The German "Tiger Tank"

Probably my favourite WW2 tank. I know alot would say the Russian T-43 tank, but all in all I believe the Tiger to be a totally awesome machine with its much feared 88mm gun.

My War Standalone Player

Monday, July 2, 2007

The F├╝hrer

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Adolf Hitler, a nondescript Austrian volunteer in the Imperial German Army in 1918, with the rank of corporal, rose to the position of Chancellor of Weimar Germany in the space of 15 years. In the interim, he built up a national party from nothing (the National Socialist German Workers Party -- NSDAP or Nazi party). Roughly six years later he was on Time magazine's cover as "Man of the Year" for 1938 -- a grudging acknowledgment of Hitler's importance.

Hitler first rose to prominence in 1923 as one of the leaders of the Beerhall Putsch -- an attempt to overthrow the Weimar Republic. It failed and led to his imprisonment. During his two year term, Hitler found time to write the book that would later become infamous: Mein Kampf. It was not a literary masterpiece by any measure (Hitler was not much of a writer but he was a natural orator). The market for Mein Kampf was members of the NSDAP and their friends. This was a politically charged tract which could not be taken seriously as anything more than propoganda (even though a lot of people used it afterwards as proof of Hitler's intentions for just about everything). The rants in it were intended to appeal to a very specific group and did so. German nationalists and anti-Semites of the period could find many comments to approve of within its covers. Paranoia and hatred evident throughout the work were part of its appeal.

After his release, Hitler determined to change tactics from seeking revolution in the streets to seeking revolution through the electoral process. He led his party to the height of success in 1933 when the Nazis received almost one third of all the votes cast, making the NSDAP the largest party in the Reichstag (the German parliament). Having reached this level without cooperation with other parties, Hitler initiated an intricate series of political negotiations with other conservative and nationalist parties which led to his approval as the Chancellor of Germany by the venerable president of the republic, the former Commander-in-Chief of the German Army, Field Marshal von Hindenburg. Within months of getting the nod for the Chancellorship, Hitler eliminated all the remaining political opposition and established himself as German dictator through the Enabling Act of 1933. Essentially, he created the first bona fide tyranny formed from a democracy in over 2,000 years.

The opinions Hitler espoused publicly reflected the anti-Semitic and nationalist circles in which he thrived. Jews, as an ethnic group, were singled out as an internal enemy of the "German nation" with international affiliations and conspiratorial objectives. Communism was linked to "international Jewry" and likewise identified as a threat. German adherence to the Treaty of Versailles, of course, was targeted as the primary diplomatic issue of the day. Economic recovery was tied to military expansion resulting from abrogating the "Versailles Diktat".

Hitler's Austrian origins were also reflected in his political agenda. His references to Grossdeutschland and the "Thousand Year Reich" alluded to the medieval Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation dominated by the Austrian Hapsburgs more so than it did to the Prussian inspired German Empire (or Second Reich) of 1870 to which his state was heir. For Hitler, there was never any question regarding the need for the incorporation of Austrian lands into his self-proclaimed Third Reich.

As Chancellor, Hitler engaged in a massive military build-up and public works program (a classical example of Keynesian economics) that revived the German economy and reestablished German great power status. Hitler won one diplomatic victory after another (up to 1938) and tore up the hated Treaty of Versailles along the way. His popularity soared because of these diplomatic victories and the improved economic conditions. As more than one commentator has noted, if Hitler had died before initiating war with Poland in 1939, he would probably have been remembered as one of the great politicians in German history. His virulent anti-Semitism would have been viewed as an anomaly and conveniently forgotten.

In practice, Hitler's regime implemented much of the core agenda that appealed to the anti-Semitic and nationalist party membership. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 began the process of eliminating Jews from Germany. It was a process that culminated in the Holocaust. The anti-Communist crusade begun by banning specific political parties within Germany, ended up in a self-destructive military campaign against the Soviet Union. Abrogating the various clauses of the Versailles treaty ultimately led to war with Britain and France.

It is fairly common to draw the conclusion that Hitler always intended to carry out the radical political program as it was expounded in his earliest pronouncements. However, this ignores the complicated historical reality that more than once demonstrated Hitler's cynical realism when it came to politics. During the Berlin Olympics of 1936, the anti-Semitic laws were relaxed in deference to foreign visitors. Implementation of the killing of the mentally infirm was abruptly stopped when public awareness grew. Ultimately, in 1939, in a complete diplomatic turnabout, Hitler sought and received an agreement with Stalin and the USSR that divided Poland and ensured Soviet neutrality in the event of a war with Britain and France. Hitler more than once showed a willingness to make a "deal with the devil" if it suited other objectives. Which objectives were most important tended to vary over time.

Although it has become acceptable to tag Hitler as a "monster" or "evil", this really explains nothing and is just a convenient way of ignoring the truth that Hitler, a human being, attracted large numbers of blindly loyal followers who proceeded to carry out a violent political agenda without losing popular support. All the evidence suggests that Hitler was a remarkably bright individual. His reign in Germany is a testament to the power of the modern state. Most important, Hitler stands out for the fact that he was a democratically elected representative of the people who turned himself into a dictator with fairly broad based support. There is a lesson in that for posterity.

Last Stand At Stalingrad

The German plan for a renewed offensive on the Eastern Front, in the summer of 1942, was first outlined in Directive 41 issued on April 5th, 1942. It emphasized the southern flank as the primary target while restricting the center of the front, before Moscow, to defensive operations. The principal objectives included clearing the Crimean Peninsula, striking southeast into the Caucasus as well as capturing Leningrad in the north. It was a less ambitious set of objectives than those laid out for Operation Barbarossa in 1941.

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Capturing the Caucasus oil fields was to be the primary goal of German military operations. Eventually the plan, which came to be known as Operation Blue, called for splitting Army Group South into Army Group A (which would advance southeastward into the Caucasus with the ultimate objective of Baku) and Army Group B (which would provide flank protection by advancing eastward towards the Volga River). Rumanian, Hungarian and Italian armies were to be inserted into the lengthening left flank of Army Group B as it advanced. The capture of Stalingrad was not even mentioned in the planning of the offensive but it would become an objective of Army Group B on July 13th. Conquering the Caucasus would deny the oil found there to the Soviets and seal off the Allied supply of lend-lease goods coming from Iran, so there was a sound strategic logic to this campaign. In the process, Moscow would be outflanked from the south.

Soviet perceptions of German intentions for the summer of 1942 were utterly wrong. Stalin expected a renewed offensive towards Moscow and concentrated most of the available reserves against Army Group Center. This distribution was retained even after the German's summer campaign got underway, on the false assumption that the attacks in the south were a diversion and that the main offensive would eventually fall on the Moscow axis. However, this incongruous force distribution did have a positive effect in so far as the German commanders in the south became convinced that the Soviet Union no longer had sufficient strength to resist their advances. The failure of Soviet forces to respond to the German offensive encouraged a negligent attitude towards the threat to the expanding flanks of Army Group B, which would become critical to the outcome of the campaign.

The main German summer offensive began on June 28th. Army Group South was reorganized early in July into Army Group A and Army Group B. For the most part, the German forces made good progress towards their objectives. By July 8th the 1st Panzer Army, part of Army Group A, had crossed the Donets River. Rostov on the Don, the "gateway to the Caucasus" fell by July 25th. At the end of July the army group was about 100 km from the Caspian Sea - a three or four days march. The pace of the German advance during the early days of Operation Blue in 1942 was reminiscent of that achieved in the early months of Operation Barbarossa in 1941.

While Soviet defeats thus far had been continuous, they were not as devastating as those in the previous summer. The determined resistance combined with a more flexible defensive posture -- which allowed for retreating from untenable positions -- had paid off by avoiding the devastating encirclements of the summer of 1941. Even so, morale was generally low because of the constant defeats. Try as they might, the Red Army seemed unable to stop the German Army as it drove ever deeper into historically Russian territory.

From the German point of view, the pace of operations was not great enough. Hitler, anxious to break into the Caucasus quickly, ordered the transfer of 4th Panzer Army to Army Group A on July 17th. As a result, 4th Panzer Army was not utilized by either army group for a critical two weeks at the end of July. Army Group B's slow advance during this period was directly attributable to its loss of the panzer army while Army Group A did not gain any further advances because of its temporary availability. On July 29th 4th Panzer Army was returned to Army Group B. This has been widely regarded as an important error during this critical period of the offensive.

The Soviet leadership was clearly panicked by the German successes in July. Stalin issued the now famous Order No. 227 on July 28th. Also known as the "Not one step back!" order, it called for draconian disciplinary measures to prevent further retreats. Although this order was by western standards incredible, it did have a positive effect on the morale of the officers and men of the Red Army. There was a pervasive sense that if the Germans were not stopped now, they would never be stopped.

German advances continued, however, throughout August. In the Caucasus, the Maikop oil fields were captured on August 8th and by the 18th the Germans were fighting at the passes through the Caucasus Mountains. Troops from Army Group A climbed Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus on August 23rd. By the end of the month, the 1st Panzer Army had crossed the Terek River and was threatening Grozny.

In the area of Army Group B, the Luftwaffe began bombing Stalingrad in mid-August and this produced an enormous amount of damage to the city's buildings and infrastructure - something that would later hinder the advance of German army units into the city. On August 23rd, Army Group B had reached the Volga River and, by the end of August, the German 6th Army was fighting on the outskirts of Stalingrad on the Volga.

For the Soviet forces, the retreats of August reinforced the sense of desperation resulting from the defeats of July. However, along the Volga and in the Caucasus Mountains, they found a new line to defend. Combined with Stalin's order to not retreat, this galvanized the Red Army's determination to make what was, for all intents, a last stand at St

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Normandy Invasion 1944: D-Day

Impressive combat Footage. German newsreel (Die Deutsche Wochenschau). Normandy Invasion (more)

Winston Churchill - Another War Vid

Winston Churchill Montage

A tribute video montage to honour Sir Winston Churchill - regarded by many English men and women as probably Britain's greatest (war) leader.

Rudolf Hess 1923

In World War One, Hess was wounded twice, then later became an airplane pilot. After the war, Hess joined the Freikorps, a right-wing organization of ex-soldiers for hire, involved in violently putting down Communist uprisings in Germany.
At the University of Munich, Hess studied political science and came under the influence of the Thule Society, a secret anti-Semitic political organization devoted to Nordic supremacy. Hess was also influenced by Professor Karl Haushofer, a former general whose theories on expansionism and race formed the basis of the concept of Lebensraum (increased living space for Germans at the expense of other nations).

Watch This Clip

After hearing Adolf Hitler speak in a small Munich beer hall, Hess joined the Nazi Party, July 1, 1920, becoming the sixteenth member. After his first meeting with Hitler, Hess said he felt "as though overcome by a vision."
At early Nazi Party meetings and rallies, Hess was a formidable fighter who brawled with para-military Marxists and others who often violently attempted to disrupt Hitler's speeches.
In 1923, Hess took part in Hitler's failed Beer Hall Putsch in which Hitler and the Nazis attempted to seize control of Germany.

Stalingrad 1944

Series of clips (Some from actual battle and another from a movie) of the defeat of the Germans at Stalingrad, showing footage of the IS-2, T-34 and the SU-122. (to the music of Farewell Slavianka)