[lit-ideas] Re: Quote from Allan Bullock's book

  • From: david ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 24 Dec 2005 09:28:34 -0800

On Dec 24, 2005, at 8:49 AM, Andy Amago wrote:

Page 571 from Allan Bullock's, Hitler and Stalin, a quote. Bill read it to me.

"On one occasion, July 2, [1938, during the planning of the invasion of Czechoslovakia] when Ribbentrop was lunching with Hitler in Munich, the arrival of a British emissary was announced. Hitler started up and said: 'Gott im Himmel! Don't let him in yet. I am still in a good humor.' He then proceeded, in front of his staff, to work himself up until his face darkened, he was breathing heavily, and his eyes were glazed. His reception of the Englishman was so stormy that it was clearly audible through the door to those still sitting at the lunch table. When he had finished, Hitler returned, wiping his brow. 'Gentlemen,' he said with a chuckle, 'I need tea. He thinks I'm furious.'"

I'm dipping into a book of essays by military historians. Last night's reading was an essay by John Keegan on how Hitler might have won. I learned something--that Hitler, at one point in the summer of 1941, decided to demobilize thirty five infantry divisions. Alas there are no footnotes, but if Keegan says it, I'll trust that he's right.

Now I'm chewing over Keegan's suggested strategy, which rises from the standard analysis of why Hitler launched operation Barbarossa: to get oil and to get Stalin. Keegan argues that a more rational leader--and there's the rub--might have seen that he could eventually achieve both objections by seizing middle eastern oil fields. How?

Route one would be to send Rommel from North Africa, through Egypt and Transjordan towards Kuwait and Basra and Baghdad. As we know, the British would prove a stubborn obstacle here.

Route two is more interesting--skipping the invasion of Crete and sending the 7th Airborn Division instead to Cyprus and thence through Lebanon and Syria to Mosul and Baghdad. Keegan concludes that this was impossible because the Axis had insufficient shipping in the Mediterranean.

The route he thinks might have won the war is an invasion from Bulgaria, through Istanbul to Baku, Tehran and Mosul, with Abadan as a final target. He concedes that the Turks would have fought hard in response to this violation of their neutrality, but, he argues, their equipment was all First World War era stuff. And his point is that there was no way for the Allies to respond to such a move. If Hitler had used the twenty divisions he sent to invade Russia, it is Keegan's view that a) he would have succeeded and b) he would have secured oil that would have made possible a subsequent campaign to seize Russian oil fields and hence to paralyze Stalin's army.

It's all "would haves" and "ifs," but since everyone is looking at these maps nowadays, it's not impossible to try the notion out.

I remember "Six Characters" quite well, but I can't think of anything interesting to say about it.

David Ritchie
not grinding lamb or cleaning house in
Portland, Oregon

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