W4.03 Strategies for Total War
Welcome back. Last time, we talked about how, in 1940, 41, and into 1942, powers launched desperate gambles to try to secure complete victory without being plunged into prolonged, total global war. That really on both sides, these gambles have failed. By 41-42, they now have to size up their capabilities and their strategies to wage and win a prolonged total and global war. And it's those strategies and capabilities we're going to analyze in detail now. To try to get at the question, why did the Allies win? In a total war, in a struggle for survival, several issues are being tested. Which model of government will be most effective in mobilizing its resources to pass the ultimate test of survival in a conflict like this? Among the inherent potential in your society, a given population, a certain amount of industrial plant, kind of a GDP, so to speak, who will do the best job of mobilizing the latent potential of their society? And, kind of intriguingly, when you do that, when you find ways to mobilize your society in this way for total war, what do you turn your society into by achieving that goal? Let's look at the way the three critical powers chose their strategies. Fundamentally, Germany chose to wage a war of ruthless annihilation. What the Germans called a Vernichtungskrieg. The Nazis have a vision of a New Order, one in which the master race will be on top, all the others subordinated below. They have a huge area of Europe under their control during 1942. This map gives you a pretty good picture of it. Just pause and think a little bit about, what's the population count for all the people that are under German rule? What's the potential GDP that the Germans could have mobilized for their war effort, if they had done the maximum possible job of mobilizing those potential resources for the war? And the answer is pretty scary. It's just an enormous amount of resources potentially available. But of course, part of what happens, when you're a master race subjugating others, is you don't do a very good job of building coalitions or partnerships with potential allies in all of these places. Therefore, you don't do as good a job of mobilizing all the potential that was there. Their imperial plans in the East are a very good example of this. In parts of the Soviet Union, the German forces were welcomed as liberators, because some of the people hated Stalin so much. But of course as soon as their liberators start shooting them, any possibility for an alliance becomes impossible. You treat them as slaves, they're not going to be your partners. And then finally from the perspective of the people who hoped for the progress of human civilization, the Germans reimagine what it is possible for nations and states to do. They actually begin envisioning the extinction of entire populations of people they regard as enemies or sub-humans. The Jews, first among them, but other kinds of groups, too. The Germans indeed began embarking on a final solution, or really a series of final solutions, of the Jewish question in Europe. There were other populations, including the Pols, who also were being exterminated in large numbers, but the Jewish problem for Hitler and his cronies was unique. They didn't start with a master plan in which they always envisioned killing centers, basically death factories. Instead they were going to get the Jews out of the way, they were going to push them into the East, they were going to resettle them in the East. Then they realize, hm, if we're invading the Soviet Union, we're going to overrun places with millions more Jews. What are we going to do with them? Then they start coming to the conclusion then, well, those Jews, we're just going to kill them as we find them. And they set up killing squads to do that. And so in 1941, they're killing Jews in the hundreds of thousands. In 1942, more than a million being killed just by these killing squads. By, squads, lining people up in the thousands and the tens of thousands and shooting them. Then, they begin to realize, what do we do with the Jews in the rest of Europe? And for that problem, and for the remaining problem of the Jews under their control, they begin actually constructing, in 1942, factories to kill people industrially. Something that states, human beings had never embarked upon before. This really is achieving a new plane, a depressing one, of human possibility. Now let's turn to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union's survival in the war is really worth some attention. The Soviet Union survives by truly envisioning the possibilities of the communist Sparta, taking the notion of a command society to its ultimate logical possibility, because really, after the initial campaigns of 1941, this is an all-out war of attrition. Just muscle on muscle, numbers on numbers. And the thing that keeps surprising German intelligence in 1942 is they keep thinking the Soviets should be out of soldiers. Where are they getting more armies from? We think we've destroyed them all. How can they keep building so many tanks? Armies seem to appear out of nowhere. You see this on a lot of the German war literature. But one of the intriguing things, when you get into this a little bit more, is if you look at the Soviet inputs and the German inputs. You look at what's the population and gross domestic product available to the Soviet Union in 1941 and 1942? And what's the population and gross domestic product available to the German empire and its allies in 1941 and 1942? Answer? They're roughly comparable. Roughly comparable population, roughly comparable total gross domestic product. Maybe the German empire, at least in theory, has advantages. So then part of the great mystery of why the Soviet Union survives in 1942 is: How do they get such astonishing outputs, so much better than the Germans, from a roughly comparable set of inputs? Let's just look at some of the numbers here. Here's a chart for war production in 1941. This is unglamorous stuff, but in industrial wars like this, it's brute force, it's firepower, that does an awful lot to determine the outcome. Here are the production numbers in 1941, measured in thousands. You see in every category the Soviets are ahead. Yes, sometimes the quality of what they're producing is inferior to the Germans. But actually, in some cases, the quality is quite comparable. So, in 1941, from similar inputs, the Soviets still outproduced the Germans. But even more astonishing are the figures in 1942. Because remember 1941, it's as if the Soviets have had their left arm torn off. A large part of the industrial part of their country has been occupied by the Germans. You'd expect their numbers to go way down. They go way up. Look at these contrasts in war production in 1942, while the Germans are occupying a large portion of Soviet territory. And then you ask yourself: How is this possible? How can the Soviets be doing this again since the raw inputs are roughly comparable? The first level of explanation is just that the Soviets just do a much better job of mobilizing their resources than the Germans do. They're both dictatorships, but you'd think that would be equal. You'd be wrong. The Soviets have a better organized dictatorship, a better organized command economy than the Germans do. They're willing to demand more sacrifices from their ordinary people. They're willing to do more to conscript every available man, woman, and even mobile children to work in factories, to work in the front, tapping everything they can. So at level one, frankly, communism is better organized to turn its country into a Sparta than was the case in Nazi Germany. But if you take that further and go to level two, you see that the problem gets even more interesting. How is it that the Soviets can turn their entire economy into a war economy, producing nothing but military equipment? You have make tradeoffs to do this. Because, gosh, don't we need people to grow food? Don't we need people to produce some sort of, kind of, basic household goods and consumer products? Make some kinds of necessary civilian equipment? Aircraft, trucks, radios, things like that. The Soviets don't need that as much, in part because here's where support from countries like the United States, especially in 1942 but then growing a lot in ï¿½43 and ï¿½44, make a difference. The Americans help, basically, release people to work in the war factories because the Americans can help supply some of these other products. Plus another factor the Soviets have in their favor, is that the Soviets can concentrate all of their production, basically, on one zone of combat. The Germans are having to juggle a couple of additional zones of combat, though the Eastern front in ï¿½41 and ï¿½42 was claiming the vast majority of their effort. The bottom line is that 1942 is the critical year, is that in 1942 the Soviets are able to leverage superior military production, more mobilized forces in the field, to launch offensives that the Germans think the Soviets should not be able to launch. And as the German offensive momentum peters out, in places like Stalingrad, the Soviets launch counteroffensives. Not all of them are successful. Some of them are bloody failures. But especially the one at Stalingrad is a big success, and the tide of war begins to turn. And then when you get into 1943, more and more the other inputs, especially from countries like America and Britain, can make more and more of a difference, as also the American and British war efforts are putting more pressure on the Germans on other theaters, too. But it's useful to just keep in mind that, for the Soviets in this war, it's still a pretty close run thing. They do not have inexhaustible resources. By the end of 1945, when the war will end, the Soviets have scratched the very bottom of the barrel in their available manpower to man their armies. The costs to them of waging this war are staggeringly enormous. Let's look at the problem of the United States of America for a few minutes, their strategic choices. The American situation is different yet again. The Americans have a lot of different commitments. Their job is how do we balance them? Let's take a look at the world in which the United States is juggling its alliances and commitments. This map shows the situation at the end of 1942. So the Soviets are fighting one gigantic theater of operations, right here. The Germans have that theater, and then they have secondary efforts here in the Mediterranean, and a naval war they're waging in the Atlantic with submarines. Plus a secondary effort increasingly large, to protect their skies from aerial attack from the British, and then the Americans. So you can think for the Germans, a huge front and three secondary fronts. Now think about the American problem. The Americans, just in the Pacific, are mounting a major line of attack here, another one here, and a third here. Three major fronts in the Pacific. The actual combat forces at the edge of those spears are relatively small, but with huge supply chains necessarily stretching behind them because of the vast distances and difficult tropical conditions involved. The Americans are also getting supplies to the Soviets, here, here, which is why the Soviets and the Americans and British have jointly occupied Iran. And some here. The Americans, in addition to the three fronts here, in addition to the effort to supply the Soviets, have a theater here in the Mediterranean. An increasingly large theater, consumes a lot of resources, to wage war over the skies of Germany. Getting ready to launch an invasion here, waging a battle in the Atlantic here that consumes huge resources to defeat the German submarine threat, and keep the supply lines flowing across the Atlantic. As well as of course a submarine war in the Pacific, too. This just begins to give you some sense in which the Americans have an extraordinary problem of how to balance their efforts across all of this, while retaining enough people in the United States to run the factories and run the farms that are going to produce all these goods that are making them the arsenal of the Allied Powers all over the world. To organize this colossal effort, they build a famous building called the Pentagon, completed during World War II, which at that time was the largest office building ever constructed in the history of the world. What the Americans are doing, therefore, is adopting a grand strategy where, instead of relying on their own brute force, they're leveraging their power with partners and alliances and commitments all over the world. A little here, navy here, some soldiers there, some airpower there, trucks and supplies here, to be able to a create an overall fighting power to win the war. And as they're doing all of that juggling, the Americans are making some gambles of their own. First, they're gambling that they can continue to keep the focus on Germany First, put their priority there, and that a relatively secondary effort in all the fronts against Japan will still be good enough. The Americans make a second gamble that they can do all this with a relatively small army. They have a plan for how large their army is going to be in 1941. They end up having to cut that plan down by more than half. They have a plan for a navy, air force, and an army. They cut the size of the planned army in half, but hold the navy and air force plan intact. Because otherwise, there just simply aren't enough people to go around. The Americans don't have an inexhaustible supply of manpower, either, to do all of this and keep the factories working. So they gamble that they can get by with a relatively small army. Why? Because they're going to try to leverage airpower leverage naval power, and leverage the power of the Red Army, the Soviet army, to help do the job in winning the war. A key strategic discussion that re-emphasized Germany First, the commitment to unconditional surrender, but also the commitment to a heavy reliance on airpower was at this summit meeting between the British and Americans in North Africa, at the end of 1942 and the beginning of 1943. There's Roosevelt, here, with Churchill. Their military advisers, like General Marshall, over here. The only other civilian in the room, besides Roosevelt and Churchill, is Roosevelt's right hand man, here, Harry Hopkins. The third American gamble, then, is to redouble the bet on airpower against Germany. Interestingly, in 1942, the Allied bombing campaign against Germany has been a bust. It's failing. Despite the fact that it's failing, they're convinced it can do more, and as I say, they double down on it. It doesn't do very well all through 1943, either. But it does divert a lot of the German effort. 30% of all the cannon barrels in the Third Reich are pointing at the skies of the Third Reich. That's a big diversion of military effort. But by 1944, it turns out, the bombing offensive does begin to have a tremendous impact on Germany. The Allies solved some problems about fighter escort of their bombers, and then, fundamentally, they're able to begin breaking down the German oil industries and transportation industries and begin achieving significant strategic effects in 1944, even aside from the diversion of German military effort to defend their homeland against air attack. But part of the whole reliance on firepower and technology to offset a relatively small-sized army is the decision they make at around the same time, that's late 1942-early 1943, to make the biggest bet of all in a way: to bet that they can build an atomic bomb. They make this an extremely high priority that can claim resources above everybody else, even though no one has ever proved, in a testing round, that an atomic bomb can even be successfully built and exploded. Only the Americans had, kind of, the scientific confidence, even bravado, to think that they could pull this off and have the resources to do it. A lot of other people looked at it. The Japanese, the Germans. And basically decided: too hard. The Americans pushed the resources into it, and an atomic bomb will be ready to use by the middle of 1945. So what we've done here is we've carried the story of this total war, the largest war in human history, into its decisive phase. We've looked at the strategies and capabilities of the key powers to ask ourselves the question: What are the choices they made? What is it about their societies that prepared them to win or pushed them on the path to defeat? We'll follow the way that story unfolds next.