Lets say the Germans did a lot better here. What were their plans ?
They would have been cut off and surrounded. Even if they captured a bunch of our supplies, they would be stuck there and it was only a matter of time til they were killed or captured.
Did they think we would give up or sue for peace ?
I don’t know how they thought they would arrive at the port without a great deal of losses after fighting their way there.
I know that Hitler was a nut, but what did their generals think?
Lets say the Germans did a lot better here. What were their plans ?
There were a couple strategic goals here: (1) Halt the Allied advance at the pre-war German border, where Germany had significant defensive fortifications. (2) Inflict great losses on the US so it quits the war. (3) Having reduced the Allied threat, shift reserve forces to the East.
Now, most of these ideas were grade-A retardation, but Hitler wasn’t really good at accepting constructive criticism. There isn’t a whole lot of evidence that these ideas were seriously debated at the highest echelons of German leadership. Guderian, Rundstedt, and Model all thought Germany should play defensively in the West and move their reserves to the East, but their advice was not appreciated.
Hitler believed the US was a bunch of losers and farm boys who would just quit the first time we got a bloody nose. I cite Gerhard Weinberg’s A World At Arms: “There is no evidence that Hitler realized or that a single one of his military advisors pointed out to him that, of all the major belligerents, the United States was the one which up to this point had been least damaged by the war and had by far the greatest recuperative powers, so that even a major defeat was less likely to have a serious impact on its war effort.” (p.766) Weiberg goes on to say that no one gave any thought to the fact that even a major German victory would not have relieved the pressure on Germany in the west, nor did anyone seriously debate the wisdom of this plan.
So if the Generals had any dissenting opinions, they did not speak them too loudly. This is pure speculation on my part, but when it comes to problems like this, people tend to (A) drink the Kool-Aid and agree with the leader or (B) they keep their mouths shut and hope it all works out.
I knew that Hitler was living in his own little world, but I thought that with our guys right on the borders of Germany, even he would have a clue.
I guess you can convince your self of anything with enough denial and if every body tells you what you want to hear.
The General Staff tried to divert Hitler with the Kleine Lösung [Small Solution], a limited offensive with more modest objectives which they thought had some chance of succeeding and of yielding some useful results. He was not interested, and by this stage his ideas on strategy were mostly irrational.
Did Hitler think a stalemate in the West would be sufficient to turn his Western theater forces around and get them to the East in time to stop the Soviets?
A good book on the subject that discusses the German side along with the American is A Time for Trumpets.
Hitler didn’t believe there would be a stalemate. He thought there would be an overwhelming German victory, the US-British alliance would fracture, and the US would withdraw from the war. The Germans would then re-capture France, and the vast majority of the German units would shift east before the Soviet’s next major offensive could begin.
Yes, his predictions about the war were totally cuckoo-pants.
It’s also worth pointing out that by this point in the war Hitler had given up listening to anything his Wehrmacht commanders had to say, and was only giving instructions to his SS yes-men.
It was a doomed to fail plan but it was executed pretty well. It was aimed at he weak point in the Allied lines and planned with secrecy. It caught the Allies by surprise. But ultimately the Germans didn’t have the resources to pull it off, particularly fuel. It did make many Allied commanders timid and hesitant until the end of the war. Before the battle German General Model told subordinates that it had no more than a 10% chance of being successful.
For a while it was known as the von Runstedt offensive, although he later said it came down as an order complete to the last detail with instructions from Hitler not to change anything.
Yeah, after Tom Cruise tried to kill Hitler he basically lost all faith in the Wehrmacht leadership and increasingly started dictating and micro-managing their operations. The results were predictably disastrous. (For them, that is.)
Hitler also greatly ignored his intel on opposing forces. Even up to the final battles in the East he repeatedly scoffed at the number of divisions the USSR was believed to have available.
Still in late '44 he thought that the Allies were all practically running on fumes and about to exhaust all their manpower and equipment. One big win against the Western forces would presumably worry the US and UK so much that they were about to collapse that a semi-peace would be negotiated.
He also thought that the Allies were on the verge of splitting up politically. It was the UK, not the US, that Hitler was relying on dropping out first. Hence the plan to split the Western Allies’ armies and cut off most UK forces from the rest.
He basically thought: “We’re better than everyone else, and if we’re hurting pretty bad from all these years of war, the other guys have got to be* a lot worse off.”
*Wishful thinking is pretty bad sometimes. Even worse during a mega-war.
The Americans brought a lot of resources into battle. They would drop bombs from planes, fire huge amounts of artillery, send tanks into battle all over the place, and drive men and supplies everywhere by trucks. Other countries weren’t doing these things.
Americans just saw this as good sense: spend money rather than manpower. They could afford all that extra equipment. It made their attacks stronger and reduced casualties.
But Germany turned it around and started the idea that American soldiers were “soft”. They claimed that Americans weren’t doing all this because it worked; they said all these extra resources were necessary to compensate for the fact that American soldiers as individuals couldn’t fight well.
Some Germans, including Hitler, ended up believing their own propaganda. They felt that if they could force American soldiers to fight a hard battle, the Americans would quickly collapse.
I once said that one of the key factors that decided the outcome of WWII was that every time the Soviets lost a battle, Stalin would decide that next time he would listen to his generals more, while every time the Germans lost a battle, Hitler would decide that next time he would listen to his generals less.
Heh, I like it.
The small grain of good idea there is that if the offensive got to Antwerp (it didn’t even need to capture it, just put the port out of action), then the Allies would be facing serious supply issues. One of the major reasons the Allied advance slowed down in the fall after going through France so quickly was that their supply lines – all the way across France from relatively small ports – were overstretched and couldn’t keep enough material flowing. Antwerp was the major port that, once captured by the Allies, was able to bring in enough supplies to keep the Allied armies running.
In the German dream scenario, they capture Antwerp, and the British armies are now have to be supplied basically by landing rowboats on Dutch beaches, which just wouldn’t be able to bring in enough supplies to fight a modern campaign.
Now from there, I think it’s getting into complete fantasy land to imagine Britain negotiating a separate peace; I doubt even capturing Antwerp would make much difference to the end of the war. But then again, what other options were there? (Other than sending almost everyone East, in the hope of being mildly looted and raped by the US/UK rather than seriously looted and raped by the Russians)
Tom Cruise wasnt even born yet. :rolleyes:
My impression is that the German generals had mostly by that time given up on the notion that the war was winnable, and wanted to do exactly that - hold off the Russians and hope most of Germany was taken by the Western Allies instead. That was basically the only realistic option open to them.
There was a lot of fantasy going around on the German side, even among the military anti-Hitler conspirators - who seem to have believed, at an earlier stage, that if they assassinated Hitler they could somehow appease the Western Allies into giving up on the war, while keeping much of their military gains.
Hitler was of course the lead fantasist, always hoping that the alliance against him would break up in some way he could exploit (of course the alliance did eventually break up, but only after he was safely dead and Germany beaten).
Here’s a clip from Band of Brothers.
“You have horses!”
The idea that Hitler kept screwing things up is a myth spread by German Generals post-war to make themselves look like they’d make good advisers for the cold war and distance themselves from atrocities. In actual fact, other than the last bit of the war in the bunker, Hitler listened to his generals quite a lot, and allowed them wide latitude to disagree with him on operational matters - surviving minutes and recordings show Generals talking back to him in a way that Stalin, Churchil, or Roosevelt never would have put up with.
Also a number of the decisions where he overrode the General stuff turned out well. The plan for the battle of France, for example, was not the one that the General Staff wanted, but led to one of the most stunning victories in history. Manstein’s idea of going onto fully elastic defense and counterattack in southern Russia sounds really great when described, but later analysis shows that Germany’s foot and horse infantry units weren’t mobile enough to have any hope of carrying it off.
Which raises the question …
Had the Germans never gotten the idea for what became the Battle of the Bulge, and had they put all their extra forces against the Russians to the east, would the post-war inter-German border have ended up in mostly the same place?
Or would the western allies have made better progress and the Russians worse progress and once Berlin fell to the Westerners we’d have ended up with East Germany being much smaller or perhaps never having existed at all?