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Collimatrix

Unintentionally Hilarious Passages from Panzer Leader

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I am, I must admit, a complete dilettante when it comes to military history.  I know that there has been critical analysis of Guderian's autobiography, Erinnerungen eines Soldaten, or Panzer Leader in English, but other than that I am ignorant of it.  Still, I found the book an interesting read, and at times amusing.  Amusing, I think, for reasons old Heinz would not immediately have appreciated:

 

 

In October [1942] tank production suffered further in favor of the production of assault guns: Panzer IV's were diverted to carrying the 75 mm. L70 cannon and Panthers the long 88 mm. L71.  Furthermore, 40 to 60 heavy infantry guns were to be built on to Panzer IV bodies.  Hitler also talked of mounting mortars on Panzer IV's; these were to have extra short barrels and be used as mine-throwers.  Interesting as all of these new designs were, the actual result was simply a decrease in the production of the only useful combat tank available to us at that time, the Panzer IV; and furthermore it was only in this month that the production figures for that tank reached the really very modest total of 100.  Nor was that all.  The Armament Ministry proposed that reconnaissance Panthers be produced in addition to the Leopards which had already been planned.  Luckily nothing came of this project.

 

Production rationalization is haaarrrdd!  Also, Guderian didn't even play World of Tanks and he knew that the aufklärungspanzer panther was a stupid idea.

 

 

At the beginning of December [1942] there were renewed discussions concerning the correct employment of tanks.  It was then pointed out to Hitler that the commitment of the Tigers piecemeal was highly disadvantageous.  He now expressed the opinion that commitment in detail was suitable to the requirements of the Eastern theater, but that in Africa employment in mass would be more rewarding.  Unfortunately I do not know on what grounds this incomprehensible statement was based.

 

Hitler cannot into tank tactics.

 

 

The 'Gustav' was a powerful 800 mm. railway gun which required a double-track line to move along.  It had nothing to do with me and after the demonstration of loading and firing the weapon I was about to leave when Hitler suddenly called out to me: 'Listen to this!  Dr. Müller (of Krupp's) has just told me that "Gustav" could also be fired at tanks.  What do you think of that?"  For a moment I was dumbfounded as I envisaged the mass-production of 'Gustavs,' but I soon pulled myself together and replied: 'It could be fired at them, I dare say, but it could certainly never hit one.'  Dr. Müller protested violently.  But how would it be possible to fight tanks with a gun which required forty-five minutes to reload between shots?  When I questioned Dr. Müller on the minimum practical range of his weapon even he had to admit that his statement was nonsense.

 

But just think of how dead it would kill a tank if it did hit!

 

 

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On December 24th [1944] I drove to Giessen and from there to a conference at Supreme Headquarters.

 

Those present-apart, of course, from Hitler- included Field-Marshal Keitel, Colonel-General Jodl, General Bugdorf and a number of junior officers.  I outlined the enemy's dispositions and strength as given above.  The work of my department, 'Foreign Armies East,' was first class and absolutely reliable.  I had known its head, General Gehlen, and his colleagues' methods and results for long enough to be able to judge their efficacy.  General Gehlen's estimates of the enemy were, in due course, proved correct.  That is an established historical fact.  But now Hitler say these matters from another point of view.  He declared that the reports prepared by 'Foreign Armies East' were based on an enemy bluff.  He maintained that a Russian rifle formation had a maximum strength of 7,000 men, that the tank formations had no tanks.  'It's the greatest imposture since Ghengis Khan,' he shouted. 'Who's responsible for this rubbish?'  Since the attempt on his life Hitler had himself attempted to bluff on the grand scale.  He ordered the formation of artillery corps that were in fact no stronger than brigades.  Panzer brigades were two battalions, that is to say with the strength of regiments.  Tank-destroyer brigades consisted only of one battalion.  In my own opinion these methods served rather to confuse our own military organization more than to conceal our real weakness from the enemy.  His mentality, becoming ever more extraordinary, now led him to believe that the enemy were attempting similar impostures on him, villages à la Potemkin, and that in fact the Russians would not launch a serious attack in the foreseeable future.  I received proof of this during the course of the evening meal, when I was seated next to Himmler.  At that time Himmler was simultaneously Commander-in-Chief of the Training Army, commander of the Army Group Upper Rhine (an organization for defending that river and for catching fugitives and deserters), Minister of the Interior, Chief of the German Police and National Leader of the SS; he harbored no doubts about his own importance.  He believed that he possessed powers of military judgment every bit as good as Hitler's and needless to say far better than those of the generals.  'You know, my dear Colonel-General, I don't really believe the Russians will attack at all.  It's all an enormous bluff.  The figures given by your department "Foreign Armies East" are grossly exaggerated.  They're far too worried.  I'm convinced there's nothing going on in the East.'

 

 

If anything, the portrayal of Hitler in Downfall is too sane.

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When you consider that Hitler was simply a motivational speaker, one of those envision-what-you-dream-and-make-it-true types, it all begins to make a little more sense. That and Adolf was damn lucky at avoiding death throughout most of his life.

 

But then motivational speakers have always creeped me out. And this goes back to my school days when they'd march the entire student body into the gym or auditorium to listen to some stranger talk to us about whatever idiotic fad that was the hot button social topic at the time.

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Once, however, Goering had seen the young German air force through its teething troubles, he surrendered more and more to the charms of newly won power.  He adopted a feudal manner of life, collecting decorations, precious stones and antiques, building his famous country seat, Karin Hall, concentrating with visible results on the joys of the table.  On one occasion, while sunk in contemplation of of old pictures in an East Prussian castle, he suddenly cried out: 'Magnificent! I, too, am a man of the Renaissance. I adore slendour!' His style of dress grew ever more eccentric; at Karlin Hall or while hunting he adopted the costume of the ancient Teutons, and when on duty his uniform was always unorthodox; he either wore red boots of Russian leather with golden spurs - an item of dress scarcely essential to an aviator - or else he would appear at Hitler's conferences in long trousers and black patent-leather pumps.  He was strongly scented and he painted his face. His fingers were covered with heavy rings in which were set the many large gems that he loved to display. From a medical point of view these distressing manifestations are accounted for by disturbances of his hormones.

 

 

No comment.

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Rommel's sad experiences in Africa had so convinced him of the overwhelming nature of Allied air supremacy that he believed there could be no question of ever moving large formations of troops again.  He did not even think that it would be possible to transfer panzer or panzergrenadier divisions by night.  His views on this subject had been further strengthened by his experiences in Italy in 1943.

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I am, I must admit, a complete dilettante when it comes to military history.  I know that there has been critical analysis of Guderian's autobiography, Erinnerungen eines Soldaten, or Panzer Leader in English, but other than that I am ignorant of it.  Still, I found the book an interesting read, and at times amusing.  Amusing, I think, for reasons old Heinz would not immediately have appreciated:

 

 

Production rationalization is haaarrrdd!  Also, Guderian didn't even play World of Tanks and he knew that the aufklärungspanzer panther was a stupid idea.

 

 

Hitler cannot into tank tactics.

 

 

But just think of how dead it would kill a tank if it did hit!

 

what does he mean by Leopard?

 

im sorry if i am missing something obvious, but as the hardest of soviet hardliners i am only physically capable of referring to all and any German tanks as "Fascist box tanks", "ammo-racks on tracks" and "steel coffins". This negates the need for proper knowledge of their cat names 

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what does he mean by Leopard?

 

im sorry if i am missing something obvious, but as the hardest of soviet hardliners i am only physically capable of referring to all and any German tanks as "Fascist box tanks", "ammo-racks on tracks" and "steel coffins". This negates the need for proper knowledge of their cat names 

 

VK 1602 Leopard scout tank. Not a bad design, if they'd made the turret ring larger and mounted a 105 howitzer to it.

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I recall reading that the Germans tagged the VK 30.01 (P) as "leopard" as well.  Not sure of the provenance of that though.

 

 

A tank battle developed to the south of Juniville, which lasted for some two hours before being eventually decided in our favor.  In the course of the afternoon Juniville itself was taken.  There Balck managed personally to capture the colors of a French regiment.  The enemy withdrew to La Neuville.  While the tank battle was in progress I attempted, in fain, to destroy a Char B with a captured 47mm. anti-tank gun; all the shells I fired at it simply bounced harmlessly off its thick armor.  Our 37mm. and 20mm. guns were equally ineffective against this adversary.  As a result, we invariably suffered sadly heavy casualties.

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VK 1602 Leopard scout tank. Not a bad design, if they'd made the turret ring larger and mounted a 105 howitzer to it.

 

are you being serious

 

2 drunk 2 know

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It was the same story with the arms as with the man.  My first request that the stores of captured weapons be put at my disposal was turned down by Keitel and Jodl with something approaching scorn; I was informed that there were no captured guns in store in Germany.  However, the chief of the Army Department at the OKW, General Buhle, informed me that there were thousands of guns and other heavy weapons stored in the ordnance depot; for years they had been cleaned and greased once a month but never used.  I ordered that they be installed in the most important points of the eastern fortifications and that the training of crews to man them be undertaken.  Jodl, however, succeeded in in having this order of mine countermanded and another one issued by which every gun of more than 50 mm. caliber and with more than 50 rounds available be sent to the Western Front. But these guns also arrived there too late, while they would have been of incalculable value on the Eastern Front.  Furthermore, since as long ago as 1941 our 50mm. and 37mm. anti-tank guns had been useless against the Russian T-34 and it was therefore precisely the larger caliber weapons that the Eastern Front needed to fight the enemy's tanks.

 

This is in 1944.  Guderian argues that to slow the Russians, they must invest in fortifications on the Eastern Front.  Hitler argues that this is logistically impossible, and a much better strategy would be to divert forces to the Western Front and try to maybe loose a little less horribly on the Eastern Front.

 

Spoiler: it didn't work.

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This is in 1944.  Guderian argues that to slow the Russians, they must invest in fortifications on the Eastern Front.  Hitler argues that this is logistically impossible, and a much better strategy would be to divert forces to the Western Front and try to maybe loose a little less horribly on the Eastern Front.

 

Spoiler: it didn't work.

 

Hindsight isn't even necessary to see how ass backwards this was, jesus fucking christ. Posthumous Hero of the Soviet Union awards for fucking Jodl there.

 

Like, lose to the French/Brits/Americans, because they haven't been masturbating furiously to the revenge porn fantasy building up in their heads for the last 4 years. There wasn't going to be a graceful surrender to the Russians, Germany didn't just burn that bridge down but shot every bridge builder they could find.

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If Guderian's account is to be believed, the Nazi high command was basically congenitally incapable of accurately assessing Soviet military power.  They seemed to think that if they just... tried harder, or something, then the situation would improve.

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That does fly with Clausewitzian style of strategy which emphasizes with morals, virtue, and military "genius". You don't need any military science. 

 

Soviet military ideology was much more based on science. That's why you have so many statistics that EE can find about practically everything you'd ever want to know. 

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I saw it as an ironic inversion of the panic and general command inefficiency, brought on by the speed of their defeats, that they inflicted on the French years earlier.

 

I really get the impression from WWII officer's memoirs that there was a certain maximum rate of developments to which an army with WWII communications technology could reasonably respond.  Past that rate they pretty much spazzed out and ceased to work in a coordinated, sensible fashion.

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That does fly with Clausewitzian style of strategy which emphasizes with morals, virtue, and military "genius". You don't need any military science. 

 

Soviet military ideology was much more based on science. That's why you have so many statistics that EE can find about practically everything you'd ever want to know. 

 

That strikes me as something of a misrepresentation of Clausewitz.

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That strikes me as something of a misrepresentation of Clausewitz.

It is. Small aspects of his overall theory of warfare being enlarged and scrutinized without seeing it as part of a large context as a way to explain why German generals acted the way they did. 

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