Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

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wm
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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by wm » 28 Nov 2015 22:46

Well, I've heard they had only a few divisions - a force unable to defend Hungary not to mention mounting an aggression.
But the point is Hungary as a defeated country and subjected to will of the victorious allies wasn't a threat to anybody, even Slovakia.

But the Army of the Hungarian Soviet Republic supported by the Soviet Republics and their battle hardened Army certainly was a deadly threat, a threat the Slovaks and the Czechs could do nothing about.
So it is not correct to say the Slovaks had not real chance of independence outside Czechoslovakia - their freedom depended on factors outside Slovak or Czech control.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by Pavel Novak » 28 Nov 2015 23:34

Take in account that there were no allied forces to enforce Hungary to leave Slovakia. Czechoslovak forces available at Bohemia and Moravia were few volunteer units and remnants of Austro-Hungarian units which sided with Czechoslovak National Council in Prague - ill equipped, understrength, lacking officers. This was enough to eliminate German separatists but inadequate to force out even that few Hungarian garrisons in Slovakia.

Only after arrival of two Czechoslovak "legion" divisions from Italy allowed to successfully invade northern Slovakia but advance to southern and eastern Slovakia was still very slow. Once Hungary made armistice with Romania it allowed to now Soviet Hungary to send against Czechoslovakia 5 full equipped divisions which surprised Czechoslovak two-divisional corps and allowed significant gains for Hungarians. But once Romanians restated their offensive Hungary collapsed very quickly.

EDIT: Another point - Hungary declared independence from Austria-Hungary on 15th October 1918 and doesn't felt any obligation for surrendering imposed to government in Vienna.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by KACKO » 30 Dec 2015 20:05

wm wrote:
KACKO wrote:Czech Republic was viable even without Slovakia. What you don't understand is that US SLOVAKS had not real option! Czechoslovak Army in 1919 made sure SLovakia didn't stay part of Hungary. If Slovakia stayed part of Hungary, Slovak language would be diminished as some weird dialect spoken by people in Northern Hungary! In Hungary according to census from 1920 I believe some 145 000 people were considered Slovaks (according to A-H census in 1910 on same territory it was 195 000) in 1930 census only 104 000 Slovaks were recorded. However according to other data 399 000 people spoke Slovaks.
If Slovaks stayed in Hungary, most of them would be Hungarians now. Being part of Czechoslovakia was the best Slovaks could got!
Wasn't the Hungarian Army full disarmed at the end of 1918, on the orders of the victorious allies? The borders were drawn by the Allies and established thanks to their military might, the Czechoslovak Army had nothing to do with it.

Even later when the forces of the Hungarian Soviet Republic invaded Slovakia, they easily defeated the Czechoslovak Army and established the Slovak Soviet Republic. So the Czechs weren't saviours even in practice.
Then the Romanian Army wiped out the the Hungarian Soviet Republic and occupied Hungary. So in the end the Romanians were the saviours of Slovakia (and maybe of the Czechs too).
As a matter of fact they were not disarmed yet by end of 1918. After all Hungarian Red Army was built around former units and used their armaments. Czechoslovakia actually did the same. Built around Czech and Slovak regiments of A-H army as well as Legionaries. In May 1919 Reds had more artillery as well as MG then Czechoslovaks in equally sized units. Situation was improving only in mid of May.

Was Czechoslovak army defeated? In my opinion hardly. Yes it was retreating. Yes it in fact lost some important battle. But it was still in war. At the time Romanians finally broke their armistices with Hungarians, Czechoslovak army had worst behind and steady stream of reinforcements as well as material was finally flowing in.

Czechs actually in my opinion can pretty well claim role of saviours. Slovak Socialist Republic was created but firstly: To late (shortly before Hungarians were pushed out) and on to short territory. Czechoslovak Army of which most of regiment were manned by Czechs managed in late 1918 early 1919 liberate and in May 1919 defend most of Slovak territory.


Romanian attack helped at the end. However you are forgetting that while Hungarians were attacking Czechoslovaks in may 1919 there was armistice between Romanians and Hungarians. So if we are going to continue this way we can say that Czechoslovak bled best red Hungarians units and Romanians hit greatly weakened Red troops.
As a matter of fact Hungarians were pulling troops from inactive Romanian front against Czechoslovaks at that period.

Anyway my point of Czechs as saviors is not just when looking on years 1918/19. Romanians would hardly sent so many teachers to Slovakia which was at the time lacking educated Slovaks due magyarization (Slovak high schools not allowed, so logically no universities). Firstly Romanians lacked them and secondly Romanian language is somehow different.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by wm » 01 Jan 2016 18:20

Certainly but there was something else. The Soviets were preparing a huge army with the aim to give support to the rather weak Hungarian Soviet Republic.
The Romanians had destroyed the Hungarian Soviet Republic before that army was ready so the intervention was called off, but without Romanians Slovakia and in fact the entire Czechoslovakia would have been an easy prey for the combined Soviet-Hungarian forces.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by KACKO » 04 Apr 2016 22:54

wm wrote:Certainly but there was something else. The Soviets were preparing a huge army with the aim to give support to the rather weak Hungarian Soviet Republic.
The Romanians had destroyed the Hungarian Soviet Republic before that army was ready so the intervention was called off, but without Romanians Slovakia and in fact the entire Czechoslovakia would have been an easy prey for the combined Soviet-Hungarian forces.
Sorry took me a while. Firstly Soviets would need to crush Poland to get into contact with Red Hungarians. Secondly they would need to advance across hills of Slovakia before even dreaming to get into Czech lands. In 1944-45 it took Soviets some 7 months to capture whole Slovakia defended basically only with what Germans could spare. Would they do better in 1919?

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by wm » 06 Apr 2016 19:00

Although they didn't have to advance across those hills because the common Hungarian-Slovak border reached almost Bratislava.
And the Bratislava lowlands would be hard to defend. From Bratislava the road was open to the Czech lands.
On the East the Košice region was rather defenseless too.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by Delwin » 19 Jan 2017 14:12

Concerning the Slovakia will to fight - I believe that the story might similar to OTL Belorussians and Ukrainians in Polish army on 1939. In principle, despite earlier issues and later acts (on side of UPA) against Poles and Polish states, soldiers from those both nations fought well. Some of the best of the ID divisions of Poland (20 and 30 IDs - on par with Great Poland divisions) had significant detachment of the minority soldiers. The common comment is that until Russian invasion there was no problem with loyalty - those guys fought well. There were clashes with Ukrainian minority but it had not covered the still existing units. I read the story when at the later stage of war, Polish unit was encircled and the commander decided to let go Ukrainian soldiers home (just them), if they want to. They found it offensive and stayed in the ranks until the unit was destroyed...

So I would expect that until the war went really bad for Czechoslovakia I would not expect an issue with Slovak soldiers. Similar story would be with Poles or even Hungarians -as long as they are supposed to fight Germans, not their own nations.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by Pavel Novak » 20 Jan 2017 22:00

From what I know there were no issues with Slovaks in mobilized army and Czechoslovak military leadership treated them same as Czech soldiers. Polish or other nationalities apart from German and Hungarian were too few to set distinct picture.

Germans in Czechoslovak army were a clear problem. 300.000 were called in during mobilization with 200.000 actually mobilized and morale of German soldiers was on average very low and for example in 1st Corps (deployed in south-western Bohemia) were German soldiers disarmed and sent to non-combat positions with exception of few which actually wanted to fight for Czechoslovakia (Nazi propaganda named all of such Germans as members of Rote-Wehr). Czechoslovak military tried to transfer more Germans to Hungarian and then Polish border. (Btw. German army planned to use Germans in Czechoslovak uniforms to create chaos in rear of Czechoslovak front.)

Some 50.000 called in Hungarians has not showed during mobilization and morale of Hungarians was also very low. But overall there were much less Hungarians in mobilized army.

Czechoslovak mobilized army had 1.100.000 men against planned strength of 1.280.000. The army started to call in older men from the second reserve to fill the numbers.

It is also interesting that German intelligence estimated numbers of mobilized Czechoslovak army to be about 600.000 men which corresponds to planned strength in 1933 and before. This could led to German sureness in negotiation and at the same time western and Czechoslovak intelligence overestimated German numbers.

Anyway Czechoslovak plan was purely defensive and in eventual war Germans would very quickly get large territory because Czechoslovak army planned not to defend western border areas.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by KACKO » 09 Feb 2017 17:20

Pavel Novak wrote:From what I know there were no issues with Slovaks in mobilized army and Czechoslovak military leadership treated them same as Czech soldiers. Polish or other nationalities apart from German and Hungarian were too few to set distinct picture.

Germans in Czechoslovak army were a clear problem. 300.000 were called in during mobilization with 200.000 actually mobilized and morale of German soldiers was on average very low and for example in 1st Corps (deployed in south-western Bohemia) were German soldiers disarmed and sent to non-combat positions with exception of few which actually wanted to fight for Czechoslovakia (Nazi propaganda named all of such Germans as members of Rote-Wehr). Czechoslovak military tried to transfer more Germans to Hungarian and then Polish border. (Btw. German army planned to use Germans in Czechoslovak uniforms to create chaos in rear of Czechoslovak front.)

Some 50.000 called in Hungarians has not showed during mobilization and morale of Hungarians was also very low. But overall there were much less Hungarians in mobilized army.

Czechoslovak mobilized army had 1.100.000 men against planned strength of 1.280.000. The army started to call in older men from the second reserve to fill the numbers.

It is also interesting that German intelligence estimated numbers of mobilized Czechoslovak army to be about 600.000 men which corresponds to planned strength in 1933 and before. This could led to German sureness in negotiation and at the same time western and Czechoslovak intelligence overestimated German numbers.

Anyway Czechoslovak plan was purely defensive and in eventual war Germans would very quickly get large territory because Czechoslovak army planned not to defend western border areas.
Actually there were some problems how Slovak soldiers and officers were treated in Czechoslovak army. Lower possibility of rank advancements and if soldiers, or officers candidates were organized even in Slovak cultural organizations they were looked at not very favorably. Similar problems Slovak soldiers later faced in Czechoslovak units in Great Britain. Unfortunately Benes's ideology of Czechoslovakism did more harm then good to Czechoslovakia but despite this Czechoslovakia was in my opinion best option Slovaks had after 1918!

I guess that could be one of reason why Otto Smik choose to be transferred British squadron. But Slovaks indeed in 1938 supported Czechoslovakia. Even Hlinka and his party!

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by DZKriz » 26 Dec 2021 20:22

The question of whether the Czechs should have defended themselves in 1938 has been a debate that I've heard in my family (we're ethnic Czechs) all my life.

I think that a number of things in the last 20 years have become clear:

(1) The Czechs were far better prepared to fight than the British gave them credit for. The Czechs were not preparing for simply "a static border conflict" but had numerous defensive lines set up across the country, with over half the force was in mobile divisions ready to respond to breaches. The plan _anticipated strategic retreat_. The plan was to hole up ultimately in the mountains of Slovakia until the tide turned in the West.

The Czechs had universal conscription during the whole of its 20 year existence as well as its WWI veterans. So basically every male in the country under the age of 40 was trained and knew how to fight. Germany, yes, with a far larger population had only 5 years of recently trained men for military conflict and then its older WW I vets.

Further, the Czechoslovak military was led by a very confident, innovative and frankly _scrappy_ officer Corps. All its higher officers came from the Czechoslovak legionary era, when following Russia's separate peace made with the Central Powers, the Czechoslovak Legion took over and controlled for several years the entire Trans-Siberian Railway from at least Omsk to Vladivostok. They ran-off with Czarist Russia's treasury and nearly freed the Czar and his family (the Bolsheviks had them shot as the Czechoslovak legion approached Yekaterinburg where they were held).

German intelligence reports (T78-R300) _expected_ a _scrappy defense_ with the Czechs blowing up dams in both the Czech-Austrian border region in the south east and in the Czech-Saxon border region in the north west, as well as "setting forests ablaze" as needed all along the frontier.

Finally, by the Munich Conference, the Czechoslovak army was _fully mobilized_ with even its air force scattered throughout the country so that it could not be destroyed on the ground as the Polish and later Russian air forces were largely destroyed in the beginning strokes of those German blitzkrieg campaigns.

So the Czechs were basically a proto-/paleo-Israel in 1938. NO they didn't have the audacity to launch a preventive strike like the Israelis did in 1967. But they were ready to fight perhaps more ready to fight than any other country in Europe (including Germany) at the time.

(2) Germany's own army was _not_ what it became even a year later. Indeed, Germany became military juggernaut for the subsequent Polish and Low Country / French campaigns, thanks to the capture of all that Czech weaponry / weapons factories in 1938-spring 1939.

Germany had neither the trained men nor the weaponry to mobilize a true wartime army in 1938. That's why its plans _required_ a surprise attack on Czechoslovakia with its peacetime army and BOTH the occupation of the Sudetenland and subsequent capture of the rump of Bohemia / Moravia was conducted _each time_ using only about 10 divisions. FRANKLY, THAT'S ALL THAT THEY HAD.

Certainly all the "landwehr divisions" listed in various OOBs were ghost divisions. They NEVER existed. Why would we know that? Because they didn't exist subsequently. If one goes through the orders of battles, only ONE or TWO of the divisions created afterwards came from "Landwehr" divisions.

And even scary "Panzer divisions" in 1938 were still almost entirely composed Pz1s and Pz2s which were basically _show pieces_ that looked really impressive in military parades _but could be pierced by simple armor piercing bullets_ (of which the Czechs, like any modern army of the time, had a ton). These were _not_ the Pz3s and Pz4s of subsequent years.

So a German Campaign in the mid-late fall of 1938, already raining, and only a few weeks before _snow_ would start falling all along the mountainous frontier_, could very well have ended up like the Russian Finnish War in the Fall / Winter a year later.

So why then didn't Czechoslovakia go to war then in 1938?

The Czechoslovaks still knew that _alone_ they would have lost. Perhaps not in the Fall of 1938 but certainly subsequent wars in the years afterwards. Even a repelling of Germany in 1938 would have just added pressure for Germany to come back again and again afterwards and eventually, indeed _inevitably_ win.

And as much as I would have loved to have seen the Czechs fight in 1938, I do believe it was a good decision not to:

The Sudeten Conflict was won by the Czechs in a complete victory in 1945-46, following WW II, when the Czechoslovaks with Soviet (and even Allied) backing (after the Potsdam Conference) simply _expelled_ the 3 million ethnic Germans from their country to Germany.

Even the Czech press today grudgingly admits that ANY military conflict in 1938 would have resulted in altered borders following that conflict.

And that actually was one of the primary reasons why the Brits were not anxious to go to war over the Sudetenland -- "If we know that the borders will have to change, why should we go to war to defend the existing borders?" was a very early question in the British cabinet discussions in the weeks following the Austrian Anschluss when it became clear that Czechoslovakia would probably be the next nation to be threatened.

Ironically the decision to accept "surrender" in 1938-39 made complete victory possible in 1945-46 (with the reconstitution of the Czechoslovak state, with essentially the same boundaries -- Ruthenia was ceded to the Soviets, but so what, they weren't Czechs / Slovaks but rather largely people identifying themselves as Ukrainians and Ukraine was then part of the Soviet Union).

And honestly, Czech President Benes was playing the long game. ... And he did warn the French / Brits that they were going to pay dearly for not standing with the Czechoslovaks in 1938. All the weapons that the Czechs had, along with all their weapons factories went to Hitler and Hitler used those weapons and that weapon manufacturing capacity against France / Britain afterwards.

Then Benes got the country reconstituted and the Sudeten Germans expelled, all with minimal Czech casualties and a country intact. Today Germans go to the Czech Republic to see what Germany / Central Europe looked like before WW II ...

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 27 Dec 2021 07:11

DZKriz wrote:
26 Dec 2021 20:22
The question of whether the Czechs should have defended themselves in 1938 has been a debate that I've heard in my family (we're ethnic Czechs) all my life...
Thanks for the opinions & information there.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by ljadw » 27 Dec 2021 15:19

KACKO wrote:
09 Feb 2017 17:20
Pavel Novak wrote:From what I know there were no issues with Slovaks in mobilized army and Czechoslovak military leadership treated them same as Czech soldiers. Polish or other nationalities apart from German and Hungarian were too few to set distinct picture.

Germans in Czechoslovak army were a clear problem. 300.000 were called in during mobilization with 200.000 actually mobilized and morale of German soldiers was on average very low and for example in 1st Corps (deployed in south-western Bohemia) were German soldiers disarmed and sent to non-combat positions with exception of few which actually wanted to fight for Czechoslovakia (Nazi propaganda named all of such Germans as members of Rote-Wehr). Czechoslovak military tried to transfer more Germans to Hungarian and then Polish border. (Btw. German army planned to use Germans in Czechoslovak uniforms to create chaos in rear of Czechoslovak front.)

Some 50.000 called in Hungarians has not showed during mobilization and morale of Hungarians was also very low. But overall there were much less Hungarians in mobilized army.

Czechoslovak mobilized army had 1.100.000 men against planned strength of 1.280.000. The army started to call in older men from the second reserve to fill the numbers.

It is also interesting that German intelligence estimated numbers of mobilized Czechoslovak army to be about 600.000 men which corresponds to planned strength in 1933 and before. This could led to German sureness in negotiation and at the same time western and Czechoslovak intelligence overestimated German numbers.

Anyway Czechoslovak plan was purely defensive and in eventual war Germans would very quickly get large territory because Czechoslovak army planned not to defend western border areas.
Actually there were some problems how Slovak soldiers and officers were treated in Czechoslovak army. Lower possibility of rank advancements and if soldiers, or officers candidates were organized even in Slovak cultural organizations they were looked at not very favorably. Similar problems Slovak soldiers later faced in Czechoslovak units in Great Britain. Unfortunately Benes's ideology of Czechoslovakism did more harm then good to Czechoslovakia but despite this Czechoslovakia was in my opinion best option Slovaks had after 1918!

I guess that could be one of reason why Otto Smik choose to be transferred British squadron. But Slovaks indeed in 1938 supported Czechoslovakia. Even Hlinka and his party!
Hm : why did the Czechs occupy Slovakia and deposed they Tiso as Slovakian PM ,and this before the German intervention ?
Was it not because the Slovaks did not support Prague and wanted their independence ?

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by DZKriz » 27 Dec 2021 22:32

DZKriz wrote:
26 Dec 2021 20:22

German intelligence reports (T78-R300) _expected_ a _scrappy defense_ with the Czechs blowing up dams in both the Czech-Austrian border region in the south east and in the Czech-Saxon border region in the north west, as well as "setting forests ablaze" as needed all along the frontier.
Actually the NARA roll is T78-R561

NARA Photo 000664 -

Lagebericht (Status Report) Tschechoslowakei nr.1 28.April.38 - among defensive measures: "forests wired, firebreaks cut."

NARA Photo 000633

LB09-20.Mai.1938 -- Dam near Karlsbad/Karlovy Vary wired to be blasted, Vranov Dam near the Czech Austrian border.

NARA Photo 000623

LB12-23.Mai.1938 - Czech troops by the dam at Frain (Vranov) near the frontier between Czechoslovakia and Austria

NARA Photo 612

LB14-27.Mai.1938 - Noted that numerous dams along saxon border "particularly filled" and again "forests wired"

Nara Photo 000563

LB28-12.August.1938 "Measures to burn down the forests in the border zone continue (piling up of brushwood walls, dispensing of petrol cans)."

Nara Photo 000517

LB38-18.Sept.1938 -- Dams sabotaged by Sudeten Germans to dry them out in Friedrichswald/Bedrichov and Reichenberg/Liberec.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by wm » 27 Dec 2021 23:29

DZKriz wrote:
26 Dec 2021 20:22
And honestly, Czech President Benes was playing the long game.
Please, Czech President Benes handed over his country to Hitler (against the will of the entire government as I understand it) and then later handed it over to Stalin.
That must be the first in history.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by Pavel Novak » 01 Jan 2022 17:06

Hm : why did the Czechs occupy Slovakia and deposed they Tiso as Slovakian PM ,and this before the German intervention ?
Was it not because the Slovaks did not support Prague and wanted their independence ?
Slovakia as part of Czechoslovakia before Munich and Vienna settlement was larger than independent Slovakia during ww2.

Slovak politicians were unhappy with centralized Czechslovak republic but were also aware that independent Slovakia coud become easy prey for its neighbours. So before Munich slovak politicans were supporting defense measures as it was in their interests. But after Munich Czechoslovakia was no longer able to fulfil its security role and thus slovak leadership was looking for new solution.

On the other hand czechoslovak leadership in Prague wanted to keep Czechoslovakia together to activate british and french guarantees obtained in Munich once Germans move again. Even at the cost of that coup against slovak leadership.

However in February when Germany issued its final ultimatum to Czechoslovakia Britain and France betrayed their guarantee commitment from Munich despite Czechoslovak official invoking. Once Germans got the info that western guarantee is worthless (that is the reason why they did not consider later guarantee to Poland to be of any value) they invaded.

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