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|28 MAY 2012 at 8:34pm|
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Posted In: Articles : Book Review
The German General Staff has been an icon of military proficiency since 1812. Members of this staff set the standards for training, cartography, strategy, tactics and logistics that other armies copied. Their unique Auftragstaktik (mission oriented tactics) established tactical innovations and flexibility that remains unsurpassed. David Stone asks the question of why this institution failed so badly in the end during 1939 – 1945. His book contains a storehouse of facts and insights but ultimately does not close the issue.
Stone finds seeds of failure in the genesis of the new general staff. The Versailles Treaty not only limited the German armed forces but also abolished the General Staff. The General Staff was replaced by the Truppenamt (troop bureau) headed by General Hans von Seeckt. To circumvent the Versailles Treaty, Seeckt created a skeleton of the old establishment by dispersing training and staff appointments to military districts, making contacts with paramilitary groups and by holding maneuvers in the Soviet Union. Realizing Germany could never win a positional war, he encouraged experiments in mechanized warfare. His most glaring error, as Stone points out, was to distance the army from the government. Seeckt’s isolation from the democratic republic deprived the army of intelligence that could have allowed it to anticipate events and prepare for them.
Such events would have included the machinations that put Hitler in power in 1933. The officer corps was divided by their opinion of the Nazis: some—Jodl and Keitel—embraced them, a few saw the danger and formed a core of resistance, but most were ambivalent—admiring the promise of stability and an increased military but found the domestic policies repugnant. All agreed, however, in the concerns over Ernst Roehm’s SA. This branch of the Nazi Party had grown to over a million strong, equipped with arms, light artillery and armored cars. Roehm advocated that the SA be the equal of the army. Therefore, army officers had no scruples about providing the SS with arms and transport in the decapitation of the SA during the “Night of the Long Knives” in 1934. Due to their isolation from Nazi inner circles and naiveté, they did not see that they were helping to create a far more dangerous threat in the SS.
David Stone points to two events in 1935 as watersheds for the future of the General Staff. The first was the conversion of the Reichswehr into the Wehrmacht. The Wehrrmacht has been used as a synonym for “army” but it was actually an overarching staff containing the OKH (army), OKL (air force) and OKM (navy). Notable for its absence from this command structure is the Waffen-SS, although its units could be subordinated to army operational control.
The second event was to mandate that soldiers swear a personal oath to Hitler. Stone claims the oath was anomalous. However, German soldiers had sworn an oath to a king or a kaiser for centuries. The oath to the constitution of the Weimar Republic was the anomaly. Older officers were more comfortable with the new oath even though it would present a hurdle as the resistance to Hitler grew.
Hitler’s territorial ambitions came to the fore in 1936 –1938 with the re-occupation of the Rhineland and the Anschluss with Austria. The General Staff protested both moves, claiming the Wehrmacht was unready to undertake any operation. When both operations succeeded bloodlessly, the General Staff lost prestige while aggravating the growing tension between the officer corps and Hitler. Hitler acted by ousting the Minister of War, General von Blomberg, and his successor, General von Fritsch, on trumped-up moral charges. General Beck, Chief of the General Staff, was obviously the next target.
Hitler strengthened his hold on the armed forces by creating the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) in 1938, ostensibly as a direct liaison between him and the Wehrmacht. Given the German armed forces’ explosive growth, OKW could have served well as a coordinating body but was really a tool in Hitler’s game of playing groups off against each other.
1938 also marked the first real attempts by the General Staff to remove Hitler. The saber rattling against Czechoslovakia was very unpopular with the German public and the General Staff was loath to tangle with the Czech fortifications and superior tanks. General Beck secretly urged vainly for all superiors to resign in protest. General Franz Halder then developed a very workable plan to seize and arrest Hitler. All affected generals, including the Berlin police, were on board but the fatal flaw was the trigger for the operation—the order to invade Czechoslovakia. The General Staff’s continued isolation hid the fact that the Western powers capitulation on the issue was a fait accompli even before Munich. The enormous boost in Hitler’s popularity over another bloodless expansion made another such gambit impossible.
|30 MAY 2012 at 1:14pm|
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In one of the many failures of German intelligence during the war, the Soviets transferred hundreds of divisions undetected from Siberia to Moscow.
I've not read the entire article, but the above quote sets alarm bells ringing. A quick look suggests about 14 divisions were transferred. Whilst the Germans did find a mass of men before Moscow, it was I believe primarily newly mobilised divisions, the ones from the far east forming an important but not major element of these. In any case "hundreds of divisions" (even Russian ones) is a great deal of men.
I'm not an OOB expert, but maybe someone else can give more precise figures?
|4 JUN 2012 at 8:06am|
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Joined: 31 MAY 2001
Location: US, Wisconsin
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No, many men were transfered from Siberia after the Japanese assured the Russians that they weren't attacking north. These trooops were veterans of Nomohan and were very prepared for winter. For more info, check out The Retreat by michael Jones. A tiny bit of research would have shown you that the Soviets moved 1.1 million men east.
Why didn't the German embassy get wing of this Russo-Japanese "gentlemen's agreement"?
Last edited by Bismarck : 6 JUN 2012 10:23am
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