Well welcome to this thread and don't let anybody scare you off. I continue to learn things on this thread. It is getting increasingly hard to slug read through everything that's been written, though, and I find myself in danger of repeating myself.
My thinking about the Tiger tanks and the Panther tanks, etc., was that the big problem that the Germans had, especially Hitler, simply never understood that tank warfare in Europe would change from a combined arms "blitzkrieg" into a grinding combined arms battle of attrition, in which losing one part of your warfare system had a domino effect on your ability to wage war in the other areas.
Hitler had fought in the trench warfare of WWI (and apparently LOVED it - he was never happier than to be down there in the mud and stench and death). and did know a thing or two about the power of tanks and the new theories of combined arms tank warfare, what became the German "blitzkrieg".
Unfortunately for Germany, Hitler knew so much about war that he thought he knew more than his generals and weapons designers, and he was the only head of state who was actively involved in changing the minute details of weapons specifications during WWII.
There is a lot of mythology about the German blitzkrieg. It was simply combined arms assault, using infantry, artillery, tanks, and airpower, all coordinated to bring massive amounts of pressure to one focal spot, in order to achieve a breakthrough. If you accomplish a breakthrough at two focal spots, rapid exploitation of the two breakthroughs allow you to form a pincers and entrap your enemy, and this did become the classic German "cauldron" tactic.
The problem is, of course that blitzkrieg only truly works if your enemy is completely and utterly retarded and/or unprepared to defend or counter this style of warfare. Think the U.S. versus Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Republican Guard. Twice.
Well, the French and British and the Soviets were the Iraqi Republican Guard of their era, during WWII, except they had a better excuse than Saddam in that nobody had ever done this sort of warfare before. And so they had no clue as to how to defend against blitzkrieg. Packing your troops into fortified defenses such as the Maginot line certainly was not the answer. Nor was flinging large numbers of technically superior but completely uncoordinated tanks in counterattacks the answer. Undefended airfields holding all your airpower within striking range of your enemy's bombers were definitely not a good idea.
But, everybody learned. And I do mean everybody. By 1943, blitzkrieg was not happening anymore as all sides learned how to fight it and to defend against it. Instead of "lightening war" you now just had the same old grinding, massive, high casualty battles of attrition just like in World War I, except this time the casualties piled up as the result of multiple weapons systems.
How do you fight against a blitzkrieg? Well, first and foremost, you need lots and lots of anti-armor weapons. Minefields and well concealed anti-tank guns work, as do well coordinated artillery and tactical air strikes.
As WWII dragged on, all sides learned how to defend against a combined arms assault. It became increasingly difficult to bring a force to bear on one spot to achieve a breakthrough, or to close the pincers in an envelopment movement.
Kursk was where the Soviets finally learned how to break the German combined assault in an open battlefield (Stalingrad doesn't count - Hitler was an idiot to order the German Army to entrap itself in the city). At the same time, when the Soviets counterattacked at the end of the Battle of Kursk, the Germans took an enormous toll on Soviet armor. The Germans proved to be the best of all at containing combined arms assaults.
That the sides would even up in tactical know how was something that seems to have crept up on the Germans. They never ever seemed to realize that if the war devolved into a battle of attrition, that they would need to arm themselves appropriately. Instead of building low numbers of the superior tanks, they needed large numbers of good tanks.
They needed a mass produced, cast armor version of the Pz IV, in other words.
I think I posted this earlier, but here it is again. I was astounded to read in this book by a former Canadian-German dragooned into the German tank corps "(PANZER GUNNER: From My Native Canada to the German Osfront and Back. In Action with 25th Panzer Regiment, 7th Panzer Division 1944-45") that after his PZ IV was knocked out, he and his crew spent the next month or more in the rear lines working as cheap labor, while waiting for their next AFV. This was exactly the opposite of the case with the U.S. and British, who always had plenty of tanks, and increasingly few crew.
This lack of tanks meant that the Germans simply could not prevent the Soviets from breaking through in their lines in between defensive points. The Eastern Front was simply too massive. The German tactic of sending in Tigers or Panthers to try to counterattack and reduce each new Soviet salient was seriously flawed.
The Germans were capable of mass producing just about everything else - guns, Panzerfausts, artillery, etc., but simply did not have the institutional mentality for wanting to mass produce tanks. Hitler demanded tank superiority, not understanding that numbers were far more important.
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