I recently picked this book up on the German strategy in WWII and read through it pretty quickly. It cut ahead in line, so to speak. It is about the year 1942, where the situation passed from Germany seeming to be on the brink of victory to the long retreat to the end of the war.
The author has an explanation that goes beyond the post war excuses that it was all Hitler’s fault or that it was any particular decision in itself, it was just that the German ‘way of war’ was unsuited to the demands of the situation. When faced with a shortcoming, the response was not to pull back, but to get in deeper. This was a view shared by Hitler and the Generals. Their divergences were on details, not essentials.
Citino brings it all back to Prussia and Frederick the Great, who grew Prussia to a major power by swiping provinces quickly with a good army, then getting out of the war quickly. This way, the weak nation would not be prostrated by a long war’s demands in men and production. This can serve you well if you can knock out the other side quickly, but in WWII Germany could never do this with first Britain, then Russia, and finally the United States. When the first strike failed, the Generals’ answer was a second, and a third. Eventually the opponents learned enough to parry the blow and the rout was on. In Africa, Rommel basically trained the Western Allies in armored combat for two years for no strategic benefit to the Axis. In Russia, each offensive killed a lot of Russians but gave the Germans more ground to protect and defend with the same or fewer men. Eventually, something would give.
This fits in well with the new histories of the East Front I have (or are in the process of reading) that show that even after the first months this operation was in trouble. Citino is taking this theme to the next year, where again apparent success is also revealing a pattern of muddled objectives and plans, and aims that don’t seem to make a lot of sense. If you wanted to fight in a major city, you hardly need to drive all the way to Stalingrad when Leningrad is only 10 miles from your front line.
I’ve noticed this before over the years from both World Wars – the Germans are touted as great planners and strategists, but in reality, they are bad ones. The army can fight well tactically and operationally better than almost anyone, but the high command and worse yet the political leaders don’t seem to be addicted to gambles and operations that are thrown together at the last moment. And there is no sign of a coherent grand strategy anywhere to be found.