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FDR's "Unconditional Surrender" Did iit make a difference in Germany's defeat?

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Showing 1-25 of 77 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 7, 2012 1:50:52 AM PDT
1874Sharps says:
In the January '43 meeting at Casablanca, FDR causualy dropped the words during a press conference. It is debated till today if it brought victory in Europe to an end faster, slower or made no difference.

Eisenhower was against it, hoping that we could appeal to the heads of the German High Command or to the German People, try to convince them to over throw Hitler and the Nazis.

I think it was a PR success that shook the world. It gave a message to the US that we were in it for the long haul, gave the Soviets the news they needed that there would be no comprimised peace agreement, it gave the nations wavering on the side lines the fear of God, it gave the Germans and the world the message that Germany was losing the War.

Those moral changes made some difference in the war's end, but as for affecting the Germans, I don't think it mattered. Hitler had made himself Germany. And Hitler, the armed forces and the people themselves were bound together, and like a mafia "pledge" forced to do murder to bind them to their capo's, to make them unable to go to the police, the German nation was bound together by the War itself and more importantly by the genicide of the Jews, and that fated them to fight to the bitter end.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 12, 2012 4:07:41 PM PDT
I believe FDR's statement of unconditional surrender compares favorably with Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. It signaled the South that there would be no compromise on slavery and that the war would be fought until one side or other was defeated.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 14, 2012 9:21:48 PM PDT
freedom4all says:
Was Stalin's USSR any less evil than Hitler's Germany?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 15, 2012 2:21:52 PM PDT
I don't think it had much of an effect because Germany was always more focused on the Soviets. If the Germans were rational they would have had all their forces hold the soviets back and allow the the US and Britian to take the whole country. Or try to end the war keeping the Russians out of their territory.

The Germans did follow the rules of war much better against the Americans than the all out war in the east.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 15, 2012 2:23:57 PM PDT
*Was Stalin's USSR any less evil than Hitler's Germany?

No, but had the Germans used the Polish uprising, give them amnisty offer to end the war create a free Poland and keep the Soviets on the other side.

They did try to kill Hitler.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 15, 2012 2:49:08 PM PDT
Kevin Bold says:
Joseph M. Creaney says: They did try to kill Hitler.


In reply to an earlier post on Aug 15, 2012 4:38:10 PM PDT
J. Brandt says:
Yes. Unconditional surrender meant the Germans knew that the war would be taken them in a very harsh way. The Soviets loved the idea and the German people knew their empire was going to fall with massive armies hitting them from both fronts.

Posted on Aug 16, 2012 4:30:11 AM PDT
Kohli says:
It also meant, that everybody in Germany knew, they had nothing to lose anymore. Experiences from Allied bomb raids assured each German ( aided by propaganda, of course), that this was a war to destroy the German people once and for all. So the only effect of that declaration, was that the German people from now on supported the nazis unconditionally.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2012 5:12:31 AM PDT
J. Brandt says:
No, they did not support the Nazis unconditionally. Read history (primary documents) and many Germans were sick of the war. It was over and they knew it was over. The Soviets pouring into Germany forced many civilians to fight (either fight or die for your country...not for that Austrian madman who got them into that war).

Unconditional surrender was necessary in order to destroy the powers that ruled Germany at that time. It would take the will to fight out of the German people.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2012 5:38:48 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 16, 2012 7:27:09 AM PDT
*It also meant, that everybody in Germany knew, they had nothing to lose anymore.

*No, they did not support the Nazis unconditionally.

Those are very valied opposing points of view. I think that there was a much stronger will to fight on the east than the west. I was watching the fights for the Baltic and many of the accounts that I read of how hard German forces fought agaist overwhelming odds. I spent some time in Germany 20 years ago and met some people that had fought in the war and one that survived being caputred in Stallingrad. Some were still pround of their service which included the SS and those who were not.

Posted on Aug 16, 2012 6:06:32 AM PDT
Kohli says:
In January 1943 the Soviets were far away from German borders, the civilians were afraid of the Allied bombing raids, which were a daily threat. With officially demanding unconditional surrender and the experiences from the Versailles treaty, it was clear ( for the Germans of that time), that Germany was to be destroyed ( which in fact really was planned, until the US needed a front state against the Soviet Union. This Morgenthau thingie). This lead to the fact, that Germans, who were no nazis, but patriots, saw no alternative to the nazis anymore. You know, you don`t change the leadership in the middle of a war for your bare existence.
Unconditional surrender indeed was necessary, here we agree, but it was outright stupid to make it public.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2012 7:32:10 AM PDT
*Unconditional surrender indeed was necessary, here we agree, but it was outright stupid to make it public.

Generally the US doctrine since Sherman has been hard war easy peace. We can speculate how a different policy migh have played out such as making know that we were open to ending the war with negociations. Looking at the Nazi leadership I don't think it would have made much difference. Hess did his thing seeking to negociate peace and it was not successful. Had the Reich reached out to try to end the war there is no way any side would even consider it. From an internal perspective it would do more harm than good because it confirmed weakness.

Posted on Aug 17, 2012 3:44:32 AM PDT
Kohli says:
This is quite interesting, you see this from an American/ Allied perspective; I see it from a German PoV ( as I was born an raised in Germany). The unconditional surrender put each German military leader into an all or nothing situation. Until near the very end the German armies fought desperately and often enough to the last man, inflicting high casualties on Allied troops ( according to van Creveld the German Army in each and every situation inflicted higher casualties than sustained: "Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945 (Contributions in Military Studies)" . There were lots of generals and field marshalls who would have been more than willing to surrender at least the troops they commanded ( Model, Blumentritt, Heinrici, maybe Rommel to name a few) if they had known of an alternative.

Posted on Aug 17, 2012 9:34:19 AM PDT
I think had the Germans had a possiblity for a peace what would we have done had they taken it? Try to end the war in the West. Might it be better for a US British perspective if the war could have been ended with freeing France. Allow the Germans and Soviets to have at it. We can also take into account all those forces that were destroyed in France now available to deal with the Soviets.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 17, 2012 2:07:09 PM PDT
briefcandle says:
Don't underestimate the hardf eeling in GB and Fr to the germans for bringing them to war for the second time in a short century. Britain would have a hard time explaining being meek with the butchers, and France had an army in the field too, American armed, American supplied, but an army nevertheless, and an interest in the disarmament and dismemberment of germany. America could only accept unconditional surrender from the germans, though the wisdom in openly and publicly demanding it is questionable.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 17, 2012 2:18:26 PM PDT
Armies on the defensive always take far fewer casualties than the armies attacking them. That's why the rule of thumb that offensive forces need to outnumber the defensive forces at the point of contact by three to one or more exists.

Posted on Aug 17, 2012 8:40:11 PM PDT
OldAmazonian says:
Some were clearly bucking for a protracted war. War profiteering was probably behind that.

Posted on Aug 18, 2012 6:10:36 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 18, 2012 6:30:32 AM PDT
Mickey says:
I see both sides of the argument. I do think it was necessary to inflict a total defeat in order to let the Germans know German militarism and aggression were finished. Since I don't know everything, I'll keep an open mind.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012 6:24:12 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 18, 2012 8:33:32 AM PDT
Mickey says:

I do think you are underestimating the effectiveness of the German Army. In both World Wars, the German Army was more effective than any of the allied armies:

"In the opinion of British military historian Max Hastings the American forces were so bad (and actually so were most of the British) 'that when Allied troops met Germans on anything like equal terms, the Germans almost always prevailed.' "
Paul Fussell, "Doing Battle", p.173

That's why it was necessary to destroy German militarism.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012 11:24:11 AM PDT
The Germans never met the American troops on anything like equal terms. They either had vastly superior numbers like the Bulge, and even there small units of Americans stopped or badly slowed superior German forces, or they were on the defensive behind fortifications like in Italy or western europe. What Hastings always focused on was when veteran German forces faced Green US forces like North Africa and Salerno. There they had the advantage. As US troops gained experience and improved their doctrine they far outshadowed the Germans. Our artillery doctrine was far superior, the Germans never managed to master Time On Target barrages, they was an American invention. Their tactical use of armor in Italy and northern europe was below par especially given the technological superiority they had. Their infantry squad was build around the medium machine gun as it's primary weapon (which is a defensive doctrine) not fire and manoever like American infantry squads were. German staff doctrine and lower command level flexibility was often better.

In WWI the Americans never really developed their own doctrine, they adopted the worst of the British and French, much like the weapons they adopted.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012 11:56:17 AM PDT
Mickey says:
You are forgetting: The German Army had already been devastated in Russia, The Allies had far superior air power, and British field marshal Sir Harold Alexander said of the Americans: "(they) simply do not know their jobs as soldiers, and this is true from the from the highest to the lowest - from the General to the private soldier. Perhaps the weakest link of all is the junior leadership which just does not lead, with the result that their men don't really fight. A few shells and they will all stop and . . . and . . . call for air support. They are soft, green and quite untrained. Unless we can do something about it, the American army in the European theatre will be quite useless. They have little hatred of the Germans . . . and show no eagerness to get in and kill them. Eisenhower and Patton . . . know pretty well what is wrong - but even they cannot realize the true extent of their army's weakness."

"Thank God the troops, most of them, didn't know how bad we were. It's hard enough to be asked to die in the midst of heroes, but to die in the midst of stumblebums led by fools - intolerable. And I include myself in this indictment."
Paul Fussell, "Doing Battle", p.173

Of course, not all Americans were sissies and some Americans did fight well in WWII. But if you think the German Army was defeated by American valor you are wrong - the German Army was mainly defeated by American industry and Russian manpower.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012 3:57:11 PM PDT
You're using Alexander who could never motivate Commonwealth troops to effectively oppose the Germans as your reference? American troops were far more effective than British troops and had better leaders at all levels. The Aussies and Kiwis were good troops and deserved better than the Brits put in command of them. Perhaps his criticism was appropo during the early stages of North Africa, but the British were far worse when they first went up against the Germans. In Northern Europe the Brits actually accomplished very little. They didn't use artillery or airpower effectively and were totally predictable to the German commanders. One of the reasons the Germans had so much trouble with American attacks was that they didn't end. The Brits would attack, reach their objective and stop for further orders, Americans attacked, attacked and attacked until they ran out of supplies. American troops didn't take breaks in the afternoon for a "cuppa". When the US was learning the ropes in North Africa, the Germans were hardly defeated by the Soviets. That old saw just doesn't fly. The Soviets were lousy troops led by butchers. Their idea of tactics was to drown the Germans in rivers of Soviet blood. Their idea of effective artillery support. like the British, was to line guns up hub to hub and shoot until they wore the lands out of the barrels. WWI showed that was ineffective use of artillery, the casualties from artillery fire come in the first seconds of a barrage before troops can find cover. The US knew that and developed TOT barrages to take advantage. All the rounds in a barrage arrived at very nearly the same second to maximize effects.

Yes you are right about one thing, the US troops didn't hate the Germans, hate was reserved for the Japanese. US troops were there to do a job and go home. Without those inferior US troops, there wouldn't have been an Italy or Northern European theater of operation. The Brits had wasted their manpower in France and against the Afrika Corps and didn't have either the logistics or the manpower to mount an invasion against a determined enemy.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012 4:14:09 PM PDT
Mickey says:

I know about the Germans in Russia and I know about the Russian army. The fact remains: 75% of the German soldiers killed in WWII were killed in Russia and by D-Day several million Germans had already been killed in Russia. Moreover, the German Air Force was reduced to a shadow of its former self by that time while the U.S. Air Force was an instrument of devastating power.

And, since Paul Fussell was there and you weren't, I'm inclined to take his word over yours.

You seem to have an agenda: to prove the superiority of Americans since you're American. That's a precarious basis for truth.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012 4:25:44 PM PDT
The USAAC is what gutted the Luftwaffe. In 1943 the Germans were still racking up kills on the Eastern Front by the hundreds to one. What gutted the Luftwaffe's fighter force was the losses they took against the bomber formations, and later against the fighter escorts.

I'll take Rommel's opinion of the American fighting man over Alexander's any day. "Americans know less, but learn faster, than any troops I have faced"". That was in North Africa about green American troops going up against the Afrika Corps veterans.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012 4:41:18 PM PDT
Mickey says:
I know about the gutting of the Luftwaffe. And what about Paul Fussell's opinion?

"One American officer in the North African desert was outraged to hear a German prisoner, asked what he thought of the American troops he's encountered, assert 'the Americans are to us what the Italians are to you.' "
Paul Fussell, "Wartime", p.123

If you're going to try and prove the U.S. Army was a better army than the German Army, only because you're American, you'll have a tough time of it.
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Discussion in:  History forum
Participants:  14
Total posts:  77
Initial post:  Aug 7, 2012
Latest post:  Sep 1, 2012

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