They came prepared for the wrong war.
The internal combustion engine changed war.
The outcome of battles was no longer left solely
to generals in the field. Modern weapons are
junk metal rusting in open fields without a steady
supply of energy, industrial products and a robust
economy to finance all this exotic hardware.
Military leaders going into 1939 preferred to view
their endeavors in more romantic terms.
A dashing swordsman on horseback would now
share credit for military success with engineers,
scientists and accountants in Detroit -
those responsible for creating a mechanized defense.
Stalin agrees to divide Poland with Hitler.
The total capitulation of Britain and France to
Hitler's demands at Munich the year before
proved to Stalin there was no backbone
in the words of these two democracies.
Russia would have to deal with Germany alone.
Poland was all that separated these two enemies.
It was weak - a mere warm up for German arms.
For the sake of Russian security it would be best
to move Soviet forces and boundaries deep into
Poland itself, west to the banks of the Vistula.
Poland was of small consequence in the faceoff
between Moscow and Berlin.
France and Britain's guarantees of security
proved worthless as Poland's allies were
too far removed from the battle.
The effort taken by France to aid Poland with its own
attack into Germany was pure gesture, half-hearted,
hesitant. They had not trained for taking the offensive.
In any case, Poland quickly collapsed. It's government
fleeing to Paris.
"I swear by God this holy oath, that I will render to
Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer of the German Reich and People,
Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces,
unconditional obedience, and that I am ready,
as a brave soldier, to risk my life at any time
for this oath."
The Fuhrer sees his troops off
as they march into Poland.
They are on foot and on horseback. Much was said
about Germany's rapid tank attacks, their armor.
These forces, though, were only the tip of the spear -
representing maybe fifteen percent of the army.
The vast majority of the Wehrmacht, as it was called,
were foot soldiers supplied by horses pulling
munition wagons. The Nazis simply didn't provide
for much making of trucks. So the problem was
not being able to keep up with motorized armor.
It wasn't that big of a problem in the smaller
countries of Poland and France but it would be
a critical battlefield failure in the vast stretches
of the Soviet Union. German tanks would sit idle
for a week or more waiting for the infantry to arrive.
Meanwhile Soviet troops were allowed to retreat
to fight another day, once again, down the road.
grab a quick smoke before taking care of business
It soon became obvious that shooting civilians in the
numbers desired would require teams specifically
tasked for the job full time. As it turns out no one
survived this assignment six months without first
succumbing to criminal insanity and deemed
of no further use to society.
What to do next.
Maybe someone set out a suggestion box.
a metal container, motorized
seats four - claustrophobic
swivel mounted gun fires projectile
intended to puncture shell of enemy tank,
the round then exploding inside,
destroying its contents.
Unless, of course, he first does it to you.
You might spend three or more tanks and waste
half of day trying to take a well defended position
or if you're a German commander you might
call on a Stuka dive-bomber approaching overhead
and have it drop its egg square in the center
of the designated target. Engagement ended.
Close overhead support was an important advantage
of German Blitzkrieg tactics.
Poland's defenders were mostly lightly armed infantry.
Their tactics were nineteenth century and the tanks
and planes they used were mostly obsolete.
The core principle of Blitzkrieg is to
concentrate your armor into one very fast and
lethal punch that breaches the opposing line
and races pell mell towards their enemy's HQ -
destroy it and thereby decapitating your opposition.
Then the action becomes a matter of clean up
with the outcome now certain.
Germany took about three weeks to isolate, surround
and capture all Polish opposition. Only then did
Russian troops cross the border with Poland. They
took up defensive positions along an agreed upon line
separating themselves from their German counterparts.
The nonaggression pact arrived at between Russia
and Germany would hold long enough
for Hitler to tend to France and Britain.
Stalin would use this time to build his defenses
against the inevitable conflict with Germany.
Warsaw - 1939
a modern, European city
a vibrant culture
center for government
Warsaw - 1945
Nazi forces ravage Warsaw before abandoning
the city to the advancing Russian Army.
Hitler's fatal miscalculation
measured in the currency of death
Clearly Hitler was a victim of his own advice. He placed his faith
in this Lightning warfare. Wars won quickly. Hitler counted on it.
This revolutionary use of motorized armor brought speedy
resolution in both Poland and, surprisingly, France.
Germany was now master of its own destiny.
To the east, Russia - wheat fields of Ukraine, industry,
mineral resources all about and oil fields near Iran.
Hitler saw another quick war that would enable him
to solve German problems using Russia's wealth.
His mind was set.
He was in. All or nothing.
© Tom Taylor