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Why the Germans?


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#1 Akhe100

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 1233 PM

Why is it that the germans have such a reputation for military prowess when the haven't won a war for over 130 years? Does anyone know what has purpetuated this myth for so long?
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#2 X-Files

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 1241 PM

Does anyone know what has purpetuated this myth for so long?


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#3 Guest_aevans_*

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 1245 PM

It's not a myth. The praise get's overdone sometimes, but if you confine yourself to tactics and operations, the Germans have generally been excellent at either one or both for almost a century and a half. Their downfall in the first half of the 20th Century was a succession of national leaderships that had severe strategic myopia.
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#4 BillB

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 1411 PM

Why is it that the germans have such a reputation for military prowess when the haven't won a war for over 130 years? Does anyone know what has purpetuated this myth for so long?

Trot off and read some accounts by people who fought against them, it might give you a clue. They might not have won a war and as Tony says the praise might get a bit overdone sometimes, but as he also says they nonetheless took some beating at the operational level. Even when taking on half the world virtually single handed.

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#5 p620346

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 1444 PM

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that NO German frontline troops were ever defeated by an Allied unit of similar or lesser strength.
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#6 Guest_aevans_*

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 1453 PM

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that NO German frontline troops were ever defeated by an Allied unit of similar or lesser strength.


Not true. T.N. Dupuy was involved in several studies (and wrote several books based on those studies) that indicated to him that the average German soldier had a combat value of 1.2 to 7.0 times that of the average Allied soldier. (The higher ratio being associated with 1941 Soviets and the lower with 1944-45 US and British.) His methods were pretty abstract, statistical, and (according to Dupuy himself) of questionable validity below division level.
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#7 JOE BRENNAN

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 1539 PM

In "Hitler's Last Gamble" some of the CEV's for that battle (Ardennes) are revisited and come out quite close to 1:1 on average with some reversals (in particular divisional matchups), but that was the German Army on its last legs. Also, one aspect of the original finding that may raise more eyebrows on one side of the English speaking house at Tanknet than the other was that the Germans were 20% more effective than the *US* in later war, 30% more than the Brit/CW's.

I've no independent expertise to confirm or refute those particular numbers. But I do think the generally greater effectiveness, to whatever numerical degree, of the Germans in land warfare man for man, weapon for weapon is pretty obvious as a general rule from balanced study of a cross section of WWII campaigns against the West.

The counterargument, 'then why did they lose wars' strikes me as logically indeterminate. Losing wars could be from tactical inferiority; but could also be from other deficiencies (ie. strategy of declaring war on the US plus the Soviet Union :huh: ). Superiority in military craft could even contribute to defeat by tending to *cause* strategic overconfidence. The Japanese were not consistently more tactically effective than the western Allies on land in WWII (per Dupuy's quantification in that case they were less effecitve on average; though seems to me they were generally more effective in the early SEA campaigns than the 2nd string Allied troops they met, the big IJA victories were by outnumbered Japanese forces). But they were clearly consistently more effective than the Chinese and the mindset that helped create was one source of Japan's downfall in pursuing the Pacfic War at all.

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Edited by JOE BRENNAN, 05 January 2007 - 1744 PM.

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#8 Wolfman

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 1600 PM

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that NO German frontline troops were ever defeated by an Allied unit of similar or lesser strength.


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#9 Brummbaer

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 1616 PM

Why is it that the germans have such a reputation for military prowess when the haven't won a war for over 130 years? Does anyone know what has purpetuated this myth for so long?

Tactical and operational superiority counts little in the face of strategy and production potential and access/denial to resources.
Just to make an example Britain was almost strangled not by the superior german armies but by the U-Boats; and the valiant german tankers had available less than 5000 Panthers throughout the whole war vs <how many?> T-34s and Shermans.
Also doing strategic blunders like losing one army at Stalingrad and another in Tunisia overbalanced any tactical superiority.
In World War I they almost did it, at least to a draw. Only the arrival of US armies tilted the balance, together with an economy in shambles due to blockade.
So to answer I'd say that the myth about german prowess is quite sound, keeping in mind what were their weaknesses.
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#10 medicjim86

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 1917 PM

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that NO German frontline troops were ever defeated by an Allied unit of similar or lesser strength.


How often did the Germans meet the allies in superior or equal numbers?

I believe the Germans still had the edge in numbers when they were stopped in the Ardennes. That was a planned, localized overmatch that fizzled fairly quick considering the planned timetable.
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#11 hojutsuka

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 1919 PM

... the valiant german tankers had available less than 5000 Panthers throughout the whole war ...

I do not disagree with your thesis that Germany was out-produced, but according to all accounts, far more than 5000 Panthers were produced. For example, Walter J. Spielberger, "Panther and Its Variants", page 251, gives a total of 6042 Panthers produced.

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#12 TonyE

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 1939 PM

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that NO German frontline troops were ever defeated by an Allied unit of similar or lesser strength.


I can think of one at low level:
Skirmish at Breidablikk during the Valdres campaign in central Norway, 25th april 1940, initial german advance against a norwegian squad holding and with a platoon+ counterattack:
-both norwegian and german side had around 60 men, germans also had three MGs while the norsies had one.
-after hard fighting the germans losses were 10-12 killed, unknown numbers of wounded and 26 taken as prisoners, + most of their armament lost. Norwegian side had no killed, nor wounded.
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#13 BillB

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 2023 PM

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that NO German frontline troops were ever defeated by an Allied unit of similar or lesser strength.

A bit of Germanophile wet dreaming of the kind favoured by Max Hastings, methinks. I can think of several examples of German troops getting second prize when they had equality or even superiority.

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#14 DwightPruitt

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 2039 PM

I always thought that part of the myth was the Cold War climate postwar. The west was desperate to know about the Soviets and the surviving German generals were the primary source of information. They, especially Guderian, never missed an opportunity to make themselves look good, and put much of the blame on Hitler, who made a convenient scapegoat. The only exception that I'm aware of was v. Manteuffel, who said that the German generals couldn't have it both ways.
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#15 Akhe100

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 2144 PM

Germans killed more enemy, because it's easier to defend than attack, we had to destroy germany, they just had to survive, different goals, which one do you think is easier? Also "then why did they lose" is a perfectly good question, war is more complicated than kill ratios. I agree with the uniform thing, but I've always liked british helmets better, they look like boonie hats.
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#16 Guest_aevans_*

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 2242 PM

I do not disagree with your thesis that Germany was out-produced, but according to all accounts, far more than 5000 Panthers were produced. For example, Walter J. Spielberger, "Panther and Its Variants", page 251, gives a total of 6042 Panthers produced.

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I don't have the unit strength reports available, but if somebody told me the Germans had no more than 5,000 tanks (not just Panthers) at any one time, I'd be willing to believe it.

Edited by aevans, 05 January 2007 - 2243 PM.

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#17 Mk 1

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 2244 PM

Germans killed more enemy, because it's easier to defend than attack, we had to destroy germany, they just had to survive, different goals, which one do you think is easier?

:huh: ???

If they were just "defending", how did all those German troops wind up in Stalingrad in January of 1943? How did they get all those positions in Normandy in 1944?

No, Germany's best kill ratios were achieved from 1939 through 1942. When they were attacking. The initiative conveys tremendous operational power. The Germans chose when and where to fight, concentrated their forces against weaker positions, encircled or bypassed strong positions (or spent time concentrating more forces to attack with) ... that's how you get better kill ratios. A lot better. To get truly disproportionate results, you need to win. Bagging divisions, corps, and armies in the process.

It may be easier to defend, but if you want to win, you have to attack.

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#18 Guest_aevans_*

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 2248 PM

Germans killed more enemy, because it's easier to defend than attack, we had to destroy germany, they just had to survive, different goals, which one do you think is easier?


Actually, Dupuy's studies were tactical posture controlled. Also, when Dupuy gives the Germans credit for seven times combat effectiveness vs. Soviet troops, it was during the offensive phase of 1941.

Also "then why did they lose" is a perfectly good question, war is more complicated than kill ratios.



"Why did they lose?" is indeed a valid question, but only if you don't base it on invalid assertions or correlations. As stated above, they lost because their national leadership wouldn't know what strategy was if it bit them in the ass, not because their troops were technically or tactically incompetent, or their generals operationally incompetent.
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#19 medicjim86

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 2322 PM

:huh: ???

If they were just "defending", how did all those German troops wind up in Stalingrad in January of 1943? How did they get all those positions in Normandy in 1944?

-Mark 1


A post war study of relative combat effectiveness, one might assume, would be based on the balance of the war.... for the vast majority of that 'open combat' time, the Germans were defending.

Edited by medicjim86, 05 January 2007 - 2329 PM.

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#20 Guest_aevans_*

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 2334 PM

A post war study of relative combat effectiveness, one might assume, would be based on the balance of the war.... for the vast majority of that 'open combat' time, the Germans were defending.


Dupuy's studies were based on over 100 distinct divisional engagements from throughout the war. He credited the Germans with their highest relative combat effectiveness prior to 1943, when they were generally on the offensive.
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