|Troops Waiting to Be Picked Up at Dunkirk. Why Did Hitler Not Invade Britain Then?|
I also saw this week with Alice the new movie on Winston Churchill, Darkest Hour, memorably starring Gary Oldman, which explores what was happening in England. Churchill was winging it. It was a great achievement of the RAF in the Battle of Britain in summer and early fall 1940 to stand up to the Luftwaffe. As Winston Churchill said memorably, and I had to write out hundreds of times as a punishment for rules infractions at the boarding school in England I attended in 1952-55: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
Hitler and his military leaders commanded land, air and sea, and had little opposition taking over Western Europe. They could have invaded England in the summer of 1940. Why didn't they?
One theory is that they believed that they could take their time, so they set about methodically putting together the maps for their Unternehmen Seeloewe, Operation Sea Lion. I have seen these maps, both at the Bodleian Library in Oxford and the New York Public Library's Map Division. They were largely British postcards and UK government maps with markings in German. They were likely used in the Baedeker Bombing period after Hitler gave up on bringing London to its knees.
Robert Forczyk, in his book We March Against England, says that Britain was not well prepared to resist an invasion in the air or at sea:
[T]he anti-invasion effort would have rested squarely upon the obsolescent Fairey Battles of №1 Group (six squadrons with about 90 Battles) and the Blenheim light bombers of Air Vice-Marshal Sir James Robb’s №2 Group (11 squadrons with about 160 Blenheims). Both aircraft had already proven highly vulnerable to enemy fighter interception. ... Of all the misconceptions about Seelöwe, the ability and willingness of the Royal Navy to defeat an invasion attempt are often the most egregious.As the Germans’ self-imposed late-September 1940 invasion deadline loomed, just five of the British fleet’s 14 capital ships were in home waters.
Adm. Sir Charles Forbes, commander of the Home Fleet, was very wary of risking his capital ships in the English Channel where they could be bombed by the Luftwaffe and was content to rely primarily on destroyers and light craft, supported by a few cruisers, to oppose any invasion.London ultimately compelled Forbes to add a battleship to the anti-invasion fleet, but it would need hours to reach the fighting. The Royal Navy’s plan was to send 40 destroyers and four cruisers to hit the barges from east and west. But the British ships would have to get through air attacks and minefields before making contact at night with the four dispersed and heavily armed invasion flotillas. While the Royal Navy’s submarines might fare better, the surface fleet’s chances of defeating an invasion on its own were tenuous.
Nor was the Britain Army ready to resist a German landing in the half-year after Dunkirk. In September 1940 it was a "cardboard force".
So if the RAF’s fighting prowess didn’t matter, the Royal Navy’s anti-invasion plans were too timid and the British Army was shell-shocked why didn't the Nazis invade? Forczyk's answers:
- Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion to devote more resources to his crazy ambition to invade the USSR. The Eastern Front would consume millions of German lives and prove to be Hitler’s downfall.
- Hitler preferred postponing Operation Sea Lion to forcing the bickering chiefs of the German army, navy and air force to work together on a single operation as complex as an amphibious landing.
Michael Hobart • Finally someone pointing out the major logistic problems of mounting and sustaining a cross-channel invasion! The Germans were not seriously prepared to do that. It's not just jumping into any odd craft and crossing the channel.
Peacekenya • Invasion of Britain would have been threat enough for the British to deploy major fleet vessels. The author also forgets the efforts Britain made to disrupt German preparations in the Low Countries. They could not have achieved any surprise. Nor were the Germans capable of transporting heavy war equipment and landing it unscathed on the British coast. A sea-land assault is one of the most difficult undertakings. This author has not looked at the technical problems that would have had to be overcome.
Rudeboy > Peacekenya • He's not looked at a wartime map of the south coast either. It was a dreadful place to conduct an invasion.
robmoore > Rudeboy • So was Normandy, yet the allies did it.
notsurprised2 > robmoore • Yes, but after years of build-up. Largest fleet ever assembled till that time and still if staff had the courage to wake the military genius Hitler and he released the Panzers for counter attack it could have been a much different story. See Gen. Bradley's memoirs.
RealTime >notsurprised2 • Also it was conducted by the two largest maritime powers whose naval expertise at that point was vastly superior than that of Germany. Even then it was a near thing.
robmoore > notsurprised2 • That is true, but it is not an equivalent comparison. At the time, Britain's military was in a shambles after Dunkirk. When the Allies landed in Normandy, they were not facing an enemy that was ill-prepared or ill-equipped to defend against the landing. Germany's forces in the west were somewhat weakened by the need to send more men and materiel to the Eastern Front, but not weakened to the same degree as Britain's ground forces shortly after Dunkirk. A stiff breeze from the east would have knocked out Britain's defences against a German landing, plus the Germans were planning their crossing from Calais, which is a much shorter journey than from Britain to Normandy; thus, it gave the RAF less time to act and restricted large naval vessels maneuvering.
Peacekenya > robmoore • With over 4,000 ships and naval and air superiority. Hitler never had that at any time during the war.
Michael >robmoore • Yeah, let’s compare it to D-Day Normandie. The Allied invasion comes after YEARS of planning and a trial-run (disaster) at Dieppe along with total air supremacy and absolute control of the sea lanes. Further, an amphibious assault is one thing… SUSTAINING the logistics tail of a beachhead is quite another. The Germans were in NO WAY EVER ready to do this. Invasion of UK would have cost the Germans their entire assault force.
buddy66 >Michael • The final wave (supply) could have walked ashore on the floating bodies of German soldiers in the channel.
kevin72132003 > robmoore • We had the advantage of the lessons learned from amphibious operations in North Africa, Sicily and the Pacific in preparing for Normandy. We had sufficient shipping to supply the invasion force after it landed.
Keith Against Tyranny > robmoore • Normandy was also postponed several times due to conditions, weather, moonlight etc. It is never easy to mount a huge landing force by sea.
kevin72132003 > Keith Against Tyranny • As I understand it, allied weather stations in the arctic predicted a three-day window for the Normandy operation. Without this information, there might have been no invasion in 1944.
Alexander Dylan > Peacekenya • Unternehmen Seeloewe was nothing more than a deception to fool Stalin and has been used to make the British war effort look victorious when it was beset by nothing but defeat. Even Dunkirk, which would be a defeat in most accounts, relies on this myth to make itself a victory. This is not unknown to serious historians and is probably the second or third largest myth told about the entire war. The Germans, especially Hitler, knew they could not invade Britain for a whole plethora of reasons. This is modern myth; nothing more!
kevin72132003 > Alexander Dylan • That makes sense. The German military was very professional. They would have to be aware that the invasion of Great Britain was very nearly a suicidal operation.
Wake > Alexander Dylan • The Millennials like to deceive themselves into thinking that they understand large-scale warfare.
Wake > Peacekenya • The British Isles are also protected over most of the Channel side by extreme tides and long sands that dry out at mid-tides. Heavy equipment couldn't land at the port cities and they couldn't be moved across the sand.
robmoore > Peacekenya • Problem with that is that most of the RN was deployed all over the globe with much of it in the Indian Ocean and western Pacific. It was clear that war with Japan was close. That is the problem with holding an empire without which, Britain's economy would have been unable to obtain the raw materials for war.
Rudeboy > robmoore • There are plenty of lists of the OOB of the RN. I suggest you look for one to see exactly what was in Home waters between June and October 1940...
Rudeboy • Spot on. The people who think it should be straightforward are making the same mistake as the Germans who initially viewed crossing the channel as a very wide river crossing. But the evidence is staring them in the face. All they have to do is look at the years of work, colossal scale and special equipment developed by the Allies to make D-Day work. They're usually the same people who think the German Army was a super machine capable of anything, which is the oddest position to take given the beating it received over the last 3 years of the war.
Steve Rainwater > Rudeboy • The fact that the Wehrmacht was able to hang in for as long as it did despite loss of air cover, limited strategic materials, and even fuel points out its superior fighting ability. US Army studies conducted after the war concluded that up to the near end of the war in Europe German tactics and tactical leadership were superior to the Allies. The Allies simply bludgeoned them with firepower, especially artillery.
Alexander Dylan > Steve Rainwater • The allies merely bludgeoned them with sheer numbers of men and material. Look at the odds the Germans faced at the battles for Berlin, Seelow Heights, or Warsaw. They were killing 20 tanks to one of their own at times but there was always one more behind that 20th. The same goes for planes and men etc. The "war of production" was the single most important factor in the entire war. Population, due to the number of fighting men they support, was the second most important. They were simply overwhelmed. Those factors dictated the war. Not tactics, or strategy, superior equipment, or skill and valor.
Jimbo86 > Alexander Dylan • Elsenborn Ridge? Bastone? Arracourt? Thing is there are a number of examples of outnumbered, outgunned, no air support Allied forces defeating their German opponents especially when they were dug in. By 1944 the U.S. and U.S.S.R. and likely the U.K. armies simply outclassed the German forces. The U.S. Army had far superior artillery tactics even when German outnumbered the U.S. in number of tubes, the Time on Target tactics of the U.S. made their artillery more useful. The U.S. Army was far more mobile with a far better logistics system. By the time the U.S. Army was in the fight and the Red Army was on its feet, the German Army had the advantage of being on the defensive. If the German army really had superior tactics, tactical leadership, and fighting ability, they would have done better than what they did. Allied forces put up better defensive stands whenever the Germans managed to pull off offensive maneuvers than the Germans did especially on the western front. The biggest limiting factor for the advancing western allies once they broke out of the bocage was not German resistance but logistics. That would not be the case if the German army really had superior tactics, tactical leadership, and fighting ability. So I am not buying what Steve or Alexander are selling. I am not saying the German Army was no good, or didn't have its strengths, it did. What I am saying is that the German Army was not some wonder army that only lost because they were "merely bludgeoned them with sheer numbers of men and material". I would say that the better logistics, better organization, better overall kit, and better use of combined arms (Infantry, Artillery, Armor, Air Power) allowed the U.S. Army and better strategic depth, better ability to mass forces while leaving other areas thin, allowed the Red Army to bludgeon the German Army into submission. Red Army deep battle outclassed the German Army in 1944-45 and U.S. Army mobile, high firepower, and excellent use of combined arms army outclassed the German Army in 1944-45.
Rudeboy > Jimbo86 • Exactly. The near hero worship of the Wehrmacht by many internet warriors doesn't stand up to any real scrutiny. From 1942 onwards they were beaten like a ginger- haired step child everywhere. The supposed tactical genius of the Wehrmacht from 1942 never extended much beyond counter attacking when a position was lost. And as Wellington said of Napoleon's tactics, "They came on in the same way, and we beat them the same way." The same thing happened time and again. They had no Plan B.
kevin72132003 > Rudeboy • The Wehrmacht was a good military force. Its best units were very good and, particularly given the fact that the western allies had air superiority in nearly every operation, it acquitted itself well late in the war. That being said, the myth of the Wehrmacht as a super army is simply that. There is no denying that the larger and better equipped allies were simply always going to win. Hitler's generals knew this in 1944. The failure to defeat the Soviet Union before the invasion of Italy and then France meant that Hitler's defeat was only a matter of time.
Alexander Dylan > Jimbo86 • Read the preface to the German Truppenfuhrung(The German Art of War). Our tactics were taken from the Germans. Though there are differences we copied their ideas, tactics, and operational arts. The differences are very small in detail compared to the similarities and the philosophy was identical for the most part.
Jimbo86 > Alexander Dylan • US Army tactics were influenced by German military success but they were not copied. All you have to do is look at the differences in unit organization from squad-platoon-company-up to army group, official army manuals, and difference in how the sides fought in the field to see your idea that US army copied the Germans is not correct. Influenced, yes, but then the British, French, Red Army all influenced the US Army to various degrees. I don't care what some author of a preface says. Look at the actual documents that matter, they being the two respective army manuals actually issued by the two armies, and compare them.
Alexander Dylan > Jimbo86 • Read the book. It was/is copied from the Germans and this is not a matter of dispute. The USSR copied French doctrine with predictable results. US Army doctrine was taken almost exclusively from the Germans and that is from the mouths of the US Generals who made our doctrine. We even had FM Halder write a critique of our war effort and asked him to advise us on how to better it. Even shock and awe is this same doctrine slightly modified for modern technology.
Jimbo86 > Alexander Dylan • Again, influence is not the same as copy. The Red Army did not copy the French. The Red Army was in the midst of reorganization/ purge/ when the Germans hit them. By the end of the war Soviet deep battle was in a class of its own. Compare the German Army Manual to the US Army manual. You will see similarities in some things, and big differences in other areas. Like I said the German military had some influence on US Army doctrine, but US Army doctrine was not copied. The US Army looked at what the German Army was doing and picked what they liked and what they did not like to influence their own doctrine that they were putting together in 1940-41. You know who else influenced US Army doctrine? The French, the Brits, the Russians, the Germans/Prussians, the Mexicans, North American Indian Tribes, the American experience of the Civil War and WWI (especially on the importance of logistics), the Canadians, and I am sure I am leaving plenty more out. Copying German doctrine would have been a disaster for the US Army. Two completely different organizations with key differences. For other armies to influence other armies is nothing new. Smart armies will look at how other armies achieved success and adjust their own army doctrines where needed. The Germans did not discover the idea of shock and awe that idea has been around since before Sun Tzu and the ancient Greeks.
Alexander Dylan> Jimbo86 • First thing to consider is that only around 20% of the entire German war effort was even focused on the Western front at the highest. The fight in Western Europe was like a skirmish in contrast to the Eastern Front and paled in comparison to the East. While the western Allies focused the overwhelming majority of theirs on western Europe and the "Europe first" strategic initiative. Second, the Germans had been bled for almost 4 1/2 years by the time they faced the invasion and the subsequent march across Europe. They never fought the German Army as it was at its finest. Fighting under equipped old men and teenage boys is not much to brag about but makes for a great legend around which empires are formed. Beating up on Ost Battalions and Ost-truppen doesn't equate either. The Wehrmacht of summer 1944 was not the one of 1941 and truth be told comparisons and hypothetical battle scenarios are worthless and pure fantasy that prove nothing.
Jimbo86 > Alexander Dylan • Read up on the order of battle for each of those battles I listed, they were not old men or teenage boys. Especially Elsenborn Ridge and Bastone. One of the two primary American divisions fighting at Elsenborn Ridge were green and outfought German veteran units. Why? Part of it is American tactics were easier to teach and train. That makes it easier to train up new untis and replacements. The American strategy and tactics were far better suited to fighting and winning the industrial type war WWII was.
Steve Rainwater > Alexander Dylan • Superior numbers of tanks, planes, guns equals superior firepower.
kevin72132003 > Steve Rainwater • The German army was very good. But it did not have soldiers with gills.
HeiaSafari • No discussion of amphibious warfare can be considered realistic without a discussion of logistics. Getting an army onto the beach is simply the first step. Armies need to shoot, they need to eat, and to quote Patton "my tanks gotta have gas". The Royal Navy did not need to stop the invasion force to win. They only needed to prevent the invasion force from receiving supplies. Moving in after the invasion force landed and blocking their resupply is arguably a more effective strategy than preventing the landing in the first place. As far as the "WW1 tactics" comment goes, that is not necessarily relevant. Without significant resupply of petrol, the invading Germans would primarily be walking. The Allies had a difficult time supplying their troops in France with petrol in 1944. I've never seen anyone who could explain how the Germans were planning on doing it in 1940. Additionally, England is more urban in character than France (the cities are large and reasonably close together). London would be Stalingrad x10. To recap: If the creme of the Wehrmacht made it ashore in England, they stood a very real chance of getting stranded there without supplies.
GMBurns > HeiaSafari • "The Royal Navy did not need to stop the invasion force to win. They only needed to prevent the invasion force from receiving supplies" Exactly. There is an acronym for an invasion force that is cut off after landing on a hostile island. It is P.O.W.
WallyWalters > HeiaSafari • Great points. A landing is just the first step in an invasion. As the Allies learned at Dieppe, even a landing can get very fouled up. The RN backed by the RAF would have kept the Channel scoured. Pretty soon there'd be no vessels to transport anything. D-Day involved the greatest armada ever assembled, backed by tremendous logistics and air domination. And it was a near thing.
kevin72132003 > HeiaSafari • Very well said. The absence of German experience or training in amphibious operations was also a critical problem. I recall reading that the naval officers had to explain to the army the significance of tides to any landing force.
GMBurns > kevin72132003 • I am sure that had to be explained to most Army officers in nearly every country.
kevin72132003 > GMBurns • My point was that the German army had no experience in the problems of sea borne attacks in 1940. They would be learning even the most rudimentary facts to undertake a massive operation in the face of intense resistance. In contrast, the United States had developed inter service coordination of amphibious operations through smaller operations in Africa, Italy and the Pacific. This served them well in 1944. disqus_ykznXtqnuv HeiaSafari • a year ago After D-day, a not insignificant effort was made to supply oil to allied forces in France: Operation Pluto (Pipe-Lines Under The Ocean) https://en.wikipedia.org/wi...
Vicious • The article's author is flawed in his saying (and I paraphrase from page 1): "The RAF couldn't stop an invasion..." "Nor was the Royal Navy capable of stopping an invasion... Sure, but BOTH TOGETHER WERE. Ships operating under air superiority can do a lot more than ships that don't have it. Ask the US and Japanese Navies in the Pacific. German temporary local air superiority allowed their own "Channel Dash" to succeed in 1942.
BonnKS >Vicious • But the RAF didn't have air superiority, even after the BOB. The RAF would have had to contest with German fighters and the RN would have to contend with German bombers.
kevin72132003 > BonnKS • The Luftwaffe had not originally been trained or developed weapons to engage warships. It eventually got better at that. However, the German landing force would have had to contend with the Royal Navy and the Luftwaffe would have had to contend with the RAF. A few cruisers of destroyers getting in among the barges would have been catastrophic.