Hitler and Stalin were strategically incompetent

There are those who wrongly believe that Hitler was some kind of military genius, just as there are those who undeservedly credit Stalin for late victories in World War II that finally broke the Soviets' way.

Battles, like Stalingrad, proved that both leaders were strategically incompetent.

Hitler and Stalin both held the belief that retreating in battle was not to be tolerated.  Fighting to the last man may have sounded heroic to the two psychopaths, but they were not the ones doing any actual fighting.

Fighting to the last man is not heroic.  It is a waste of soldiers who did not live to fight another day, who could have retreated and regrouped.

Gen. MacArthur understood this well, stating: "We are not retreating — we are advancing in another direction."

Retreating is sound battle strategy that neither dictator believed in.  A good military commander allows forces the option to retreat.  Had there been no Allied retreat following Operation Market Garden's failure in the Netherlands in 1944, a lot of wasted lives would have resulted.

Neither Hitler nor Stalin believed in making it appear as if a main army was somewhere it was not.  They both made clear their intentions of attack without using anything to draw opposing forces in the wrong direction.  That is not to say there was no sneaking up on enemies, which did happen — just that there was no using a smaller force to make it appear larger to lure an enemy into a favorable location, which is another sound battle strategy.

Nor did the dictators have anything like the Ghost Army, which made D-Day possible with fewer casualties than would have happened without the ruse.  They were also instrumental throughout the war to keep the enemy forces off guard.  That's another of their failures of tactics.

Deception and allowing retreat would have saved lives and brought opposing forces where they were wanted.  Both are important in battle and used by sound military leaders.

Stalingrad is an example of where each side could have used these tactics to their advantage.  Had either side been run by a competent leader, Hitler or Stalin would have had more men to fight, having allowed for strategic retreat.

For example, Hitler could have used a small force to make it appear as if his main army was going to attack the city.  Stalin had almost no air power, nor enough vehicles, to move troops quickly, which required reinforcements to be sent by trains.  By launching an attack against the city Stalin renamed after himself, Stalin would have sent everything he could to defend and hold Stalingrad.  The Nazis then could have waited farther north in Eastern Europe under cover until trains with soldiers passed, before destroying tracks and bridges required to get troops elsewhere.

Because Stalin committed his forces without thought about strategy, the main German army could have reached Moscow and circled the city, trapping Stalin.

The German victory also would have been less costly to German soldiers.

Using the same city, Stalin could have lured the Germans in, while sneaking forces behind the Nazis.  People could have been evacuated knowing it was just a matter of time before the Nazis arrived, then repeat what happened in Moscow with Napoleon.

Blowing up the city with an entire German army inside would have been devastating to Hitler without sacrificing unnecessary soldiers.  And it would have freed up more forces for a westward push.

Due to incompetent leaders on both sides, the casualties were staggering from a single battle with no regard for civilian casualties on either side.

The Battle of Stalingrad "resulted in an estimated total of 1.7 million to 2 million Axis and Soviet casualties, making it by far the largest in human history."

It could have been far less bloody. 

Hitler and Stalin both recklessly wasted lives that didn't need to be lost.  Both leaders, had it not been for their cults of personality, should have seen someone in their inner circles assassinate them.

Those long dead soldiers who followed orders of madmen should not be forgotten.  Military incompetence got them slaughtered.  Their leaders showed no regard for the lives of their own soldiers and civilians.

Why does it matter today?  An enemy battled an ally, and the ally later turned enemy.  More dead Nazis at the receiving end of the Soviets made it easier to beat Germany.

It matters because those soldiers on both sides should be mourned for being sacrificed.  They did not die for their countries in war.  They were murdered by their own leaders, who never faced charges.

Bob Ryan is a writer who has an MBA.  He is an American Christian Zionist who staunchly supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.  He has been a weekly blogger at the Times of Israel since 2019.

Image: Wikimedia Commons via Picryl, public domain.

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