World War II Strategy and Tactics - The grand strategy and the big decisions.
Latest hand-picked WWII news. See also: German WW2 tanks, Nazi Blitzkrieg, Tank tactics & Battles, Kamikaze Pilots, Airborne Troops, V1, V2 rocket development.
Condemned Men - Meet Hitler's Penal Battalions
Call them the Fuhrer`s `Dirty Dozens` - the German army`s strafbattalions were infantry units made up largely of convicts, felons, malingerers and thugs. Inmates in these "marching prisons" could expect only the most hazardous of assignments. When they weren`t being deployed as common labourers, penal units fought as shock troops in frontal assaults or were thrown into losing battles to defend hopeless positions. However, assignment to a penal unit wasn`t necessarily a death sentence. The condemned could serve their time and be reinstated to the regular army or in cases of exceptional gallantry under fire, have their sentences commuted.
Hitler, Dönitz, and the Baltic Sea: The Third Reich's Last Hope, 1944-1945
In this book professor Howard D. Grier explores Hitler`s seemingly "irrational" decision to leave over a million troops in enclaves on the Baltic Coast during the final months of the war. Traditional interpretations of Hitler`s claim that this was necessary to keep the Baltic a `German lake` to train the submarine force has been dismissed as a part of his `no retreat` policy. In this well-reasoned book, however, Grier argues that this claim has validity. The decision was based on advice given Hitler by his naval commander Karl Dönitz, and looked to the imminent introduction of the Type XXI U-boot, one of Germany`s less fantastical `wonder weapons.`
A 1937 detailed prediction of Hitler's strategy in Eastern Europe
In 1937, Hitler's military intentions were becoming increasingly clear. He had already ascended to the top of the German government and instilled in the populace a fiery national socialism. But that movement was beginning to be stifled by Germany's borders. The next move was conquest. In his 1937 piece "Hitler Looks Eastward," Henry C. Wolfe made country-by-country predictions about Germany's eastward expansion. --- Austria: Most certain to dissolve into Germany (Austria was annexed into Germany a year later). --- Hungary: The country would join Germany if it could find a way to benefit (Hungary signed an alliance with Germany in 1940).
British wartime population faced eating plankton from Scottish sea lochs to avert food shortages
Plans were drawn up in the UK to harvest the microscopic creatures to sustain the country if food supplies were cut off during WWII. Secret letters between academics that proposed harvesting tons of protein-rich plankton from Scottish sea lochs have just been discovered. They claimed the waters were "soup-like" in richness with nutritional material and that some types of plankton were quite "tasty." They made diagrams of nets, explored areas where it could work and carried out trials from 1941-1943. Geoffrey Moore, a professor in marine biology at University of London, has discovered the plans in the archives at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) near Oban, in Scotland.
WWII plans that never happened: 1939-45 by Michael Kerrigan
World War ll Plans That Never Happened is a look at some of the strangest and at times, unbelievable, plans and schemes of the Second World War. It includes a Nazi plan to kidnap the Pope, an IRA plan to invade Northern Ireland, a British plan to attack the Soviet Union after the defeat of Hitler and details about a Japanese scheme to seize the Panama Canal. Not to mention a German plan to seize bases in Spain and Portugal and invade Switzerland and an American proposal to use U.S. Marines to attack V-1 bases in Europe.
War Plan Red: How the US planned to destroy Britain with bombs, chemical weapons, Naval blockade before WWII
Invasion of Canada. Bombing raids on British industrial interests. Naval blockade. Chemical weapons. Six million troops fighting on the Eastern seaboard. It was the US' strategy to destroy Britain as a world superpower. The plan was carried out with a funding from the US Congress: airfields were build for the attack, etc. Developed during the 1920s under the code name "War Plan Red" it was approved by the US Secretary of War and the Secretary of Navy in May 1930, and it was active until Hitler decided to invade Poland. Now, a documentary film called "America's Planned War On Britain: Revealed", shows how this plan became to be.
Hitler's Panzers: The Lightning Attacks that Revolutionized Warfare by Dennis Showalter (book review)
From the days of Frederick the Great Prussian military planners realized Prussia "was unlikely to recover from an initial defeat" in battle. The result: "The Germans incorporated a mentality emphasizing speed and daring: a war of movement." During WWII, such tactics were known as Blitzkrieg (a term coined in the West, and disliked by Hitler). Panzer warfare came as a result of the WWI trench warfare. By 1921 General Hans von Seeckt, "moved the Germans from Sitz to Blitz" by developing the concept of "fighting outnumbered and winning." Among the officers drawn to Seeckt's theories was motor-transport battalion lieutenant Heinz Guderian.
Admiral Clarence Williams devised plan to defeat Japan - years before Pearl Harbor
When his son donated Admiral Clarence S. Williams' naval uniforms, medals, and swords to the Clark County Historical Society in 1956, he said his father's most notable service was the command of a fleet of 48 ships protecting foreigners along China's Yangtze River from the civil war. Today military historians beg to differ. Since Edward S. Miller's "War Plan Orange," the elder Williams is remembered for the far-sighted work he did from 1900 to the mid-1920s creating the island-hopping plan the U.S. would use during WWII. What the author calls "history's most successful war plan" established Williams as "one of the finest strategists of the century."
England's Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy 1940-1942 by Colin Smith
"England's Last War Against France" covers a forgotten war within a war, one that was vital, but never formally declared. From an exchange of bullets and bayonet thrusts in July 1940 between French officers and a Royal Navy boarding party in a French submarine at Devonport, to Operation Torch in 1942, when an Anglo-American armada invaded North Africa, Britain and Vichy France were in a low-intensity war. France promised to keep its fleet beyond German control, but Churchill was not convinced. The bombardment of the French fleet at the port of Mers-el-Kébir in July 1940 killed 1,297 French sailors - while an attempt to seize the French port of Dakar failed.
Russia to outlaw criticism of Soviet World War II military tactics which caused huge losses
Russia wants to outlaw criticism of Soviet military tactics in the latest example of its heavy-handed approach to dissent. The plan comes after a documentary film revealed the scale of WW2 human losses, stirring emotions in a country that has glorified the heroic feats of soldiers during the Great Patriotic War but has often ignored the huge human cost behind the victory. The government sensed a chance to take advantage on the public mood at a time when the recession is threatening Putin's popularity. The law seeks to punish ex Soviet states which deny they were freed by the Red Army, and to make it illegal to suggest that the Soviet Union did not win the War.
Battle tanks: Obsolescent or still important - Lessons from World War II
Even after the Nazi blitzkrieg victories, the use of battle tanks was badly understood by the Allied militaries. British generals attempted to use tanks as independent "land cavalry" forces - As a result, tanks fell victim to German 88mm guns. Bernard Montgomery was the first Allied commander to integrate the use of tanks with artillery and infantry, as the German blitzkrieg generals Erich von Manstein and "Hurrying" Heinz Guderian had done. A classic example of the abuse of tanks was Herman Hoth's Fourth Panzer Army at Stalingrad in 1942. Hoth's previously invincible tanks were destroyed by General Vassily Chuikov's 62nd Army in close quarters fighting in the ruins.
The other D-Day: Errors and mistakes
Much has been written about the bravery of the victorious Allied forces. All true, but it wasn't flawless... They attacked nonexistent artillery emplacements. Planes dropped paratroopers far from targets. D-Day was soon forgotten in the nightmare of GIs being blown apart in the Normandy hedgerows by entrenched German panzers. No American planners had anticipated the deadliness of new German battle tanks and anti-tank weapons. We landed with the weaponry vastly inferior to that of the Wehrmacht. On two occasions we bombed our own troops, killing or wounding over 1,000 Americans, including the highest-ranking officer to die in Europe, Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair.
Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions that Changed the World 1940-1941
Major wartime choices often appear either inevitable or idiotic - because we view them in retrospect. Ian Kershaw's strength is to explain the emotions and the circumstances that framed the decisions. And then he shows how one decision affects the next. History may be "one damn thing after another", but cause and effect is everything, starting with Churchill's war cabinet in May 1940. French resistance had collapsed and the British army seemed to be doomed to destruction when retreating towards Dunkirk. French leaders wanted to approach Mussolini to discover what Adolf Hitler's terms would be. The British war cabinet came close to following down that track.
China and Appeasement: Beyond Munich: Geostrategy and betrayal
The Munich Pact of Sept 30, 1938, has become an icon of the failure of appeasement. What is left unmentioned by many Anglo-US historians is the fact that the Munich Pact, in addition to allowing Nazi Germany to annex the Sudetenland, also allowed Poland and Hungary to seize the Teschen district and parts of Slovakia. Munich is viewed in the West as a symbol of the lack of resolve on the part of the two great powers, Britain and France, to resist German expansionism that later led to the outbreak of a world war. Yet the historical facts behind Munich do not support the simplification: Geopolitical calculations played a large role in the Munich decisions.
Carolinas became testing ground for mechanized warfare (Article no longer available from the original source)
In late 1941 U.S. military leaders didn't know what kind of army they could muster if the country entered the fray. Troop maneuvers in Louisiana that summer had become a testing ground for mechanized warfare, with mixed results. In October 300,000 troops and miles of military vehicles began rolling into the Carolinas to wage simulated war. The war games' purpose was to test troops' ability to fight with tanks and move large numbers of men and machines over 10,000 square miles. The invaders were the Red army: 100,000 troops in two armored divisions. The Blue army defended the land with 195,000 soldiers and 4,300 anti-tank guns.
Liddell Hart came close to exposing secrets of D-Day
Famous military strategist was investigated by MI5 during World War II because he appeared to have acquired one of the biggest secrets — details of the Normandy landings, 4 months before they took place. Captain Basil Liddell Hart, Britain`s leading strategist on tank warfare, shook leaders when they discovered that he even knew the names of the beaches on which Allied troops were due to land on June 6, 1944. He delivered his bombshell in the form of a report that he showed to a member of Winston Churchill`s Government. MI5 tried to find out who might have revealed the secrets of Operation Overlord to Liddell Hart, who insisted he had worked it all out for himself.
How Hitler Lost a Wager Made in Money, Guns and Blood
Adam Tooze's mammoth study "The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy" reveals the financial side of WWII. Seen in an economic light, Adolf Hitler's behavior becomes more intelligible. Nazi Germany was hampered by shortages of raw materials: crude oil, rubber, iron ore, coal, animal feed, foreign currency and even labour. In 1938, German industry consumed twice as much metal and oil as in the previous year. The Luftwaffe was key. In 1932 the aircraft-building industry employed 3,200 people; 9 years later it was 250,000. Speer kept aircraft manufacturing going, even producing hundreds of Me 262 jet fighters in the chaos of 1945.
Truth and Strategy, Part II: Port Arthur
The bulk of the attack force departed the skies over Pearl Harbor, returning to the Japanese aircraft carriers. Thus it was left to the flight leader, Commander Fuchida Mitsuo, to remain overhead the target area and make damage assessment. He was convinced that Japan had scored a signal victory due to the bravery of his pilots, and this was true for as far as it went. "Strategy," said Karl von Clausewitz, "is the use of the engagement for the purpose of the war. The strategist must therefore define an aim for the entire operational side of the war that will be in accordance with its purpose... The aim will determine the series of actions intended to achieve it."
Adolf Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union - June 1941 by John Lukacs (Article no longer available from the original source)
In June 1941 John Lukacs tackles Adolf Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, one of the genuinely decisive moments in history. The real turning point in geopolitical terms came later that year, in December, when the Wehrmacht was halted before Moscow and Hitler took the crazy step of declaring war on the US, but there can be no doubt that the invasion itself was almost certainly the most momentous event in the history of the world. Operation Barbarossa was already the most ambitious invasion ever known, yet Hitler proceeded to increase the odds against himself - He cut back on military output.
Failed strategy of Neville Chamberlain led world back to war (Article no longer available from the original source)
Neville Chamberlain, Britain's PM 1937-1940, symbolizes the failed policy of "appeasement," which more than any other policy, allowed Adolf Hitler to plunge Europe into war. Chamberlain proposed to agree to Hitler's ever-increasing territorial demands rather than stand up to him and risk war. The irony was that as Hitler gained more territory -- the Rhineland, co-opted Austria, the Czech Sudetenland and the rest of Czechoslovakia -- he became more powerful and confident that he could start, and win, a war. Appeasement was popular in Europe in the 1930s because Europeans remembered what the WWI had cost them, and they were determined not to relive it.
A battle plan that made Germany the focus of the Allied airpower (Article no longer available from the original source)
On March 6, 1942, Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold had won approval for a battle plan that made the European theater the focus of the majority of Allied airpower, with minimal airpower in the Pacific theater. 3 days later, the Army released Circular 59, War Department Reorganization. The plan streamlined the Army's resources into three major commands, defining the Army Air Forces as an autonomous command within the Army. The technology gap between "us" and "them" had never been so pronounced as during the Nazi Luftwaffe's siege of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War in 1937.
Pearl Harbor attack a strategic failure for Japan (Article no longer available from the original source)
Japan's two-year "window of opportunity" resulted in its decision to go to war in the Pacific. Japan needed resources to become the world power, and the resources in the south were too great a magnet. The only power that could oppose it was the US. So strategic plan was formed: With a massive first strike, Japan would destroy the US Navy based at Pearl Harbor. The battle plan: In late Nov 1941 sail a huge Imperial Japanese Navy fleet across the northern Pacific. When the fleet was 200 miles north of Hawaii, aircraft carrier planes would be sent out to bomb the US naval base, sinking as many of the ships as possible.
Was the Allied Bombing of Civilians in WWII a Necessity or a Crime?
Was the deliberate targeting of German cities by the Royal Air Force in the last three years of the second world war justified by the threat to Britain and its allies, and by the moral depravity of the Nazi regime? From the start, the Third Reich had unleashed terror and repression upon most European states not allied with it. And all this came before the tally of the Holocaust - little was known about it or admitted until the end of the war, so it cannot stand as an a priori justification for the bombing strategy.
Hitler Didn`t Want to Take Leningrad in Eastern Front
Hitler did not want to capture besieged Leningrad during World War II, but intended to starve its citizens to death, a new book by a German historian says. Released in Germany this summer, the book `Das Belagerte Leningrad` by JÚrg Ganzenmßller challenges the Soviet view of the Siege of Leningrad that the city was not taken because of heroic resistance by citizens and the Red Army. That view still dominates in Russia today.
(St. Petersburg Times)
With war so widely expected, why was US so ill-prepared?
With war so widely expected, why was US so woefully ill-prepared? Rumours that began in the war are still hanging around, well past their sell-by date, fuelled by revisionist historians and conspiracy cranks. They claim Roosevelt was itching for war with Japan but was constrained by US neutrality, so needed a solid reason to fight. Hence they accuse him of suppressing prior knowledge of the attack, or of provoking it to enable America to enter the war by the back door. Some even say that the attack on Pearl Harbor was deliberately engineered by a crypto-communist president guilty of high treason.
Kursk: The German View - German strategy and operations
Summer of 1943 saw the battle of Kursk, which involved 6000 German and Soviet armored vehicles, making it the biggest tank battle of all time. Students of military history have long recognized the importance of Kursk, and there have been studies of the battle. Yet, the German view of the battle has been ignored. After the war, U.S. Army gathered German commanders' reports of the battle. Due to poor translations done after the war, these documents have been overlooked by WWII historians. Steven H. Newton has translated and edited these accounts, including reports by Fourth Panzer Army. As a result, a new picture of German strategy and operations is made available.