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Hitler's fatal mistake?

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  • Hitler's fatal mistake?

    Hitler obviously made many dumb decisions but which one cost him the war? Was it sacrificing 6th army at Stalingrad or the failure of the Battle of Britain and not launching O. Sealion or was it declaring war on America that brought him down? id like to know what you think.
    "All Glory is Fleeting"

  • #2
    I'd say his biggest mistake was being born.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Napalm
      Hitler obviously made many dumb decisions but which one cost him the war? Was it sacrificing 6th army at Stalingrad or the failure of the Battle of Britain and not launching O. Sealion or was it declaring war on America that brought him down? id like to know what you think.
      The answer is: all of the above!

      Well, maybe except for sacrificing the 6th Army. It was certainly a crushing psychological blow, and a tragedy of human suffering, but what actual effect did it have? If the 6th Army had managed to withdraw and survive, would the Germans have been able to do any better in 1943? I'm not sure.

      Hitler made three big mistakes in the war:

      1. Not crushing Britain while he had the chance.

      Britain stood all alone against Germany for exactly a year between 22 Jun 1940 and 22 Jun 1941, while Germany controlled the entire continental Europe with all its agricultural, industrial and productive resources. Battle of Britain or not, this was the only opportunity that Germany had to knock Britain out of the war for good, and ensuring that there is no strategic bombing campaign and no second front.

      Once the invasion of the Soviet Union started, forcing Britain and the Soviet Union to form an alliance, this opportunity would never arise again. Germany had put its hand into a trap, and could not let go to strike at Britain.

      And once the US came into the war, and turned Britain into a major offensive base against continental Europe, the Atlantic and Channel flanks would be vulnerable, requiring much resources to be put in to defend them, resources which might have been very useful in the East front.

      2. Invading the Soviet Union before he had crushed Britain.

      Could he have done any better if he had defeated Britain first? I think the answer is probably "yes". Without British interference in a series of ill-considered military adventures (in Greece and Crete), he would not have needed to frit away resources in the Mediterranian theatre in the crucial summer of 1941. The Soviet Union would not have been able to receive critical lend lease resources from Britain. The Soviet Union would most probably fight alone against Germany.

      Contrary to popular misconception, while the Soviet Union had an enormous manpower base, its industrial base was limited. Its GDP in 1941 was 359 million International Dollars (1990 value), while Germany's alone was 412 million International Dollars, to which must be added Austria's 29m, France's 130m, and Italy's 144m to give a total of 715m.

      As it were, the Germans managed to assemble a force of 3,767,000 for Operation Barbarossa, versus the Red Army's 2,680,000 in theatre. Would a concentration of manpower and resources without diversion against Britain have given that extra edge needed by Germany to defeat the Soviet Union decisively in 1941. I believe that that is at least a possibility, if not a probability.

      3. Declaring war on the US before it had defeated the Soviet Union.

      To my mind, this is the least of his mistakes, for by then Germany's fate had been sealed.

      A lack of German declaration of war would not have kept the US out of the European conflict. It was clear to most Americans that Germany was the more powerful of Axis partners, and constituted a grave threat to American interests by itself, and it must be defeated. In many oral history interviews, it was clear that many of the veterans were aware of the European war before Pearl Harbour, and identified that Germany was a major threat.

      The question is more of how much resources would have been put into the ETO as opposed to the PTO. I find it hard to believe that the Americans could have put in any more manpower and material resource into the PTO than they already did in 1942. As it was, American forces played relatively minor roles for much of 1942 in the ETO. It was not until Nov 1942 that major US forces fought German forces on the ground.

      However, nonetheless, it can be considered a mistake, in the sense that Germany should have defeated Britain and the Soviet Union by Dec 1941, and the Americans would essentially only be able to fight Japan. It would be extremely hard, if not impossible for the US to fight Germany without Britain as a base or the Soviet Union to pin down German forces.

      Also, a Germany that had defeat Britain and the Soviet Union would be a superpower in its own right. In 1942, it would have a GDP of 417m, which combined with France's 116m, Austria's 27m, Italy's 145m and the Soviet Union's 274m (a total of 979m), and perhaps the British empire's 353m (a total of 1,332m) would form a formidable economic base against even the Americans (who produced 1,235m in 1942). Calling on the resources of an entire continent, the Germans would be in a very strong position to defend Europe against any American interference, and perhaps extend its influence to the Western hemisphere, especially if the US became tied down in a war with Japan.

      That Germany did not manage to defeat Great Britain and the Soviet Union by Dec 1941 meant that the only opportunity for it to win WW2 had passed. The Allies would have to fight for another three and a half years, and victory was still uncertain for them for much of 1942, but Germany realistically lost its opportunity by Dec 1941. It lost this opportunity because it failed to crush Britain at its most vulnerable point, and then failed to defeat the Soviet Union when it was at its most desperate. This two failures allowed its third mistake to become truly fatal.
      Last edited by Ogukuo72; 28 Aug 06, 20:56.

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      • #4
        In a nutshell, declaring war on the two biggest nations in the world without the economical/industrial means to finish it.
        If you can't set a good example, be a glaring warning.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by freightshaker
          In a nutshell, declaring war on the two biggest nations in the world without the economical/industrial means to finish it.
          Strictly speaking, it could be done, but not at the same time. If Germany had defeated the Soviet Union, it might have been able to take on the US, but not before.

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          • #6
            While those were great mistakes, his greatest was that he failed to listen to the generals under his command. If he hadn`t meddled into minor affairs too much and if he actually talked to his generals, he just might have won the war. At the very least the Allies would have had a tough time defeating the Germans.
            "Beneath its gilded beauty, though, there lies a poorly designed game which rewards the greedy and violent, and punishes the hardworking and honest; and if you think about it, that's a good representation of capitalism" - Nightfreeze about Eve Online

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            • #7
              Without a doubt,invading the Soviet Union.He then compounded it by declaring war on the US.After the defeat of France,he visited the tomb of Napoleon,whose exploits in Russia should have given him pause as it did to many of his generals.Leaving Britain standing was undoubtedly a mistake but the Germans probably could not have actually mounted an invasion of Britain.The Royal Navy was far more numerous and powerful than the Kriegsmarine and the German Army had no doctrine for amphibious assault.The German generals thought crossing the channel was analogous to a river crossing on a larger scale.i don't really believe there was much enthusiasm for really attempting Sealion.Declaring war on the US just put the final nail in the coffin.He just did not understand the capacity of American industry.About the only Axis leader who did was Admiral Yamamoto.
              If you Ain't Cav,You Ain't S---

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Scout32
                He just did not understand the capacity of American industry.About the only Axis leader who did was Admiral Yamamoto.
                I guess studying economics at Harvard sure helped Yamamoto.
                Flag: USA / Location: West Coast

                Prayers.

                BoRG

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                • #9
                  i think that if hitler didn't make the order to make the messerschmitt me262 into a bomber, it would have turned the tide on the air war. the daytime raids on germany would have ceased because of the increasing number of advanced jets would have stopped the bombing raids on the 262 assembly sites. with the P51D coming into front line service, it could have done with another year to make sure that they would only make night raids which were less accurate and more dangerous for the bombers. but declaring war on the usa was the biggest problem. if america kept their sights on the japanese, the americans wouldn't have been in africa, scicily and italy in the large numbers they were. i doubt the british and her commonwealth would have coped without our american friends.
                  Big40 events. By skinheads for skinheads.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by salinator
                    I guess studying economics at Harvard sure helped Yamamoto.
                    His prediction that for 6 months he could run wild but that the American industrial capacity would exceed Japan's after that proved to be pretty much on target.
                    If you Ain't Cav,You Ain't S---

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Scout32
                      His prediction that for 6 months he could run wild but that the American industrial capacity would exceed Japan's after that proved to be pretty much on target.
                      yes. so the legend goes.

                      Yamamoto's failure was that he was convinced that he would lose, but went along with the attack that promised eventual defeat for Japan in the long term.

                      Yamamoto had experience with American life, received an American education, and understood that Japan was outmatched. However, in the end, Yamamoto was an obedient soldier(or sailor), not a statesman strong enough to stand up against the ambitions of the Japanese military.
                      Flag: USA / Location: West Coast

                      Prayers.

                      BoRG

                      http://img204.imageshack.us/img204/8757/snap1ws8.jpg

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PtsX_Z3CMU

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by freightshaker
                        In a nutshell, declaring war on the two biggest nations in the world without the economical/industrial means to finish it.
                        Agreed. Going to war with a no-win "guns and butter" economy, manned by slave labor, funded and propped up with the seized treasuries from the countries they overan was no way to prevail against the economic and self- sufficient superpowers that Germany aligned itself against.
                        "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Ogukuo72
                          Strictly speaking, it could be done, but not at the same time. If Germany had defeated the Soviet Union, it might have been able to take on the US, but not before.
                          Germany lacked raw materials, primairly petroleum products. Considering their doctrine relied heavily upon tanks and aircraft there was no way they could support a prolonged war.
                          If you can't set a good example, be a glaring warning.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by freightshaker
                            Germany lacked raw materials, primairly petroleum products. Considering their doctrine relied heavily upon tanks and aircraft there was no way they could support a prolonged war.
                            Which is why it is only a possibility to take on the US if Germany had defeated the Soviet Union first, and secured oil supplies from the Ukrainian oil fields (the Siberian oil fields were not a consideration then as yet). Also, if Germany had defeated Britain and imposed a conditioned peace upon it, it would also have access to Middle East oil. This is why, while it is possible to take on the US, this could only be done if Germany had defeated the Soviet Union and Britain first, and add their economic strengths to its own.

                            Other points:
                            1. It is true that Yamamoto did say what he said, but he was hardly the only Japanese senior commander or politician to have seen the danger of American economic strength.

                            Most Japanese recognised American economic strength, but failed to see that the Americans would fight as doggedly to defeat it. Many believed that American will would falter. That American will did not falter and that there was an intense hostility towards the Japanese was due very much to the surprise attack at Pearl Harbour.

                            There was a faction in the Japanese Navy that argued against striking at Pearl Harbour, indeed against fighting the Americans at all. All that the Japanese needed and wanted were in British Malaya and Dutch East Indies. It was unnecessary to strike at the Philippines. The Americans might hesitate to involve themselves in a conflict to defend European colonies.

                            However, Yamamoto had insisted on the Pearl Harbour operation, and had virtually forced it down the IJN General Staff's throat. But, the surprise attack at Pearl Harbour absolutely guaranteed that the US would enter the war and fight the Japanese to the bitter end.

                            As such, if Yamamoto perceived the US's economic strength (as many others did), he failed to see that the means he chose to start the war guaranteed that US will to fight would be ignited and sustained until Japan was defeated. He shouldn't be given so much credit for wisdom simply for a sound bite.

                            2. It is true that Hitler listened less and less to his generals as the war went on, and his interference on the battlefields made things difficult for the German armed forces.

                            However, I would argue that had Hitler confined himself to making grand strategic decisions and left theatre and tactical decisions to his generals, the outcome might have been similar. It was his grand strategic decision to attack the Soviet Union. It was his grand strategic decision to do so without first eliminating Britain as a threat. It was his grand strategic decision to declare war on the US with both the Soviet Union and Britain undefeated. These decisions sealed Germany's fate, and no amount of fancy fighting would have saved it, with or without Hitler's interference.

                            3. I have addressed the Me-262 issue on another thread. Suffice to say that if one carefully examines the history of Me-262, one would find that Hitler's insistence that the Me-262 be a bomber had little impact on the development of the aircraft. Hitler only made his notorious order in May 1944. By then, the Allies already had won air supremacy over Normandy, and air superiority over Germany.

                            A careful examination of facts would also show that even if Hitler had not given the orders, the Me-262's were not ready in any significant numbers until well into 1945. There was never any possibility for the Me-262 to defeat Allied airpower. Thus, this decision cannot be considered as a fatal mistake for Germany.

                            4. Finally, I would like to discuss whether it was a mistake not to have defeated Britain before turning on the Soviet Union.

                            I believe that it was, for Britain formed a crucial transit point for critical lend lease material to flow to Russia. Also, Britain subsequently formed a formidable offensive base from which to attack Germany.

                            The issue seemed to me, to be whether it was possible for Germany to have defeated Britain before fighting the Soviet Union. After all, if Germany did not have a choice in the matter, then it could hardly be seen as a mistakened decision on Germany's part.

                            There are a couple of factors to consider in this. First, Britain did come quite close to suing for peace in the spring of 1940. There was a strong peace faction in Parliament, and several senior politicians were in favour of an accomodated peace with Germany.

                            One of them, Lord Halifax, almost became Prime Minister. Instead, the British got the dogged and romantic Winston Churchill. Over the months just before the Battle of Britain, British public opinion solidified in favour of continued war, and the Battle of Britain only served to reinforced that will, first by injecting a bloody-mindedness to withstand the attacks, and second by giving a much needed boost of confidence through victory.

                            In a sense, Germany had a very narrow window through which a diplomatic effort might have led to peace with Britain. But for German diplomacy to work at this point, it would require them to reassure the British that a continent dominated by Germany would not endanger Britain. For this, their behaviour must be reconcilatory not only towards Britain but towards France and other European countries occupied by Germany. Unfortunately, this was totally out of character for the Third Reich.

                            Second, having missed the window of opportunity for a negotiated peace with Britain, could Germany have defeated Britain militarily? As the Battle of Britain demonstrated, it was difficult, if not impossible, to defeat Britain by direct assault. The moat of the English Channel made it so.

                            Defeat Britain in the periphery areas such as North Africa, would probably also not have been sufficient to force Britain to sue for peace.

                            The only means for Germany was blockade. Was it within Germany's capability to blockade Britain successfully? This is difficult to tell.

                            History showed that Germany was unable to blockade Britain successfully in 1940/1. It had too few U-boats - not nearly as many as in 1943 (and by then Britain had far stronger escorts and air cover in the convoy routes). It had few long range aircraft that might have attacked the convoys.

                            However, since we are discussing this counter-factually, I must point out that the few of both aircraft and U-boats that Germany did have did inflict much damage on British convoys, which raise the question of whether more would have done sufficient damage to starve Britain into submission. An intense effort to build more U-boats and train more crews, and to build up the Luftwaffe's strategic air capability, might have paid dividends here. There is an added advantage to building up these two forces in 1940/1, in that they could prove critical to refighting the Battle of Britain on more favourable terms to the Germans.

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                            • #15
                              Hitler's big mistake was not concentrating on Moscow in the fall of 1941. But he had legitimate reasons for isolating Leningrad and capturing the Ukraine.

                              Defeating Leningrad frees considerable forces to operate on Moscow. Capturiing the Ukraine was vital to feed his nation while denying the same resources to the enemy. He just didn't have enough time to do that and campaign on Moscow in the same season.

                              Many say he should have listened to his generals more. But in some cases, he overruled his generals and saved his army.

                              For instance, after the failed Campaign to take Moscow, the Soviet contr-offensive had the Wehrmacht reeling. The generals wanted to pull back, some as far as the pre-war line, but Hitler insisted they stay put and fight it out. The Russians eventually bled themselves white and ruined their fine Siberian divisions.

                              Chances are good that the Wehrmacht would have been seriously mauled had it attempted to retreat with the Russians hot on their heels.

                              Concerning Stalingrad, it should also be remembered that just about every German at OKW thought that the Soviets were all but finished. No need to worry about the flanks for there was no way the Soviets could deploy the forces which they historically did.

                              Too many OKW officers and German army commanders tried to put the blame for every defeat on the Führer when that just isn't the truth.

                              Hitler was a genius, and like many a genius he was troubled. He did on occasion try to do to much, but I don't think he lost the war for Germany. I think the problem was a general staff rigidly trained in the Prussian military school thinking one way while Hitler was doing things in a more revolutionary way.
                              Mad Cow's Steakhouse & Doggie's Cheatin' Heart Saloon and Cigar Emporium

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