Biggest Strategic Mistakes of World War II

Discussion in 'History' started by GatorDude, Jun 27, 2014.

  1. GatorDude

    GatorDude New Member

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    What would you guys consider the biggest strategic mistakes of World War 2?

    Here are 4 that I think are key:
    1. Germany's Invasion of Russia
    2. Germany's Declaration of War on U.S.
    3. Japanese Pearl Harbor Attack
    4. Germany's Failure to Eliminate the RAF

    Here's why:
    The Four Biggest Strategic Mistakes of World War 2

    What do you guys think? Are there some other big blunders that come to mind? Any Allied strategic blunders of note?
     
  2. Yunus

    Yunus New Member

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    I think Germany invading Russia was hands down the biggest mistake. Hitler got cocky.

    I'm not sure the Japanese Pearl Harbor attack was a strategic mistake. We would have starved Japan of the needed industrial resources such as steel in the long term. The US could afford to play the long game while Japan couldn't so they basically risked everything on the hope that a surprise attack would weaken us enough to make us ineffective on the water or crush our will to fight.

    It could be argued that a huge strategic mistake on the part of the Allies was the US not joining in sooner. We could have prevented a lot of suffering if we were involved sooner.
     

  3. TheDesertFox

    TheDesertFox New Member

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    Yep. Definitely Germany's invasion of Russia. The Wehrmacht wasn't supplied with winter clothes, the Russians had huge numbers of troops, Hitler's decision to drive towards Stalingrad and not focusing on Moscow, equipment that wasn't suited to a sub zero temps, the list goes on and on....
     
  4. eatmydust

    eatmydust New Member

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    Germany's invasion of Russia and Hitler's unwillingness to commit any resources to long-range bombers. Thank God!
     
  5. kryptar19

    kryptar19 New Member

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    Hands down the invasion of Russia. If Hitler had not invaded Russia, I doubt that the allies would have ever gained access to main-land Europe.
     
  6. Mercator

    Mercator Active Member

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    To several posters above: it was not that simple. Germany an the USSR were de facto allies and co-conspirators in starting WW2. Hitler, however, did not trust Stalin, for a good reason. Stalin could strike Germany in the back when the time was right for him. Hitler hit him first when Stalin didn't expect it.

    Waiting for the Soviet Union to complete its massive rearmament program, and for the Red Army to recover from the near-catastrophe of Stalin's purges, was seen by Germany as a gamble it could not afford.
     
  7. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member

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    At Pearl Harbor- 1. NOT getting the carriers. 2. NOT getting the fuel stores

    Germany- allowing the British to evacuate troops at Dunkirk.

    US- Invasion of Italy- NOT pushing the advance immediately. They waited, the Germans showed up.
     
  8. Mercator

    Mercator Active Member

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    By most historians, there was no strategic decision to allow the Dunkirk bailout. There was the decision to halt the panzer advance. The reasons are debated to this day. One prosaic explanation is that Goering pledged to Hitler to let him finish off the Expeditionary force from the air. He failed.
     
  9. Vincine

    Vincine New Member

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    This^^. The 1st of Uncle Joe's five year plans was infrastructure, the 2nd five year plan was manufacturing technology, facilities & capabilities, the 3rd would've been armament production, among other things.
     
  10. JTJ

    JTJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Still a tactical blunder. He had nukes in development along with fast long range bombers. By committing his forces while unprepared for conditions and without the necessary support he made it impossible to take Russia. If he had consolidated Europe and built his advanced weapons, he would have had the upper hand in Russia. Russia was on a series of 5 year plans which would have given him the necessary time to build.
    Hitlers biggest blunder was relying on his cronies instead of the excellent military leaders he had.
     
  11. JTJ

    JTJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The attack on Pearl Harbor was a gamble that the USA would negotiate and give up Pacific Territory. Yamamoto predicted that the attack would awaken a sleeping giant and Japan would suffer. Japan simply did not have the resources to maintain a war of the size and magnitude of WWII. For Japan the whole purpose of the war was to gain territory and resources.
     
  12. Mercator

    Mercator Active Member

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    It is a blunder only in hindsight, and only because it failed. The alternative course never took place, thus can be debated forever. But was a good chance of failure for the Nazis by not attacking Russia first.

    Hitler was well prepared to take Russia. He almost did. People today don't realize that much of the population welcomed the Germans, initially. The Nazi brutality changed that quickly. Still, he would probably have succeeded, if not for the massive American war aid to Russia.

    When Hitler invaded the USSR, the US was not in the war. It was neutral officially, with the Nazi embassy in Washington. In June 1941 Hitler (or his generals) did not foresee Pearl Harbor before the end of the year, nobody did. The Japanese did not coordinate the December 7 attack with Hitler. Nonetheless, Germany was obligated to defend Japan by their treaty.

    The chain of events in 1941 is remarkable for getting out of anyone's personal control. In a matter of speaking, the Japanese did Stalin a big favor by dragging the US into the war.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2014
  13. GatorDude

    GatorDude New Member

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    I've often thought we let Britain go it alone for a tad too long. But, if the voters aren't ready, they aren't ready.
     
  14. Chainfire

    Chainfire Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The biggest mistake of WWII was the peace treaty of WWI which left Germany in such a desperate condition that the Germans were willing to accept a mad-man as their leader to improve their lot.

    The second biggest mistake was, at the end of the war, to allow the French and British to draw random lines through the Middle East and call the resulting puzzle "nations." (we will be paying for that error for the next century)
     
  15. kbd512

    kbd512 Well-Known Member Lifetime Supporter

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    Well, I'm not sure your strategic mistakes list is the same as mine, but I'll address them and then tell you what I think the biggest strategic mistakes were.

    If Hitler had properly prepared for the Russian winter and the Germans had bypassed Volgograd, they would have made it all the way to Moscow. Target fixation and engaging in protrated urban warfare ultimately doomed their efforts. Hitler also never had bombers capable of reaching targets on the other side of the Urals while carrying a useful load.

    Hindsight's always 20/20, but the US was woefully unprepared for WWII and that's the way it looked to Hitler and Hirohito. They were either not cognizant of America's manufacturing capability or willfully ignorant (stupid).

    The only mistake Japan made with the Pacific Fleet was not taking Hawaii and not sinking our aircraft carriers.

    The RAF fighters were not a significant problem for the Germans, but the RAF bombers were.

    The real mistakes of WWII preceded WWII and if they were not made, winning the war would have been a very different prospect for the allies.

    Hitler's biggest mistakes:

    1. Persecution of the Jews

    Prior to Hitler's stupid racially prejudiced policies, the Jews considered themselves good and loyal German citizens and would have helped the Nazi party in ways Hitler could not begin to imagine.

    The Jews would have built the bomb for Hitler and his scientists were smarter than ours and a decade or more ahead of America in aerospace design and weapons design.

    If Hitler had not persecuted, imprisoned, and/or murdered so many different people in the conquered countries, they would have gladly worked day and night for him for three hots and a cot.

    2. Failure to recognize the importance of aerial dominance in modern warfare

    Hitler grossly underestimated the importance of jet aircraft technology and technology to inhibit or prevent large scale aerial bombardment, such as surface to air missiles and fighter aircraft capable of efficiently dispatching enemy bombers.

    Yes, Germany was ultimately taken by invasion by the Allied and Red armies, but in order for us to get to that point, Germany had to be reduced to rubble from aerial bombardment first. If Hitler had jet-powered fighters at or near the outset of the war with Britain, allied aerial bombardment without fighter protection would have been an ineffective strategy. Even with the fighter technology that Germany did have, allied losses to conduct aerial bombardment were staggering.

    Hitler also did not have anything approaching strategic bombing capability, a mistake that permitted the Russians to tap the vast resources of the Russian interior while Germans labored away in cottage industry to make or cobble together the materiel needed to fight that campaign. If the factories and supply lines that Russia had moved to the interior of their country had suffered the same kind of bombardment that Germany did from the allies, there's not much chance that Russia would have been able to move sufficient supplies to continue fighting in an effective manner. Even so, Russian losses were horrendous.

    3. Not letting the German generals run the war

    Hitler, as the leader of his country, could have picked targets, set performance expectations, and fired individuals who were not performing in a satisfactory manner, but he had some truly gifted generals and if they had been permitted to do what they did best, the allies would have had a hell of a time countering the ingenuity of their officer corps.

    Hirohito's Biggest Mistakes

    1. For a small island nation with limited resources, to attack a country that spans the better part of a continent and has a sizable portion of the world's population, the attack on China was inexplicable.

    2. The transportation infrastructure of Japan required much greater development for fighting a protracted war. The machinery to move men and supplies for fighting was, quite simply, insufficient. The steel that built the massive Yamato and Musashi would have been put to far better use building transport ships, submarines, and perhaps an aircraft carrier or two.

    The Japanese have some truly superb engineers, but their designs sometimes have intricate and superfluous features that do not materially improve the design in question.

    For example, their military lacked simple things like a belt fed machine gun and effective tanks, but they managed to find time to put cooling fins on quick change barrels, optics, and even a bayonet for their machine guns. While the optics may have had some limited utility, the time and expense of manufacturing things like that would have been better expended on better basic weapons designs. The caliber change in the middle of the war was rather inexplicable, but that's indicative of the types of things that ultimately wasted war materiel and engineering effort on projects and machinery that ultimately were of little military utility.

    3. The failure to complete destruction of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor was by far the biggest mistake that Japan made during the course of the war. If Japan managed to wipe out all of America's forward deployed naval assets and destroy all targets of military value in Hawaii, the US would have been delayed for a critical year that Japan would need to develop more effective naval aviation assets and war materiel necessary for a protracted war with America.

    I believe the results would have been the same, but it would have taken much longer for America to have the affect it had with naval aviation and amphibious assaults on the islands taken by Japan during the course of the war. In other words, it would have been an even longer and bloodier war than it was.

    If desired, I can detail the various strategic mistakes America made during the war in a separate post, but I think this adequately demonstrates the major military reasons why Germany and Japan lost.
     
  16. Mercator

    Mercator Active Member

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    kbd, it looks like Hitler's biggest mistake was being a Nazi :)
    In seriousness, good points.
    The RAF fighters did defeat the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. They were a critical problem for the German pplans.
     
  17. DrFootball

    DrFootball disappointed & disgusted, But DETERMINED... Lifetime Supporter

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    This was part of my core class when I Taught ROTC. Also to a lesser Degree. Ike's mis-use of the 2nd & 5th Rangers on D-Day,...the 5th was lucky to find the German Guns anyway. On the Plus side, MacArthur and Kruger's use of Henry Mucci's 6th rangers and the Alamo Scouts was Spot on. At least one TV Host, Ex SF Medic Terry Schappert agrees...
    As Far as " the little Corporal" is concerned, attacking The Soviets was mistake 1-100! Did he think Stalin was just going to Keep Zuchove sitting on his hands?? Russia Still has More Tanks today then every other country on Earth, that's why we're afraid to pull out of Europe..,


    Sent from my iPhone using Firearms Talkh
     
  18. kbd512

    kbd512 Well-Known Member Lifetime Supporter

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    Merc,

    True, Britain staved off the worst of it and any invasion attempt, but given their losses I'd hardly call it a win. Britain was still functional as a military power because of the massive infusion of supplies that America provided. If not, they would have been DIW.

    Raeder was rightfully afraid of the Royal Navy and Britain managed not to incur many heavy naval losses up to that point, but the aviation losses were unsustainable for the island nation.

    An amphibious assault would have been an even more costly mistake for Germany and it's a darn good thing there was no attempted landings. If they'd wiped out the British troops at Dunkirk, and not doing so was another stupid mistake on Hitler's part, it would have helped that situation but the results would have been the same.

    That said, what do you think inflicted heavier losses on Germany, losing some aircraft or having the aircraft factories, munitions factories, and ball bearing factories reduced to rubble from day and night aerial bombardment?
     
  19. Mercator

    Mercator Active Member

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    One made the other possible. Two different campaigns, different objectives.

    The RAF was not the underdog many people believe it was. True, it was strained to the limit, but it inflicted such massive casualties on the Luftwaffe that Hitler called off. The loss of trained skilled pilots was more sensitive than loss of aircraft.

    During the Battle of Britain there was a strong opposition within the American government to siding with the UK. (Not to mention America First, the ancestor of today's isolationist "patriots") The British received some support from us, including volunteer pilots. By and large, England stood alone. Comparing battles with multiple "what if's" is rarely productive, I would rather stick to the facts we know.
     
  20. Tackleberry1

    Tackleberry1 New Member

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    The biggest mistake was Hitler Himself and his inability to listen to the professional soldiers serving him.

    He was a Private in WWI, became a convict, wrote a book, got elected, became a dictator... And mistakenly thought those qualifications made him capable of managing tactical decisions.