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Posted on Oct 31, 2013 in Armchair Reading

January 2014 Web Mailbag

By Armchair General

Dear Editor,

I am writing to you having just received the current issue of ACG [November 2013] with its cover story about Hitler.

In my book, Admiring the Goose-steps: How Hitler Succeeded in Intimidating the World Powers (Hamilton Books, 2007), I described how Hitler rebuilt the German Army and took command of it. The article by Nick Shepley included important explanations of how Hitler commanded his armies into an unprecedented military defeat. I would like to share some additional trivia that further illuminates this often-debated subject. I hope you will consider putting this my supplemental information in ACG and/or on the website.

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Congratulations on Armchair General. I take great pleasure in reading each issue!

Sincerely,

Ion Grumeza

Ten facts that supplement “Hilter Takes Command” by Nick Shepley

  1. In spite of his actions in the trenches of WWI that brought him two Iron Crosses, Hitler was denied the next rank “for lack of leadership qualities,” as his superior, a Jewish lieutenant, put it. Years later, when he was Fuhrer, Hitler was still accorded little respect from military commanders, who didn’t hesitate to treat him with a superior attitude even after they had made their oath of allegiance directly to him. His generals considered him to be not only an outsider (also he was Austrian), but also an ascetic corporal who refused to enjoy a good cigar or a glass of tasty wine. While he did have a few “yes-generals,” armchair commanders like Jodl and Keitel, Hitler continually faced the opposition of the “vons,” the Prussian generals, who had a low opinion of Hitler as a competent commander-in-chief and felt that he could have used even one year in a military academy in order to understand strategic and tactical concepts for large scale operations. Indeed, Hitler based his orders on intuition and his belief in his lucky star as he sent his legions to fight in all cardinal points, from the Northern Sea to the Sahara Desert.
  2. Hitler’s mistrust of his generals went so far that “to change a sentry on Russian front needed approval from Berlin.”
  3. During his many purges Stalin reduced the Soviet military leadership by half, but renewed it with reliable commanders. Distrusting his generals, Hitler tried to do the same. He was renowned for his quick promotions that produced officers obedient to him alone — but their fanatically-devoted actions did more harm than good to their troops.
  4. To Hitler, the war was too important to be left to his generals. Indeed, in spite of all their protests and gloomy predictions, Hitler proudly pointed to the initial blitzkrieg of 1939-1941 that had stunned the world and demonstrated to his generals who was entitled to be in charge of the war and ensure a final victory: the Fuhrer.
  5. It is well known how Hitler achieved power relying on the “triumph of the will” over the German people. He tried the same ambitious Fuhrerprinzip with the soldiers on the front line, and it worked up to a point. But when they were outnumbered and outgunned, or freezing to death, his fighters died without serving any purpose.
  6. By ordering his troops to hold the conquered land “to the last bullet and last man,” Hitler refused to approve orderly retreats with minimum casualties that would have exhausted the enemy and allowed the Germans to carry out victorious attacks.
  7. Two mammoth military mistakes were at the root of Hitler’s hellish defeat: a) letting almost 450,000 defenseless allied soldiers evacuate from France to England in 1940, and b) not conquering Moscow in the first months of the war. He still believed that the British would join in his crusade against Soviet Russia, as he was convinced that Stalin was already defeated.
  8. But Hitler’s worse decision was to believe that the many nations allied to Germany and forced to fight in his war could be reliable partners with military capabilities. One by one, the allies-of-convenience abandoned the Nazi camp and joined the Soviets in their offensive toward Berlin.
  9. By choosing Berlin as his base, even though it was situated in the middle of tank-friendly open terrain with no obstacles, Hitler could not stop some 40,000 Soviet tanks and heavy cannons from invading Germany. Thus, Hitler sealed his personal end and the end of his lost war.
  10. Despite the lack of respect from his generals and his own lack of military expertise, Hitler managed to be a strong Fuhrer and the Wehrmacht supreme leader throughout the six-year war. His Third Reich collapsed not from internal revolution, like all previous empires, nor because its soldiers refused to fight, as often was the case in history. Hitler’s war machine was crushed by superior allies’ manpower, outgunned at all levels and left without sources of food, weapons, and ammunition, while German cities and civilians were the target of savage non-stop carpet bombing. Hitler could not control that, nor could his generals.

4 Comments

  1. Hello, I’m an avid reader of the magazine and have been reading it for years. Since I’ve come to college, though, I’ve started to analyze things more for accuracy, and I noticed that the painting on page 43 is clearly from the Civil War, as evidenced by the Confederate Stars and Bars over both forts in contrast to the Stars and Stripes on the warships. At a guess, I’d say it portrays the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, which led to the capture of New Orleans. So, correct area, wrong war. I don’t mean to come across as condescending, I just thought I’d point that out.

  2. Reference your article concerning Admiral Halsey.

    I would like to know what assignments he had after World War II.

    • Thanks very much for your email regarding Admiral William F. Halsey’s post-WWII assignments. Here are the high points:
       
      –After the surrender of Japan, Sept 2, 1945, Halsey led 3d Fleet back to the states.
      –Promoted to Fleet Admiral (5-star rank) Dec. 11, 1945
      –Led a goodwill tour via plane through Central and South America before he retired from the Navy in March 1947 (although as a Fleet Admiral, he was technically on ‘active duty’ until his death)
      –Served on the board of ITT company until 1957 (died 1959)
       
      Thanks for reading Armchair General!
       
      –Jerry Morelock
      Editor in Chief, Armchair General Magazine

  3. Dear Editor,

    Having always subscribed to the belief that the Treaty of Versailles was not hard enough on the Central Powers at the conclusion of World War I, it was refreshing to see an article that shared my views (ACG – “Failed Peace” – Nov 2013).

    The “Failed Peace”, and the ultimate rise to power of the Nazis, was the Allies failure to enforce the Treaty of Versailles. The Allies were quick to hand out loans to finance reparations, however they never held Germany fully accountable. “The Allies gravest failure in the Versailles Treaty was allowing Germany to voluntarily comply with the provisions.”

    My only critique is Dr. Morelock’s assertion that War Reparations of 132 billion Marks was “intentionally misleading” and that the Allies “never intended Germany to pay that amount”. I’d be curious to know what evidence supports that claim? If the arrival at 132 billion Marks was based on Germany’s “ability to pay”, what is the need to mislead? It is my opinion that the Allies intended Germany to pay 132 billion Marks, but the overarching theme of the Allies failure to enforce the Treaty resulted in Germany never doing so.

    Thanks for the great article. I look forward to every issue!

    Sincerely,
    Theodore Barkley

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