Why Were the Germans Winning from 1939-1942?

Youtuber TIK explains why the Germans had the tactical advantage and were winning from 1939 to 1942. The reason is simple. They had a lot more guns (artillery and anti-tank guns) and knew how to use their tanks.

They avoided tank on tank fighting, which would destroy their tanks and the allied tanks. They used concentrated tank forces to punch through and then encircle the enemy.

The British, French and Russians would often send unsupported tank formations to get ripped up by infantry, artillery and tanks. The Germans would expose tanks and when the Allied tanks came out to meet them, the Germans would pull back to infantry and artillery.

“2 pounder gun” were British 40 mm anti-tank and vehicle-mounted guns. They could take out any German tank in the Second World War within about 500 yards.

The Germans had 50mm and 75 mm guns by the start of the war. Those guns were effective against Allied armor at 1000 yards.

The Panzer 4s were effective out to 3000 yards which forced the 25-pound artillery guns (also with 3000 yard range) to retreat.

Allied tactics were fixed around 1942 and they had built up a lot more large guns and anti-tank weapons.


37 thoughts on “Why Were the Germans Winning from 1939-1942?”

  1. french tanks were only better if you looked at only armor and guns, but when you include radios, optics, crew work load(busy crew cant find new targets, or where incoming fire is coming from!), turret design (a 75mm gun isn’t so great when hull mounted vs turret mounted) ease of use and maintenance (tanks that require lots of maintenance, means fewer working tanks at all times) combine all those factors along with tactics and you’d realize, french tanks sucked.

  2. If they’d had a 20 year dedicated research program they may well have come up with a workable solution.

    Though the fact that in the 80 years since nobody else has managed to make it mainstream, despite many advanced nations being constantly worried about oil shortages/price, indicates that it is not an easy problem to solve.

  3. That was my point. With a steam engine, you can use
    coal directly, but DrPat’s explanation was very satisfying.

  4. Perhaps, but revanchism over the Treaty of Paris was a big motivation for the Nazi rise to power. Would have they been politically able to leave France alone and go bully the East?

  5. The implication is that the Germans were winning until the US entered the fray, since they had a much larger industrial base which was invulnerable to bombing from Europe..

  6. A vital book about Hitler: Alice Miller “For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence”. She has the right idea, but no effective therapy. (edit: from the new book: “revelatory, authoritative portrait of Donald J. Trump and the toxic family that made him,”)

  7. Stalin was waiting for just the right moment to stick the knife in. Well played by the Soviets. They would never have continued that relationship with Germany building up for the ultimate showdown. So, we end up with a ascendent communist empire rather than a NAZI one. Lesser of two evils I suppose.

  8. against the Soviet Union was not for resources but ideology. It was a war of extermination carried out by the Nazis against the Soviet populace.

    The Nazis saw the Russians as subhumans. When Russian soldiers were captured they did not get the same treatment as their Western counterparts.

  9. Hitler hated the bolsheviks worst of all. The USSR should have been the primary target while the Wehrmacht was fresh. With the plentiful fuel Hitler could have solidified his position and controlled central and eastern Europe for the duration.

    He stupidly doomed himself by choosing to attack western Europe first. France was not going to attack him if he had turned east for the oil fields. When he finally turned toward the east winter was just over the horizon and his troops were not equipped for it. His air force was hurting, and he had attracted bombs over Germany from Britain and later the US for the entire duration.

    Who would have attacked Hitler if he had taken a fresh and well equipped Wehrmacht against the USSR at the start, recruiting age-old enemies of Russia as allies wherever he went?

  10. Clearly the French and British mobilization, training and supply did NOT suit their desire to protect their ground and property. Because they got run over by the bad guys.

    From what I know, the german army and doctrine was radically revised just before the battle of France, based on the lessons learned invading Poland. So the Blitzkrieg wasn’t a long term plan at all, it was a short term adaptation to the failure of their previous (more conventional) tactics.

    (When I say “failure”, they still won in Poland. But nowhere near as easily as they should based on their numerical and technical superiority.)

  11. 1.. They did somewhat run short of coal. They had lots still in the ground, but couldn’t get enough out of the ground and to their industry, because of a combination of manpower shortages and bombing damage to the transport networks. The last couple of years in the war had a number of military production targets fall short, sometimes very short, because they did not have enough coal. And this was with the civilian population freezing and burning their furniture.

    It’s been argued that the British/US bombing campaign missed a major opportunity in not concentrating on the coal and iron industrial areas, (which were large (easier to hit), had multiple choke points (easier to shut down) and to the west (easier to fly to)). Instead they concentrated on trying to “decapitate” the nation by targeting Berlin and other major cities, which were vulnerable, but were further east and more damage tolerant.

    2.. Coal just isn’t a practicable fuel for land vehicles. It takes too much coal to get sufficient range, it can’t be pumped or stored in tanks, it can’t be used in small, convenient, cheap to make IC engines. (Actually there is some work on making an emulsified coal dust based liquid fuel that can be burned in diesels, but this wasn’t a developed tech in the 1940s.)

    3.. They DID have a huge effort to make actual hydrocarbon fuels from coal, but even at their peak they were making only a few % of their needs, at much higher cost than they could support.

  12. Just to get the timeline right, Hitler flipped on Stalin and not the other way round. When and if Stalin would have flipped on Hitler will never be known.

  13. “They never ran out of coal.”
    That is what they used as fuel, turned it into petrol and diesel. That became a serious bottleneck when the coal to oil plants were bombed.

  14. I don’t dispute that. I only mention it because it was not brought up in the original article.
    If Stalin had not flipped when he did, the war would have been a lot messier for our side.
    Of course we could also argue that Stalin had waited for that precise moment that guaranteed the best advantage for the Soviet Union with low risk of German consolidation of Europe and all of its resources. I’m trying to get in Stalin’s brain here- he must have been wondering if the US would get back behind its walls if Britain fell- thus allowing the NAZIs to swing back around. In that case- the Germans may also have beat us to the bomb.

  15. The Germans didn’t really have much of a choice in that matter. They needed to secure oil fields in the east and, if they were ever to hold on to those fields they would have to defeat Russia. It was also unlikely that Stalin and Hitler could have avoided combat. Play out alternate histories however you like, it was a near certain eventuality that Germany and Russia would be at war with each other.

  16. We saw that AlphaZero shrugged off chess and go in a few hours.
    Detailed military strategy and tactics is probably what it is training
    itself to do now.

  17. This is what puzzles me. They should have powered their
    vehicles with steam engines, or with hybrids battery-steam engine.
    They never ran out of coal.

  18. What I think: the germans were the first practitioners of combined arms as understood in the modern sense. Their enemies were planning for the prior style of engagement. Close air support and artillery performed similar roles (although dive bombers were arguably more terrifying), and air superiority afforded a realtime ongoing battlefield view the enemy didn’t have. And so on. It didn’t take that long for the rest of the world to grasp this concept and realize that it worked. By 1942 the Germans no longer could count on domination of the airspace and the ground tactics suffered. Combined arms has since been adopted as standard. The USA version of combined arms was last demonstrated as “shock and awe.” Disclaimer: I could be (and likely am) wrong about what I think.

  19. The US was not even into the war until mid to late 1942. It took several months after December 1941 for the US to mobilize. Germany had momentum, just like Japan had momentum. US equipment and tactics were terrible at the beginning of the war, as you might have expected. 

    Please give more context to your own historical perspective pieces.

  20. Troubling Post. War is not a game of pieces. These were Nazis bent on domination, purification, annexation, and control. You create your military based on your Foreign policy – if it is defence, co-operation, and protection of ground and property you mobilize, supply, and train a certain way per France and England. If your policy is blitzkrieg, destruction and laying waste – not necessarily salting the ground, but close you Play a Different Way. I know a lot of people/ redditers, etc., watch Man in the High Castle and wish the World was that way -and- Washington more like that Berlin – in layout and government style, if not policy and protocol. Tactics is one thing, but Army Strategy, as based on foreign policy, is another.

  21. I think that you may have underestimated the effect of hostilities opening up on the Eastern Front.
    Huge drain on resources when the Soviet Union jumped into the fray.

  22. Actually they didn’t have better tanks than the French at the beginning of the war. Tactics and training were more important.

  23. The actual early French tank tactics was to use them as infantry support vehicles, not independent formations. The Germans pioneered using tanks as independent formations, backed by infantry support. Early war German tactical air superiority was also critical in preventing reconnaissance flights as well as air support.
    On the Eastern front, Stalin’s purges of Red Army leadership in the late 1930’s created a high level leadership vacuum paralyzing the Soviet defenses. Even though the Soviets and Nazis had been doing joint training exercises in the 1920’s.

  24. Not to mention that the not sees ARE neurotic power addicts. Who don’t even realize they are humiliating themselves. Yet. They don’t even realize they are neurotic, much like the current poster boy.

  25. I guess there are mixed opinions there are much more reasons. 
    At the battle of Cannae, Hannibal slowly retreated the center so he would lure romans in and then envelope them with flanks. Nothing new.

    And tanks are much more mobile, faster so they would use them to attack flanks, advance, cut them off – their support units and envelope them from behind, since infantry would not be able to retreat fast enough as tanks are faster,…

  26. Was this post inspired by the current events on the China / India border? I’m thinking that will not devolve into outright war.

  27. you’re saying the Germans were winning because they had better equipment, training and tactics? Who’d have thunk!

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