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Was the German Army (Heer) really so superior?

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  • Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
    You could throw in that following the fall of France the Germans were pretty much clueless about any realistic means to deal with England too.....
    Perhaps but this had more to do with lacking the means to get at the British army rather than the inability to defeat it in battle. As events in Africa from March 41 to to Nov 42 were to show the British and forces were almost routinely chased off the field or forced to withdraw. At the same time the British could not muster a solid win (accept by exhausting attrition; see Operation Crusader) against the German army until 2nd Alamein.

    It is a little hard to judge German infantry in the west pre-1942 as they never had to stage a full scale campaign against British or French forces. The fighting in France did not require them to stage set piece assaults such as the Allies were to do later in the war. The fighting on the Meuse, at Gembloux, and again at Lille and Dunkirk was generally dominated by the tanks and infantry assaults were rather a case of bumping into the line and trying to push through with hasty attacks. It is not surprising that the infantry bounced off the defences.

    The second phase of the Battle of France did see German attacks by infantry succeed but with the usual heavy losses. Then again, it also saw German infantry, once free of French defences, attain advance rates that rivalled the panzers (and on foot).

    Russia destroyed the early war German army and by the time the CW and US armies engaged German 'infantry' between 1943 and 1944 the game had changed. Firepower for both the German and Allied divisons had greatly increased and the Germans came out with good defence but their much smaller divisions could not cope with Allied infantry (actually "mech" infantry) supported by massed artillery and armour assets. The advantage in firepower was the Allies and it was a level playing field (not that it needed to be).

    None of this means the Germans lost their tactical edge (especially in the defence) and in many cases German operational skill remained superior until very late in the war,
    The Purist

    Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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    • Originally posted by lcm1 View Post
      Yes TA, that is very true.For one very important reason, they knew that to make us finally succumb to their gentle persuasion they needed to cross the Channel first and if they tried to do that the RN would likely get a little bit cross and they would come off second best,because they did not have the facilities to achieve such a venture.To reach that stage they needed time and time was what they did not have.
      Actually, following the fall of France time was on Germany's side. Hitler's mistake was wanting to force a move east and open up Russia rather than finish with what he'd already started.
      If the Germans were more strategic minded they would have finished Britain first. They could have done that by concentrating on the air war against Britian along with the U-boat campaign while sitting on plans for Russia.
      When North Africa and the Balkans become problems the Germans could have dealt with them too. If anything, with no Russian campaign Britain would have been doomed in the Middle East.
      Once Japan enters the war things would have only gotten worse for Britain with a Germany focused on defeating them alone. He could have also avoided war with the US. (I've advocated he declare war on Japan after the US is attacked spewing some Aryan nonsense about supporting another Aryan nation against Asian untermenchen or something).

      But, Hitler was more interested in fufilling his political dreams as quickly as possible and he ended up with everybody at war with him. Good strategy would have been finish the enemy you have before adding several new ones to your list.

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      • Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
        Actually, following the fall of France time was on Germany's side...<snip>
        Uhhhh, TAG, thats all very nice and theoretical but hasn't got much to do with what happened. The fact remains that German infantry was never asked to fight Allied infantry on relatively equal terms early in the war and by the second half of the war they were no longer capable of doing so.

        Thus the criticism of German infantry "never winning" versus their Allied counterparts is not an apple versus apple comparison of capabilities.
        The Purist

        Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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        • Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
          Actually, following the fall of France time was on Germany's side. Hitler's mistake was wanting to force a move east and open up Russia rather than finish with what he'd already started.
          If the Germans were more strategic minded they would have finished Britain first. They could have done that by concentrating on the air war against Britian along with the U-boat campaign while sitting on plans for Russia.
          When North Africa and the Balkans become problems the Germans could have dealt with them too. If anything, with no Russian campaign Britain would have been doomed in the Middle East.
          Not invading the Soviet Union does not magically increase U-boat numbers or efficiency. The night bombing campaign against Britain was already starting to turn in Britains favour as the German bomber groups were redeployed east.

          The British position in the Middle East ultimately rested on a sixty mile wide choke-point at Alamein.

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          • Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
            Actually, following the fall of France time was on Germany's side. Hitler's mistake was wanting to force a move east and open up Russia rather than finish with what he'd already started.
            Hitler couldn't finish what he started. His land army was useless, his air force ineffective and his navy insignificant. That was his problem. They were supposed to surrender, bloody Brits, and were being typically British. Humbug. He made the same assumption that Napoleon had made with Alexander. In the meantime, Roosevelt was bringing the USA into the war by increments. Hitler knew he was running out of time because Germany could not match US industrial capacity no matter how many pickles he pulled out of his posterior. Germany was resource-poor, blockaded, and broke. Time was not on their side.

            The solution to his problems lay to the East. He could gain nothing by waiting until 1942, but stood to lose if he did. Everyone was rearming faster than Germany could match, so time was not on his side. He had tanks, so he attacked the USSR, expecting an easy victory, and prepared to build airplanes to fend off the Wallies. He got many easy victories, but none of them were decisive. He then found himself caught between a rock and a hard place, with angry Bolsheviks on one side and angry Brits on the other.

            He gambled and lost. The Japanese were unable to keep the Americans at bay after Midway, Churchill sunk the German navy and made it a point to deny Germany the French and Italian navies, the Red Army began to rally with seemingly endless men and tanks, and the end was inevitable, just a matter of time. It was an industrial war underneath everything else. Time worked in favour of the kind of mass-production adopted in the USA and USSR, providing an exponential advantage over German methods.

            Regards
            Scott Fraser
            Last edited by Scott Fraser; 21 Mar 12, 14:12.
            Ignorance is not the lack of knowledge. It is the refusal to learn.

            A contentedly cantankerous old fart

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            • Indeed.

              <<WARNING: Minor thread hijacking>>

              Now, if,... a big if,... if Germany did not attack Russia the only way to get at the British in the middle east was through Turkey. Turkey was essentially pro-Allied but had some sympathy for Germany based on WWI. However, Turkey also considered strategic territory for the USSR. Stalin would not have tolerated Instanbul and the Dardenelles in Axis hands as it effectively put astretegic waterway in "enemy" hands.

              A German attack would push Turkey directly, and Russia indirectly, into the Allied camp. It would have strained German-Soviet relations to the breaking point. Soviet tolerance would llikely only last unitl Stalin felt the Soviet military ready to act.

              Scott could probably explain the Soviet view of Turkish and middle eastern territory considered imperatives to the USSR in more detail (another thread)

              If Turkey is off the table that leaves Germany having to fight a Mediterranean and Atlantic war against Britain, with no means of actually winning. The problem of African ports and resources still exists (in particular fuel) and an invasion of French Africa only compund Germany political problems by pushing the US, already just about finished with islationism, closer to Britain and France.

              Germany has a tough row to hoe.

              <<We now return you to our regular scheduled programming >>
              Last edited by The Purist; 21 Mar 12, 14:06.
              The Purist

              Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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              • Originally posted by panther3485 View Post
                If movies such as 'Downfall' are any indication, Hitler seems to have taken on at least the appearance of a "raving lunatic" towards the end.
                Not that I take sympathy to the guy, but yes he lost it. F... it, he lost it all.

                Ed.
                The repetition of affirmations leads to belief. Once that belief becomes a deep conviction, you better wake up and look at the facts.

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                • Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                  Indeed.

                  <<WARNING: Minor thread hijacking>>

                  Now, if,... a big if,... if Germany did not attack Russia the only way to get at the British in the middle east was through Turkey. Turkey was essentially pro-Allied but had some sympathy for Germany based on WWI. However, Turkey also considered strategic territory for the USSR. Stalin would not have tolerated Instanbul and the Dardenelles in Axis hands as it effectively put astretegic waterway in "enemy" hands.
                  What?! Italy was already in the war with Britain and France. Italy also attacked Greece. So, the Germans could have pushed through the Balkans as before, taken Crete as before, sent a bigger Afrika Korps over from Italy. Concentrated on taking Malta, bombed the snot out of Gibralter to the point it was unsafe to dock there.
                  None of that requires Turkey's participation. If the Germans were to push thorugh successfully to Alexandria then the RN is pretty much pushed out of the Med entirely. That means the Germans and Italians can run unescorted convoys much of the time as there is only the occasional RN sub to contend with. If they took Alexandria after Queen Elizabeth and Malaya are sunk then those two battleships fall to the Axis, even if unusable.
                  The British would have had to fall back on the much less well equipped port at Massawa in Eurtera Ethopia.

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                  • Originally posted by Gooner View Post
                    Not invading the Soviet Union does not magically increase U-boat numbers or efficiency. The night bombing campaign against Britain was already starting to turn in Britains favour as the German bomber groups were redeployed east.

                    The British position in the Middle East ultimately rested on a sixty mile wide choke-point at Alamein.
                    That's true. But, with a focus on Britain that means more naval constuction. Maybe not just more U-boats but more maritime bombers, more seaplanes, more focus on Luftwaffe bombers using torpedoes and attacking ships, more smaller surface combatants like destroyers and S-Boats.
                    The same goes for defense. More concentration on nightfighters and air defense against Bomber Command. Without active US participation I don't think the British could have sustained a bomber offensive any more than the Luftwaffe could against Britain over the long run. Both sides would find their losses unacceptable.
                    But, without an Eastern Front gobbling up millions of troops and pressing industry to supply a huge ground army along with the Soviets continuing to trade with Germany, the Germans are in a much stronger position and have the resources to match or exceed British prodution.
                    The British are pretty much forced into their choices: A big expensive ASW effort including lots of ASW ships, and replacing merchant losses. They have to build aircraft to defend against the Germans both on land and at sea.
                    If they try a bomber offensive they have to out run losses to succeed. I would think that somewhere around 8 to 10% per large raid would pretty much finish Bomber Command making any kind of real sustained effort. At sea they wil need maritime patrol aircaft and also carrier types to defend against German long-range maritime attack aircraft. Imagine the problem protecting a convoy against aircraft like a Ju 88H, Ju 290, or He 277 rather than the more weakly armed and less capable Fw 200. The real danger here isn't so much to convoys as it is to 'independent' sailing ships that are fast enough to evade subs most or all of the time.
                    Throw in a more concerted mining effort too. All that bodes bad for Britain.
                    Britain, particularly once Japan enters the war, cannot field a huge army. Many of their colonial troops will be syphoned off to defend their home nations. That means no hope of a land offensive to end things either.

                    All Germany had to do was turn the war with Britain into a marathon while strengthening their position on the continent. Hitler's view should have been "I have a thousand year Reich. Russia will still be there in 10 or 20 when I finish with Britain."

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                    • Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                      All Germany had to do was turn the war with Britain into a marathon while strengthening their position on the continent. Hitler's view should have been "I have a thousand year Reich. Russia will still be there in 10 or 20 when I finish with Britain."
                      The problem here were the rate of Soviet industrial output growth and Soviet arms production. Even in 1943 the success of his invasion would've been quite questionable, not speaking of a much later date. This is in case if he'd kept producing tanks at the pre-Barbarossa monthly production rate and even kept increasing it gradually without switching to the "total war" footing.
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                      • Originally posted by T. A. Gardner
                        What?! Italy was already in the war with Britain and France. Italy also attacked Greece. So, the Germans could have pushed through the Balkans as before, taken Crete as before, sent a bigger Afrika Korps over from Italy...
                        Uhhh,... the ports were still too small for the army they did have, more troops means less supplies to go around.

                        Originally posted by T. A. Gardner
                        ... Concentrated on taking Malta, bombed the snot out of Gibralter to the point it was unsafe to dock there....
                        Malta? Except for Nov 1941 Malta did not do the oft quoted damage to Axis shipping once thought. 89-90% of supplies loaded were landed in African ports. At that point the supply system breaks down. Rommel's "army" had as many trucks as an entire army group in Russia and still the supply needs could not be met.

                        Bomb Gibraltar? From Sardinia? That might be a stretch for most of Germany's bombers and completely out of range for the fighters. A few squadrons of British fighters would make life difficult for these missions.


                        Originally posted by T. A. Gardner
                        ...None of that requires Turkey's participation. If the Germans were to push thorugh successfully to Alexandria... <snip>...
                        A very big "if" considering condition of both Tripoli and Benghazi until late 1941 when some port expansion had been done. Rommel's first drive reuired only 70,000 tons per month and this could not be maintained. That is why he spent the summer and early fall of 41 staring at the garrison in Tobruk and powerless to do anything about it or 8th Army. All he could do was maintain his position with a small surplus of gass and ammunition.

                        Tripoli could handle but four ships, Benghazi two. Tripoli to the Egyptian border and back is further than Warsaw to Moscow,... with one bad road and no rail line.

                        By comparison the Britsh never fell below four divisions in the Delta plus 8th Army in the desert after the spring of 41.

                        __________________________________________________ ___________________________________

                        But this all a distraction from the thread.
                        The Purist

                        Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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                        • Two points.

                          If this and this are correct, then Britain could have still have won just by holding on. One of the odd elements about Britains position in Europe, after June 40, is that in many respects, Britains economic strength actually increased. Being the only remaining buyer of very many goods only available outside Europe, it was actually able to bargain lower prices. Britain could pick and choose who they wanted to buy from. On the otherhand, Germany's economy was overheating. It could never have waited to defeat Britain and needed the assets in the East.

                          Back on topic. If you read about the actual units who fought each other on and around Hill 112 in Normandy 44 (source here), then the elite SS don't appear anything special. Considering those SS units were the elite, and that the British Army had 3rd choice of men after the Navy and RAF, the average Tommy acquitted himself more than admirably. The Allies had advantages in artillery and number of tanks, but the ground was prepared, and the elite SS actually outnumbered the CW at points of contact much of the time.

                          When single CW Battalions are pushing back SS Panzer Grenadier regiments (equal to a CW brigade ie 3 Battalions), and the latter is in prepared defenses, the SS look less than capable imo.
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                          • On the question of leaving the Soviets be, and concentrating Germany's war effort against Britain:

                            From Hitler's PoV definitely (and in reality also, almost certainly IMO), leaving the Soviet Union alone for the sake of concentrating on Britain simply was not an option. Hitler's real ambitions lay to the East, and they were of the utmost urgency for his timetable. Also, he was aware that the Soviet Union would grow steadily proportionally stronger and better prepared, relative to Germany. His only chance of defeating the Soviets - slender as it may have been - was to do it as quickly as possible.

                            I would also go so far as to say, that Germany's only chance to win WW2 was to do it relatively quickly.
                            "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

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                            • Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                              Actually, following the fall of France time was on Germany's side. Hitler's mistake was wanting to force a move east and open up Russia rather than finish with what he'd already started.
                              If the Germans were more strategic minded they would have finished Britain first. They could have done that by concentrating on the air war against Britian along with the U-boat campaign while sitting on plans for Russia.
                              When North Africa and the Balkans become problems the Germans could have dealt with them too. If anything, with no Russian campaign Britain would have been doomed in the Middle East.
                              Once Japan enters the war things would have only gotten worse for Britain with a Germany focused on defeating them alone. He could have also avoided war with the US. (I've advocated he declare war on Japan after the US is attacked spewing some Aryan nonsense about supporting another Aryan nation against Asian untermenchen or something).

                              But, Hitler was more interested in fufilling his political dreams as quickly as possible and he ended up with everybody at war with him. Good strategy would have been finish the enemy you have before adding several new ones to your list.
                              My remark about the Germans not having time on their side was solely in regards to the possibility of invading England. lcm1
                              'By Horse by Tram'.


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                              • Originally posted by lcm1 View Post
                                My remark about the Germans not having time on their side was solely in regards to the possibility of invading England. lcm1
                                In my opinion, the Germans not having time on their side remains true anyway, whichever way we cut the cake.
                                "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

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