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Lessons on Coalition Warfare: The Dysfunctional Coalition German and the Axis Partners on the Eastern Front

“The Dysfunctional Coalition: The Axis Powers and the Eastern Front in World War Two” by R. L. DiNardo. Published in The Journal of Military History October 1996, 60 Research Library pp. 711-730

A Romanian Renault 35 Light Tank Rather Than

The question of the German dominated European Axis alliance in the Second World War is one of the more neglected subjects of World War Two and has application to today’s multi-national campaign in Afghanistan. In most accounts of World War Two the relationship of the Germans to their coalition partners is minimal.  This includes the standard works on the subject of B.H. Liddell-Hart, Williamson Murray, Chester Wilmot and David M Glantz,   Of Germany’s Allies Italy usually receives some attention in the context of the campaign in North Africa and Mediterranean.  Its efforts on the Eastern Front are usually neglected except for how the Italian 8th Army was shattered during the Stalingrad campaign.  The efforts of Hungary, Rumania and Finland receive scant attention from anyone. Popular German memoirs provide little substantive help as most German commanders looked down on their military capabilities. Kesselring’s memoirs and Rommel’s papers give some views, mostly negative of the Italians and Manstein some mention on the Italians, Hungarians and Rumanians in the Stalingrad campaign.

Field Marshal Von Mannerheim of Finland Kept an Independent Course from Germany

In this badly needed essay Robert DiNardo examines the relationship of Germany to her allies on the Eastern Front where they came closest to fighting coalition warfare. This is a subject that he would expand on in his book “Germany and the Axis Powers: from Coalition to Collapse” (University of Kansas Press, 2005).  DiNardo believes that it is important to learn from the failure of Germany and its coalition just as we do from the success of the Allies.  This perhaps is his greatest contribution in an age where the United States must work with coalitions whose members have significant military weaknesses.  The situation in some ways places he United States in a similar position to Germany in the current wars on terror and campaigns in Iraq and especially Afghanistan.

Hungarian Soldiers on Obsolete CV-35 Tankettes at the Beginning of Barbarossa

DiNardo asserts “the way in which Germany conducted coalition warfare was reflective of the manner in which Hitler and the German military looked at the world, as well as the war in general” was a key factor in her defeat. German arrogance and hubris frequently kept them from gaining any advantage from their coalition partners. DiNardo believes that it was “a significant factor that contributed to the ultimate defeat of Nazi Germany.” (p.712)  He then notes the few successes of the coalition, particularly the German work with Rumanian air defense around the Ploesti oil refineries and the German-Finnish Winter Warfare School.  Apart from these he characterizes Axis coalition warfare on the eastern front as “poor” with “failures at every level.” (p.713)

DiNardo analyzes language barriers, the wide disparity between the modernity of the armies and the levels of technology and training of her coalition partners. He also deals with Germany’s failure to become the “arsenal of Fascism” as well as the lack of understanding of all the partners of the “relationship between national objectives, strategy and the morale of soldiers of officers and soldiers alike.” (p.713)  He provides a good description of the German liaison detachments allotted to the coalition armies, dealing with language, tactical communications weaknesses and the generally haughty attitude that the Germans displayed to their partners. He provides an excellent illustration of this in analyzing with the failure of XLVIII Panzer Corps at Stalingrad when the German Liaison to the Rumanian 1st Panzer Division was wounded and the division was destroyed for lack of German support.  So bad was the German attitudes toward their Allies at higher levels that DiNardo describes the German policies and attitudes as “imperialist.” (p.718)

Hungarian Withdraw from the Donets Bend

DiNardo also looks at the wide gap in transportation capabilities of the various armies and the failure of the Germans to better provide for the needs of their partners in contrast to the United States assistance to her allies.  In his analysis he notes how the Germans provided obsolete captured Czech and French weapons and vehicles to the allies instead of providing them with the plans to build German designs in Rumanian and Hungarian industrial concerns capable of their manufacture. (pp.718-719) The lack of modern equipment among the German allies impacted operations against the Red Army and was a factor the eventual defeat of the Germans the hands of the Red Army.

While even elite German formations often had significant equipment shortages and sometimes substandard equipment he does not note that the principle reason for this was that German did not go to a “total war” industrial production until Albert Speer took over as Armaments Minister.  This is perhaps the one weakness in the essay. The final part of the essay deals with the strategic goals and conflicts among the Axis coalition which were never worked out.  In this discussion he again goes to the relationships of the Germans at every level to their partners and how the Germans had a general distain for their allies’ capabilities. He discusses how various partners refused to cooperate with the Germans in different ways and times.

These problems impacted German efforts in significant way. The Finns never signed a formal alliance with Germany and pursued their own war goals, the underlying tensions between Hungary and Rumania over their own territory disputes meant that the Germans could not count on these key partners to work together in the campaign in Russia.  He finishes his essay by detailing the morale problems in the Hungarian, Italian and Rumanian armies as they fought on the Eastern front.

He sources this article well using histories, archival sources, operational orders and analysis by the various armies as well as interviews. Of particular note is that he goes to sources of the coalition partners and not just German sources.  This allows him to be far more nuanced and detailed in his discussion as opposed to others who simply ignore the contributions of the Axis partners.  His footnotes provide added detail and provide and lend support to his arguments.

The importance of this essay is twofold; first it provides a look at the relationship of German to her coalition partners on the Eastern Front.  This is important from a historic standpoint simply because it is such a neglected topic in most histories of the period and gives added depth to the reasons for Germany’s defeat.  One has to ask the “what if questions” in regard to had the Germans better treated, equipped and recognized their allies’ contributions to the war effort.

The second point of interest pertains to how history can inform the leaders of the United States and NATO in the Afghanistan campaign.  The lessons provided to any nation which has to engage in coalition warfare are important, especially of one of the partners enjoys significant military advantages over its allies.  This is the case in Afghanistan and the War on Terror where United States has found itself as the senior and vastly superior partner in a war which has multiple coalition partners in several theaters of operations.  Each coalition partner has certain military weaknesses in relationship to the United States as well as their own national interests, geo-political and economic relationships with competitors to the United States and internal political realities which impact their cooperation in the war.  As such the United States cannot allow itself to be cast in the role of a haughty imperialistic senior partner as did Germany and it must cultivate an attitude of assistance, respect and trust among its partners to assure their full cooperation and assistance in relation to U.S. goals in the war.  Failure to head the German lesson will ensure failure in the current campaigns.

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Lessons in Coalition Warfare: Admiral Ernest King and the British Pacific Fleet

The genesis and strategy of British Royal Navy’s participation in the Pacific in 1945 is a little studied aspect of the Pacific campaign.  Prior to 1945 the participation of the Royal Navy in the Pacific ended at the Battle of the Java Sea.  After that the Royal Navy operated in the Indian Ocean in support of British operations in Burma and against German surface raiders. Michael Coles in “Ernest King and the British Pacific Fleet: The Conference at Quebec, 1944 (Octagon) published in The Journal of Military History January 2001, 65, 1 Research Library pp. 105-129 provides a good analysis of the Allied decision to allow the Royal Navy a role in the Pacific and the objections of Admiral Ernest King to the proposal.

The renewal of the Royal Navy’s Pacific role began at the 1944 Octagon Conference where the Allied Joint Staff made the decision to bring the Royal Navy back to the Pacific. Admiral Ernest King was the only dissenter in the question of Royal Navy operations in the Pacific.  The strategic aspects of this decision are seldom addressed by most who chronicle the Pacific war.[i] William Kimball in “Forged in War: Roosevelt Churchill and the Second World War” never mentions the naval strategy discussed at the Octagon conference. Samuel Elliott Morison in “The Two-Ocean War” described the decision for the Royal Navy to enter the Pacific as “important” and outlines King’s opposition to it without addressing strategic considerations.[ii] John Costello in “The Pacific War” described how Churchill insisted on the Royal Navy being committed to operations against Japan and how Roosevelt’s agreed to “to avoid a bitter clash.”[iii] Likewise Williamson Murray and Allen R. Millett in “War to Be Won” note that one of the goals of Octagon was “to determine the level and nature of British in the air-naval war in the Pacific.” However they do so as do the others without addressing the naval strategy.[iv] Max Hastings mentions Octagon in “Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-1945” again without specific reference to naval strategy.  However later in the book later discusses the Royal Navy’s limitations in ships, manning, logistics and operational art as it entered the Pacific campaign.[v] Other writers chronicle British operations in the Pacific but usually focus in the gallantry and determination of the Royal Navy and not its weaknesses.[vi]

Coles’ article is invaluable to understand the decision in relation to the political, military and economic considerations which influenced both King’s opposition to the deployment and the performance of the British fleet in the Pacific.  Coles analyzes tensions between King and the other participants at Octagon. He judges King to be more realistic and informed regarding Royal Navy capabilities and more importantly its limitations than British leaders especially Churchill.[vii]

King was surprised at Roosevelt’s decision to accept Churchill’s offer of the Royal Navy without prior discussion by the Combined Chiefs of Staff.  Coles notes that King may have kept silent at subsequent meetings of the Combined Chiefs, because he either assumed that his positions were logical and apparent to all or that he believed that Churchill was lying about his navy’s capabilities. Of course it was politically impossible for King to suggest such.[viii]

King’s realism on the subject was a directly related to the political tensions between American and British visions for the outcome of the Pacific war, and the pressing strategic considerations necessitated by Japanese offensives in Burma and China. The British goal of re-establishing colonial rule in Southeast Asia was a major bone of contention.  Many Americans believed that the British goals were “aimed primarily at the resurgence of British political and economic ascendancy in South East Asia and restoration of British prestige.”[ix] Yet the US wanted to defeat Japan’s formidable Army in Asia without the sacrifice of large numbers of American troops or material which necessitated British participation.[x] The introduction of large numbers of American troops on the Asian continent was impossible due to the lineation of the US Army to 90 divisions, most of which were engaged in Europe.  Likewise US domestic issues regarding war production and the Navy’s share of it in relations to changing wartime conditions was a major concern for King.  King and the Navy argued for high naval production while others including George Marshall were beginning to question it, especially if the British could provide “make substantial Naval forces available in the Pacific.”[xi]

American Lend Lease aid to Britain was another issue.  Roosevelt calculated that the US needed Britain to be active in post-war Europe, this required significant post war aid. Roosevelt viewed “vigorous participation” by the Royal Navy as a means to gain congressional support in spite of the fact that Britain could no longer play a global military role without US support.[xii] One of the problems faced in the Pacific was how British mandated modifications to weapons systems supplied by the United States caused problems in production and caused shortages in key weapons systems, especially naval aircraft.  Coles’ notes how King had problems with this and wondered if supplying the Royal Navy’s Pacific operations “represented the most effective use of American industrial capacity.[xiii] However King did not chose to argue this point at the conference, once again demurring to President Roosevelt.

The most compelling factor discussed by Coles was the operational and logistic problems related to the deployment, supply and operation of the Royal Navy. There were a number of problems that the Royal Navy faced as it deployed to the Pacific.  First among them was the fact that the Royal Navy was in large part short-legged and cold water Navy.  Its ships were designed mainly for service in the Atlantic and Mediterranean and ill-suited for the Pacific. The Royal Navy did not have the operational experience of the Americans in regard to Fast Carrier Task Forces, especially coordination of refueling and resupply operations or coordination of air group operations.  Admiral Philip Vian insisted that “Before joining the Americans…we needed to be adept at using a great many more aircraft at a time, and for longer periods.”[xiv] Max Hastings’ noted that the Royal Navy was “overstretched and war weary”[xv] and Coles goes to great lengths to illustrate British weakness while analyzing tensions in the British-American relationship particularly the shift in the relationship as the Americans took the leading role.

King had the foresight to recognize that the British contribution would be more of a liability than help.[xvi] The principal Royal Navy purpose in the Pacific was political, not military and Coles asks if it helped or hindered “the achievement of the respective nations’ policy objectives.” Coles does not believe that it helped; that in fact the Royal Navy would not have been able to continue had the war continued.  He quoted a British liaison officer who wrote that the Royal Navy would have “been unable to continue operations because of lack of logistic support.”[xvii] Coles calls the Royal Navy’s effort in the Pacific an “expensive instrument of failed policy” and that Admiral King seemed to have recognized this better than others, arguing that King’s opinions were not based on simple personal prejudice.[xviii]

Coles uses an excellent mix of primary and secondary sources including diaries, operational reports, histories and journal articles from American and British sources to document his work providing ample references throughout his article. His work is important in recognizing the importance strategy plays in making political decisions in coalition warfare.  Likewise he places value on individuals such as King who are able to recognize the strategic aims and limitations in coalition warfare by various partners.

Though the Royal Navy’s participation in the Pacific War was a relatively insignificant in terms of its overall role in the war it provides lessons for our time. Coalition warfare requires that members of the coalition be able to function our time we can see a similar situation where many of the NATO forces in Afghanistan are dependent on the US for most of their operational and logistic support. It also requires that the members of the coalition have a firm grip on the overall strategy and understand the capabilities and limitations of each.  In Afghanistan the United States faces a situation where it needs capable alliance partners.  It does not have the force capacity to go it alone and political support for additional troops has weakened in congress and in the public.  It is a somewhat similar situation to the Second World War where the United States needed significant British participation in the Asian ground war to ensure that the United States would not have to make major commitments to on the Asian mainland.  Likewise it was needed to get congressional support for post war aid to Britain.  Likewise George Marshall and others wondered if the British could provide significant naval support which would alleviate the need for high naval production which they questioned.  Strategy and the desired end state must be central to how coalitions fight wars.

 


[i] See Spector, Ronald H. Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan. The Free Press and Division of MacMillan, Inc. New York, NY 1985. Spector nowhere mentions the British Navy in his history of the campaign  and in his short reference to Octagon he does not mention the debate over the Royal Navy’s inclusion in the campaign. p.419

[ii] Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Two Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War. An Atlantic Monthly Press Book, Boston MA 1963. pp. Morrison does also mention some of the specific actions of Royal Navy in the Pacific. Pp.423-424.

[iii] Costello, John. The Pacific War: 1941-1945 Quill Publishers, New York, NY 1981. p.495.

[iv] Murray, Williamson and Millett, Allan R. A War to Be Won: Fighting the Second World War.  The Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. 2000. pp.484-485.

[v] Hastings, Max. Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-1945. Alfred A Knopf, New York, NY 2008. Originally published in Great Britain as Nemesis: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45, Harper Press, London, 2007.  p.112-113 and 400-402.

[vi] “Ernest King and the British Pacific Fleet: The Conference at Quebec, 1944 (Octagon). By Michael  Coles.  Published in The Journal of Military History January 2001, 65, 1 Research Library. p.127

[vii] Ibid. pp.111-112

[viii] Ibid. p.111

[ix] Ibid. p.113

[x] Ibid. p.114

[xi] Ibid. p.117

[xii] Ibid. p.118

[xiii] Ibid. p.120 Coles describes several instances where the “Anglicized” systems delayed deliveries and lengthened transportation to operational British units.  Modifications included flight helmets, radios and aircraft modifications. He also discusses how ineffectively the British used the large number of Escort Carriers provided by the US.

[xiv] Ibid. p.123

[xv] Hastings. p.400

[xvi] Coles. p.127. This is something that Morison does with utmost deference to the British.

[xvii] Ibid. p.128

[xviii] Ibid. p.129

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Unequal Allies: Lessons from The German’s and Their Allies on the Eastern Front for Today

patton with french tankPatton with French Renault F1 Tank in WWI

One of the problems that any coalition of unequal partners as is the case in Afghanistan is the role of the lesser partners, their capabilities and limitations imposed on them by their own governments.  When NATO joined the US led effort in Afghanistan a number of NATO allies contributed troops to the effort.  The same was true of the “coalition of the willing” in Iraq.  While obviously the US appreciated and continues to appreciate the efforts of its allies in both theaters the unique problems associated with coalition warfare are often not appreciated until the strengths and weaknesses of each junior partner in the coalition are shown to include the effect of each nation’s choice of units sent, logistics capability and rules of engagement.  Thus when some Americans are critical of the contribution of some allies, or the limitations imposed by their governments they should remember that in the First World War the United States was dependant on France and Britain for the majority of the Artillery, all of the tanks and aircraft as well as instructors and training facilities for the rapidly recruited American Expeditionary Force.

RickenbackerUS Ace Eddie Rickenbacker with French Supplied Nieuport 28

Every nation works within its own national interests and domestic political situation as well as its military capabilities. Unfortunately many people do not look at history to see how a coalition of a major power allied with a number of minor powers each with their own limitations as well as motivations for entering the war execute that war after the initial plan is foiled.  This is something that has happened in Afghanistan after the initial success disappeared with the corrupt and ineffective Afghan government, the resurgent Taliban and the resiliency of Al Qaida in their bases in the remote border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

nato_france_a_0403French Troops in Afghanistan: The French, British and Canadians have the most Robust Rules of Engagement of Non US NATO Forces (Time Magazine Photo)

One of the best places to find such an example is the German relationship with their allies on the Eastern Front.  The question of the German dominated European Axis alliance in the Second World War is one of the more neglected subjects of World War Two II. In most accounts of the war, the relationship of the Germans to their coalition is minimal.  This includes the works of B.H. Liddell-Hart, Williamson Murray, Chester Wilmot and David M Glantz.   Italy usually receives some attention in the context of the campaign in North Africa and Mediterranean.  Hungary, Romania and Finland receive scant attention from anyone except as to how their armies were overrun during the Stalingrad campaign. Popular German memoirs provide little substantive help. Field Marshal Albert Kesselring’s memoirs and Erwin Rommel’s papers give some views of the Italian efforts in North Africa and the Mediterranean and Erich Manstein gives a limited amount of attention to the Italians, Finns, Hungarians and Rumanians in Russia.

Finland-HitlerConflicting War Aims: Hitler with Finland’s Field Marshal Von Mannerheim

In his essay The Dysfunctional Coalition Robert Di Nardo examines the relationship of Germany to her allies on the Eastern Front where the Germans due to their own limitations were forced into a coalition war with weak allies of uncertain reliability. This is a subject that Di Nardo expanded on in his book Germany and the Axis Powers: from Coalition to Collapse (University of Kansas Press, 2005).  Di Nardo believes that there are important lessons to be learned from the failure of Germany and its coalition. Unfortunately we in the west are more often than not content to judge coalitions by the success of the Allies in the Second World War.  Di Nardo’s work on the subject is something that the United States must learn from as it works with coalitions whose members have significant military weaknesses often magnified by the domestic political climates in their own country. The situation, especially in Afghanistan places he United States in a similar position to Germany in relation to the current wars on terror and campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

m 13-40 tankItalian M 13-40 tanks were the mainstays of Italian Armored Units, Slow, Undergunned and Poorly Armored they were No Match for Soviet T-34s

Di Nardo asserts “the way in which Germany conducted coalition warfare was reflective of the manner in which Hitler and the German military looked at the world, as well as the war in general.”  Germany often displayed a haughtiness toward its allies and even knowing their weaknesses was both unable and often unwilling to do much to strengthen them for the fight against the Soviet Union.  Di Nardo believes that the German attitudes were “a significant factor that contributed to the ultimate defeat of Nazi Germany.” (p.712)  In the essay Di Nardo notes the few successes of the coalition. In particular he looks at the German work with Rumanian air defense around the Ploesti oil refineries and the German-Finnish Winter Warfare School.  Apart from these instances he characterizes Axis coalition warfare on the eastern front as “poor” with “failures at every level.” (p.713)

italian troops stalino

Di Nardo analyzes the problems with language barriers, the wide differences of modernity of the armies and levels of technology and training of the coalition partners many of which are common to the war in Afghanistan. Germany’s failure to become the “arsenal of Fascism” which the United States became “the Arsenal of Democracy” for its allies hindered the Germans in their relationship to their poorly equipped allies.  Likewise, the lack of understanding of all the partners regarding the “relationship between national objectives, strategy and the morale of soldiers of officers and soldiers alike”(p.713) was a major obstacle.

finnish at gun

Di Nardo provides a good description of the German liaison detachments allotted to the coalition armies.  These teams functioned as advisors to their allies as well as liaisons between the German army and the allies. These teams dealt with language, tactical communications weaknesses and often displayed the generally haughty attitude that the Germans displayed to their partners. There is an excellent illustration of this in dealing with the failure of XLVIII Panzer Corps at Stalingrad when the German Liaison to the Romanian 1st Panzer Division was wounded.  At the operational and strategic levels Di Nardo describes the German policies and attitudes toward their allies as “imperialist.” (p.718)

He examines the wide gap in transportation capabilities of the various armies and the failure of the Germans to better provide for the needs of their partners in contrast to the United States assistance to her allies.   Germany provided obsolete captured Czech and French weapons and vehicles to her allies.  They refused to supply the Romanians and Hungary with the plans to build German tank and aircraft in Romanian and Hungarian industrial concerns capable of their manufacture. (pp.718-719) Di Nardo notes how this lack of modern equipment impacted the allies operations against the Red Army and their defeat at the hands of the Soviets.  Although Di Nardo alludes to how even elite German formations had substandard equipment he does not explain principle reason for this.   This was due to the fact that the Germans did not go to a “total war” footing in regard to industrial production until Albert Speer took over as Armaments Minister in 1943.

spanish blue divsion

The number of troops contributed by the German Allies was substantial. Hungary began Barbarossa with two corps, including its Mobile Corps and in 1942 supplied their 2nd Army which was composed of 1 Armored and 9 Infantry Divisions. 2nd Army was crushed by the Soviet offensive against Stalingrad. The Italians began with an expeditionary corps of 2 Semi-Motorized and 1 Light Infantry Divisions. In early 1943 they added 4 Infantry and 3 Alpine Divisions and a number of other smaller formations. This force became the 8th Army. It fought well during the advance toward Stalingrad but spread out over a wide front with little armored or air support was decimated by the Soviet offense against the city.  The remnants were no longer battle worthy and were evacuated to Italy.  Most of the Finnish Army was engaged in the war but after September 1939 made no major offensive contribution to the war. In 1944 following a major Soviet offensive which forced them to withdraw from the territory that they had captured in 1941 the Finnish government sued for peace. The Russians occupied a number of border provinces and islands and Finland was obliged to expel German Forces.  This resulted in the “Lapland War” between the Finns and the Germans with the Germans adopting a scorched earth policy as they withdrew from the country. The quality of the Finnish forces was generally higher than that of Germany’s other Allies.

romanian r35Obsolete French Built Romanian R-35 Light Tank

The Romanians contributed 19 divisions organized into 3 Armies to Barbarossa. They were limited by their equipment and logistics. The 3rd and 4th Romanian Armies were shattered at Stalingrad forcing a major reorganization as they continued the war.  In August 1944 with the Soviets pressing their border King Michael led a coup to overthrow the Fascist dictatorship of Antonescu. The Germans elected to fight and the Romanians changed sides and joined the Russian advance to the end of the war with their 1st Army taking part in the Prague offensive. Another contributor of troops was Franco’s Spain although it was a neutral country. Spain provided a division of volunteers which became the famous “Spanish Blue Division” or the 250th Infantry Division. It was outfitted as a German unit and received additional training from the Germans before it went into action. The division fought near Leningrad and was engaged in many tough fights.  A Spanish “Blue” Fighter squadron allotted to and equipped by the Luftwaffe also distinguished itself. In October 1943 Spain under allied pressure withdrew the division from the front although many soldiers volunteered to remain and fight on as smaller units attached to German formations. One volunteer company became part of the 11th SS Panzergrenadier Division Nordland at Berlin.  One thing that probably was a factor in the Spanish effectiveness as well as commitment to to German cause was their genuine loathing of the Soviets following the Spanish Civil War.

The final part of Di Nardo’s essay deals with the strategic goals and conflicts among the Axis coalition which were never worked out.  Examples of this include how the Finns never signed a formal alliance with Germany and how their national strategy did not allow them to deeper into the Soviet Union instead settling on recovering territory lost to the Soviets in 1939 with a few minor gains.  There was also the problem that the Romanians and Hungarians distrusted each other so much that they could not work together over their own territorial disputes.  The Italians joined the campaign late and their 8th Army participated in the German advance toward Stalingrad protecting the German flank.  While the Italians provided their own equipment including armor and aircraft they and their weapons were woefully suited for the war that they faced on the Eastern Front.  Di Nardo finishes his essay noting morale problems in the Hungarian, Italian and Romanian armies, the lack of understanding and general lack of motivation for the campaign.

Romanian_Me109-px800Romanian ME-109 E4, The Romanian Air Force Was One of the Axis Success Stories

This article is well sourced. Di Nardo uses histories, archival sources, operational orders and analysis by the various armies as well as interviews with participants. Of particular note is that he goes to sources of the coalition partners and not just German sources.  This allows him to be far more nuanced and detailed in his discussion as opposed to others who simply ignore the contributions of the Axis partners.  His footnotes provide added detail and provide and lend support to his arguments.

The importance of this essay is twofold.  First it provides a look at the relationship of German to her coalition partners on the Eastern Front.  This is important from a historic standpoint simply because it is such a neglected topic in most histories of the period and gives added depth to the reasons for Germany’s defeat.  One has to ask the “what if questions” in regard to had the Germans better treated, equipped and recognized their allies’ contributions to the war effort.

The second and probably more important for Afghanistan is that it provides lessons to any nation which has to engage in coalition warfare.  In particular it has lessons for the United States which has found itself as the senior and vastly superior partner in a war which has multiple coalition partners in several theaters of operations.  Each coalition partner has certain military strengths and weaknesses in relationship to the United States, national interests, geo-political and economic relationships with competitors to the United States and internal political realities which impact their cooperation in the war.  As such the United States cannot allow itself to be cast in the role of a haughty imperialistic senior partner as did Germany.  The US instead must cultivate an attitude of assistance, respect and trust among its partners to assure their full cooperation and assistance in relation to U.S. goals in the war. This is particularly important now was it appears that the Afghan war is reaching a point where the deteriorating situation on the ground could invite the early withdraw of allies and necessitate either the addition of more US troops or a strategic withdraw which would be for all intents and purposes a defeat for the US and NATO. The consequences would not be good and while the Taliban may be able to be contained they undoubtedly would invite Al Qaida back and provide them with a sanctuary just as Pakistan has stepped up its efforts on the border.

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