ARCHIVED THREADS > Diplomatic Coups and Blunders

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message 1: by E.C. (new)

E.C. Blomstrand | 8 comments What do you think some of the crucial diplomatic moves leading up to and during the war were? Sometimes a simple mistranslation had devastating effect. Take Nagasaki. After the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the U.S. demanded surrender. Part of the Japanese response was translated as "kill with silence". While this appeared to be a refusal on the part of the Japanese, it was more likely they were asking for more time.

message 2: by Meirav (new)

Meirav Rath If you ask me the biggest blunder was to take Germany's word for it and believe them when they say it's only the Sudets they want...reading Churchill's memoirs of the time, you realize how slowly and cunningly the base for the first (and deadly) moves of the second world war in Europe were laid, strategically.

message 3: by Ian (new)

Ian | 86 comments Blunders are easier to find than coups! I've always thought that Hitlers two biggest strategic blunders were - obviously - invading the Soviet Union on such a tight timetable and declaring war on the USA thus instigating the 'Europe First' doctrine for the Atlantic Alliance. [Incidentally, as a European I have always been amazed - and grateful - that the Europe First strategy was agreed by the USA]

The Japanese attack on the US was also a stratgeic blunder which many Japanese saw at the time. It was triggered by the US embargo, but if Pearl Harbour had not occurred it could have been that Japan would have over-run the European colonies in SE Asia - as they did - and have held them. Perhaps also invading Australia - they nearly got there!

The biggest blunder Britain & France made was to accept Hitler's declaration that Germany had 'no further territorial ambitions' after the Sedeten crisis. But, as Patrick mentioned in an earlier post, there was no appetite for war in the Western democracies to defend 'a far-off land of which we know little' as I think Chamberlain referrred to Czechoslovakia.

The Japanese had over a million men in China right to the end of the war & pretty much did as they liked until the Soviet Union joined the Japanese war in 1945. If they'd withdrawn them after Midway, the US Pacific progress might have been much slower.

Sadly, Meirav, the existence of the camps was never a trigger for the Second World War. While there was wide knowledge about the injustices and persecutions in Germany in the 1930s, who exactly knew what about the camps is disputed. It is accepted - I think - that the existence of concentration camps was well known by the late 1930s, but I don't think that at that time the full extent of what was going on there - or what would go on there - was appreciated. The immediate triggers for the war were the treaty obligations of Britain & France to Poland. However, there are many explanations for the causes of the war and could probably engage another discussion Group! I like the '30 Years War' these of, I think, Fritz Fischer a German historian & I have even read a thesis which traces a continuum of a Germany seeking European domination from 1848!

message 4: by Meirav (new)

Meirav Rath Ian,

Do you think Germany's last move against the western allies in the Ardennes was also a blunder? If they invested those men and equipment in their eastern front I think they'd have most of Germany liberated by the Brits and Americans and spare themselves some proper Russian punishment.

Of course, I didn't mean the Allies would have started the second world war simply for the few and relatively harmless camps which were in existence in 1939. What I meant was that, at least several British admirals and ministers, knew Germany was re-arming before they were allowed to, saw them lining up troupes and fattening their military equipment after they were allowed to do so, but nothing was done to nip this militarist who raves about domination of his superior nation's superior race...

message 5: by E.C. (new)

E.C. Blomstrand | 8 comments How about the fear of Communism? It certainly played a large part in Chamberlain's (and others') willingness to appease Hitler. After all, Germany represented the strongest foil against the spread of the "Red Menace" in Europe. Were it not for France and England's mutual defence agreement with Poland, many in the West would have been happy to see Hitler continue eastward to Moscow. Poor Poland; talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place, but their refusal to go quietly provided the impetus for the Allies to enter the war. Would they have done likewise for the Soviets? I wonder.

message 6: by Meirav (new)

Meirav Rath E.C, you're absolutely right, but it was a blunder that Chamberlain and other world leaders were made to make; the way Hitler presented his country versus Russia had a distinct propaganda theme to it.

message 7: by George (last edited Feb 16, 2008 09:16PM) (new)

George | 116 comments One hardly knows where to start when it comes to strategic blunders during WWII. Certainly the Western efforts to appease Hitler have to rank in the top ten. Stalin's belief that by signing a non-agression pact with Germany in 39, he could direct Germany to attack Britain and France and away from the East would also be way up there. Mussolini's decision to enter the war once the invasion of France was under way, would certainly rank very high. His effort to gain glory by attacking Greece through Albania, led to Germany's attack through Yugoslavia, postponing the attack on the Soviet Union by 6 weeks. Not to mention Mussolini's later attacks on Egypt led to substantial forces being commited to Libya and later Tunisia and the loss of 250,000 men there, who were sorely needed elsewhere, and substantial forces being committed to Italy in 43 as well. What of Germany's shift of primary targets in the Battle of Britain from the airfields to the cities? Or Hitler's decision to shift substantial forces away from the Central front in the Soviet Union to the Southern Front. Japan clearly misread the US in the Pacific and launched its attack at Pearl Harbor based on misassumptions of the US will to resist, not to mention its failure during that attack to hit US carrier forces and the Naval fuel depots. Hitler's declaration on war on the US was little short of madness.

As for the Battle of the Bulge, given that the war was clearly lost well before that, the offensive was a gamble that was lost rather than a blunder. Had it worked, would it have led to a political settlement on the Western Front? Possibly, but probably not.

message 8: by E.C. (new)

E.C. Blomstrand | 8 comments Thanks for pointing out the Italians' Greek campaign, George; Operation Barbarossa's failure came down to timing and the Italians' escapades in the Balkans definitely contributed to a delay. It almost seems like the Axis actually wanted to fight on as many simultaneous fronts as possible. I'm being a bit facetious, but we must all be thankful they were so arrogant/quixotic in their strategic planning.

As for the Nazi-Soviet Pact, I'm not so sure it was such a blunder on Stalin's part. There was an economic component to it that I think was quite advantageous for the Soviets: their raw materials for German manufactured goods. For certain, Stalin was caught off guard by the timing of Operation Barbarossa, but he knew the Pact would be broken eventually.
On the other hand, would Hitler have invaded Poland were there no Pact? If the Soviets had opposed such a move, I doubt it.

message 9: by George (last edited Feb 23, 2008 02:20PM) (new)

George | 116 comments A few years living in Greece took care of that. The day Metaxis told Mussolini no to free passage through Greece and basing rights has been a national holiday in Greece ever since, known as Ohee Day, Ohee meaning no. I would certainly agree that the rapid collapse of Poland and France led Hitler into flights of fancy that there were no limits to Germany's military capability

Well, I'd say the Hitler/Stalin pact was a blunder to the extent that Stalin convinced himself that it would protect him. He got quite a bit out of it, aside from material goods iincluding chunks of Poland, Finland and Romania, none of which were ever given back. I certainly don't think he expected Germany to simply roll over France in 6 weeks. I imagine he expected something a little closer to WW1 in pace. I'm sure he did expect to have to deal with Germany eventually, but he was so convinced that mid 41 wasn't the time that he kept his airforce on the ground in an effort not to provoke Germany or provide a pretext for a full invasion. the Soviet Union lost 8-900 aircraft in the first 24 hours and left them blind to German advances. So, the pact didn't have to be a blunder, but Stalin's continued faith in it made it one, in my opinion. I think most authors I've read are fairly convinced that the pact gave Hitler the green light for Case White. He would have had serious problems convincing his generals to proceed without it. In the end of course, the French and the Brits did almost nothing to divert German units away from Poland, leaving Poland the only country to deal with a two front war in 39.

message 10: by George (new)

George | 116 comments Well, the Finns fought pretty hard to preserve their independence during the Winter War, and picked up a great deal of respect in the West as a result. The French and the Brits were actually considering intervening against the Soviets even though they were already at war with Germany. I think that Western reaction was on Stalin's mind when the war ended.

message 11: by Perry (new)

Perry | 7 comments I have always been intriqued with the opening given Stalin by the Allies at Yalta. Churchill "saw it coming" but -by that time- his leverage had virtually vanished. Roosevelt was either very sick and very "off his game" or allowed his ego to persuade him that he could manipulate events. Or was he just the ultimate realist and realized that there was no way to and no stomach for stopping the Soviet juggernaut?
And speaking of ego, what a crime that Roosevelt did not keep Truman in the loop! By the time of Potsdam, Truman was left with almost no leverage and practically zero "corporate memory".
And can some of my European friends (British) explain the sudden sacking of Churchill that effectively crippled the Potsdam conference? I do understand the Parliamentary system and the fact that no one was voting for or against Churchill per se -except the people in his district- but to just suddenly throw out the government that had gotten you through that mammoth war seems in retrospect to have been incredibly foolhardy. But then again, the fact is that on both sides of the Atlantic, the democracies were sick of war and all that it brought and were anxious to get on with their lives. That's why I am understanding of Eisenhower's refusal to go into Berlin over the strenous urgings of Churchill and Patton.

message 12: by Ian (new)

Ian | 86 comments re Perry's comment on the 'sacking' of Churchill in 1945: apart from war weariness, the following were contributory reasons for the defeat of the Condervative party. It is necessary to remember that Churchill was the leader of the Conservative party; the wartime government was a coalition one. The Conservative government in the minds of working people in Britain was associated with the unemployment problems of the 1930s. In addition the Labour party had enthusiastically embraced the Beveridge Report on welfare reform whereas the Conservatives at best were luke-warm about it.

Also worth remembering that Churchill was regarded in labour circles as a reactionary as a result of his actions as Home Secretary at the time of the General Strike in 1926. All this, coupled with the sacrifices that Brions had made during the war made most voters determined that they would not return to the governance of the 1920s & 30s. For most voters this meant not voting for the Conservative party and this in turn meant not returning Churchill, despite his popularity as a leader in wartime. In Britain, more so at that time than now perhaps, voters vote for the party rather than the personality.

message 13: by George (new)

George | 116 comments Well, if you like you can think of it as the Brits brought Churchill to do a specific job. He did it, and when it was done, it was time to find someone else. It's not like they never called on him again. He came back as the Prime Minister after the war.

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