Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What Fools These Generals Be!

While doing research for my history of part of WWII, I came across a book that was written recently by a journalist (as opposed to a historian). It did not take me long to realize that the author seemed to think U.S. generals were buffoons while German generals were a breed apart. The author, of course, armed with sixty years of hindsight and a degree in journalism, really knew what should have been done.

No doubt the German generals were quite good in some areas. But I really doubt that U.S. generals were buffoons. In fact, my research pointed out several important details of WWII in Europe that may have escaped this nameless journalist.

One important detail was that the Germans lost the war. They were kicked out of Egypt Tunisia, Sicily, Italy, France, Belgium, Russia, Poland, and everywhere else they imposed themselves. They lost steadily for three solid years.

Another important detail that the journalist seemed to have missed was that the Germans fought over land contiguous to their own. That is, they did not have to launch an invasion over rough seas with a supply line that was some two thousand miles long. The Germans did not or could not even invade little England, which was a few miles away from France!

Finally, the journalist with all the right answers seemed to have missed the important fact that the U.S. was fighting two wars at the same time! We were dividing our resources between Europe and the Far East.

Yes, American generals had to learn how to conduct a type of war that no one had ever fought before. They made mistakes doing it. But they learned from their mistakes, did not give up, and stayed the course even when it was not clear that they were winning.

The Germans introduced blitzkrieg and technological innovations. But the Allies could move quickly and also innovated. On balance, the German generals got their butts kicked. But they seem to have won the media battle. German failures were attributed to Hitler and their few successes were attributed to the generals.

If Brig. General Mcauliffe were alive today, he would probably say “Aw, nuts” one more time.

1 comment:

peter said...

Yes (a Brit writes) it was mostly the American economy wot won it, and American generals, too: the American triumph in the Pacific is under-appreciated here, as maybe the Brits standing alone against Hitler for two years 1939-1941 is under-recognised elsewhere. The Germans did suffer from from overreaching themselves (long supply lines) and shocking political infighting affecting their conduct of the war. An example of the latter is their intelligence failure in the Battle of Britain and Hitler's refusal to believe that D-Day was the real invasion, keeping forces elsewhere tat mighthave denied us a beach head. They also relied on high technology solutions to strategic problems: they made some whizzy stuff, but our good enough stuff ground 'em down. Good, thoughtful post.