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 Post subject: World War Two
PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2006 5:58 pm 
Berserker
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I often hear people say that Hitler invading Russia was his greatest, and ultimately fatal, blunder. The argument goes that by leaving Britain unconquered and defiant on his Western flank, he was forced to split his forces, and also left a staging point for the massive American forces to project force into Europe when we entered the war.

I don't dispute that Hitler's war with Russia was disasterous for him. What I do dispute about this "common knowledge" is that I don't think Hitler COULD have taken down Britain.

The reason is purely naval. Hitler had no surface navy to speak of. Forget the Bismark, its basically irrelevent. Where the Nazis had a scant handfull of battleships, some support ships, and scads of U-boats, the Royal Navy started the war with the largest naval force on the planet. I don't think that Hitler could have successfully invaded Britain in 1940, even unbothered by Russia, because the Royal Navy would have smashed the invasion fleet in the Channel. The Nazis had U-boats, yes, but you didn't see us supporting the D-Day landings with subs.

Planes and tanks can be pumped out quickly, men can be trained quickly, fortifications can be thrown up quickly, battleships cannot be built very quickly. Navies take time. Even if Hitler had put all his time and effort into mounting an invasion of Britain, I bet it would have taken AT LEAST two years to get enough ships in the water to shield his invasion.

So, what do you think? Was Hitler a fool to leave Britain untouched, or did he even have a choice?


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2006 6:16 pm 
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I am a HUGE World War II buf and I say that invading Russia was ONE of his bigest blunders.

During the war Germany created an uneasy peace treaty with Russia. I beleive that your asumption about the Naval power of Great Britian is wrong but an interseting angle of thinking. First of all Hitler had no leadership skills, He knew nothing of troop deployment and other essential "experience nessary" skills that he just did not posses.

Germany had many, many U-boats. Germany mearly had to wait for Britian's Navy to fall as the U-boats slowly picked apart the Naval lead that Great Britian had on Germany. This was possible because during most of the war U-boats were extremely hard to locate. Even worse, the only way to destroy U-boats was to use depth charges. Depth charges are underwater bombs that have a fuse which must be set before throwing it in the water.

So, if hitler would have waited another year he probably could have destroyed Great Britain.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2006 7:35 pm 
Berserker
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Yeah, they may not have been the biggest navy in 1939, I'll conceed that.

But I don't believe that waiting a year would have allowed the U-boats to significantly decrease Britain's naval strength. After all, lets look at what actually happened.
--Britain starts the war with 15 capital ships, Battleships (BB) and Battlecruisers (BC).
-1939. One battleship lost. One to subs
-1940. No battleships or battlecruisers lost.
-1941. 1 BB 1BC lost in European theatre. One to subs. 1BB 1BC lost in Asian waters.
-1942-45, no capital ship losses.
http://www.naval-history.net/NAVAL1939-45RN.htm

The Queen Elizabeth, King George V, Royal Sovereign, and Nelson classes all mounted 14-16 inch guns in their main batteries. (Fourteen ships from these classes survived the war) How many shots from 14-16 inch shells would it take to sink a troop transport? If even one of these ships got in among the invading fleet, it would be total carnage. Once there, U-boats would have a hard time interfering because of the danger of hitting their own ships with missed torpedoes. And, faced with an immenent invasion, the Royal Navy would have stopped at nothing to stop it.

Submarines were commerce raiders. They found it difficult to sink warships when the vessel was aware of them, and were certainly unfit to provide active cover for a land invasion.

So, I don't think submarine attrition alone managed to cripple the Royal Navy, and the Nazis were pushing sub warfare about as hard as they could have.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2006 7:44 pm 
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I swear it said my post wasn't there. (dp) >:(


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2006 8:52 pm 
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Well, the German's took Crete with no navy to speak of (their Italian allies would not engage the British no matter how high their superiority was) with two airborne and one mountain division (40,000 men) against 70, 000 Commonwealth and Greek troops. The Germans edge was higher morale, air superioty, and the Allied troops left most of their heavy equipment behind. The Luftwaffle sank a bunch of Royal Navy Ships.

The year before after the debacle at Dunkirk, the British were in worse shape than at Crete. The Germans had air superiority, the airborne troops and a shorter distance across the channel. It would have been expensive but the German could lanched a successful airborne atack while the Luftwaffe sank most of the Royal Navy. I gamed this in Axis and Allies. I took Britian....lost most of the Luftwaffle sank the Royal Navy, and lost about a corp.-Nix

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2006 9:10 pm 
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what about russia? Did it have a fleet worth taking?

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2006 9:28 pm 
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I don't think so, Russia was allied with Hitler in the beginning of the war, by the end of the treaty and the failure to take Russia, the Russians focused most of its remaining forces on a land struggle against the retreatign German army.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2006 11:53 pm 
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but a possible grab of russian navel power could have been a strong influence. I know in every WW2 game it is always a land baised battle with germany and russia. If germany did take russia they would have seized control of all navel ships the russians had at the time and I'm sure that could probally have been easier than trying to fight a war and build a navy.

Besides russia had control of several large oil fields at the time and germany needed the oil to support it's war.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 11:39 am 
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True, but if the Germans did manage to conquer Russia and get the Russian fleet, They would have Punched for the Western coast of the United States I think With Japanese support. HItler tried to get Mexico to attack teh United States near the end of the war, and if Russian navy mixed with Japan did strike for the West coast, Mexico might have joined. So now the battle fields have become Europe and the U.S. However, this in no way affects Britians navy or status, so I think I went off on a nice little tangent.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 1:49 pm 
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Yeah... Russia's navy at the time was mostly a bunch of free destroyers we gave them that they couldn't really move anywhere because the Germans and Finns had mined the hell out of them. Russia's navy at the time would hardly have been a major prize, nor certainly could it have hurt us significantly in the Pacific.

I'm hardly a WWII scholar (I just like reading about history :), and I doubt the accuracy of Axis & Allies as a method of testing historical theories, but I'm inclined to agree with Nix - their relative lack of a navy outside of u-boats would not necessarily have prevented the Germans from taking Britain. Had they not switched to bombing London during the Battle of Britain, they might have made relatively quick work finishing off the RAF. Facing u-boats and the Luftwaffe and lacking any air support of their own, I think the Royal Navy would've had a hard time singlehandedly thwarting an invasion fleet. If we didn't support D-day with subs, it was because we didn't need protection against the German navy, and while the artillery on a battleship is damned impressive, so are the results of an opposed bomber raid. There's a reason we don't actually use battleships any more (even before cruise missiles) - aircraft make them obsolete. Had the luftwaffe taken out the RAF, I think they would have found it relatively easy to clear a stretch of the channel for an invasion fleet.

Had Britain been taken out of action one way or another, Germany would have been in a hugely more secure position to open the eastern front, which still may not have been a wise idea, but certainly would've worked better at least.

Also, I find it interesting how those capital ship losses also correlate neatly with the allied decryption of the German naval engima code in early 1942. Knowing where the enemy's subs are is rather useful, I hear.

Somewhat tangential to the question of "what was Hitler's greatest blunder" (losing the battle of Britain, opening the Eastern front, etc.) is the question of what were the German military's most important failings - not poor decisions made by a lunatic, but things they just didn't do well enough.
Personally, I'd go with Intelligence in general, and not figuring out British coastal radar and that Enigma was cracked specifically. Their total intelligence failures (and extensive successful double-agent work) also left them completely fooled on D-Day.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 2:30 pm 
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one of the biggest blunders, thankfully, was the fact that Hitler was too paranoid and meddlesome to let his military leaders do their jobs, they had the most highly trained, well-equipped military of the time with kill ratios upwards of 50:1 and Generals who really knew how to maximize extant forces.

WWII is a classic example of what happens when the administrative branch gets it in their head that they're equally good at running an army. if Hitler stuck to writing stirring genocidal speeches and left the military operations in the hands of his Generals, a good chunk of the world might have wound up with the swastika flapping over their post offices.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 2:35 pm 
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The other part was the intense distrust of the military command structure by said administrative branch. Hitler assumed (with some accuracy, at least later on) that his generals would assassinate him to take over the Reich; the commisars in Russia were a similar situation.

War by committee is a recipe for disaster; either someone is in command, or they aren't, and having to consult/placate someone else before issuing commands surrenders the initiative to the more streamlined force.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 7:32 pm 
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The air power argument is the most convincing one, I've been waiting for someone to make it.

Alright, so here is the situation, the Luftwaffe can either attack A) the RAF, B) civilian targets like London, or C) The Royal Navy. Attacking London was an attempt to frighten the British into peace, and really didn't work that well. The Nazis shouldn't have tried it.

Attacking the RAF was a major priority. Destroying Britain's air defence would be crucial for a successfull invasion of the island. But, I would argue that even if the Luftwaffe achieved that goal, if the Home Fleet was left at its approximate strength of 5 capital ships, 11 cruisers and 53 destroyers, the invasion would have been far too risky to attempt. Come the day of the invasion, I don't think that 69 warships in tight formation shielded by destroyers and supported by their own carrier-based aircraft and whatever was left of the RAF could have been sunk outright before they reached the invasion fleet and the slaughter began. And I think they would've had to be sunk outright, cause I don't think they would have flinched or turned aside. I think it would've been * the torpedoes, full speed ahead, we can't beat them on the land, so we'll bloody well stop them here, no matter what.

Of course, the Luftwaffe could have chosen to attack the Royal Navy instead, but any pressure put on them would have eased up on the RAF, and vice versa. A sucessful seaborne invasion requires air and sea power. Nazi sea power was in U-boats, and u-boats are not made to fight warships toe-to-toe. During WWII, they fled from destroyers and cruisers, 53 destroyers barreling down the channel would have been a sub captain's worst nightmare.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2006 1:30 pm 
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I think we are overlooking a very important part of this conversation. Hitler did not want to invade England!!! Even if he could have had a fair chance at it I doubt he would have done it. Hitler wanted England to join his superior race. He had much respect for the country of England. Hitler's plan for the most part was to get england neutralized and then use political tactics to turn england into a nazi party country. This is also somewhat true for the United States.

As far as the Russian navy goes, please. The bulk of the navy that they had invested into was defeated by Japan a number of years before world war II and never recovered. Especially at the time, naval bases in Russia were rare because of the ice freezing over in the Frozen Tundra that they live in. Look at a map in russia and look at all the possible ports they have open to them and notice how many of them fall below the freezing temps.

Could Hitler ever have invaded England? Possible, but it most likely would have been thwarted with the eventual inclusion of the U.S. which was going to happen regardless of Pearl Harbor. Dont argue that point with me.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2006 9:40 pm 
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My point about Crete was that no seaborne invasion was necessary. If Hitler would have listened to Rommel and not Goering few Allied troops would have made it out of Dunkirk, Rommel's Panzers would have cut off the beach head. But as is between 90,000 and 142, 000 (depending on which book you read and how a soldier is defined) British, French and Belgian troops made it out of Dunkirk with little but their uniforms and rifles leaving all their tanks, artillery and transport on the beach. Only the 4000 man New Zealand Brigade which just landed had their heavy equipment. Allied morale sucked at that point. In contrast, the German Fallshirmjager (airborne) morale was sky high. The FJs had taken the Dutch and Belgian border forts with very light losses including Fort Eben Emael. Constructed in 1931-1935, it was reputed to be impregnable. But on 10 May 1940, 85 FJs landed in the fortress with gliders. One day later, they were reinforced by the German 151st Infantry Regiment. At 13:30 h on 11 May, the fortress surrendered. 1200 Belgian soldiers were captured. Also In Scandinavia, FJs help capture the Danish King and key spots in Norway while opposed by the Royal Navy. It is only 26 miles across the English channel. Tante Jus (JU 52s, the German primary transport plane) at 132 mph cruise speed could cross in 12 minutes-Nix

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