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Post on Appeasement; Relative German-Allied Strength 1938-'39
Created by John Eipper on 07/01/12 1:25 AM

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on Appeasement; Relative German-Allied Strength 1938-'39 (Cameron Sawyer, Russia, 07/01/12 1:25 am)

Bienvenido Macario wrote on 30 June: "Going back to Chamberlain, I think he had no choice but to appease Hitler and pray, because the West did not have a standing army to remotely match Hitler's well-prepared and well-trained army. "

This is factually incorrect. Not only did the West at the time of Munich have military forces to "remotely match" those of Nazi Germany, but those of even just one Western power, namely France, considerably surpassed German forces:

German Forces total:

3,706,104 men (103 divisions), 3,478 tanks, over 7,000 guns

4,093 planes (inc. 1,176 bombers, 1,179 fighters, 335 dive-bombers)--see Luftwaffe Orders of Battle

2 old battleships, 2 battlecruisers, 3 pocket battleships, 8 cruisers, 22 destroyers, 56 submarines

French Forces total:

5,000,000 men, 99 divisions, 4,200 tanks, about 11,000 guns

2,916 planes (1,114 fighters, 1,002 bombers)

7 capital ships, 1 aircraft carrier, 19 cruisers, 70 destroyers, 75 submarines


The inferiority of the German forces was even greater in 1938. Germany was still suffering from the severe limitations imposed on its strategic armaments after WWI; in fact, many German weapons systems were secretly developed inside the Soviet Union during the 1920s.

Bienvenido mentions Georgia in 2008 as an example of Chamberlain-style appeasement? Huh? Who appeased whom? I would be interested to hear what Bienvenido had in mind.

JE comments: Appeasement is an interesting word. If I read Hall Gardner (1 July) correctly, in the 19th century it meant "compromise," and had none of the humiliating connotations of today. Was the Chamberlain example responsible for this semantic shift?

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  • on Appeasement; Relative German-Allied Strength 1938-'39 (Anthony D`Amato, USA 07/01/12 12:17 PM)
    Why is it that after the Munich Agreement of September 30, 1938, did Hitler feel snookered by Chamberlain? It is because Chamberlain did a masterly job that probably saved Great Britain from falling into the hands of the Nazis. It was not remotely "appeasement."

    Cameron Sawyer's statistics (1 July) about the relative German-French military strength at the time of Munich are correct but beside the point. Great Britain could not rely on France to stop Hitler; France's entire policy at the time was to hide behind the Maginot line and let everyone else fight it out. (I could add that in the decisively important question of tanks, France deployed its tanks so as to be useless, as DeGaulle said at the time. Not understanding what tanks could do, and deploying them behind the army instead of in front, France totally wasted its superiority in tanks.)

    The Munich Pact gave the Sudetenland to Germany "legally." Hitler could have easily taken it by force, yet he was still on his strategy of expansion "for free." He soon realized, however, that he gave away eleven months to Chamberlain in return for a stack of paper at Munich.

    Great Britain's factories were rapidly turning out fighter planes and bombers in 1938, but GB was still decisively behind Germany. The eleven months between Munich and Germany's invasion of Poland was of incalculable benefit to the Royal Air Force.

    Here is where Cameron Sawyer makes a misleading statement. He said: "The inferiority of the German forces was even greater in 1938." This is not true with respect to the comparison between the RAF and the Luftwaffe; the former gained significantly in those eleven months against the latter. The Air Battle of Britain was saved by the RAF's augmented strength.

    After the fall of France, Hitler did gain significantly in terms of the French tanks, which he repainted for use against Stalin. But that happened after Hitler invaded Poland and after the "phony war."

    When Chamberlain came back from Munich, he announced that he had achieved "Peace in our time." This was diplomatic brilliance. Chamberlain wasn't talking to the British public; he was talking to Hitler. He wanted Hitler to think that GB would now sit back and relax. He did not want Hitler to find out about the British factories turning out planes on a 24/7 production schedule. (Churchill knew what Chamberlain was up to, but nevertheless, Churchill then lied about "appeasement" to unfairly discredit Chamberlain and pave the way for Churchill to become Prime Minister.)

    In sum: there was no appeasement at Munich. The Sudetenland was Hitler's for the taking. Chamberlain was crafty; Hitler was duped.

    JE comments: Anthony D'Amato has given us a provocative re-interpretation of Chamberlain. Is Ol' Neville due for rehabilitation?

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    • Use of Tanks in Defensive Warfare (Robert Gard, USA 07/04/12 2:14 PM)
      In response to Anthony D'Amato (1 July), the French did rely excessively on the Maginot Line. But employing tanks on the front lines vitiates their advantage of mobility.

      Deploying tanks behind the front lines in defensive operations is sensible.

      In fact, they should be so deployed as mobile reserves to counter penetrations.

      JE comments: This raises a fascinating question of tactics. We think of tanks generally as offensive weapons, especially during the initial stage of WWII. Yet in 1939-40, there was still a limited sense of what tanks could or should do.  The Spanish Republicans tended to space their tanks out among the accompanying infantry, and as such they lost the advantage that can be gained from amassing them in strength.  Did the French learn from this lesson?  I guess not.

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      • Use of Tanks in Defensive Warfare (Anthony D`Amato, USA 07/05/12 11:36 PM)

        Robert Gard's post of 4 July appears to be ambiguous. Certainly French tanks were deployed behind the front lines. But what the French did was to have their army deployed directly behind the Maginot line, and the tanks behind the army. When the German tanks broke through the Ardennes, they met the soft and futile resistance of the French foot soldiers, while the French tanks were in line behind the French army.

        The French army should have stayed far behind. The tanks should have been ready to mobilize at the point that the Germans broke through. This would have made all the difference.

        JE comments: Didn't the Germans merely go around the Maginot line anyway--through Belgium and the Netherlands?

        What use did the Germans make of the French tanks they captured and repainted in 1940?  Did they prove tactically effective?
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