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Churchhill vs Hitler

Posted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:32 pm
by Rodger Herbst
Just finished S. Roskills "Churchhill and the Admirals" and came away with the impression that AH and WC had the same
habit of interfearing in military ops, AH in the army, WC in the navy. Maybe i'm taking the wrong slant on this, but i come away with the feeling that both of these guys were "nosey Parkers". Comments anyone?

Re: Churchhill vs Hitler

Posted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 2:04 pm
by phylo_roadking
Long time no see Rodger!

Hitler's penchant for "dabbling" was well-established by the start of the war - Halder's diary reports for instance that UNLIKE the planning meetings for Poland and France, Hitler sat very quiet and distracted at the Sealion meetings in August and September 1940....and as we know, his tendency to dabble was reinforced by the apparent overwhelming success he then enjoyed! :shock: Up to the point that by 1943/44 he was micromanaging the war, particularly in the East.

Churchill's was different - he had been a war-fighting Cabinet Minister in WWI, up until Gallipoli - then an infantry officer ion the Western front for 18 months before returning to the government. So he was relatively well-experienced at command-level decisionmaking AND tactical command in the field.

What most people forget, however - is that for MOST of WWII as well as being Prime Minister he ALSO retained for himself the office of Minister for War. Normally, the UK divides these two roles - unlike in the U.S.A. where the officer of Commander-In-Chief is embodied in the President :wink: But holding the two portfolios allowed Churchill to dabble "legally".

But very much like Hitler - his real ability to do so, to win arguments over Chiefs of Staff etc. who disagreed with him - depended in his success rate. And in military terms that "success" rate is measured not only by deeds....but also by words.

For example....by the time Crete was invaded, Churchill had JUST rammed a few decisions through the CIGS - and thankfully successfully; he had ordered the Royal Navy into the port of Tripoli successfully, against the protests of Cunningham....and ordered the TIGER convoy through the Med despite the Admiralty's protestations. BOTH of these were notable successes....and would normally have bolstered his abilty to force MORE his way...but he THEN dented his standing in the constantly-shifting dynamic balance between him and his Staff Chiefs by ordering Wavell to use the tanks on board TIGER to start the ultimately-unsuccessful BATTLEAXE....

....and thus by the time of Crete, Wavell could bullshit him about being able to send tanks to the island, while the RAF OC in the Middle East refused Churchill's demands time and again to send more fighters to the island.

If Churchill had had the incredible two and a half years' of unprecedented sucess that Hitler had - his position would have been unassailable and he COULD have micromanged the entire war. But the reason the Winston-CIGS balance was always dynamic and shifting was that he came INTO power as a result of the disastrous campaign in Norway that HE had had such a role in causing! :D So he started his time as "Comander-In-Chief" at a disadvantage to them - and his hold over the military commanders went up and down like a sine curve after that - dependent on who had recently seemed the more "right"! :D :D :D

Re: Churchhill vs Hitler

Posted: Thu Feb 11, 2010 2:52 pm
by John W. Howard
Good to hear from you Rodger; I hope you are well :D

Re: Churchhill vs Hitler

Posted: Mon Mar 01, 2010 3:11 am
by Simon H
Hitler sat very quiet and distracted at the Sealion meetings in August and September 1940....
Although Hitler was a very complex character I can't help but wonder whether this comment sums up his dilemma over the campaign in the West in 1940. For sure his throws of the dice as regards Czechoslavakia and Poland had landed in his favour. However as OKH and many of his Generals (but not all as we shall see), were all too ready to admit Germany was not wholly ready for war in 1939/40.

Consider if you will Hitlers halt orders for the Panzers outside Dunkirk and his own comments as regards Great Britain. Hitler still (as we might now call all to naively), thought much of Britain as a nation and people and still felt sure that he could make peace with it after the fall of France. He admired the Empire, as it was then and her traditions. If he had destroyed the BEF totally - as he could have done if the halt had not been called on Guderian then this would have made any possible peace negotiations with Britain all the harder.

Re: Churchhill vs Hitler

Posted: Mon Mar 01, 2010 7:08 am
by lwd
Simon H wrote: ...Consider if you will Hitlers halt orders for the Panzers outside Dunkirk ...
But he didn't order them to halt. He mearly confirmed the orders of his generlas.
. If he had destroyed the BEF totally - as he could have done if the halt had not been called on Guderian then this would ....
It's very unlikely that he could have "destroyed the BEF totally" indeed pushing to attack Dunkirk could have been a disaster.

Re: Churchhill vs Hitler

Posted: Mon Mar 01, 2010 8:06 am
by Simon H
lwd wrote:But he didn't order them to halt. He mearly confirmed the orders of his generlas.

It's very unlikely that he could have "destroyed the BEF totally" indeed pushing to attack Dunkirk could have been a disaster.
Hitler may have conferred with von Rundstedt, but the order was his.

As for whether he could have destroyed the BEF had he not stopped, we shall never know. I think that had he not halted Guderian the infantry might yet have been able to also get into place and press the Allies harder yet. However my argument stands that Hitler did not actually want to crush them as he believed a peaceful outcome was still to be had.

Add to the mix the issue of Göring persuading Hitler that the Luftwaffe alone could:

1. Destroy the BEF in the Dunkirk salient
2. Destroy the RAF and thereby pave the way for Operation Sealion....

The seeds of defeat had already been planted in 1940.

An interesting topic.

Re: Churchhill vs Hitler

Posted: Tue Mar 02, 2010 7:25 am
by lwd
Simon H wrote:
lwd wrote:But he didn't order them to halt. He mearly confirmed the orders of his generlas.

It's very unlikely that he could have "destroyed the BEF totally" indeed pushing to attack Dunkirk could have been a disaster.
Hitler may have conferred with von Rundstedt, but the order was his.
My understanding is that the generals had ordered a halt before he even got involved. He ultimatly supported the halt order but it wasn't his orders that stopped the German army.

Re: Churchhill vs Hitler

Posted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 3:23 pm
by redcoat
lwd wrote:My understanding is that the generals had ordered a halt before he even got involved. He ultimatly supported the halt order but it wasn't his orders that stopped the German army.
You are correct, Rundstedt issued the order and Hitler confirmed it later on the same day.

It should be noted that the halt order applied to just the panzer units not the infantry and it only lasted for 3 days, and it was rescinded before the British had started any large scale evacuation from Dunkirk.

Re: Churchhill vs Hitler

Posted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 3:30 pm
by redcoat
Simon H wrote:[Consider if you will Hitlers halt orders for the Panzers outside Dunkirk and his own comments as regards Great Britain. Hitler still (as we might now call all to naively), thought much of Britain as a nation and people and still felt sure that he could make peace with it after the fall of France. He admired the Empire, as it was then and her traditions. If he had destroyed the BEF totally - as he could have done if the halt had not been called on Guderian then this would have made any possible peace negotiations with Britain all the harder.
The destruction of the BEF would have made peace negotiations easier, it would have exposed the enormity of the defeat Britain had suffered