Richard Anderson wrote: ↑
16 Dec 2020 17:19
Peter89 wrote: ↑
16 Dec 2020 17:09
I think he's at the stage where he reads military history literature in a way that only analyzes one side's possibilities.
Well, given his "sources" amount to repeated walls of text clipped from Wikipedia, it is hardly surprising the "analysis" is basically lowest common denominator.
There's an excellent quote about this from the memoir of the late Minister of Defence of Hungary, Vilmos Nagybaczoni-Nagy. He visited Hitler in 1942 and he was stunned how the small guy commented the strategic situation. He made super detailed and thus unimportant remarks of Soviet weaknesses and hand-waved at the shortcomings of the German forces, deflecting them with vague generalizations. I might translate it some time.
I would love to read such a translation. Aside from the transcript of the Hitler-Mannerheim recordings there seems to be a dearth of such accounts that were not from the German inner circle.
For my part, I enjoy it the most when I can be convinced of something I do not believe at a first glance. For example, I was stunned when I realized some major revelations in the history of WW2. Most of my convictions lie where I held the opposite opinion 10 years ago.
Oddly enough, me too. I enjoy well-sourced contradictions to my preconceived opinion and over the last 33-odd years have had my belief system regularly revised. Just not very often in what if discussions.
In my case, it's almost the opposite, because my proficiency in English is not really old. I could only understand basic conversational English for a time, I passed my B2 language exam in my uni years. Before that, I mostly read German, Hungarian and Russian sources. The problem is that the Russian sources of that time were mostly biased, especially the selection I could get. Let's just say the first books I've read in Russian were Vasily Belov's Such Was the War and Boris Polevoj's Story of a Real Man, and leave it at that.
German was and has always been a language of high culture, but my access to German books about military history, especially XX. century was limited. I've read a lot about Austrian and Prussian military history though.
Long story short, when I had to choose a career for myself, I specialized in healthcare and biochemistry, and left humanities for my later age, when I don't have to earn a living from month to month.
Also in Hungarian, most of the military history from renowned authors was biased bullshit; there was a good decade until a new generation of military historians came out. Until then, some periodicals were more informative than books. And even amongst the newcomers, 90% are useless because they are lectured at unis by those whom they should replace. Also a lot of them started to write history from a strictly Hungarian POV, which is like a low quality What If scenario. So I really enjoy What Ifs because in my opinion, consensus in military history is far too often a illusion byproduct of language barrier, especially in the ETO / MTO.
For example, I long held the belief that Malta could be taken "easily" by the Italians, and that their drive to Suez was "easily doable" given a superficial look at the numbers.
Then I've met a lady on another forum who was fluent in Italian and French and she lectured me how wrong I was. Without further knowledge, it is so tempting to think that disasters like Cape Matapan could be avoided or the course of history could be altered "easily". But the thing is that some disasters were bound to happen, if there was room for the deep problems to unfold. For example, the Battle of Midway was extremely unlucky for the Japanese, but even if they'd win that battle, their conduct of war was doomed to fail sometime, because they had to repeat this kind of operation over and over again. (Attack an isle with an airfield AND a carrier task force.) Their lack of radar, their faulty intelligence, their even more faulty counter-intelligence, their limited resources, their inept leadership (Nagumo), their industrial inferiority, the growing technological gap, their overcomplicated battle plans all pointed into the direction that they will run into a serious beating some time. They've been lucky at the Indian Ocean Raid, but unlucky at Midway. The point is that their luck will run out once. And if their luck will run out before the enemy will run out of troops and territories, they are doomed.
That's my main problem with the quantitative approach. If we see 1000 planes, their combat value depended on a number of factors. Their task, their deployment, the crews' training, their supply, their reinforcement and attrition rates, their noncombat losses, etc. So for me it is hard to believe that something was doomed to happen ONLY because of numbers (ofc when the difference is not too obvious).
Back to the Med, the situation was somewhat the same. Italy never had the power to launch a series of offensives against the British (+ French, + Greeks) without confronting with their own shortcomings. If the British lose Malta, it would change next to nothing. If the British lose Gibraltar, on its own, it would change next to nothing. If the British lose Sudan... etc. They had space, time and resources to give the Italians their chance to screw it up.
If the whole Med could not be bottled, the Regia Marina was nothing more than a defensive force. Only a little bit more than a fleet-in-being. And the Italians alone could not bottle the Med, so the whole outcome depended on the Germans. And the Germans chose the SU.
"Everything remained theory and hypothesis. On paper, in his plans, in his head, he juggled with Geschwaders and Divisions, while in reality there were really only makeshift squadrons at his disposal."