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German Army - the Queen of Battle
This was certainly achieved from the opening of hostilities with the rapid defeat of Poland, whose powerful armed forces had been depended upon by Anglo-French commanders to resist long enough for them to mount an offensive against Germany. The Western Campaign planned by the Fuehrer and Erich von Manstein, chief of staff of Army Group A, developed into one of history’s greatest military triumphs, primarily because of its swiftness and flexibility in by-passing lesser targets for more important objectives, together with dependence on concentrations of armored vehicles (as opposed to individual deployment of better French tanks), and use of dive-bombers as long-range artillery. This innovative integration of services utterly baffled conventional Allied commanders, whose standard forms of resistance collapsed within a matter of weeks.
The British were driven into the sea a second time less than one year later by the same combination of land and air resources that hounded Churchill’s men from the Balkans in little more than a month’s fighting.
Beginning in late June 1941, practically the full weight of the German Army was hurled against the Soviet Union, where Stalin’s forces were thrown into disarray and kept off balance until the end of the following year. Only his numerically superior manpower and the vastness of Russia herself prevented Axis victory in 1942. But by December, British cryptologists broke German military codes, and alerted Red Army commanders to every move Hitler and his generals were about to make before they could be implemented. The resulting disaster at Stalingrad in January 1943 marked the end of the German Army’s invincibility. Thereafter, all it could do was fight holding operations everywhere, in the hope that superior weapons’ technology, high attrition afflicted on its enemies, and opportunities for counter-offensives would lead to a reversal of the situation.
Such an opportunity arose in December 1944, when the over-confident Yanks were bowled over at the Battle of the Bulge. Under Field Marshal Walter Model, their forces were routed, surrendering in large numbers, and U.S. general George Patton warned, “we could still lose this war.” But weather conditions favorable to interdiction by Allied ground-attack aircraft chiefly contributed to the ultimate collapse of Model’s initially successful offensive.
German troops parade through Warsaw after the invasion of Poland. Warsaw, Poland, September 28-30, 1939.
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Date this page was last updated:
Friday, March 24, 2017