Friday, November 23, 2012

Fall 1942 - The Turning Point of the War in Europe

November 1942 provides us with one of those events in military history where we can say in retrospect, that it was from this particular point in time that everything started to unravel, in this case, go bust for Nazi Germany in World War II. While I would argue (and I think FD Chief agrees) the actual or "strategic" turning point was probably the June invasion of the USSR and then on December 11, 1941, the declaration of war against the US, Stalingrad provides us with the "operational" turning point. Since we have learned from our own (American since 2001) experience that in war the operational outcome can lag significantly behind the strategic outcome, this only proves the importance of this operational level and how hanging on operationally can influence to some extent the final result, although not to the point of reversing the strategic reality. Rather what seems to be the case is that the losing side loses only more, but at a greater cost to the victor.
My intent here is not to examine the Stalingrad campaign or analyze the operational decisions, but rather to put it within the strategic context of what Germany - or rather Hitler since he was calling all the shots - had to deal with seventy years ago.
On 19 November the Red Army launched an attack against the northern flank of German Army Group B (the German 6th Army, most of 4th Panzer Army and the Romanian 4th Army) that was engaged at Stalingrad and occupying almost all of the city and blocking river traffic along the Volga river. The next day Marshall Zhukov launched the southern wing of his double envelopment from the southern flank. On 23 November (the Germans say the afternoon of 22 November) the two spearheads met at Kalach trapping about 250,000 Axis troops. The Soviets staged a repeat of the meeting for a propaganda film (at 1:20-29).
Reading the German Oberkommando der Wehrmacht war diaries one gets something of the overwhelming character that Hitler's leadership/decisions had put the Germans in strategically. Besides the Eastern Front with its various Army Groups engaged, there were the Eastern Mediterrain, Libya, Tunisia, the Balkans, southern France (the occupation of Vichy), Finland, and the various air and naval operations to contend with.
One gets the impression that the Russian Front was not seen as a single theater, but rather as five separate fronts: Finland, Army Group North facing Leningrad, Army Group Center facing Moscow, Army Group B at Stalingrad, and Army Group A in the Caucasus. Thus each individual front competed individually with those in the West and keeping Italy in the war was Hitler's priority towards the end of 1942. This possible perspective regards only the operational decisions, not those involving logistics, production, genocides, and other matters that Hitler reserved for himself. That the situation with Army Group B was dangerous was recognized relatively early on with the 20 November order to establish Army Group Don from the staff of the 11th Army under the command of Field Marshall von Manstein to take command of Army Group B and other forces coming in. This headquarters was to be tasked with reestablishing the front on the Don/Volga. This distinction is important, it was not first to reestablish contact with Stalingrad, but to re-establish the front as it had existed prior to the Soviet offensive, it was assumed that those forces in Stalingrad would remain in place. A withdrawal from Stalingrad and the Volga was never seriously considered until it was too late. Manstein and his staff were at Vitebsk and due to the weather and rail conditions were unable to arrive in theater until 24 November.
It is also important to remember that the Germans were in the middle of a major troop movement regarding Tunisia. There the 5th Panzer Army was in the midst of being established with significant air assets having been earlier withdrawn from Russia. Movement of the 10th Panzer Division, the Hermann Göring Divison and other formations were underway. In fact on the 20th of November the 22nd Luftlande (Airborne) Division, another capable formation, finished its deployment to the island of Crete which was under no threat at all.
At this point it is important to consider what had led to the summer offensive in the East in the first place. First, the Germans considered the Russians to be on their last legs. The situation of the civilian population in the unoccupied areas of European Russia was known to be catastrophic (based on captured letters to Red Army soldiers). Much of the industrial potential had been seemingly neutralized, and finally the Red Army had suffered tremendous losses up to that point. It seemed from the German perspective unlikely that the Red Army would be able to reconstitute an effective fighting force under the stress of war given what remained. Second, while Moscow was the political center, the Caucasus and the Don/Volga area provided necessary resources. Seizing these resource centers would both considerably weaken the Red Army and strengthen the Wehrmacht at the same time, or so it was assumed.
And then there was the city of Stalingrad itself. On 9 November 1942 in Munich, Hitler had given a speech:
. . . I should say that for my enemies, not for our soldiers. For the speed with which our soldiers have now traversed territory is gigantic. Also what was traversed this year is vast and historically unique. Now I do not always do things just as the others want them done. I consider what the others probably believe, and then do the opposite on principle. So if Mr. Stalin expected that we would attack in the center, I did not want to attack in the center, not only because Mr. Stalin probably believed I would, but because I didn't care about it any more at all. But I wanted to come to the Volga, to a definite place, to a definite city. It accidentally bears the name of Stalin himself, but do not think that I went after it on that account. Indeed, it could have an altogether different name. But only because it is an important point, that is, there 30 million tons of traffic can be cut off, including about 9 million of oil shipments. There all the wheat pours in from those enormous territories of the Ukraine, of the Kuban territory, then to be transported to the North. There the manganese ore was forwarded. A gigantic terminal was there; I wanted to take it. And do you know, we're modest: that is, we have it; there are only a couple of very small places left there. Now the others say: Why aren't you fighting there? Because I don't want to make a second Verdun but would rather do it with very small shock units. Time plays no part here. No ships come up the Volga any more-that is the decisive thing. They have also reproached us, asking why it took us so long at Sevastopol? Because there, too, we did not want to cause an enormous mass murder. Blood is flowing as it is-more than enough. But Sevastopol fell into our hands, and the Crimea fell into our hands. We have reached goal after goal, stubbornly, persistently. And if the enemy, on his part, makes preparations to attack, don't think I want to forestall him there, but at the same moment we let him attack also. Because then defense still is less expensive. Then just let him attack; he'll bleed to death that way, and thus far we have always taken care of the situation anyhow. At any rate, the Russians are not at the Pyrenees or before Seville; that, you see, is the same distance as for us to be in Stalingrad today, or on the Terek, let us say;-but we are there; that can really not be disputed. That is a fact, after all. Naturally, when nothing else will do any more, they also say it's a mistake. Then they suddenly turn around and say: "It is absolutely a mistake for the Germans to have gone to Kirkenes, or to have gone to Narvik, or now perhaps to Stalingrad-what do they expect to do in Stalingrad? For Stalingrad is a capital mistake, a strategic mistake." We will just wait and see whether that was a strategic mistake.
I have a Wehrmacht city map of Stalingrad, dating from June 1942. On it, the city is long, but narrow, hugging the Volga. From the map it looks like it would be so easy to simply punch through to the river. The reality was otherwise, but even as the Red Army encircled the Germans at Stalingrad, they continued operations to capture the last Russian positions in the ruined city, that according to the war diaries . . .
Postscript:
This has been an interesting thread. I would like to thank all who commented, it is the sign of a capable audience when they are able to interact with the initial argument and expand on it considerably, adding many additional pieces to the vast mosaic. I think we are able to consistently achieve that on MilPub as shown by the many posts by various authors and corresponding dialectical commentary on this blog . . . we should keep on keeping on . . .
Four points to close with. First, we are talking about perhaps the most terrible military campaign in history. The geographical and human dimensions are almost beyond our comprehension; the scale of destruction, loss and tragedy are impossible to measure in numbers since the ripples are still touching Eastern Europe in various ways today.
Second, and this a repeat of an earlier argument, that being that we have an adequate description of the totalitarian nature (both specific to the Nazis and general regarding other totalitarian systems) of political movements. My post on Hermann Rauschning's The Revolution of Nihilism introduces the basic ideas. I blended in some of Hannah Arendt's ideas from her classic The Origins of Totalitarianism, but did not begin to do Arendt's thesis justice. It would take much more study, and probably a better mind than mine to achieve that. I consider this very important since following the basic concepts, I would argue that we see a resurgence of totalitarian thinking today in the US. This is particularly evident in our predilection to see violence as the preferred method of dealing with foreign policy issues.
Third, I mentioned a Clausewitzian connection. This is the concept of the Feldherr which influenced not only German, but Soviet, French and JFC Fuller as well. Professor Hew Strachan (who else?) has a great lecture which covers this topic:
So the Feldherr was a military genius who, because he was distinguished by more than his "will, brains, understanding, self-confidence, by something still higher than a longing for fame and honour," became a statesman. For Hesse, the role model was Frederick the Great. The challenge of the 1920s, after the Kaiser's abdication not least because of his failure to fulfil that role, was how to meet its demands in future. The German army had failed to understand Clausewitz before 1914 because it had read him in a narrowly military way, focusing on battle, not on war as a whole. Because Clausewitz saw war as a continuation of policy by other means, he also understood war, according to Adolf Leinveber, writing in 1926, as "an organic whole, from which the individual parts are not separable." Leinveber accepted that politicians had to give unity to war through policy and through the war plans that flowed from that policy. But what therefore followed-not only for Leinveber but also for many others-was that war required "a magnificent dis­tinguished head, a strong character." The Feldherr would unite the conduct of war and policy, so that he became a statesman without at the same time giving up the capacity to conduct war: "he embraces with a glance on the one hand all state issues, while on the other he is sufficiendy confident in his knowledge of what the means which lie in his control can do." p 389
The need for a Feldherr was seen by those representing the entire political spectrum in Germany, from liberals to monarchists. The French used Clausewitz after the war to further develop their concept of the Generalissimo and Fuller's approach to Grand Strategy is much more difficult to achieve without this position. In the USSR, Trotsky, Frunze and Svechin argued for the subordination of specialized and conventional (as opposed to partisan) military command to the political leadership residing in the leader of the Communist Party. Thus we see the position of both Hitler and Stalin - along with the totalitarian elements which in this case are separate but still obviously important - as being influenced by the experience of the First World War and this being common to both democratic and totalitarian governments.
Finally, there is something of the Liddell Hart notion of the "indirect approach" to Fall Blau, the German campaign in the summer of 1942. Hitler wished to bypass the political center of Moscow and instead seize the southern resources/stop movement along the Volga as a way to cripple the USSR. I don't think he actually expected to come to terms with Stalin, but rather to so weaken the Soviet government that they could be held off indefinitely.
It was not a question of time or strategy, but simply a "fact" as Hitler mentions in the linked speech. The Germans were on the Volga and the Terek and they would remain there, and the Feldherr as maker and shaper, "history's actor" had made it so. As I think the readers of this blog are aware, we have seen similar notions of arrogance and self-absorption, of ideologically-tainted wishes replacing strategic thought, of the conceit of violent and limited minds attempting to remake political existence in line with their own whims . . . let's hope this extreme example from the past acts as a caution to temper our own future.
Second Postscript:
Very interesting German soldiers's film from the times . . . Towards the end . . . Stalingrad and Fall Blau . . .

48 comments:

  1. Recognizing these tipping points seems very difficult for a certain type of commander, and the phrase it puts me in the mind of is "If your attack is going really well, it's an ambush." from Murphy's Laws of War. Think of Custer maneuvering to "envelop" the immense village along the Little Bighorn, or de Castries pushing into the valley of Dien Bien Phu.

    As you point out, the iron dice had already come up snake eyes against Germany when the Soviets refused to agree to terms in the winter of 1941-42. In my reading up for the naval battles of Guadalcanal the same conclusion seems inescapable for the Japanese in the Pacific, as well; their enemies had such a huge disparity in economic and military capacity that so long as they stayed in the field and didn't make a catastrophic mistake that the weight of numbers would eventually tell...

    Still, there are a number of moments in both wars that did have the potential for making things more difficult for the stronger power, and had the Wehrmacht successfully taken the Caucasus and the southern oilfields the road back to Berlin might have been much longer and harder...

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  2. Nice post Seydlitz, and appropriate 70 years later. I have to agree with you that ’the actual or "strategic" turning point was probably the June invasion of the USSR’.

    As far as Stalingrad and the invasion of the USSR, the problem was that Hitler depended too much on his ‘coalition of the willing’. Look at his allies! The Romanians - the total collapse of their Third Army north of Stalingrad and their Fourth Army south of Stalingrad provided Zhukov and Vasilevsky with the opportunity for their double envelopment to succeed beyond their wildest dreams. The Hungarian Second Army and Italian Eighth Army to the NW of the Romanian Third Army proved no better a month later when the Soviets took them down and exposed the flank of any German counteroffensive. The Hungarians suffered 84% casualties. The Italians just as bad, out of 12 Italian divisions in the Eighth Army only one Alpini division survived as an operationally capable unit.

    And how did Hitler think the Japanese were an ally? They signed a Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact allowing Stalin to move millions of troops west and just fight a one front war. Why would Hitler declare war on America after Pearl Harbor, other than perhaps he thought the Japanese would then abrogate their Pact with Stalin? He was already in trouble in December 41 at the Battle of Moscow and thinking he needed some help on a Siberian front? Imperial Japan did not make for a good ally for anybody. Their attempts at alliances with the Thai and with Burmese/Indonesian/Indian nationalists proved devastating as they turned out to be worse for those peoples than the white colonialists.

    Hitler should have taken advice from Don Corleone: ”Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” He should have maintained his own Nazi–Soviet Non-Aggression Treaty (Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact). The Soviets were sending him hundreds of millions of tons of war materials before Barbarossa. Maybe he thought he could get them for free? Or maybe Antonescu sweet talked him into it for Romanian oil? Or maybe it was always part of his preposterous plan?

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  3. Seydlitz,
    Nice post.
    Have you read the DA PAM series-COMBAT IN RUSSIA? This was a lessons learned series written by German Gen'ls for the US as a sort of debriefing.? It's a good read from the infantry pov.
    I'd suggest that it teaches one not to bog down modern maneuver forces in a city. Always haul ass and bypass. Never get in a slug fest with a rat whose back is against a wall. Never fight rifle to rifle.
    But none of this is your strategic point.
    Even IF the germans pulled back to a defensive line the war was still lost for them. If they went on the strategic defensive it just would have lasted longer.
    What beat the german is what favors insurgents. That was the rusn primitivism. That was their strength.
    The primitive nature of Rusn roads/railroads helped defeat the Germans as much as did maneuver armies. imo. Rusn tactics were primitive as were their weapons , but the Stavka did some good strategic thinking.
    One must wonder if they were German trained?
    jim
    ps-notice the ppsh in the germans hand.this tells a story in itself.

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    1. "ps-notice the ppsh in the germans hand.this tells a story in itself."

      I wondered about that.

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    2. The Wehrmacht's attempt to subdue the Soviets always makes me think of someone trying to bring down a bear with a scalpel. The German war machine was full of marvelous engineering and finely crafted weapons - entirely too fine and too few to survive, let alone conquer, the incredibly vast, crude, brutal expanse of European Russia.

      The PPSh, on the other hand, was perfect for what it was asked to do; be present in vast numbers and do crude but effective work under the most savage conditions with a minimum of maintenance.

      And here we are seventy years later with a US war machine full of marvelous engineering and finely crafted weapons trying to subdue the incredibly vast, crude, brutal expanse of Afghanistan.

      Hmmmm. I wonder how well that might go..?

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  4. Thank you gentlemen for your interesting comments. Agree.

    jim, yes the ppsh . . . does say so much. The look on the face of the Oberleutnant, the horrific landscape. I considered a picture of three or four T-34 tanks racing across the snow along with a song by the Red Army chorus . . . Linked to it btw. But in the end it was an easy choice.

    Will be posting a postscript . . . where I hope a Clausewitzian element will emerge linking both Soviet and Nazi perspectives . . .

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  5. Germany could not really trust the Soviets. They wanted to be prepared and late to the war of major powers, while receiving German military hardware. If the German support remained limited to a giant battleship fleet Stalin dreamed of, this might have been acceptable.

    Germany faced a choice:
    Build a surface fleet and invade the British Islands or use the existing army and overrun the Soviets.

    The Soviets had performed extremely poor against Finland and bled all kinds of competence in order to stabilize their regime.
    Most would choose to attack the Soviets with their well prepared and victory-drunken army that remembered WWI against this disorganized and humiliated opponent.

    The blunders came from the political framework of conducting this war under the Nazi ideology:
    Mein Kampf was a kind of framework, but Hitler was also one of the politicians, who did not deliver what he promised to gain votes (after having abolished further elections).

    The overall pattern is similar to WWI, when the Germans had to support Austro-Hungaria with their own troops.
    The Germans seem to have given their allies no feeling of being needed by specializing into all kinds of urban combat, light infantry and defensive tactics. These would have been operations that could be conducted at their own pace in support of the "Kesselschlacht".

    The problem starts in politics, with Germany being unable to form effective allied forces. These are a result of the German aspiration at European hegemony. Germany would have had the opportunity to enforce on all but Italy an armament and training to German standards.
    Germany also did have the option to have allied troops specialize in defensive and urban combat with Germany focusing on maneuver warfare. Any division of labour would require a recognition of allied capability. Then a leading power must acknowledge that these puny allies might have a differing opinion. The Fins were among the few who were granted such a honor. That's a major problem of totalitarianism. You can't have good allies, because these have own opinions. Accepting and coping with free persons of differing opinions is poison for any totalitarian system and mindset.

    Strange as it may seem, but Germany was doomed from the start, because of their political system. Stalingrad was a decision on a frontline, behind which lay the unbombed (!) industrial capacity of the remaining Soviet Union. It is more of the breaking point due to multiple stressors. The German occupation of such large swaths of lands with inhabitants not treated in endearing manner, made created the situation of having dfeatable troops on the frontline. The further Germany advanced, the more brittle their battle array had to become and the longer the war lasted, the stronger this effect was to be. It were the political goals that from the outset doomed them. "Untermensch" and less "Untermensch" underneath the "Übermensch" was no good category to convince others of cooperating.

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  6. May I address you as "Kurt-"?

    "Strange as it may seem, but Germany was doomed from the start, because of their political system."

    I agree with a lot of what you say.

    Consider my focus on this thread: a strategic theory attempt to adequately reconstruct the strategic perspective as seen by the Nazi German side at that time exactly 70 years ago, with a blending Clausewitzian element bringing in the Soviet side in as well . . . This isn't exactly what we started with, but it is where we are now . . .

    When exactly in your opinion was "the start"?

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  7. Jim –

    Good catch on the PPSh. I glanced right past that image just assuming it was a very early model of a Schmeisser, but looking again the hole pattern on the shroud is unmistakable. Reminds me of my Uncle Willy and his Korean War buddies getting together and singing ‘Burp Gun Boogie’ at the VFW hall. BTW didn’t the Soviet design of the PPSh derive from the MP-18 used by German stormtroopers in WW1? The Brits claimed that the Soviets provided the German Wehrmacht with many PPSh’s while the two were still allied.

    I am with FDChief as far as primitive weapons go. Many components of the PPSh may have been stamped out cheaply in sheds or Uncle Yuri’s converted-barn mini-factory but the specifications were so loose and sloppy that it worked wet, dirty and even icy during subzero conditions. Speaking of the Burp Gun Boogie, the ChiCom PPSh did not need urinating on like what had to be done to BARs as field expedients at the frozen Chosin. And the Soviet Il-2 shturmovik has the reputation of being the best ground attack a/c in WW2. For cost/benefit ratio it was probably a better tank killer than the Apache or the A-10. The Soviet T-34 although it has been belittled by many, had a great suspension system (American design) that made it a lot faster and with a lower silhouette than its competition.

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    1. Podunk Paul, diesel nerdNovember 26, 2012 at 6:45 AM

      The Christie suspension almost surely gave the T-34 better cross-country capability than German tanks. The T-34 engine, known as the B2 or V2, shared the layout of the Fiat ANI aircraft diesel of 1930. Both 12-cylinder, double-overhead cam engines had aluminum blocks, un-equal length connecting rods and four valves per cylinder, which were directly actuated by double overhead camshafts. And both had an auxiliary air pump to pressurize the cylinders during cold-weather starting. The additional air raised the compression ratio for an increase in cylinder temperature. Water and oil pumps were mounted low, so that circulation would be maintained if liquid levels dropped due to leakage or battle damage. The fuel pump was a close copy of the Bosch unit, which required extreme precision of manufacture. These pumps have plunger-to-bore tolerances that can only be measured in wavelengths of light.

      A remarkable feature of the B2 was its specific fuel consumption of 170 grams per hp-hour, a figure not matched until the 1970s by Japanese diesels.

      Initially the 50-mm thick cast steel turret had large slag inclusions at the front, which made it vulnerable to enemy fire. A change in foundry procedures (apparently by casting the turrets vertically, with the forward section down) resulted in transferring the inclusions less critical counterweight at the rear of the turret.

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  8. seydlitz -

    That was quite a speech by Hitler you linked to. We anglophones tend to mock his speaking style as all we have seen are old propaganda newsreels of him or we laugh at the 'Ranting Hitler' youtube videos. So we forget that he was in fact a good speaker.

    Interesting that he mentioned the Terek River, Kirkenes, and Narvik. I had never heard of the Terek so did some digging. Place had quite a history - Hulagu Khan, Tamerlane, and then Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm List. Or was it von Kleist who advanced to the Terek?

    And I had been superficially aware of naval shootouts and commando raids around Narvik. But digging into wiki I see the Norwegians claim it was the first allied land victory of WW2. And commanded by a Norwegian general with troops from Norway, Britain, Poland, France and even a French Foreign Legion unit that came direct from North Africa. I need to read more of the so-called phony war.

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  9. Nice post. Tied into it, I think, is year's 200th anniversary of Napoleon's defeat in Russia.

    Back to WWII for a minute, while I agree with the description of the strategic failure, I have to wonder what Germany thought the "end" would be in taking on the Soviet Union. I haven't studied it in great detail, but operationally, it seemed pretty incoherent after the first six months as the campaign's focus shifted north and south. I guess the Germans were expecting to "win" in a matter of months and didn't have much of a plan B.

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  10. Mike,and Chief,
    The ppsh used a piece of leather for the buffer.
    Not springs or anything fancy- just a thick piece of leather.
    The ppsh was desirable to the Germans b/c their supply tail was running down and the wpn had a 72 round drum mag.So the ammo was easily captured and it had a high rate of fire foe cqc.Many sources indicate that the barrels were throw away shot out MG barrels. They didn't even use new barrels. The only improvement that was possible would have been a bayonet stud.(imo)
    The NVA k50 was a variant used in the VN war.

    Kurt,
    Germany had an option, one of which was not to fight elective wars.
    I do not accept your assumptions as correct, but they are the reasons why the war was fought.
    Absolute insanity based on narcissistic meglomania.
    jim

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  11. Mike,
    I'm unaware of any ppsh's being issued thru normal channels. The wpn was way too crude for german pre war standards.
    The cartridge was a slight variation of the Mauser 7.63 broomhandle round.
    jim

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  12. jim: What I get from reading German soldier's memoirs of the Ostfront was that they found that the bayonet wasn't as effective because of the thick layers of winter clothing the Soviet troopers wore. My understanding is that many of the landser who survived their initial hand-to-hand encounter with the Sovs tended to wade in with their e-tool in one hand (with the blade folded halfway over to make it a sort of heavy hand-axe or tomahawk) and their bayonet in the other.

    Apparently what they REALLY craved was the Soviet наган (Nagan) 7.62 revolver which was used in tandem with the e-tool axe.

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  13. Andy: My take on the strategic "plan" of Fall Barbarossa was something like that; Hitler and his OKW crew had a) seen the governments of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and France lose their nerve or fall apart after the German combined arms attacks shredded their defenses, and b) they'd watched the Soviets do exceptionally poorly against Finland, and expected a similar or better result.

    So I think the expectation was that the initial attack would shred the Soviet defenses and then the Soviet government would fall apart and sue for peace.

    Not completely unrealistic, but enough so that you'd think that someone would have raised some questions about the underlying assumptions. But as the U.S. recent farkling about in southwest Asia reminds us, "victory disease" is both virulent and brutal in destroying sensible thinking...

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  14. jim -

    Regarding the British claim that the Russkies provided the PPSh-41 to the Germans prior to June 41, the timeline does not seem to be correct for that claim, does it? So maybe they were confusing the captured ones that the Germans used, or maybe they muddled it up with earlier PPD-34/38/40 models?

    As far as primitive production methods you are correct. In some cases they re-used barrels from old Mosin-Nagant rifles manufactured in the Russo-Japanese war era. They cut them in half to make the Pepesha barrels. So the bolt was the only thing that had to be machined, everything else was stamped.

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  15. jim -

    I believe Mr Scholz above has correctly stated the reasons for Hitler turning against the Soviets, and for his proposed end game in the USSR, and for why all of his his allies failed him.

    The only thing I could add would be Hitler's idiocy for depending on the Romanian 3rd and 4th Army. Hitler himself had allowed the Soviets to amputate Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina and Hertza from Romania. Hitler and Mussolini had arbitrated the dismantling of Northern Transylvania from Romania to be given to Hungary. And Hitler had pressured Romania to cede their Dobruja region to Bulgaria. How could he (and Army Group South) have assumed that the average Romanian GI would hold the flanks at Stalingrad. They had more in common with Russians than they did with the Germans. In WW1 Commanding Generals Dumitrescu and Constantinescu and many of their senior officers had fought with the Russians against Germans and Austo-Hungarians. These folks only allied with the Axes in order to regain their territories lost due to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. They had no heart in the game after those territories were liberated.

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  16. Very interesting comments on weapons. Thanks especially to Paul on the V2 tank motor, that was all new to me. In one of the old issues of Waffen Revue they provide the Jan 1943 firing instructions for the Pak-37 with the most common enemy tanks listed. T-34 is more or less a Hail Mary shot especially from the front using the most advanced munition with a range of 100 meters, whereas M4 Sherman and Valentines could be engaged at up to 250 meters. The M3 Grant was the most vulnerable of all the US, UK and USSR tanks listed.

    PPSh-41s were so admired by the Germans that they actually re-calibrated them to 9mm, with the designation MP-41 (r) according to wikipedia . . .

    mike, List commanded Army Group A initially and then was replaced by Kleist in November.

    Andy, great to see you commenting. I had forgotten about the Napoleonic connection here, thanks for pointing it out since that would make the Clausewitzian connection ever stronger . . .

    Considering the postscript where I'll hopefully tie this all together and give a bit more background on Nazi strategic assumptions . . . but I'm in no hurry and very much enjoying the discussion . . .

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  17. mike: Given the general attitude of the Soviets towards their invaders, not sure if this was so much an issue of Romanian loyalties as much as it was a problem with Romanian equipment and training. The "allied" formations were notoriously overextneded, underequipped, badly trained, and badly led.

    Don't doubt that they weren't exactly thrilled about fighting for the Fatherland. But IMO their problems were as much material as morale: here's a summary from the Wiki entry for Operation Uranus: "...in reality these units relied on largely obsolete equipment and horse-drawn artillery, while in many cases the unenlightened treatment of enlisted personnel by officers caused poor morale. In regard to mechanization, the First Romanian Armored Division was equipped with around 100 Czech-built Panzer 35(t) tanks, armed with a 37-millimeter (1.5 in) gun ineffective against the armor of Soviet T-34 tanks. Similarly, their 37-millimeter (1.5 in) PaK anti-tank guns were also antiquated and they were largely short of ammunition. Only after repeated requests did the Germans send the Romanian units 75-millimeter (3.0 in) PaK guns; six per division. These units were extended over very large sections of front; for example, the Third Romanian Army occupied a line 140 kilometers (87 mi) long, while the Fourth Romanian Army protected a line no less than 270 kilometers (170 mi) long.

    The Italians and Hungarians were positioned at the Don west of the Third Romanian Army, but the German commanders did not hold in high regard the capability of those units to fight. Italian soldiers were sometimes held in low regard by their allies, but their ineffectiveness in combat was actually only due to their obsolete weaponry and poor equipment. Weapons in Italian service were of very low quality: they possessed almost no anti-tank weapons, hand grenades rarely detonated, the praised high-quality Italian submachine guns were extremely rare, and mortars and field artillery pieces were inadequate. Rifles and machine guns had to be heated for a long time on a fire to work properly in extreme climatic conditions, and often not capable of firing in the midst of battle."

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  18. seydlitz -

    What do you think von Seekt would think of Barbarossa?

    And I have to wonder if some of the German engineers that Seekt sent to the Soviets in the 1920s to modernize their factories had any influence on Soviet armaments design?

    As far as 'strategic assumptions' - I am more interested in your opinion on the Soviet ones. I hope you will give some background on those as well.

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  19. Chief -

    Yes I agree that obsolete and inadequate equipment was a major problem. And as you say the Romanians were facing an extremely wide front. Wiki even claims that the 3rd Romanian Army was stripped of some of its troops who were sent to the 6th Army in Stalingrad therefore making their front more thinly defended. I have not downplayed that. But you also have to consider the morale factor.

    Hitler never had a supreme allied commander such as Eisenhower. Strange considering that the following countries fought alongside the Wehrmacht against the Red Army: Finland, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, and Croatia. And that does not count the volunteer units from neutral Spain and from occupied countries: the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, even France, and the Cossacks and Hiwis from the occupied Soviet territories. Anthony Beevor’s book claims - ”One quarter of 6th Army's front-line strength were Hiwis”. Recall all the backbiting and bad feelings between American and English generals on our side during WW2. To say nothing of the problems with the Free French and before that with Darlan and Giraud. Our alliance with Stalin was a frosty one also. Even the Brits had major problems with their cousins from the Commonwealth countries. Relationships are important and not just in marriage. Hitler treated all his allies except possibly Finland as untermenschen. The German High Command was no better. They chose to ignore General Dumitrescu’s (3rd Romanian Army) reports about Soviet buildup across from him. And they disregarded his repeated requests to attack the Soviet bridgehead at Kletskaya. Dumitresu was a competent general who knew what he was facing. His retreat may have doomed von Paulus but it probably saved half or more of his command. And his responsibility was to his troops and to Romania not to the 6th Army or to Hitler’s orders never to give ground.

    The situation in Romania was the same. There was much bitterness in Romania regarding their alliance with Hitler who never treated his allies as equals. From wiki: "Germany monopolized Romania's exports and it defaulted on most of its payments. Like all countries whose exports to Germany, particularly in oil, exceeded imports from that country, Romania's economy suffered from Nazi control of the exchange rate."

    Dennis Deletant’s book on Antonescu states that: ”The June 1941 attack on the Soviet Union was genuinely popular in Romania, where the majority agreed with Antonescu's description of the campaign to regain Bessarabia and northern Bukovina as a 'holy war'. However, once these provinces had been reunited with Romania, Romanian opinion opposed continuing the battle across the Dniester, that is beyond Romania's traditional frontiers.

    Also from wiki: “On July 27, 1941, despite disagreement from all political parties, Romania's military dictator Ion Antonescu ordered the Romanian Army to continue the war eastward into proper Soviet territory to fight at Odessa, Crimea, Kharkov, Stalingrad and the Caucasus.”

    ReplyDelete
  20. BTW Chief - As you know, just like the Romanians, the Germans used a lot of horse and wagons also. The German Heer was not one big Panzer Army.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True, but apparently the Romanians (and to some extent the Hungarians) were pretty much still fighting WW1 organizationally. Not trying to say that they were enthusiastic little helpers, but the even the German sources admit that they didn't (probably because they couldn't) help outfit their allied formations to even a level of the regular German infantry divisions...

      Delete
  21. Postscript added . . .

    mike, difficult to see von Seeckt convinced of Germany's ability to defeat the USSR by military means alone. He had served on the WWI Eastern Front and knew Russian capabilities well.

    Soviet strategic assumptions will have to wait for later, although if one considers Stalin's negotiations with the Brits in 1941, he was already talking about annexations. We're still with the 6th Army at Stalingrad, the wars got another two and a half years to run . . . plenty of 70th anniversary posts to consider. Plus I need to dig out D. Volkogonov's Stalin and put some thought into it . . .

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  22. Mike,
    According to one source, Hugo Junkers exerted major influence on the growth of Soviet military aviation:

    "Seeckt’s refusal [to provide financial relief] effectively ended the involvement of both Junkers and the Reichswehr at Fili, although the factory would continue to produce Junkers aircraft until December 1926, when the Soviet Union purchased the factory for six million marks. Fili became the core of the new Soviet aircraft industry, as designers such as Andrei Tupolev began producing all-metal aircraft for the Soviet Air Force. Experience gained by Tupolev and others at the Fili complex, staffed by

    Junkers’ best designers between 1923 and 1926, proved invaluable, and subsequent Russian aircraft reflected inherited Junkers design characteristics for decades. Fili’s effects resonated throughout the Soviet Union, as indigenous aluminum factories appeared to supply the new aircraft industry. The Fili factory continued to expand, and when a German aircraft industry delegation visited there in 1941 they saw a massive complex employing over twelve thousand men. Junkers’ position as the founder of the Soviet Union’s aircraft industry represents arguably one of the Professor’s greatest achievements, however he received little contemporary
    or subsequent recognition."

    For further information, go to the Univ. of Georgia and download "The Case of Hugo Junkers" dissertation by Richard Byers (the URL doesn't seem to work).

    Seydlitz, if you're interested I can forward a cutaway drawing of the V2 engine, together with a photo of its Italian go-by -- pkdempseyAThotmail.com.





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  23. Paul - Nice reference!

    Hugo Junkers it seems had some influence on the IL-2 Shturmovik also, not just Tupelov. From wikipedia: " Uniquely for a World War II attack aircraft, and similarly to the forward fuselage design of the World War I-era Imperial German Junkers J.I armored, all-metal biplane, the Il-2's armor was designed as a load-bearing part of the Ilyushin's monocoque structure, thus saving considerable weight."

    And although Hans von Seekt may have shut down funds for Hugo J's plant in suburban Moscow, he is considered the architect of Russo-German cooperation in the early 1920s.

    Von Seekt and Russia 1920-1922

    BTW do you know of any references that delineate how Fiat's designs came to influence on the V2? Was that from engines sold to the Soviets in the interwar period or was it possibly from stolen designs by Italian communists working at Fiat or ????

    The early Soviet engineers did a good deal of reverse engineering. Nothing wrong with that. We did the same to the Brits after our own revolution in order to bring their industrial revolution to our shores. And the Chinese are doing it to us now.

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  24. Mike,
    The AN2 follow-up to the AN1 appears to have been put into very limited production. The Russians might simply have purchased an example. But industrial espionage is not out of the question. As Takashi Suzuki (“The Romance of Engines”) writes:

    “On August 4, 1914, England declared war against Germany. That same night, an English naval officer in civilian clothing stealthily carried away a used engine from the scrap yard of the Daimler distributor in Long Acre… Not long after the midnight excursion, the engine was unpacked in the Rolls-Royce Derby factory, carefully disassembled, and sketched.

    On July 5…the French Grand Prix was held at Lyon. In this race, the Daimler Mercedes won a lopsided victory when it captured first through third places… it had the world’s first overhead camshaft and with four valves and two spark plugs per cylinder.

    Rolls-Royce staff member W.O. Bentley was extremely impressed with the innovative design and requested that his superior obtain one for study. This scenario explains why an English Navy man was involved in this event because the Navy had commissioned Rolls-Royce to develop a 75-or 100-hp aircraft engine capable of competing with the Mercedes counterpart.”

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks Paul -

    Strong boys those English naval officers. Shades of James Bond!!!! Hope he had a Tommy-Lift on the back of his lorry, or at least a section of tars or hefty midshipmen.

    ReplyDelete
  26. ..."seize the southern resources/stop movement along the Volga as a way to cripple the USSR. I don't think he actually expected to come to terms with Stalin, but rather to so weaken the Soviet government that they could be held off indefinitely>"

    I'd opine that it was equally about the concerns his OKW had about the potential for petroleum shortfalls from Allied attacks on refining plants in Germany and Romania. A source of petroleum in southern Russia would be a windfall for Germany was much as it would be a loss for the USSR.

    FWIW, I'm not so convinced about Fall Blau as a Liddell-Hart-style "indirect approach". If the plan had included some sort of cape-and-sword trick to try and bait the Soviets into weakening their defenses elsewhere to reinforce the Caucasus I'd be more inclined to buy it. But like most of the rest of the German grand tactics in the East, there doesn't seem to have been any sort of attempt to mislead Soviet attention or confuse STAVKA as to the overall objectives of the attack. Local envelopments, sure; that was repeated over and over from 1941 until Kursk. But I'm not seeing the greater strategic "indirect approach" here.

    In fact, my understanding is that STAVKA thought that it WAS some sort of cunning plan to turn the defenses of Moscow, and that the axis of attack would turn north after Voronezh; instead the attacks kept on going right where it looked like they were going; southeast and east.

    Add to that the mess that Schikelgruber made with Führer Directive No. 45...

    So my question would be, was there anything else about this offensive that made you think of it as "indirect", other than the whole "not headed straight for Moscow" thing..?

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  27. FDChief-

    "I'd opine that it was equally about the concerns his OKW had about the potential for petroleum shortfalls from Allied attacks on refining plants in Germany and Romania. "

    In the summer of '42? Lübeck was the first big RAF raid and it had been in March, and seemingly the Nazis had been able to cope with it. The raids on the synthetic oil refineries in Germany were only much later. Polesti was bombed for the first time in August 1943 . . . The Germans didn't march into Stalingrad thinking that they were losing the war . . . quite the opposite.

    The Soviets did anticipate another offensive against Moscow, what else could it be? They had also assumed that the Germans would continue on to Moscow in the Fall of 1941 and not instead head south to seal the Kiev pocket . . . It was the Fall offensive against Moscow which had been the "mistake". Had the Germans dug in after Vyazma and Bryansk and stabilized their logistics maybe . . . but then we run up against the same old problem again, the German view that the Russians were finished . . .

    "So my question would be, was there anything else about this offensive that made you think of it as "indirect", other than the whole "not headed straight for Moscow" thing..?"

    Remember, we're talking Hitler's summer 1942 perspective now . . . I think that was enough . . . didn't he say pretty much that in his speech before his old party comrades on 9 November? Is BHL Hart's concept any more than that?

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  28. Both, Halder and Hitler understood in August 1941, after less than 8 weeks, very well that the original plan for Barbarossa had failed because the Wehrmacht had NOT destroyed the percentage of the enemy ground forces that was anticipated in the original plan.

    Wether the Moscow offensive in autum 1941 would have been better is not so clear, because this offensive would have spared all the Red Army ground forces that were destroyed in the south (Kiev and other pockets).

    A detailled discussion is found in Volume 4 of "The German Reich and the Second World War".

    Because the chosen path in 1941/42 did not work does of course not mean that the alternative would have worked, i.e. would the capture of Moscow really have broken the Soviet government or the Red Army.


    ReplyDelete
  29. ulenspiegel-

    Thanks for your comment.

    Your assumption here is that the Wehrmacht had accurate data concerning the Order of Battle of the Red Army in the summer 1941, but was not the OKH constantly identifying new Red Army units that they had not previously known to exist . . . ? So how could they have calculated a percentage destroyed?

    My argument following my prior 70th Anniversary threads has been that German strategy up to the spring of 1941 made excellent strategic sense. I've argued that a drive on Suez in 1941 could have forced Britain to terms and thus ended the war in the west, but this would have required at the least the postponement of Barbarossa till 1942 or even 1943.

    It is Barbarossa that ends the period of strategic coherence, although the possibility of a draw in the East was possible. The declaration of war against the US though is the final point of no return for the Germans, from my strategic theory perspective.

    I am not arguing that a drive on Moscow in the summer of 1942 would have worked, but rather that was what the Soviets were anticipating . . .

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  30. I do not assume that the data of the Wehrnmacht were correct, the Red Army was in a huge build up program, so a good assessment was tricky. The result counts: not enough ground units were destroyed, be it a wrong bookeeping or underperformance of the German forces does not really matter.

    The more interesting aspect for me is Halders incoherent behaviour in 1940 and 1941:

    After September 1939 Germany was in a really bad strategic position, but Halder pulled the brakes before the Ardennen Offensive (Sichelschnitt), despite the fact that the dire strategic situation required a bold/risky operational plan.

    In contrast, even after the not won or lost BoB Germany was is a much better strategic position in October 1940, however, Halder was now pushing the invasion of the SU, a really risky operation, especially when we consider that the SU privided with each German success against the western allies moer crucial supllies. IMHO Halder's operational plans did not fit the strategic situation, 1940 this was compensated by others, 1941 the shit hit the fan.

    I am too a proponent of a German ofensive in the Mediterranean ToW in 1941, this would have been a very solid approach to gain peace by making Churchill's live as miserable as possible by ground warfare, were the Germans had the edge.

    ReplyDelete
  31. ulenspiegel-

    Yes, but if you are going to argue the Nazis sensing failure in August 1941 . . . you are assuming something. Personally I don't see it.

    Agree on Halder.

    Also a Med strategy in 1941 displays a certain elegance . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hitler clearly understood around 19th July 1941 that many units of the Red Army had not been destroyed. Around 23rd of August even Halder saw the problems of too optimistic assumptions in his plan for Barbarossa, i.e. the German forces were not able to achieve the destruction of most of the Soviet units in western Russia.

      Delete
    2. What Hitler "clearly understood" in terms of specifics is difficult to be sure of. Halder's all over the place in his war diary comments, claiming victory one day and in despair the next. During 1941, the Red Army lost approx 4.5 million of what was assumed to be an active duty army of 3 million. It was more the actual size of the Red Army that surprised the German High Command, not that Barbarossa had "failed". Most of what had been in western Russia had in fact been destroyed. It was the 25% of Red Army forces that had been transferred from the Far East that initially defended and then went on the offensive before Moscow.

      To get an idea of the material losses consider this:

      http://pkka.narod.ru/losses.htm

      Almost 73% of Red Army tanks lost in 1941 and that with 5,600 new tanks having been added to the inventory. Much of the production capacity had of course been captured, destroyed or relocated east . . . Is it any wonder that the Nazis were confident at the start of Fall Blau?

      What the Russians were able to achieve during 1942-43 was truly phenomenal . . .

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  32. And Hitler also thought that the Japanese would hold down those Soviet troops in the Far East.

    "In this age, I don’t care how tactically or operationally brilliant you are, if you cannot create harmony ... on the battlefield based on trust across ... coalition and national lines, and across civilian/military lines, you need to go home, because your leadership is obsolete."

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  33. The original plan for Barbarossa was to defeat the Red Army in summer autumn 1941 and only use in winter 1941/42 some divison as police force.

    The first time that Hitler and Halder expressis verbis admitted that further major operations were required in 1942 was in September 1941, this was a clear admission that the original plan for Barbarossa had failed. However, at this time both still believed that the Wehrmacht was winning.

    According to "The German Reich and the Second World War" (Vol. 4) your statement "Most of what had been in western Russia had in fact been destroyed" is not correct, the large Soviet forces in the Ukraine were the reason that the Panzer divisions of Heeresgruppe Mitte were assigned to Heeresgruppe Sued and did not advance to Moscow during summer 1941. Here the unresolved differences in respect to the operational concept for the second phase of Barbarossa between Halder and Hiltler arose again: For Hitler the economic aspects of the Ukraine were more important than Moscow, Halder was in favour of an early advance of Heeresgruppe Mitte against Moscow.

    The battles in the south did cost time, soldiers, hardware and supplies, that lacked in the delayed offensive against Moscow.


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    Replies
    1. Hard to follow that the Nazis saw Barbarossa as a failure in September 1941. Halder and Hitler hardly agreed on anything and Brauchitsch didn't last the year. Consider this document sent the day after Pearl Harbor and three days before Hitler's declaration of war on the US. Zhukov's offensive had started on the 5th . . . It's not until the crisis brought on by this offensive that Hitler could have seen Barbarossa as a "failure" since up to that point the USSR appeared to be on the ropes . . .

      Weisung für die Aufgaben des Ostheeres im Winter 1941/42

      Geheime Kommandosache
      . . .
      Oberkommando des Heeres
      . . .
      Nr. 1693/41, HQu OKH, den 8 Dezember 1941

      1. Ergebnis des russischen Feldzuges im Jahre 1941:
      Die Operationen des Jahres 1941 sind mit dem zunehmenden Einsetzen der schneereichen Jahreszeit und Kälteperiode im wesentlichen zum Abschluss gekommen; einzelne noch nicht beendete werden noch fortzuführen sein.
      Noch den großen Siegen im September und Oktober hat die Truppe unter fast übermenschlichen Anstrengungen die bei Beginn des Feldzuges gesteckten Operationsziele gegenüber den personell und materiell zahlenmäßig weit überlegenen Gegner erreicht.
      Für die feindl. Wehrkraft entscheidende Wirtschafts- und Rüstungszentren sind dem Gegner entzogen. Die dem Ostherr gestellte Aufgabe, die Masse des Roten Heeres vor ihrem Ausweichen in die Tiefe des russ. Raumes zu zerschlagen, ist durch die Kämpfe dieses Jahres in weitgehendem Maße erfüllt, die Kampfkraft des Gegners ist durch die über Erwarten hohen Verluste an Personal und Material entscheidend geschwächt.
      Das Ziel, den Russen militärisch endgültig auszuschalten, liegt noch vor uns. Wann und wie die Kraft des Heeres für diese Aufgabe noch den Wintermonaten eingesetzt wird, wird zeitgerecht befohlen werden.
      Die in dem bisher härtesten Kampfe des Krieges von Führung und Truppe vollbrachten, unübertrefflichen Leistungen des Jahres 1941 werden an anderer Stelle und zu gegebener Zeit ihre Würdigung finden.

      Delete
  34. Nice plug for this post from zenpundit . . . MilPub has made his recommended reading list yet again . . .

    http://zenpundit.com/?p=17937

    Thanks zen.

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  35. seydlitz,
    All of my writing centers in opposition to war-specifically recent US wars.
    This article/thread puts a perspective to my thought.
    Even tho our recent wars are cruel jokes they are grains of sand compared to the Ruso/German war of the ww2 period.
    One point to remember is that these wars -all of them since day 1 have defined western civilization, and that gives me no optimism for the future.
    What it boils down to is not what did hitler know and who shot john, but have we really given up war as a way of life?
    I think of Nato when i say this.
    This has been an exemplary thread.
    jim

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  36. jim-

    Thanks for the kind words. Earlier you asked me if I had read the US Army's series of historical pamphlets written by German generals after the war. I am familiar with several of them . . . an interesting series.

    A terrible campaign . . . If it is a sign of progress I doubt if any of the countries involved then would be capable of fighting/enduring such a war today . . .

    That does not of course mean that we have given up on war. As long as we have politics, we will have wars . . . the wars simply reflect the character of the political relations/social reality in existence at a particular time . . . those today reflect a high level of hypocrisy imo . . .

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  37. Second Postscript added. Watch the film, I think you all will find it interesting . . .

    ReplyDelete
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