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What Was the Real Reason For Germany's Defeat?

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  • What Was the Real Reason For Germany's Defeat?

    I have heard several different theories regarding this matter and I am wondering what the predominat view is on this issue.
    12
    The collapse of her allies.
    0.00%
    0
    The blocakde and the failure of the German harvests.
    8.33%
    1
    Military reason. (i.e. Army was collapsing.)
    25.00%
    3
    They couldn't go on. (Attrition.)
    33.33%
    4
    Other Please Specify
    33.33%
    4
    There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full. -Henry Kissinger

  • #2
    It's a little bit all of the above. But if you wanted to give the main reason for all of the above; the Blockade starved the civilians. The civilians collapse meant that the armed forces had a lot of problems (supply, new recruits, unrest at home) which meant that the civilian morale just got worse and that lead to more problems. It was a vicious circle.


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    • #3
      The starvation of the population.
      http://canadiangenealogyandresearch.ca

      Soviet and Canadian medal collector!

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      • #4
        Certainly the blockade hurt, but all the countries in Europe were on the verge of collapse in 1917. The Western allies (UK, and France) survived because the U.S. came in on their side.
        Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedy. -- Ernest Benn

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        • #5
          America

          I agree that the blockade was hurting. Austria-Hungary was unraveling like an old sweater. However, I actually believe that the United States entering the war tipped the balance.

          First of all, America was the largest producer of food and petroleum products in the world. They could basically feed the entire war effort out of their production alone.

          Second, the warring powers were getting tired by 1917. Germany knocked Russia out the war, but Austria-Hungary was already coming apart. Britian and France had died hard on the Western Front. The Americans entered with fresh armies. They had not been bleed in the trenches for three years.

          Without America, I think Germany might have been able to pull out a victory. America tipped the balance the other way.

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          • #6
            Russia was not defeated in the East. They withdrew as a result of the revolution. A regime change can do that.

            The German army was definitely not defeated in the West. The German people were feeling much the way Americans were feeling during Vietnam. The government finally aquiesced, as mmuch from public pressure, as from pressure from rising political opponents. Not to be forgotten was the pressure from the troops themselves, who as noted above, were bled quite dry by this point.

            I think, without the US entry into the war, the stalemate would have gone on, but with less and less combat over time.
            Retreat hell, we just got here. Every Marine, a rifleman.

            Never let the facts get in the way of the truth.

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            • #7
              I Disagree

              The German Army had lost in the West. They tried real hard in the 1918 Offensive to finish the war off with fresh formations from the East. However, they were eventually stopped and pushed back. If the war had continued until 1919, they would have gone down in flames.

              The Allieds were getting ready to pull out all the stops in the 1919 offensive. You would have seen massive airborne drops, fleets of tanks, etc... There is the persistant myth that the Germany Army did not lose the war in the West. I believe that myth is wrong.

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              • #8
                Re: I Disagree

                Originally posted by Gepard
                The German Army had lost in the West. They tried real hard in the 1918 Offensive to finish the war off with fresh formations from the East. However, they were eventually stopped and pushed back. If the war had continued until 1919, they would have gone down in flames.

                The Allieds were getting ready to pull out all the stops in the 1919 offensive. You would have seen massive airborne drops, fleets of tanks, etc... There is the persistant myth that the Germany Army did not lose the war in the West. I believe that myth is wrong.
                Then you and I will agree to disagree my friend. The German Army was not defeated. It just couldn't win the war. It didn't loose it.
                http://canadiangenealogyandresearch.ca

                Soviet and Canadian medal collector!

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                • #9
                  Okay

                  Okay. I have no problem with being in disagreement with people about if an army won or loss. I would rate the German Army as better than any other Army in the world at the time. However, even the better Army can lose if the logistics don't support the war situation.

                  The initial situation when Germany undertook offensive operations was a war between Germany and Austria-Hungary on one side and England, France, and Russia on the other side. Italy went for the Triple Entente side and the Turks ended up on the German side.

                  Germany attempted to end the war quickly. They struck immediately into the low countries and swung into France. France managed to block them from Paris and the front settled down. Russia beat up on Austria-Hungary and German crunched the Russians. In the Naval War, Germany failed to break through the British blockade of the North Sea.

                  At this point, you pretty much have stalemate, so the Germans started un-restricted U-boat warfare. They crushed Russia, almost knocked Italy out of the war, and drove France to the brink.

                  Now, this at this point the Americans entered the war. The Allieds won the air war in the West. The American battlefleet added to the Royal Navy meant the Germans had no chance to break out. The German Army had one last hope.

                  The Spring Offensive of 1918 was the German's last hope to finish the war. However, this offensive ultimately failed. The Americans were thrown in and eventually the offensive simply ran out of steam. The Germans had no tank the equivalent of the Whippet or French RT to exploit the success of the Storm Troopers.

                  By the fall of 1918, 1,200,000 Americans participated in the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne. By September, the Germans had lost 1,000,000 soldiers, reducing their army from 3.5 million to 2.5 million. By 1919, the four million Americans would have been serving on the Western Front. There was only so long the 2.5 million soldiers of the German Army were going to hold off England, France, and the United States.

                  The German Army lost. They lost to the Armies with the bigger battalions. The Army that brought the bigger battalions in the First World War was the United States Army.

                  Obviously, Adolph Hitler also believed that the German Army did not lose the First World War. Apparently, he did not have much respect for the United States. Therefore, he made perhaps his worse decision of the war. Adolph Hitler declared war on the United States.

                  History then proceeded to repeat itself.

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                  • #10
                    I would have to say that the blockade and other supply related issues ultimately caused the German economy to decline and make civilian support for the Kaiser collapse.

                    Germany was never really defeated in the field, but I would agree that economic conditions were making it harder and harder for the Germans to counter new war technologies (ie, tanks).

                    The influx of fresh American troops sealed Germany's fate.
                    Lance W.

                    Peace through superior firepower.

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                    • #11
                      Militarily I think the war COULD have just dragged on, and on, and on with neither side really gaining much ground, or not for very long anyway, but the German population were sick of the whole thing and it was internal collapse, not military defeat that stopped the war.

                      Hence the classic Nazi "stab in the back" theory.

                      Dr. S.
                      Imagine a ball of iron, the size of the sun. And once a year a tiny sparrow brushes its surface with the tip of its wing. And when that ball of iron, the size of the sun, is worn away to nothing, your punishment will barely have begun.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Doctor Sinister
                        Militarily I think the war COULD have just dragged on, and on, and on with neither side really gaining much ground, or not for very long anyway, but the German population were sick of the whole thing and it was internal collapse, not military defeat that stopped the war.
                        Hence the classic Nazi "stab in the back" theory.
                        Dr. S.
                        They were stabbed in the back by Jews and Communists. It's a myth with a kernel of truth to it.
                        The German people lost the will to fight (which I listed as "other" when I voted, rather than attrition, which is a military term). By the last half of 1918, the communists had capitalized on it and were causing problems throughout the cities, which exacerbated the misery and discontent of the German people. I have seen references to "soldier's councils" such as those that led to the Russian military's collapse.
                        JS
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                        • #13
                          As in other country and at other times, the people were so weary of the wat, the privation, the terrible and unending losses. Like the French and, to a smaller degree, the British, they populace was tired of the unending carnage to little or no effect. Had the people been still behind the war effort, the General Staff and Kaiser may have gone on, and their troops may have been buoyed by the vote of confidence. Given the fragile nature of French morale, that morale boost may have been exactly what was needed for victory. I can see the British boarding boats and heading back to England - not out of cowardice, but because they were able to seat that the French were a defeated force. Perhaps they may have interceded with the Germans to get the most favorable terms for the French, but they could not continue their presence in France with an ineffectual French Army.
                          Mens Est Clavis Victoriae
                          (The Mind Is The Key To Victory)

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                          • #14
                            Militarism and Bad Strategy

                            To me, all of Germany's predicaments go back to one general source--they had come to believe that military solutions solved all strategic problems. The sociology behind this is fascinating, and makes one believe that success sows the seeds of its own destruction.

                            The success of Bismarck and Moltke in 1864 against the Danes, in 1866 against the Austrians, and perhaps most spectacularly in 1870-71 against the French led many in Germany to believe that the application of military force was a preferred solution to solve strategic problems. Unfortunately, few really understood the reasons behind Germany's success--it wasn't just their military. Behind Bismarck's "Blood and Iron" rhetoric was a very shrewd strategic brain and Moltke was a natural partner as he had very wide-ranging interests (he translated poetry, speculated in railroads, etc). Then we get Schlieffen who was as narrow a strategic thinker as they come. Brilliant technician, yes, but he did not have the wide vision that Moltke had. And who could compare to Bismarck in the years following his departure?

                            The character of German government was simply atrocious--the Kaiser exercised direct control over many of the departments and coordination was abomidable. There was a fair amount of intriguing going on...and I suspect part of the Schlieffen plan was an Army intrigue against the Kaiser's favorite plaything, the Navy. A closer inspection of the plan reveals that forces required to carry it out were not on hand in the early 20th Century; to build the required force, the German naval program would have to have been cut back. But Willy II had fallen in love with the ships and saw Britain's success in foreign affairs as having more to do with the Royal Navy than in her extensive economic influences....

                            Fast forward to 1914 and you see the belligerence of Germany--something seen several times before (the Fashoda Crisis, etc)--finally bring about the foreign policy accidents and the acceleration of military mobilizations that created World War I.
                            Military sabre-rattling was not the answer and only made things worse. The bankruptcy of German strategy was perhaps nowhere better seen than when Willy II queries Moltke the Younger about mobilizing only against Russia...and Moltke is horrified as there was no plan to do that and one could not have been improvised. Willy said "Your uncle would have given me a different answer" and he was perfectly right in saying that. Moltke the Elder was legendary for driving his staff into the dirt with many contingency plans to cover many strategic alternatives.

                            Germany strategy for WW I was governed by "the dead hand of Alfred Schlieffen."

                            Germany tended to pursue short-term operational advantage even when this meant sacrifcing long-term strategy. The decision to go with the Schlieffen plan and invading neutral Belgium--thus bringing England into the war--created the distant blockade that eventually strangled her into losing the war. The decision to launch unrestricted U-boat warfare in hopes of strangling Britain first led to the entry of the United States...and the fading fortunes on the battlefield after April 1918....

                            Clemenceau said that war was too important to be left to the Generals and he was right. Unfortunately for the Germans, the Generals--particularly Hindenburg and Ludendorff in the latter half of the war--had too large a hand in matters of national strategy, to the detriment of the nation.

                            --emw
                            Eric M. Walters,
                            Colonel, United States Marine Corps

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                            • #15
                              Re: Militarism and Bad Strategy

                              Originally posted by ericmwalters
                              To me, all of Germany's predicaments go back to one general source--they had come to believe that military solutions solved all strategic problems. The sociology behind this is fascinating, and makes one believe that success sows the seeds of its own destruction.

                              The success of Bismarck and Moltke in 1864 against the Danes, in 1866 against the Austrians, and perhaps most spectacularly in 1870-71 against the French led many in Germany to believe that the application of military force was a preferred solution to solve strategic problems. Unfortunately, few really understood the reasons behind Germany's success--it wasn't just their military. Behind Bismarck's "Blood and Iron" rhetoric was a very shrewd strategic brain and Moltke was a natural partner as he had very wide-ranging interests (he translated poetry, speculated in railroads, etc). Then we get Schlieffen who was as narrow a strategic thinker as they come. Brilliant technician, yes, but he did not have the wide vision that Moltke had. And who could compare to Bismarck in the years following his departure?

                              The character of German government was simply atrocious--the Kaiser exercised direct control over many of the departments and coordination was abomidable. There was a fair amount of intriguing going on...and I suspect part of the Schlieffen plan was an Army intrigue against the Kaiser's favorite plaything, the Navy. A closer inspection of the plan reveals that forces required to carry it out were not on hand in the early 20th Century; to build the required force, the German naval program would have to have been cut back. But Willy II had fallen in love with the ships and saw Britain's success in foreign affairs as having more to do with the Royal Navy than in her extensive economic influences....

                              Fast forward to 1914 and you see the belligerence of Germany--something seen several times before (the Fashoda Crisis, etc)--finally bring about the foreign policy accidents and the acceleration of military mobilizations that created World War I.
                              Military sabre-rattling was not the answer and only made things worse. The bankruptcy of German strategy was perhaps nowhere better seen than when Willy II queries Moltke the Younger about mobilizing only against Russia...and Moltke is horrified as there was no plan to do that and one could not have been improvised. Willy said "Your uncle would have given me a different answer" and he was perfectly right in saying that. Moltke the Elder was legendary for driving his staff into the dirt with many contingency plans to cover many strategic alternatives.

                              Germany strategy for WW I was governed by "the dead hand of Alfred Schlieffen."

                              Germany tended to pursue short-term operational advantage even when this meant sacrifcing long-term strategy. The decision to go with the Schlieffen plan and invading neutral Belgium--thus bringing England into the war--created the distant blockade that eventually strangled her into losing the war. The decision to launch unrestricted U-boat warfare in hopes of strangling Britain first led to the entry of the United States...and the fading fortunes on the battlefield after April 1918....

                              Clemenceau said that war was too important to be left to the Generals and he was right. Unfortunately for the Germans, the Generals--particularly Hindenburg and Ludendorff in the latter half of the war--had too large a hand in matters of national strategy, to the detriment of the nation.

                              --emw
                              Colonel Walters,

                              First I'd like to thank you for participating in these forums. I find it very enlightening to have some one of your background offer insight to what most of us are, amateur historians.

                              You mention that Germany's prior military successes helped breed contempt for their future adversaries. This thinking, along with the expansion of the High Seas Fleet watered down the ORIGINAL Schlieffen plan.

                              Despite Schlieffen's narrow vision, IF his original plan had not had divisions taken away from it there would have been a much higher probability of success. As is was only the desperate measures at the Battle of the Marne kept Paris from falling. If the original manpower Schlieffen had planned for had been available don't you think Paris would have fallen and the French would have sued for peace?

                              Another thing you don't mention was the "house of cards" created by the series of defense alliances that tied Europe together. The "house" was SO unstable that little was needed to collapse it. Austria-Hungary was at best a secondary power, Serbia an even more minor player, yet the actions of a Serbian national ended up creating a world war that killed tens of millions and destroyed empires.

                              In hindsight is seems absurd that governments would set themselves up for such a result. Austria-Hungary attacks Serbia in retaliation for killing the Crown Prince. Russia is the protector of the downtrodden Serbian Slavs. Germany has to side with 1/2 teutonic Austria-Hungary against Russia. France is Russia's ally so the German's make a preemptive strike at France, but there standing military plan is to go through Belgium to get to France so otherwise neutral England joins in............Didn't anyone foresee what the result of these alliances would be?
                              Lance W.

                              Peace through superior firepower.

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