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Subject: Insights into Decisions: WWII rss

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suPUR DUEper
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Hi Guys,

Looking for a tome.....

Lots of stuff happened in WWII. I find I know a decent about "what" but not as much about "why". I am looking for a text that discusses how the strategic decisions were made. What were the pro's and con's, how was the decsion reached? What alternatives were considered? I am particualrly interested in 1936 to 1941; the time when the stage was set for the main event.

I am mostly concenred with strategic decisions versus operational. Stuff like:

The discussion/decisions leading up to the Germans invasion Yugoslavia and Greece. What were the pro's and con's as seen by the participants at the time? Who made the case against and why?
What factors led to the invasion of Norway (versus what benefits were realized after they were there but were not part of the go/no go decisions).
How did the Rumanians see the world in '40 and '41 which caused them to choose the course they did?

I am wondering if there is a single work that focuses on these types of decisions versus a standard reporting of the events and battles.

Thanks in advance-

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Pete Belli
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Command Decisions is part of the CMH series. Includes a selection of fold-out maps. Most of the focus is on the US military.
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Fred Thomas
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A World at Arms has a lot of these details.
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Roger Hobden
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I doubt such a single tome exists.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Except the DIY printing of all the related pages on Wikipedia. devil


But if it does, please let us know.
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Mike Szarka
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I very much enjoyed this book:

http://www.amazon.ca/Fateful-Choices-Decisions-Changed-1940-...

The focus is on 1940-41 when a lot of the most critical decisions were made.
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Bill Eldard
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A War To Be Won, Fighting the Second World War, by Murray & Millett

Check out some of its reviews on Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/War-To-Be-Won-Fighting/dp/0674006801?t...



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suPUR DUEper
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Thanks for the early returns.

I was playing USE and thinking about Totaler Krieg and other WWII ETO games. Often you look at the historical situaton and say, "Why on earth would I go to Greece or invade Norway? All resources East!" Sure, sometimes there is a victory hex there or you get some production bump but it often feels like the game is forcing you to go there because that's what they did historically. At times it seems the "real" reason the country made the decision is not factored into the simulation and thus some artifical means is necessary to incent you to follow the same path.... USE and TK seem to do a better job in that department than most but I am hoping gain a better understanding through supplemental reading.
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Enrico Viglino
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Most games I've seen give appropriate strategic warfare bonuses
to owning the Norwegian coast. Greece (and Yugoslavia) are usually
harder to justify within the historical thinking though. The problem
with both of these is the Italian influence on the decision.
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Roger Hobden
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calandale wrote:
Most games I've seen give appropriate strategic warfare bonuses
to owning the Norwegian coast. Greece (and Yugoslavia) are usually
harder to justify within the historical thinking though. The problem
with both of these is the Italian influence on the decision.


The Soviets have just played the "Hitler must save Mussolini in Greece" Card on the Germans.
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Wendell
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calandale wrote:
Most games I've seen give appropriate strategic warfare bonuses
to owning the Norwegian coast. Greece (and Yugoslavia) are usually
harder to justify within the historical thinking though. The problem
with both of these is the Italian influence on the decision.


For Greece, yes - Mussolini invaded and then told Hitler what he'd done. Yugoslavia was a German decision, made after a pro-Nazi government in Yugoslavia was ousted in a coup, two days after Yugoslavia had signed onto the Tripartite Pact (i.e., joined the Axis).
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Enrico Viglino
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wifwendell wrote:


For Greece, yes - Mussolini invaded and then told Hitler what he'd done. Yugoslavia was a German decision, made after a pro-Nazi government in Yugoslavia was ousted in a coup, two days after Yugoslavia had signed onto the Tripartite Pact (i.e., joined the Axis).


Games with nice dip systems tend to allow for this kind of threatening
turn around. Have to say though, I think it happens best in USE compared
to the WiF or A3R models - which rely more on secret bids, from what I recall.
The chit cup in USE can be brutal.
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Ethan McKinney
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TedW wrote:
Often you look at the historical situaton and say, "Why on earth would I go to Greece or invade Norway? All resources East!" Sure, sometimes there is a victory hex there or you get some production bump but it often feels like the game is forcing you to go there because that's what they did historically. At times it seems the "real" reason the country made the decision is not factored into the simulation and thus some artifical means is necessary to incent you to follow the same path....


Because states are not simple unitary rational actors who have access to the victory conditions in the rulebook and to the CRT. And because allies need to be supported, even if they're are pain in the rear ...

Yugoslavia is actually pretty simple. A coup put a pro-Allied government into power as Barabarossa was getting ready. If Yugoslavia declared war on Italy, the Italian forces in Greece and Albania would be in deadly peril--cutting the supply line at the Albanian ports would be the end. A political collapse in Italy (due to successive catastrophes in Libya and Greece) could easily have resulted in the political collapse of Fascist Italy.

Regardless of the political impact in Italy, you'd have the Yugoslavs, the Greeks, and the British on the flank/rear of of Barbarossa. Sure, we know now that the Brits simply couldn't generate enough combat power to result in anything but a disaster, but the Germans didn't know everything at the time, and at a minimum the Bulgarians, Romanians, and Hungarians to hold back troops to secure their western borders. Given their general high level of cooperation with one another, they would have needed some German coordination and troop support.

Hmm, that sounds like a unitary rational actor model.
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Ethan McKinney
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wifwendell wrote:
calandale wrote:
Most games I've seen give appropriate strategic warfare bonuses
to owning the Norwegian coast. Greece (and Yugoslavia) are usually
harder to justify within the historical thinking though. The problem
with both of these is the Italian influence on the decision.


For Greece, yes - Mussolini invaded and then told Hitler what he'd done. Yugoslavia was a German decision, made after a pro-Nazi government in Yugoslavia was ousted in a coup, two days after Yugoslavia had signed onto the Tripartite Pact (i.e., joined the Axis).


Ukraine, much?

(Just a comment on the timing.)
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Forty One
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Fateful Choices, by Ian Kershaw covers 10 decisions in the 1940 to 1941 period.

The Wages of Destruction, by Adam Tooze covers the period 1936 to 1941 and more, but focuses on German decisions.

Edit: bit slow didn't see mcszarka had posted Fateful choices
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Cry Havoc: How the Arms Race Drove the World to War by Joseph Maiolo is a good overview.
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Michael Dorosh
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FortyOne wrote:
Fateful Choices, by Ian Kershaw covers 10 decisions in the 1940 to 1941 period.

...

Edit: bit slow didn't see mcszarka had posted Fateful choices


Also came immediately to mind when I read the initial post here. Excellent book as pointed out by others and covers the kind of thing well that the OP is looking for. As pointed out already, though, such research for the entire early period of the war would be more painstaking.

I think the Ballantine series had some of the kinds of discussions you are looking for, but the obvious drawbacks are the age of the books, meaning not only are they out of print (but relatively easy and inexpensive to find) but were written before things like ULTRA and the Soviet archives were made available to researchers.
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Oh my God They Banned Kenny
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TedW wrote:
...I was playing USE and thinking about Totaler Krieg and other WWII ETO games. Often you look at the historical situaton and say, "Why on earth would I go to Greece or invade Norway? All resources East!" Sure, sometimes there is a victory hex there or you get some production bump but it often feels like the game is forcing you to go there because that's what they did historically. At times it seems the "real" reason the country made the decision is not factored into the simulation and thus some artifical means is necessary to incent you to follow the same path.... USE and TK seem to do a better job in that department than most but I am hoping gain a better understanding through supplemental reading.


That sort of thing is often due to simplifications made when designing the game, and / or hindsight. As you'll find out as you dig into it deeper, many decisions were made based on assumptions that turned out to be quite wrong. For example, Hitler seems to have been convinced a priori that the Soviet Union would be a relative pushover. He pushed his forces outside of Moscow beyond any reasonable point in continuing the attack based on his conviction that the Soviets would 'collapse' after just one more 'push'. It was the same again in '42 and right into '43. In order for a player to experience that sort of decision making, he would either have to be in the dark, or misled (by a game umpire for example) as to the capabilities of the Red Army / Soviet Union. Or those capabilities would have to be random, such that they might be much weaker than they were historically.

Often economics are highly abstracted, or even entirely abstract out - with only a 'reinforcement' schedule. With Norway a major consideration was that during the winter months parts of the Baltic froze, making it difficult to maintain the iron ore deliveries from northern Sweden. The easy route was via rail to Narvik and then down the coast. However the British had been making noises about blocking that route. So one objective would have been to secure the alternate iron ore transport route. Also, the German navy was bottlenecked exiting into the North Sea. Having naval bases on the Norwegian coast made it easier to get raiders out into the open ocean. Of course the coast of France also provided that access. However, historically the Fall of France wasn't seen as a short term prospect when the decision to invade Norway was made. Again, you got a hindsight issue there, as a German player will like know / expect France to fall based on the historical schedule more or less.
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K G
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I can't speak more highly for a good book about WWII than Matthew Cooper's "The German Army, 1933-1945." It is a surprisingly wide-ranging book. Much of Hitler's decision-making is discussed as it was so often against the advice of the independent thinkers within the Wehrmacht (few as they might have been toward the end.)

http://www.amazon.com/German-Army-1933-1945-Matthew-Cooper/d...#
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Mike Szarka
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out to lunch wrote:
deadkenny wrote:

For example, Hitler seems to have been convinced a priori that the Soviet Union would be a relative pushover. He pushed his forces outside of Moscow beyond any reasonable point in continuing the attack based on his conviction that the Soviets would 'collapse' after just one more 'push'. It was the same again in '42 and right into '43. In order for a player to experience that sort of decision making, he would either have to be in the dark, or misled (by a game umpire for example) as to the capabilities of the Red Army / Soviet Union. Or those capabilities would have to be random, such that they might be much weaker than they were historically.


Doesn't Panzergruppe Guderian do that?


Well, the total strength of the Soviet army never changes, just its deployment.
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Oh my God They Banned Kenny
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out to lunch wrote:
deadkenny wrote:

For example, Hitler seems to have been convinced a priori that the Soviet Union would be a relative pushover. He pushed his forces outside of Moscow beyond any reasonable point in continuing the attack based on his conviction that the Soviets would 'collapse' after just one more 'push'. It was the same again in '42 and right into '43. In order for a player to experience that sort of decision making, he would either have to be in the dark, or misled (by a game umpire for example) as to the capabilities of the Red Army / Soviet Union. Or those capabilities would have to be random, such that they might be much weaker than they were historically.


Doesn't Panzergruppe Guderian do that?


As Mike mentioned, the overall Soviet OOB is fixed / historical. Units are untried, until their first combat, but the only question is which are the stronger units and which are the weaker. PGG also is 'operational' in scale, covering only the Battle of Smolensk in '41. My comments were more regarding the overall strategic situation.
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Robert Stuart
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The best book to start with, in my opinion, is Liddell-Hart's Strategy, which will give you a fundamental education in military strategy (with applications to WWII, among other wars).

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calandale wrote:
Most games I've seen give appropriate strategic warfare bonuses
to owning the Norwegian coast. Greece (and Yugoslavia) are usually
harder to justify within the historical thinking though. The problem
with both of these is the Italian influence on the decision.


The Supreme Commander has a pretty subtle reason for invading Yugoslavia. The transport routes back to Germany from Romania either go through Bessarabia or Yugoslavia. If Germany wants to delay Russia as long as possible in the end game, they need to invade Yugoslavia or else the German defenders in Romania will be OOS the moment Russia gets to the Romanian border.
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marc lecours
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I find that the "penguin history of world war two" (originally known as "total war") deals primarily with the political decisions of the war. Most books that cover WWII as a whole, concentrate on the military campaigns and the decisions of the generals. This book looks at each political decision in great detail. Of course, since it deals with the whole of WWII, it does cannot go into infinite detail on any one issue. Also it is an older book (40 years old)so some info may be outdated.

The book seems to go into greater detail over the British and Japanese decisions (probably the specialties of the authors). For example the book looks at the China incident in great detail. Another example is that since the book focuses on political decisions you get a reasonable discussion of how the British, Americans, Canadians and Free French disagreed on how to handle St-Pierre and Miquelon islands off the coast of Canada. I found particularly interesting that as late as august 1939 the British were more concerned with protecting the empire from the Japanese than to protect Poland or France from the Germans.

Overall this is a good book to look at the grand strategic decisions. For the military decisions there are other books.
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