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Old 06-08-2019, 09:42 AM
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German Pre-War Military Build-Up Questions


I remember learning in school that during the 1930s there was a steady build-up of the German military capability.

1) I thought there was a depression going on during that same time period. How did Germany have the resources to build all those tanks, planes, and ships? I realize that slave labor had something to do with it.

2) Seeing the massive military build-up why didn't our European allies panic and start their how massive build-up? Did they think Germany wasn't planning to attack neighboring countries? Did it all happen much faster than I think it did?

3) Certainly, by the time Germany invaded Poland, it was too late to start the allied military build up (It took the US many years to prepare for D-Day and by then France had fallen).

4) Did Germany somehow convince the world it wasn't planning to dominate Europe and trick the allies into not preparing for war? How could the world's leaders trust Hitler and be duped, including the Russian leaders?
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Old 06-08-2019, 10:09 AM
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1) The slave labor camps did not really get going until after the war had started. The military build-up was a jobs program that helped get Germany out of the Depression. A lot of people saw the economic progress in Germany, and wanted to emulate the Nazis.

2) The other countries did start building up. Unfortunately, Germany had a big head start. The democracies also had pacifist factions that hampered the effort.

4) A lot of people were horrified by the prospect of war, and hoped that Hitler was bluffing. Or they hoped that he would be satisfied with Czechoslovakia. Or they hoped that he would be satisfied with Poland. In the words of Churchill, "Appeasement is hoping that the crocodile will eat you last."
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Old 06-08-2019, 10:13 AM
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1. They ran a deficit.

2 and 3. Other European countries did re-arm.

4. Mixed. Until mid-1938, many saw their build-up (much of which was concealed and/or disguised) as no more than braggadocio, status assertion and no more than any country was entitled to. Even some of those who sensed their ambitions saw the issue as a matter of hoping the Nazis would fight the "others" (Russians, or Britain and France).

By late 1938, it was clearly a matter of when and how (and against whom), rather than whether, there would be open warfare.
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Old 06-08-2019, 10:50 AM
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4. "My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep."
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Old 06-08-2019, 11:44 AM
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1) Deficit spending and inflation. The Nazi government employed all sorts of techniques to hide the extent of public debt they were running up to finance the build-up; one of these tools were Mefo bills, whereby arms deliveries of the German industry were paid for by means of bills of exchange (a kind of IOU) underwritten by a shell company of the government. These bills could then be discounted (i.e., bought) by German banks, which would then be re-discounted (i.e., bought from the banks) by the German central bank, the Reichsbank. In effect it was an elaborate scheme to finance the build-up through the printing press, with public debt accumulating in the central bank, but in a manner that was not transparent.

2) and 3) The attitudes of other governments varied. Legally, Germany was prohibited from armament by the Versailles Treaty of 1919, so other governments could have invoked that to justify military action. This wouldn't have been unheard of; in 1923, France and Belgian occupied the Ruhr area (one of the most heavily industrialised regions of Germany) to enforce reparations claims from the Versailles Treaty. This occupation was highly unpopular in Germany and controversial internationally, and it ended in 1925 upon pressure from the US and the UK. There was, to some extent, sympathy in other countries, especially in the UK, where some politicians thought that the Versailles Treaty was treating Germany too harshly and that some re-armament on the German side was a legitimate aim. All in all, there was no harmonised strategy on the part of the Western Allies on how to deal with Germany; France, in particular, was often advocating a harsh stance, whereas Britain was less adamant, an attitude which ultimately led to 1938 Appeasement, hoping that concessions towards Hitler would avert another war.

4) Hardly anybody in the West believed that Hitler had peaceful intentions, but opinions differed as to how far he would go. Many were hoping that, with some concessions (most importantly, the Munic Agreement), he would be satisfied and refrain from further aggression.
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Old 06-08-2019, 11:46 AM
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All of Europe's leaders had vivid memories of the first war and the thought of getting into another one so soon after was too horrible to bear. Churchill was painted as a "warmonger" and worse by his political opponents, for suggesting that we should attempt to match the military build-up he saw across the Channel. Many of them probably thought that Hitler was too busy getting Germany running again to declare war on the rest of Europe.
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Old 06-08-2019, 12:54 PM
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1) Deficit spending and inflation. The Nazi government employed all sorts of techniques to hide the extent of public debt they were running up to finance the build-up; one of these tools were Mefo bills, whereby arms deliveries of the German industry were paid for by means of bills of exchange (a kind of IOU) underwritten by a shell company of the government. These bills could then be discounted (i.e., bought) by German banks, which would then be re-discounted (i.e., bought from the banks) by the German central bank, the Reichsbank. In effect it was an elaborate scheme to finance the build-up through the printing press, with public debt accumulating in the central bank, but in a manner that was not transparent.
I'll add that this was part of the "socialism" of National Socialism. Hitler believed that high finance was effectively an illusion, created by the Jews to gain control of the world. He saw no reason why ink marks in a ledger should prevent the German people from going back to work and lifting Germany out of the mire. At least temporarily the Nazi regime could make this look true, although it's been said that Germany went to war when it did in part because the the financing schemes were becoming untenable.
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Old 06-08-2019, 01:27 PM
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Thanks, everyone Ignorance fought.
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Old 06-08-2019, 02:46 PM
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Keep in mind that Germany was a dictatorship and countries like the UK and France were democracies.

Hitler could order all sorts of things done without having to worry about the press, legislators, etc. complaining about the costs. The other countries not so much. (With Stalin being in an entirely different category, of course.)

A lot of people, including many in government, couldn't conceive of Hitler going to war like he did and so balked at the expense of prepping for something that was either a long way off or never going to happen.

Remember that FDR for most of the Great Depression was also spending money. But on domestic programs. This was the classic mindset of how to get out of one: borrow and spend money, give people jobs and income.
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Old 06-08-2019, 03:53 PM
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In a recent TV documentary here, they included a clip where Goebbels was commending Roosevelt's departure from the economic orthodoxy of the day and how much the Nazis agreed with it - I didn't check the date, but it was clearly early enough for him to be wanting to seem house-trained for the foreign press.
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Old 06-08-2019, 06:41 PM
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Old 06-08-2019, 07:47 PM
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1) I thought there was a depression going on during that same time period. How did Germany have the resources to build all those tanks, planes, and ships? I realize that slave labor had something to do with it.
For tanks it's important to remember that they didn't build a big chunk of the armor that enabled the early blitzkrieg. They captured them from Czechoslovakia.

At the start of the war their "tanks" were dominantly the Panzer I and Panzer II that were clearly outclassed by all but the most obsolescent enemy armor. The Panzer I was armed with two 7.92mm machineguns in the turret. There was no main gun to fight other tanks or armored vehicles. The Panzer II was the bulk of the German armor force. It was armed with an already obsolescent 20mm main gun in the turret along with a 7.92mm machinegun mounted coaxially. ISTR that at the start of the war that gun still only had armor piercing rounds but can't find a good cite for when they finally fielded an HE round for use against troops in cover or exposed at longer ranges. That gun had little chance of penetrating anything but light tanks at any but the shortest engagement ranges. There were smaller numbers of Panzer III and IV medium tanks. The Panzer IV wasn't equipped to fight enemy armor at the start of the war. It had a short barreled 75mm main gun. The low velocity round had poor armor penetration capabilities. The large turret ring enabled it to be upgunned and become an effective medium tank until war's end. At the time of the Battle of France it was more a mobile support gun than an effective anti-tank system, though.

Czech armor supplied a big chunk of what Germany used in the conquest of Poland and France. The LT-35 became the Panzer 35t in German service. The LT-38 became the Panzer 38t. Both mounted capable 37mm main guns that could struggle with some of the more modern tanks but put them on par with the Panzer III capability. Both suffered from brittle armor that offered less effective protection against penetration and increased spalling (chips/splinters breaking off the armor and flying around inside both on penetrating and some non-penetrating hits.) Still they were more capable than anything except the less numerous Panzer III. They formed a big chunk of the panzer force for Poland and France. If you discount the not very capable against armor Pz Is and IIs they were the bulk of German armor for those fights. Both continued to serve into Barbarossa.

Germany had captured the Skoda factories for them in the Sudetenland. That allowed production without investment in building the facilities or tooling. It also allowed production of spare parts for the Pz38t. The Panzer 35t was already obsolescent in Czechoslovakian service at the time. Germany ended production of parts relatively early and just used them up via cannibalization and use of existing parts stores.

Those factories continued to provide for long term service of the Pz38t chassis in other designs once the tank itself was withdrawn from German service. It was mechanically reliable and served as the basis for production of the Marder III and Jagdpanzer 38 tank destroyers till near the end of the war.

The Marder series in general provides a broader look at Germans bootstrapping off captured equipment and production facilities. The Marder I was built on three different hulls. Two French built chassis and one Polish chassis were used. Many of the initial guns used for them were Russian produced anti-tank guns captured during Barbarossa. The Marder II used surplus Panzer IIs that were retired and repurposed along with some captured French hulls.

Germany was using war to fuel building their military in the early stages. When Neville Chamberlain gave up the Sudetenland he also essentially gave Germany the heavy equipment for multiple Panzer divisions.

Last edited by DinoR; 06-08-2019 at 07:47 PM.
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Old 06-09-2019, 07:43 AM
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Remember that FDR for most of the Great Depression was also spending money. But on domestic programs. This was the classic mindset of how to get out of one: borrow and spend money, give people jobs and income.
That wasn't the "classic mindset" - it was a revolutionary approach to public finances as a way out of depression championed by Keynes, and Roosevelt initially was suspicious of it.
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Old 06-09-2019, 08:08 AM
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That wasn't the "classic mindset" - it was a revolutionary approach to public finances as a way out of depression championed by Keynes, and Roosevelt initially was suspicious of it.
Right. The classic mindset was for the government to do nothing about the economy and let the "invisible hand" of the marketplace fix it. But where do you get the notion Roosevelt was suspicious at first? He started the New Deal right from the beginning of his presidency.
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Old 06-09-2019, 10:14 AM
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A lot of countries in the 30s looked favourably on Nazi Germany because the Nazis were rabidly anti-communist. They didn't prevent the Nazis from re-arming Germany because they (correctly) saw the USSR as Nazi Germany's biggest enemy.

Everybody knew that the real war would be between Nazi Germany and the USSR. They didn't forsee that Hitler and Stalin would come to an understanding which meant that Germany was able to turn west, and to knock France and the UK out of the coming war. The UK survived and won the Battle of Britain, of course, so it could have turned out a lot worse. But the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and the subsequent carve-up of Poland came as a nasty surprise to western Europe.
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Old 06-09-2019, 02:18 PM
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With regards to questions 2 and 3 and France: The French had fought too many wars against Germany to just assume that they would be left alone. They had practiced universal conscription well before WW1 and continued to do so until they fell in WW2, so they had a reasonably large standing army and even larger reserves. Their professional army, however, was quite small, as the left-wing inter-war government feared that a large professional military might launch a coup (I'm not sure how realistic this fear was but the years after 1918 saw loads of rebellions, coups and revolutions). The government was also fearful that conscripts might fall under the sway of any potential coup-launching officers if their conscription terms were too long, so they were kept short, at times lasting only a year.

The problem with an army like this is that it really difficult to train reservists on new equipment. That lead to French tank design, doctrine and production lagging behind for most of the 1930's. When they finally ramped up it was too late and they ended up lots of tanks that were unfinished (often lacking radios) and crewed by men who didn't know how to use them. Combined with the disorganized mess that was the Anglo-French command structure in 1939-40 and it should come as no shock that the French army was better on paper than in the field.

Nicholas Moran, AKA The Chieftain, has a great video on the topic.
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Old 06-09-2019, 02:52 PM
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Germany was one of the first countries to get off the gold standard which caused the deflation that led to the great depression. Thus they were able to recover sooner than most of the allies.

France had been building up its military and had some of the best tanks in the world and a army almost the size of Germany's despite having half the population of the Germany.
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Old 06-09-2019, 02:54 PM
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Right. The classic mindset was for the government to do nothing about the economy and let the "invisible hand" of the marketplace fix it. But where do you get the notion Roosevelt was suspicious at first? He started the New Deal right from the beginning of his presidency.
Roosevelt campaigned on cutting the spending surge of Hoover and criticized Hoover for putting people on welfare. When he was elected he changed his mind very quickly after a brief period of budget cutting.
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Old 06-09-2019, 03:07 PM
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That wasn't the "classic mindset" - it was a revolutionary approach to public finances as a way out of depression championed by Keynes, and Roosevelt initially was suspicious of it.
Good point. I was thinking in terms of that era and later. But definitely not the "classic" approach in the US before that.
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Old 06-09-2019, 03:23 PM
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Too late to edit, but another one of The Chieftain's videos that might interest the OP is "Development of the Panzer Arm to 1939".
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Old 06-09-2019, 03:52 PM
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That lead to French tank design, doctrine and production lagging behind for most of the 1930's.
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France had been building up its military and had some of the best tanks in the world
So which is it, folks?
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Old 06-09-2019, 04:09 PM
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In armour and firepower, French tanks were generally not inferior to their German counterparts. In one incident, a single Char B1 "Eure" was able to destroy thirteen German tanks within a few minutes in Stonne on 16 May 1940, all of them Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks. The 37mm and 20mm guns the Germans used were ineffective at penetrating the thick armour of the B1, which was able to return safely despite being hit a large number of times.[2] Even German General Rommel was surprised at how the French tanks withstood the German tank shells and had to resort to using the German 88 artillery as antitank guns against the French tanks to knock them out. Setbacks the French military suffered were more related to strategy, tactics and organisation than technology and design.

Both, actually. French tanks were designed for a slow-moving, defensive role. When hit by a fast-moving enemy, they were over-matched. More a failure of command rather than a failure of materiel.
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Old 06-10-2019, 02:40 AM
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Germany lost almost all its armaments - tanks, planes, artillery - after Versailles. This meant that when re-arming, they did not have to worry about how to integrate new technology with the old. They could just go all out with the newer technology. The victorious allies from 1918 had to keep parts, supplies, tactics, training, manufacturing etc all in concert with keeping the old armaments relevant.

It also provided a different mindset. While the Allies were thinking - 'We won WW1 - now how can we use these new tanks etc to win like we won last time'. (Maginot line being the classic example).
The Germans thought - 'We lost WW1. How can we use these new tanks etc to reverse that - ie - can we fight in a new way?'.

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Old 06-10-2019, 06:51 AM
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In hindsight though, one problem with big military buildups in the 1930s is that tank and aircraft technology advanced so rapidly during WW2 that what was perfectly serviceable in 1939 was hopelessly obsolete by 1945. This led both Germany and Japan to overestimate their strength relative to their opponents. Both relied on building up a big reserve of war machinery that was expected to carry them through a coming war, when in fact victory went to the countries that could develop and build new designs during the war itself.
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Old 06-10-2019, 11:06 AM
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So which is it, folks?
French tanks were better than German tanks in terms of armor and firepower, but the french tank doctrine was much worse. French plans had tanks being used in a prearranged manner set by the generals. German plans were for the tanks to be used dynamically to exploit breakthroughs and respond to a changing battlefields. 80% of french tanks did not have a radio so there was no way to quickly get them all coordinated, German tanks all had radios so they could change battle plans on a moment's notice.
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Old 06-10-2019, 12:06 PM
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French tanks were better than German tanks in terms of armor and firepower, but the french tank doctrine was much worse. French plans had tanks being used in a prearranged manner set by the generals. German plans were for the tanks to be used dynamically to exploit breakthroughs and respond to a changing battlefields. 80% of french tanks did not have a radio so there was no way to quickly get them all coordinated, German tanks all had radios so they could change battle plans on a moment's notice.
French tank doctrine was particularly bad, even by the standards of the day. French doctrine dispersed the tanks within infantry units to act in a supporting role, while the Germans, and to a somewhat lesser extent, the US, British and Russians concentrated their tanks and mobile units in mobile, tank-heavy formations that were able to engage in blitzkrieg and maneuver warfare.

So even though the French had better tanks and more of them, they were basically distributed evenly through the army, and were unable to engage in the sort of maneuver warfare that countering blitzkrieg would have taken.

As to why the British and French didn't build up earlier; I'm not sure, but I suspect they were both hampered financially and by a desire to find a diplomatic solution. Munich 1938 was a good example of the lengths they were willing to go to to avoid war.

The US actually started building up before Pearl Harbor- between 1940 and 1941, the US military almost quintupled in size, then double again by 1942, and doubled again by 1943, and while it increased through the end of the war, it never doubled again after 1943.

https://www.nationalww2museum.org/st...litary-numbers
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Old 06-10-2019, 01:10 PM
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French tanks were better than German tanks in terms of armor and firepower, but the french tank doctrine was much worse. French plans had tanks being used in a prearranged manner set by the generals. German plans were for the tanks to be used dynamically to exploit breakthroughs and respond to a changing battlefields. 80% of french tanks did not have a radio so there was no way to quickly get them all coordinated, German tanks all had radios so they could change battle plans on a moment's notice.
Regardless of "who had the better tanks", it doesn't mean that much when one side (the French) switches from a gung-ho offensive spirit in WWI to a hunker-down-behind-the-Maginot-line defensive philosophy.

As far as why other countries didn't take the German military build-up seriously, some people took it too seriously. For example you had Lindbergh (who traveled to Germany to be "briefed" on the German air force and shared his findings with U.S. analysts) fooled into thinking that the Germans already had a massive advantage in air power so accomodation was the best policy (which also fit in with his underlying sympathies with Reich aims). There was also overconfidence. The British didn't fear U-boat warfare because they not only had convoys, but ASDIC (sonar) which supposedly would detect subs before they could do damage. They overlooked the possibility that night surface attacks could render ASDIC useless and be lethal.

Overwhelmingly though the West was exhausted by arms spending through WWI, the need to fix damage caused by that war and the subsequent Depression. Contrast their fatigue and division with the enthusiasm of the Nazis, who had the will (perverted as it was) to construct a strong military.
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Old 06-10-2019, 01:57 PM
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So which is it, folks?
France had the best tanks in the world to fight WWI. Germany had the best tanks in the world to fight WWII.


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For tanks it's important to remember that they didn't build a big chunk of the armor that enabled the early blitzkrieg. They captured them from Czechoslovakia.
Didn't know that, thanks. If your tactical victory turns into a big enough operational victory which turns into a strategic victory, you can end up not just rushing the opponent's base but nicking his stuff too which you can then reuse.


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At the start of the war their "tanks" were dominantly the Panzer I and Panzer II that were clearly outclassed by all but the most obsolescent enemy armor. The Panzer I was armed with two 7.92mm machineguns in the turret. There was no main gun to fight other tanks or armored vehicles. The Panzer II was the bulk of the German armor force. It was armed with an already obsolescent 20mm main gun in the turret along with a 7.92mm machinegun mounted coaxially.
Wouldn't that have been sufficient for most cases? If you're going up against infantry and casemates, the opportunity cost of upgunning your tanks might not be worth it if it means you'll have fewer tanks. I'm really not sure how that trade-off worked out in practice though. It's the opposite of the WunderWaffen design philosophy.

I get the impression that, at least at first, tanks weren't supposed to spend much time fighting each other. It would have been a lot like cavalry fights in the past: Lots of clanging noises but few casualties.

It sounds like they were relying on PaKs to take out armor which would be the equivalent of pike infantry.
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Old 06-10-2019, 04:58 PM
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Maybe someone more knowledgeable can enlighten me, but from my reading over the years:

-Germany was disarmed by the Versailles treaty. So when Hitler came along, he was starting from a pretty low point -whereas the other countries had existing armies and weapons, so no incentive to begin a sudden giant push. Hitler could, for example, start building the more modern fighter plans that he thought he needed, and aircraft tech was increasing at a rapid pace back then.

-France did spend a fortune (AFAIK) on the Maginot line, so yes they were getting ready just in case. However, they couldn't build it on the Belgian border with Germany, and apparently they felt that reinforcing the border against Belgium would be a double insult - we don't trust Germany, we don't trust Belgium to hold out, and also we are leaving Belgium to its sad fate in the next war. So, Maginot was a dud.

The initial push by Germany was to reunite its many disparate pieces of ethnic germinacity (?) . They annexed German-speaking Austria. Sudetenland was taken from pre-WWI Germany and given to the Czechs despite Germanic inhabitants. the next noise about Poland was due to chunks of Poland being former chunks of Germany. France was well aware that in that category also were Alsace and Lorraine. At first, everyone took Germany's expansion for Hitler's "reunite the vaderland" push. Hence the willingness to give him Sudetenland and it's Germanic inhabitants if that would shut him up - except he then took the whole of Czechoslovakia which was not part of the deal. Hence the Allied determination not to give in on Poland - Give Germany back Danzig and the corridor, and the greedy bugger would probably take a lot more of Poland... then he'd want Alsace. Which he did, turns out the easy way to do that and eliminate the threat that France would want it back - take out France.

Others have discussed his economic tricks.

The point Keynes made, back then, was that governments could spend during bad times to revive the economy, and do the payback in the good times. Politicians ever since have taken to heart only the first lesson.
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Old 06-10-2019, 06:15 PM
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More info towards the OP: Germany was very sneaky in rebuilding it's military between the wars. For example, the Versailles treaty forbid Germany from developing new machine guns. However, a Swiss company called Solothurn, which was majority owned by the Germany firm Rheinmetall, which was majority owned by the German government, was free to develop the MG 15 and MG 17. The Versailles treaty kept Germany from having a general staff so they renamed it the "Troop Office". There were all sorts of shenanigans with German "contractors" and "observers" involved in the Soviet Union's tank development and importing Soviet "tractors".

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Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
-France did spend a fortune (AFAIK) on the Maginot line, so yes they were getting ready just in case. However, they couldn't build it on the Belgian border with Germany, and apparently they felt that reinforcing the border against Belgium would be a double insult - we don't trust Germany, we don't trust Belgium to hold out, and also we are leaving Belgium to its sad fate in the next war. So, Maginot was a dud.
This is not quite correct. North-western France is home to most of that country's industry and the Maginot Line was built to protect that from a German advance. France's plan for the next war with Germany was to fight a long, grinding, defensive struggle on Belgian soil. Again, see The Chieftain's video on "Development of French Armored Doctrine".
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Last edited by Regallag_The_Axe; 06-10-2019 at 06:16 PM.
  #31  
Old 06-11-2019, 03:13 PM
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The 'Spirit of Locarno' was one of the great shibboleths of the era - a feeling that Germany did not want war, and would abide by its word pledged in international treaties.
  #32  
Old 06-11-2019, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by DinoR View Post
Czech armor supplied a big chunk of what Germany used in the conquest of Poland and France. The LT-35 became the Panzer 35t in German service. The LT-38 became the Panzer 38t. Both mounted capable 37mm main guns that could struggle with some of the more modern tanks but put them on par with the Panzer III capability. (. . . ) Still they were more capable than anything except the less numerous Panzer III. They formed a big chunk of the panzer force for Poland and France. If you discount the not very capable against armor Pz Is and IIs they were the bulk of German armor for those fights. Both continued to serve into Barbarossa.
Very interesting information.

I did poke around online and found this post on another message board about the numbers of tanks used in the invasion of France. They are broken down by the German divisions.

Pz I 554
Pz II 920
Pz III 349
Pz IV 280
Pz 35 118
Pz 38 207
Pz Bef 154
Sum 2582

According to these numbers, there were more Pz III (349) than combined Pz 35 and Pz 38 (325). The Pz Bef were the command tanks, and I believe many of them were the Pz III, so that would have increased that total. Although the Pz 35 and 38 didn’t outnumber the Pz III, they certainly were a valuable contribution to German armor.
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Old 06-12-2019, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by bump View Post
French tank doctrine was particularly bad, even by the standards of the day. French doctrine dispersed the tanks within infantry units to act in a supporting role, while the Germans, and to a somewhat lesser extent, the US, British and Russians concentrated their tanks and mobile units in mobile, tank-heavy formations that were able to engage in blitzkrieg and maneuver warfare.

So even though the French had better tanks and more of them, they were basically distributed evenly through the army, and were unable to engage in the sort of maneuver warfare that countering blitzkrieg would have taken.
For those having trouble picturing this in action, the French tanks were (intentionally) spread out along the front line with the intention of "stiffening" the infantry's ability to resist. Thus only a few tanks were in any one area, spread along a long line. French doctrine emphasized maintaining a continuous line of defense, and the idea was that no matter where the Germans attacked, there would be some French tanks to help the French infantry.

The problem was that German doctrine (at least partly cribbed from British theorists before the war) massed all the tanks together and struck at a single point in the line (schwerpunkt, meaning roughly focus point in German). This had the dual effect of ensuring that at the schwerpunkt, German tanks would massively outnumber the few French tanks in that locality -- and also that all the other French tanks were essentially useless, being nowhere near the actual fighting.

It seems dumb in hindsight (and to some degree it was), but the previous war had been won by a continuous unbroken line of entrenchments, and it's always hard to envision the future.

Last edited by Sailboat; 06-12-2019 at 12:36 PM.
  #34  
Old 06-12-2019, 02:10 PM
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Two points:
1. The Great Depression was significantly deeper in the US than Europe. It wasn't as much of a reason for government austerity, or expansionary fiscal policy. Although as that juxtaposition suggests, it's not clear whether a deep depression at that time would cause a country to cut back military spending or increase it as a stimulus.
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikiped...ession.svg.png

2. The bigger point discussed above using the example of tanks and armor doctrine is that the Germans proved generally superior to their opponents in land/air forces for a given combat power on paper. So, despite a theoretical deficit in economic warmaking potential v combined Britain, France and lesser neutrals (Benelux, Scandinavia) they didn't need materially superior forces to quickly and completely defeat the neutrals and France, plus what Britain could/would bring to bear in France in 1940, though failed to defeat Britain outright. This reliance on superior military efficiency ran out of room in the USSR with a still only partially war-mobilized German economy, then went down the drain completely once Germany lined up a list of opponents of overwhelmingly superior industrial war making potential including the US. Also, German opponents eventually closed at least part of the gap in land warfare effectiveness per unit of combat power, and at least in the West Allied fighter units were eventually better than German.

Last edited by Corry El; 06-12-2019 at 02:12 PM.
  #35  
Old 06-12-2019, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Sailboat View Post
For those having trouble picturing this in action, the French tanks were (intentionally) spread out along the front line with the intention of "stiffening" the infantry's ability to resist. Thus only a few tanks were in any one area, spread along a long line. French doctrine emphasized maintaining a continuous line of defense, and the idea was that no matter where the Germans attacked, there would be some French tanks to help the French infantry.
Also, the French army was hamstrung by France's conscription law - it had conscripts in service for only a short time, very limited time for reservists to train, and didn't leave enough men in service to maintain institutional knowledge. Without major changes to conscription, recruiting, and retention practices, the Army simply couldn't maintain the level of training needed to engage in maneuver warfare, and without hindsight they didn't expect static warfare to be as much of a disadvantage, and for the war to finish quickly enough that they would not have time to remain on the defensive while improving the training levels of the army.
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Old 06-12-2019, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Corry El View Post
. . . This reliance on superior military efficiency ran out of room in the USSR with a still only partially war-mobilized German economy, . . .
That's interesting.

Does this mean that Hitler's invasion of the USSR might have succeeded if the German economy had been revved up sufficiently by the spring 1941 (or whenever they might finally have invaded)? By having sufficient production to be able to keep shipping tanks, artillery, and everything east no matter how many troops the Soviets were willing to sacrifice?

But it was only after the invasion that Germany would change to a total war footing. Could that have even been done before attacking the Soviets? Even in Nazi Germany would the Volke have committed to a total war economy/effort without facing the existential threat of losing to the Bolsheviks (no matter how hard Hitler ordered them to work and sacrifice)? Would they even have had enough slave labour before invading USSR?
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Old 06-12-2019, 08:18 PM
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I get the impression that, at least at first, tanks weren't supposed to spend much time fighting each other. It would have been a lot like cavalry fights in the past: Lots of clanging noises but few casualties.
That really wasn't the German approach. I'll get to a couple quotes from Guderian's Achtung Panzer but there's some background that helps set it in context. Guderian's involvement in mechanization/motorization started in 1922 with a variety of related assignments and personal involvement between then and publishing in 1937. The writing and publication was at the request of General der Panzertruppen Lutz, who also wrote the foreword. It wasn't new thought so much as a book to argue against the institutional forces that disagreed or were trying to siphon off some of the limited industrial capacity to other projects than the new Panzer divisions. Some of those included the infantry wanting assault guns as supporting weapons and the old horse cavalry senior officers supporting the light divisions. What Guderian laid out in 1937 was more an internal argument than innovation. The establishment of the first three panzer divisions in 1935 under Lutz proceeded under the notions that Guderian put on paper in 1937. Achtung Panzer was a collected argument against diverting from that plan and focus. It wasn't new ideas...at least inside Germany. They were pretty radical when compared to the doctrines most of Germany's opponents had crafted up to that point

So some quotes I pulled out:
Quote:
The tank’s most dangerous enemy is another tank. If we are unable to defeat the enemy armour the breakthrough has as good as failed, for our infantry and artillery will be unable to make any further progress. Everything comes down to delaying the intervention of the enemy anti-tank reserves and tanks, and getting in fast and deep into the zone of the hostile command centres and reserves with our own effective tank forces – and by ‘effective’ we mean forces that are capable of waging a tank battle.
Quote:
On the ground the main weapons of the breakthrough remain the tanks. [snipped list of tactical actions for the breakthrough];of all these actions the victory over the anti-tank defences and the tank reserves is the most significant. If we win that combat, we at once have forces that are free to institute the pursuit and roll up those sectors of the front that are still holding out; the work of dealing with the enemy batteries and completing the clearing-out of the infantry battle zone may be left to fairly weak tank units, while our own infantry can proceed with exploiting the success of our armour. If, on the contrary, we fail to beat down the enemy tank-defences and defeat the enemy tanks, the breakthrough has failed, even if we manage to wreak some destruction in the infantry battle zone.
Quote:
In this context we must add a few words on tank versus tank combat. Military literature tends to steer clear of this subject, invoking as an excuse our lack of experience. This attitude cannot be sustained over the long term. We will be unfailingly presented with the reality of tank versus tank action in the future, as we have already established, and the outcome of the battle will depend on the issue of that combat, irrespective of whether we are cast in the role of attackers or defenders.
Those driving the creation of the Panzertruppen embraced tank versus tank combat. It was, in their minds, necessary for victory. It was a revolutionary idea at the time. While it wasn't only Germans to advocate for the idea. Not all German military minds agreed. Still it was the Germans who most fully embraced it in the design of their force structure and doctrine in preparation for WWII.
  #38  
Old 06-12-2019, 08:38 PM
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Originally Posted by TokyoBayer View Post
I did poke around online and found this post on another message board about the numbers of tanks used in the invasion of France.
Nice cite. T(h)anks. ; ) It's been something I looked at before and there's seems to be a number of varying estimates...so I didn't even look when I was postingfor totals. One nice part of the cite was the breakdown by each of the 10 panzer divisions. It answered a different question. I'd looked briefly when I was writing the post you referenced because I very vaguely remembered three or so tank divisions being supplied with Czechoslovakian tanks. It's three by your cite. I'm not entirely senile yet or brain damaged from all the blows to the head inside a turret.

There's an interesting other break down available because of that divisional breakdown that I remembered frustrating me before. Army Group B was the effort through Belgium. It was largely a shaping effort to divert some of the best French and British forces to flex north to oppose them. Army Group A was the main effort and had the other seven panzer divisions to effect the breakthrough. Army Group B's panzer divisions were the 4th, 5th, and 9th. (German order of battle for the Battle of France) Those were all Pz III formations ignoring the tanks that were ineffective for tank vs tank combat - 133 Pz III in total. Subtracting Pz III totals, the main effort of the German attack had 216 Pz III and all 325 of the Czechoslokian built tanks. Germany built about 40% of the anti-tank capable tanks for the force that conducted the breakthrough and exploited to shatter the French defense.

That might be the number I was remembering. Tanks for the shaping effort were important too so thanks for digging further.

Last edited by DinoR; 06-12-2019 at 08:40 PM.
  #39  
Old 06-13-2019, 09:08 AM
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Here is an 11-minute lecture on the Wehrmacht build-up from 1933 to 1939. Same guy with a much longer treatment on what the Versailles Treaty limitations on Germany were, and how they were snuck around. This one as graphics.
  #40  
Old 06-13-2019, 11:18 PM
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From the comments on the blog I cited:
Quote:
Much has been made of the French "spreading their tanks out". I think this has done a lot to mislead the casual history buff. In reality, the MBT's (tanks capable of destroying enemy armor in tank battles) totaled about 840 Heavy Char B1 and Medium Somuas and 1100 H39 light tanks with decent armor and a long 37mm gun. These were all kept concentrated in the Four DLM and Four DCR mechanized and armored divisions. The thousands of small light slow poorly armed one man turret tanks like the Renault R35 and H35 were the ones spread out in penny packets among the infantry divisions, and scattered in small numbers in French cavalry DLC's.
It’s an interesting article, and well worth reading.

The author goes on the place the blame squarely on bad generals.
Quote:
French LEADERSHIP was what went wrong. Gross incompetence on various levels, a terrible plan, meddling by politicians, combined with poor placement of low quality reserve infantry in a key sector, led to the quick defeat.
This echoes everything I’ve heard.
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