What Role Did Military Intelligence Play in World War Ii?

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What role did military intelligence play in World War II?

What role did military intelligence play in World War II?

Joseph Reeder

It is undeniable the principal role, military intelligence occupied in both the successes and failures of the main events that transpired in World War II, ranging from the breaking of the enigma code at Bletchley Park, to the D Day landings that arguably determined the outcome of the whole war. Military intelligence in the war encompasses not only spies and counterintelligence but also radar, signal, weather and mapping intelligence. Having preemptive knowledge via military intelligence, enabled both the Axis and Allies to preplan their attacks with maximum efficiency; reducing casualties and achieving the necessary objectives tactically, operationally and strategically. Basically military intelligence paved the way for victory on the battlefield. The functionary position played within this specific tasking also revealed an increased sense of danger when venturing behind enemy lines to collect vital information. Knowing the terrain was essential when it comes to attacks from air, land and sea. Sun Tzu in his ‘Art of War' emphasizes this critical point by revealing how the combatants who know the area and employ scouts effectively will have more success via greater mobility and awareness of what lies in their wake; "one who does not know the topography of mountains and forests, ravines and defiles, wetlands and marshes cannot maneuver the army. One who does not employ local guides will not secure advantages of terrain". The landscape can not only be used against the enemy with positioning increasing efficiency of weapons, it can also be utilized for cover, avoiding traps and ensuring paratroops will land on safe ground, as was the case on D day. However it is true what Clausewitz relays in ‘On War', that terrain would "be of no influence at all on an engagement fought over a flat, uncultivated plain", yet he also discerns that "Among civilized nations combat uninfluenced by its surroundings and the nature of the ground is hardly conceivable". The latter defined the nature of WWII with its multiplicities of conflicts between the civilized societies of the world. Military disasters occur consistently if a side is unprepared for an attack either offensively or defensively; Pearl Harbour was a prime example of this and will be discussed later. If an army cannot assemble in time to produce a counterattack then the battle is already over even if the antagonist is technologically weaker. The weapons systems become nullified as disorganization among the ranks creates chaos leading to an inevitable loss. Spies, double agents, and resistance groups engaged in the purpose of cutting off enemy supply lines and breaking communication, played one of the most decisive roles within military intelligence throughout the war. The former spread confusion and deception amongst the ranks of the command systems not only counteracting sabotage and subversion but also collecting military information that had a critical impact on the war, such as the enigma machine and corresponding codes. Espionage and counterespionage was at the pinnacle of finesse in the turmoil of chaos that exuded from war, yet entailed an unhinged risk for the participants and informants. Military intelligence wasn't just confined within certain regions; it was spread out between many powers such as Russia, Germany, the US, Japan and the United Kingdom to name a few. The latter's intelligence prowess was questionable as Hughes Wilson emphatically states; "the Enigma story was not a triumph of British skill and intellect: the Poles broke Enigma and the French gave it to the British". However, it is undeniable that the British provided the means and technology for the code to be broken with the establishment of the Bletchley Park as the breeding ground for advanced military code breaking and intelligence. Continuing along this theme...
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