OK, now I clearly have Hitler and the Second World War on the brain
Well, on the subject of Hitler and World War Two I’m going to expound a bit further. I am working on a post about Allied blunders during the war, but they tend to be a bit different than the sorts of blunders Hitler made. Early in the war Hitler convinced himself that he was a military genius, and his overconfidence on that score really encouraged him to take insane risks later on in the war. With the exception of Churchill, most of the Allied leaders had a least some humility and didn’t make the kind of God-like miscalculations that Hitler was prone too.
So how did Hitler convince himself that he was the next Alexander the Great? Well, yes, he was a malignant narcissist with an ego the size of Germany, and likely a psychopath too boot. There was a bit more going on here though. In Germany’s first two big military campaigns, Poland and France, the Germans achieved crushing historically unprecedented success. And in both cases Hitler had gone with a risky plan that the majority of his generals had opposed. That’s right, in both Poland and France the German High Command favoured a more cautious attack. So their wild success in both these campaigns really reinforced the idea in Hitler’s mind that he was a better general than his generals. I mean, he had gone against the advice of the best German military minds, and achieved historically stunning victories, this must make Hitler a military genius, nu?
Well, no. There are two flies in the ointment. The first one is fairly obvious, and many of my astute readers may have already perceived it. While Hitler went with risky plans … they weren’t his plans. The guy that recognizes and promotes a good idea gets credit no doubt, but in both France and Poland the chief architects of the plans the German’s used were Generals Manstein and Guderian, not Hitler. This makes Manstein and Guderian the military geniuses, not Hitler.
This not only didn’t stop Hitler for taking the credit for the victories, until the day Hitler died he scorned his generals’ sound advice and over ruled them on many occasions. And despite the many disasters that resulted, Hitler always blamed the failure on the people carrying out the orders, and could never grasp that the orders were flawed, not their execution. That might seem hard to grasp for some people, most people if they lost a few big battles would at least question their abilities. Not Hitler though, but not surprising when one realize that this was a man who appears to have actually believed that Germany lost World War One because of a vast Jewish conspiracy and fifth column inside Germany. Of course there was no proof of such a conspiracy, nor did the Jews of Germany have any reason, motive, or even opportunity to conduct such a conspiracy … but when it comes to people who believe in conspiracy theories, absence of evidence is just more proof of the insidious cleverness of the conspirators.
Sigh. Moving right along, in a sense it can be claimed that Germany’s crushing victories over France and Poland actually paved the way for Hitler’s eventual downfall by convincing him of his infallibility. However, in the case of France, there is another take on this that is curious. Serious military historians backed up by serious wargamers have concluded that the Germans might very well have been better off in the long run if they had followed the cautious plan and basically charged into Belgium to fight the British.
Say what? How could there be something better than an almost bloodless ten day victory over France and England? Well, as pointed out in the previous post, to a very real extent the British army escaped from France unscathed. True, they lost all their stuff, but those two hundred thousand guys who escaped formed the backbone of the British military for the rest of the war. If the Germans had marched into Belgium instead and battled the Allied armies, it would have taken a bit longer and cost more German lives, but the result would have been the same. Even better, the irreplaceable British forces would have suffered heavy losses before they were withdrawn, if they were even able to withdraw at all. Best of all, the RAF would almost certainly have suffered much greater losses trying to support their troops on the ground.
Wait a second. If the Allies had more troops, tanks, and planes than the Germans … how the hell could the Germans have been almost certain to crush them in a huge head to head battle? Wasn’t a big battle in Belgium the Allies’ plan all along? Alas, I am approaching my 800 word limit, so that dear readers will have to wait until the next post.
And yes, I am aware that Doug’s Darkworld is morphing into chapters in a book about World War Two right before my reader’s horrified eyes. It’s just such a fun subject for students of war, history, and science such as myself. I’ll be back to ranting about Obama’s crimes and mysterious slime under glaciers and the onrushing apocalypse soon enough, for now a little diversion into the dark corners of the largest war in history.
Have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image was made by the UK government before 1957 and is thus public domain under UK copyright law. It’s a Boulton Paul Defiant, a British “turret fighter.” Turret fighters, um, seemed like a good idea at the time. In practise the smaller, faster, more nimble German Me-109s flew rings around them, rendering them useless in the fight for the control of the skies over France. The Defiant did enjoy success as a night fighter during the Blitz, but afterwards was relegated to training duty. Not a blunder, just one of the handicaps the British entered World War Two with. And another reminder that a lot of very expensive weapons don’t necessarily work out in actual practise.)