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09 January 2011

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William R. Cumming

Great post! Kaiser ships were welded not riveted which also sped up the process!

Stimson and FDR brilliantly conducted military/civil relatiohships as did Marshall!

ULTRA also helped avoid the castarophe of German success in 1940-41!

Now will Wal-Mart be an adequate replacement for Detroit in warfighting?

Fred

Mr. Sale,

Excellent overview of the strategy. I am always puzzled that the IJN failed to use their submarine fleet in an anti-merchent ship role given the experiences of the Imperial German Navy in WWI.

walrus

Thank you for your summary Mr. Sale, and thank you in particular for mentioning the German Army's reliance on horse powered transport. I was aware of that, but I have not been able to find a reference to it. Perhaps an SST reader can point me to One or Two?

I personally am greatly concerned by both the "Great Man" school of military history that we have already discussed and the as yet undiscussed "linear Theory" school that victory in WWII was always pre ordained once America was involved because we are the best and brightest, most innovative, smartest, etc. etc., you know the drift and please understand that it is not intended as a slur.

The reason I am concerned is that I think beliefs such as those have the capacity to lead us into great error today by causing us to underestimate the difficulties and over estimate our abilities in waging war. Since WWII, events in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan (including the USSR's experience) suggest that this may be the case in my opinion.

Personally, I think WWII was won by a combination of luck and economics. In 1938, Germany and Japan were running full fledged war economies and were at the height of their economic powers, or very close to it. The American, Russian, and British economies were in peace mode. Overall, and discounting specific items like German fighter aircraft production, our war materiel production could only go up, theirs could only go down. We overwhelmed them in this regard.

I also have problems with the innovation and learning argument. It is easy to innovate and learn when you have Thirty or Sixty aircraft factories at your disposal. When you have only Four, or Ten, your ability to produce multiple prototypes is exceedingly limited. For example, the reason the Spitfire was still in production at the end of the war was not that the British couldn't see the value of a bigger aircraft with a laminar flow wing (The Mustang), they lacked the capacity to produce them.

Then of course there is the "great man" argument - Churchill, Marshall, Patton, MacArthur, etc. One has to ask the question, what would have happened in Europe if instead of facing a suicidally stupid militarily idiotic supreme commander like Hitler, we instead faced the embodiment of Bismarck and Von Moltke The Elder rolled into one?

What would have happened if Hitler had not persecuted the Jews and invested more time and money in Otto Hahn's work? Would we have been awoken from our slumber some time in 1943 by a German nuclear weapon test?

What would have happened if Japan was content with British and Dutch conquests in South east Asia?

Personally, I believe we still owe a huge debt of gratitude to a few young Polish cryptanalysts and a homosexual English don for Ultra, because a re reading of the unexpurgated version of Alanbrooks diaries reveals how central it was to the planning and execution of the entire European strategy.

My view is that we were very lucky to come out of WWII in the shape we did. I don't believe our success was preordained in that conflict, nor do I believe it would be today if we tried to "take out" Iran or engage in similar lunacy.

Brien J Miller

As I taught in several Naval education and military history classes, one way to visualize the Great Pacific War is to think of it this way: The Japanese Army went to war against China while the Imperial Japanese Navy went to war against the United States. Sales points are good.

zanzibar

walrus

I don't believe there was anything preordained in our WWII victory. We had some advantages not the least being a large economy, immense financial strength as a creditor nation and the fact that the war was fought away from our shores that prevented our industrial base from being destroyed. Whatever the "linear theory" over time we would have won the game of attrition due to the sheer size and financial strength of our economy.

Today, a WWIII would be very different. With long range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons - everyone would get a black eye and I doubt there would be any victors. Just universal and indiscriminate destruction. What I fear most is the social and political dynamic when we are faced with the downside of a funding crisis on our current financial path.

dilbert dogbert

Read somewhere that the German economy was not effectively nationalized until 1944. They were still producing a lot consumer goods up till this point. I think the American economy was effectively nationalized between 42 and 43.
Pearl Harbor was a Hail Mary pass by the Japanese. Yamamoto said that he could run amuck for a year and then it was over.

walrus

While contributors to SST don't do it, there are at least Three generations that have grown up with a belief in American omnipotence who are untroubled by the possibility of war.

This has happened to societies before. The French after their victory against Austria in 1859 decided in 1870 to declare war on Prussia for reasons of prestige, and were somewhat surprised when the Prussians wiped the floor with them. The Prussians then suffered their own attack of the "victory disease" in 1914. I have to wonder if Japans experience in the Russo - Japanese and First World wars did not also give it a bout of "Victory disease".

We may not win the next one. I suspect that far too many people automatically assume that we will have continuous air superiority, naval superiority, and now space superiority. I hope our Generals don't fall for this.

Eric Dönges

walrus,

In 1938, Germany and Japan were running full fledged war economies and were at the height of their economic powers, or very close to it.

Wrong. The German economy (I don't know about Japan) was not put on a full war footing until 1944, when it was much too late. And the byzantine nature of the Nazi state with its jealous infighting for resources and Hitler's attention made sure that the resources available where not put to optimal use. At the start of WWII, the German army was less motorized than either the British or Russian armies. The French had more and better tanks (well, at least better armed and armored) in 1940, and the British alone would produce more armored vehicles in WWII than Germany ever did. The list goes on and on. The only area where Germany was initially superior was in the air, as the Luftwaffe was the best equipped of its time - but that advantage was quickly lost, as new developments like radar where largely ignored, as Hitler believed in a swift German victory.

What did win Germany early battles was better trained troops and officers using combined arms tactics more effectively.

zanzibar,

I don't believe there was anything preordained in our WWII victory.

Once WWII turned into a war of attrition (i.e. the German failure to quickly knock out the Soviets with Barbarossa, and the Japanese failure to intimidate the Americans with Pearl Harbor), it was clear even to military planers of the time without the benefit of hindsight that Allied victory was only a matter of time. There was no way for the Axis powers to overcome the enormous Allied advantage in manpower and industrial capability (of which a great part, namely that of the U.S., was completely out of reach of Axis attack).

Frankly, I would like to know how the myth of the all-powerful German war machine outlived the Nazi propaganda from which it originated - perhaps embarrassment that it took six years to defeat it ?

Medicine Man

A rather interesting article by Andrew Bacevich: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/01/the-tyranny-of-defense-inc/8342/1/

A tad off-topic but still interesting nonetheless.

walrus

Eric Donge:

"Wrong. The German economy (I don't know about Japan) was not put on a full war footing until 1944, when it was much too late. And the byzantine nature of the Nazi state with its jealous infighting for resources and Hitler's attention made sure that the resources available where not put to optimal use. At the start of WWII, the German army was less motorized than either the British or Russian armies. The French had more and better tanks (well, at least better armed and armored) in 1940, and the British alone would produce more armored vehicles in WWII than Germany ever did. The list goes on and on. "

Thank you for correcting me. My point is still that Germany and Japan had no way to go but down in terms of military materiel production while the Allies production could only go up.

We are in agreement about Germany's stupid misallocation of resources, caused I think I understand, by the competitiveness between Hitlers underlings as a result of his "divide and rule" management style, as well as his own meddling and prejudices.

Neil Richardson

Eric:

"The German economy (I don't know about Japan) was not put on a full war footing until 1944, when it was much too late. And the byzantine nature of the Nazi state with its jealous infighting for resources and Hitler's attention made sure that the resources available where not put to optimal use. "

I agree. The Hitler state was anything but a model of efficiency.

"At the start of WWII, the German army was less motorized than either the British or Russian armies. "

This is a bit misleading because it looks at rate of motorization. In terms of absolute combat power, they were sufficiently motorized, i.e. the tip of the spear. This is all one needs to break up the enemy's cohesion and paralyze decisionmaking which is the core tenet of "blitzkrieg."

"The French had more and better tanks (well, at least better armed and armored) in 1940"

I agree but as any tanker would note, without radio communication a "superior" tank such as a Somua or even a KV-1 was just a roving target. The French and Soviet tank commanders had to resort to signal flags which wasn't the safest command activity in combat. In addition their turrets didn't accommodate three men. This meant that their target acquisition and fire rate was significantly slower than German, British and American crews. In fact until late 1943 a typical tank crew in the Red Army had spent *3 hours* in a tank before being assigned to a line unit. To any competent adversary that's just lining up as ducks in a row. The Germans tried the same tactics they'd used in Russia only to find out that they didn't work at all in France (e.g., Arracourt, the Bulge).

"and the British alone would produce more armored vehicles in WWII than Germany ever did. "

That's one of the complaints I had heard from many of the veterans of the Panzerwaffe (and these guys had fought in Tigers as well as Mk III and IV). They believed a focus on PzKpfw Mk.IV and V rather than Tiger and King Tiger would've been better as nearly a third to sometimes half of their tracks were down due to mechanical problems.

"The list goes on and on. The only area where Germany was initially superior was in the air, as the Luftwaffe was the best equipped of its time - but that advantage was quickly lost, as new developments like radar where largely ignored, as Hitler believed in a swift German victory."

Actually the Luftwaffe was more advanced in radar technology (e.g. Freya) which was the reason why they quickly adopted the Kammhuber line. The key turning point was in the misallocation of fighter pilots training resources in 1941 and 1942 as Williamson Murray noted. In contrast the United States bet heavily early on. There were two different visions of time frame for the successful prosecution of war. Hitler expected a series of short wars while the United States expected the war to continue well into the late 1940s (e.g., Army Specialized Training Program). Greater emphasis on the total number of combat aviators meant that the overall quality of personnel was much higher as the USAAF could afford to rotate veterans to disseminate critical lessons learned to trainees. What killed the Luftwaffe was a series of bomber offensives in early 1944 when the fighter force had to come up to fight (e.g., the Big Week). After a handful of top aces, most were just target drones for USAAF and RAF fighter pilots.

"What did win Germany early battles was better trained troops and officers using combined arms tactics more effectively."

I agree completely. I would also add that after May 1940 the German army didn't really fight anyone possessing tactical competence until 1944.

"Frankly, I would like to know how the myth of the all-powerful German war machine outlived the Nazi propaganda from which it originated - perhaps embarrassment that it took six years to defeat it ?"

Self-serving German generals (e.g., Manstein) and some Western historians wrote the first works that started the myth. It's very very hard to kill a myth. It didn't take that long to knock out the Germans once the Allies were able to get ashore and establish a beachhead (that's probably half the fight anyway given inherent challenges in forced entry amphibious operations) despite some miserable performances at the operational level (tactically they were fine). Ike (Sadly he just wasn't very good), Bradley (His finest moment was the planning of Cobra. It all went downhill after that), and Montgomery (The less said the better, but the failure to clear the Scheldt estuary was just inexcusable not to mention the escape of the German 15th Army) were simply not that good at that level. Plenty of German generals and Soviet generals were better in terms of operational art. The only Allied generals who possessed keen grasp were too low to matter (e.g., Patton, Collins). The war would've been over in October 1944 had the Allies finished off the Westheer at Falaise or even along the Seine. One has to remember that this took place at the same time period as Bagration. Without the cadre that escaped the Falaise pocket, Hitler wouldn't have been able to reconstitute the mobile reserves in the fall.

YT

The followin' is from a military novel (can't remember the title unfortunately) I read a couple of years ago. If I ain't mistaken, it was written by a U.S. Army Maj.

It's a transcript, a Japanese officer (IK) bein' interrogated by his American counterpart (LP) who was investigatin' war crimes --


IK: No. I read Western languages. Why do Westerners not trouble with Eastern languages?

LP: Many do. I only have French and German myself.

IK: I think Westerners do not believe Eastern languages important. Westerners believe the world will eventually belong to them. You Americans believe the world should belong to you.

LP: Americans have no imperial ambitions, not like...

IK: Come now. You have your empire, and it is growing, flourishing, I might say. You deny to others the right to do what you have done.

LP: We did not start this war. Japan did.

IK: You did start it. You started it well before 1941. You started it with your diplomacy, with your immigration laws, with your embargoes, with your League of Nations. You and the Russians.

LP: The Russians? You mean the Communists?

IK: Yes, the Russians, the Communists now, who are only Russians dressed up with Marxist ideas. They are still dreaming of their empire, and now they want a world empire. They may well get it; if you are not careful. And in the contest between your empire and theirs, you will find you need Japan on your side.

LP: Under the circumstances, I fail to see how Japan could be of help to anyone.

IK: All this will pass. History will go on, according to its own pace and purpose.

LP: Karl Marx would probably agree with you...


Revisionism?

kuj

very intersting !

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