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"A Genius for War: The German Army and General Staff, " Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2018 12:51 p.m. PST

…1807-1945

"If you are a wargamer who thinks German troops should always get a bonus, then this may be the book for you. Trevor Dupuy is the author of 'A Genius for War: The German Army and general Staff, 1807-1945' and he sets out the arguments for the exceptional military excellence of the German military.

He came to the subject by looking at the amazing recovery from defeat the German military managed in WW2. He argues that German units had a 30% combat superiority per man over the British and Americans at the time of the Salerno landing, and this had only dwindled to 20% by mid-1944. As he refined the model it showed that German soldiers inflicted three casualties on the Allies for every two they incurred. He also noticed that board game firms like Avalon Hill had given similar weightings to achieve reasonably faithful outcomes…."
Full review here

link


Amicalement
Armand

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2018 1:51 p.m. PST

Too bad that nations which are good at war, wage war.

Brechtel19820 Mar 2018 2:05 p.m. PST

I've never been an admirer of the Dupuys. Their books are like the Powder River-an inch deep and a mile wide.

There is much better material on both the Germans and their General Staff than this material.

The Germans lost both in Wars I and II-they planned expertly, trained excellently, but only planned for short wars. In both Wars I and II they were faced with two-front wars which they couldn't handle.

Germany as a unified nation has never won a war.

As one member of the English national soccer team quipped after they lost to Germany in the World Cup in answer to one of the comments from the German team, who said to the English: 'We beat you in your national sport.' The Englishman replied, 'And we beat you in yours twice in this century.'

End of argument.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2018 4:52 p.m. PST

As he refined the model it showed that German soldiers inflicted three casualties on the Allies for every two they incurred.

Also worth noting that, in both 20thC conflicts, the Germans were mostly defending, often in well prepared positions and/or in favourable terrain – such situations are almost always costlier for the attacker.

Brechtel19821 Mar 2018 2:54 a.m. PST

If that was the case, how did the Germans take Poland, Norway, Holland, Belgium, France, Greece, Crete, and huge chunks of Russia in War II?

The German offensives in North Africa almost drove the British out before Alamein.

And in War I they occupied most of Belgium and a goodly portion of Northern France as well as large chunks of territory in Eastern Europe?

They almost took Paris twice, once in 1914 and again in 1918.

You don't conquer and occupy by defending.

The Germans were on the defensive in War II after Stalingrad and Alamein, but that was after three years of offensive successes.

And they were able to launch a huge counteroffensive against the allies that resulted in the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944.

N0tt0N Supporting Member of TMP21 Mar 2018 5:03 a.m. PST

Pan Marek: If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

Hard to measure battle capabilities while successfully avoiding battle.

:)

Legion 421 Mar 2018 8:01 a.m. PST

Sometimes it appears they were too "smart" for their own good … but in the Nazis' case … bad.

Regardless, in the early WWII, they overran much of Western Europe, etc., and held on to it for 2-3 years. As Brecthel points out. And not only does it appear they were ruthlessly efficient and effective. At that time. Their opponents were fighting the last war. As so often happens.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP21 Mar 2018 9:54 a.m. PST

If that was the case, how did the Germans take Poland, Norway, Holland, Belgium, France, Greece, Crete, and huge chunks of Russia in War II?

By striking against enemies that were either alone (and hence outnumbered), under-equipped, or unprepared whether militarily, politically or both. Given that the original post was comparing German soldiers with their British and American opponents, I would have thought it obvious that I was talking about late 1942 onwards in terms of WW2. When the Germans were defending.

As far as WW1 is concerned, your comment is quite clearly nonsensical. In the west (remember that comparison between German and British/American troops?) the Germans were on the offensive for five months in a war that spanned well over four years. Their 1914 plan failed in its principal aim of bringing the western allies to their knees and the 1918 offensive was a gamble that cost the Germans tens of thousands of their best troops.

Thomas Thomas Supporting Member of TMP21 Mar 2018 10:59 a.m. PST

Dupuy adjusts his figures for attack and defense – its a pretty sophistcated model. He includes over 150 western front battle including many where the Germans were attacking. Over all the ratio is about 1.20 to 1.00 (or roughly 120 allied soldiers = 100 German). By the time of the Battle of the Bulge the margin had dwindled to 1.05.

Dupuy makes clear its not really the soldiers that make the difference by the overall German system esp. retention of good small unit commanders. He devotes an Appendix to the model in Hitler's Last Game. Understand the model is very "Money Ball" – information based rather than anecdotal.

Zettlering devotes some space to Dupuy's model and its critics in his Normandy book.

The model covers grand tactical performance in ground combat. This is only one factor in determining which side wins wars. Germany's strategic situation was terrible and they lost the other aspects of modern war (sea and air power) decisively. So to say that because one side (badly outnumbered and outproduced) lost so they were tactically inferior hardly refutes Dupuy statistical analysis on this more limited topic.

TomT

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP21 Mar 2018 12:07 p.m. PST

Agree with TomT.

I have read several of the Dupuy books starting with "Numbers, Predictions and War" when I was in High School (back when the earth was waste and void). I have, or at one point had, at least a better-than-layman's understanding of the Dupuy QJM (Quantified Judgement Model).

Key to the Dupuy method is the rigorous study of hundreds of tactical actions. Those actions are dissected, and whatever can be identified as common characteristics are extracted from the each action being studied, along with the result of that action. Once you have several hundreds of actions in hand using this approach, you have a model that might be applied to a new action, to predict it's outcome.

While not 100% reliable, the predictive model is pretty d@mned good. Most importantly, it has been iterating and improving for 4 decades now, and now contains a set of common characteristics and results from thousands, or perhaps now tens of thousands, of actions.

Which tank has 20mm more frontal armor is shown to be a relatively minor factor. It is the human factors that dominate. But not the human factors of how brave is Sgt. Blorf. Rather, the human factors of what is the doctrine of squad-level combat tactics, how well trained are the sargents, corporals and privates in executing that doctrine and those tactics, how well trained are the lieutenants in not only their own role, but the role of the sargents below them, and the role of the other lieutenants who support them or whom they support, and how well trained are the captains, majors and colonels in applying consistent operational doctrine to the the tactical capabilities of their lower-level units.

The German genius for war was built on consistent and thorough officer training in an effective tactical doctrine, and retention and empowerment of professional non-commissioned officers. German platoons and companies could, and did, fight better than their opponents on average. This was not because they had better men, but because they had very consistent training in effective tactical doctrines. As their training levels declined during WW2, so did their edge.

We have all read stories of German units in 1944/45 under-achieving compared to American, British or even Soviet units. But for each such case there were more cases where other units out-performed the allies. Their average performance was still above the allies (less advantage vs. British, a little more vs. Americans, and more still vs. Russians). But it was a less consistent advantage.

Their leadership at the national level, though, was disastrous. The German political leadership was completely ignorant of how and why the German army was better, imagining that their high level of performance was based on racial characteristics or moral fibre, or big scary toys. As the war dragged on political leadership became more involved in military decision making, frequently making decisions based on political dogma rather than demonstrated effective doctrine. And the German leadership's economic decision-making was equally ill-informed and dogmatic, eventually depriving the military of the tools it needed to execute on its doctrine.

The Dupuy model does not explain how and why the Germans lost the war. It does not seek to. Rather, it explains how German companies, battalions, regiments and divisions won or lost particular engagements. It is a pretty impressive model now (or at least when I watched it in action more frequently, about 10 years ago). Take some action you have the data for, feed the parameters into the model, and you could get out output that was pretty reliably matched to the actual results. Not a perfect model, but then scientific methods should never be expected to provide perfection. Only a disciplined approach to continuous improvement towards perfection.


-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

langobard Supporting Member of TMP22 Mar 2018 4:09 a.m. PST

I rather defer to Brechtel here. In pre-internet days I considered the Harper Encyclopedia of Military History (by the Dupuys) a basic requirement for wargamer libraries as it had basic introductions to wars that I had never heard of…

IMHO it is very difficult (not impossible) for people who can pull together such widely divergent material (literally covering the known expanse of human military history) to also be subject specialists on very narrow subjects in both time and space. While I have this book, and enjoy it, I am more than partial to the comment of Frederick the Great in his Instructions to his Generals "ours must be short and lively wars!"

This seems to be the ideal of the German General Staff, but, as Frederick found as he endured the Seven Years War, it is a good theory to have in place, but not necessarily a simply one to employ if you have enemies that don't play along…

Overall I still prefer their encyclopedia to any of their more limited works.

Brechtel19822 Mar 2018 4:27 a.m. PST

You are wrong, on many levels.

…I would have thought it obvious that I was talking about late 1942 onwards in terms of WW2. When the Germans were defending.

No. You made a sweeping statement, and sweeping statements are not usually accurate or correct. And you made the statement to encompass both world wars which compounded the historical error.

Also worth noting that, in both 20thC conflicts, the Germans were mostly defending, often in well prepared positions and/or in favourable terrain – such situations are almost always costlier for the attacker.

Further, the main belligerents in both Wars I and II were ‘not alone', with the exception of Poland in War II, when the Germans struck.

By striking against enemies that were either alone (and hence outnumbered), under-equipped, or unprepared whether militarily, politically or both.

Great Britain and France were not ‘under-equipped.' Great Britain had the only army in Europe that was fully mechanized and, for example, together with the French they had more tanks than the Germans did. They were outmaneuvered and outfought, but were not unprepared nor under-equipped.

And did not the Germans launch a huge offensive at Kursk in 1943?

In War I, the Germans attacked in the West at the beginning of the war and also in 1918 with huge offensives. They also attacked Verdun in February 1916 and that lasted until they were finally defeated in December 1916.

If you look at the battles in the West after the Marne there were minor offensives and fighting, for example, in the Race to the Sea with both sides attempting to outflank each other, and only after that ended did the Western Front stabilize into trench warfare.

In the East the Germans continuously attacked after Tannenberg and conquered and occupied large areas driving the Russians back.

In Italy in 1917 the Germans participated in the Caporetto offensive, contributing seven divisions to the Austrian effort. And it should also be noted that they attacked Rumania and knocked her out of the war.

So instead of being on the offensive for only ‘four or five months', the total is more near the eighteen month mark in the west and longer than that in the east.

So, to sum up, you are wrong on the length of German offensives in western Europe in War I, your comments on War II. I would highly recommend Volume II of The West Point Atlas of American Wars, edited by Vincent J Esposito, for an overall look at both Wars I and II. I have found it very helpful since before I used it as a text in college.

Brechtel19822 Mar 2018 4:32 a.m. PST

As for Dupuy's comment regarding the German General Staff, they couldn't make up for the lack of moral courage of their chief at the Marne in War I and overall they failed.

In War II, the German officer corps disgraced itself with the Hitler Oath in 1935, and the German General Staff again failed by subordinating itself completely to Hitler.

Any study of the German Army and their General Staff would be incomplete without Walter Goerlitz' The German General Staff and Gordon Craig's The Politics of the Prussian Army.

Dupuy attempts to quantify how the Germans would fight and at least initially win. I find the use of statistics by Dupuy ahistorical and inaccurate. There are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics.

von Winterfeldt22 Mar 2018 5:58 a.m. PST

Though the German general staff created a first class military and very modern staff, it failed in some aspects.

Just concentrating on military matters without taking into full account the political and economical issues

Becoming smug and megalomaniac – thinking they were much more superior in organizing a war in contrast to their opponents, by that underestimating them.

No control by civilians, the military alone is prone to huge mistakes with disastrous consequences and need civilian supervision to avoid annihilation of the human mankind.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP22 Mar 2018 3:35 p.m. PST

I said: By striking against enemies that were either alone (and hence outnumbered), under-equipped, or unprepared whether militarily, politically or both.

Further, the main belligerents in both Wars I and II were ‘not alone', with the exception of Poland in War II, when the Germans struck.

I didn't say that ALL the belligerents were alone when attacked (or indeed that any of the three alternatives that I posited applied to ALL of them). I assumed you knew enough about military history to be able to comprehend that each related to one opponent or group of opponents (Poland alone; UK and France under-equipped; the USSR unprepared). Did I misjudge you? However, thank you for at least admitting that I was right about Poland.

Great Britain and France were not ‘under-equipped.' Great Britain had the only army in Europe that was fully mechanized and, for example, together with the French they had more tanks than the Germans did.

Actually they were, woefully, in terms of radios, which more than one author (Seebag-Montefiore and Thompson, to name two) has identified as giving the Germans a substantial edge. And what is the point of having more tanks than the enemy when yours are under-armoured and under-gunned, and your ally's gas-guzzlers run out of fuel before they even get to the jump-off point? So, looks like I was right there, too.

Verdun and Kursk – fair points, accepted (I had forgotten about Verdun). However, I did make it clear I was talking about the Western Front and even 18 months against 3 years of defensive battles is still a majority of 2:1 in favour of the defence (worth noting here that Falkenhayn issued a series of memoranda in January 1915 governing a predominantly defensive strategy on the western front).

Here are some figures for WW2 specifically for German v British/American forces (I put that in bold as you seem to keep missing it in my previous messages).
- N W Europe
German Offensive (1940): 1 month campaign in France/Low Countries; 2 months in Norway – total 3 months
German Defensive (1944-45): 11 months campaign in northern France, Low Countries and Germany – total 11 months
- Mediterraenean
German Offensive (1941-42): 2 months campaign in Greece; 18 months' campaign in N Africa from arrival of DAK to El Alamein – total 20 months
German Defensive (1942-45): 6 months campaign in N Africa, over 20 months in Italy, 1 month in southern France – total 27+ months

So, (and again, I emphasise Germans v British/Americans here) a clear excess of defensive over offensive fighting by the Germans.

You made a sweeping statement, and sweeping statements are not usually accurate or correct.

I would tend to agree with you. A bit like claiming that "the British Army didn't do well if Wellington wasn't present", eh?

TMP link

Brechtel19823 Mar 2018 5:11 a.m. PST

…A bit like claiming that "the British Army didn't do well if Wellington wasn't present", eh?

The British didn't do well overall without Wellington. And I have supported my statement with evidence of the general failure of British operations in Europe and the Mediterranean, including Eastern Spain.

And it should be noted that he refused command in North America for various reasons in 1814.

Brechtel19823 Mar 2018 8:47 a.m. PST

Two things about the German efforts in Wars I and II:

German offensives in the West were brought up short because of the efforts in the east where the Germans were defeating the Russians and finally forced them out of the war, Revolution or no Revolution. They were also forced to support Austria-Hungary which wasn't doing too well.

Regarding the Wehrmacht in War II, it is generally overlooked that most of the German artillery, as well as transport and logistics, were still horse drawn throughout the war. Only the tip of the German spear was armored and/or mechanized. That was not the case with the British and the American armies.

Finally, it should also be remembered that the US was successfully fighting a two-front war and for the first six months after the entry of the US into the war, more men, material, ships, and planes went to the Pacific, not Europe and the Mediterranean.

Digby Green23 Mar 2018 11:19 a.m. PST

Yes but the topic is about the quality and performance of German troops! in a wargaming context

Not the strategic situation, or technology or resources.

Brechtel19823 Mar 2018 1:07 p.m. PST

Ancillary topics can also be considered and a book is part of the OP.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2018 12:29 p.m. PST

And I have supported my statement with evidence of the general failure of British operations in Europe and the Mediterranean, including Eastern Spain.

Really? Where?

Because I produced evidence that there was not a "general failure" in that very thread.

And it should be noted that he refused command in North America for various reasons in 1814.

And?

Brechtel19824 Mar 2018 5:42 p.m. PST

Right here in this thread:

TMP link

And this is what I posted:

"Losing a campaign is much worse than losing a battle.
The British were defeated in the campaigns in Flanders in 1793-1795; Holland in 1799; Spain and Italy in 1800; Naples and Hanover in 1805; Buenos Aires and Egypt in 1806-1807; Spain in 1808 as well as Sweden in 1808; and in Holland in 1809.
And they were strategically defeated in the French Revolutionary Wars which culminated in the Peace of Amiens in 1802.
And it should also be noted that the British Army was never strong enough to take on the French alone, especially in the Iberian Peninsula from 1808-1814. Without the Spanish and especially the Portuguese Wellington would have been defeated and driven out, just as Moore was.
And without Prussian support, as well as various German contingents and the Dutch-Belgians, Wellington would have lost at Waterloo."

And Wellington's 'refusal' to take the North American command in 1814 is significant in that he believed that war to have been counterproductive and not in Great Britain's best interest. His correspondence on that subject is interesting.

The following are helpful references for British campaigns of the period:

link

link

link

link

link

link

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2018 5:03 a.m. PST

The British were defeated in the campaigns in Flanders in 1793-1795; Holland in 1799; Spain and Italy in 1800; Naples and Hanover in 1805; Buenos Aires and Egypt in 1806-1807; Spain in 1808 as well as Sweden in 1808; and in Holland in 1809.

The argument here is NOT whether or not the British won or lost a campaign, but how well the British Army did without Wellington.
- Flanders 1793-95 – defeats due to the collapse of the First Coalition, but granted not a stellar performance.
- Holland 1799 – captured the Dutch fleet (one of the two war aims) and negotiated an escape.
- Spain/Italy 1800 – sorry, any actual involvement of British troops?
- Hanover 1805 – Cathcart successfully occupied Hanover, won a small battle and was then withdrawn for political reasons.
- Naples 1805 – Anglo-Russian forces withdrawn after Austrian defeat at Ulm.
- S America 1806-07 – fair enough
- Egypt 1807 – again, fair enough (although barely a brigade in strength)
- Spain 1808 – not counting Rolica/Vimiero/Convention of Cintra then? Moore's objective was to draw French forces away to allow the Spanish to mobilise; that they didn't wasnt his fault AND his army got away to fight again.
- Sweden 1808 – you really are scraping the bottom of the barrel if you are including a war in which British land forces weren't even engaged.
- Netherlands 1809 – Military success, disease caused the problems.

And they were strategically defeated in the French Revolutionary Wars which culminated in the Peace of Amiens in 1802.

Arguable at best.

Without the Spanish and especially the Portuguese Wellington would have been defeated and driven out, just as Moore was. And without Prussian support, as well as various German contingents and the Dutch-Belgians, Wellington would have lost at Waterloo.

Gosh, you mean he used……allies? Why, the absolute bounder. Never catch good old Boney doing that, would we? Well, apart from the Confederation of the Rhine and all the other poor sods he conscripted.

Seriously? Without those allies he would never have been in Spain or at Waterloo in the first place! So defeat, as you describe it, would never have occurred anyway.

Brechtel19826 Mar 2018 8:20 a.m. PST

The argument here is NOT whether or not the British won or lost a campaign, but how well the British Army did without Wellington.

Exactly-and the point remains, no matter what the excuse offered, is that the British army did not do well when Wellington was not in command.

apart from the Confederation of the Rhine and all the other poor sods he conscripted.

The troops of the nations of the Confederation of the Rhine were not 'conscripted' by Napoleon but were part of the armies of the rulers of those states. They were allies of the French, and that includes the Poles.

The troops of the Kingdom of Italy were also not conscripted by Napoleon, even though they were ruled by Prince Eugene as Viceroy.

The foreign troops that fought with the Grande Armee usually fought well.

The point of mentioning the Portuguese, Spanish, et al, in the Peninsula was that Wellington needed them to make up the numbers needed in the field. Without them, he couldn't have stayed in the Peninsula. The Portuguese artillery was especially important because the numbers of British artillery batteries (brigades and troops) were not sufficient to fight against the French. Wellington's Artillery by Nick Lipscombe is an excellent volume on the subject.

Without those allies he would never have been in Spain or at Waterloo in the first place! So defeat, as you describe it, would never have occurred anyway.

This statement doesn't make much sense. To whom are you referring-Napoleon or Wellington?

Brechtel19828 Mar 2018 9:15 a.m. PST

I first read this book in 1991 and wasn't impressed then. I have just now obtained another copy and I'm still not impressed.

The author is definitely pro-German and seems to be 'recommending' that the US copy the German staff system. In the 1980s and early 1990s there was definitely talk of creating a general staff corps, which was always a non-starter. The US armed forces are not the German army and the German system would not work with our system at all.

And the problems with the German system is that Prussia was first and foremost an army with a state created to support it, not a state that created an army to defend it. The Prussian and later German army was too involved in politics and was one of the main reasons that the Weimar Republic failed.

Further, the German officer corps took the infamous 'Hitler oath' in 1935 and prostituted itself to the Nazis.

Dupuy tends to play this down, and makes excuses for the German army for the atrocities supported and committed during the Nazi era and War II.

There are some good points raised in the book, but overall it is a waste of paper and printer's ink.

Thomas Thomas Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2018 9:18 a.m. PST

Again Dupuy's work is about an analytic approach to ground combat effectiveness in WWI & WWII. The moral complicity of the German General staff in the aggressive behavior of the German State really has nothing to do with combat effectiveness.

That German officers took an odious oath and were complicit in atrocities is well documented but has nothing to do with combat efficientcy on the grand tactical level. That Dupuy did not spend enough time chastising German officers for this moral failing, however lamentable, does not effect the quality of his quantitative research. Quite useful for wargame designers (like me).

Thomas J. Thomas
Fame And Glory Games

Brechtel19829 Mar 2018 10:09 a.m. PST

I disagree. If you read the book, the first part of it, the text, is history. Only in the latter part of the book do the statistics show up.

If the subject was merely ground combat effectiveness in Wars I and II, then the periods before War I and between the two world wars and the rise of Hitler would not have been covered.

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