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Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Steve Cole's thoughts on the worst mistake the Germans made during World War II, in no particular order.
1. The failure to destroy the British Army at Dunkirk, which might well have caused the fall of the Churchill government and resulted in a peace agreement.
2. The delay in invading Russia. The invasion should have started in April and might well have taken Moscow had that been the case. Would that have caused the collapse of Stalin's government? Arguable, but without the Moscow rail hub and industry, it would have been very hard to keep going. To this we can add the failure to capture Leningrad, which can be entirely traced to the inadequate commanders assigned to Army Group North. Ok, the best guys (Guderian and Hoth) went toward Moscow, but surely somebody better could have been found for the northern job.
3. Expecting the Japanese to keep Russia's Siberian army pinned down. The Japanese had their own priorities and did not even try, but anyone could have seen that Russia would have temporarily abandoned Siberia to save Moscow. If the Germans had an adequate bomber, they could have constantly wrecked the rail lines east of Moscow.
4. The failure to mobilize German industry. Germany was still on a civilian economy (manufacturing pianos and furniture) in 1942. It should have gone to a full wartime economy in 1939, which would have put more tanks, guns, and trucks into German divisions. Just building trucks (most of the Germany Army's supplies and artillery were pulled by horses!) would have improved the Army immeasurably.
5. Going into Russia as a conqueror, not a liberator. To be sure, Hitler did not want to liberate Russia but to conquer it, but as the price of winning, he could have accepted a future Russian state (dominated by Germany).
6. The Holocaust: All of that effort spent murdering Jews (instead of drafting them into the Army) could have been better spent fighting the Russians.
7. The failure to build jets. Germany had flying jet fighters in 1939 but did not accelerate production because Hitler thought the war would be over before they were needed. Try running that bombing campaign against thousands of Me262s flown by the cream of the Luftwaffe. To this we can add the failure to build a heavy bomber and the insistence that the medium bombers be configured as dive bombers (which added weight and reduced their speed and payload.) We can forgive the failure to realize that the Me110 was dead meat in a dogfight as nobody else figured out that heavy fighters don't work until it was proven in combat.
8. The failure to build a Navy. Germany could never match Britain in battleships and should not have tried. All of the money and steel and manpower than went into the four battleships they did build would have produced a few dozen U-boats which proved far more effective in controlling the Atlantic. (The Germans could be forgiven the failure to understand the aircraft would make the surface warship raider obsolete by 1941.)
9. Badly wasted manpower. Surplus troops in the Luftwaffe were formed into worthless light infantry divisions instead of being fed into existing Army divisions are replacements. The hand-picked high-quality soldiers in the SS could have served in the Army in their SS uniforms.
10. Declaring war on the USA. Japan hit Pearl Harbor and then insisted that Germany join them because of their defense pact. Huh? Hitler should have said "You didn't pin down the Siberians, so I don't owe you any favors." Keeping the US out of Europe for an extra year might have given him space to win the war.