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"Their Wehrmacht Was Better Than Our Army" Topic


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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP28 Mar 2018 12:53 p.m. PST

"PROPAGANDA IS AN inescapable ingredient of modern conflict. In the Second World War, it was considered essential for the struggle to defeat the German army that the peoples of the Grand Alliance should be convinced of the qualitative superiority of their fighting men to those of the enemy. One dogface or one tommy was worth three wooden-headed krauts. Hitler's robots could never match the imagination and initiative of Allied soldiers on the battlefield.

The image of the European war conveyed to the American and British public at home was of dogged, determined Allied soldiers struggling against odds towards final victory: "Forget about the glorified picture of fighting you have seen in the movies," declared a characteristic war correspondent's dispatch to The New York Times, "The picture you want to get into your mind is that of plugging, filthy, hungry, utterly weary young men straggling half- dazed and punch-drunk, and still somehow getting up and beating the Germans." An American pilot was reported telling Bob Hope: "It would be nice . . . to get home . . . and stretch my legs under a table full of Mother's cooking . . . but all I want to do is beat these Nazi sons-of- bitches so we can get at those little Jap bastards."…."
Main page
link

Tried to read it all….


Amicalement
Armand

CalypsoCommando28 Mar 2018 2:42 p.m. PST

<Tried to read it all….> You needn't have bothered, it's a bunch of tripe. I'm no expert on WW II but even I can see the many errors stated by Mr. Hastings. About the only thing he gets right is the impact of the war in the east. He appears to have bought whole cloth all the tired cliche's you hear time and again from wargamers (who should know better.)

1. The Germans were better b/c they had a superior kill loss ratio: Of course they did – they were defending almost continuously for the entire campaign in NW Europe. In the rare instances where they were attacking against prepared defenses they mostly fared as badly as the US and Commonwealth troops did when they were attacking.
2. The Sherman had poor survivability: In fact it 'brewed up' statistically about as often as the Cromwell and crew loss rates were much better than those achieved by the T-34. The main reason it got a reputation for brewing up was it was the most common allied tank in 44-45 (and so the most common one to take hits.)
3. The Germans had better infantry equipment: I can't even guess where Hastings pulled this from. The Garand was a superior rifle to the Kar 98 and the SMLE was at least as good.
4. The US troop replacement plan was flawed because of the generic issuance of replacements as the need arose. There's some truth to this but the systems used by other nations were at least as bad and arguably worse. We found out in the Civil war and the UK found out in WW I how terrible regional recruiting was in large wars with high casualty rates in specific units. I don't think to this day anybody has come up with the perfect replacement scheme.
5. The US method of assigning the best troops to support arms with the infantry getting the leftovers was a disaster: It always amazes me that the same writers who praise the US logistics, communications, artillery etc. performance go on to raise this as a shortcoming of the US army. Do they think those supplies magically organize and move themselves? How well supplied and supported do they think the US soldiers would be if our worst personnel were in charge of moving the supplies, planning and executing artillery sheafs, coordinating communications, etc. – you can't have everything and be strong everywhere. The army decided that the most technically demanding jobs required the soldiers with the most aptitude – I can't say I blame them. It seems to have worked out pretty well.

deephorse28 Mar 2018 3:09 p.m. PST

I kept looking to see what new book he was promoting, but maybe it was just this article. Some of the points he makes are valid, but the problem with the piece is that he doesn't go on to explain why as CC has above. It's a fatal flaw to those that know some WWII history.

Blutarski28 Mar 2018 4:23 p.m. PST

Trevor N Dupuy ("Numbers, Prediction and War") came to a similar conclusion regarding the tactical superiority of German infantry versus US, UK, Commonwealth and Russian/Soviet opposition in both WW1 and WW2.

B

Fred Cartwright28 Mar 2018 4:40 p.m. PST

You needn't have bothered, it's a bunch of tripe.

Maybe you should have read it a bit more closely, because most of the things you are accusing him of, he didn't say. To take your points in turn:-
(1) The figures are not his they are Dupuy's and Dupuy wasn't so dumb as to ignore the importance of attacker/defender in loss ratios and his figures show the Germans had superior rates whether attacking or defending. If you want to critique this you need to pull apart Dupuy's methodology – good luck with that!
(2) I thought his assessment of the Sherman was about right. A reliable tank, but with poor gun performance and armour in comparison to the opposing tanks and it is not about "brewing up" his point is German tank guns could penetrate the Sherman at any range.
(3) If you read it the one thing he doesn't mention is rifles!
(4) The German's worked on a regional basis for their recruitment and replacements, until manpower shortages became too severe and from what I have read the US system was thought particularly bad, in that troops recovered from wounds were not sent back to their old units, but dumped into a generic replacement pool.
(5) Again if you actually read it he says, and I quote, "Specialist branches and lines-of- communication units had been permitted to skim off an absurdly high proportion of the fittest and best- educated men." Not that the policy of providing good quality personnel to specialist branches was wrong, but that a bit of spreading out of the talent might have achieved a better result overall. After all commanding infantry in battle requires a bit of nouse too. Also I don't see any strong evidence that British or German specialist arms were significantly worse that the Americans and I would go further and say the British Artillery could match the Americans for weight and accuracy. I think German logistics was perfectly adequate too, when they had supplies to distribute.
I thought it was interesting that US infantry were an inch shorter than the army average. US infantry putting the runt into grunt! :-)

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP28 Mar 2018 8:16 p.m. PST

(1) The figures are not his they are Dupuy's and Dupuy wasn't so dumb as to ignore the importance of attacker/defender in loss ratios and his figures show the Germans had superior rates whether attacking or defending. If you want to critique this you need to pull apart Dupuy's methodology good luck with that!

+1.

What critics need to realize is that until they put in the same concentrated work as Dupuy, then he is going to have the field.

goragrad28 Mar 2018 8:20 p.m. PST

Article from 1985 and I have seen the author's name on a few histories – not an known.

Pretty decent analysis from what I have read in various histories.

mkenny28 Mar 2018 8:50 p.m. PST

Hastings is a journalist. He is from the post-war generation who were smitten by the Uber-soldier myth. His book 'Overlord' is full of this type of rubbish and the 1985 article is part of the promotion of his book.
It is 33 year old at least and it shows.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP28 Mar 2018 10:42 p.m. PST

Took my attention the part mention the huge amount of officers (and troops)in the rearguard… while the front soldiers suffered a lot and with not the same amount of good remplacements….also the consequences of the experiences taken on the use of massive aviation that were later used in modern wars….

Amicalement
Armand

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2018 3:34 a.m. PST

The German army's performance in WWII has to be approached from several levels.

The Germans had a very strong military tradition and approached military matters on a very professional level, they were among the first to implement a modern style general staff and officer training and often put the emphasis on initiative, personal bravery and taking the fight to the enemy whenever possible.

Germany had a large population and huge technological and industrial advantage, it has both a high GDP and a high Per capita income, which can be translated as an ability not only to field better technology, but also to have a big pool of highly skilled and educated people who could help to implement new technology.

The Germans were also on the forefront of military tactics in that they used the classic principle of seizing the initiative at all cost and outmaneuver the enemy, but combined with mechanized forces that could move faster and strike harder than ever before.

The disadvantages is that Germany has limited resources, it has only nominal access to oil and steel, it has some domestic coal production and a few other resources, but unless they gain reliable access to oil and steel their war effort is only to weaken. This is exacerbated by the fact that the new technology requires ever greater amounts of steel, copper, rubber, oil than German industry or previous warfare ever required. So Germany is very strong and can hit very hard, but the window of opportunity is short in time and getting to resources is vital to continue the war effort.

Another hindrance is leadership and organisation. Germany's full potential is wasted by the leadership through needless political maneuvers, infighting, corruption and plain incompetence. Some simple examples are the various rivalries and attempts by respective leaders to create "private armies" that siphon resources away from the army as a whole. The army makes the mistake not to set up full production lines, reducing tank production outside of the Niebelungenwerke to artizanship levels. The boards set up to supervise tank development are made up of names like Porsche, Krupp, Henschel etc with actual military personnel being a token minority. When Speer takes over production he impresses the fuhrer by showing that the new generation of tanks is not only more powerful, but also much cheaper than ever before. Of course he simply cut out the cost of guns, radio and engines, which because of their provenance are separate items anyway, so rather than rationalize production, Speer is mostly doing some bookkeeping legerdemain …

The German army is extremely powerful on the tactical level, but is a strategic dwarf. What they achieve is spectacular, but they lack the means to defeat their enemy where it hurts, Britain, the Urals or the US' Arsenal of Democracy.

The GDP of the UK+its empire is bigger than Germany, but the per capita is extremely low due to having several hundred million people in places like India still living in the middle-ages. Russia has a decent GDP and a mediocre per capita, but of all the allied powers it is a master at adapting its resources at the most efficient level possible. Whereas the Germans look towards technology to give them an edge, the Soviets implement simple, tough and hard-hitting weapons that may not be fancy or durable, but they are available in numbers and can be used by a less skilled army. Once you figure in the US the discrepancy of the allies is almost a joke, in terms of manpower, technology, money, resources, the allies have every ace. They control over 95% of world oil reserves, most of the steel, rubber, rare metals etc.

And the last factor in the German myth is that almost every German general and official who didn't end up with a hole in their head or at the end of a rope did write their own hagiography and with the Cold War in full swing we preferred to spread the myth of the noble Germans doing their duty and every ill could be blamed on Hitler.

In 1941, Hitler had full knowledge that Germany's oil resources were limited at best. They had only so many weeks before they would have to shut down entire divisions. The general preferred a military solution, defeat the Red Army and drive to Moscow. Hitler wanted the oil fields. The Generals were convinced their method was the best one and Hitler had guaranteed their supply though he had serious doubts. But by the later summer Hitler got cold feet and ordered his army to shift southwards, thinking that when the oil fields were secure defeating the USSR would be a matter of time. He got held up at Stalingrad …

We don't have to ask "How did the allies manage to defeat the Germans ?" We have to ask "How the hell did the Germans manage to hold so long against the allied onslaught ?"

By 1942 Germany was in a desperate situation, nothing was easy any more, they no longer could ride roughshod through enemy armies in all impunity, they had to perform miracles to ensure that the logistic system didn't collapse. They had to improvise and start to cut corners. They had a pool of skilled soldiers until 1944, once they were used up, German collapsed, the only reason they kept fighting is that they feared their Soviet enemy so much that they kept fighting beyond all reason because a surrender might mean a fate worse than death.

deephorse29 Mar 2018 5:06 a.m. PST

Germany had a large population and huge technological and industrial advantage, it has both a high GDP and a high Per capita income, which can be translated as an ability not only to field better technology, but also to have a big pool of highly skilled and educated people who could help to implement new technology.

At what point in time, and whose figures are you using, because that is not necessarily the case?

Gone Fishing29 Mar 2018 7:41 a.m. PST

I'm not knowledgeable enough to comment one way or the other, but do admit to finding this a very interesting discussion!

Fred Cartwright29 Mar 2018 8:56 a.m. PST

He is from the post-war generation who were smitten by the Uber-soldier myth.

That is not the post war position. Until the late 60's German soldiers were depicted in non fiction and fiction as rigid, methodical, unimaginative and lacking initiative. It wasn't until the 70's that it began to change with increasing availability of German sources translated into English.
Hastings may have gone too much the other way, but his basic arguments are valid.
(1) The best of the German Army was dead in Russia. Would you disagree with that?
(2) Dupuy's analysis shows the Germans outperformed the allies in attack and defence. If you have a valid criticism of Dupuy's work I would love to see it.
(3) The US replacement system sucked. All the info I have seen suggests it did. The Germans had a regional based replacement system and divisions had training and replacement battalions so recruits had been with the unit for a while before being posted to the front. The British had the regimental system, which is also regionally based and not the same as the pals battalions that had such disastrous effects on local communities in WW1. The regimental system is one of the strengths of the British army. You may have been new, but you were still part of The Regiment, which fosters a sense of belonging.
(4) Allied weapons were not all war winning wonder weapons. Again the immediately post war period tended to focus on the performance of allied weapons and compared it favourably to German equivalents the Spitfire was better than the Me109 etc. I have a book from the early 60's which extols the virtues of British armour design, when a more sober appraisal suggests that the British made some serious mistakes and it wasn't till the war was practically over that they came up with a decent design in the shape of the Centurion.
(5) The US system of allowing the support arms the lions share of the talent was not the right one. I would agree. Other armies produced capable support and logistics without putting all the talented eggs in one basket.
I would suggest none of this is particularly new or controversial. It has taken a considerable time to get an accurate appreciation of the capabilities of the various armies and what their strengths and weakness were, particularly in the case of the Soviets where it is only over the last few years and thanks to the efforts of a few authors mining the rich seam of Soviet archives.

mkenny29 Mar 2018 9:45 a.m. PST

Dupuy's analysis shows the Germans outperformed the allies in attack and defence. If you have a valid criticism of Dupuy's work I would love to see it.

Dupuy is trotted out as if it is the definitive and final reference when it is nothing of the sort.
If you introduce a source then you defend it. You can not simply repeat the mantra 'take it up with the author'
I know a bit about Normandy. Show me specific examples where the Germans 'outperformed' the Allies.
For instance how did the German offensive launched whilst EPSOM was in play show this superior performance?

mkenny29 Mar 2018 9:54 a.m. PST

I have a book from the early 60's which extols the virtues of British armour design,
Which book would that be?
My reading on this matter is extensive and as a child of the 1960s do not remember anything (excluding Battler Britain) other than constant admiration for all things German.
The authors of the time( e.g Lucas, Quarrie, Keegan) had a very myopic outlook

Fred Cartwright29 Mar 2018 10:05 a.m. PST

If you introduce a source then you defend it. You can not simply repeat the mantra 'take it up with the author'

You are the one criticising it. You come up with a credible rebuttal. Until you do it remains the definitive work on the subject and that is why it is quoted. There is no way I could repeat what he did.

For instance how did the German offensive launched whilst EPSOM was in play show this superior performance?

Individual, anecdotal evidence is of very little value in this sort of analysis. You could prove almost anything by selecting a single battle. Show me how the British displayed superior attacking and defending ability in the Battle of France, for example.

Fred Cartwright29 Mar 2018 10:09 a.m. PST

Which book would that be?
My reading on this matter is extensive and as a child of the 1960s do not remember anything (excluding Battler Britain) other than constant admiration for all things German.

I will try and find. It was something like the Encyclopaedia of British Tanks.

The authors of the time( e.g Lucas, Quarrie, Keegan) had a very myopic outlook.

Your memory is off. None of them published a book before 1970 and the bulk of their work is 80's and beyond.

mkenny29 Mar 2018 10:22 a.m. PST

Individual, anecdotal evidence is of very little value in this sort of analysis. You could prove almost anything by selecting a single battle.

OK then any German offensive in Normandy. Add them all together if you prefer. Lets see this 'superior' performance in action.

For example show that the German casualties in Normandy were significantly less than the Allied Casualties.

mkenny29 Mar 2018 10:30 a.m. PST

I have 28 books by Quarrie.
18 in 1973-79.
7 in 1980-89
2 in 1990s
1 in 2001.

the 'bulk' would be 1970s

Fred Cartwright29 Mar 2018 10:37 a.m. PST

OK then any German offensive in Normandy. Add them all together if you prefer. Lets see this 'superior' performance in action.

That is still a small number of actions and interesting you chose to focus on offensive action rather than German defensive fighting in Normandy which was the bulk of the action. Let us see your analysis of the British offensive operations in Normandy then if you are claiming it was superior! And I would still like to hear what your criticisms of Dupuy are as all you have done so far is to try to discredit his work by inference.
Oh and I am not asking you to "take it up with the author" just tell us what you think is wrong with it. Is that so hard to do?

Fred Cartwright29 Mar 2018 10:39 a.m. PST

the 'bulk' would be 1970s

But none in the 50's and 60's as I originally said! And over all 3 of them the bulk appeared to me to be 80's onwards.

mkenny29 Mar 2018 11:05 a.m. PST

t us see your analysis of the British offensive operations in Normandy then if you are claiming it was superior!

I make no claims of 'superiority' for anyone. I dispute that anyone one side was 'superior' to any of the others.

I know Normandy. I can only comment on matters I understand. If there is some innate German superiority then it must have been on display in Normandy. I just want to know where I can see it.
The German Offensive at the start of July is almost unknown. It was one of the key events of the campaign and the destruction wrought on their Army during EPSOM and their failed attack ended all hopes they could regain the beaches. It was then they switched from trying to repulse the Allies to hanging on in the hope a miracle could save them.

Fred Cartwright29 Mar 2018 11:40 a.m. PST

I make no claims of 'superiority' for anyone. I dispute that anyone one side was 'superior' to any of the others.

So you are claiming that Dupuy was wrong, based on what you know about Normandy and a single failed German offensive. German offensives failed on numerous occasions for a variety of reasons. Dupuy isn't claiming that the Germans were infallible or unstoppable, just that they displayed an edge in combat operations in terms of combat power. How it is calculated and what it takes into account is all in his work. It is not about claiming the Germans were an Uber army as percolates the writings of messers Quarrie and Lucas.
The German war machine sucked on a number of levels, but they did get some things right.

mkenny29 Mar 2018 11:47 a.m. PST

So you are claiming that Dupuy was wrong, based on what you know about Normandy and a single failed German offensive.

I can not see this superiority in any battle in Normandy. Perhaps the Germans had become 'inferior' by this date?
Like their high tank kill-claims in the East that are not replicated in Normandy.
Note that I said you could use any German Offensive. I pointed out one which is nearly always overlooked but you can use any attack you want. You choose. Show me a Normandy engagement where this edge is clear for all to see.

Fred Cartwright29 Mar 2018 12:15 p.m. PST

I can not see this superiority in any battle in Normandy. Perhaps the Germans had become 'inferior' by this date?
Like their high tank kill-claims in the East that are not replicated in Normandy.

It declined over time, but there was still an edge when compared with the British and American armies.

Note that I said you could use any German Offensive. I pointed out one which is nearly always overlooked but you can use any attack you want. You choose. Show me a Normandy engagement where this edge is clear for all to see.

In order to do that you would need to feed all the data into the various equations to calculate respective combat power. You would need all the losses for both sides and all the other factors air support, artillery support, terrain, etc. That is not a 5 minute job. Tell you what, as you are so keen to get the proof you supply all the data and I will do the calculations. Can't say fairer than that. I am assuming you have read Dupuy's work of course and so know the data required.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2018 12:55 p.m. PST

For example show that the German casualties in Normandy were significantly less than the Allied Casualties.

Zetterling goes through this in detail: link

I don't think his calculations are the last word but they are more exhaustive than anyone else's out there currently. They agree with Dupuy (more or less).

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2018 12:55 p.m. PST

I have no problem with the article righting the misconception of the German soldier though not sure many on this forum suffer from the old myths.

However many of his arguments falter on several fronts. He concedes, for example, allied superiority in the air and at sea. And in trying to bolster his assertion of allied ground forces being sent into battle with clearly inferior equipment he cherry picks quite the list. He mentions tanks, mortars, machine guns, machine pistols, AT weapons and APCs while conceding the superiority of western artillery and transportation. Now I would argue the superiority of the 250 and 251 with the M3/5/7/9 and funny he should mention machine pistols (I assume he means weapons like the mp-40?) which hardly was a game changer. Yet he completely ignores the combat rifle.

And his dismissal of the superiority in western artillery is curious given the vast majority of casualties in Northwest Europe and Italy were caused by artillery. As to transports modern warfare is all about logistics, not which individual can best another individual in a stand up fight. If you can't get fuel and ammunition to those superior tanks they turn into speed bumps.

If the argument is the Germans turned out a superior soldier due to their militaristic history, no argument. The difference couldnt be plainer than the statement that American soldiers saw themselves as "civilians temporarily in uniform".

There is also the question of experience. The Germans had been at war for 5 years by the time of Normandy. The first real experience for some US units was Torch only some 19 months previously. Precious few American formations had experienced combat. Even Hastings is forced to concede how much better the US Army performed by the winter of 44 especially now that US forces have actually faced combat.

As to taking 11 months to finally wear down the Axis forces there seems to be a step skipped. Logistics once again. Fuel, especially, was critical and allied forces in Northwest Europe were held up as much, if not more, but this limitation then those scattered Panthers and 88s.

Finally I hope I am reading this comment wrong: "We learned a great deal less -- indeed, nothing at all -- about how the German soldier maintained an effective defense in Europe for 11 months under constant and unchallenged air attack, bombarded daily by devastating artillery concentrations, facing heavy odds, sustained by a fraction of the supplies and firepower available to the Allied soldier."

I can, without doubt state that numerous studies were done by the US military after the war on lessons learned. Much of it was and is required reading in American staff colleges. I can clearly remember some of the studies on German defenses on the Eastern Front with forces cut off or surrounded. The idea was to learn those lessons and apply to a possible war with Pact forces in Europe.

I would suggest two books which some here mind find illuminating.

"Closing with the Enemy: How GIs Fought the War in Europe, 1944-1945" by Michael D. Doubler, 1994, University Press of Kansas

"Why the Allies Won" Richard Overy, 1995 W.W. Norton & Company

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2018 1:06 p.m. PST

If there is some innate German superiority then it must have been on display in Normandy. I just want to know where I can see it.

Well, you can see it in the overall casualty figures versus the forces employed. But if you want to see it on a lower-level, there might be nothing to "see" at all. For a very simple example, imagine that of the German divisions one employs 20 AFVs in a counter-attack. The Allied division has 60 tanks in the area. The allies lose 10 tanks, the Germans all 20 of theirs. That would show a 1.5:1 German superiority. Of course, the real examples are all much more complicated than that, as Fred Cartwright alluded to.

AFAIK, Dupuy didn't use any German attacks in Normandy in the public bit of the dataset AFAIK (unless it included part of Mortain? I can't remember). Anyway, I am not sure how relevant all this is.

The things is, there are so many ways that Dupuy could be interrogated more closely to find out the whys. IIRC, his data is concentrated at the divisional level: so what he is really saying is that German divisions were x1.5 as effective in comparison to Allied divisions; not (necessarily) that each German soldier was better, even on average.

Jeffers29 Mar 2018 1:12 p.m. PST

Slightly off-topic, but back in 1985 I started work at The Directorate of Military Survey in Feltham. I shared an office with Win Ainslie, wife of Len Ainslie who was interviewed by Hastings and is mentioned in the book (his name was miss-spelt in the early editions). Len was the works manager on site so my awkward teenage self had the chance to chat first-hand to a Normandy veteran. I cheekily brought up the subject of Hastings' German superiority claim to Len and he laughed and said "I should have reminded him who won!"

mkenny29 Mar 2018 2:00 p.m. PST

Zetterling goes through this in detail: link

I don't think his calculations are the last word but they are more exhaustive than anyone else's out there currently. They agree with Dupuy (more or less).

Zetterling's figures are not exhaustive.

link

mkenny29 Mar 2018 2:06 p.m. PST

Well, you can see it in the overall casualty figures versus the forces employed.

Would this be the 'overall figures' where every single Allied soldier in Normandy is counted (i.e Navy,, Air Force, pioneers. supply troops etc) but the German count is limited to the actual ground troops in contact with the Allies?

mkenny29 Mar 2018 2:09 p.m. PST

Tell you what, as you are so keen to get the proof you supply all the data and I will do the calculations

Tell you what. You concentrate on what shudda/coulda happened.
I will stick with what actually happened.

mkenny29 Mar 2018 2:14 p.m. PST

I find it incredible that the German rout in Normandy (after 100 days) is described as an 'effective defense'!

Legion 429 Mar 2018 3:20 p.m. PST

"Better" or not, the WWII German Forces controlled most of Western and much of Eastern Europe for about 2-3 years.

In 1939-40 they took almost of the Western & Eastern European Forces to school. So to speak … And in some cases defeated some of those forces in a matter of weeks.

That IMO that is not beginner's luck …

Fred Cartwright29 Mar 2018 3:26 p.m. PST

Tell you what. You concentrate on what shudda/coulda happened.
I will stick with what actually happened.

Odd comment! Who has said anything about what should have happened?! This is a discussion about Max Hastings comments promoting a book of his. His comments are somewhat over the top, but a lot are reasonable, and most of which you haven't disputed apart from becoming fixated on Dupuy's analysis of combat power, for some reason I can't fathom.

Fred Cartwright29 Mar 2018 3:57 p.m. PST

I have no problem with the article righting the misconception of the German soldier though not sure many on this forum suffer from the old myths.

It was not written with us in mind and 32 years ago and a lot has changed in our understanding of the various armies since then and what their strengths and weaknesses were, particularly the Soviets, Italians and some of the minor Axis nations.

Yet he completely ignores the combat rifle.

Yes it is the weakest part of his argument although I would suggest the British were poorly served by a lot of their indigenous tank designs.

There is also the question of experience. The Germans had been at war for 5 years by the time of Normandy.

True, but the flip side of that coin is that the Germans had been at war for 5 years by the time of Normandy and a lot of their most talented and experienced were dead on other battlefields by then. Normandy consumed the last of the capable units and by the time of the Bulge German units were a shadow of their former effectiveness. In fairness the Germans did realise it and many of the divisions committed to the Ardennes were rated as poor.

Fred Cartwright29 Mar 2018 4:02 p.m. PST

I find it incredible that the German rout in Normandy (after 100 days) is described as an 'effective defense'!

Well it was certainly no pushover as the butchers bill attests. A British Tommy had a better chance of surviving the Somme than Normandy.

mkenny29 Mar 2018 4:09 p.m. PST

Well it was certainly no pushover as the butchers bill attests

German casualties in Normandy were far greater than Allied casualties. If it was bad for the Allies it was much worse for the Germans.

mkenny29 Mar 2018 4:28 p.m. PST

"Better" or not, the WWII German Forces controlled most of Western and much of Eastern Europe for about 2-3 years.

The only 'fair fight' was with the French. They failed to capture The British Army, were defeated by The RAF and could not mount an invasion. If you set out to destroy an Entente and only manage to get half of it then you yes you have failed-failed big time.



In 1939-40 they took almost of the Western & Eastern European Forces to school.
So to speak …

They had an army pinned against the coast and completely failed to destroy it. They might have been giving lessons but at the same time were being taught them.

And in some cases defeated some of those forces in a matter of weeks.

The invasion of Poland was a joint Soviet-German operation.

The invasion of France was-in terms of losses per day of action-not far away from losses in Russia. If the French Campaign had continued German losses would have been crippling. That is why the Germans agreed to a stop line and Vichy. It was not them being magnanimous but rather a desire to avoid losses.

Lee49429 Mar 2018 4:51 p.m. PST

The trick is defining better. Dupuy and Zetterling do a good job of it in terms of man vs man re ground forces. But it also takes an army and a navy to win wars. That's precisely why Normandy was a victory while Sealion never happened. Imho the man vs man argument ignores the big picture. And that would be that the US had the best armed forces. Cheers! Lee

Fred Cartwright29 Mar 2018 5:13 p.m. PST

German casualties in Normandy were far greater than Allied casualties. If it was bad for the Allies it was much worse for the Germans.

Losing armies generally do. It does say something about the efficiency or lack thereof of the allied effort that despite the massive advantages in air supperiority, artillery and naval gun fire support, none of which applied on the Somme they still suffered higher loss rates in Normandy. And they were charging men across open ground against machine guns on the Somme. While Normandy and Bagration broke the German replacement system it almost broke the British system. Units were being disbanded post Normandy to keep others up to strength and the British really struggled to replace losses.

mkenny29 Mar 2018 5:44 p.m. PST

While Normandy and Bagration broke the German replacement system it almost broke the British system. Units were being disbanded post Normandy to keep others up to strength and the British really struggled to replace losses.

Both The Commonwealth and USA chose-in advance-the size of their armies. They then made sure they could equip and sustain that number. Both nations found that some (Infantry for example) casualties were higher than expected and thus had to tweak their manpower to suit. Whilst the Allied problems were troubling the German problems where completely crippling. In any objective comparison Germany was a basket-case by late 1944. The UK would have had to sink a long way to even come near the Germans solution. The comparison is bogus.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2018 7:56 p.m. PST

Would this be the 'overall figures' where every single Allied soldier in Normandy is counted (i.e Navy,, Air Force, pioneers. supply troops etc) but the German count is limited to the actual ground troops in contact with the Allies?

No. I don't think Zetterling was (accidentally) 100% even-handed in counting which troops were going to count but that is nowhere near what your saying.


But I will repeat: if you have better figures, we will use them, great. If not Dupuy (and Zetterling) will hold the field, and arguments to the contrary will look like special pleading.

German casualties in Normandy were far greater than Allied casualties. If it was bad for the Allies it was much worse for the Germans.

I showed above that this isn't necessarily a problem with Dupuy's caluclations – it is in accordance with them.

mkenny29 Mar 2018 8:29 p.m. PST

But I will repeat: if you have better figures, we will use them, great.

Better figures than what? You have not posted any figures. Shotgun referencing of a single book/source ('Zetterling/Dupuy') is not the way it works. Be Normandy specific.

mkenny29 Mar 2018 8:50 p.m. PST

For a very simple example, imagine that of the German divisions one employs 20 AFVs in a counter-attack. The Allied division has 60 tanks in the area. The allies lose 10 tanks, the Germans all 20 of theirs. That would show a 1.5:1 German superiority.

Taken to its logical conclusion an army of 1 million men who fight another of 2 million and destroy 10,000 enemy and 1000 of his tanks whilst losing only 5,000 men and 500 tanks is the more 'effective'-if you discount the fact they lost the war, had their homeland occupied and reset themselves to Year 0.
Efficiency is more than a simple comparison of losses. Having set goals and measuring how close you come to those aims would be a truer measure.

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat

A slow route to Victory is infinitely preferable to no route.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2018 9:10 p.m. PST

Better figures than what? You have not posted any figures. Shotgun referencing of a single book/source ('Zetterling/Dupuy') is not the way it works. Be Normandy specific.

I haven't got them with me so I can't post them, but I wouldn't anyway, because it is clear that no matter what the figures were, you simply wouldn't believe them.

But regardless, you haven't offered a single reason to gainsay Hastings (who I am no particular fan of BTW) except "the Allies won" and "the Germans lost more men" – both of which, as I have shown above are perfectly compatible with the proposition,

Efficiency is more than a simple comparison of losses. Having set goals and measuring how close you come to those aims would be a truer measure.

I agree 100%. But that is a very different question and I don't think there is anyone who would wish to dispute the point. That doesn't make the narrower question unimportant and uninteresting.

Lion in the Stars29 Mar 2018 10:05 p.m. PST

It does say something about the efficiency or lack thereof of the allied effort that despite the massive advantages in air supperiority, artillery and naval gun fire support, none of which applied on the Somme they still suffered higher loss rates in Normandy. And they were charging men across open ground against machine guns on the Somme.

We were charging men through waist-deep water against machine guns and pre-sighted artillery in Normandy.

One would expect higher casualties than at the Somme.

mkenny29 Mar 2018 10:15 p.m. PST

Higher loss-rates is not the same as higher losses

Fred Cartwright30 Mar 2018 2:10 a.m. PST

We were charging men through waist-deep water against machine guns and pre-sighted artillery in Normandy.

For the first day, not for the entire battle and the loses on the first day of the Somme were higher than D-day. It doesn't alter the fact that a British infantryman had a better chance of surviving the Somme than Normandy.

Taken to its logical conclusion an army of 1 million men who fight another of 2 million and destroy 10,000 enemy and 1000 of his tanks whilst losing only 5,000 men and 500 tanks is the more 'effective'

Yes you finally got it! That army would demonstrate higher combat power at the sharp end. It has nothing to do with which army will win the war as you have to get so many other things right in order to win a war. It is a realitively narrow concept, but something armies need to look at if they want to get the most bang for buck from their combat arms.

Both nations found that some (Infantry for example) casualties were higher than expected and thus had to tweak their manpower to suit.

It was a bit more than tweaking that was required.

Higher loss-rates is not the same as higher losses.

That is rather stating the obvious, but if an army of 10 million men lost 100,000 and an army of 1 million men lost 50,000, which would you rather be in?!

Andy ONeill30 Mar 2018 4:09 a.m. PST

The lines on the map have been drawn and people have dug into their positions.

As Fred points out.
Comparative "effectiveness" rating a German Division and a US Division is not about who won the war.

The Germans decided the machine gun was the most important weapon in an infantry section. They made that their priority and rifles were way down the list.
Study after study on this confirms their assumption that the rifle the riflemen carried was almost irrelevant is correct.
One of these was a US army study. Their conclusion was than one mg42 was as effective as 20 garand armed riflemen. Other studies suggest that might be overstating the effectiveness of most riflemen. Maybe the authors didn't want to risk readers rejecting the plan to make the mg42 copy.
I think the fact the US army nearly ended up with their own mg42 copy says it all really.

We must use Normandy to discuss effectiveness of the German army? Which do you want to go for. The reserves who needed special food due to stomach injuires? Shelled by warships. Or maybe you prefer the 12th ss kids?

picture

Maybe you want to go with the units had a 1000 tons of bombs dropped on em around villers bocage?

I feel this deck is stacked.

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