Cult & Pulp: David Brin – Thor Meets Captain America (1986)

 

CULT & PULP: DAVID BRIN – THOR MEETS CAPTAIN AMERICA (1986)

 

No – it’s not a comic or film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, although the title obviously references the Marvel characters.

 

I fell in love with David Brin’s short story Thor Meets Captain America when I read it in Hitler Victorious, an anthology of alternate history short stories that obviously involved, well, Hitler being victorious – a Nazi German victory in the Second World War.  In his author’s note for the story, Brin noted that he was invited by the collator, Gregory Benford,  to write a story of Nazi victory – but voiced the opinion that he could not conceive of a single event which, if altered, would have let Nazi Germany win the war, particularly as they had required a number of lucky breaks to get as far as they did. (An opinion which coincides with my own, as well as my pet peeve of the myth of German military excellence – as I’ve stated elsewhere, paraphrasing my favorite Second World War history, Germany was very good at fighting but not very good at war.)

 

And so Brin fell back on what is jokingly known in alternate history circles as ‘alien space bats’ – that is, some fantastic or implausible plot device that provides the difference (or what is known as the point of divergence), although typically not actual alien space bats as such. In this case, Nazi Germany essentially won the Second World War because they were able to summon the Norse gods to fight on their side. The fantastic implausibility of the premise is the point – as he noted, this was the most (or only) plausible scenario that Brin could think of that involved Nazi victory, and in fairness, it probably was more plausible than the actual Nazi strategy (and their increasingly desperate ‘wunderwaffen’ or wonder weapons). It also gives some actual strategic sense to the Holocaust (which, in history, was as strategically pointless as it was monstrous) – the murder of millions as part of a mass human sacrifice or necromantic ritual intended to bring the Norse gods into being, which it does in 1944, just in time for D-day. Of course, most of this alternate history is told as backstory to the last desperate Allied attempt years later to destroy the new Valhalla. (And by Allied, we mean American, with a little help from a renegade Loki, since Europe has long been overwhelmed).

 

What’s not to love? Alternate history of the Second World War and Nazi Germany, the Norse gods and comic book superheroes. Actually, the Norse gods in their Nazi guise are distinctly unlovely – just as they needed mass human sacrifice to create them, they also need it to sustain them. God is a hole in the heart of the world and he’s hungry – omnipotent, omniscient, omnivorous. And as for those comic book superheroes – well, that’s also part of the point of the story, as the protagonist dreads what dark and terrible gods the Americans would create with Nazi necromancy…

 

Brin subsequently adapted and expanded the story into comic form as The Life-Eaters, which added some interesting points, but to me lacked quite the same concise purity of the original story.

 

Brin also scores bonus points for his other stories and works, as well as their humanistic ethos – the latter on best display in his critique of the latent tendency to mystical fascism in fantasy and science fiction, most notably in those two towering modern mythic works, The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. (I tend to agree with his critique, at least in part, although I would trace this mystical fascism back further to Plato and his Republic, from the Force to the Forms as it were – and that we’re still fighting the Peloponnesian War against Plato’s Spartanism).

 

10 Reasons Why I Don’t Understand the Neo-Reactionary Alt Right: (2) Alt Reich is Third Reich

Surprise! Just like Castle Wolfenstein, he’s usually in there somewhere…

 

10 REASONS WHY I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE NEO-REACTIONARY ALT RIGHT: (2) ALT REICH IS THIRD REICH

 

As I said, where the neo-Nazi alt right fetishizes or incarnates the Third Reich, the neo-reactionary alt right claims to prefer the First Reich to the Third.

 

Except when it doesn’t.

 

Underneath all those neo-reactionary First Reich sentiments, there usually is something of the Third Reich bubbling around there somewhere, even if only in their shared affiliations with the neo-Nazi alt right. Certainly, they rarely disown their neo-Nazi affiliations. At best, they might gently admonish their neo-Nazi fans or followers. At worst, they will align themselves with the latter. Holocaust denial, anyone? Or their shared bogeyman of Cultural Marxism, which is literally rehashed from original Nazi propaganda about Cultural Bolshevism, but more about that later.

 

Why? You’d think that it would be natural for the neo-reactionary alt right to disown the neo-Nazi alt right. I don’t mean to tell neo-reactionaries how to, ah, neo-react, but you’d think that they decry fascism along with communism as twin (and intertwined) evils of ‘modernism’ or modern political ideology. Or at least distinguish the more radical and totalitarian national socialism from other forms of contemporary fascism, which often co-existed with more traditional church and throne, as in fascist Italy itself (which also initially aligned itself with its former allies Britain and France against Nazi Germany). Perhaps even point to the collapse of the traditional Hollenzollern and Hapsburg monarchies in imperial Germany and Austria-Hungary respectively, as leaving a vacuum ultimately filled by Nazi Germany. You know, all the historical nuances that you might expect from a movement that professes an obsession with history.

 

And when it comes right down to it, if asked which they prefer out of modern liberal democracy or the Third Reich, you can bet which one they prefer…

 

 

10 Reasons Why I Don’t Understand the Neo-Reactionary Alt-Right: (1) It’s Alt Reich

Well, at least the cats are cute

 

10 REASONS WHY I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE NEO-REACTIONARY ALT RIGHT

 

This is my rampage against the Reich, one of the rantier parts of my rants and raves – where I rage and rampage against the Reich, whether the historical third Reich of Nazi Germany, or the modern Alt Reich of the so-called alt right.

 

This feature originates in my reaction to a neo-reactionary alt-right Facebook page, one of my guilty pleasures I look at on Facebook (but don’t dignify by following, liking or naming it here) because I like my daily dose of outrage. But seriously though, not too much outrage. The alt right has two loose wings, its predominant neo-Nazi wing and its neo-reactionary wing (with a broad internet misogynistic movement or ‘manosphere’ as the hot air beneath both wings).  While the neo-Nazi alt right is openly execrable, the neo-reactionary alt right is somewhat more nuanced, at least in presentation.

 

Ultimately, it still sucks.

 

(1) IT’S THE ALT REICH

 

It’s still the alt right, which is to say Alt Reich. It’s just that where the neo-Nazi alt right fetishize or incarnate the Third Reich, the neo-reactionary alt right claim to prefer the First Reich to the Third. The First Reich was what Nazi Germany dubbed the Holy Roman Empire in evoking it as the predecessor for their own Third Reich.

 

One wonders why there is no alt right love for the second Reich, the imperial Germany of Otto von Bismarck and the Kaiser? From a neo-reactionary point of view, it’s a somewhat more realistic model. And from a neo-Nazi point of view, if you’re going to fetishize German nationalism, why not fetishize Bismarck? You know, the guy who built the modern German nation, so successfully that the core Bismarckian state managed to survive the two world wars of his idiotic successors, and such that when Germany has succeeded, it has done so by essentially following Bismarckian strategy. You know, avoiding world war. Or genocide. But I digress.

 

And he had a cooler moustache

 

Of course, it’s not the Holy Roman Empire per se, it’s the general pre-democratic Christian – typically Catholic – absolute monarchy, or some idealized and romanticized combination of throne and altar. That is to say, authoritarian hierarchy and the rejection of liberal democracy, typically because neo-reactionaries imagine themselves, or at least people like themselves  – typically white men – in the upper part of that hierarchy, with those other people in the lower part of the hierarchy. You know, returned to their rightful place – before liberal democracy. It’s interesting how people who favor hierarchy think that way. They don’t imagine themselves at the bottom of the hierarchy – or outside it.

 

In actual history, the Holy Roman Empire ultimately became a joke, an ever more motley collection of individual micro-states – in the words of Voltaire, “neither holy nor Roman nor an empire”, sentiments that could apply equally to the neo-reactionaries. If neo-Nazis are three-time losers, hopelessly trying to re-fight the Second World War on the internet, how much more so the neo-reactionaries, hopelessly trying to restore the Holy Roman Empire?

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Video Games: (3) Rayne – BloodRayne (2002)

 

FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF VIDEO GAMES: (3) RAYNE – BLOOD RAYNE (2002)

 

I do like my vampire girls!

 

And for vampire girls (and BloodRayne), I just couldn’t resist this art by Adam Warren in his characteristic style

 

Or more precisely in this case, dhampyr – like the Marvel Comics character Blade, although in the more traditional sense of a child born of a human and a vampire. And like most dhamphyr characters, the protagonist of Blood Rayne is a vampire hunter. Because why not?

 

 

Born in 1915 to a human woman and begotten by a vampire king (and not in a good way, hence her hatred of vampires), the titular protagonist Rayne spends her time hunting vampires AND Nazis. What’s not to love?

 

 

Originating in the United States, Rayne is initially recruited by the Brimstone Society, an organization that hates vampires as much as Rayne does. The game series has her fight monsters or vampires in Louisiana, before fighting the Nazi Gegengheist Gruppe (or G.G.G.), one of those recurring Nazi occult secret societies in fiction  – in this case trying to use demonic artifacts to bring Hitler into power.

 

That’s some pretty awesome Nazi-hunting cosplay

 

And once again, it’s the red hair and those green eyes, which recur surprisingly often in fiction and my fantasy girl lists. (Beware! Beware! Those flashing eyes, that floating hair!). Not to mention the figure and those long legs poured into her iconic midriff-bearing leather outfit (in the 1930’s!) and six-inch heeled boots.

 

 

Indeed, she struck such a figure that she was the first video game female character to ‘pose’ for Playboy, in their article Gaming Grows Up in 2004. Although her equally iconic arm blades seem a somewhat impractical design – and her boot heel blades have been ranked the “second craziest footwear in video games. (Only the second? They were exceeded only by Bayonetta’s literal gun boots).

 

 

However, she does bear something of an uncanny resemblance to another of my favorite female vampires – Durham Red – from my favorite comic, 2000 AD. Although when asked about those similarities, game designer Joe Wampole stated “I think it’s just natural to put a vamp chick in black leather and either color her hair black or red”. Touche!

 

 

Rayne has had appearances in other media, such as comics and laughably bad films, directed by the notoriously bad Uwe Boll (known for his ‘cinematic’ adaptations from video games) – the first has an impressively low 4% score on Rotten Tomatoes (and they only get worse from there), with Kristanna Loken reprising her leather-clad Terminatrix in the lead role and…Ben Kingsley?! What’s he doing here?! Well, at least it’s not the direct-to-video sequels…

 

 

Gone with the Wehraboo – 10 Reasons Why Nazi Germany was Full of Crap Fighting WW2: (10) They Sucked on the Western Front Too

 

GONE WITH THE WEHRABOO – 10 REASONS WHY NAZI GERMANY WAS FULL OF CRAP FIGHTING WW2: (10) THEY SUCKED ON THE WESTERN FRONT TOO

 

On the other hand, Wehraboos also tend to flaunt Nazi Germany’s defense of its Western Front, again presented as German tactical proficiency or competence against Allied material superiority.

 

As we’ve seen, the Anglo-American alliance faced the issues of mobilizing armies while at the same time gaining air and naval superiority, but there was a further fundamental issue when it came to actually landing on continental Europe. With the advent of mechanized transport in the twentieth century, maritime means of transport were at a disadvantage to means of transport on land, particularly western Europe with its developed railways and roads. In short, a defender on land had an inherent advantage over any invader by sea – “an ability to bring superior force to bear on a beachhead by virtue of lines of communication” that were “intrinsically superior” (as well as reinforcing and supplying that force).

 

And yet, the Anglo-American alliance pulled off this achievement against Nazi Germany – three times (that is, in major invasions, not counting minor operations). There were other factors but they did this partly by increasing naval and air superiority as well as by brilliant counter-intelligence. As a general rule, Allied intelligence ran rings about German intelligence – and in this case Allied intelligence was able to distract German attention from targets that should have been obvious. In Operation Torch, it was mostly the surprise of invading French North Africa, although the Allied intention should have alerted itself to any astute German intelligence. Sicily should have been obvious as the next target due to its geographic position, but Allied counter-intelligence – notably posing a corpse as a dead officer with false invasion plans – persuaded German leadership otherwise. The crowning achievement was Normandy, where Allied counter-intelligence effectively deceived German leadership that the obvious target in Normandy was only a feint while the real invasion was to occur at the Pas de Calais. This – combined with Allied air and naval supremacy leading to the ability to isolate the beachhead from German counter-attack or reinforcement as well as superior logistics and planning combined with extraordinary deficiencies in German strategic direction and planning won D-Day for the Allies.

 

However, Wehraboos tend to flaunt the protracted defense of the Normandy invasion as an example of Nazi Germany’s military excellence. The reality is otherwise. “In Normandy, the Wehrmacht did indeed display formidable powers of resistance but under a specific set of circumstances – in a static battle on ground of its own choosing in terrain well suited to the defense against a beachhead with few lines of advance into the interior and against Allied armies unable to develop their full offensive power until the second half of July”. Furthermore, “the Wehrmacht was no more effective in fighting a mobile battle than had been the French army in 1940 and its relative success in the static battle around the Normandy beachhead in June and early July owed much to the fact that by this stage of the war the defense had acquired a power and effectiveness denied it at earlier stages of the conflict”.

 

Indeed, the Allied campaign in France in 1944 well deserves to be compared as equal in success to the German campaign in France in 1940. Sure, in six and half weeks, Nazi Germany had overrun Belgium, the Netherlands and about three-fifths of France – but in a campaign “that was developed from a secure base across a land frontier that was some 500 miles in length and over a largely intact communications network”. On the other hand, in three months the Allies liberated most of France, Belgium, the southern Netherlands and entered Germany itself – but “in the course of a campaign mounted from a base that could not stocked beforehand and had a restricted frontage of some 70 miles”, prosecuted over a shattered communications network and costing the Wehrmacht some 500,000 casualties.

 

And that’s not the only comparison that might be drawn between the two campaigns. Nazi Germany’s last gasp on the Western Front, its Ardennes counter-offensive or the so-called Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, eerily replayed its original 1940 offensive through the Ardennes, with the Americans in the role of the French. To extent, its 1944 offensive reenacted the surprise and shock impact of its original offensive falling on the Americans. However, this time the Allies had air superiority (with the Germans attacking in cloudy weather to avoid Allied superiority, as opposed to their 1940 offensive in clear weather to use their own air superiority), operational doctrine and technique of mobile offensive warfare (with a fully motorized army to match – even at their peak, the Germans had a mostly horse-drawn army), defensive firepower, General Patton and such basic strategic concepts as a reserve (conspicuously absent from the French army in 1940). And this time, after some initial success, the German counter-offensive failed utterly, weakening their Western Front to the Allied advance into Germany itself. As American General McAuliffe replied to a German demand for surrender during the Ardennes offensive – “Nuts!”

Gone with the Wehraboo – 10 Reasons Why Nazi Germany was Full of Crap Fighting WW2: (9) They Sucked on the Eastern Front

The Eastern Front circa 1945. Also known as Berlin.

 

GONE WITH THE WEHRABOO – 10 REASONS WHY NAZI GERMANY WAS FULL OF CRAP FIGHTING WW2: (9) THEY SUCKED ON THE EASTERN FRONT

 

As we’ve noted previously, Wehraboos particularly tend to flaunt Nazi Germany’s defense of the Eastern Front – which they present as a narrative of tactical proficiency or competence that was simply swamped by the brute force of Soviet material and numerical superiority. (“Asiatic hordes!”)

 

As Willmott counters, “claims of tactical competence count for little against the fact that German armies were consistently outfought at the strategic and operational levels”. However, the historical reality is even more marked in that “the Wehrmacht was outfought at every level” in the Eastern Front in 1944. Indeed, it was the Soviet army that had originated (prior to the war) the true ‘blitzkrieg’ of the war in the concept of the ‘deep battle’ or ‘deep space battle’ – a strategy aimed at destroying enemy command and control centers as well as lines of communication. However, it had lacked the means to fight and win this strategy until 1944 – when it had sufficient armored and mechanized formations as well as the logistics to support them.

 

And oh boy, it showed! The Soviet Union launched its Operation Bagration, named for a Russian general in the Napoleonic Wars, on the anniversary of Operation Barbarossa on 22 June. The Red Army took one of Nazi Germany’s three army groups on the Eastern Front, Army Group Center in Belorussia and Poland, completely by surprise – effectively destroying or routing it, while exposing Army Group North to siege in the Baltic states and Army Group South to attack in the Balkans. Operation Bagration well deserves to be compared as equal to the success of Operation Barbarossa for Nazi Germany, but without the same sting of ultimate defeat – particularly when you add the success of subsequent operations against Army Group South, capturing Romania (and Germany’s last supply of oil outside its own synthetic production of oil) and Bulgaria, while routing the rest of German forces from the Balkans.

 

Indeed, by 1945, it is possible to argue the complete transposition of the German and Soviet armies in terms of military proficiency. By 1945, “the operational and technical quality of the Soviet army was at least the equal of the Werhmacht at its peak” (with the Soviet Vistula-Oder offensive in January 1945 “perhaps the peak of Soviet military achievement in the course of the European war”). On the other hand, “the German army of 1944-45, for all its reputation, had the characteristics so meticulously catalogued when displayed by the Soviet army in 1941: erratic and inconsistent direction, a high command packed with place-men and stripped of operational talent, the dead hand of blind obedience imposed by political commissars upon an officer corps despised and distrusted by its political master, failure at every level of command and operations”.

Gone with the Wehraboo – 10 Reasons Why Nazi Germany was Full of Crap Fighting WW2: (8) Fortress Europa was Overrated

 

GONE WITH THE WEHRABOO – 10 REASONS WHY NAZI GERMANY WAS FULL OF CRAP FIGHTING WW2: (8) FORTRESS EUROPA WAS OVERRATED

 

Of course, after its failure to defeat the Soviet Union and declaration of war on the United States, Nazi Germany faced its inevitable defeat – but Wehraboos often claim its military excellence from its ability to defend Europe for so long (from 1942 to 1945). Again, this is another of my pet hates within my general pet hate for the myth of German military excellence, particularly when it is expressed in such hyperbole as Germany fighting off the world. If true, the fact that Germany found itself fighting the world would simply reinforce that Germany was not very good at war. However, it is simply not true. Such hyperbole ignores that Germany also had its conquests (from its victories from its previous superiority), as well as its allies, notably Japan. Of course, the fact that it failed to have effective allies, or to coordinate with them effectively – or both – again reinforces that while Germany was good at fighting, it was not very good at war.

 

And let’s not overestimate Nazi Germany’s skill at fighting in its defence either. Yes, part of its protracted defence is owed to its tactical proficiency and technique (or Allied deficiencies) as Wehraboos claim, but those claims ignore other important factors. The United States only entered the war in December 1941 and had only introduced the draft shortly before – Britain was in a similar position in 1939. So the newly-formed Anglo-American alliance had to mobilize its armies essentially from scratch or minimal peacetime establishments (while also building up its air forces and navies), then equip and supply them while shipping the majority to Britain or the European theater from its center of gravity in the United States or elsewhere outside Europe (such as the various Dominions or possessions of the British Empire). And it had to do so while fighting the German submarine war against Allied shipping – while also fighting the greatest naval war in history against Japan in the Pacific Ocean – as well as fighting an air war with Germany in Europe, as naval and air superiority were necessary preconditions to any invasion of Europe. Ultimately, the Anglo-American alliance achieved not just superiority, but supremacy. The Soviet Union was in a somewhat similar position at it had to mobilize reserves for new forces to replace its losses in Barbarossa – while also mobilizing its industry beyond the Urals, particularly from factories moved from territory attacked by German forces.

 

And there was a more fundamental reason. As we’ve seen, German success in 1939-1942 owed much to the increase in offensive firepower (and mobility) over defensive firepower. However, in 1942-1943, the pendulum swung back to defensive firepower – in artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank defences – as seen in the battles of El Alamein and Kursk, so that a greater degree of offensive firepower was required to overcome it. “By 1943, the scale of conflict had reached a level that effectively marked the end of the superiority of the offence over the defence”. As a result, Anglo-American forces “were to experience to the full the difficulties of breaking through a position defended in depth and where surprise and manoeuver were of limited value”. However, the main manifestations of this development were on the Eastern Front – “where, by 1945, the increase of defensive firepower and the increased vulnerability of armor to anti-tank systems were such that the Soviet army calculated that an 8:1 superiority of armor was needed to overcome a prepared defensive position”.

 

Indeed, “it is at least arguable that the position that Germany enjoyed relative to her enemies in 1939-1941 was not equalled by those enemies relative to Germany until about mid-1944 – at which time Germany still retained the greater part of the conquests she had made between 1939 and 1942…the obvious question is, what is left of German military proficiency in light of the Allied conquest in one year of both the German homeland itself and the territories that Germany had conquered before 1943 and which she had held for consolidation purposes for a minimum of two years?”

 

Gone with the Wehraboo – 10 Reasons Why Nazi Germany was Full of Crap Fighting WW2: (7) Operation Barbarossa is Overrated

 

Nazi Germany only got one, maybe two time zones, tops – the Soviet Union had eleven of them, comrade

 

GONE WITH THE WEHRABOO – 10 REASONS WHY NAZI GERMANY WAS FULL OF CRAP FIGHTING WW2: (7) OPERATION BARBAROSSA WAS OVERRATED

 

Operation Barbarossa. This is the big one – the mistake that cost Nazi Germany the war, as it spent the rest of it being relentlessly pounded by the Soviet Union. Put simply, the Soviet Union was too big for blitzkrieg – unlike France, it had the resources, space, time and will to survive a blitzkrieg attack, indeed several blitzkrieg attacks. By invading the Soviet Union on 22 June, 1941, Nazi Germany raised the war to levels it could not sustain and doomed it to defeat – but “herein lies a paradox: before the campaign, there would seem to be no means whereby Germany could prevail, yet once the campaign started it would seem to have been impossible for her to lose”.

 

Of course, Wehraboo fanboys cite this paradox as evidence of Nazi Germany’s military excellence, or at least proficiency. And while some of the explanation indeed lay in its tactical proficiency and technique, part of it also lay in good luck and timing, as well as taking the Soviet Union by surprise. The Red Army was in a shambolic state – characteristically of much else in the Soviet Union throughout its history, it appeared better on paper than it was in reality.

 

In numerical strength on a simple formation count as at June 1941, the Soviet Union could meet the combined forces of Germany and its ally Finland on the basis of equality without calling on reserves. However, with its other allies (Hungary, Italy and Rumania, along with more minor contributions from nations such as Slovakia and Spain), Germany had numerical superiority in the border areas at the outset of the campaign, although that was somewhat marginal and would evaporate as the Soviet Union drew on its reserves – hence Germany’s strategy of wishful thinking that it would destroy the Red Army before the Soviet Union did so.

 

In terms of numbers of tanks and aircraft, the Soviet Union held advantages of 3:1 or 4:1 over Nazi Germany…but “the advantage of superior numbers was largely illusory because of the obsolescence of much Soviet equipment, the slow rate of delivery of new aircraft and tanks to field forces and the low rates of serviceability in front-line units”. The last was demonstrated by an “estimated 74% of all front-line armor undergoing repair or major overhaul at any time in spring 1941”, as well as the new, powerful tanks (KV and T-34 tanks) only entering service slowly and in small numbers. Accordingly, “the Soviet armies in the border areas, for all their nominal strength, probably held no advantage in overall numbers and were massively inferior to German forces on selected axes of advance”. Very few defensive positions and fortifications had been prepared in the new Soviet border areas, while the Soviet divisions in those areas “lacked adequate signals equipment, were poorly trained at all levels and, by definition, were inferior to their opposite numbers in terms of combat experience”. This was compounded in that the Red Army was in the middle of reorganizing its armor into tank divisions on the German model, resulting in very uneven quality of Soviet formations, and its weaknesses of leadership and command following Stalin’s purges of its officer corps. If Nazi Germany had attacked, say, a year or so later, it would have been a very different proposition.

 

As it was, the Red Army fought back from the outset and it fought back hard, “if not skilfully then desperately, and with increasing effect as it acquired technique the hard way” – imposing delays on the German advance and inflicting a rate of casualties that drained German forces of their front-line strength. This brings me to another pet hate (yes, a pet hate within my general pet hate of the myth of German military excellence) – the trite Wehraboo observation that the German forces were defeated by the Russian winter. Given that Nazi Germany invaded in mid-summer, this has led some to drily quip that the Russian winter starts on 23 June. Of course, if true, then underestimating your enemy’s terrain or weather is as bad as underestimating your enemy, but the German forces were defeated by a number of factors, not least of which was the continued resistance of the Red Army. Indeed, the Red Army fought its most crucial battles in its history without any clear material advantage over its enemy (due to losses and the temporary exhaustion of reserves) and its counter-offensive of December 1941 – which drove German forces back 50 to 200 miles from Moscow, never to return – was due to superb strategic timing against a German offensive that had exhausted itself (and which had failed to detect the Soviet movement of three complete armies into the line in front of Moscow in readiness for the counter-offensive).

Gone with the Wehraboo – 10 Reasons Why Nazi Germany was Full of Crap Fighting in WW2: (6) Rommel was a Choker

 

 

GONE WITH THE WEHRABOO – 10 REASONS WHY NAZI GERMANY WAS FULL OF CRAP FIGHTING IN WW2: (6) ROMMEL WAS A CHOKER

 

There – I said it. Rommel was overrated. Sure, he was good when he was winning glory for himself, but when the chips were down and it came down to solid, unglamorous defence, well…

 

He pulled a sickie back to Germany on the eve of defeat in North Africa, leaving it to his successor General Messe to surrender North Africa to the Allies. He then sought the usual glory in repelling the Allied invasion of France, except that he was in the wrong place – he was back in Germany on D-Day, and then, like most of the German command due to brilliant Allied counter-intelligence, expecting the ‘main’ invasion at the Pas-de-Calais, while the real invasion came ashore at Normandy, as all the beach obstacles Rommel had laid out as part of his vaunted efforts on the Atlantic Wall, were exposed at low tide. Rommel was famously an advocate that the Allies had to be defeated at the beaches, while this was opposed by the German Commander-in-Chief West, von Runstedt, who argued that Germany needed to concentrate its forces against the Allies inland, to avoid Allied naval gunfire. And von Runstedt had a point – in opposing the Allied invasion, Germany was characteristically on the horns of a strategic dilemma to which there was no easy answer, and its panzers didn’t do too well at the pointy end of a shell from a battleship.

 

Fans of the Wehrmacht (or Nazi Germany) have a fetish with Rommel, such that he is mockingly enshrined as the patron saint of Wehraboos. (Although I have seen a mock theory propose that Wehraboos should be divided up into a western Catholic church of Rommel and an eastern Orthodox church of Manstein – on this issue I would side with the latter, as Manstein was obviously the better general).

 

Rommel was an effective tactical commander, particularly at a smaller level and on the offensive, but in many ways he embodied the strategic and logistical flaws of Nazi Germany itself – and his North African campaign in 1941-1943 was a microcosm of Nazi Germany in the Second World War. Rommel would have been better off sticking to his original orders to remain on the  defensive (with the occasional spoiling offensive to disrupt the British), just as Germany would have been better off not going to war at all. Of course, he didn’t – with the benefit of good luck and timing. When he first arrived in North Africa, Italy was flailing in defeat – but Britain halted its offensive and withdrew forces to counter Germany in Greece. Rommel then struck their weakened forces – with the added benefit of capturing General O’Connor, who had effectively led the successful British offensive against the Italians – until he was stopped by the Australians at Tobruk, because they were that damn good, although he continued to consistently outfight numerically superior British forces.

 

And yet Germany (and any historical fantasies of a ‘Mediterranean strategy’) had limited means in its logistics and supply to North Africa – there was only so much Italian shipping (and only so many Italian naval forces to protect it from attack) to North Africa, only so much North African port facilities could carry, and most of all, only so much fuel trucks could carry before they started consuming it themselves. Hence the extent to which the North African theater would see-saw between both sides depending on their supply lines. Effectively, there was only so far Rommel’s forces could go and only so much they could achieve due to their logistics and supplies (against the superior logistics and resources of the Allies) – and nothing of strategic consequence for Germany, although like Germany, Rommel tended to dismiss the problems of logistics or supplies with wishful thinking (or blame them on his Italian allies).

 

Finally, as Willmott observes in passing, Italian intelligence was able to pass on to Rommel, often on a daily basis, reports of British deployment, strength and intentions from a compromised American source (Colonel Bonner Fellers, the US military attache in Egypt) – which “obviously poses the question of how much is left of Rommel’s reputation if he was so informed in the period of his greatest success – the end of which coincided with the loss of this insight into the British orders of battle”

Gone with the Wehraboo – 10 Reasons Why Nazi Germany was Full of Crap Fighting WW2: (5) It Picked Curb Stomp Battles – Yugoslavia & Greece

Nazi war rhino in action in Greece. Of course, they didn’t actually have war rhinos, but neither did the Persians

 

GONE WITH THE WEHRABOO – 10 REASONS WHY NAZI GERMANY WAS FULL OF CRAP FIGHTING WW2: (5) IT PICKED CURB STOMP BATTLES – YUGOSLAVIA AND GREECE

 

Once again, Nazi Germany went back to doing what it did best – curb stomping smaller and weaker nations in Europe, in this case Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941. And this time, it brought a gang – Hungary and Italy against Yugoslavia, Italy and Bulgaria against Greece. Admittedly, these allies were not terribly effective, here or anywhere else, and indeed Italy’s failure invading Greece in the first place was a large part of the reason for Germany invading these countries now, but at least Germany’s allies tied down opposing forces. So Germany and its allies had numerical superiority over Yugoslavia and Greece. Worse, Greece was at half strength after fighting against Italy and Yugoslavia was only about half mobilized. Their numerical inferiority was compounded by their material inferiority in tanks and airpower (which Germany exploited to bomb Belgrade).

 

And it kept getting worse. For political reasons, Yugoslavia was forced to attempt its defence at its frontiers rather than concentrate in its interior – its frontier “was 1,020 miles long and was indefensible over much of its length”, so that its defence resembled “a series of gaps with the occasional formation”. Those same political reasons – “division along racial, religious and cultural lines between bitterly opposed nationalities, who had little in common but their hatred for one another” – meant that Yugoslavia was ready to (and did) fragment upon attack (as it also did half a century later). Moreover, Yugoslavia and Greece were unable to support each other – and, critically, Macedonia was covered by neither, inviting German attack against this point of obvious weakness.