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Not even the invasion of Poland by Germany got France and Britain to wake up (see the phoney war).

I'll try to look up a source later, but I remember reading that France (and Britain) were actually concerned about the insufficiency of their military potential (partly falling for Third Reich propaganda about German military potential) and first wanted to arm themselves.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 04:29:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Were they really falling for propaganda there?

I mean, once the war did come around they spent four years getting their asses handed to them pretty much everywhere they actually had to fight anybody who could shoot back.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 04:32:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They weren't falling for propaganda: Poland, the low countries and France fell to Germany very quickly. Britain nearly lost the air war and Stalin had to engage in scorched earth policies and allow the front to move all the way to Moscow (plus endure sieges of Stalingrad and Leningrad) before being able to mount a counterattack.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 08:43:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thought that might have been a result of strategic/tactical advantage rather than better armament.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 08:54:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some  of both.  The Germans had built and tested two new military organizational concepts that no other army had recognized, the tactical air wing and the armored division.  Their hardware was decent, but not all that much better.  What the German army had done was to put a few officers in charge of creating the organization necessary for this hardware to be put to use on the battlefield in an effective manner.  In both cases, this was largely due to the political backing of Hitler himself, over and against the more conservative high command. Goering was an early Nazi supporter and close to Hitler from before he took power.  Goering had encouraged Hitler to make use of air travel during his election campaigns, something never done in Germany before, and after Hitler began rearmament Goering was given funds and clout to build the Luftwaffe.  The creator of the Armored Division, Heinz Guederin,  benefited from similar direct patronage from Hitler.

The Luftwaffe was effective, but its strength was as much in the terror it caused in the high command of the Allied powers, and in its use in support of paratroop attacks on key points.  It helped, but on the few big battles in Belgium prior to Allied encirclement, it was hardly decisive.  In those battles, the main German army was stopped cold.

The armored division was something that took everyone by surprise.  The Allied powers were utterly ignorant of it, and the German command didn't think it would work as Guederin said it would.  The key was it speed of movement behind the lines.  Guederin crossed into France at a point where the Allies had believed terrain would prevent armored advance, and thus had defended lightly.  Breaking the scattered defenders, the armored division was able to move very quickly in a Sickle Cut to completely cut off the main Allied army in Belgium.  Neither side believed it was possible for an effective fighting force to move as quickly as Guderins panzers moved, and before any reaction was possible the Allied army in Belgium was surrounded.  Cut off and unable to break out, they were forced to Dunkirk.

The Blitzkrieg legend was developed after the fact to explain this sudden victory.  It was not a matter of fighting, though, so much as operational surprise.  British and French tanks were better, and gave the Germans fits.  Their troops fought hard.  Had the Allied planners thought such an attack was at all conceivable, it would have been impossible.

Further, had the Allies pushed into Germany during the occupation of Poland, the war may well have ended right there, or been fought in large part on the banks of the Rhine.

Likewise, had Stalin not kept himself willfully blind to the imminent, and increasingly obvious German attack, the German advance to the gates of Moscow would never have happened.  

by Zwackus on Sun Feb 10th, 2013 at 04:10:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Further, had the Allies pushed into Germany during the occupation of Poland, the war may well have ended right there, or been fought in large part on the banks of the Rhine.

That's another case where the memory of the last big war, and another Potemkin element, the Westwall (Siegfried Line) made the Allies stop in front of a ghost.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Feb 10th, 2013 at 02:36:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Battle of France - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In 1939-40, 45% of the army was at least 40 years old, and 50% of all the soldiers had just a few weeks training.[60] Contrary to what the blitzkrieg legend suggests, the German Army was not fully motorised. Just 10% of the Army was motorised in 1940 and could muster only 120,000 vehicles, compared to the 300,000 of the French Army. The British also had an "enviable" contingent of motorised forces.[60] Most of the German logistical tail consisted of horse-drawn vehicles.[61]

Only 50% of the German divisions available in 1940 were combat ready,[60] often being more poorly equipped than their equivalents in the British and French Armies, or even as well as the German Army of 1914.[62] In the spring of 1940, the German army was semi-modern. A small number of the best-equipped and "elite divisions were offset by many second and third rate divisions".[62]

In other words, Germany's army at the time was to a significant part a Potemkin army. If the Allies didn't know that, it's no wonder that they were afraid, especially seeing that they themselves had poorly equipped divisions, too. The situation was reversed for German military leaders, who originally only wanted to delay an all-out confrontation on the Western Front until 1942 when they could arm themselves in turn.

This (fairly well-referenced) Wikipedia article also points out that the Blitzkrieg narrative was created after the fact, that is, the invasion was more successful and victory more decisive than planned. From what I gather, the key factors were the use of communication by the (otherwise inferior) German motorised forces, and the French leadership's mistaken expectation of an attack focused on the Belgian-Dutch border (a more southerly attack cut up their lines).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 08:43:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The superiority of the German armed forces weren't due to better equipment (France had better tanks) or because ther German soldiers were Aryan übermenschen but because Germany had the best officer corps in the world, and the best operational doctrine in the world. This was further compounded on the eastern front by the enormous Stalinist purges which had more or less destroyed the formerly high quality Soviet officer corps.


Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 02:18:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And - thanks to real world experience in Spain -  a highly developed and experienced tactical air force.  The role of Stuka dive bombers and Heinkel He 111 level bombers at Sedan should not be overlooked.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 02:33:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To put it another way, at least some influential officers didn't want to fight the last war. But even the officer corps shouldn't be over-estimated, see the history of the Manstein Plan, or the genesis of the halt order that saved Britain's army. Victory can depend on who makes the bigger blunders, rather than on who has better strategic foresight.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 04:13:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed! The Mainstein plan story is fascinating. If that plane hadn't crashed in Belgium, who knows what might have happpened? The mind boggles.

Still, and I suppose I wasn't really clear on this, I didn't really refer to the eventual superiority of German officers on the Army Group, Army or Corps level, but rather on the platoon, company, batallion, brigade and division level. If I recall correctly, to be comissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Wehrmacht required 5 years of higher studies at the officer school, or whatever.

As we're already a bit off topic I'll end with a quote from one of my favourite Wehrmacht generals, Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord.

"I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent -- their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy -- they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent -- he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief."

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 06:04:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Having read Hammerstein-Equord's English and German Wikipedia bios, wow. This man would be much more deserving of post-war adulation than Claus von Stauffenberg; but I guess a general taking no active part in the invasion of Poland but plotting a coup or assassination already during the Sudeten crisis (not to mention his communist and Soviet ties) didn't quite fit the Adenauer era elite's foundation mythologies (like "Evil SS/Good Wehrmacht").

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 11th, 2013 at 09:27:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did that really need guessing? Contacts to the left were very very bad. Having known what the rest of the population claimed not to have known was even worse. There was no need to make a difference between SS and Wehrmacht during the 50's: both wasn't embarassing, let alone a career-killer or so. That only changed during the Auschwitz trials in the early 60's. The CDU called Willy Brandt a traitor until far into the sixties, by the way.
by Katrin on Mon Feb 11th, 2013 at 10:52:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The way I understand it, the invasion of Czechoslovakia made clear to the British policy establishment that there a war was going to be needed. According to Nevile Henderson the policy he as British ambassador to Berlin followed until then was that a) the Versailles treaty was unfair and created the conditions for the nazis b) if Germany was allowed to re-capture German areas (ie what was fair) by peaceful methods this would strengthen the peace faction of the nazi party and eventually lead to a normalisation (ie pre-WWI conditions) of the German society. My impression is also that for the nazi policy establishment the invasion of Czechoslovakia proved that Britain was not serious about risking war on teh continent.

After that the driving factor was the reenactment of WWI France and Britain had planned. Since defense had the advantage, invading Germany was ruled out (after some preliminary expeditions in Saarland). To lessen the costs for France this time the key was to open up more fronts and strangle Germanys access to raw materials. One such way was to get a Nordic front and stop the flow of iron to Germany.

Like occuping the minefields

During the Winter War the Norwegian authorities secretly broke with the country's own neutrality by sending the Finns a shipment of 12 Ehrhardt 7.5 cm Model 1901 artillery pieces and 12,000 shells, as well as allowing the British to use Norwegian territory to transfer aircraft and other weaponry to Finland.[2]

This presented an opportunity to the Allies who, while genuinely sympathetic to Finland, also saw an opportunity to use the pretence of sending troop support to additionally occupy ore fields in Sweden and ports in Norway.[11] The plan, promoted by the British General Edmund Ironside, included two divisions landing at Narvik, five battalions somewhere in Mid-Norway, and another two divisions at Trondheim. The French government pushed for action to be taken to confront the Germans away from France.[12]

However:

The proposed Allied deployments never occurred, after protests from both Norway and Sweden, when the issue of transfers of troops through their territory was suggested. With the Moscow Peace Treaty on 12 March 1940, the Finland-related Allied plans were dropped. The abandonment of the planned landings put immense French pressure on Neville Chamberlain's British government, and eventually led to the Allied mining of the Norwegian coast on 8 April.[12][13]

So try again

This was soon changed to a plan involving the mining of Norwegian waters to stop iron ore shipments from Narvik and provoke Germany into attacking Norway, where it could be defeated by the Royal Navy.[19]

And this succeeded! Except the part about defeating Germany. And the part about reenacting the Western front from WWI.

So, in conclusion, Britain started war planning after March 1939, but their plans and action only makes sense in that they planned to fight the last war.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 07:08:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I meant occupying ore fields.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 07:09:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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