Military Effectiveness of Nazi Germany in 1939-1941

Subject: History
Pages: 10
Words: 5139
Reading time:
19 min
Study level: Master


This paper will seek to answer the primary research question: Using the Military Effectiveness method, at what Levels of War were the German Army most effective in Europe during 1939-1941?

Tentative Hypothesis

Using the Military Effectiveness method as an analytical framework, the German Army’s campaign in Europe in 1939-1941 was most effective at the Strategic, Operational, and Tactical Levels of War. At the strategic level, they were able to amass extensive resources and political power to support the effort of the German Army. They relied on critical thinkers at the operational level and skilled leaders at the tactical level. The German Army effectively utilized its weapons and maneuverability to take advantage of its superiority in firepower while being supported by talented commanders at the Operational Art.

Concise Description

The current research proposal addresses the German Army in the setting of World War II in 1939-1941. The research proposal emphasizes the period from 1 September 1939 until the commencement of Operation Barbarossa on 22 June 1941, clearly demonstrating that the Western Front was the most successful German military campaign. The major parties included the Third Reich, with significant leaders, such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, and the Anglo-French association, protecting Europe from Nazi aggression. The Third Reich’s objectives were to expand German territories, the political scope of influence and introduce a new racial doctrine, suppressing Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, and other ethnic groups. There were significant risks to Germany’s military campaign, such as technological disadvantage and direct opposition to Western values, which would have indeed resulted in direct warfare. Nevertheless, Germany thoroughly prepared in 1918-1939, overcoming the financial crisis and militarizing manufacturing, which allowed for overwhelming success in 1939-1941.

Literature Review

World War II is one of the most well-documented conflicts in military history. There is an extensive amount of academic literature depicting the military effectiveness of the German Army. Almost eighty years have passed since World War II, and governments declassified many secret documents, allowing experts to conduct an objective analysis of the German Army’s military prowess. Historians from various parts of the world inspected the conflict from the perspective of the Allied forces and the Nazi troops. It revealed a complete picture of the German military campaign in 1939-1941, including its successes and failures. The current literature review investigates the Strategic, Operational, and Tactical Levels of War in a narrative format to lay the foundation for consequent analysis. Lastly, the additional academic sources for future work are listed at the end of the chapter.

Strategic Level

The current section carefully investigates the Political and Strategic Levels of War, which designate the organization’s overall preparedness for the military conflict. The Political Level concerns such issues as the national budget, technological progress, and necessary forces used to support warfare. The Strategic Level encompasses the ability of the organization to secure its objectives, emphasizing risk management, logistics, leadership, theater strategy, strength/weakness analysis, and propaganda instruments to gain public support. The two described levels of war are interconnected by the politics and the national objectives of warfare; therefore, it is plausible to analyze them in tandem for maximum effectiveness.

The primary source for the Political and Strategic Levels of War analysis is the academic work by Kroener, Müller, and Umbreit, published in 2000 by Oxford University Press. It is a total 1200-page volume, compiled of scientific articles by some of the most prominent German military historians, explicitly emphasizing the Political and Strategic Levels of War (Kroener, Müller and Umbreit 2000). The first part of the book investigates Germany’s national objective of continental dominion and its expansion in Europe via military and more peaceful instruments of political influence. While it primarily concerned the campaign in 1939-1941, Hans Umbreit also investigated the pretext of World War II and inspected the methods of propaganda, economic policies, and militarization efforts in the 1930s. Moreover, he explains the context of the German racial policy that united the country against “inferior” races, such as Slavs and Jews. This information is crucial to understanding Germany’s political objectives and leadership style, essential elements of the Strategic Level of War.

Rolf-Dieter Müller inspects the logistics, mobilization campaign, and economic initiatives to provide a thorough overview of Germany’s preparedness for World War II. He explains that, similar to most global wars, the country needs to ensure that it has sufficient reserves, the concentration of resources on military objectives, and is prepared for mass production (Kroener, Müller and Umbreit 2000, 410). Moreover, Müller explains that although the beginning of the war was associated with a certain degree of improvisation and instability, Germany’s economic institution proved to be a versatile and enduring unit (Kroener, Müller, and Umbreit 2000, 429). After the First World War, Germany went through a series of crises, such as national poverty in 1918-1924, the consequences of the Great Depression, and the struggle of political parties.

Countless people starved and froze to death between the two global wars; however, the Reich survived and united the country in combat against a common enemy. While it is evident to modern people that Germany’s national policy of racial superiority was morally unacceptable, it significantly helped the economic recovery. By 1939, the unemployment rate was virtually non-existent due to militarized manufacturing, and Germany’s economy was sufficiently prepared for World War II (Kroener, Müller and Umbreit 2000, 448). The foreign trade with the Soviets, although controversial to the racial policy, allowed Germany to maintain its advantageous economic position even after the invasion of Poland (Kroener, Müller and Umbreit 2000, 453). Germany was still at a technological disadvantage compared to the Allied forces, but it successfully overcame the economic crisis of 1918-1939 and was well-prepared for World War II.

Lastly, Kroener discussed Germany’s military forces and manpower in 1939-1941. The mobilization efforts of various units, such as the Army, Navy, Luftwaffe, SS militarized formations, and national police, allowed the country to have sufficient troops for both offensive maneuvers on foreign soil and maintaining discipline within the borders (Kroener, Müller and Umbreit 2000, 827). Wehrmacht significantly modified the Army and replaced the former military system to implement an organizational change. Germany tested its mobilization program in 1938 and ensured the effective ratio between the armed forces and labor manpower to maintain manufacturing productivity (Kroener, Müller and Umbreit 2000, 827). As a result, the academic literature indicates that Germany was well-prepared for the early stages of World War II and could convert its reserves into fighting power, implying superior military effectiveness.

Operational Level

The Operational Level of War concerns more narrow military objectives, such as campaigns and major operations. Namely, it focuses on the issues of military integrity in society, the Army’s flexibility, operational methods in correspondence to available warfare technology, critical thinking and intelligence of political leaders, and other instruments to achieve the campaign’s objectives. The three primary sources used for the current analysis are the books by James Holland (2015), David Williamson (2009), and Karl-Heinz Frieser (2013). The former is a thorough investigation of Germany’s military campaign throughout 1939-1941, concerning the operations in the West, including Poland, France, Britain, and other European countries. On the other hand, Williamson provides a more detailed analysis of the Poland invasion and Germany’s non-aggression pact with the Soviets, which played an essential role in the military campaign. Lastly, Frieser examines the phenomenon of Blitzkrieg – a significant concept for the Operational and Tactical Levels of War.

In considering the major campaigns in 1939-1941, it is crucial to analyze the invasion of Poland. The tension between Poland and Germany rose for years before 1939, while the Third Reich kept attempting to provoke Poland into retaliation (Williamson 2009, 63). A false flag is a prominent strategy to justify the invasion, and it provided Germany with a convenient motive to occupy Poland. Thus, the first military campaign of the war started on 31 August/ 1 September, laying the groundwork for Germany’s consequent victories (Williamson 2009, 64). The success at the Operational Level was crucial to the Wehrmacht as it allowed it to test its forces and tactics, create a functional front against the Anglo-French association, improve the relationship with the Soviets, establish the logistics chains, and prove the strength of the Third Reich to the world.

The occupation of Poland allowed the Third Reich to advance further into Europe. Operation Weserübung was the codename for the invasion of Nordic countries, which would stabilize the logistics chains and ensure sufficient reserves in iron ore (Holland 2015, 219). The first significant challenge for the Third Reich was France, protected by the Maginot Line and supported by the British government. At this moment, Germany advanced the campaign by utilizing the strategy of Blitzkrieg, which they have been perfecting since 1935 (Frieser 2013, 24). This concept was essential to the Third Reich both on the Operational and Tactical Levels of Wars, playing a decisive role in overcoming the French defenses. As a result, France surrendered after forty days of warfare, allowing Germany to advance further West.

Most experts agree that Nazi Germany excelled in modern warfare during 1939-1940; however, Hitler’s successive decisions were frequently criticized by most. While the overall campaign was going according to Germany’s vision, Hitler’s critical mistake was to underestimate his adversaries. The Third Reich failed in Britain due to inadequate distribution of resources and strategic miscalculations. As a result, Hitler confronted the Soviet Union and established the Eastern Front, which eventually led to Germany’s downfall. Ultimately, the three examined sources provide a thorough overview of Germany’s military campaign in 1939-1941 and its Operational Level of War.

Tactical Level

The Tactical Level of War is the narrowest area of warfare, which concerns specific battles, engagements, and crew actions. While Germany was highly successful at the Operational Level, it was primarily possible due to its effectiveness at the Tactical Level. The battles in Poland, France, and Nordic countries were led by talented commanders, such as Erwin Rommel and Walther von Brauchitsch. The two primary sources for the analysis of the Tactical Level are the books by Julian Jackson (2004) and Adrian Gilbert (2000). Both sources reveal strategic insights at the Tactical Level and analyze their significance to the campaign’s overall success.

Adrian Gilbert provides a relatively brief overview of most battles from 1939 until 1943 in an easy-to-understand manner. He complements the historical facts with many secondary sources, photographs, maps, and drawings. The book’s visual style makes it easier to understand complicated tactical maneuvers and allows the readers to grasp the scale of warfare. Moreover, Gilbert describes the technological units, such as weaponry, vehicles, and aviation, in great detail to further emphasize the military superiority and intelligent usage of resources by the Third Reich in 1939-1940. Despite the overwhelmingly positive overview of Germany’s military prowess, the author stays objective and recognizes the multiple war crimes that the Third Reich committed during this period. Gilbert admits that the military effectiveness of the Nazi army was heightened partially due to their beliefs concerning the racial superiority and righteousness of the cause. Nevertheless, German commanders also demonstrated unique methods of warfare and impeccable tactics to achieve military success, demonstrating excellence in the Tactical Level of War.

Julian Jackson provides a highly detailed report of one military campaign – the Fall of France in 1940. He analyzes both the Operational and Tactical Levels of War and examines all the battles of the invasion. The French campaign proved to be more challenging than the previous operations, and Germany’s commanders had to utilize all their knowledge and competencies to secure the victory. Jackson demonstrates the tactical superiority of the German Army by thoroughly analyzing the battles and small-scale crew operations. For instance, he explains the military talent of Erwin Rommel by describing the mission of the 7th Panzer Division and their intelligent usage of geography to obtain tactical advantage (Jackson 2004, 46). They examined two sources that provide a thorough overview of the Third Reich’s superiority at the Tactical Level of War.

Additional Literature

Experts acknowledge that brilliance at the Operational and Tactical Levels of War cannot overcome the failures in strategy and politics. From these considerations, one of the additional sources considered for the current analysis is The Third Reich in Power by Richard Evans. The author thoroughly examines the pretext of Germany’s politics, culture, art, religion, education, and relevant social issues in 1933-1939 (Evans 2005). This information might be crucial to understand further the Political and Strategic Levels of War that allowed the Third Reich to achieve military superiority in 1939-1941. Furthermore, this information could be beneficial for any individual since political regimes still use some elements of the Third Reich’s propaganda to establish the national narrative and unite people against a common enemy.

While experts generally recognized the Third Reich’s military effectiveness in 1939-1940, it might be beneficial to understand the causes of the consequent failure. The book Battle of Britain 1940: The Luftwaffe’s ‘Eagle Attack’ by Dildy (2018) examines the battle on the British Isles, which is considered Hitler’s first crucial mistake in World War II. Moreover, it further demonstrates the significance of the Strategic Level of War since the failure in risk management led to Germany’s eventual loss. From these considerations, the Battle of Britain analysis might contribute to the overall transparency of the research assignment, implying that even Germany’s military vision in 1939-1941 was not without flaws.

Research Findings

The following chapter presents a comprehensive overview of Germany’s military campaign from 1939 to 1941 based on the analytical framework of military effectiveness criteria. The four examined levels of war are Political, Strategic, Operational, and Tactical, which determine the overall preparedness for military operations. The fundamental thesis of the analytical framework implies that “tactical and operational brilliance cannot overcome strategic blundering,” which holds true for Nazi Germany and will be demonstrated in the current chapter. Ultimately, Germany’s military campaign from 1939 to 1941 is an example of remarkable modern warfare; however, Hitler’s consequent decisions confirm the fundamental thesis and demonstrate that strategic mistakes might play a decisive role in the conflict.

Pre-Context of Germany’s Success: 1918-1939

The period of reconstruction after World War I was the most significant factor that explained the consequent success of Germany’s military campaign in World War II. At the time, Germany put immense efforts to restructure its army and militarize the whole society, emphasizing the significance of the Political and Strategic Levels of War. Jürgen E. Förster (2010, 351) begins his article by confirming Germany’s unique cultural bond to military service, “the German state had been founded by the army, the army was a major national institution, and military service an almost universal obligation.” The consequent wars and authoritarian leaders have further ingrained this idea in the minds of ordinary people through propaganda and indoctrination.

The power of the state-controlled media cannot be overestimated even today in the information age, which is transparently demonstrated by contemporary military conflicts. In the 1930s, indoctrination was an immensely effective instrument of the Political level, which allowed controlling the thoughts and actions of ordinary people (Evans 2005). In 1933, Joseph Goebbels – the chief propagandist of the Third Reich – declared, “The revolution we have made is a total one. It had brought the transformation of the German nation into one people” (Evans 2005, 120). Furthermore, the State utilized radio, movies, newspapers, and other media instruments to portray Jews as villainous people, while Aryans were always depicted as heroes (Holland 2015, 72). The omniscient indoctrination allowed Nazi Germany to achieve the primary objectives of the Political level – to earn public support and militarize society. In turn, the Third Reich achieved complete control over the national budget, available manpower, and resources to maximize the productivity of military organizations.

Thus, the success on the Political level determined the consequent actions on the Strategic level. The deeply ingrained belief in the righteousness of the cause allowed us to mitigate the financial crisis after World War I through the exploitation of ordinary people. Industrial militarization vastly stimulated the employment rate and increased manufacturing productivity to the highest levels in thirty years (Kroener, Müller and Umbreit 2000, 444). Figure 1 below represents the comparison of unemployment and share prices rates between the Third Reich and Great Britain:

Comparison of Economic Factors between the Third Reich and Great Britain during the Initial Phases of World War I 
Figure 1. Comparison of Economic Factors between the Third Reich and Great Britain during the Initial Phases of World War I 

Furthermore, German leaders were confident in the Wehrmacht’s capacity to undergo a complete mobilization within just several months, implying the functional optimization of the army (Kroener, Müller and Umbreit 2000, 445). This achievement transparently demonstrates Germany’s military effectiveness on the Strategic level. Namely, the Third Reich aligned the strategic objectives with political goals, modernized the logistical and manufacturing infrastructures, obtained public support, and prepared the necessary resources for a large-scale invasion.

Subjectively, the only critical strategic mistake was the utmost belief in one person – Adolf Hitler. While the cult of Führer was essential to unite the people through focused authoritarian leadership, Hitler’s duties far exceeded his competencies. At the time, Adolf Hitler was the Head of the State, Nazi Party leader, Supreme Judge, Supreme Commander, Chancellor, and ideological leader of the military (Förster 2010, 354). Despite having an extensive number of brilliant tacticians and strategists in the army, Hitler abused the power under the pretext of German soldierly history (Förster 2010, 351). In summary, Hitler was indeed one of the most talented public speakers of the time, but his aptitude for Strategic, Operational, and Tactical Levels of War was debatable and ultimately led to Germany’s first mistakes in 1940 and eventual downfall in 1945. Nevertheless, the Third Reich demonstrated the utmost competencies at the Political and Strategic Levels of War, preparing the war machine for World War II.

Beginning of the War: 1939

World War II started with the military campaign in Poland on September 1, 1939, and lasted for almost six years. The period from 1939 to 1941 concerns Wehrmacht’s operations in Europe and can be classified as the Western Front of the Third Reich. As suggested in the tentative hypothesis, Nazi Germany was highly effective during the initial military campaigns at all levels of war. The occupation of Poland primarily demonstrates the success at Political, Strategic, and Operational levels, and the current subchapter proves it based on the analytical framework.

On the international political scene, Germany was able to persuade the Soviet Union into the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact. It made Poland vulnerable to the attack from two sides and weakened all diplomacy efforts between the Soviet Union and the Allied Forces (Williamson 2009, 59). At the time, there was an ideological confrontation between Germany, the West, and the Soviet Union, all of which had varying opinions on human rights, political spheres of influence, and means of achieving their goals (Williamson 2009, 58). Therefore, it was a vital political and strategic victory for the Third Reich to further separate the Soviet Union and the West. In turn, Poland, being in the middle between the military superpowers, was virtually incapable of long-term defense without the direct support of the Allied Forces (Gilbert 2000, 19). On the Political level, Germany also initiated an effective propaganda attack on the Polish people, utilizing the False Flag strategy and portraying the Polish as oppressors (Gilbert 2000, 20). As a result, Germany had a vast advantage over Poland at the Political and Strategic Levels of War.

Consequently, Germany demonstrated remarkable military prowess on the Strategic/Operational level. Eric von Manstein – one of the most notable German strategists – planned the Polish invasion and the consequent operations in Western Europe (Gilbert 2000, 21). Wehrmacht executed the primary principles of the lightning war, performing rapid strikes on the ground and in the air. The Strategic part of the military campaign primarily concerns the element of surprise, which revealed the critical weaknesses of the Polish defense. Moreover, the operating officers demonstrated a superior ability to quickly maneuver extensive forces in a response to the Polish counter-attacks (Gilbert 2000, 36). This achievement implies both the meticulous attention to logistical infrastructure and the aptitude of German officers for effective decisions in the fog of war. Eric von Manstein, Franz Halder, Fedor von Bock, and Walther von Brauchitsch were among the notable figures whose decisions led to a successful occupation of Poland (Gilbert 2000, 9). Ultimately, while some experts emphasize that the Third Reich’s operation in Poland began too early, strategic superiority and effective decision-making led the country to swift victory in eighteen days (represented in Figure 2).

The Operational Map of the Polish Campaign 
Figure 2. The Operational Map of the Polish Campaign 

Germany’s success at the Operational level deserves additional discussion since the fundamental principles of the lighting war and the implementation of Blitzkrieg have forever changed the view on military tactics. In general, experts agree that the Polish campaign was the “preliminary stage” of Blitzkrieg (Frieser 2013, 39). For instance, Karl-Heinz Frieser (2013, 39) notes that the military operations were “not yet employed on the operational level. Instead, the Panzer formations on the tactical level usually fought in a divisional framework.” In other words, the strategy of lighting war has not yet been perfected, and Franz Halder even stated, “Techniques of Polish campaign have no recipe for the west. No good against a well-knit army” (Frieser 2013, 39). Despite the healthy criticism and pragmatic outlook, Germany was still widely successful at the Operational Level of War during the Polish campaign.

Furthermore, some of the more discrete strategies during the Poland campaign demonstrated Germany’s military effectiveness on the Tactical level. The False Flag operation was conducted by a small Waffen-SS crew, who disguised as Polish soldiers, took control of the radio station, and broadcast, “People of Poland! Unite and smash down <…> all Germans, who oppose your war!” (Gilbert 2000, 23). While experts rarely emphasize small-scale operations in comparison with Political and Strategic levels, the Third Reich conducted an extensive number of successful missions on the Tactical level. As a result, Germany demonstrated its military superiority at all levels of war during the campaign in Poland, captured the strategically-critical territories, and established a dominating presence in Europe.

Military Operations in Europe: 1939-1940

The second part of the military campaign on the Western Front was the battle for dominance in Europe. The Third Reich started its advances in the Scandinavian Peninsula, wishing to secure the supply chains of raw materials from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway (Holland 2015, 219). Consequently, the commanding officers wanted to establish naval bases along the Norwegian coast primarily to stop the Allied Forces from controlling the sea (Holland 2015, 220). Therefore, the occupation of the Scandinavian Peninsula held immense strategic interest to both sides of the Western Front conflict, demonstrating the importance of the Strategic Level of War.

Germany has also succeeded in this confrontation at the Political Level of War. While Denmark surrendered in less than a day, Norway had more advantageous positions and was ready to combat the Nazi invaders. From these considerations, Erich Raeder – the grand admiral of the Naval Command – introduced Hitler to Vidkun Quisling – a pro-Nazi Norwegian politician who played a vital part in the coup d’état in Norway (Holland 2015, 221). This politically-oriented approach allowed Germany to minimize its losses and secure the fascist regime government in Norway, virtually establishing a puppet state. As a result, Operation Weserübung in Scandinavia resulted in the occupation of Denmark and Norway (represented in Figure 3), which demonstrated the competencies of the Third Reich on Political, Strategic, and Operational Levels of War.

The Operational Map of the Norway Campaign
Figure 3. The Operational Map of the Norway Campaign

As the Third Reich was preparing for the large-scale escalation in mainland Europe, it was necessary to move the front further to the west. As a result, Hitler ordered an advance on Belgium and Netherlands in May 1940, aiming to secure the strategically significant territories (Gilbert 2000, 90). The Low Countries – Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg – did not have sufficient resources or military experience to form a sustainable resistance to the Third Reich, resulting in the swift victory of the German forces (Gilbert 2000, 101). For instance, the Netherlands had not participated in military conflicts for almost 150 years prior to World War II and was forced to surrender in merely four days (Holland 2015, 259). Ultimately, Germany successfully advanced further in mainland Europe, preparing for a larger conflict.

France: 1940

In comparative terms, the military campaign in France was a more substantial challenge for the Third Reich. Unlike many countries in Western Europe with no military experience or resources, France was a relevant stakeholder in the international arena and had an advantage over Germany in technological military research (Hollands 2015, 294). William Edmund Ironside – the senior officer in the British Army – even stated, “We must have confidence in the French army. It is the only thing in which we can have confidence” and praised the military talent of French officers (Jackson 2004, 1). In theory, France had the largest army among the Allied Forces and was prepared for the consequent escalation. However, in reality, Germany inflicted a crushing defeat on the French resistance.

At present, many experts recognize the French campaign as one of the most successful military operations in history. France lost nearly two million and a half men, including dead, wounded, and captured soldiers, while Germany had approximately 150,000 casualties (Gilbert 2000, 150). The difference in losses transparently demonstrates the general development of the conflict, with the Third Reich achieving consequent victories on all fronts. The Northern Front was secured by the prior victories in the Low Countries, while the Central Front was decided by the successful advances in Ardennes and Sedan (Frieser 2013, 229). In particular, the Battle of Sedan became the “turning point in military history” as Germany obliterated the French defenses in a rapid spearhead attack (Frieser 2013, 229). Frieser praises the Nazi strategies in Sedan, calling them “the decisive, operational-level breakthrough” which allowed the Third Reich to take eleven bunkers without any casualties (Frieser 2013, 230). This level of military effectiveness was unprecedented in the wars in mainland Europe.

Consequently, the French campaign further spread the news about the effectiveness of Blitzkrieg, as Germany’s strategy became effective on the Operational level. As mentioned before, Karl-Heinz Frieser (2013, 39) and prominent Nazi generals of the time did not recognize the Polish version of Blitzkrieg as an effective tactic due to its emphasis on the Tactical Level of War. However, the French Blitzkrieg demonstrated the military superiority of the Nazi Panzer Corps, Luftwaffe, and the modernized military mindset. Maxime Weygand – the French Minister of National Defense – later said, “We have gone to war with a 1918 army against a German Army of 1939. It is sheer madness” (Frieser 2013, 229). This perspective also highlights the vast efforts of the German commanding officers to militarize the country and achieve the highest productivity on the Political, Strategic, and Operational Levels of War.

Summing up the French campaign, it is evident that Germany’s military potency far exceeded the Allied Forces in France, despite the parity in numbers and French superiority in technologies. Therefore, the decisive factor was the Third Reich’s military methodology, which comprised Strategic, Operational, and Tactical Levels of War. Ultimately, the French campaign became Germany’s most successful operation in World War II, forever changing the image of the Third Reich’s military effectiveness.

Strategic Mistakes and Eventual Downfall: 1940-1941

Nevertheless, the prior military success was darkened by the consequent campaign in Britain. The commanding officers had neither sufficient experience in naval combat nor resources to sustain military aggression in Britain (Dildy 2018, 5). Nevertheless, Hitler insisted on the raid deploying only the Luftwaffe unit to effectively secure the Western Front before invading the Soviet Union (Dildy 2018, 6). Ultimately, the current sub-chapter examines the Battle of Britain and Hitler’s strategic miscalculations, which confirm the fundamental thesis of the analytical framework.

It is critical to understand that the British campaign was not included in the original plan due to the lack of resources and naval military capabilities. Initially, the Third Reich schemed to implement an economic blockade of U-boats on Britain to minimize the threat from the Western Front (Dildy 2018, 6). Nevertheless, the vast success in mainland Europe led Hitler to believe in Nazi superiority and state that “the task of the Navy and Air Force to carry the war to English industry becomes paramount” (Dildy 2018, 7). As a result, Hitler initiated Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sea Lion) to invade the British Isles.

Consequently, the Battle of Britain confirms the fundamental thesis of the analytical framework. Most experts agree that the operation was decided on the Strategic Level of War since the British production of aviation far exceeded Hitler’s expectations, eventually resulting in a prolonged war (Dildy 2018, 91). Furthermore, the Luftwaffe demonstrated impressive results on the Operational and Tactical Levels of War by achieving a positive exchange ratio of 1.77:1 regarding the losses of aerial units (Dildy 2018, 91). Nevertheless, it was impossible for the Third Reich to achieve a swift victory in Britain, forcing Hitler to retreat and prepare for the consequent invasion of the Soviet Union. Ultimately, despite the efforts of the Luftwaffe on the Operational and Tactical levels, the strategic blundering resulted in the victory of the Allied Forces, marking Germany’s first defeat in World War II.

Research Results

As seen from the analysis, the Third Reich demonstrated military superiority at all levels of war during the campaign in Western Europe, thus, confirming the tentative hypothesis. The original plan adhered to the Political and Strategic Levels of War, leading to the vast success in mainland Europe and Scandinavia. However, Hitler decided to deviate from the original strategy and initiate a more resource-demanding attack on the British Isles, which resulted in the first defeat of the Third Reich in World War II. Despite the relatively effective Luftwaffe raids, Nazi Germany could not overcome the strategic blundering via operational and tactical brilliance, thus confirming the fundamental thesis of the analytical framework. Ultimately, Nazi Germany demonstrated immense military effectiveness at all levels of war during the initial phase of World War II; however, Hitler’s miscalculations darkened the success due to the loss at the Battle of Britain.


The research findings confirmed the tentative hypothesis and proved the validity of the proposed analytical framework. Most prominent German military experts agree that the initial phase of World War II, specifically until the Battle of Britain, was the Third Reich’s most successful campaign. According to the analytical framework, Nazi Germany demonstrated superiority at all levels of war, leading to decisive victories in mainland Europe. Moreover, Germany’s failure in Britain further proved the validity of the analytical framework’s fundamental thesis – tactical and operational brilliance cannot overcome strategic blundering. Ultimately, Nazi Germany conducted a successful campaign on the Western Front until the commencement of Operation Barbarossa on 22 June 1941, with the only exception of the Battle of Britain.

Reference List

Dildy, Douglas. Battle of Britain 1940: The Luftwaffe’s ‘Eagle Attack.’ Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2018.

Evans, Richard. The Third Reich in Power, 1933-1939. New York: Penguin Press, 2005.

Frieser, Karl-Heinz. The Blitzkrieg Legend: The 1940 Campaign in the West. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2013.

Förster, E. Jürgen. “The Dynamics of Volksgemeinschaft: The Effectiveness of the German Military Establishment in the Second World War.” In Military Effectiveness: Volume 3, edited by Allan R. Millet and Williamson Murray, 351-432. Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Gilbert, Adrian. Germany’s Lightning War: From the Invasion of Poland to El Alamein. St Paul: MBI Publishing Company, 2000.

Holland, James. The Rise of Germany, 1939-1941: The War in the West, Volume 1. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015.

Jackson, Julian. The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of 1940 (Making of the Modern World). Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA, 2004.

Kroener, Bernhard R., Rolf-Dieter Müller, and Hans Umbreit. Germany and the Second World War: Volume V: Organization and Mobilization of the German Sphere of Power (Part 1: Wartime Administration, Economy, and Manpower Resources, 1939-1941). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Williamson, David. Poland Betrayed: The Nazi-Soviet Invasions of 1939. Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2009.