The Map Every Intelligence Analyst Should Have on His Wall, For Humility

I have been playing around with this DVD, which is a collection of high resolution situation maps from the European theater of war after D-Day in WWII.  The maps are really interesting, though the interface is awful.  Like something from the AOL era.  I would play with this much more but it is just too kludgy.

This is probably my favorite map (click to enlarge)

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Of course, on the very next day, the last great German attack on the Western Front came right out of that empty red circle.

click to enlarge

In the software, one can zoom very deep into these maps, deeper than these images allow.  So it's a shame that the interface is so bad.

PS - The Bulge is deservedly a part of American military mythology but we should remember that in many ways it was a small battle compared to any number in the East.  This is one of those facts that always perplexes this libertarian, because there is no way the Western Democracies could have ever defeated Germany IMO.  Only Stalin's willingness to soak up astounding losses really defeated Germany.  German army casualties on the Eastern Front were nearly three times their combined casualties in Africa, Italy, France, and Benelux.

The flip side of this is that no one else other than the US could have defeated the Japanese, though again the Soviets would have given them real troubles in Manchuria.  That war was more about projecting power across great distances than pure numbers.  We did bravely soak up absurd casualties in short bursts.  But again, the Russians were soaking up Bettio-level casualties every few hours, and sustained it day in and day out for years.

  • Emil Nicolaie Perhinschi

    the Soviets already defeated the Japanese once, in Mongolia, and in 1945 were not only "giving trouble", were closing in on Japan from the North

  • AIG

    I would disagree.

    1) Higher Soviet casualties reflect two things:

    a) The fact that Soviets fought a far longer ground war than the US or British did (for all intents and purposes, US and Brits did not really engage the Germans in all-out war until June 1944, while the Soviets had been fighting since June 1941.)
    b) The Soviets were far worst prepared for war the the Allies were in 1944. The Soviets were ONLY able to survive because of their large size. Had the Soviets been fighting in a country the size of France, they would have fallen MUCH faster than the French army did (i.e. the Germans advanced far faster in the Soviet Union than in France in the same period of time). So it's size (and climate) that saved the Soviets, not Stalin.

    2) Higher Soviet casualties, or even the fact that the Soviets inflicted higher casualties on the Germans, does not imply that the "Soviets won the war".

    a) Germany's ability to PRODUCE war machines was destroyed by Allied bombings through 1943-45. No matter how many "men" Germany may have had, if it didn't have tanks and planes and trucks and oil, it had already lost.
    b) The Soviets relied very heavily on US military production. More than half of all Soviet logistics were supplied by US factories (as well as close to 20% of their tanks and planes). Without trucks, ammo, food and clothing...the Soviets would never have been able to organize or carry out the offensives they did. They may not have even survived the war.
    c) Since the Allies were able to establish air superiority over the Germans, and would have done so regardless of the Eastern Front, any German advantages on the ground would have not been sufficient to save Germany, in the long run, from an Allied victory.

    3) So from a "libertarian" perspective, this shouldn't be too perplexing. The Soviets survived because of three reasons 1) sheer size and climate, 2) a far greater population than France or Poland, 3) US Lend-Lease aid. The Soviets were able to "win" in the end for two reasons 1) Allied destruction of Germany's industrial base and 2) US Lend-Lease aid.

    Also, US had nuclear bombs by 1945. At that point, the war would have ended no matter what Germany's position looked like. US technology and industry would have been sufficient.

  • mesocyclone

    I agree with commenter AIG. Without the west, the Soviets would have lost. They almost did anyway. Beyond that, without the US, eventually Britain would have fallen. We would then have had a German empire from Britain on the West to the Pacific on the East. And... the Germans would have still had the Penemunde scientists and would have gone on to ICBM's. Or, if the Soviets won, *they* would have had the same empire, and the same scientists, and a nuclear weapon also (from their spies in the US and their own competent scientists).

  • herdgadfly

    The Russians relied entirely on their army and their artillery. They had no air force and no tanks to speak of - but like the Chinese Commies in Korea, they had soldiers to burn. They stormed German mechanized units, fell back from casualties and stormed again and again. When Patton's forces came in to non-combat contact with German units occupying Prague, they asked the Americans to accept surrender because they feared the Russian brutes - but the higher command would have none of this since Czechoslovakia was already alloted as a spoils of war to the Russians by the Allied tetrarchy - primarily Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill (because the Chiang Kai-shek was busy fighting a civil war).

    The Russian Army could barely feed itself so prisoners were out of the question - making eastern front casualties necessarily higher. The German rank-and-file were probably happy to fight and lose to the Americans and British at the Battle of the Bulge.

  • slocum

    "This is one of those facts that always perplexes this libertarian, because there is no way the Western Democracies could have ever defeated Germany IMO."

    Aren't you forgetting the bomb? Even if virtually everything else about the war had gone horribly wrong but the Manhattan Project had succeeded, it would still have been game over for Germany and Japan.

  • max lipton

    I'm no military historian...but the Soviet Union would have eventually defeated Germany w/o the US ,though at far greater cost AND the US could have defeated Germany alone due to far greater resources of manpower, industry, materiel etc. Not to mention the A-bomb.

  • max lipton

    Not quite, The Soviets had a capable air force & the greatest tank army in the world, superior to that of Germany and the US.

  • MingoV

    "Russians were soaking up Bettio-level casualties every few hours, and sustained it day in and day out for years."

    That just saved Stalin the trouble of starving them to death after the war.

  • AIG

    This isn't particularly true. They had very good air force and tank forces.

    None of that is particularly important, however, when compared with logistics. The Soviets relied for over 50% of their logistics on US production: trucks, ammo, food, clothing etc. Without those, the Soviets wouldn't be going very far.

  • AIG

    The Soviets would probably not have been able to defeat the Germans without the US. A stalemate would have been the most likely outcome. The Soviets were able to devote larger % of their industry to aircraft and tank production only because the US industry provided them with Lend-Lease aid for logistics. 70% of the Soviet truck pool was US-made.

    Not to mention steel, oil, food, clothing ammunition etc etc.

    Not only that, but also direct weapons aid to the Soviets was very high. 17% of total Soviet tanks were Allied-made. 13% of Soviet aircraft were Allied-made.

    Ultimately, there is NO WAY Germany would have survived or won a war with the US, with or without the USSR. Not only because the A-bomb would have made that impossible, but also because Germany's GDP was 18% of the US GDP!!!!! (at their respective highest levels of 1944)

  • HenryBowman419

    The western democracies would have been able to defeat Germany even if the USSR was not militarily engaged. Notably, Germany would have been bombed to oblivion, even without the use of nuclear weapons. And, the destruction of most of its fuel refining capability (e.g., Ploesti) severely limited the capability of the German military: tanks and trucks, including trucks carrying food, need fuel.

    But, the war effort might have been very, very different.

  • Handworn

    This has already been said, but the Soviets almost lost, and would have if not for American Lend-Lease. Without that, numbers was most of what the Soviets had, since their equipment wasn't as good as the Germans' and since Stalin had decapitated the Red Army by executing most of their most experienced officers.

  • obloodyhell

    Long after the end of this thread, but the soviets had, at the start of the war, the best TANK in the world, by far. Their TANKMEN, on the other hand, sucked balls at the start of the war.

    They did as well as they did solely because the tank was so much superior that it made up for their failures. The sloped and thicker tank armor on the T34s would actually deflect point blank shots from the German tank guns. When the soviet tanks WERE penetrated, their diesel engines did not instantly catch on fire, allowing the tankmen to live and escape and learn from their errors. The larger, high velocity tank guns on the T34s were also the best in the world. As of 1996 (per wiki) variants on the T34 were STILL in service in at least 27 countries. Not bad for a 50+ yo tank design.

    Again from the wiki entry:

    The F-34 76.2 mm (3 in) gun, equipped on the vast majority of T-34s produced through to the beginning of 1944, was able to penetrate any early German tank's armour at normal combat ranges. When firing APCR shells, it could pierce 92 mm [≈ wavelength of the highest UHF radio frequency, 3 GHz] of armour at 500 m. The best German tanks of 1941, the Panzer III and Panzer IV, had no more than 50 or 60 mm frontal armour. The F-34 also fired an adequate high explosive round.

    The gun sights and range finding for the F-34 main gun (either the TMFD-7 or the PT4-7) were rather crude, especially compared to those of their German adversaries, affecting accuracy and the ability to engage at long ranges. As a result of the T-34's two-man turret, weak optics, and poor vision devices, the Germans noted:

    T-34s operated in a disorganized fashion with little coordination, or else tended to clump together like a hen with its chicks. Individual tank commanders lacked situational awareness due to the poor provision of vision devices and preoccupation with gunnery duties. A tank platoon would seldom be capable of engaging three separate targets, but would tend to focus on a single target selected by the platoon leader. As a result T-34 platoons lost the greater firepower of three independently operating tanks.

    The Germans also noted the T-34 was very slow to find and engage targets, while their own tanks could typically get off three rounds for every one fired by the T-34.