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Thread: Hitler's Mistakes in WWII

  1. #81
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drömmarnas Stig View Post
    Goering screwed Sealion up by diverting from tactical to strategical bombing.
    The RAF was all but defeated when Goering switched his strategy to terror bombardement which gave the RAF a much needed rest.
    When finally switched back to tactical bombings, the RAF was ready and fend off all German efforts.
    Was not Hitler's mistake though.
    I agree, not Hitler's mistake. But the Battle of Britain was pretty much unwinnable from the start: to achieve Germany's minimum goal of air superiority the Luftwaffe had to keep up a campaign of sustained bombardment of shipyards, factories related to British air defence, R.A.F. Command and Control centers, airfields & radar installations - and properly identify all of them first - while destroying R.A.F. fighters in dogfights and replacing its own losses, several months in a row. The German industry and the Luftwaffe simply didn't have enough resources/assets and pilots for this, all the more so because the Luftwaffe was a young airforce and in its early days quantity mattered more than quality (as Germany didn't have an airforce in the Weimar era), hence British and allied fighter pilots had a slight quality advantage too in general. It's doubtful Sealion would've worked even with complete German air supremacy. The only practical result of the Battle of Britain was a weakened Luftwaffe prior to Operation Barbarossa - Germany didn't lose the war in the skies over Britain however, so it's not a national tragedy for the Germans and it was not seen as one either at the time.

    - Stalingrad

    The eventual sacrifice of the 6th army was necessary for two reasons:
    1. In December it wasn't able to break out anymore (any attempt before can be discussed).
    2. An earlier surrender (thus saving lifes at first; only 10% surviving Russian captivity questions this option in the long-run) would have sacrificed the Caucasus-army, around 1 million soldiers (who barely escaped in early 1943 by a narrow margin).
    Contemporary history (in Germany) tries to convince us that Hitler let the 6th army rot in Stalingrad for no reason. Well, the Caucasus army was the best reason one can have.
    You might add the diversion of Herman Hoth's panzer corps south to assist the Caucasus-army. This left the 6th army without any armoured support and thus sealed its fate.
    I disagree, Hitler does need to be blamed for a few things regarding the Caucasus campaign in1942, but I'm going to mostly address the things you mentioned. Hitler shares equal responsibility with Paulus and von Manstein (whom blames Hitler and Paulus, but was himself against a breakout at first) for the debacle. Yet a proper breakout was never possible - the Sixth Army had no horses left when it became encircled - they were all resting and regaining strength for the springtime operations of 1943 in encampments far behind the front, prior to the Soviet double envelopment. So escaping from Stalingrad could've only been done, maybe, by leaving the wounded and most heavy weapons behind and incurring tens of thousands of casualties during the retreat, an incredibly difficult and dodgy manoeuver, with perhaps most of the Sixth army if not all of it being annihilated during the operation in the time space of a few weeks. And then Fall Blau would've failed for sure, even sooner than it did: as long as the Germans were able to hold the area between the Don and the Wolga they were able to disrupt river transports, and they were winning the war - Muscovites and all of Russia was starving because of it. While a retreat would've made it impossible to defeat the Soviets from then on, with the Germans never able to return to that crucial area again.

    Only one thing could've saved the men in Stalingrad: the complete allocation of all mobile German reserves on the Eastern Front to von Manstein's counter-offensive at Stalingrad. Those which didn't take part in Operation Winterstorm (the relief effort) and which were active around Rzhev at the time, trying to prevent a second Stalingrad from occuring in that region (which they successfuly did), as the Soviets launched massive offensives against it while Stalingrad was under siege. It's a now forgotten battle, even though the Soviets lost an incredibly amount of men there. To save their entrapped troops in Stalingrad the Germans would've had to give up the Rzhev salient - their closest position to Moscow, from where Hitler hoped to attack Moscow again after success in the Caucasus. The Germans had to make a choice and tried to hold onto everything, both the Rzhev salient and Stalingrad, while trying to rescue the Sixth army with a minimalistic counter offensive. It proved to be the wrong choice. As a result the Germans lost everything: the Sixth Army in Stalingrad and right after that the Rzehv salient, as it was eventually evacuated because with the loss of the Sixth Army the mobile reserves around Rzhev were now needed in the South anyway, to establish a new frontine there - and holding it was also no longer realistic due to the loss of an important railway station/crossroad supplying the Rzhev salient far to the North of the salient itself. The lession here is: never bite off more than you can chew. The issue was not so much keeping the Sixth Army in Stalingrad or not, but not making the required effort to liberate it, as the Soviets had gathered very strong forces in and around Stalingrad.

    Diverting Hoth's panzers to the South temporarily was a mistake, but Hoth's 4th panzer army made very slow progress once it did participate in the attack on Stalingrad, missing the opportunity to destroy two Soviet armies outside of the city. This isn't just Hoth's fault however, he had little in the way of supplies and replacements.

    Going into Stalingrad was probably a bigger mistake here - not entering Stalingrad was no guarantee for final victory, but it would've helped; with then more German troops being available to strengthen the flanks of the Sixth Army, as cities soak up more troops than the Steppe - with the Germans then also having something in the way of a local mobile reserve to counter Soviet attacks with. Stalingrad was not a Fall Blau objective, Hitler didn't care for it, it was only on the menu in the case of it being weakly defended - yet local German commanders believed they could rapidly take it and it would've helped out somewhat with their logistical situation and hence Paulus and co went for it. The biggest mistake of the Stalingrad campaign was not reaching Astrakhan before going into the Caucasus (which was the original plan before Hitler revised it during the campaign) and hence properly protect the northern flank of the German armies moving into the Caucasus, as well as clearing all of those Soviet pockets on the German side of the Don (from where Operation Uranus would commence) and which came about as the Sixth army marched on Stalingrad in the summer of 1942. The Germans suspected the Soviets were going to attack in the Stalingrad area, but didn't think them able to mount an offensive from the north and east at the same time, having those strips of land on the other side of the Don helped the Soviets with that.

    To blame on Hitler: - Kursk (Citadel) Manstein wanted to attack months earlier (which would have succeeded btw.), Hitler postponing the campaign until the latest tank models were ready caused the defeat. So, yes it was Hitler's mistake. No, it was not a tactical error, it was a timing error. He underestimated the importance of field fortifications (maybe because of the easy assault of Eben Emael and the Maginot).
    It's a myth that Hitler simply waited for the latest tank models to arrive before going on the offensive, the Germans needed to beef up their forces in every regard again first, after the retreat from the Caucasus. But sure, it was a mistake to attack the Kursk salient when the Germans did. Von Manstein however was going to make a bigger mess out of it still, by keeping up the attack. If Hitler had not ended the operation von Manstein could've looked forward to becoming entrapped in Kursk the same way Paulus got entrapped in Stalingrad.

    - [B]Moscow and Leningrad
    Leningrad is not primarly Hitler's fault, but Ritter von Leeb's, whom didn't pull off any massive encirclements with his army group like the other two army groups despite it being perfectly possible due to poor Soviet leadership. And twice the road to Leningrad lay open, twice did von Leeb miss the opportunity. Then again, he was a miscast as a commander of tank divisions, a weapon he had no experience with and he was simply too gentlemanly for the war in the East being anti-NS, but to his credit he recognised all of this himself and thought that someone younger should've had the task he fulfilled - von Leeb asked to be relieved from his position in late '41 - Hitler refused at first, then accepted his resignation shortly afterwards. Without Hitler's halt order Leningrad may still have fallen, but not going into Leningrad meant the Soviets had to deal with a lengthy, massive resource bleed in order to keep the defenders going for years. And Hitler didn't exactly mind starving every Slav in Leningrad before taking control of it, trying to achieve lebensraum in the East.

    Moscow presented a similarly easy target in late July. He completely underestimated the significance of Russia's capital:
    1. There are few examples in military history where a nation continues war once its capital is captured.
    2. Moscow was the infrastructural centre of Russia. It was like the centre of a spider's web. Everything had to pass Moscow. Capture it and you immobilize Russia.
    Not to speak of the psychological and political consequences of Stalin fleeing the capital.
    World War II is full of examples of countries fighting on after losing their capitals, Moscow was important to the Soviets, but German conquest of the city does not equal a death blow for them either. Furthermore, was Guderian going to walk there? With unlimited fuel and supplies and no chance of Soviets attacking his non-existent flanks, he would've gotten there in July for sure - but the German logistical service did not reach beyond 500-800 kms from their own borders - and the Soviets would've encircled Guderian somewhere in front of Moscow or at best its suburbs as he ran out of fuel. All of this while the more important fronts (Leningrad, Ukraine) would have to wait.

    - ME-262

    That was the best interceptor of its time, plain and simple. It wasted its advantage (speed) as a blitz-bomber, so Hitler blew it again.
    It had been better to invest in legacy fighter planes than in jet technology (with limited range) - having blitz-bombers instead of jet fighters is of lesser consequence, it's certainly not a mistake on the level of Dunkirk at any rate.

    Static Defence instead of an elastic one

    Von Manstein wrote in "Lost Victories" that the war could have still be won by 1943 by means of elastic defence, which was perfectly suited for the vast Russian territory.
    Instead Hitler didn't learn from the attritional static defence side-effects from WW1 and chose to slug it out with the Russians.
    Von Manstein wrote a lot of things in Lost Victories - and while a great general - he wasn't always truthful in his memoirs - which shouldn't come as a surprise; that's the way memoirs are - they're "misinformation", they always embellish and cover up - but eventually they make it easier entrap someone in a lie and expose their true failures. Much better to never write memoirs, it will keep one's reputation intact after death. Von Manstein was right about elastic defence however and Hitler was wrong, so I agree with you here.
    “War is waged by men; not by beasts, or by gods. It is a peculiarly human activity. To call it a crime against mankind is to miss at least half its significance; it is also the punishment of a crime.” - Frederic Manning, The Middle Parts of Fortune

  2. #82
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    I haven't read all nine pages of this thread.

    Hitler's mistake was waging war on non-German speaking peoples. He should have been satisfied with what he had.

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    It's Hitler's blundering/dilettantism/stubbornness later on in the war which made things worse for the Germans; I don't believe Hitler lost the war for Germany as I've explained before, but he could've outright won it had he captured the B.E.F., at least the first round of WW2 - and I say first round because you never know whether a defeated British Empire could not have commenced hostilities again if Germany is at war with the U.S.S.R. while Britain itself is being backed by the U.S. I think Hitler was an asset for Germany until Fall Blau/the summer offensive in the Soviet union in 1942 and that he was mostly right and his generals wrong before that time. If he had listened to the majority of his generals during hot disputes prior to June 1942, Germany's position would've been worse in June 1942 - either because Germany never succeeded in knocking France out of the war or because of a collapse on the Eastern Front due to the failure of Operation Barbarossa or because despite having beaten France his generals simply missing the strategic vision to win WW2, launching a series of minor campaigns in Southern Europe that would've ultimately not won the war for Germany while wasting time, as the U.S.S.R. and the U.S., while at peace with Germany, get stronger every month. Sadly for Hitler and Germany, Hitler being proven correct so often in1936-1942 made him believe he was always right about everything with pretty disastrous consequences.

    Hitler's mistakes are not few, here are some:

    Assuming the "Stalingrad campaign"/Fall Blau was over and the Soviets defeated when it had only just begun, then diverting reserves elsewhere as well as changing the plan by going after the Caucasus and Stalingrad/Astrakhan ("the northern flank") at the same time instead of concentrating on the northern flank first. A case of doing too much at once with too little.

    There were other, now somewhat forgotten "Stalingrads" Hitler carries responsibility for: Tunisgrad for instance. Correctly fearing an invasion of Italy unless the Axis kept a foothold in North-Africa, Hitler finally reinforced the German forces in Africa in a big way after the defeat at El-Alemein. These reinforcements stood with their backs against the wall from day one and were confined to Tunisia, surrounded by much more numerous allied forces. Tunisia became a predictable deathtrap which Hitler also predictably could not disentangle himself from.

    Not building up credible defensive positions on the Eastern Front when it became clear Germany had to go on the defensive in 1943.

    Not retreating from Normandy faster after the gig was up and the allies had broken out of the Cotentin peninsula, hence many men and much material were lost when the withdrawal started, unnecessarily.

    Not withdrawing German troops from Italy and the Balkan (perhaps even Norway) after the allied breakout from Normandy to where they were needed the most, namely on the Rhine and Eastern front.

    Launching the Ardennes Offensive as opposed to using Germany's last reserves to counter.attack allied forces destined to attempt crossing the Rhine as well as the Soviets on the Eastern Front.

    Putting Himmler in charge of Army Group Vistula in 1945 - Himmler, of all people! A man with zero military experience - when the next Soviet offensive came all along on the Eastern Front, the line held more or less everywhere except in Poland, where Himmler's forces were routed.

    Not evacuating Army Group North from its pocket in Courland nor those troops in cities on Soviet soil declared "fortresses".

    With the Soviets on the Oder early 1945 and about to launch their assault on Berlin in order to encircle it, Hitler, in contrast with all his generals, believed the next Soviet offensive would be in Hungary after which he directed vital reserves to Central-Europe. A sort of flight from reality.

    His preoccupation with Wunderwaffe. Too little, too new, too late. And that in a world war which was primarly about quantity, not quality; Germany could've had 1000s of extra artillery pieces and anti-tank guns with a very direct effect upon the military situation instead of wunderwaffe castles in the sky.
    “War is waged by men; not by beasts, or by gods. It is a peculiarly human activity. To call it a crime against mankind is to miss at least half its significance; it is also the punishment of a crime.” - Frederic Manning, The Middle Parts of Fortune

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elizabeth View Post
    I haven't read all nine pages of this thread.

    Hitler's mistake was waging war on non-German speaking peoples. He should have been satisfied with what he had.
    Agreed that I am not bothering to look at all the nitpicking about Hitler; neither do I blindly feel anything about him. I won't get on an anti or pro bandwagon about the man.

    I understand the frustrations that incited Adolf's rise to power and the expectations of those who helped him on his way to ultimate power, in whose name they hoped to shine. There were some main structural problems, partly to do with the manner in which the Reich was to engage in revanchism. That time, so fresh in memory losing the Great War, was inauspicious precisely because of the Great Depression. Yes, that was the emotionally poignant time to strike back, but the rashness of it perhaps couldn't not lead the country down to ruin. The folk may've had a harder time being sent headlong into disaster if more time had been taken to form a more rational set of strategies, but the French situation of 1789 lead to a similar 'running off the rails' and this series of events followed them without faring any better. Radical transformation of national direction requires momentum to carry it onward, but the rush for accomplishment too often leads to failure. Only sustained policies over the long-term, really result in constructive results, because there's nothing stable about constant change. Some fire-breathers just can't wait for a government to fall, because they pine for the chaos in which they can exploit the sufferings of others and claim that they're finally getting what they deserve. They think they speak for all the other disadvantaged or overlooked losers in life, justifying a mass uprising to overthrow the fat and happy ones who doubtlessly conspired to keep them down. My family were not wealthy or powerful, at least since 1066 or so, yet still remained faithful to public order and decency as that which was the safest course of action for anybody to stay out of trouble and make the best impressions in a mere act of self-preservation. I don't have anything but lukewarm feelings for those who demand revolution--or else! Huh, hell no...

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