german general mistake?

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aurelien wolff
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german general mistake?

Post by aurelien wolff » 03 Aug 2020 07:16

I often see the classic "hitler should have listen to his general" as if the general were some kind of genius who never did any mistake during the war ,so my question is :what mistake did the german general do? I remember that franz halder view were quite flawed per example (particulary the "drive to moscow" thing during barbarossa if I remember correctly)

Senex
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Re: german general mistake?

Post by Senex » 06 Aug 2020 22:49

I would say a couple of instances.
The decision to invade the USSR for one. I would have to go back to David Stahel's excellent Operation Barbarossa and German's Defeat in the East, but I believe a number of German generals had serious reservations as to the force the objectives Hitler set out would require.

Another example was a "backhand" in the summer fo 1943, versus the Zitadel "forehand." A straightforward offensive exactly at the time and place the Soviets were expecting was a bad idea. Guderian objected and Manstein (I believe) had recommended letting the Red Army attack, and then pinching off Soviet penetrations and destroying the Red Army's mech/tank forces in a kesselschlacht. Hitler opted for forehand.

The Mortain counteroffensive in July 1944. Kluge said the attack had zero percent chance of success (it was, in effect, sticking more and more German forces further and further into the noose). Hitler ordered the attack anyway.

steevh
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Re: german general mistake?

Post by steevh » 11 Aug 2020 08:54

Hitler was always the great risk-taker, whereas the generals took a rather more cautious (realistic) approach -- so it looked like genius when Hitler's plans panned out, such as in Poland and France.

However, Hitler never really had a Plan B for anything, so when it didn't pan out, in Russia, he began to flounder. His approach was just to try the same again (Case Blue, Citadel), as a shift to the defensive did not suit his temperament and basically trades a slow death (by resource starvation) for a quick one.

As for the generals. they could make mistakes, but only on a much smaller scale, so they didn't have much impact on the overall outcome of the war.

Mori
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Re: german general mistake?

Post by Mori » 11 Aug 2020 13:55

There are quite some errors by the German generals, and I mean errors which can almost only be attributed to them.

A big one is the Orsha-conference decision to have another go at Moscow in autumn 1941. This is really Halder and Bock taking the decision, not Hitler. Consequence is the 1941-42 winter crisis.

Another is the Kursk decision. Let's remember it's generals who first came with the idea of the operation (it's Schmidt at AOK2, immediately backed by Kluge). However, the same generals lobbied for a postponement of the operations until mid-May. Then Hitler decided to delay the operation even later. But late June, generals didn't show any doubt about the success of the operations, as their estimates showed. (Roman Töppel has the best discussion on the pre-Kursk sequence, going further than the classic work by Klink. Other works are thus outdated).

Again another one what generals expected early 1945 on the Western Front. They considered all Allied options and assessed that the wasn't any probability the main attack would come from the North (but that's just what the Allies did, operation Veritable). Less significant, because it wouldn't have changed much anyway, were very wrong locations of reserves prior to Plunder-Varsity and the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.

AriX
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Re: german general mistake?

Post by AriX » 03 Sep 2020 14:44

Underestimation of SU in 1941( and later too). Maybe, if Hitler impementer TOtalKrieg in early autumn of 1941 the course of war in the East would be different.

aurelien wolff
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Re: german general mistake?

Post by aurelien wolff » 15 Sep 2020 21:08

AriX wrote:
03 Sep 2020 14:44
Underestimation of SU in 1941( and later too). Maybe, if Hitler impementer TOtalKrieg in early autumn of 1941 the course of war in the East would be different.
not sure considering they'd still have logistical problem and you need to take ina ccount the allie industrial capacity/ressource they had at their disposal (+if the war lasted longer ,maybe an atomic bomb would be thrown on nazi germany,I remember reading the ally had plan to do that[although it would need to transfer B29 to europe wich could take quite sometimes])

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Re: german general mistake?

Post by DOGTAG44 » 20 Nov 2020 22:03

Model at Kursk attacking with the weight in his infantry rather than with a heavily armoured assault from the get go.
Any General who supported the attack at Kursk
Manstein for persisting to try to engage and destroy the Soviet armoured reserves at Kursk once the decision to withdraw had been made.
Rommel for overstretching himself in attempting to jump the 8th army off the march and attempting to advance as far as he did.
Guderian for persisting around Tula when he should of withdrawn
Guderian for telling von bock he would have to take his whole pzr gruppe through gomel instead of the one corp that was originally needed .

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Re: german general mistake?

Post by AnchorSteam » 29 Nov 2020 03:44

The German Army was certainly spread too thinly, the job was too large considering the size of the country and the ruthless, mechanical way the Regime was able to to feed it's citizens into a meat-grinder that had gone against them for half a year. The morale of the USSR's subject people did not matter; the regime had conquered it's people to the extent that their morale did not matter, only that of leaders of the regime mattered.

When the Soviets did not collapse the way the monocle-wearing aristocrats had calculated they must, those so-called geniuses found they had no back-up plan. Or rather, they had ignored the one that mattered.

A campaign of subversion was what Stalin truly feared, and it would have sealed his fate if Germany had pursued it. They would not have the option of de-humanizing the Slavs, or enslaving or exterminating them, but simply treating them the same as occupied people in the west would have been a huge improvement over life under Stalin.
This is where the reversal of the material shortcomings of the German Army starts.
Enough Soviet material was captured (during 1941 alone) to equip a Corps of 3 Infantry Divisions, a mechanized Brigade, a Flak Corps, an Anti-Tank Divisions, and 12 rear-area Security Battalions (2 of them motorized) .... not for the Front, but for each Army Group.
All of the above, repeated three times over.
Could have made a big difference, yes?

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Re: german general mistake?

Post by Max Payload » 29 Nov 2020 12:43

DOGTAG44 wrote:
20 Nov 2020 22:03
Manstein for persisting to try to engage and destroy the Soviet armoured reserves at Kursk once the decision to withdraw had been made.
I doubt that it would have made much difference to the subsequent Soviet Rumaintsev offence and the advance into Ukraine. An earlier disengagement would have left both sides stronger.

DOGTAG44 wrote:
20 Nov 2020 22:03
Guderian for persisting around Tula when he should of withdrawn
Tula was the key to the southern wing of the planned German encirclement operation. If Guderian had withdrawn earlier than he did, he would have been sacked sooner than he was. Besides, the timing of the withdrawal from Tula is unlikely to have significantly influenced the course of events on the Moscow axis. Guderian might have been in a stronger position south of Kaluga with more secure flanks, but Boldin and Golikov would have had an easier time in their initial advances towards Kaluga and Belev

DOGTAG44 wrote:
20 Nov 2020 22:03

Guderian for telling von bock he would have to take his whole pzr gruppe through gomel instead of the one corp that was originally needed .
Guderian’s panzer group did not go through Gomel.

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Re: german general mistake?

Post by DOGTAG44 » 24 Jul 2021 16:25

Apologies I miss read pages 195/196 of panzer leader and you are correct it was 2nd army who entered Gomel.

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Re: german general mistake?

Post by switt1313 » 15 Nov 2021 17:52

Of course generals make mistakes and even the most successful generals make mistakes. The problem with Hitler was, that he had no military education whatsoever, yet he thought he knew better than his generals and unlike most generals he never learned from his mistakes.

I'm currently reading Manstein's memoirs and I think he had Hitler figured out very well. He describes Hitler as a highly intelligent man who would look at tactical maps for hours coming up with ideas other people would never have thought of. BUT (and there is a big but) he (Hitler) was too inexperienced in warfare and too afraid to take a risk at the right moment thus turning potential spectacular victories into nothing more than tactical victories and potential tactical victories into some of Germany's most spectacular defeats. And on top of that in the German army, based on the Prussian model the General ALWAYS had an adjutant and a General Staff and at least the adjutant was required to raise any objections he had to a proposed plan which then may have had to be reworked, but Hitler did not allow for any opinion but his own and did not allow for any critique of his plans.

Some examples:

France could have been defeated even faster than Poland, with few casualties on German side and devastation for the allies. Through Hitlers decisions the BEF escaped and Germany was forced into a series of costly battles before it was over.

Africa was never taken serious by Hitler even though it was the gate to the oil in the middle east. Had Rommel gotten reinforced (with almost 200 divisions sitting on their butts in Germany it would not have been impossible) he could have taken the Suez canal devastating British supply lines and then taken Iraq for the oil.

Taking Moscow
During Barbarossa (where Soviet resiliance was anyway grossly underestimated by Hitler who thought he just needed to "kick in the door and the whole bolshevik construct would come crashing down"). Guderian was poised to strike for Moscow (where at the time the entire Soviet High command was still hiding out). Hitler stops the attack.

No Step Back
German Generals, partikularly Rundstedt, Guderian and Manstein urge to withdraw from the most advanced positions and use an "elastic defense" strategy against the expected Soviet winter offensives to wear them out and to be in a position to crush them come the next spring and summer. Hitler orders a static defense and demands that every piece of dirt conquered is defended against the Soviets. Since Guderian defied this order, he was relieved of command (the first of the three German combat wizards was taken out of the war). Result, aside from losing Guderian the Wehrmacht divisions on the east front lost between 40% and up to 60% of their combat strength in casualties, spent ammunition/oil and destroyed equipment.

Stalingrad
Hitler orders a frontal assault and when it fails orders the 6th Army to stay (and not break out to join forces with Mansteins army). Result the most devastating defeat in the history of Germany.

Although not reinstating Guderian to active duty Hitler charges him to oversee rebuilding Germany's fighting strength after Stalingrad. Guderian does, but warns that Germany would need to lead a more defensive war now to avert total defeat. Hitler ignores him and orders the Kursk offensive, almost 80% of the recreated German fighting strength was lost in this dubious victory which did not do much even in delaying the Soviets.

After Kursk Manstein now defied Hitler and withdrew from Kharkov. And even though the "backhand blow" maneuver all but destroyed three Soviet armies, Germany's second of three combat wizards was relieved of duty after delivering this spectacular victory.

Last but not least, suspecting Rommel to be part of Stauffenberg's assassination plot Rommel is "recommended" to suicide (in order to keep his family save) removing the last of Germany's combat wizards from the field.

Generals may have made mistakes, but Hitler caused a catastrophic defeat.

Konig_pilsner
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Re: german general mistake?

Post by Konig_pilsner » 16 Nov 2021 23:01

Hey switt1313,

My guess is that someone with more time then me will point out the errors of pretty much every one of your points.

KDF33
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Re: german general mistake?

Post by KDF33 » 23 Nov 2021 23:56

switt1313 wrote:
15 Nov 2021 17:52
Hitler orders a static defense and demands that every piece of dirt conquered is defended against the Soviets. Since Guderian defied this order, he was relieved of command (the first of the three German combat wizards was taken out of the war).

[...]

After Kursk Manstein now defied Hitler and withdrew from Kharkov. And even though the "backhand blow" maneuver all but destroyed three Soviet armies, Germany's second of three combat wizards was relieved of duty after delivering this spectacular victory.

[...]

Last but not least, suspecting Rommel to be part of Stauffenberg's assassination plot Rommel is "recommended" to suicide (in order to keep his family save) removing the last of Germany's combat wizards from the field.
What are 'combat wizards'? Are they similar to battlemages?
switt1313 wrote:
15 Nov 2021 17:52
Generals may have made mistakes, but Hitler caused a catastrophic defeat.
Ironically enough, I agree with this last part.

aurelien wolff
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Re: german general mistake?

Post by aurelien wolff » 20 Feb 2022 17:49

I know it's been a verry long time since I've visited my thread but I take issue on using postwar memoir in wich manstein might glorify himself/try to put the blame on hitler, it's what happened for the me 262 with gallland blaming hitler for the delays. I'll say this: even if hitler listened to his general past 1942/43, the war would be lost, they'd still not have enough logistic, industrial capacity and if the war lasted longer, an atomic bomb would've been drop on nazi germany by the ally .

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Re: german general mistake?

Post by historygeek2021 » 20 Feb 2022 19:44

Guderian made one of the biggest mistakes of the war by plunging ahead to Yelnya in July 1941 instead of sealing off the Smolensk pocket, which had the double effect of exposing his forward units to enemy bombardment for no practical purpose, and allowing the Soviet forces in the Smolensk pocket to hold out longer and escape.

Bock, Guderian and Hoth also arguably made a critical mistake in ordering the panzer divisions to plunge ahead to the Dnieper while the infantry divisions were still mopping up the Minsk pocket. This was the opposite of the principle of concentration of effort - instead of concentrating the entire army group on one task at a time, it was dispersed across a vast space and had to fight the Red Army in all directions eccentrically.

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