Toni Smith 12/4/09 “The Boys’ Crusade” concerning Hitler’s Underestimation of the Allied Powers In his book “The Boys’ Crusade” Paul Fussell develops the theme of Adolf Hitler’s underestimation of the Allied forces. Hitler’s failure to accurately evaluate the power of the Allied enemies led to the destruction of the Axis powers and precipitated the end of WWII. He underestimated not only the strength of the Allies, but also their determination to win, their combined cooperation, their militarial organizational skills, and their combined technological advances.
This underestimation was a product of Hitler’s personal theory of German Aryan racial supremacy over other races and was commonly accepted to some degree as the social Darwinist ideas of the time. In Hitler’s eyes, Germans were a dominant species, set apart from other races by their motivation, their loyal dedication to the Fuhrer, and the strength of their willpower. Hitler believed Germans would prove themselves to be superior on the battlefield if only because of their pure racial background.
The lack of discipline and the dismissive attitudes of Allied troops were factors that Hitler believed maintained the theory of racial supremacy. The Germany military, called the Wehrmacht, the SS, and the Gestapo were all strictly trained and highly disciplined units. German parades during WWII consisted of controlled marches in uniform through the streets of German cities. Nazi officials aimed to show the Aryan population the strength and pride of the German military. In contrast to the strict discipline of the Wehrmacht were the Allied forces, in specific, the American troops.
They gained a reputation of general laziness including “slouching postures, gum chewing, leaning against walls when tired, keeping hands in trouser pockets, and … profanity…”1 Hitler saw the slovenly attitudes of the American troops as a solid example of the supremacy of the Aryan Germans. Fussell states that because conditions at the front line were so deplorable many psychological problems and morale issues arose. Also, a general unpreparedness of new recruits was a critical concern, which could have been avoided by training infantrymen for the psychological aspects of warfare.
Too late, military planners found that unless replacement troops were “trained rigorously and prepared psychologically for the carnage of the front lines, they would not survive long and tended to revert to cowardice when faced with violent action. ”2 In trench warfare the abysmal living environment, illness, fatigue, loneliness, and constant fear of death created a hopeless feeling of fighting in a meaningless “never-ending” war. The psychological health of Allied troops was a crucial factor in relation to the positive morale and overall troop resilience, especially of those confronted daily with violent action.
The infantry suffered the highest percentage of total casualties throughout the war, and was forced to fight in the worst conditions. The idea of a “never-ending” war was created in part by the demoralization of troops during the middle stages of the war, before an end was clearly in sight, and also because American troops knew there were only three ways “to escape from the front line with its discipline, anxiety, and horror: the unlikely sudden end of the war; a wound; and death itself. ”3 Before the winter of 1941, Hitler had not considered, the threat of U. S. involvement in the war.
However, when the U. S. declared war on Germany and Japan on the 11th of December, 1941, Hitler wholeheartedly believed Germany was ready to challenge Britain and America in a war of global magnitude. Hitler had previously assumed the U. S. would stay out of a European conflict to continue their chosen policy of isolation across the Atlantic. But Germany was not materially prepared for a global war drawn out for more than a few years. Though the U. S. lacked the discipline and fanatical loyalty the German troops showed towards their Fuhrer, Americans were not entering a war without national strengths.
The Germans were renowned craftsmen and had the capability to produce high-quality weapons and war-materials but they were not equipped for the scale of production necessary for victory in a global war. However: the strengths of the American industrial tradition – the widespread experience with mass-production, the great depth of technical and organizational skill, the willingness to ‘think big’, the ethos of hustling competition – were just the characteristics needed to transform the American production in a hurry. 4 The U. S. as quite familiar with the technique of mass-production and implemented it very successfully. The American motor industry adapted so well to the program that “once the conversion was completed the industry began to overfulfil its orders. ”5 Based on the opportunities of individual profit, many prospective entrepreneurs found that the war opened a door to the world of business. Germany had been making preparations for war since Hitler took control of the state on the 30th of January, 1933 and the American leaders were aware of just how far behind in production they were.
The military weakness of the U. S. was a consequence of geographical and political isolation, but in only four years the giant plans approved by Roosevelt and Congress in the first weeks of war “turned America from military weakling to military super-power. ”6 The strategy of mass-production encouraged individuals to involve themselves in the production of war materials, giving them a personal and unique sense of dedication to the war effort. Production began with Roosevelt building a wartime planning infrastructure, run by business recruits.
He employed a strategy in which business was given a good deal of responsibility to further the war effort. The American approach to “production on this scale made Allied victory a possibility, though it did not make victory in any sense automatic. ”7 Hitler was anxious for a victory over the Soviet Union, not only to satisfy a sense of retribution remaining from the German defeat of the First World War, but also to accomplish the goals he set out in his book, Mein Kampf, to attain Lebensraum, or living space for an expanding Aryan population.
Even the war with Britain couldn’t distract him for long, and “in the summer of 1940 he turned his back on Britain, who could, he argued, be finished off by the Luftwaffe in good time, and looked eastward. ”8 Hitler was so focused on the conflict against the Soviet Union, that he didn’t correctly prioritize the two conflicts and the necessary war materials needed for a victory in a war against a second front in the West. Hitler had an overabundant confidence in the superiority of German troops and German tanks and didn’t realize how decisive the Allied landing at D-Day and later the battle at Stalingrad would be.
The landing on Normandy beaches were a welcome success after the months of small and costly victories in Italy and North Africa. Though Stalingrad is generally considered the most decisive battle of WWII, D-Day marked a major turning point for the Allies. The landing forced Hitler to fight a war on two fronts, which relieved some pressure from the Soviets’ bitter struggle against the Wehrmacht in the East. Hitler’s Germany was beginning to stretch thin, as “a great chasm opened up between Hitler’s plans and the material reality. 9 The Allies effectively used technology to gain the upper-hand to aide in the victory of the Second World War in Europe. The strategy of synchronizing air support with ground forces promoted forward surges of troops while destroying dug-in German fortifications and causing enemy casualties. In the Battle of the Atlantic, the British were able to crack the German naval code and use decoded transmissions to steer convoys of merchant ships away from the packs of waiting U-Boats. The Allies proved their organization and cooperation abilities during the Battle of the Atlantic.
The British and Americans worked together successfully to “render redundant naval strategies still rooted in the battleship age”10 by the use of air power in groups called support escorts to keep merchant ships safe from U-Boat damage. The success of U-Boats destruction was increased with the use of long-range aircraft, radio, and radar. The warfare technology at sea was maximized, proving that “victory was a product of all those elements of organization and invention mobilized in months of painstaking labor. 11 Though the Battle of the Atlantic wasn’t won in any short p of time, it lasted for six years, the technological advances, communication improvements, and the coordination of British and Allied forces to predict U-Boat movement took Hitler by surprise. Hitler was confident that the superior German navy could easily gain control of the English Channel, but the Allies proved that in this specific battle “the careful application of air power, and the use of radar and radio intelligence, turned the tide. 12 Hitler had an overabundant confidence in the German forces and didn’t contemplate the outcome of an Allied victory because he believed Germans were racially superior. Though he wasn’t interested in a war with Britain or the U. S. , they stood in the way of the fruition of his goals of conquest in the East, specifically the destruction of the Jewish people and the downfall of the Soviet Union. Hitler underestimated the combined strength, organizational skills, and military power of the Allies and allowed his dreams of Eastern conquest to cloud his judgment concerning military priorities when faced with a pressing war in the West.
His inaccurate estimation of the strength of the Allies and his inability to coordinate war efforts on two fronts, especially after Stalingrad, led to the downfall of the Axis powers. References Fussell, Paul 2003. The Boys’ Crusade. New York: Random House Printing. 136. Fussell, 97. Fussell, 107. Overy, Richard 1995. Why The Allies Won. New York: Norton Publishing. 192. Overy, 195. Overy, 192. Overy, 192. Overy, 13. Overy, 200. 10. Overy, 30. 11. Overy, 60. 12. Overy, 52.