Did Hitler's "Blitzkrieg War"Philosophy Doom Germany?

In reading the history of WWII, I get the impression that the whole German military mchine was planned on the basis of a relatively quick (no more than 6 months ) war. The German army developed fast, short-range tanks that were designed to inflict massive damage upon the enemy, but were not capable of long sustained operations (many of the tanks broke down in Russi, while the Russian’s sturdy, primative T-34 tanks kept going). The german airforce was the same way-it was essentially a ground-support airforce, and when the war with russia bogged down, they (the Luftwaffe) had no heavy 4-engine bombers with which to attack russian cities, It was even true of the Navy-except for the submarines, the germans had a very small surface fleet, which was incapable of longterm operations.
So why did Hitler get the idea that WWII would be so short? I assume that since he served as a soldier in the First World War, he saw trench warfare as something to be avaolided…hence the “blitzkrieg”.
As for the war with russia…could he have pulled it off? As I recall, germany invaded Russia withan army of about 3.5 million men…while the Russians had RESERVES of over 7million! Still, had he (Hitler ) gotten an earlier start, who knows?

This is a pretty old theory; if I recall correctly, Fuller theorized that Germany was done in by short term planning.

There’s some truth to it. “Fast, short range tanks” really isn’t the point, though - Germany had lots of big tanks, and they broke down just as fast as the small ones, if not more so. Getting into the size of tanks or the engines on the bombers is getting into a little too much detail on the weapons. After all, the USSR didn’t have any four-engined bombers and their tanks were generally smaller and faster and they won the war.

Germany’s ECONOMY, however, was very poorly planned as compared to its enemies. Germany, unlike the USA, USSR and Great Britain, did not have a civilian cabinet. All decision were routed through Hitler. The country did not have the sort of military-civilian planning infrastructure that the Allied powers had, and so lacked foresight and the ability to plan out long term production needs. The United States esspecially, but the UK and USSR as well, put a lot of thought and effort into the interface between the military and industry, using planning and cooperative committees to arrive at the most efficient and effective way to produce implements of war. Germany did not have that sort of organization at all; Hitler never created, or allowed to be created, the sort of sophisticated planning structure that Germany needed.

Throughout the war, Germany had constant, seemingly unresolvable problems with standardization and spare parts and supplies; while its enemies worked constantly on that sort of thing, Germany at one point was using something like five different kinds of motorcycles in its army. Tank production was an emphasis, but nobody thought to build enough trucks, so the German army went into battle using horses to pull supplies throughout the war. Think about that. The mighty German army, so worshipped by WWII fans throughout the war, had to use horses to pull most of its supplies and guns into Russia. You can look it up; the initial invasion force had like 750,000 horses.

There’s more. German research careened from pillar to post based on Hitler’s whims, as a result of which much money was spent on stupid shit like rocket planes; the Allies allocated research based on intelligently thought up plans, as a result of which they enjoyed an absolutely immense advantage in real things, like electronic warfare and computerized artillery control. Virtually every imaginable kind of supply needed by an army was underproduced and distributed in a manner horribly inferior to Allied practices. German shell production was never as high in WWII as it was in WWI.

Look, forget about tanks and airplanes. How in the hell can a horse-drawn army like Germany’s defeat armies that move on trucks and cars? How can you beat an army that is breaking your codes and reading your coded messages faster than your own commanders can? How can you defeat an army that (like the USSR’s) has a spare engine ready for every tank, while you have one spare engine for every TEN tanks? You can’t.

Not exactly sure what the debate is…but… Hitler never formulated a coherent “Grand Strategy.” He wasn’t much good at strategy per se…

And even so, things came within a hair’s breadth of going his way. Rommel could have given him the Middle East; Guderian could have knocked Russia back to the steppes; Himmler could (probably) have kept the lid on the conquered lands.

The “Cold War” could have been a century-long containment of Nazi Europe rather than the Soviet Union; the first nuclear exchange could have been sustained rather than the one-two punch we know.


Just to add some stuff on the economic side… factories in Germany had at most 2 shifts… there were no night shifts. Women weren’t working the factories either, because Nazi ideology gave them the role of hometakers and they had to create more little nazis. UK went on total war style production very soon after 1939… while Germany kept more or less normal production during the war.

The USSR was huge… the population immense. To subdue completely such a vast area and population that was many times that of Germany would have been hard even if Great Britain and the US werent pestering on the other side… so the viability of that conquest could certainly be questionable.

Personally I think the mistreatment of Ukranians, Bielo Russians and other minorities within the Soviet Union was Hitler's grand mistake. Germans were received as liberators in the beggining. Stalin was very unpopular. Hitler could have tapped into that huge manpower and anti-soviet feelings... and instead he pushed his racial superiority BS. Instead of allies he got firm opposition from these nations.

Maybe Hitler was hoping internal dissent would cause the Soviet government to collapse and its armies withdraw, as happened in 1917. Propagandizing against Stalin would have been a better strategy then just throwing ill-equipped men into the meatgrinder.

Further, the Nazis were exiling, disenfranchising and killing German Jews (and eventually every Jew they could their hands on) in huge numbers before and during the war, at a time when Germany needed every educated person and skilled labourer it could get. Reducing factory owners, craftsmen, bankers, doctors and artists to slave labourers or ashes in the name of racial purity was, to say the least, massively counter-productive.

There were coin-toss battles, of course, but the ultimate failing was that fascism naturally selects for ruthlessness and cunning, not productivity or intelligence.

Like Rashak Mani said, Germany in WWII didn’t really have the political will to fight other than a blitzkreig. Germany had manpower shortages from the beginning of the war, and they became acute near the end of the war. Also, Hitler had come to power promising improved living conditions, and the Germans expected improved living conditions. They weren’t willing to accept the material costs and loss of life that went with a war of attrition.

Remember too, as you mentioned in your OP, WWI wasn’t that long ago. Nobody wanted another WWI, so the German strategists stressed mobility as one of their primary doctrines.

Just a quick nitpick…the Soviet T-34 tanks were not “primitive”. They were the most successful tank of WW2, not just reliable but very efficient and cheap and easy to produce. True, the Germans had the largest and most powerful tanks in the war, but for their size and effort to build and maintain were not efficient.

Reliability only significantly affected the losing side. If 20 tanks out of 100 broke down in a battle…but you won the battle and conquered the territory they broke down in, they could be retrieved and repaired for far less effort than making a new one. If you lose the battlefield, all breakdowns and repairable failures end up in enemy hands and make as well be counted as outright losses. The Germans, being on the losing side on the Eastern Front from 1943-45 were significantly affected by this, whereas the Russians were only losing significant territory for half as long (remember there was basically a stalemate for over a year).

Blitzkrieg enabled the Germans to amass their initial war empire in the first place. If they had not used blitzkrieg they would have been stopped by France, who had larger numbers of troops, tanks, planes, etc. So unless they developed both blitzkrieg AND a long-term war plan, they were screwed.

Yes, combine Rickjay’s post with revolutionaty’s and you’re there.

Remember, Blitzkrieg is just a tactic it wasn’t the entire warplan.
The Germans hoped that Britain and France would stay out of the war. That they could get to the Soviets, via Poland, and that ‘Kicking in the door would be enough to bring down the barn’. The fast armoured divisions would break through and the slower ones (still with horse-drawn vehicles and infantry on foot (!!)) would consolidate the gains and destroy remaining pockets.

In short they banked on it being a short war and the economy wasn’t geared up for a long one. The incredible effort at Stalingrad and the arrival of the T-34 were the most important factors that drew out the war and Germany wasn’t ready.

Also, by that time the Soviets had learned how ‘Blitzkrieg’ worked and they too started using tanks in massed assaults, combined with infantry and with huge artillery support. They picked a weak spot , the Rumanian and Bulgarian stretches of the front, and smashed through.

And, yes the T-34 was a brilliant design. The Germans had pretty little that could stop them. Untill the arrival of heavier 75mm PAK,
the 88mm FLAK was all that they had. The famous German Panther and Tiger tanks were based on the T-34.

THe best book I’ve read on why WWII played out as it did is Richard Overy’sWhy the Allies Won.

Basically Overy sets out to examine what was behind the Allies eventual victory. He looks at technology, the war at sea, the Eastern Front, industrial produciton and morale.

While the OP’s theory that Germany failed to prepare for a long war may be part of the reason the Axis lost, Overy’s boook will give you an appreciaiton of the wider factors involved.

The blitzkrieg was a very successful tactic, which contributed to all of Germany’s major victories early on in the war. The blitzkrieg didn’t doom anything for Germany. On the contrary, it helped them. Blitzkrieg tactics have been used many times since WWII by various countries.

The fact that Hitler was a raving lunatic, and methamphetamine addict had much more to do with Germany losing the war. Also, having multiple, huge fronts to fight didn’t help the Germans a whole lot either.

So, the premise of the OP is wrong, as it was not a “blitzkrieg” war, but rather a pretty successful tactic. Many blitzkriegs were carried out in WWII.

You make a great point that Hitler was poor at “Grand Strategy” but I think you spoil it by thinking that his Generals could have, despite that, somehow pulled it out of the bag for him.

If you are interested in finding some tools to help you figure out what is possible and not possible amongst the “what ifs” of military history I would strongly recommend you read both “Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton” by Martin van Creveld, and “Feeding Mars: Logistics in Western Warfare from the Middle Ages to the Present” edited by John Lynn (the second is necessarily to counter the somewhat sweeping generalisations of the first in my view - both are somewhat academic in style too so be prepared).

From my reading and discussions I have become convinced that Germany could not have won WWII simultaneously fighting the combination of enemies they choice to. Their economy (especially their lack of access to oil and rubber), their manpower reserves and the structure of their armed forces only permitted them to take on one major power at a time.

Hitler was convinced that Great Britain would not fight, or that if they did they would be willing to make a “sensible peace” when German domination of Western and Central Europe became a fact. That Britain was willing to risk everything, liquidate their Empire indeed in the process, and fight on was the major surprise of the War to him. Frankly from a purely intellectual viewpoint it is surprising to the modern reader to.

Of course Britain could not have defeated Germany alone, but she had a good chance of avoiding defeat which is all they had have to do to see off the Dictators in the long term; OK perhaps the very long term, true! Hang on long enough and they will implode politically by showing themselves unable to defeat you is the theory.

Turning back to the OP, when Germany deciding on ground mobility and airpower as the terms on which they would fight their future wars they simply drove the War straight down the main road that the USA, and to a lesser extent Russia and Great Britain, would have wished them to chose.

Rommel did the impossible already getting within sixty kilometres of Cairo, to actually take the Middle East was logistically impossible. He actually totally exceeded his orders doing what he did, his role was only to hold on to the Italian foothold in North Africa. The Middle East could only have been taken from the north following a successful German conquest of the southern Soviet Union, through Persia.

Russia was also logistically impossible - the invasion went ahead with quite simply laughable reserves of fuel and lubes, tyres, engines and other spare parts etc etc. Effectively they had NO reserves and to attempt what was attempted was again simply criminal. Again though the German High Command did miracles with what they had…

In closing there is one last read I would not recommend but is interesting for it’s central thesis all the same is, “Why the Germans Lose at War: The Myth of German Military Superiority” by Kenneth MacKsey. The analysis of WWII which takes most of the book is mostly a simplistic rehash but the first chapter is good in which he submits the reason as German arrogance and overstretch are inbuilt reactions to their poor geographical position in Europe. With few natural defendable borders (rivers are NOT good defensive borders) they are doomed to have to fight aggresive pre-emptive wars and always end up biting off more than they can handle.

Which takes me back to my opening paragraph. Enough already.

hitler could’ve “owned” europe and northern africa.

Mistake 1 ; obviously Russia in the winter. Perhaps Russia in the spring depending if the Mericans left him alone.

Mistake 2 ; Japan bombing pearl harbor. We may have let it be. Especially if hitler had given up on England. i.e. quit turning u-boats on the U.S., no attacking England = no supply lines.

In a way it is too bad… The akmads and the frenchies would be much happier speaking German, at least that is what their actions today show.

The reason Germany lost the war is simple and can be summed up in one word LOGISTICS.

Logistics is a type of warfare that was practically invented by the USA and no country on Earth has ever surpassed them in this field.

Fighting men not only need the weapons with which to fight they also need some of the creature comforts of home and America knew this and saw to it that their fighting men wanted for very little. A pack of cigarettes or a bar of chocolate from your homeland can do wonders for morale.

I disagree with your view that Hitler “could’ve owned Europe and North Africa” but as you do not provide any backing for this view I can rest on my earlier post.

As for your last contribution quoted above, please keep this sort of rubbish out of what is a historical thread not a political debate!

Ok… but don’t forget that the German arrogance had a good reason for it… they had taken down France, Poland, Central Europe, the Balkans and Norway in extremely fast wars. They had by far the most professional soldiers and the best equipment in the planet… but like Stalin once said: “Quantity has a Quality of its own.” They just bit off more than they could chew.

If the generals had taken over the war certainly might have taken different turns... but the downfall was inevitable once the Soviets were attacked. Thou like I said before a better treatment of the Soviet minorities would have boosted the German Army strength and provided better supply bases and supply lines. A lesson that current countries should learn... occupier vs liberator differences. 

 One author put it this way... "Hitler managed to do what decades of Soviet police and heavy handidness never managed... to unite the Soviet Republics".  Imagine tens of millions from the disgruntled ex-Republics fighting for Germany ? Way better troops than half hearted allied troops from Bulgaria and Romania.

R was huge… the population immense. To subdue completely such a vast area and population that was many times that of Germany would have been hard even if Great Britain and the US werent pestering on the other side… so the viability of that conquest could certainly be questionable


They could have done it, and probably would have. The Germans were very, very skilled at taking over. They had this neat trick of coming into a town, eradicating anyone with education, brains, or a public post, and then leaving. Hard to organize when all the organizers are dead.

This is why there was so little guerrilla activity in Poland. The German death squads killed every scholar, student, priest, and politician they could shoot in the back of the head.

Not quite. They were ready with a very nasty force to take out France, and they did; it was their second attack after Poland.

Uhm… but Rashak, attacking the Soviets was the whole point of the war. Western-Europe was only a side-show, one the Germans were ‘forced in’ by France and England declaring war.
If they hadn’t declared war there wouldn’t have been a war in Western Europe or North-Africa.

Yes, they certainly could have done better in recruiting western russians. But they didn’t do too bad either. The Vlassov Army that was handed over to the Soviets after their surrender was some 200.000 strong, IIRC.
Regarding the supply lines, partisan infra-structure was already in place before the war. It was an integral facet in Russian war planning. So the Germans would have had trouble with that regardless of how they treated the local people.
But, of course, their reaction to this new phenomenon was completely over the top and brutal. It served only to swell the ranks of the partisans.

True... he had hoped the British would accept peace or not have gone to war at all... but Hitler wanted to have war start only in 1941 more or less. So attacking Russia while still "engaged" to the British was the two front problem. Had he had peace until 1941 at the levels of production they had... Russia might have been toast.... if the British stayed out. America was in fact sympathetic of the Nazi Germans due to the fact that they would eventually attack the Soviets.
200k in a population roughly similar to Germany ? Not much in my opinion... or loyal enough. If entire Ukranian formations had turned into allies... wow.

As for the partisans... without popular support they would have died out pretty fast. At best been little effective in the Non-Russian republics.

The problem with this is that better treatment of Soviet civilians and prisoners would only have happened if Hitler wasn’t at the helm, but if Hitler wasn’t at the helm the USSR wouldn’t have been invaded in the first place. Slavic peoples held a place barely above Jews in Nazi ideology; the entire point of the war was to secure lebensraum in the East for the master race. A large number of former Soviet prisoners served in the German army during the war, not just in Vlasov’s army but as Hiwis directly incorporated into the regular army and also in several late war SS formations as well. The total numbers were close to a million. The reason for their willingness to serve for the Germans is easily understandable as most were former POWs, and German treatment of Soviet prisoners was beyond atrocious. Of the ~6 million Soviet prisoners taken by the Germans during the war, 5/6 died in captivity.

With regards to the OP, the reason the Germans lacked a surface navy, heavy bombers, and other things at the beginning of the war was that the economy couldn’t afford them and a large army as well. It was economics and logistics that ultimately doomed Germany. The blitzkrieg vs. attritional war isn’t as clear cut as it seems, for example the original German plan for the invasion of France was relatively conservative and was to have involved overrunning the Low Countries and parts of northern France to secure bases for air and submarine operations against the UK and to allow future operations against France. After the plan accidentally fell into Belgian plans, the sickle stroke that was ultimately used was adopted. The first time that choosing an attritional rather than a blitzkrieg model might have served Germany better was in the invasion of the USSR, where planning on a multi-year war and stopping and preparing a winter line in 1941 might have made more sense than basing the plans on delivering a knockout blow in the early weeks and months. I say might because the attritional war that ultimately resulted in the East was something that the USSR was stronger at than the Germans were. Even during the early summer and fall victories and advances, German casualties were running very high, far higher than anything they had experienced so far. From Moscow To Stalingrad by Earl F. Ziemke:

I’m glad to see that RickJay has noted the heavy reliance on horse-draw transport for supplies and limbers for artillery; the war is too often seen in modern memory as a fast moving, highly mechanized affair. The poor bloody infantry, which comprised the vast majority of all armies, moved around the same way they had for centuries: marching on their own two feet.