219

...but if the Strait is guarded such that they can't get them without braving an enfilading strafe of torpedoes, then it wouldn't do much good even if they knew where they are. From this comment by the OP, and others like it, it seems they don't appreciate the tactical limitations and vulnerabilities of a WWII submarine. I'll address that. While WWII ...


127

Saying that no Wehrmacht soldier ever refused to kill civilians or PoWs is wrong, there are documented instances of this happening. It's just that this did not happen often enough to make a difference. What happened to those who refused to participate? There is this study on some documented instances. In multiple cases, some punishment indeed was inflicted ...


123

I have not lived in Berlin or Moscow, but I have lived in Toronto and (very close to) Val d'Or. The winter temperatures for these two locations closely match Berlin and Moscow: December January February (Avg daily high/avg Daily low) (Celsius) Toronto 2/ -3 -1/ -7 0/ -6 Val d'Or -8/-19 -11/-23 -8/-22 I can absolutely assure ...


109

The English Channel is too shallow in many places to be safe for U-Boats. The operating depth for the Type VII submarine was up to 230 meters, while the English Channel is only 45 meters deep in many places. In a confined channel such as this a U-Boat's only defence against air and surface attack is to dive quickly, to an unpredictable (but deep) depth. ...


100

Although we know a great deal about the events surrounding Hitler's "Halt Order" at Dunkirk, the truth is that the reasons behind it are not completely understood by historians, even now. It is a mistake, however, to think that the German army just stood around, watching the British Expeditionary Force being evacuated. They were fighting to reach the ...


74

Concerning your questions, beyond the original "why didn't they refuse" one: the massacres definitely caused psychological problems for many soldiers, even the SS - to the point that Himmler himself decided to replace shootings with gas chambers and have prisoners and local auxillaries handle the victims and their bodies as much as possible. ...


71

Average temperatures are irrelevant, unless you plan to repeat the battle every year. What matters is the temperature at the time. To quote Wikipedia: The European Winter of 1941-1942 was the coldest of the twentieth century. On 30 November, von Bock reported to Berlin that the temperature was – 45 °C (–49 °F). General Erhard Raus, commander of the 6th ...


65

The Phoney War (Sitzkrieg, Drôle de Guerre, etc.) seems destined to remain one of the great mysteries of history. It is difficult to comprehend now, after the fact, how such an astonishing combination of missed opportunities, wishful thinking, and indecisiveness on the part of not just one, but two great powers, could have carried on for more than half a ...


62

It's easy to ask these questions after the fact, but a primary reason was that what we now know as the Miracle of Dunkirk was basically unthinkable. It is easy to forget that in reaching the coast, and cutting the Allied line in two, the Germans had already won a great, practically unthinkable victory. Their victorious divisions, particularly armored units, ...


54

In addition to the other answers, WWII submarines were primarily surface vessels which could submerge for combat. They had very limited speed, visibility, and battery range underwater. The batteries took a long time to recharge, and they had to be on the surface for it. Limited visibility made it difficult to spot their prey. Limited speed limited their ...


46

The political reasons of both France and Britain are well explained in other answers, so I just stick to the legal matter. France was not legally obliged by any pact to attack Soviet Union or to send troops to Poland to help. The 1921 Franco-Polish treaty specified the extent of help, which amounted to keeping the communication lines free between France and ...


45

The LCVP or Higgins boat was designed with one primary goal: to land a large number of troops quickly. Therefore it was important that: Troops can disembark as quickly as possible LCVPs can land right next to each other, maximising the total amount of troops disembarking After disembarkation, the craft can then reverse and return for more troops, evacuating ...


42

They still do it that way: LCU Replacement in Preliminary Design, Anticipating 2022 Fleet Debut If the beaches are heavily defended, the Navy is supposed to bombard them prior to the landing. Occasionally the military and naval planners have been known to make deadly mistakes. As pointed out in the comments, the debouching troops and equipment hit the ...


38

Gibraltar during the war had a quite formidable British naval presence (Force H), an airfield, and significant coastal gun emplacements easily capable of covering the entire strait. The primary batteries were a set of twin 9.2" naval guns guns at the southern end of the peninsula, which had sufficient range to interdict all surface naval traffic through ...


34

Other answers have explained why basing the U-boats in the English Channel was a poor idea for the Germans. Here's what actually happened: In spring 1944, most of the U-boats were based in the ports of the Bay of Biscay, where they had easier access to the North Atlantic than they would had they been based in the Channel ports. On June 6th, all seaworthy U-...


34

Other answers have dealt with the main things but I think you are missing one important point. Even assuming that Berlin and Moscow are equally cold there is a huge difference between holding your own territory (defensive operations within Germany) and maintaining long supply lines through hostile territory in bad weather. If the German army had a constant ...


32

It depends on how you define "Second Front." The Allies opened a "second front" in North Africa in November, 1942. That was huge because the battle of Stalingrad was going on at the same time. Germany had to divert most of its air transport fleet to reinforcing North Africa, and suffered heavy casualties. When the transports returned to the eastern front, ...


30

The recent book Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State by Götz Aly offers a new and very important look at this question. It is the subject of an ongoing academic debate but many of the factual findings seem to be indisputable, if I understand correctly (haven't read it but read very detailed reviews). Very brief summary: ...


30

Many French may have borne arms for the Axis, but it was very soft support; not many of them never fired a shot in anger for the Axis. Even in October/November 1942 with the Axis at flood tide, Vichy North Africa rapidly switched allegiance after the Torch Landings at Casablanca, Oran and Algiers, despite some initial confused opposition. Following the ...


30

Part of the Third Reich's military problem was its devastating quick early victories. Germany invaded France rapidly alongside a ~900 km front line, adopting the WWI strategy to enter via Belgium through the Ardennes surpassing the Marginot defense line and catching France by surprise as those considered passing the mountain range with tanks impossible. This ...


30

To begin with, when the air campaign ahead of Operation Husky (the campaign that culminated with the invasion of Sicily) began, the Allies already had a significant numerical superiority over the Axis air forces in the theatre: Operation HUSKY air planners had nearly 5,000 operational aircraft at their disposal compared to the 1,500–1,600 Axis aircraft ...


29

As others have pointed out, it will never be possible to answer this question conclusively based on documents, because the Soviet officials have always been eager to downplay (for the propaganda reasons) the importance of the Allied contribution to the war in general and Lend-Lease in particular, so all the official Soviet sources are suspect (as, by the ...


28

A number of things went wrong in the German advance on Stalingrad. One of them is that after Paulus made it to the Volga in late August, 1942, he was supposed to chase the Russians into Stalingrad where the Luftwaffe would supposedly bomb them to death. But the Luftwaffe bombed Stalingrad before the Russians retreated, which is to say that most of them ...


26

Soviet Navy's role was negligible compared to that of either the Soviet Army or the Navies of the Western Allies. This is not surprising given the essentially continental nature of the USSR. The other two answers give the glorified official version which inflates ridiculously the damage inflicted on the Axis. Early in the war, the Baltic fleet was locked up ...


25

The main reason was that the allies were prepared to fight WW1 all over again. The Germans had very different ideas. The allies were ready to fight a static trench war in Belgium. Problem was that Belgium declared neutrality in 1936. That created huge problems for the allied planners. Allied officers were not allowed to coordinate with Belgium before ...


24

Unlike Soviet ground forces the fleet was well prepared at the beginning of German invasion and did not panic or wait for orders. For example as early as August 1941 Baltic fleet air force bombed Berlin from the island Ezel. In 1941 Baltic fleet placed 12047 mines. In 1943 the Finns together with the Germans successfully placed a net across the Gulf of ...


22

There are a number of reasons why the Germans did not pull back for the defense of Berlin. The short answer is that they simply couldn't. The Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS were still ordered to conduct major offensives even in 1945. The Battle of the Bulge was the last major German offensive in the West, but upon its failure elite units from I and II SS Panzer ...


21

I believe the greatest mistake of the allies was made before Poland, during the Munich treaty. The Allies left Czechoslovakia to the Germans in exchange for a promise of peace which never came. Czechoslovakia had a great defensive line, better tanks than the Germans, the same quality airplanes and totally awesome and modern artillery which the Germans ...


21

Pieter Geerkens answer is excellent and should be selected, but I want to add a few well-known facts which show that the "brutal statistic" is actually wrong by an order of magnitude. Western Front 1940 More than 2,200,000 French soldiers fought on the Western Front in 1940. This alone dwarfs the total number of any kind of military personnel under Vichy-...


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