Why was German intelligence so inefficient?

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Shc
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Why was German intelligence so inefficient?

Postby Shc » 11 Aug 2007 09:42

Throughout the war, it seemed to me that German intelligence was lacking…especially in the Eastern front.
They failed to realize the size of the Russian army; Hitler said that he would have never invaded Russia had he known that the USSR had 17,000 tanks. Throughout Barbarossa, it was thought that the backbone of the Russian army was broken…this was repeated every time the Wehrmacht managed to capture a sizeable number of prisoners (in the hundred of thousands).
Was Hitler’s over-confident estimation that “Russian would fall by September of 1941” to be blamed on the lack of GOOD German intelligence?

In Beevor’s “Stalingrad” book, it’s been said that a Russian winter offensive was indeed expected by German Generals (and the Germans as a whole) but not at the grandioso scaled presented by Zhukov. Once again, there is this “underestimation” of the USSR. By the time the Germans realized the offensive’s scale, it was too late for Paulus.
Is the German intelligence to be blamed for not being able to detect Zhukov’s 1942 winter offensive?
…possibly for the Stalingrad disaster as a whole?


There is of course D-Day and the Allied Normandy landings; where it was easily fooled by Allied’ deceptions and the people at the top (including Rommel and Hitler) still thought Pas-De-Calais was the main landing spot even after weeks of the Normandy landing.


…there are many other examples for pretty much anything.

On the other hand, the British managed to break through Germany’s Ultra code, able to read their every movement in the U-Boat war...and in general, Allied intelligence was superior to the German as they were accurately predict German movement/attacks and at the same timebeing a step ahead of the Japanese and etc…


Why was German intelligence so inefficient?
Should they take a good share of the blame for Germany’s eventual defeat and for some of Hitler’s “whacky” decisions?


~Shc~
Last edited by Shc on 11 Aug 2007 16:23, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby alkankizil@tr.net » 11 Aug 2007 12:01

It is often suggested that Admiral W. Canaris, head of the Abwehr, was leaking vital information to the British and he was eventually hanged for this. Though I don't know the strength of the evidence against him.

There was also the infamous "Rote Capelle" within the German General Staff
passing on information of the highest importance to the Russian Military. Again the evidence for this is thin+

A.K.

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Postby Auseklis » 11 Aug 2007 12:33

There are a several hints that Canaris protected Switzerland from invasion and sabotaged operations of his own service against Switzerland. No problem to be inefficoent if you want to...

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Tim Smith
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Postby Tim Smith » 11 Aug 2007 13:29

The quality of German intelligence in WWII was very variable.

For example, the Germans had excellent intelligence on Poland and France, which helped them defeat those nations on the battlefield.
However, Luftwaffe intelligence on Britain was poor - they totally underestimated the level of British fighter production during the Battle of Britain, and it made the Germans think they were winning when in fact they were losing.
As mentioned above, there's the underestimation of Russia - both the size of the army (400 divisions, not 200) and the size of its tank force (20,000, not 10,000). Also in the quality of Russian weapons - the T-34 and KV-1 in particular, but also the new modern Russian fighters and bombers.
Finally, the Germans totally underestimated the potential of America - both in terms of how quickly they could raise a large army and air force, and how many high quality weapons America could produce, as good as or better than German weapons.

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Postby Y Ddraig Goch » 11 Aug 2007 20:52

The allied Counter-intelligence was superb, and took extreme measures to ensure a successful cross-channel invasion. And overwhelmed the German intelligence gathering operations.

German aircraft reconnaissance flights, i believe, were restricted to the Arado 234 'Blitz.'

Under Operation Fortitude, a fictitious American force-the 1st Army Group-assembled just across the Channel from the Pas de Calais. Dummy troops, false radio traffic, dummy landing craft in the bay of the Thames river, huge but unoccupied camps, dummy tanks-all contributed to the deception. Although the Allied commanders could not
know it until their troops were ashore, their deception had been remarkably successful. As time for the invasion neared, the German's focus of the deception had shifted from the regions of the Balkans and Norway to the Pas de Calais. The concentration of Allied troops was so great, that an invasion of France seemed inevitable. Bombing attacks, sabotage by the French Resistance and false messages from compromised German agents all focused on the Pas de Calais with only minimal attention to Normandy. Also, German intelligence thought that the Allies had 90 divisions ready for the invasion (really only 39), so that even after the invasion of Normandy, the belief could still exist that Normandy was just a preliminary measure and the main invasion of the Pas de Calais was still to come. None of the German high command in France doubted that the invasion would strike the Pas de Calais. The Fü hrer himself, Adolf Hitler, had an intuition that the invasion would come to Normandy but was unable to incite his commanders to make more than minimal reinforcement there.


From: http://www.cyberessays.com/History/124.htm

Also Rommel thought the allies would assault Normandy not the Pas-De-Calais.

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Postby byron2112 » 12 Aug 2007 00:43

Isn't it true that much of Rommel's success in North Africa was due to superior intelligence gathered through radio traffic interception... that was later rendered ineffectual?

I have always found it interesting that the Germans had their codes broken and never realized it,or took regularly scheduled measures to shake things up and make them secure again.... while the Allies to my knowledge, for the most part were never compromised.

I(also) wonder why the Germans were so lousey in this area?

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Postby alkankizil@tr.net » 12 Aug 2007 03:37

German Military Intelligence had some successes: at the beginning of the War they cracked the British naval code+

A.K.

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Postby byron2112 » 12 Aug 2007 05:32

That's interesting A.K.

I guess the British realized this and took appropriate measures?

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Postby alkankizil@tr.net » 13 Aug 2007 03:44

The British took quite some time (and of course losses) before they changed their code+

A.K.

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Postby Denim Demon » 14 Aug 2007 13:58

Regarding Rommels success in N.Africa it was enabeled by the italians having broken the british code, something that was discovered when the germans made the italians change over to the enigma machine. the orginal italian codes had not been cracked by the brits... clever germans : )

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Postby Zebedee » 15 Aug 2007 09:33

Denim Demon wrote:Regarding Rommels success in N.Africa it was enabeled by the italians having broken the british code, something that was discovered when the germans made the italians change over to the enigma machine. the orginal italian codes had not been cracked by the brits... clever germans : )


It's also worth remembering that Rommel was getting a lot of his intelligence from the US consul in Cairo who did not realise that his post was being read.

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Postby byron2112 » 16 Aug 2007 00:44

That's awsome stuff you guys. I havn't read much on the intelligence war or code breaking... any recomendations?

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Zebedee
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Postby Zebedee » 16 Aug 2007 09:20

The Deceivers by Holt covers Allied (western) military deception techniques and touches upon German, Italian and Japanese intelligence.

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phylo_roadking
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Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Aug 2007 23:18

Canaris via Oster also leaked warning of the planned invasion of Norway to the Norwegians via an "old boys network" of friends of friends through Holland to Denmark and on to Oslo.

Also, there were other recce flights over Britain, as far west as Northern Ireland and Donegal, by first a Ju88 early in the war and later a Ju188 converted to diesel engines and with a pressurized cabin for high altitude. I don't know how frequent these were, but the photography was superb. As for the aircraft "destroyed" in the Battle of Britain - this was partly a fault of poor analysis in Berlin, rather than poor intel, as it was mostly comparison of pre- and post-attack photo recce collated with pilot debriefings...but also partly something that was beyoind their ability to factor in, the speed of repair and output of Beaverbrook's Forward Repair Depots at repairing battle-damaged aircraft that would normally be written off, and the efforts of the ATS ferrying repaired and new aircraft to units at night so they had full rosters next day.

As for Canaris - Churchill moved a vote of thanks to him in the House of Commons!


I could be wrong about this next bit, but having just read Kahn's book, it appears to me that the Germans made one significant - and constant - error in WWII. Where they sent out one- or two-man intel gethering teams, they seemed to rely far too much on the agents in the field to be their own analysts, and thus regarded what they received back as gospel. There would be some analysis done on receipt, but nothing like the degree applied in a British or American operation. Thus it was easier to fool an agent - like those reporting or trying to report back on all the dummy Operation Fortitude invasion preparations - for his reports then gelled with aerial recce, and the case was made. reading accounts of Allied intelligence-gatherin, agents in the field didn't filter quite so much; they could and did analyse, but moved a far greater amount of raw data home.

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Postby Kurfürst » 10 Sep 2007 17:11

byron2112 wrote:I have always found it interesting that the Germans had their codes broken and never realized it,or took regularly scheduled measures to shake things up and make them secure again.... while the Allies to my knowledge, for the most part were never compromised.

I(also) wonder why the Germans were so lousey in this area?


German code breaking wasn't inefficient, quite the contrary. It's just not as overhyped as ULTRA et co. Through the war Allied codes were just as routinely broken as German ones, the thing made easier by the fact the Allies had nothing comparable or on the scale of Enigma.

Ronald H. Spector in his book for example gives a couple of examples how it helped in naval warfare. The coding that contained information merchantmen in and outbound to Britain was regularly broken - U-boots had their greater success when the code was open to them, thanks to the B-Dienst, and convoy departure and routes were invaluable information.

Then, I'd say, the fact that the German were listening and decoding to the daily (scrambled) phone conversions of Roosevelt and Churchill on the transatlantic wire was 'some' achievement as well.. the list goes on. It's just not as very well known by the public.

Thing is, there very little serious literature concerning German intelligence of WW2. Most book`s authors that are on the market did little serious research for their books, and make up for that with petty comments downplaying the intelligence work of the former enemy. One exception is Ladislaus Farago's 'The game of the Foxes' - it tells the story of the German intelligence's greatest successes - and failures. As does every intelligence service. As one does reads British Air Intelligence papers the impression is often that it was written by eager boyscouts, not an intelligence service...


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