Could the Germans have won WW2?

Chef

LE
Churchill was a master of the propaganda war
If he's announced to the public in 1943, 'Things are a bit tough in the North Atlantic but no worries, we're licking them', the public would not have knuckled down to working harder and economising more.
Winston in 1943 had his eye on the main prize, maximising the build up for May 1944 when we took the war back to Europe.

The problem with this U boats scenario is it requires a couple of Back to the Futures

The Germans invent out of the blue Wolfpack tactics in 1939

It assumes losses are directly scalable - double the U boats = double the convoy losses.
As was shown, more U boats came to equal more U boats in a given area and easier to find and sink as the Germans insisted on keeping in radio contact with them.


The largest convoy battle of WWII was SC122/HX229 in March 1943

90 ships and 16 escorts vs 38 U boats
22 ships lost vs 1 U boat


Total allied merchant ship losses for March 1943, all areas, was 120 ships

The Americans alone delivered 1,800 merchant ships in 1943

And by May 1943, we were winning… 43 U boats (25% of the U Boat arm) sunk in the Atlantic for just 34 ships (58 all areas)
Pack tactics were first used in 1940 so no back to the future required for that one

From Wiki but illuminating nonetheless:

Pack tactics were first used successfully in September and October 1940 to devastating effect, in a series of convoy battles. On September 21, convoy HX 72 of 42 merchantmen was attacked by a pack of four U-boats, which sank eleven ships and damaged two over the course of two nights. In October, the slow convoy SC 7, with an escort of two sloops and two corvettes, was overwhelmed, losing 59% of its ships. The battle for HX 79 in the following days was in many ways worse for the escorts than for SC 7. The loss of a quarter of the convoy without any loss to the U-boats, despite very strong escort (two destroyers, four corvettes, three trawlers, and a minesweeper) demonstrated the effectiveness of the German tactics against the inadequate British anti-submarine methods. On 1 December, seven German and three Italian submarines caught HX 90, sinking 10 ships and damaging three others. The success of pack tactics against these convoys encouraged Admiral Dönitz to adopt the wolf pack as his primary tactic.

So at this stage of the war, Battle of Britain just ending, the US over a year away and the invasion of Russia some months in the future the war at sea is quite important politically as well as logistically.

The point I'm trying to make is that with six times the number of subs available as Donitz wanted the results in the first year or so of the war could have been quite different.

The convoy system was in its infancy, technical means likewise. Captain Johnny Walker is also a year away.

As I've said it doesn't require any back to the future stuff. The nearest I can liken it to is the German blitzkrieg tactics, which was counteracted eventually. We had the advantage of an island to lick our wounds on and the desert war for practical experience.

The Germans started out well but all their innovations were neutralised. I suspect the same would have happened even if they'd started with 300 rather than 56 boats. What the political effects would have been is unknowable how would higher losses have effected US public opinion? Would there be a knock on effect with the arctic convoys?

All interesting stuff but the bottom line is the allies won and I think would win in any and all circumstances.

It is just how long it would take.
 
Yes, I would say they could. Just as well as the Japanese.
Yes the Japanese had the same brainless fanatism like the Germans and it cost them dearly too.
 
The point I'm trying to make is that with six times the number of subs available as Donitz wanted the results in the first year or so of the war could have been quite different.

The Germans started out well but all their innovations were neutralised. I suspect the same would have happened even if they'd started with 300 rather than 56 boats. What the political effects would have been is unknowable how would higher losses have effected US public opinion? Would there be a knock on effect with the arctic convoys?

All interesting stuff but the bottom line is the allies won and I think would win in any and all circumstances.

It is just how long it would take.
How much effect would the additional 300 convoy escorts have had on U Boat operations.
Its implausible that as U Boat numbers increased that British rearmament would not be directed against this.

Hitler was probably right when it came to France and UK - taking the time to rearm Germany (As Doenitz and others wanted) benefited UK France** more as they were behind the curve the longer he waited the more they could close the gap and indeed surpass German programmes

**Both had left their forces in a state of decline until 38ish

edit to add the crucial "not"
 
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Stalin would probably have attacked Hitler somewhere anyway and the Soviets were probably the only nation which could’ve defeated Hitler on their own.
Only if they didn't have the Germans undivided attention, otherwise I think not. As it was they took horrendous casualties even with the Germans occupied on two other fronts, France and Germany itself. The air war tied up more resources than is commonly supposed. What difference would an extra couple of thousand 88's and the men to man them have made at Kursk for example?
 
Pack tactics were first used in 1940 so no back to the future required for that one

From Wiki but illuminating nonetheless:

Pack tactics were first used successfully in September and October 1940 to devastating effect, in a series of convoy battles. On September 21, convoy HX 72 of 42 merchantmen was attacked by a pack of four U-boats, which sank eleven ships and damaged two over the course of two nights. In October, the slow convoy SC 7, with an escort of two sloops and two corvettes, was overwhelmed, losing 59% of its ships. The battle for HX 79 in the following days was in many ways worse for the escorts than for SC 7. The loss of a quarter of the convoy without any loss to the U-boats, despite very strong escort (two destroyers, four corvettes, three trawlers, and a minesweeper) demonstrated the effectiveness of the German tactics against the inadequate British anti-submarine methods. On 1 December, seven German and three Italian submarines caught HX 90, sinking 10 ships and damaging three others. The success of pack tactics against these convoys encouraged Admiral Dönitz to adopt the wolf pack as his primary tactic.

So at this stage of the war, Battle of Britain just ending, the US over a year away and the invasion of Russia some months in the future the war at sea is quite important politically as well as logistically.

The point I'm trying to make is that with six times the number of subs available as Donitz wanted the results in the first year or so of the war could have been quite different.

The convoy system was in its infancy, technical means likewise. Captain Johnny Walker is also a year away.

As I've said it doesn't require any back to the future stuff. The nearest I can liken it to is the German blitzkrieg tactics, which was counteracted eventually. We had the advantage of an island to lick our wounds on and the desert war for practical experience.

The Germans started out well but all their innovations were neutralised. I suspect the same would have happened even if they'd started with 300 rather than 56 boats. What the political effects would have been is unknowable how would higher losses have effected US public opinion? Would there be a knock on effect with the arctic convoys?

All interesting stuff but the bottom line is the allies won and I think would win in any and all circumstances.

It is just how long it would take.
early in the war we used Ultra to avoid U boats.
later, we used Ultra to actively engage them and defeat them.

we must never loose sight of the fact, that while the Germans were wasting their efforts sinking often empty merchant ships in the slow convoys on the North Atlantic, we were moving millions of men and their materiel around the globe relatively unmolested In fast convoys , and Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Fray Bentos we’re making its way to the UK unmolested in independently travelling ships.

we must also consider that U Boats were not true submarines, They were submersibles that underwater could barely make a few knots for a few hours. If you're speed of advance was over 12kts, a u boat got just one pop if it was in the right place at the right time even on the surface.
in 1939, the cutting edge of U boats was the a Type VII, which was a bit rubbish. The Type IX showed up later.

but even let’s say the U boats are causing mayhem in the North Atlantic....
the RAFs efforts to contain the u boats was minimal.
if they had become an existential threat. Harris would have been ordered to throw the full might of bomber Command at the problem, or sacked if he didn’t. round the clock bombing and mining of u boat bases would have been on the cards.
and later in the war when Harris did get ordered to get his finger out, mining of the Baltic made training a nightmare for the Kriegesmarine.

the Germans campaign in the North Atlantic was utterly clueless.. they fixated on tonnage and their Aces scores in a war of attrition they couldn’t win.
 
Only if they didn't have the Germans undivided attention, otherwise I think not. As it was they took horrendous casualties even with the Germans occupied on two other fronts, France and Germany itself. The air war tied up more resources than is commonly supposed. What difference would an extra couple of thousand 88's and the men to man them have made at Kursk for example?
What difference would the men and associated material have made had it not been used to attack Tunisia
 

Chef

LE
How much effect would the additional 300 convoy escorts have had on U Boat operations.
Its implausible that as U Boat numbers increased that British rearmament would be directed against this.

Hitler was probably right when it came to France and UK - taking the time to rearm Germany (As Doenitz and others wanted) benefited UK France** more as they were behind the curve the longer he waited the more they could close the gap and indeed surpass German programmes

**Both had left their forces in a state of decline until 38ish
During the inter war years submarine warfare and countermeasures were not career enhancers. I also think the Navy was more focused on shiny battleships and a little bit on naval aviation.

With hindsight more carriers would have been a good idea (and good aircraft to go on them, Blackburn Skua? Pah!) but a choice was made for surface vessels by both the British and German navies.

The 'Flower' class corvettes were ordered and being built from 1939 onwards, I doubt many extra ones could have been produced without cutbacks elsewhere.

I agree that waiting for another year may have been worse for the Germans but by the same token might the other Europeans have taken it as a sign that Hitler had backed down and scaled back preparations accordingly?

I'm sure the dead hand of the treasury was as helpful in the 30s as it is now:(
 
But wouldn’t you think the SS were the fanatics and the Wehrmacht the more professional grounded service ?
We have to remember that Germany back then was a totalitarian state.The Nazis were really good in using the carrot and stick method. If you followed and obeyed you were golden if you resisted, well good luck with that. After the "Machtübernahme" one of the first things the Nazis did was to secure the support of the Reichswehr, he first did that with simple promises like increasing the strength of the Reichswehr and giving Germany back it's honour and might.
Later, detractors like Fritsch and Blomberg were wrongly accused and forced to resign. Rivals in the party like Röhm were killed.
The other thing they started at once was indoctrination to convert the Wehrmacht to the Nazis idological views. After they started the war, many of the older officers hat conflicting sentiments about the Nazis and their duty to Germany. After "Barbarossa" had begun and the atrocities and crimes cumulated they installed the so called Nationalsozialistischer Führungsoffizier in principle the same as the Politruk in the Red Army. You can imagine that officers did much to fanatisise the soldiers, so after 1941 the Wehrmacht got more political and ideological.

The Nazis were real masters in taking a country, its people and institutions and making them into criminals and murderers.
 
"This study was prepared for the Historical Division, EUCOM, by a group of former German generals and general staff officers."

Hardly going to come to the conclusion that the Germans were weak in defence, I reckon.
Why should EUCOM accept a sugarcoated study? Or why took it after the war in 1943 was definitely lost so long to conquer Germany?
 
Fighting in the forests was all about the environment. Everything was obscured, the trees were not conducive to letting anything dry - meaning that the ground was a sea of mud - blah, blah, blah, but the worst thing of all was that the forest cover was being shattered to produce secondary projectiles on the troops below, as well as diverting the shrapnel from air-bursts downward. Everything to do with the environment.

Movement on decent roads can create killing zones for the opposition if there is no friendly air cover - when the area around the border between Holland / Belgium and Germany was being fought over, the Allies had all the first class ground attack aircraft they needed. Yet another reason why the US should have circled the Hurtgen Forest, which is very hilly to the point of being mountainous, in the first place.

Edited to add: beat me to it LJ!
Fighting in the forests was about how well both you and your opponent fought in the forest. Every environment has its specific hazards and means of mitigating them (including dealing with exploding trees). In this case, the Germans had a thorough knowledge of the Hurtgen and had pretty well pre-registered everything. The Americans were, at the beginning, not prepared for forest fighting at all.

Here's a Wiki quote from their article on Gen Cota's part in the HG offensive:

The northern and southern thrusts achieved little. The center regiment, the 112th Infantry, captured two villages and a town, but was eventually driven back by German counterattacks. In an article written for the U.S. Army Combined Center, Lieutenant Colonel (ret) Thomas Bradbeer identified "three crucial mistakes" that Cota made. First, neither he nor his staff ordered reconnaissance patrols. Second, he selected, sight unseen, an extremely narrow trail as the division's main supply route. Finally, he chose not to employ the extra armor units he was given in support of his infantry, believing the terrain and road system to be unsuitable for their use, whereas much of the forest was in fact accessible. Instead, the tanks were used as supplementary artillery. Furthermore, Lieutenant General Bradley criticized Cota for remaining in his command post, visiting the front only once late in the fighting, by which time he had already lost control of the situation.
Now, I'm guessing at least some of this is armchair, hindsight-driven generalling with an element of backside covering, but there are probably some underlying truths in here (I don't doubt Cota's personal bravery or integrity; his actions at Omaha do, however, show what a difference it can make when the command staff know what's going on close up and personal). I've highlighted the bit about tank accessibility as an example of both not having sufficient information and tactical knowledge to fight this battle well, and of looking at events with post facto information.

In different circumstances, the forest can be your friend. The Germans used the Ardennes to their advantage during 1940 and 1944, even though they were lucky in 1940 that the French didn't have an in-place Plan B for the Ardennes (where they knew was a potential risk but, you know, forests, narrow roads and all that, plus poor comms to HQ (where have I heard that before?) ...). I suspect that a better prepared and supported US offensive through the Hurtgen would have taken far less casualties. Whether the Hurtgen was the best option is another matter entirely.

And one aspect of the Ardenne and Hurtgen was that air support was constrained by the bad flying weather, thus limiting the usefulness of air assets (even for supply dropping, and making CAS hazardous for everybody).
 
Whilst the Sherman was mass produced as an infantry support tank, I wouldn’t feel thrilled to fight German Armour in it come 1944 and beyond.

I would have preferred to be in the Tank Destroyer Corps if that was an option. The M18 Hellcat would have been my ride of choice. But Field Artillery would be even better! Being an infantryman would just suck.

The Germans had Gucci kit, but not enough of it.
Actually, the Sherman with the US 76mm and appropriate ammo was, imho, a cracking all rounder. Decent armour and mobility, reliable as yer like, and the HVAP could make the oppo suck their teeth.
 
Only if they didn't have the Germans undivided attention, otherwise I think not. As it was they took horrendous casualties even with the Germans occupied on two other fronts, France and Germany itself. The air war tied up more resources than is commonly supposed. What difference would an extra couple of thousand 88's and the men to man them have made at Kursk for example?
the Russians had planning in place for an attack West in 1941. The Germans simply got their punch in first.
Zukhov has been banging the table from March 1941 demanding a preemptive Russian attack.
indeed, the rather strange far too forward Disposition of Soviet forces in June 1941 are more consistent with an army adopting an offensive posture rather than a defensive one.
some sources suggest the Russians planned to attack @ 12 July.
 
Why should EUCOM accept a sugarcoated study?
Because the only other primary sources on German defence against Soviet attack were out of reach behind the Iron Curtain.

Or why took it after the war in 1943 was definitely lost so long to conquer Germany?
A wide range of issues, ranging from political disagreements between the allies, build-up and training of the required forces, logistics constraints from fighting on two (later three) fronts and through terrain mostly favouring the defence.

German forces at tactical level were very adept, no question about it, but that doesn't mean they were able to step outside the basic laws of nature.
 
the Russians had planning in place for an attack West in 1941. The Germans simply got their punch in first.
Zukhov has been banging the table from March 1941 demanding a preemptive Russian attack.
indeed, the rather strange far too forward Disposition of Soviet forces in June 1941 are more consistent with an army adopting an offensive posture rather than a defensive one.
some sources suggest the Russians planned to attack @ 12 July.
I have read the same, trouble is hubris. The Russians have always had manpower but being in Command was a death sentence for far too many competent regimental Officers for the red Army to have been effective enough at that time.
German overstretch has put too high a gloss on the Red Army.
 

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