The weaknesses of Germany’s opponents were equally responsible for Hitler’s military successes as his Blitzkrieg tactics between 1939-1941. The Blitzkrieg tactics were very effective during the Second World War but this was also partly due to the fact that the Allied generals and tacticians were so incompetent. The fact that Blitzkrieg and the incompetency of opposition generals were equally responsible for Hitler’s military successes is best shown in his campaigns in Poland, France and Russia.
In these conflicts the largest deciding factors were the Blitzkrieg tactics and the incompetency of the opposition generals.
Blitzkrieg won the day in all of these conflicts but, as was shown in the later years of the war, once the Allies had competent generals the Blitzkrieg tactics were defeated. One of Hitler’s largest military successes between 1939 and 1941 was the campaign in Poland. The Campaign in Poland was an immensely easy victory for the Germany War machine. The Polish Army was large and well trained, but it was immensely outdated.
They still had a large amount of cavalry regiments in there army which were completely destroyed by German tanks. They had very few tanks of their own and those that they did have were nothing compared to the strength of the German Panzers. They had quite a large well trained infantry but many of them still used swords and their guns were completely outclassed by the German assault rifles. They also had a small and rather average air force but this was made obsolete by the larger and better German air force.
Also Poland is a flat country and it had few natural obstacles making it ‘ideal tank country’ [ (Crisp, 1990) ]and therefore the perfect target for Blitzkrieg. As well as the actual Polish army, the tactics and generals of the Polish were also very outdated. When the time came for battle The Polish Generals arranged their army into the Standard and age old line formation. When the Armies met the Blitzkrieg tactics worked perfectly due to this arrangement and the Polish were defeated with ease.
As shown here the Blitzkrieg tactics and fail Polish generals result were equally responsible for Germany’s success. As Peter Crisp said in his book, Blitzkrieg, ‘Geographically and strategically, Poland was the perfect target for a Blitzkrieg attack. ’ [ (Crisp, 1990) ] The Blitzkrieg tactics were responsible for the actual win but if Poland had had more competent generals they had made better defences for the Blitzkrieg style of attack and had ditched the cavalry and upgraded and enlarged their tank and air forces they would have been able to repel the Germans and their Blitzkrieg.
That is why the Blitzkrieg tactics and weak opponents were equally responsible for Hitler’s military success. Another of Hitler’s early military success was his campaign in France, also known as operation Sicklecut. This is due to the way the main force was supposed to punch through a hole in French defences and cut around like the cut of a sickle to attack the French forces from the rear. The main French forces were supposed to be distracted be a diversionary German force.
This plan worked perfectly and the main German for Force smashed into the rear of the French force where together they pushed the French and supporting British armies into the coast in a thorough defeat. The Germans then pushed through to Paris where after a mass evacuation of the crumbling French forces Germany took control of Paris. This is a great example of the fact that Hitler’s military success was due equally due to the Blitzkrieg tactics as the incompetency of his opposition.
In the campaign in France the Blitzkrieg tactics were very effective, not just beating the French army but spreading panic throughout the country and forcing the chain of command to crumble, but it could have and would have been defeated if it wasn’t for the useless generals of the French army. The Panic caused by the Blitzkrieg tactics was a very effective weapon for the Germans, one unknown French soldier even recounted in his diaries that his saw own comrades running ‘with their hands over their heads not bothering to even return fire’ [ (Trueman, 2000) ].
The French had the capabilities to defeat the Germans and their Blitzkrieg tactics but they stuffed it up. Most of the Generals were veterans of the First World War and they were using the same tactics as they did then. Towards the end of his life Marshal Petain, the commander-in-chief of the French armies, said ‘After the war of 1914-1919, it was finished for me. My military mind was closed. When I saw the introduction of other tools and other methods I must say they didn’t interest me,’ [ (Crisp, 1990) ] showing exactly the attitude of the French military leadership at the start of the War.
This allowed the Germans to defeat them with ease. They believed that the Germans would use the same plan that they used in the First World War and easily were defeated by the superior tactics of the Germans and when the Germans continued their advance through France and were bearing upon Paris in a matter of the days the French Leadership started to breakdown. If the French generals had been more competent they could have used their own tanks and air force more effectively and then the Germans would have been defeated and the French would have been successful.
The Campaign in Russia, also known as Operation Barbarossa, named after the twelfth century Prussian King who was prophesied to rise from his grave and restore Germany to world power, is another great example of the fact that Hitler’s military successes were equally due to his Blitzkrieg tactics and the ineptitude of his opposition. The Campaign in Russia started out as what seemed to be a complete annihilation. ’ When Operation Barbarossa opened, on 22 June 1941, the Soviets were taken completely by surprise. ’ [ (Crisp, 1990) ] The German army was rapidly advancing and defeating the Red Army with ease.
The Red Army had huge numbers of men and many tanks and aircraft but most of these tanks were obsolete and the Air force was built mainly for tactical air support, not for air superiority. The main problem for the Red Army was the leader of Russia, Josef Stalin. After Stalin and his brutal Communist regime’s murder of all of the senior officers for political reasons and the strict constrictions placed on the remaining young and inexperienced officers which meant there was no room innovation during the heat of battle leaving the Red Army incredibly handicapped.
At the beginning of operation Barbarossa ‘Stalin refused to believe the invasion was really happening. He thought the attack was a provocation by a German commander acting independently of Hitler, and ordered his frontline soldiers not to fire back’ [ (Crisp, 1990) ]. The fact that Hitler’s military success required both a weakness of Hitler’s opposition and the Blitzkrieg tactics is best shown in the next part of the campaign in Russia. Once Stalin finally allowed his officers some flexibility and the winter allowed them to build many more of their new T-34 model tanks the Russians started to come back.
After a period of intense fighting, particularly around Stalingrad, the Germans were defeated and forced to retreat and as General Mellenthin of the Germans wrote ‘with the failure of our supreme effort, the strategic initiative passed to the Russians. ’ [ (Crisp, 1990) ] This shows how necessary the weakness of Hitler’s enemies for his military success due to the fact that the second one of his enemies obtained good weapons, like the T-34, and successful leaders the Germans Blitzkrieg tactics were neutralised and they were defeated.
The Blitzkrieg tactics and the weakness of Hitler’s opposition were equally responsible for Hitler’s military success between 1939 and 1941 during the Second World War. Without the Blitzkrieg tactics the German Army simply would not have been able to defeat the Allied forces and without weaknesses of Germany’s opposition the Blitzkrieg tactics would have been defeated by the superior enemy forces. The areas of the war which best show this are the campaigns in Poland, France and Russia. In all of these operations Blitzkrieg and inferior opposition played a major part. This is why the Blitzkrieg tactics and weak opposition were equally responsible for Hitler’s Military success.