Just for fun, Hitler’s ten dumbest mistakes
As I said, just for fun. And to provide debate ammo if one of my gentle readers is presented with the “If the USA hadn’t stopped Hitler, we’d all be speaking German now” tirades. Sigh. Even without the USA, Hitler’s empire would have come crashing down sooner or later. A combination of strategic over-extension, resistence movements, and Hitler’s folly would have destroyed the Third Reich one way or the other. Not to even mention that it was Russian armies rolling inexorably westward that destroyed Hitler’s armies. In any event though, it is astonishing some of the blunders Hitler made. No wonder the Allied High command sometimes joked that Hitler was their greatest ally:
1. Battle of Britain. When Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to “take out” the Brits, the Luftwaffe sensibly enough began their campaign by trying to destroy the RAF. By the RAF’s admission, they nearly succeeded, in fact they were about two weeks away from pretty much shutting down the RAF and controlling the skies of Britain. Then Hitler got involved and ordered the Luftwaffe to attack the British cities instead, especially London. Which did nothing but piss the British off and freed to RAF to concentrate on regaining control of the skies over Britain. London burned, but German casualties mounted to the point where they had to call off the campaign, and that was that.
2. Cancellation of weapons programs. After the Fall of France in 1940 Hitler was so confident of victory that he cancelled most weapons research programs, insisting that the war could be won with the weapons they had. Two years later when the Germans were being outclassed on all fronts by next-gen Allied weapons, the programs were all frantically restarted. Two years had been lost though, and worse, key engineers and such had died in Russia. Germany did manage to produce some impressive weapons, but never in any quantity and most of them never had the bugs worked out and thus weren’t terribly reliable in practise.
3. Invasion of Russia. There were multiple mistakes made here, just attacking Russia for one was incredibly optimistic. Compounded by a six week delay in the attack so Hitler could pointlessly bail out Mussolini in the Balkans. And then the Germans made no preparations for a long war because Hitler assumed Russia could be completely defeated the first summer. He ordered Leningrad to be surrounded, not captured! And Hitler fatally delayed the push for Moscow by diverting his panzers to the stalled southern front. Unlike in Napoleon’s time, Moscow was the absolute centre of the Russian railroad network, and if the Germans had captured the city and the rail connections south of the city, it would have crippled the Russian war effort.
4. The “No retreat” order. This is Hitler’s biggest mistake in Russia and one of the biggest military blunders of all time. When the war in Russia started going badly during the first winter, Hitler ordered his troops to never retreat under any circumstances. This is insane in general because there’s no point standing your ground if you are outnumbered and getting the crap beat out of you. Doubly insane because the only real advantage the Germans had over the Russians was that the German troops were far more mobile. So it made far more sense to retreat when attacked and then counterattack after he Russians had advanced beyond their supply lines. The one German general with the stones to defy Hitler, Manstein, did this a number of times with devastating effect.
5. Me-262 as a bomber. The Me-262 was a beautiful plane, in some ways a decade or more before its time. It was the world’s first jet interceptor and could fly rings (literally) around the best Allied planes of the time. The Me-262 was conceived, designed, and developed as a jet interceptor, a plane specifically designed to hunt down and destroy Allied planes. Hitler ordered it into full production … as a bomber. His minions nodded, and quietly continued to develop it as an interceptor. Someone tipped Hitler off though, and he made sure it was developed as a bomber. In trial runs few pilots were even able to get their bombs within a mile of the targets. The Me-262 was a complete (and predictable) failure as a bomber. By the time a few Me-262 interceptors saw action they were too few too late to change anything.