Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

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Carl Schwamberger
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Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Feb 2013 13:12

Recently declassified records from the British archives hit the news & revived the 75+ year old contraversy over the Cezch War of 38. In this case it centers on the question of Chamberlains judgement and final decision to stand firm against the German demands for the Studentland region of the Cezchoslovakian republic. The documents purportedly show, or "prove" in some views that Chamberlain ignored evidence that Adolf Hitlers government was ready to negotiate the matter and forcing the Cezchs to accept the 'reasonable' idea of parting with the German populated border region was possible.

As usual the 'Avoidable War' school points to the lesser evil of pressured separation of some questionable Cezch territory vs the bloody four month war (80,000) dead, and the decade of civil disorder and military dictatorship in Germany.

To my mind the over focus on Chamberlain tends to ignore the role of the French: fearful of a German military revival; of the Poles: actually encouraging Germany to take Cezch land; & Italy in not remaining with France on keeping Germany in line. In general the entire thing was final proof of the failure of the Versailles system, which should have enabled the halting of German military revival years earlier.

Unlike some folks I am nearly certain had a war to halt German revanchism not occured in 38 it would have occured within another few years. So WI Chamberlain had tried to negotiate away the crisis? It would require the French & Cezchs to agree to some portion of the German demands, which is a tough one. In this Chamberlain did have the support of his marshalls. Their views on the unreadiness of the Brit Army & RAF are well documented.

So, any opinions of is the newly publsihed Brit papers change anything about the arguments over Chamberlains role i starting the Cezch War?

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wm
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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by wm » 14 Feb 2013 18:41

4 months is rather unlikely. More like 4 days. There was a little over a hundred kilometers of nice plain terrain from the
non-fortified Austrian border to Prague, and any attempt of defense looks suicidal anyway:
dog.jpg
from 1939 Life Magazine
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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by Pavel Novak » 14 Feb 2013 21:08

wm wrote: ... the non-fortified Austrian border to Prague ...
Do not this nonsense again. Please if you have something more to this you can add it here:
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 6&t=171020

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by wm » 14 Feb 2013 22:07

Well there is a fortified line mentioned there, somewhere near Vltava river. But the Vltava river although beautiful runs South-North. Without the river the line is not very useful in defending Prague unless the fortifications were something like the Maginot line and they certainly weren't.
The Polish Wizna fortified region based on rivers and marshes survived only 2 days in 1939, despite the very vigorous defense.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by Pavel Novak » 15 Feb 2013 18:21

Any Czechoslovak-German war is not about winner but only about how long it takes.

Anyway I think that for Carl's what if it is important to clarify how war started. One possible way is that Chamberlain actually did nothing to prevent it. Historically it was Chamberlain's initiative to negotiate with Hitler who doesn't ask for anything like that. So what if UK just ignored the whole situation before war:

- Czechoslovak partial mobilization in April 1938 - historically France and Britain warned Germany that attack against Czechoslovakia could lead to a wider European war - now just France warns Germany or nobody warns Germany - doesn't matter at all - no effect on German preparations

- continuing German preparations for Fall Grün with deadline 1st October 1938 - two variants: 1. unexpected German attack without prior mobilization against peacetime-strength Czechoslovak Army, 2. mobilized German Army against presumably mobilized Czechoslovak Army

- despite opposition from German military Hitler in September orders Henlein's paramilitary to rise up in Czechoslovak German speaking areas - Czechoslovak military answer is calling reserves without mobilization but still strengthening army from 200,000 men to 500,000 men (that is what actually happened)

- as nobody calls for any negotiation (Hitler is the last one to propose such weakness) German military command has to decide what variant of invasion use - the first variant is now in worse condition because Czechoslovak military has now 2,5x more men than demanded but the second variant can attract French attention

- a. German army attacks with just its peacetime formations - it goes worse than expected --- would France declare war to Germany in situation of such unexpected and unprovoked attack? And what would do Chamberlain?

- b. Germany starts mobilization and as a reaction France do the same (historically France actually mobilized in 1938) --- this is definitely time for someone to call for negotiation

My answer to Carl's what if:
//re a. - if Germany attacks without prior warning it would be always viewed as pure aggressor because Hitler even did not pretend to try to solve it peacefully

//re b. - if negotiation started but German demands were refused with following war there will be endless debate if it was possible to avert that war - if just leaders of that time weren't so uncompromising

Regards

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by ljadw » 15 Feb 2013 19:35

IMHO,every one is starting from the old and wrong POV= that peace/war were depending on Britain/France : it was NOT.

War was only possible (and would be certain) if CZ refused Hitler's demands,which would result in a German attack,which would result in British and French intervention .

For a lot of reasons (which are irrelevant),CZ refused to fight to keep the Sudeten,although it knew it would have the support of B+ F.

If there was such war,he wound end quickly (in a few weeks) with a German victory,but Britain and France would continue the fight,as they did in 1939.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by ljadw » 15 Feb 2013 19:42

Carl Schwamberger wrote:Recently declassified records from the British archives hit the news & revived the 75+ year old contraversy over the Cezch War of 38. In this case it centers on the question of Chamberlains judgement and final decision to stand firm against the German demands for the Studentland region of the Cezchoslovakian republic. The documents purportedly show, or "prove" in some views that Chamberlain ignored evidence that Adolf Hitlers government was ready to negotiate the matter and forcing the Cezchs to accept the 'reasonable' idea of parting with the German populated border region was possible.

As usual the 'Avoidable War' school points to the lesser evil of pressured separation of some questionable Cezch territory vs the bloody four month war (80,000) dead, and the decade of civil disorder and military dictatorship in Germany.

To my mind the over focus on Chamberlain tends to ignore the role of the French: fearful of a German military revival; of the Poles: actually encouraging Germany to take Cezch land; & Italy in not remaining with France on keeping Germany in line. In general the entire thing was final proof of the failure of the Versailles system, which should have enabled the halting of German military revival years earlier.

Unlike some folks I am nearly certain had a war to halt German revanchism not occured in 38 it would have occured within another few years. So WI Chamberlain had tried to negotiate away the crisis? It would require the French & Cezchs to agree to some portion of the German demands, which is a tough one. In this Chamberlain did have the support of his marshalls. Their views on the unreadiness of the Brit Army & RAF are well documented.

So, any opinions of is the newly publsihed Brit papers change anything about the arguments over Chamberlains role i starting the Cezch War?
The views on the unreadiness of the British Army and RAF were totally irrelevant.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by BDV » 15 Feb 2013 21:11

ljadw wrote:The views on the unreadiness of the British Army and RAF were totally irrelevant.
Pray tell how, don't hold back on us.
Nobody expects the Fallschirm! Our chief weapon is surprise; surprise and fear; fear and surprise. Our 2 weapons are fear and surprise; and ruthless efficiency. Our *3* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency; and almost fanatical devotion

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by ljadw » 15 Feb 2013 22:06

Because the (wrong) claims about the unreadiness of the RAF and the British army did NOT have any influence on what Chamberlain was doing : if Hitler had attacked CZ in 1938,Britain WOULD HAVE DECLARED WAR .This was a given .The only reason why Britain did not declare war in 1938,was that Hitler did not invade CZ:there was peace .

The point if Britain would intervene did NOT depend on Britain:it did depend on Germany and CZ,and,in last instance,on CZ.
And,thus,the situation of the British forces was irrelevant .

It also is wrong to say that the British forces were not ready :they were ready to defend Britain,which was their mission,their mission was not to defend CZ.

Why do you think that in september 1939,Britain was declaring war ? The situation of her armed forces was not better/worse than in 1938:in 1938,Britain was unable to defend CZ,and in 1939,it was unable to defend Poland .

The only difference was that there was a war in 1939,and NO WAR in 1938.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by Keitel » 15 Feb 2013 23:56

A page on Czech Fortifications

[urlhttp://web.archive.org/web/20090723082617/http://forts.zuby-broumov.cz/]Thank you way back machine.[/url]

Reading through these, it is clear the Czechoslovakian Defenses were a joke.

Discounting small arms and mortars (German Infantry Regiments had four different setups for rifle and weapons companies), a German Infantry Regiment has 12 37mm AT Guns, 6 75mm Infantry Guns, and 2 150mm Infantry Guns. At division level, the Germans bring to bear 36 105mm Howitzers, and 12 150mm Howitzers. Plus an AT Battalion with 36 37mm guns.

A Czechoslovakian Military Setup can be seen here.

Notice that Czech Divisional Artillery is not medium, but light artillery. 100mm+ howitzers are Corps level artillery and many Corps don't have them, nor do some Armies. So a German Regiment in raw firepower is a match for a Czech Division and a German Division can bring more raw firepower to bear than most Czech Corps.

The Czechs are surrounded on all sides and day one will see their Air Force largely destroyed. This will be a curbstomp battle even if the Sudeten Germans, Slovaks, Poles, and Ruthenians side wholeheartedly with the Czechs.

As for Czechoslovakian Tanks, they were not rated to withstand hits from 37mm gunfire and the Germans had to add a ton of armor to them just to make them survivable.

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by Rob Stuart » 16 Feb 2013 00:15

The unreadiness of the British forces was not irrelevant. This was one of the realities which prompted Chamberlain to decide to appease Hitler and to pressure the Czechs not to fight. Had Fighter Command been as strong in 1938 as it was to be in 1940, even if the rest of the RAF and the British Army were in no better shape then they actually were in 1938, Chamberlain would have had little to fear from the Luftwaffe and he might have been a bit less reluctant to face Hitler down instead of appeasing him.

IMHO, I would say in hindsight that the world would have been better off if the war had started in 1938 instead of 1939, for a number of reasons, including:

1. While the relative superiority of the Luftwaffe vs. its opponents was probably about the same in 1938 and 1939, the German navy and army were weaker vis-a-vis their opposite numbers in 1938 than in 1939.

2. In 1939 the German-Soviet non-agreesion pact was in effect. In 1938 the Germans, with a smaller army than in 1939 and a weaker Westwall, would be attacking southward with an active enemy to the west and a hostile Poland to the east. Even if Poland stayed out of it, as they probably would, the Germans would have to retain at least a few divisions on their eastern frontier.

3. In 1939 the Germans had in their possession the entire inventory of the Czech armed forces. Two of their 10 Panzer divisions had Czech tanks for example, if I'm not mistaken. In 1938 they did not have that equipment and even if they had defeated the Czechs quickly most of this equipment would have been destroyed or damaged in the fighting.

Rob

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by BDV » 16 Feb 2013 06:22

The key to how a shooting war would "go down" is the question of developing german offensive doctrine against the czech defensive doctrine (which we have limited understanding of how it would work out in practice). Kein Operationsplan reicht mit einiger Sicherheit über das erste Zusammentreffen mit der feindlichen Hauptmacht hinaus.

However, czech commanders had been trained in the academies and millitaries of the WWI Alliance, and thus had the best understanding (short of Austrian officers and the junkerkaste themselves) of the german way of warfare. Also, Czechia had plenty of men who could and would fight.

Czech tanks were superior to german tanks both in weapons, engine, and protection. So it will have to be an infantry-cum-heavy artillery slog, at a time when the german army is still motorizing. Slow, ponderous affair, that will give time VVS to send an expeditionary corps. Also, that will have the czech light artillery and small arms play a role. AngloFrench will impose some sort of blockade - at a minimum - with US and USSR joining.

What will Poland do, with the Wehrmacht stuck in Czechia? Do not discount the szlachtic disregard towards the pomeranian potato-diggers. It may be perceived as an "ideal" moment to deal with the prussian ex-serfs "for good", and redress the national shame of 1773-1795.

Hungary vs. Jugoslavia+Romania is another potentially interesting development.

In any case the aftermath will leave Adolf channeling Hermann of Dorpat, advance to 24:35.
Nobody expects the Fallschirm! Our chief weapon is surprise; surprise and fear; fear and surprise. Our 2 weapons are fear and surprise; and ruthless efficiency. Our *3* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency; and almost fanatical devotion

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by ljadw » 16 Feb 2013 08:05

This is assuming that the Czechs would fight,which is very questionable:the Czechs would fight only if Britain and France would fight,and ,Britain and France would fight,...if the Czechs would fight.

The decision lay with the Czechs .

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by ljadw » 16 Feb 2013 08:15

Rob Stuart wrote:The unreadiness of the British forces was not irrelevant. This was one of the realities which prompted Chamberlain to decide to appease Hitler and to pressure the Czechs not to fight. Had Fighter Command been as strong in 1938 as it was to be in 1940, even if the rest of the RAF and the British Army were in no better shape then they actually were in 1938, Chamberlain would have had little to fear from the Luftwaffe and he might have been a bit less reluctant to face Hitler down instead of appeasing him.

IMHO, I would say in hindsight that the world would have been better off if the war had started in 1938 instead of 1939, for a number of reasons, including:

1. While the relative superiority of the Luftwaffe vs. its opponents was probably about the same in 1938 and 1939, the German navy and army were weaker vis-a-vis their opposite numbers in 1938 than in 1939.

2. In 1939 the German-Soviet non-agreesion pact was in effect. In 1938 the Germans, with a smaller army than in 1939 and a weaker Westwall, would be attacking southward with an active enemy to the west and a hostile Poland to the east. Even if Poland stayed out of it, as they probably would, the Germans would have to retain at least a few divisions on their eastern frontier.

3. In 1939 the Germans had in their possession the entire inventory of the Czech armed forces. Two of their 10 Panzer divisions had Czech tanks for example, if I'm not mistaken. In 1938 they did not have that equipment and even if they had defeated the Czechs quickly most of this equipment would have been destroyed or damaged in the fighting.

Rob
No,these are postwar inventions to defend the British decision not to go to war .
The German-Soviet pact was irrelevant ,as Germany and the SU had no common border in 1938.
There is also the fact that in 1938,they were faced by 7.5 million Czechs only,and in 1939,by 3 X more Poles.
I also don't buy the assumption that there would be an active enemy to the west in 1938:there was none in 1939.

And,again:war or no war in 1938 depended not on Chamberlain,it depended on the Czechs .

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Re: Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

Post by wm » 16 Feb 2013 11:44

German bombers needed 12 minutes to reach Prague, 9 - Plzeň, 7 - Brno, 2 - Ostrava. I would take them just 23 minutes to overfly the entire country. In most cases the slower, although otherwise excellent, Czechoslovakian biplanes wouldn't even have time to get to the speed and altitude required in time, not to even mention the place.
As they said at that time, the bombers would always get through...

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