1,000 Year Reich

by Fred Dungan


SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER AND GERMANY

Published and Formatted by DUNGAN BOOKS

Copyright December 2021

This is a work of fiction examining an alternate reality in which the outcome of World War II in Europe is reversed.

For my son, Colonel C. Peter Dungan, U.S. Army (Retired)





About the Front Cover


The picture portrayed on the front cover is of a scaled model of the Volkshalle (Peoples' Hall), Adolf Hitler's imagined temple to the Nordic gods which like many of the Third Reich's plans never came into being. It is a fitting tribute to the Aryan master race, another of National Socialism's tenants that had no basis in reality.

Albert Speer, Hitler's architect, based this design on a sketch of a Roman temple made by Hitler himself in 1925. In 1938 Hitler had made a point of visiting the Pantheon on an official trip to Rome. The Pantheon had been created for an empire that survived four centuries. The Volkshalle would go one better: it was to symbolize an empire planned to endure a thousand years. Instead it lasted twelve years, not nearly enough time to construct the Nazi Pantheon or Germania which was slated to be the new capital of the German Empire.

With clever use of steel and lightweight concrete behind stone cladding, the Volkshalle would have been 290 meters (950 feet) high. The oculus, or roof light, in the center of the dome would, at 46 meters (150 feet) in diameter, have been so big that Michelangelo's dome of St Peter's could have been lowered through it.

What the imperious Volkshalle resembles most is an enormous funerary monument. Above its mighty portico, Speer should have had this esoteric legend inscribed: Et in Arcadia Ego (I [Death] am in Arcadia, too). Arcadia means utopia, and utopia means nowhere. The Third Reich was headed nowhere. As Hitler and his pet architect played with the design of the Volkshalle, Berlin and the Third Reich were about to be engulfed in flames, just as Valhalla—home of all the Nordic gods—was in Wagner's Gotterdammerung. The Volkshalle proved to be less than a pantheon to a master race of black-clad German demigods, and more a tomb in the cemetery of Hitler and Speer's over-excited imaginations.

 
 
 
 
 

Introduction

National Socialist Germany, better known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was the German state between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Party ruled the country, transforming it into a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany quickly became an authoritarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", alluded to the National Socialist Party's assertion that National Socialist Germany was the rightful successor to the earlier Holy Roman Empire (800-1806) and German Empire (1871-1918). The Third Reich, which Hitler and the Nazis referred to as the Thousand Year Reich, ended in May 1945 after just 12 years, when the Allies defeated Germany, ending World War II in Europe.

On 30 January 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany, the head of government, by the president of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg, the head of state. When Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934, Hitler became dictator of Germany by merging the offices and powers of the chancellery and presidency. A national referendum held 19 August 1934 confirmed Hitler as sole Fuhrer (leader) of Germany. All power was centralized in Hitler's person and his word became the highest law of the land. The government was not a coordinated, co-operating body, but a collection of factions struggling for power and Hitler's favor. In the midst of the Great Depression, the government restored economic stability and ended mass unemployment by means of heavy military spending and a mixed economy. Utilizing deficit spending, the regime undertook a massive secret rearmament program, forming the Wehrmacht (armed forces), and constructed extensive public works projects, including the Autobahn (expressways). The return to economic stability greatly boosted the regime's popularity.

Following Adolf Hitler's rise to power, Lebensraum (meaning: living room) became an ideological principle of Nazism and provided justification for the German territorial expansion into Central and Eastern Europe. The Nazi Generalplan Ost policy ('Master Plan for the East') was based on its tenets. It stipulated that Germany required a Lebensraum necessary for its survival and that most of the indigenous populations of Central and Eastern Europe would have to be removed permanently (either through mass deportation to Siberia, extermination, or enslavement) including Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, Czech and other Slavic nations considered non-Aryan. The Nazi government aimed at repopulating these lands with Germanic colonists in the name of Lebensraum during World War II and thereafter. Entire indigenous populations were decimated by starvation, allowing for their own agricultural surplus to feed Germany.


ARYAN LEBENSRAUM

Hitler's strategic program for world domination was based on the belief in the power of Lebensraum, especially when pursued by a racially superior society. People deemed to be part of non-Aryan races, within the territory of Lebensraum expansion, were subjected to starvation, expulsion, and/or destruction. The eugenics of Lebensraum assumed the right of the German Aryan master race (Herrenvolk) to remove indigenous people in the name of their own living space.


Wehrmacht Troops Occupying Europe in April 1941

Lebensraum had been a goal of Imperial Germany in World War I. Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa with the intention of expanding the Fatherland into the Ukraine and the Soviet Union. However, he failed to listen to his advisors and sought to gain territory without regard to the steel, gasoline, and other resources that would be required to feed an enlarged German war machine fighting on two fronts. What had been largely a mechanized blitzkrieg was forced to employ draft horses for some artillery and transport purposes.

Seventy-three million people, the vast majority of whom were civilians, died as a result of World War II. Entire cities were carpet and/or fire bombed by the Allies. On May 8, 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered, bringing an end to the Thousand Year Reich and the Second World War in Europe. Given a few small, albeit consequential, changes in strategies, technology, events, resources, weather, and/or intelligence, the outcome would have almost certainly been different. It is the purpose of this book to thoroughly explore what some have come to term “alternate realities” with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Why is this important? In a 1948 speech to the United Kingdom's House of Commons, Winston Churchill remonstrated, "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Every single historical moment is distinct from those past. However, we must learn from our mistakes so that we do not run the risk of repeating them."

Der Fuhrer was a myopic micromanager. Adolf Hitler was the self-proclaimed supreme authority on all matters concerning Germany. Because he reacted emotionally to bad news, subordinates quickly took to doctoring their reports. He heard what he wanted to hear and saw what he wanted to see; he alone must bear the responsibility for reducing what well could have been a 1,000 year reich into a twelve year reich. In the end, he paid for his mistakes in leadership with his life.

The purpose of this book is to show how close Germany came to winning World War II and to point out (with 20/20 hindsight) how a few inept decisions ultimately led to defeat.

 
 
 
 
 

Chapter 1

Operation Barbarossa

"Anyone can deal with victory. Only the mighty can bear defeat." - Adolf Hitler

Ask a general what he fears most and he is liable to reply: "Fighting a war on more than one front." Multiple fronts divide resources and manpower. The United States fought a two front war in World War II, but only because it had no other option. Even then, the United States gave priority to the war in Europe, leaving the final push to defeat Japan until after VE Day. Seeking to avoid a two front war, the Soviet Union wisely waited to declare war on the Japanese Empire until August 8, 1945 (presumably done as justification for the Soviet Union's subsequent land grab of the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin).

No doubt Hitler had no shortage of senior Wehrmacht officers who could have advised him of the dangers of fighting a war on two fronts. However, Hitler was still smarting from the failure of Operation Sea Lion to defeat England. He looked to the East to Ukraine and Russia for what he thought would be a quick victory that would reassure the German people of Der Fuhrer's infallible judgment. In the past, German leaders had promised their countrymen Lebensraum. Adolf Hitler intended to deliver where the previous reich had failed.

Evidently, Hitler was unaware of a previous attempt to conquer Russia. In June 1812, Napoleon led a 600,000 man army in a three-pronged invasion of Russia that was largely defeated by an overly extended supply line and the Russian winter in which temperatures of thirty degrees below zero Fahrenheit were not uncommon.

Not being a student of history nor prone to taking anyone's advice, Hitler ordered a three-pronged invasion of the Soviet Union starting on Sunday June 22, 1941.

The German invasion took place along a 1,500 mile front. Resources were necessarily spread thin—so thin, in fact, that horses actually outnumbered mechanized vehicles.

The invasion caught Josef Stalin completely unawares and unprepared. On September 29, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union had signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov Non-Aggression Pact, dividing Poland along the Bug River and fostering trade between the treaty powers.

Stalin was amazed that Hitler would attack Russia in order to secure resources which had already largely been achieved through negotiation. Germany and the Soviet Union entered an intricate trade pact on 11 February 1940 that was over four times larger than the one that the two countries had signed in August 1939. The new trade pact helped Germany surmount a British blockade. In the first year, Germany received one million tons of cereals, one half million tons of wheat, 900,000 tons of oil, 100,000 tons of cotton, 500,000 tons of phosphates and considerable amounts of other vital raw materials, along with the transit of one million tons of soybeans from Manchuria. Those and other supplies were being transported through Soviet and occupied Polish territories. Evidently, they did not come fast enough or in sufficient quantities to please Der Fuhrer. Nor did he have the scruples and/or common sense which would have prevented him from ordering the Wehrmacht to butcher the geese that laid the golden eggs which fed Germany's insatiable war machine.

Stalin's mistake was in expecting rational behavior from Hitler. Der Fuhrer had seized upon invading the Soviet Union as a means of distracting public attention away from the failure of Operation Sea Lion to subdue England.

No doubt Operation Barbarossa should have been conducted according to priorities defined by the needs of the war effort rather than a willy-nilly land grab along an over extended front. If the initial invasion had concentrated on capturing Crimea and the Caucasus, Germany could have hindered Russian access to oil and iron ore while supplying its own desperate need for these and other war materials. Once that was accomplished, the Wehrmacht could have gone on to capture Moscow and the rest of the Soviet Union. Figuratively, Hitler put the cart in front of the horse.

Anyone planning an extensive trip from the western boundary of Russia to the far eastern border would want to take along plenty of warm clothing. Then how is it that Napoleon and Hitler, the last two would be conquerers of Russia, failed to furnish their armies with winter clothing? Did it simply slip their minds? Or was it hubris? Before answering these questions, please keep in mind that General George Washington and his fellow officers wintered at Valley Forge in warm buildings while the enlisted men wore tattered uniforms, wrapped rags around their feet, and slept in tents that offered scant protection from blizzard conditions.

Adolf Hitler had been a common soldier in World War I and was one of the few non-officers to be awarded the iron cross. He suffered in the trenches along with the rest of the enlisted men. I find it difficult to understand why he did not sympathize with the plight of German soldiers on the Eastern front. Could it be that, like Napoleon, what began as a belief in pure Virtue metamorphosed into a demand that the average German had an obligation to exhibit Honor without regard to reward?

 
 
 
 
 

Chapter 2

The Amerika Bomber

"No enemy bomber can reach the Ruhr. If one reaches the Ruhr, my name is not Goering." - Goering

Adolf Hitler was fascinated with the idea of New York City burning down to the ground. In 1937, Willy Messerschmitt hoped to win a lucrative contract by showing Hitler a prototype of the Messerschmitt Me 264 four-engine bomber that was being designed to reach New York City from the Azores, a distance of 11,680 kilometers. On 8 July 1938, barely two years after the death of Germany's main strategic bombing advocate, Generalleutnant Walter Wever, and eight months after the Reich Air Ministry awarded the contract for the design of the Heinkel He 177, Germany's only operational heavy bomber during the war years, the Luftwaffe's commander-in-chief Hermann Goering gave a speech saying, "I completely lack the bombers capable of round-trip flights to New York with a 4.5-ton bomb load. I would be extremely happy to possess such a bomber, which would at last stuff the mouth of arrogance across the sea."

Ultimately, only three prototypes were built, V1, V2, and V3. V1 and V2 used conventional piston engines, while V3 used high-powered radial engines.

Once again, Germany lacked the war materials— steel, fuel, and aluminum—necessary to manufacture and maintain a fleet of four engine heavy bombers. Six engine models were proposed, but never made it farther than the drawing board. Neither the Ju 390, the Folke-Wulf TA400, nor the Ju 390 ever came to fruition. They were cancelled near the end of the war to free up materials to produce jet fighters.

It is interesting to note that the Amerika bomber was initially slated to carry a nuclear bomb. Both the Amerika bomber and the German atomic bomb program suffered from Hitler's inability to focus on specific proposals long enough for them to be carried out. Had these projects made it to the battlefield, it might have changed World War II's outcome. In the end, Der Fuhrer proved to be an ineffective micromanager whose attention was all too easily diverted from the task at hand.

If Germany had bombed England with four engine heavy bombers rather than two engine bombers, would it have made a difference in the outcome of the Battle of Britain? Since heavy bombers can carry twice the payload of light bombers and can better defend themselves against fighters, Germany would have gained a distinct advantage.

 
 
 
 
 

Chapter 3

Nazi Nuclear Weapon

"Our knowledge and use of the laws of nature that enable us to fly to the Moon also enable us to destroy our home planet with the atom bomb." - Wernher von Braun

 

A Timeline to the German Nuclear Bomb

January 1933        Nazis come to power in Germany

December 1938      Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner and Fritz Strassmann discover nuclear fission in uranium

1941           Von Weizsacker files a draft patent application that refers to a plutonium bomb

March 1941        Von Weizsacker visits Bohr in Denmark

June 1941       Germany invades Soviet Union

September 1941      Von Weizsacker visits Bohr again, this time with Heisenberg

February/June 1942       Heisenberg gives popular lectures on nuclear weapons

December 1943       Bohr visits Los Alamos

March 1945         Germany tests a nuclear device in Thuringia, eastern Germany

7 May 1945           Germany unconditionally surrenders

Germany began its secret program, called Uranverein, or "uranium club," in April 1939, just months after German physicists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann had inadvertently discovered fission.

In December 1938, German chemist Otto Hahn and his assistant Fritz Strassmann sent a manuscript to the German science journal Naturwissenschaften ("Natural Sciences") reporting that they had detected and identified the element barium after bombarding uranium with neutrons. Their article was published on 6 January 1939. On 19 December 1938, eighteen days before the publication, Otto Hahn communicated these results and his conclusion of a bursting of the uranium nucleus in a letter to his colleague and friend Lise Meitner, who had fled Germany in July to the Netherlands and then to Sweden. Meitner and her nephew Otto Robert Frisch confirmed Hahn's conclusion of a bursting and correctly interpreted the results as "nuclear fission"—a term coined by Frisch. Frisch confirmed this experimentally on 13 January 1939.

On 22 April 1939, after hearing a colloquium paper by Wilhelm Hanle proposing the use of uranium fission in a Uranmaschine (nuclear reactor), Georg Joos, along with Hanle, notified Wilhelm Dames, at the Reichserziehungsministerium (REM, Reich Ministry of Education), of potential military applications of nuclear energy. The group included the physicists Walther Bothe, Robert Dopel, Hans Geiger, Wolfgang Gentner (probably sent by Walther Bothe), Wilhelm Hanle, Gerhard Hoffmann, and Georg Joos; Peter Debye was invited, but he did not attend. After this, informal work began at the Georg-August University of Gottingen by Joos, Hanle, and their colleague Reinhold Mannkopff; the group of physicists was known informally as the first Uranverein (Uranium Club) and formally as Arbeitsgemeinschaft fur Kernphysik. The group's work was discontinued in August 1939, when the three were called to military training. Max Plank had warned Hitler that stigmatizing German Jewish scientists and drafting top German scientists would hurt the war effort, but Hitler refused to listen. Despite a shortage of scientists, Germany created three teams to develop nuclear reactors; one each at Berlin, Gottow and Leipzig. The design that the teams finally came up with centered on uranium chandeliers. Hundreds of small uranium cubes were suspended on wires in close proximity to one another, allowing their combined radiation to sustain a nuclear reaction. When they needed to shut down the reaction, they could lower the chandelier into a pool of heavy water with graphite for additional shielding.

The number of people working on the project was not the only reason the bomb project in Germany failed compared to the American effort. Germany only spent an estimated one million dollars in their efforts. In contrast, the Americans spent over two billion dollars. In a memorandum written and signed by the German scientists after the war at Farm Hall POW Camp, they wrote "On the whole the funds made available by the German authorities for uranium were extremely small compared to those employed by the Allies." Money was not the only aspect in which the German effort was lacking. Even in laboratory and engineering space, the German facilities were inadequate. The research was carried out in common university labs. No specialized lab or plant was built. During the course of the war, the research was moved to small towns in the Black Forest to avoid Allied bombing raids. Whereas the Americans utilized dedicated university sites, such as the celebrated lab underneath the football stadium at the University of Chicago where the first self-sustained nuclear reaction occurred, and then enormous processing plants and a vast testing complex at Los Alamos, in total some thirty-seven different sites, German scientists had to make do with small houses and even caves towards the end of the war. No scientist, whether a Nobel laureate or not, could make the necessary breakthroughs under these conditions. The German nuclear bomb project was bound to fail because it needed massive industrial resources that were beyond Germany's capability.

One last material aspect hindered the Germans. Unlike the American effort, in which scientists had discovered the use of graphite to moderate the speed of the reaction, the Germans still used heavy-water for this task. Ironically in 1940, basing his conclusions on an erroneous experiment by Walther Bothe, Heisenberg wrote that pure graphite was less suitable as the moderator in a uranium pile then it had earlier been believed. This report meant that Germany would continue to rely on heavy-water, which they obtained from a plant located in Norway. In February of 1943, a clandestine team of saboteurs destroyed the facility, and after the Germans rebuilt the plant, an Allied bombing raid forced the Germans to move the equipment to a safer location. During that move, Norwegian resistance fighters sank the ferry transporting the equipment. The loss of heavy-water production convinced many of the German scientists that it would be impossible for them to achieve any advances in nuclear research. They only had two and one half tons of heavy-water to use for further experiments. They had no hope of obtaining it from any other source. One of the German scientists working on the atomic bomb project, Kurt Diebner, said later, "It was the elimination of German heavy-water production in Norway that was the main factor in our failure to achieve a self-sustaining atomic reaction before the war ended."

The most advanced team was in Berlin. The reactor there had 664 cubes in its chandelier, and its scientists were actually close in 1944 and 1945 to achieving a sustained reaction, a reaction that could have kept factories running until the Allies occupied the city.

The problem was that they needed a bit more uranium than they had. They suspected that they needed about 50 percent more cubes, and a 2009 paper says that they were probably right. Interestingly enough, the group in Gottow had about 400 cubes, but the two teams were not allowed to talk about their work or share resources. So neither group knew that they could pool their resources and succeed in just a few weeks or months of work.

America put its resources into one project, the Manhattan Project, while Germany split its efforts into three parts.

In this instance, three isolated start ups did not prove superior to one large, consolidated, all out effort.

For once, Germany had sufficient resources to complete the project. What was lacking was coordination and direction. In 1939 Germany was well ahead of the United States in nuclear technology. However, Hitler failed to consolidate the various individual efforts until it was too late in the war to make a significant difference. Also, many Jewish scientists emigrated to the United States (where they were employed by the Manhattan Project) due to National Socialism anti-Semitism.


GERMAN NUCLEAR REACTOR SCHEMATIC


The reactors were meant to produce Plutonium for production of nuclear bombs. At the end of World War II, German scientists were surprised to learn that the United States had gained a massive lead in nuclear weaponry.

The first effort to develop a nuclear bomb started in April 1939, just months after the discovery of nuclear fission in December 1938, but ended only months later shortly ahead of the German invasion of Poland, when many notable physicists were drafted into the Wehrmacht.

A second effort began under the administrative purview of the Wehrmacht's Heereswaffenamt on 1 September 1939, the day of the invasion of Poland. The program eventually expanded into three main efforts: the Uranmaschine (nuclear reactor), uranium and heavy water production, and uranium isotope separation. Eventually it was assessed that nuclear fission would not contribute significantly to ending the war, and in January 1942, the Heereswaffenamt turned the program over to the Reich Research Council (Reichsforschungsrat) while continuing to fund the program. The program was split up among nine major institutes where the directors dominated the research and set their own objectives. Subsequently, the number of scientists working on applied nuclear fission began to diminish, with many applying their talents to more pressing war-time demands.

The most influential people in the Uranverein were Kurt Diebner, Abraham Esau, Walther Gerlach, and Erich Schumann; Schumann was one of the most powerful and influential physicists in Germany. Diebner, throughout the life of the nuclear weapon project, had more control over nuclear fission research than did Walther Bothe, Klaus Clusius, Otto Hahn, Paul Harteck, or Werner Heisenberg. Abraham Esau was appointed as Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering's plenipotentiary for nuclear physics research in December 1942; Walther Gerlach succeeded him in December 1943.

Politicization of the German academia under the Nazi regime had driven many physicists, engineers, and mathematicians out of Germany as early as 1933. Those of Jewish heritage who did not leave were quickly purged from German institutions, further thinning the ranks of academia. The politicization of the universities, along with the demands for manpower by the German armed forces (many scientists and technical personnel were conscripted, despite possessing technical and engineering skills), substantially reduced the number of able German physicists.

Whereas the Manhattan Project in the United States represented a concerted team effort with virtually unlimited resources, the German nuclear effort was between competing individual scientists who did not pool their knowledge and materials. Worst of all there was a lack of leadership and direction.

Albert Speer wrote that the project to develop the atom bomb was discontinued in the autumn of 1942. Though the scientific solution was within reach, it would have taken all of Germany's production resources to produce a bomb, and then no sooner than 1947. Development did continue with a "uranium motor" for the navy and development of a German cyclotron. However, by the summer of 1943, Speer released the remaining 1200 metric tons of uranium stock for the production of solid-core ammunition.

A report produced by the United States Navy in 1946 states that a German, Herr Zinsser, a rocket authority, was flying in a small aircraft around the first week of October, 1944, in the vicinity from Ludwiglust and south of Lubeck. This was 12-15 kilometers from the German atomic bomb test facility. Zinsser, suddenly witnessed a strong, bright illumination of the entire atmosphere and saw a visible pressure wave with a diameter of one kilometer approaching him. The cloud changed colors rapidly, mostly blue to red. It lasted for 2-3 seconds. He described that there was a short period of darkness and then numerous blue light spots. After 10 seconds, the cloud seemed to disappear, but reappear in a lighter color. He noticed that the pressure wave, which was still visible, was at least 9000 meters in diameter and continued for 15 seconds. His aircraft felt the wave which jostled the small observation plane, but he remained in control of it.

Zinsser landed his aircraft and was flying again in a He 111 within an hour of the mystery. His aircraft flew to the spot where the explosion had been spotted. This is where he encountered an odd shaped mushroom cloud at 3-4000 meters, which continued to produce turbulence. He noticed strong electrical communication interference. Zinsser, in the report, noted he had difficulty understanding why such explosions would be conducted near large population centers.

The United States Navy judged the report to be highly credible and said it had all the elements of an atomic bomb test. The report concluded that the Germans had tested a thousand ton TNT bomb, or something else with as much force.

Under the auspices of the SS, on March 4, 1945 and March 12, 1945, German scientists in the mountain state of Thuringia tested some sort of "nuclear weapon", most likely a dirty bomb. Seven hundred prisoners of war from nearby Ohrdruf Concentration Camp are alleged to have died from the effects of these two tests. Others suffered severe burns and nosebleeds.

Clare Werner, a resident who happened to be standing on a nearby hillside witnessed the explosion in what she termed as a military training area not far from the town of Ohrdruf. About what she observed she has stated:

"It was about 9:30 when I suddenly saw something ... it was as bright as hundreds of bolts of lightning, red on the inside and yellow on the outside, so bright you could've read the newspaper. It all happened so quickly, and then we couldn't see anything at all. We noticed there was a powerful wind, then nose bleeds, headaches and pressure in the ears."

The next day a man named Heinz Wachsmut, an employee of a local excavating company, was ordered by the SS to assist in building wooden platforms to cremate the remains of the corpses of the prisoners. According to Wachsmut the bodies were covered with horrific burn wounds. He also reported, like Werner, that local residents complained of headaches, and spitting up blood.

If someone was to travel back in time to the year 1931 and take bets from people about which nation would develop the first atomic bomb, the smart money would probably have been on Germany. Germany at this time had an all-star lineup of talent that was at the forefront of nuclear and quantum physics. Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Max Born, Werner Heisenberg, and many others were all Germans who were some of the top physicists in the world at that time.

However, whatever high hopes the German physics world had declined dramatically when the National Socialist party came to power in 1933. Their racial theories coupled with an indiscriminate military draft depleted the ranks of Germany's physicists, many of whom, like Albert Einstein, fled to the United States where they were recruited to work on the Manhattan Project. In the case of this particular "wonder weapon", it would be fair to conclude that the Third Reich figuratively shot itself in the foot.






Chapter 4

Operation Sea Lion

"On land I am a hero. At sea I am a coward." - Hitler (commenting to Admiral Doenitz on his dread of seasickness)

Operation Sea Lion was the code name for Nazi Germany's planned invasion of Britain. It was supposed to take place in September 1940 and, had it been successful, would have completed Adolf Hitler's domination of western Europe.

In the preceding months, the German Army had already swept across much of the continent. Western Poland had fallen early on, in the autumn of 1939. Denmark and Norway had been defeated six months later, in the spring of 1940. Then came Belgium, the Netherlands and northern France in May and June. British troops on the mainland had also been defeated:  at Dunkirk they had been forced to abandon their equipment and retreat back across the Channel. On paper, therefore, the invasion of Britain was the logical final step.

Although Hitler was by no means an Anglophile, the English did rank rather high in the Nazi racial order. However, after having been appeased by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin, he came to believe that the English had grown weak and would go to great lengths to avoid war. Subsequently, the replacement of Chamberlin with hardliner Winston Churchill proved that this was not the case.

Somewhat surprised that London had rebuffed his peace initiatives, Hitler issued Directive Number 16 on July 16, 1940, which stated, "As England, in spite of the hopelessness of her military position, has so far shown herself unwilling to come to any compromise, I have decided to begin to prepare for, and if necessary to carry out, an invasion of England...and if necessary the island will be occupied."

For this to succeed, Hitler laid out four conditions that had to be met to ensure success. Similar to those identified by German military planners in late 1939, they included elimination of the Royal Air Force to ensure air superiority, clearing of the English Channel of mines and the laying of German mines, placing artillery along the English Channel, and preventing the Royal Navy from interfering with the landings. Though pushed by Hitler, neither Raeder nor Goering actively supported the invasion plan. Having taken serious losses to the surface fleet during the invasion of Norway, Raeder came to actively oppose the effort, as the Kriegsmarine lacked the warships to either defeat the Home Fleet or support a crossing of the Channel.

Planning moved forward under the guidance of Chief of the General Staff General Fritz Halder. Though Hitler had originally desired to invade on August 16, it was soon realized that this date was unrealistic. Meeting with planners on July 31, Hitler was informed that most planners desired to postpone the operation until May 1941. As this would remove the political threat of the operation, Hitler refused this request but agreed to push Sea Lion back until September 16. In the early stages, the invasion plan for Sea Lion called for landings on a 200-mile front from Lyme Regis east to Ramsgate.

This would have seen Field Marshal Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb's Army Group C cross from Cherbourg and land at Lyme Regis while Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt's Army Group A sailed from Le Havre and the Calais area to land in the southeast. Possessing a small and depleted surface fleet, Raeder opposed this broad front approach as he felt it could not be defended from the Royal Navy. As Goering began intense attacks against the Royal Air Force in August, which developed into the Battle of Britain, Halder vehemently attacked his Luftwaffe counterpart, feeling that a narrow invasion front would lead to heavy casualties.

The definitive order of battle adopted on 30 August 1940 called for a first wave of nine divisions from the 9th and 16th armies landing along four stretches of beach: two infantry divisions on beach 'B' between Folkestone and New Romney supported by a special forces company of the Brandenburg Regiment, two infantry divisions on beach 'C' between Rye and Hastings supported by three battalions of seagoing tanks, two infantry divisions on beach 'D' between Bexhill and Eastbourne supported by one battalion of seagoing tanks, plus a second company of the Brandenburg Regiment, and three infantry divisions on beach 'E' between Beachy Head and Brighton. A single airborne division would land in Kent north of Hythe; with the objective of seizing the airfield at Lympne, also bridge-crossings over the Royal Military Canal, and in assisting the ground forces in capturing Folkestone. Folkestone (to the east) and Newhaven (to the west) were the only cross-channel port facilities that would have been accessible to the invasion forces; and much depended on these being captured substantially intact or with the capability of rapid repair; in which case the second wave of eight divisions (including all the motorized and armored divisions) could be unloaded directly onto their respective quaysides. A further six infantry divisions were allocated to the third wave.

The order of battle defined on 30 August remained as the agreed overall plan, but was always considered as potentially subject to change if circumstances demanded it. The Army High Command continued to press for a wider landing area if possible, against the opposition of the Kriegsmarine; in August they had won the concession that, if the opportunity arose, a force might be landed directly from ships onto the seafront at Brighton, perhaps supported by a second airborne force landing on the South Downs. However, the Kriegsmarine, fearful of possible fleet action against the invasion forces from Royal Navy ships in Portsmouth, insisted that the divisions that embarked from Cherbourg and Le Havre for landing on beach 'E', might be diverted to any one of the other beaches where sufficient space allowed.

Although the Kriegsmarine had scores of U-boats at its disposal, most of its big surface ships had already been sunk, damaged or worn out in the Norway campaign earlier in the year. Britain, by contrast, still had the largest navy in the world, which would in all likelihood destroy any invasion force even before it had the opportunity to land. The head of the Kriegsmarine, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, therefore drew up plans to distract the Royal Navy with a decoy attack in the North Sea. Furthermore, by laying numerous minefields in the English Channel, he hoped to be able to protect German forces just long enough for the invasion to take place.

Successive postponements of Operation Sea Lion provided the British Army with time to increase manpower and repair or replace equipment. For example, the number of infantry tanks more than tripled from 74 in the early part of June 1940 to 224 in September 1940. Every delay by the Germans contributed to an increase in the strength of the Allies. By late 1940 the Blitzkrieg that had conquered most of Europe had slowed to a kriechen (crawl). Many historians attribute the beginning of the end for the Third Reich to the Wehrmacht's invasion of Russia, but a case can be made that it actually began with the poor planning and indecisiveness evident in Operation Sea Lion.

Each of the first wave landing forces was divided into three echelons. The first echelon, carried across the Channel on barges, coasters and small motor launches, would consist of the main infantry assault force. The second echelon, carried across the Channel in larger transport vessels, would consist predominantly of artillery, armored vehicles and other heavy equipment. The third echelon, carried across the channel on barges, would consist of the vehicles, horses, stores and personnel of the division-level support services. Loading of barges and transports with heavy equipment, vehicles and stores would start on S-tag minus nine (in Antwerp); and S minus eight in Dunkirk, with horses not loaded until S minus two. All troops would be loaded onto their barges from French or Belgian ports on S minus two or S minus one. The first echelon would land on the beaches on S-tag itself, preferably at daybreak around two hours after high tide. The barges used for the first echelon would be retrieved by tugs on the afternoon of S-tag, and those still in working order would be drawn up alongside the transport vessels to ferry the second echelon overnight, so that much of the second echelon and third echelon could land on S plus one, with the remainder on S plus two. The Navy intended that all four invasion fleets would return across the Channel on the night of S plus two, having been moored for three full days off the South coast of England. The Army had sought to have the third echelon cross in later separate convoys to avoid men and horses having to wait for as long as four days and nights in their barges, but the Kriegsmarine were insistent that they could only protect the four fleets from Royal Navy attack if all vessels crossed the Channel together.

Contrary to Goering's boasts that he could win control of the air in a few short weeks, the Luftwaffe never managed to achieve command of the air. Against the might of the Royal Navy, winning command of the sea even for a short time also began to seem like an impossibility. On September 17, 1940, with the weather in the Channel becoming much more unpredictable, Hitler finally decided to postpone the invasion indefinitely.

It is not entirely clear whether Operation Sealion was ever a serious plan, or whether it was merely a ploy to put pressure on the British to capitulate. Hitler's ultimate aim had always been to invade the Soviet Union. He much preferred to do so without having to worry about fighting Britain at the same time—but when it became clear that the British were not going to seek terms, he dropped his invasion plans and concentrated on his real objectives in the east.

Although Operation Sea Lion proved to be impracticable in 1940, Hitler made a big mistake in cancelling it instead of postponing it for later reassessment in 1941. After the war, German Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz admitted in his memoirs that, "I myself had no faith in the success of this invasion," and claimed that Raeder agreed with him.

Invading Russia was as disastrous for Germany in World War II as it was for Napoleon in 1812. Ultimately, it would be his undoing. It resulted in the Allies utilizing England as a base for invading Fortress Europe.

Scholars disagree about whether Nazis embraced Darwinian evolution. By examining Hitler's ideology, the official biology curriculum, the writings of Nazi anthropologists, and Nazi periodicals, we find that Nazi racial theorists did indeed embrace human and racial evolution. They not only taught that humans had evolved from primates, but they believed the Aryan or Nordic race had evolved to a higher level than other races because of the severe climatic conditions that had a bearing on determining natural selection. They also claimed that Darwinism underpinned specific elements of Nazi racial ideology, including racial inequality, the necessity of the racial struggle for existence, and collectivism.

For years before Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, he was obsessed with ideas about race. In his speeches and writings, Hitler spread his beliefs in racial purity and in the superiority of the Germanic race—which he termed an Aryan master race. He pronounced that this race must remain pure in order to one day take over the world. For Hitler, the ideal Aryan displayed Nordic features, i.e. he or she was blond, blue-eyed, and tall.

When Hitler and the Nazis came to power, these beliefs became the government ideology and were spread in publicly displayed posters, on the radio, in movies, in classrooms, and in newspapers. The Nazis began to put their ideology into practice with the support of German scientists who believed that the human race could be improved through eugenics by limiting the reproduction of people considered inferior and encouraging reproduction among those judged to be pure Aryans. Beginning in 1933, German physicians were allowed to perform forced sterilizations, operations making it impossible for the victims to have children. Among the targets of this public program were Roma (Gypsies), an ethnic minority numbering about 30,000 in Germany, homosexuals, and handicapped individuals, including the mentally ill and people born deaf and blind. Also victimized were about 500 African-German children, the offspring of German mothers and African colonial soldiers in the Allied armies that occupied the German Rhineland region after World War I.

Hitler and other Nazi leaders viewed the Jews not as a religious group, but as a poisonous race, which "lived off" the other races and weakened them. After Hitler took power, Nazi teachers in school classrooms began to apply the principles of racial science. They measured skull size and nose length, and recorded the color of their pupils' hair and eyes to determine whether students belonged to the true Aryan race. Jewish and Romani (Gypsy) students were often humiliated by this process.

 

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