Why was Germany unable to translate tactical and operational victories into strategic success during World War II? Cite evidence from H200 to support your answer.
MAJ James E. Curlee Jr.
Staff Group 13D
Why was Germany unable to translate tactical and operational victories into strategic success during World War II? More pointedly and stated simpler, why did Germany loose World War II? Why Germany lost the war (despite its early tactical successes) is a simple question with a complex answer. And, over the years since Germany’s surrender at Reims, France on May 7, 1945, scholars and historians have provided a number of arguments to warrant their perspective answers. Consequently there are a myriad of points, themes, and arguments that can be studied to provide a reason or reasons why the Third Reich failed. However, there are three principal reasons that Germany’s tactical success did not translate to strategic success. The first and prevalent reason is because Germany lacked cohesive strategic objectives and an overall military strategy for the war. The second and most affecting reason is because Germany failed to successfully connect its ends, ways and means. (House) The third and final reason is because Germany significantly overestimated its military prowess and capabilities. Germany did not have a military strategic plan per se for World War II. What they did have was a vision. That vision, provided by Adolf Hitler (as outlined in his Mein Kampf) was based on Hitler’s political ideology and desires for the 3rd Reich. Prior to the war Hitler wrote that Germany should not make the mistake of “making an enemy of the whole world” but that Germany must “recognize the most dangerous enemy” and then “hit him hard with her full concentrated power…” (Buell, 1964) Additionally, Hitler repeatedly related to his generals that the main mistake Germany made in World War One was allowing “the development of a two-front war” and he promised them he would not make that mistake. (Buell, 1964) It is arguable that Hitler’s perspective on how Germany should wage war (as alluded to above) translated into an overall German strategy – to fight on one front at a time and to fight quick, but intensive offensive campaigns. (Schott, 97-04) Indeed, the manner in which Germany initiated and fought World War II (up until the Battle of Britain) suggest this to be true. However, the fact that Hitler consciously made decisions that caused Germany to fight a long protracted war on two fronts belies either the effectiveness of Hitler’s vision or his belief in it. This fact also suggests that the adequacy of German strategy was not a contributing factor to Germany’s defeat. Rather, it was a simple matter of Hitler making repeated bad decisions. Hitler’s decision making did play a role in Germany’s inability to attain strategic success. However, it is more important to understand that Hitler’s decision making was based on his beliefs, his ideologies, and his vision rather than a well thought out and developed military strategy. As stated earlier, Germany did not have a military strategy; it had Hitler’s vision. Hitler clearly displayed that his decisions were predominantly influenced by his personal beliefs when he deliberately chose to ignore Moscow as a military target during the invasion of the Soviet Union and chose to instead focus on the destruction of the Red Army. Hitler noted in a planning conference for Operation Barbarossa, “in comparison with the goal of destroying the Soviet armed forces, Moscow is of no great importance.” (Halder, 1988) History shows us that this decision was a bad one, as it forced Germany to fight a protracted war of attrition against a foe that greatly outnumbered its own forces which ultimately led to defeat. If Hitler’s views and desires to initiate a crusade against Soviet Bolshevism are taken into account, it is easily noticed that the decision to...