The German Armed Forces: From Success to Collapse

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I am researching Germany during World War II and my research question is on why was the German Armed Forces successful in the early stages of the war and why did the same armed forces start to collapse in the latter part of the war. The death count for World War II was an estimate of seventy to eighty-five million. It is an important and significant topic to do further research about because an event with such large casualties should not reoccur and this event will help further expand our knowledge on ways to prevent this from happening. By researching the cause of Germany’s military change, due to their religious beliefs, Hitler’s moral standings, and the countries economic and other factors. I have based my research on Hitler’s reign, such as his moral beliefs and his influence on the people in Germany before, during, and after his reign, historical events that have happened between the years 1939-1945, such as the founding of the League of Nations and the Reichstag Fire, and the major changes before and after Germany’s participation in WW2. The research that has already been written has been surrounding the effects of the military change on World War II and Germany as a whole, not much was found regarding the cause of the change. A mixture of primary and secondary sources will be used for my research, but the accuracy and reliability of my primary resources will be a question because the research will be based mainly on the perspective of Germany. Many of my sources have been translated from German because I want more of the German perspective than the American perspective. These sources can range from diaries, newspapers, speeches, and bibliographies.

The Second World War was the most strong human battle ever seen. It murdered more individuals, cost more cash, damaged more property, influenced more individuals, and created more far-reaching change in almost every nation than any other conflict in history. The amount of individuals murdered, wounded or missing between September 1939 and September 1945 can never be calculated, but it is estimated that more than 55 million individuals died. More than 50 nations have taken role in the conflict, and the world has felt its impact. Men have battled in almost every portion of the globe, in every continent except Antarctica. The primary battlefields were Asia, Europe, North Africa, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea. World War 2 began in Germany with an unprovoked attack on Poland. Leading one of us to wonder about life if the Germans had won. Afterward, the focus was narrowed to two focal points: Hitler, their leader, and the Armed Forces. At the beginning of the war, all were in fear of the German Armed Forces, but Germany’s forces began to collapse as time went by. This would make one think why the German Armed Forces had been successful in the early stages of the war but had begun to collapse in the latter part of the war. For now, the United States of America is seen as a super-power, but history will repeat itself, and the United States of America will collapse. Research into the reason for the collapse of the German Armed Forces may help to better prepare the United States ‘ defense from collapse.

From the end of 1942, the German strategy, determined by Hitler, was aimed solely at protecting the still very large area under German control— most of Europe and parts of North Africa— against the future Soviet attack on the Eastern Front and the future Anglo-Americans. Offensive on the Southern and Western Fronts. Thus Hitler, following his dictum that ‘Germany is either a world power or not at all,’ consciously resolved to preside over the fall of the German nation. France emerged victorious over the Germans in the Great War and imposed a punitive, humiliating armistice on Berlin by the Treaty of Versailles. In the first decade after the war, Germany was limited to no more than one hundred thousand soldiers, no armored vehicles, and only one hundred searches and rescue aircraft. In support of this philosophy, the now infamous Maginot Line built extensive defensive pillboxes and other heavily defended fortifications between France and its western neighbors. Senior officers of the High Command were confident that their doctrine and defensive preparations would be successful against any German attack, especially the Commander of the Second French Army, Gen. Charles Huntziger. Germany gathered reserve forces and launched a massive counter-offensive in the Ardennes that collapsed in January.

Leading economic managers like Fritz Todt had already begun to realize this. When Todt was killed in a plane crash on February 8, 1942, his place as Minister of Arms was taken by Hitler’s architect, the young Albert Speer. Instilling unquestionable faith in Hitler and his will to win, Speer restructured and streamlined the arms production system, building on the reforms already begun by Todt. Its methods have contributed to a dramatic increase in the number of aircraft and tanks produced in German plants and have boosted the supply of ammunition to the troops. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in early December, Hitler saw the opportunity to attack American convoys without inhibition, and declared war on the US, believing that Roosevelt would be too anxious to counter Japan’s advance in the Pacific to overwhelming events in Europe. By the time of Montgomery’s victory, it had become clear that the Germans had also failed to compensate for their lower levels of arms production by stopping American supplies and ammunition from reaching Britain across the Atlantic.

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Two years after the war, in September 1941, German arms seemed to carry everything in front of them. Western Europe was decisively conquered, and there were few signs of any serious resistance to German rule. The failure of the Italians to establish Mussolini’s much-vaunted new Roman empire in the Mediterranean was made good by German intervention. The German forces overrun Greece and subjugated Yugoslavia. In North Africa, Rommel’s brilliant generalship pushed the British and Allied forces eastward toward Egypt and threatened the Suez Canal. Above all, the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 brought stunning rewards, with Leningrad besieged by German and Finnish troops, Smolensk and Kyiv, and millions of Red Army troops killed or captured in a series of vast encircling operations that brought the German armed forces within Moscow’s reach. Surrounded by allies, from Vichy France and Finland to Romania and Hungary, and with the more or less benevolent neutrality of countries such as Sweden and Switzerland posing no serious threat, the Greater German Reich seemed unstoppable in its drive for supremacy in Europe.

But, in retrospect, this proved to be the high point of German success. The fundamental problem facing Hitler was that Germany simply did not have the means to fight on so many different fronts at the same time. Leading economic managers like Fritz Todt had already begun to realize this. When Todt was killed in a plane crash on February 8, 1942, his place as Minister of Arms was taken by Hitler’s architect, the young Albert Speer. Imbued with unquestionable faith in Hitler and his will to win, Speer restructured and streamlined the arms production system, building on the reforms already begun by Todt. His methods helped dramatically increase the number of aircraft and tanks produced in German plants and boosted the supply of ammunition to the troops.

By the end of 1941, the Reich had to contend not only with the arms production of the British Empire and the Soviet Union but also with the rapidly growing military strength of the world’s economic superpower, the United States. Throughout 1941, rightly fearing the consequences of Germany’s total domination of Europe for America’s position in the world, US President Franklin D Roosevelt had begun to supply Britain with increasing quantities of arms and equipment, guaranteed by a loan-lease system and formalized by the Atlantic Charter in August. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in early December, Hitler saw the opportunity to attack American convoys without inhibition and declared war on the US in the belief that Roosevelt would be too anxious to counter Japan’s advance in the Pacific to have too much trouble with events in Europe.

During World War 2

Yet the economic power of the Americans was such that they could pour increasing resources into the conflict in both theaters of war. Germany produced 10,000 new combat aircraft in 1942, 26,000 in 1943, and 40,000 in 1944. The figures in the US were 48,000, 86,000 and 114,000 respectively. Added to this were aircraft produced in the Soviet Union–37,000 in 1943, for example–and the United Kingdom: 35,000 in 1943 and 47,000 in 1944. It was the same story with tanks, where 6,000 produced in Germany each year had to face the same number produced annually in Britain and the Dominions, and three times as many in the Soviet Union. In 1943, the combined production of machine-guns exceeded 1 million compared to 165,000 in Germany. Nor did Germany’s commanding of the economies of other European countries do much to redress the balance. The merciless seizure of fuel, industrial facilities and labor by the Germans from France and other countries reduced the economies of the subjugated parts of Europe to such a state that they were unable–and, with their workers becoming increasingly refractory, unwilling–to make a significant contribution to German war production.

The Reich was, above all, short of fuel. Romania and Hungary have provided a large proportion of Germany’s needs. But this was not enough to satisfy the appetite of the gas-guzzling tanks and fighter aircraft of the Wehrmacht. Rommel’s eastward drive across northern Africa was designed not only to cut off Britain’s supply route through the Suez Canal but above all to break through to the Middle East and gain control over the vast oil reserves in the region. He captured Tobruk’s key seaport in mid-1942. But when he resumed his advance, he was confronted with massive defensive positions prepared by the meticulous British General Bernard Montgomery at El Alamein. After 12 days, he failed to break the British lines and was forced into a headlong retreat across the desert. To complete the route, the Allies landed an expeditionary force further west, in Morocco and Algeria. A quarter of a million German and Italian troops surrendered in May 1943. Rommel had already returned to Germany for sick leave. ‘The war in North Africa,’ he concluded bitterly, ‘was determined by the weight of Anglo-American material.’ If he had been provided with more motorized formations and a more secure supply line, he believed that he could still have gone through the Middle East oilfields, but that was not to be the case.

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The German Armed Forces: From Success to Collapse. [online]. Available at: <https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/the-german-armed-forces-from-success-to-collapse/> [Accessed 1 Dec. 2021].
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