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Operation of the Wehrmacht

  1. German Army (German Empire)
  2. Forces and resources of the European combatants, 1939
  3. The German Army in the Second World War

Heavy military spending quickly restored the depression-ravaged economy, making Adolf Hitler popular with the people and the military. German armed forces were named the Wehrmacht from to The Army Heer was encouraged to experiment with tanks and motorised infantry, using the ideas of Heinz Guderian. The Kriegsmarine restarted naval construction and Hitler established the Luftwaffe , an independent air force. Threats to use military force were a staple in Nazi foreign policy.

They were not actually used except as German involvement in the Spanish Civil War —39 , where the Luftwaffe gained important combat experience. Farrell argues that the historiography of the army in World War Two has been "extremely difficult" because of the stark dichotomy between its superb combat performance and the horrors of its destruction and crimes against civilians and prisoners.

At first Germany's military moves were brilliantly successful, as in the "blitzkrieg" invasions of Poland , Norway and Denmark , the Low Countries , and above all the stunningly successful invasion and quick conquest of France in Hitler probably wanted peace with Britain in late , but Winston Churchill , standing alone, was dogged in his defiance. Churchill had major financial, military, and diplomatic help from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the U.

Rising tensions with the Soviet Union eventually led Germany to launch a full-scale invasion of its former ally in June Hitler's insistence on maintaining high living standards postponed the full mobilization of the national economy until , years after the great rivals Britain, Russia, and the U. In September , Germany invaded Poland using new tactics that combining the use of tanks, motorised infantry, and air support — known as Blitzkrieg — caused Polish resistance to collapse within weeks.

From the beginning of the campaign German forces committed war crimes. Britain and France declared war but over the winter of —40 there was very little combat in what was called the Phoney War. Then they fought a successful Norwegian Campaign against the British and Norwegian forces to conquer Norway and to secure access to the North Sea and to Swedish iron ore. Sweden remained neutral throughout the war, but Finland fought two wars against the Soviets and became a German ally.

The French plans were largely based on a static defense behind the Maginot Line — a series of formidable defensive forts along the French-German border. On 10 May the Germans bypassed the Maginot Line by launching another Blitzkrieg through neutral Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands, drawing the Allied forces out.

The main thrust of the Battle of France attack however was through the Ardennes which were to that time believed impenetrable to tanks.

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The British Expeditionary Force and other allied units were driven back to the coast at Dunkirk , but managed to escape with most of their troops when Germany made a mistaken decision not to attack with tanks. In June , with French troops encircled and cut off in the north, France asked for an armistice that allowed Germany to control most of the French coast and left Vichy France under German domination. Hitler at least wanted to threaten an invasion of Britain, perhaps to force a peace, so an armada of small boats and a large combat force was assembled in northern France.

The Battle of Britain was of basic strategic significance, for Berlin believed that it could defeat Britain only by physical invasion by the Army, codenamed Operation Sea Lion. The British Army had rescued its soldiers at Dunkirk but lost most of its equipment and weapons, and was no match for the fully equipped German army. The invasion could succeed only if the Luftwaffe could guarantee the Royal Navy would not be able to attack the landing force. To do so, the Royal Air Force had to be defeated. The Battle took place August to September The Luftwaffe used medium bombers guarded by fighters; they made sorties a day from bases in France, Belgium and Norway.

Thanks to its new radar system, the British knew where the Germans were, and could concentrate their counterattacks. After the RAF bomber forces quite separate from the fighter forces attacked Berlin and other cities, Hitler swore revenge and diverted the Luftwaffe to attacks on London. The success the Luftwaffe was having in rapidly wearing down the RAF was squandered, as the civilians being hit were far less critical than the airfields and radar stations that were now ignored. The Luftwaffe lost planes, the British, The British showed more determination, better radar, and better ground control, while the Germans violated their own doctrine with wasted attacks on London.

The British surprised the Germans with their high quality airplanes; flying close to home bases where they could refuel, and using radar as part of an integrated air defense system, they had a significant advantage over German planes operating at long range. The Germans immediately pulled out their Stukas, which were so slow they were child's play for the Hurricanes and Spitfires. The Battle of Britain showed the world that Hitler's vaunted war machine could be defeated.

Barley identifies numerous failures by the German high command. Hitler was indecisive, failing to identify a political goal that would define the military mission. Luftwaffe planning was muddled, and overlooked the important lessons learned in Spain. The operation was poorly supported by German intelligence. Germany failed to adhere to two key principles of war: know your enemy and yourself, and select and maintain your aim. To support their weakened Italian allies who had started several invasions, in early Germany deployed troops in Greece , Yugoslavia and North Africa.

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In the Balkans it was a matter of guerrilla war which was extremely violent on all sides. Hitler made the fateful decision to invade Russia in early , but was delayed by the need to take control of the Balkans. Europe was not big enough for both Hitler and Stalin, and Hitler realized the sooner he moved the less risk of American involvement.

Stalin thought he had a long-term partnership and rejected information coming from all directions that Germany was about to invade in June As a result, the Russians were poorly prepared and suffered huge losses, being pushed back to Moscow by December before holding the line. Hitler imagined that the Soviet Union was a hollow shell that would easily collapse, like France.

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He therefore had not prepared for a long war, and did not have sufficient winter clothing and gear for his soldiers. Although Hitler had decided to invade the Soviet Union as early as , German resources never reflected this; armaments production, tank and aircraft construction, and logistical preparations focused on the West. Diplomatic activity was similarly skewed; Hitler granted Stalin any territory he wanted such as Lithuania , knowing they would soon be at war and Germany would reclaim it anyway.

Hitler, blinded by his racist prejudices against Slavs, believed the Eastern campaign would be quick and easy.

German Army (German Empire)

His real strategic concern was Great Britain and the United States, and his planning consistently demonstrated this. The Balkan operation had caused a delay, and about six weeks later than planned, on 22 June , Germany reneged on its non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union and launched Operation Barbarossa. The German army and its allies made enormous territorial gains in the first months of the war, reaching the outskirts of Moscow when winter set in. Expecting another Blitzkrieg victory, the Germans had not properly prepared for warfare in winter and over long distances.

Consequently, it also proved to be the turning point. The harsh Russian winters and long supply lines worked in Russia's favour and German armies were decisively defeated in early at Stalingrad and later in the gigantic tank battle at Kursk. Hitler was technologically oriented and promoted a series of new secret weapons, such as the jet plane, the jet-powered missile V-1 , the rocket-powered missile V-2 , and vastly improved submarines. However he failed to support development of nuclear weapons or proximity fuses, and trailed the Allies in radar. He failed to take advantage of the German lead in jet planes.

In early the Soviet victory at Stalingrad marked the beginning of the end, as Germany was unable to cope with the superior manpower and industrial resources of the Allies.

Forces and resources of the European combatants, 1939

North Africa, Sicily, and southern Italy fell in Hitler rescued Mussolini from prison. Mussolini set up a new "Salo Republic" but he was a mere puppet, as German forces blocked the Allies from the industrial northern third of Italy. The Russians pushed forward relentlessly in the East, while the Allies in the west launched a major bombing campaign in —45 that destroyed all major and many smaller German cities, ruined transportation, and signaled to Germans how hopeless their cause was. The Allies invaded France in June as the Russians launched another attack on the east.

Both attacks were successful and by the end of , the end was in sight. Hitler did launch a surprise attack at the Bulge in December ; it was his last major initiative and it failed, as Allied armor rolled into Germany. Disregarding his generals, Hitler rejected withdrawals and retreats, counting more and more on nonexistent armies. He committed suicide in his underground bunker in Berlin as his last soldiers were overwhelmed by Soviet armies in intensely bloody battles overhead. Among the legacies of the Nazi era were the Nuremberg Trials of — These established the concept of war crimes in international law and created the precedent for trying future war criminals.

The western territory of Germany fell under the protection of the NATO alliance in the west, while the eastern state joined the Warsaw Pact. Each state possessed its own military force, with eastern Germany formed along the Soviet model and federal Germany adopting a more 'western' organisation. The allied zones of Berlin became de facto part of the Federal Republic of Germany despite the city's location deep in the German Democratic Republic.

That resulted in a special situation for Berlin , i. This condition continued until when the two states were reunited. The Bundeswehr was established in in West Germany. In , conscription for all men between 18 and 45 in years was introduced after heavy discussions about re-militarising Germany.

A significant exception came from the conscientious objector clause in the West German constitution: West Germany was the first country to grant alternative service to all men who objected to military service on ethical grounds, regardless of religious affiliation. This was named "Zivildienst" roughly translated as "civil services". Cold War analysts considered Germany the most likely location for the outbreak of a possible third world war. The Berlin Airlift sustained the population and avoided a new war. Construction of the Berlin Wall was in During the Cold War the Bundeswehr had a strength of , military and , civilian personnel.

The army consisted of three corps with 12 divisions, most of them armed with tanks and APCs. Cooperation between the two militaries was extensive and cordial. Joint exercises and close collaboration allowed the German and American armies to learn from each other regarding strategy, tactics and technology. It grew steadily by gradual stages from the police force in the Soviet occupation zone in until the consolidation in the defense establishment in the s. It was a professional volunteer army until , when conscription was introduced.

The German Army in the Second World War

In at the peak of its power, the NVA numbered , troops. The armed forces were controlled by the National Defense Council, except that the mobile forces were under the Warsaw Pact Unified Command. Political control of the armed forces was through close integration with the SED Communist Party , which vetted all the officers. Popular support for the military establishment was bolstered by military training provided by the school system and through the growing militarization of society.

From a Leninist perspective, the NVA stood as a symbol of Soviet-East German solidarity and became the model Communist institution—ideological, hierarchical, and disciplined. At the critical moment in its history in November , the NVA rallied to its Germanic heritage and rejected Communism, refusing to battle the demonstrators protesting the Communist regime. Mikhail Gorbachev refused to let Soviet troops become engaged, and so not just the leadership but the entire Communist system in East Germany collapsed, and the country was soon absorbed by West Germany.

In the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany , Germany agreed to reduce the strength of its combined armed forces to no more than , men. In , the European Court of Justice opened up the previously all-male besides medical divisions and the music corps Bundeswehr to women.

Since the early s, the Bundeswehr became more engaged in international peacekeeping missions in and around the former Yugoslavia , Cambodia , Somalia , Djibouti , Georgia , and Sudan. Eleven other German soldiers have been killed: four in two different ordnance-defusing accidents, one in a vehicle accident, five in two separate suicide bombings, and one in landmine explosion. German forces were in the more secure north of the country and Germany, along with some other larger European countries with the exception of the UK, Estonia, the Netherlands and Norway , and were criticised for not taking part in the more intensive combat operations in southern Afghanistan in A major event for the German military was the suspension of the compulsory conscription for men in While this was already true in absolute terms, the difference was even more pronounced when taking into account Germany's larger population and economy.

Thus, Germany appears less prepared to pay for the military and to attach less importance to defense than comparable countries. This stance often draws criticism from Germany's military allies, especially the United States. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Part of a series on the. German Confederation Zollverein.


Occupation Ostgebiete. Reunification New federal states. Main article: Thirty Years' War. Main article: Frederick the Great. Main article: Anglo—German naval arms race. Main articles: Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. Main articles: Nazi Germany and Wehrmacht. Military of Germany portal. Warfare in 10th Century Germany. Rochester: Boydell Press. Warfare in Medieval Europe c.

London: Routledge. New York: London. Medieval Military Technology. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Toronto: University of Toronto. New York: Burt Franklin. Warfare in Medieval Europe. The Dark Ages, — 6th ed. London: Rivingtons. Rochester: Boydell Publishin. Warfare in 10th Century German. Rochester: Boydell Publishing. Lynch, the Australian private, remembered gory scenes as the Allies advanced:. We pass through the gaps in our wire and reach the enemy wire which has been smashed and tossed about by our barrage. Dozens of dead everywhere and not a whole man amongst them.

Limbless and headless they lie coated in chalk, torn and slashed. Transport carts and wagons are here in dozens. Dead Fritz everywhere and about 30 wounded are lying under a big shady tree. A Fritz officer is in it, dead; hanged by a white cord around his neck. The sight is horrible, especially the bulging eyes and the swollen, protruding tongue. They had none of the arrogance of the early prisoners, who were all sure Germany would win, and showed their thoughts clearly. No, these men were beaten and knew it, and they had not the spirit left even to try and hide their feelings.

Fritz Nagel, an officer in the German anti-aircraft artillery, remembered August 8, as the final nail in the coffin of German martial spirit:. Every soldier and civilian was hungry. Losses in material could not be replaced and the soldiers arriving as replacements were too young, poorly trained, and often unwilling to risk their necks because the war now looked like a lost cause. It is gradually turning into a complete war of machines. There are too many fresh English and American regiments over there.

Too many new guns. Too many aeroplanes. But we are emaciated and starved. Our food is bad and mixed up with so much substitute stuff that it makes us ill. The factory owners in Germany have grown wealthy; dysentery dissolves our bowels. Ominously, many ordinary German soldiers no longer bothered to conceal their feelings from military censors, a sure sign that morale was close to the breaking point. At the same time the Germans were both impressed and discouraged by the appearance and spirit of well-supplied American soldiers, although they were also puzzled by some new American habits, according to Nagel:.

They looked healthy, well-fed, and above everything else, their marvelous clothing and uniform accessories impressed us. Everything they had seemed to be of the best—fine heavy boots and thick leather for their gun holsters, belts, and gloves. All of them were chewing furiously, which confounded the bystanders until I explained to them the importance of chewing gum to the American way of life. Most Germans never had heard of chewing gum. On encountering American troops for the first time during this period, Stanley Spencer, a British soldier, recognized their fitness but was otherwise skeptical:.

They were a fine lot physically but their uniforms were an amazing mixture of American, French, and British, and they shambled along the street out of step and out of line, with hardly a trace of discipline amongst them. With the German armies beating a swift but relatively orderly retreat in the west, the fighting ground on mercilessly, as the Allies maintained a close pursuit, inflicting heavy casualties and paying heavily in blood for these gains—the climactic resumption of the open warfare of the first days of the war, with its terrible harvest of death and suffering.

Lynch, the Australian private, wrote of continuing combat August 17 below, an Australian battalion resting :. Under foot we feel the ground rumble and vibrate. Over our ducking heads, shell fragments whizz and hum through the air as along the trench we hurry, fearful lest a shell gets amongst us at any step. Fingers of death are clutching through the night … We are stumbling along a deep grassy trench when my foot treads on something soft and springy in the trench floor.

A torch flashes and its fleeting beam shows a headless and legless Australian body lying amongst the lank grass underfoot. A few steps more and an officer gives a breathless sigh as he sidesteps something else in the grass, something round, something gruesome even to a war-hardened officer—the mangled head of the man whose body lies a few yards back. A few days later Lynch described ghastly sights that had become all too familiar for young men over the previous few years:. Sightless, dull, dust-filled eyes.

If they would only close! But no, they remain open—and move!

Open, gaping mouths are surely moving too! The Germans learned this crucial, though subtle, lesson from World War I. The Allies on the other hand felt that their victory confirmed their methods, weapons, and leadership, and in the interwar period the French and British armies were slow to introduce new weapons, methods, and doctrines. Consequently, in the British Army did not have a single armoured division, and the French tanks were distributed in small packets throughout the infantry divisions. The Germans, by contrast, began to develop large tank formations on an effective basis after their rearmament program began in In the air the technology of war had also changed radically between and Military aircraft had increased in size, speed, and range, and for operations at sea, aircraft carriers were developed that were capable of accompanying the fastest surface ships.

Among the new types of planes developed was the dive bomber , a plane designed for accurate low-altitude bombing of enemy strong points as part of the tank-plane-infantry combination. Fast low-wing monoplane fighters were developed in all countries; these aircraft were essentially flying platforms for eight to 12 machine guns installed in the wings.

Light and medium bombers were also developed that could be used for the strategic bombardment of cities and military strongpoints. The threat of bomber attacks on both military and civilian targets led directly to the development of radar in England. Radar made it possible to determine the location, the distance, and the height and speed of a distant aircraft no matter what the weather was. By December there were five radar stations established on the coast of England, and 15 additional stations were begun. So, when war came in September , Great Britain had a warning chain of radar stations that could tell when hostile planes were approaching.

Load Previous Page. Forces and resources of the European combatants, In September the Allies , namely Great Britain, France, and Poland , were together superior in industrial resources, population, and military manpower, but the German Army, or Wehrmacht , because of its armament, training, doctrine , discipline , and fighting spirit, was the most efficient and effective fighting force for its size in the world.

Britannica Quiz. German aircraft production by year year combat types other types 0 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 1, 4, 3, Allied air strength, September aircraft British French Polish bombers fighters reconnaissance 96 — coastal command — — fleet air arm —.