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> 31. Political-Military Evolution and Involution
Posted: February 17, 2004 06:16 pm
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by Mihai Retegan

The nations, big or small, rich or poor, followed the road they had chosen or had been imposed after the fatidical date of September 1, 1939. The war expanded. It not only embraced new territories, but also new fields. From all points of view it became Global. In geometrical terms, the war looks like a structure made up of several levels: the military, the political (diplomatic), economic, cultural. Thus, we can talk of the military war, the diplomatic or economic war, the propaganda war. The respective levels are made up of several elements, all interconditioning one another. In the interval the present study focused on, the military level was the largest. It includes theatres of military actions, battles waged by three sides which are facing each other or their enemy in almost compete shadow.

Theatres of Military Actions: August 1941 - March 1944

They were two in number, the Euro-African, with the adjacent area, and the Atlantic, and the Pacific Ocean with the neighbouring area - Indochina and China. In these areas the belligerents committed to action their ground, naval and air forces, in their endeavour to tilt the balance in their favour.

It is almost unanimously considered (and not only due the strategy "Germany first") that the main theatre of war was the Euro-African one. The military actions were developed in three geographical areas: the eastern, western and southern ones. Among them, the most important was the eastern one, not because the belligerent who prevailed there also gained the trumps to become the "great winner". The opperations were like tidal waves. View from the west to the east, they represented the flow (the German offensive) in the first sixteen months, and then, for the next seventeen months, the ebb (the German withdrawal due the Soviet offensive).

However, the German flow contained the elements of the failures that were to follow: the offensive was mounted on several main directions, in spite of the insuficient number of forces (compared to the vast areas they had to cover); the Wehrmacht armour forces had shrunk (although in comparison with the 1940 campaign the number of armoured divisions increased, actualy, the armoured forces had been "diluted" as one armoured divisions in 1941 included one single tank regiment as compared to two in the previous year); inconsistency in defining strategic priorities (for instance, the initial offensive was mounted on three main directions, with the main thrust in the centre: after being halted in front of Smolensk the effort was transferred to the flanks, but after the conquest of Smolensk the weight was shifted back to the centre: finally, in 1942, the main thrust was delivered on the southern front to move again back to the centre in 1943).

A western operational component exists only due to the air raids (with the exception of the Canadian's landing attempt at Dieppe on August 19, 1942) and the plans for the future. The air war was waged continually, particulary after the deployment in the British Isles of the American strategic forces (summer 1942). The Allies aimed at destroying the German war industry (a goal that could not be attained, as proved by the fact that the German industrial output reached peak values in 1944), the shipyards (a goal that would lose priority after the Allies had won the battle of the Atlantic), the system of communications between Germany and France (necessary for ensuring the success of the future landing) and, last but not least, at undermining the morale of the German civilian population (the hope was kept that after days and nights of ceaseless bombardment, the Germans would raise against the Nazi regime: another miscalculation of the Allies).

The southern area of the Euro-African theatre of military operations was more busy than the preceding one, particularly after the ousting of German and Italian military presence from Tripolitania and Tunis, the conquest of Sicily and the series of landings in the Italic Peninsula.

However, the Allied offensive advanced very slowly due to the conditions of the terrain (there were only two approaches, the former east of the peninsula, the latter west of it which favoured the defenders). In order to crush the German resistance, landings behind the defensive alignments were also planned.

Due to its peculiarities, the theatre of operations in the Pacific favoured the belligerent who was better prepared materially and whose industry could quickly fill in the gaps produced by the aero-naval battles. In a clash in which the displacement of the ships of the line was less important than the number of aircraft carners, one may say that, after a blow dealt almost to no avail (Pearl Harbour), Midway was the beginning of the end (although till the final end another three years would pass). The loss of four large aircraft carriers weighed heavily in the development of operations.

In close connection with the ground military operations there operated the resistance movements running from one ocean (the Atlantic) to the other (the Pacific). Born in similar circumstances, the resistance movements in the countries conquered by Germany, Italy, Japan, had an identical goal: to oust the occupant (the differences existed only betwen the goals of the various components of the resistance movement in each country, for instance the aims of the communist party guided by Moscow and of the forces suported by London). Likewise, the forms of action were similar: the printing of newspapers, leaflets, sabotage actions, wide-scale fighting against the occupant (partisans, insurrections).

Economic Warfare

It was equally "spectacular" , as victory in this field was as important as the one on the theatres of military actions, because the former completed the latter. The situation of the two coalitions was different. On the one side there were states and groups of states that benefitted by truly impressive material and energetic resources (United States, the Commonwealth, the Soviet Union), although passing on to a war economy took time. On the other side there were countries poor in material resources (excepting Germany, but only as regards coal), but which had made preparations for war (through the organization, the mobilisation of economy, and the creation of huge stocks of strategic raw materials). This difference entailed two distinct manners of actions: the former aimed at establishing the blockade and annihilating the external supply sources (Romanian oil, for instance) while the latter contemplated the defeat of the enemy at the end of some lightening campaigns (which they could support with their resources).

The Scientific and Diplomatic Component

It was present on all the levels of the military component, being in a relation of interdependence with the economic one. Scientists and engineers in the two camps were engaged in a tough race to create and produce new weapons that might have tipped the balace to their side. Their efforts were mainly focused on improving the radar system and on making progress in very advanced fields at that date, nuclear research and the building of vectors for the long-range carriers.

Diplomatic Warfare, in general, has two climax moments: at the beginning and the end of the military operations, but it is not confined merely to these. The belligerent sides were pursuing to preserve their influence over the neutral states as well (the case of Turkey, for instance), but also exerted pressures over the weak links in the enemy front and made plans for the post-war organisation of the world. But World War II was also characterised by the fact that lack of trust among allies, no matter what side, did not dispel completely after making of the coalition and there were moments when it tended to pass the common goal to the middle ground. It was the case of Romania’s negotiations to leave the Axis, the Polish question, the attitude of the US to Finland, the status of Germany after the war. Such questions shattered intterallied relations during the interval of reference, but were to be settled one way or another in the latter half of 1944.


It was a field in which the belligerentes faced each other with remarkable... acumen. Of course, the victims were not counted in dead, wounded or missing, but in people who under the influence of enemy's propaganda, changed their judgement of their government's actions and took over the ideas of the "other side". Quite obviously, the means were not the most "orthodox", hiding the truth being the most frequent. In addition to the main goal we referred to above, propaganda also aimed at informing the public opinion of the real (or what it was considered to be the real) strategic situation, insisting on the necessity to crush Nazism, the others to destroy Communism, in fact both equally obnoxious to the freedom of nations.
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Posted: March 31, 2004 04:29 am
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It was a field in which the belligerentes faced each other with remarkable... acumen. Of course, the victims were not counted in dead, wounded or missing, but in people who under the influence of enemy's propaganda, changed their judgement of their government's actions and took over the ideas of the \"other side\".

My grandmother told me how in late Autumn/Fall 1942 all German radio channels started to display countless hours of sad/lugubrious/funeral songs.
She had the feeling that something is "wrong", but in Romania there were no official news yet about what is happening around Stalingrad.
Neither no news from the German channels about Stalingrad.
Then one day she heard the news from an unofficial Romanian language channel, who did not claim what country they represent.
So when she heard about "30 divisions encircled" she realized why all those sad songs. She supposed the Romanian language channel was from Russia. (Indeed, if they would be BBC they would claim who they are.)
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