve, and Bryansk fronts by 40 percent in infantry, 120 percent in tanks, 90 percent in guns and mortars and 160 percent in planes...and the large gaps in the western front could not be closed because the command had run out of reserves".

Zhukov, reporting a telephone call to Stalin early on October 8 reported the situation on the Western Front: "The principal danger now is that the road to Moscow is almost entirely unprotected."

But note that "the first snow fell on October 7; it melted quickly but was followed by heavy rains" (Alexander).

Zhukov also wrote that construction of the outer ring of the Moscow defense zone, requiring the labor of 100,000 Muscovites, was completed November 25.

(To be continued in Part 2, shortly. Please refrain from comment until I have completed my arguments.)
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Reply Wed 13 Jan, 2016 06:31 am
(Part 2 -- continuing from my immediately previous comment)

It can be assumed that Hitler's indecisive delays and arguments were unnecessary.

But the Russians had very strong forces in the Ukraine (massed there prior to the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22 (Barbarossa), apparently with plans to invade Romania, according to interrogation of Soviet prisoners by the Germans). In any case, it was important to neutralize these forces to prevent them from interfering with the sdvance of Army Group Center as it drove to Moscow. It must therefore be proven that the additional month's delay while Guderian was diverted to help Army Group Center in the Ukraine on August 25, was also unnecessary.

Army Group South faced numerically superior forces, but despite interference from Hitler which turned a planned double encirclement into a frontal attack, by July 7 Army Group South had " equal strength due to heavy losses inflicted on the enemy and soon would add numerical superiority to tactical and operational superiority" (Generaloberst Franz Halder's diary for July 7 as quoted by Stolfi); and in fact by August 1 Army Group South estimated it had forty-one German infantry divisions versus twenty-nine Soviet rifle divisions (ibid. for August 1).

Well before the August 25 diversion of Guderian to the Ukraine, Army Group South had "pinned down - indeed severely mauled - Soviet forces in the Ukraine. Army Group Center therefore retained complete operational freedom of movement to advance on Moscow, limited only by its own immediate problems of reorganization, rest, and resupply" (Stolfi).

I will leave Stolfi's logistical demonstrations of the plausibility of the latter to readers of his detailed and well-sourced book.

Suffice it to say that he posits a hypothetical advance on Moscow beginning August 13, instead of the historical September 30, 1941; capturing the capital on August 31, taking six days to clean up pockets of Soviets around Moscow, followed by "five days of reorganization, rest, and maintenance of equipment in Moscow, in a great arc around it". He also posits the establishment of winter defensive positions along sections of the Volga by October 10. So in fact there is some leeway in his timetable.

Since the Soviet defense of Leningrad and the Ukraine depended on Soviet control of the rail hub and vast marshalling and storage facilities of Moscow, seizure of Moscow at the end of August would strategically isolate the Soviet field armies west of Moscow from the remainder of the state and force them to withdraw or be destroyed. I should also point out that toward the German goal of the prevention of the escape of these forces, Stolfi posits encircling actions and cauldron battles, similar to those previously carried out with great success by the Germans, by Army Groups North, Center, and South, prior to retiring to winter lines by October 10.

Quite aside from the advantages of seizing Moscow's rail hub, storage centers, and communications network, as well as winter clothing and lubricants (though the Germans would have indoor shelter in Moscow and cities like Gorki on the Volga, and would also have time to bring up supplies themselves), there is the fact that the Soviets would have lost the vast armaments (and other) factories of Moscow and Tula, including the T-34 factories, the breadbasket of the Ukraine, and in general the industrial output of European Russia. By contrast, the Germans would have gained vast mineral and fuel and other resources, including equipment left behind by or captured from, the Soviets.

Then there is the matter of the capture or destruction of the Soviet government, based in Moscow. It might be destroyed, in which case the snake has lost its head (though a hydra might grow another one); ot it might flee across the Volga in a panic as German forces close in. Zhukov wrote that on October 17 the Soviet General Staff and Supreme Headquarters were divided in two, and Reserve Headquarters was set up in the East, in case Moscow fell; but in the hypothetical, Moscow falls by the start of September.

Still, the Soviet Union would remain a vast place with vast resources, including not only the reserves still unbeaten in the Far East, but also manufacturing centers established in the Urals as previously retreating populations moved whole factories lock, stock and barrel. The Far East reserves consist of 30 divisions, many tanks, and 2,800 warplanes.

Here, Stolfi simply waves his hands and assumes inevitable German victory.

But there are several possibilities. With the Soviet Union a ruined rump state in the East, its government in hiding, disconnected, ill-informed, or perhaps even gone, and this by August 31, the Japanese might reconsider their intentions in the Far East. Pearl Harbor did not occur until December 7, more than three months later. How can the Russians transfer reserves preventing an attack from that side that they were expecting all along? Stalin didn't receive his report from Serge until October 5, but by that time the Japanese would in this hypothetical be well aware of the seizure of Moscow at the end of August, and might make other plans.

As for the armaments and other factories in the Urals, even in mid-1943 60 percent of essential optical parts and electronics was still manufactured in Moscow. But as Albert Speer points out, "the destruction of a few large power plants in the Urals would have put a halt to much of Soviet steel production as well as to tank and munitions manufacture. A direct hit on the turbines or their conduits would have released masses of water of a destructiveness greater than that of many bombs. Since many of the major Soviet power plants had been built with the assistance of German companies, we were able to obtain very good data on them".

From Gorki on the Volga, the Germans would be only 442 airmiles from the Urals, by my estimation: in range not only to Ju-88 and other bombers, but also to long-range escort fighters like the Messerschmitt Bf 110G/R3, with a range of 1,305 miles and a flight ceiling of 26,000 feet. And if it proved necessary or desirable, the Germans could use or build even more forward airbases.

Even if the Japanese went through with their Pearl Harbor attack, all Hitler has to do is avoid the elementary error of declaring war on the United States, in order to remain master of Europe while the Americans are busy with a Pacific war. The British, particularly if treated generously by the Germans, might well accept a negotiated peace settlement.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 13 Jan, 2016 08:19 am
Related to the above mentioned: below is a map ...
... showing the movements of the [German]6th Panzer Division (here: 2nd company Medical Corps 57)


Full scan: http://i63.tinypic.com/2v952f9.jpg
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Reply Wed 13 Jan, 2016 08:20 am
In the words of my old Nan :-

If ifs and ands were pots and pans, there'd be no trade for tinkers.
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Reply Wed 13 Jan, 2016 08:25 am
Correction: In Part 2 above I wrote:

"It must therefore be proven that the additional month's delay while Guderian was diverted to help Army Group Center in the Ukraine on August 25, was also unnecessary."

This should read "...to help Army Group South..."

as indicated in several other places in my pair of comments.
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Reply Sat 17 Dec, 2016 08:47 am
Agree, that is called megalomaniac, which means maniac, and that is what it was.
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