Monday, December 2, 2013

Reponse to 8 Worst Mistakes Made by the Allies During World War II

Yesterday, I read an interesting post on io9 on The 8 Worst Mistakes Made by the Allies During World War II. I both agree and disagree with their choices.

I agree with the first four mistakes:

1. The Failure to Attack Germany After It Invaded Poland

2. The Failure to Anticipate a German Blitz Through the Ardennes

3. America's Failure to Immediately Adopt the Convoy System

4. Underestimating the Japanese

The other four mistakes are a bit more questionable, even completely wrong.  I have listed them with my opinions:

5. The Utterly Useless Raid on Dieppe

Yes, a mistake, but not a particularly dramatic one unless you are Canadian, who composed the bulk of the 3,600 Allied casualties.   We still don't completely understand what the goals of the Allies were.

6. FDR's Demand of "Unconditional" German Surrender

My major complaint, a perfect example of 20/20 hindsight; yet even then, this was not a mistake.  Most wars with coalitions fighting as allies end with the breakup of the coalitions.  The alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations was a natural fit; their alliance with the Stalinist Soviet Union was not a natural alliance.  Stalin had a long record of breaking treaties and other commitments and he was paranoid that the Western Allies would make a separate peace.  Considering his track record, the Western Allies were also afraid that the Soviets would make a separate peace with Germany, and the Americans and British knew that they could not win the war in Europe without the Soviet Union.  The public declaration that only "Unconditional surrender" would be accepted by the Allies was a brilliant way to show Stalin that the Western Allies would not quit the war early.

Furthermore, the First World War ended before any Allied troops had set foot on German soil.  Because of this, Germans entertained a widespread belief that the First World War had only been lost because of a "stab in the back" by nefarious forces, such as Jews, communists, and other revolutionary leftists.  This belief helped propel Hitler to power and justified in German minds a renewal of war to undo the injustices of the First World War peace settlement.  The German attitude after the Second World War was completely different: they felt utterly defeated with only perhaps one-tenth of their nation yet unoccupied by Allied forces at the end of the war.  In order to rein in Germany, the German people needed to taste true defeat.

7. The Failure to Seize the Early Initiative At Anzio

Yes, this would have shortened the war in Italy, but I would argue that the incompetent defense of the Philippines in 1941 and 1942 by the Americans was an even worse mistake.  Furthermore, retaking the Philippines in 1944 and 1945 was unnecessary for any purpose but to salve Douglas MacArthur's ego.

8. The Premature and Overly Ambitious Operation Market Garden

Yes, this effort to shorten the war was ill-conceived, but it made a pretty good movie, A Bridge Too Far.

 Posted: 2 December 2013

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