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78 Years Ago Today: The Nazi “Operation Blue” Commences…

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Remind Me Again: Friedrich Paulus https://www.bradford-delong.com/2012/07/remind-me-again-friedrich-paulus.html#comments: The Nazis planned to push four armies forward and only four armies forward in the summer and fall of 1942—Sixth, Seventeenth, First Panzer, and Fourth Panzer. One can understand why an army personnel office would choose Hermann Hoth as commander of Fourth Panzer Army and von Kleist as commander of First Panzer Army. But Richard Ruoff as commander of the Seventeenth Army? And Friedrich Paulus as commander of the Sixth Army? What was there in their previous careers to mark them as the right people for army command in Southern Russia in the summer and fall of 1942? Peter T: 'Paulus was recommended by the head of the army, Halder and by Army Group South commander

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Remind Me Again: Friedrich Paulus https://www.bradford-delong.com/2012/07/remind-me-again-friedrich-paulus.html#comments: The Nazis planned to push four armies forward and only four armies forward in the summer and fall of 1942—Sixth, Seventeenth, First Panzer, and Fourth Panzer. One can understand why an army personnel office would choose Hermann Hoth as commander of Fourth Panzer Army and von Kleist as commander of First Panzer Army. But Richard Ruoff as commander of the Seventeenth Army? And Friedrich Paulus as commander of the Sixth Army? What was there in their previous careers to mark them as the right people for army command in Southern Russia in the summer and fall of 1942?

Peter T: 'Paulus was recommended by the head of the army, Halder and by Army Group South commander Reichenau. He had served both in senior staff positions, including during the French campaign. In fact, Paulus did not make too many mistakes—he simply lost to a strong, determined and increasingly capable enemy...

Troy: 'In mid-1942, Hitler wanted Paulus to be his new OKH Chief of Staff, replacing Zeitzler after Stalingrad was taken. Paulus was a Panzer General—he had served alongside Guderian in the mid-1930s in the nascent panzer arm, when there were only enough panzers to form the first corps, and after France had been conquered Paulus was made deputy to Halder in 1940 in preparation for the attack on Russia—no small job! As Chief of Staff to Reichenau 1939-1940, Paulus had overseen the 10th/6th Army's marches towards Warsaw in 1939 and Paris in 1940. Reichenau had recommended Paulus to succeed him in command of the 6th (after Reichenau took over for the retired Rundstedt). Starting out, the 1942 campaign for the 6th looked to be a walk in the park, IMO. The 2nd Army and the 4th Pz Army provided initial flank security for it, its major job was just to march the 400 miles from Kharkov to Stalingrad. The big bag earlier in the year on the Donets had apparently cleared the table for the 6th (let us remember that more Russians were bagged in May 1942 than Germans six months later!). The battle for Stalingrad itself was expected to be a formality, taking a day or two like Kharkov, Kursk, Voronezh, and Rostov. Little did they suspect that the Stavka would be able to pour a million men into that meatgrinder. The key difference for Stalingrad was the German operational inability to cut behind it and isolate the defenders, the typical way the German way of war did this sort of thing. Paulus' job in 1942 was to take Stalingrad, his flank security was the Army Group's responsibility, not his. And once the 6th had been encircled, it's tough to say what the best course of action should have been. An Army that has lost its entire logistics tail is a pretty fragile animal that probably isn't going anywhere. And an Army without weapons can't fight its way out of anything, either, so to attempt to fight back to the Don and beyond would have been suicidal, and disobeying OKH orders to boot, since the 6th by late November had lost the mobility and combat power to do much of anything against the million new Russian troops so brilliantly inserted between it and freedom. The stand & wait for rescue approach had worked at the division (at Kholm) and corps (at Demyansk) level in 1942 already, but trying to sustain and rescue an entire Army was a bridge too far, so to speak. Hindsight strongly colors what we know about the events of 1942...

Rune: 'Didn't Paulus do very well as Guderian's chief of staff? And he did lead an armoured corps in France, didn't he? He must have done something right, surely. I also seem to recall that he had been heavily involved in the planning of the invasion of the Soviet Union, so perhaps he looked good on paper...

rea: 'There simply aren't that many people capable of commanding armies. In 1942, the German order of battle contained 20 armies. Once you screen potential army commanders for ideological soundness and willingness to comply with the high command's plans, it's amazing that they came up with someone as sound as Paulus. See also, for example, Ambrose Burnside and John Bell Hood...

Mike Kimel: 'I haven't spent all that much time checking this, but off the top of my head, von Paulus' experience prior to the invasion of the USSR was more significant and less of a stretch than, say, Ike's experience prior to heading allied forces in the European theater. Both were involved in planning the Big Campaign and both obtained an unexpected promotion. Here's Ike, cut and paste, from Wikipedia: "After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was assigned to the General Staff in Washington, where he served until June 1942 with responsibility for creating the major war plans to defeat Japan and Germany. He was appointed Deputy Chief in charge of Pacific Defenses under the Chief of War Plans Division (WPD), General Leonard T. Gerow, and then succeeded Gerow as Chief of the War Plans Division. Then he was appointed Assistant Chief of Staff in charge of the new Operations Division (which replaced WPD) under Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, who spotted talent and promoted accordingly. At the end of May 1942, Eisenhower accompanied Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, commanding general of the Army Air Forces, to London to assess the effectiveness of the theater commander in England, Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney. He returned to Washington on June 3 with a pessimistic assessment, stating he had an "uneasy feeling" about Chaney and his staff. On June 23, 1942, he returned to London as Commanding General, European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA), based in London, and replaced Chaney." Here's von Paulus: "In February 1938 Paulus was appointed Chef des Generalstabes to Guderian's new XVI Armeekorps (Motorisiert), which replaced Lutz's command. Guderian described him as ‘brilliantly clever, conscientious, hard working, original and talented’ but already had doubts about his decisiveness, toughness and lack of command experience. He remained in that post until May 1939, when he was promoted to Major General and became Chief of Staff for the German Tenth Army, with which he saw service in Poland, the Netherlands and Belgium (by the latter two campaigns, the army had been renumbered as the Sixth Army). Paulus was promoted to Lieutenant General in August 1940 and the following month he was named deputy chief of the German General Staff. In that role he helped draft the plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union"...

Gene O'Grady: 'And Nimitz, whose performance was perhaps even more impressive than Eisenhower's, came from a position as head of Navy personnel. I remember when I was a corporate flunky noting the importance attached to succession planning. And then when the company my wife worked for fell down on that job and had their CEO die unexpectedly I understood just why it was such a big deal. Henry Halleck usually has pretty much a bad name, but apparently as Chief of Staff in Washington during the latter part of the Civil War he excelled at putting the right commanders in place.

Ralph H.: 'Mike, Rune, & Troy are correct. Paulus was an experienced General Staff officer who was due for a major command, which might in other circumstances have been a Corps but with the Wehrmacht having greatly expanded and a number of senior generals resigning or fired after Barbarossa stalled, the 6th Army assignment was not unexpected. By contrast, Eisenhower was jumped up with almost indecent speed and much less command and staff experience, and furthermore got the job after the death (in an aircraft accident) of Marshall's first choice, Lt. Gen. Frank Andrews. Re. Nimitz, as a junior Rear Admiral he was (I believe) offered CINCPAC in late 1940 (ahead of the unfortunate Admiral Kimmel) but declined and went to the Bureau of Navigation, the Navy's confusingly-named personnel bureau. Even more interesting is the case of Admiral Louis Denfeld, who succeeded Nimitz as Chief of Naval Operations in 1947. Denfeld spent almost the entire war in the Bureau of Navigation, eventually becoming its Chief, until the summer of 1945 when he was given a command at sea, a battleship division that participated in bombardment of the Japanese home islands in the last days of the war. With an abundance of distinguished admirals with solid wartime records from which to choose as Nimitz's successor in 1947, why did Denfeld get the nod? Clearly both he and Nimitz had, earlier in their careers, attracted notice as flag officers of great potential. A similar case with Eisenhower and von Paulus…

.#history #notetoself #2020-06-28
Bradford DeLong
J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America’s transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

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