Thursday, May 31, 2018

January 3, 1944: Accurate Predictions

Article by Opa in Manhattan, Kansas newspaper: The Mercury Chronicle


Refugee Predicts A Late-Spring Full-Scale Invasion

Editor's note: Thomas Doeppner, a student at Kansas State College, was for a short time with the United Press at Amsterdam. He is a German refugee, and his interpretation of developments in the European war theatre carry the wealth of his internment camp experience in Nazi Germany, as well as that of previous years of travel on the continent. The Mercury Chronicle each week brings(?) you his interpretation of the war in Europe.

By Thomas W. Doeppner

This past year has been very kind and generous to the Allied cause. It was the first year of the war in which the Allies have suffered no major defeats, but had the full initiative on all fronts where there had been any fighting at all. There is every reason to expect that 1944 will be at least that favorable.

In face of the preparatory action on the European front of the past year, and some statements made by high officials, there is a good chance that the European war will be finished this year.

Full-scaled invasion will definitely not start before at least March or April, though. There are several reasons for that. In the first place, weather conditions during winter months are too favorable for defensive actions, especially along the French coast. If beachheads should be established at a time of uncertain weather conditions, storms in the English Channel might keep the major part of the invasion troops from landing. Also, pre-invasion bombing of the coast line defenses has not even begun. Most of the bombing raids carried out during the last weeks have been confined to the knock-out of war industries. If the Sicilian and Italian campaigns were at all indicatory of how modern invasions are handled, there will be about three to four weeks of intensive bombing of the defensive installations along the coast before an invasion attempt is launched.

Apparently, General Eisenhower's appointment as Chief of the invasion forces was not made before the Teheran conferences, or only a few weeks ago. Invasion of a continent cannot be done on a few weeks' notice; it will take months of preparatory calculations, reconnaissance activities and other organizational measures before the stage is set for the real blow.

This delay, naturally, comes in very handy for Hitler, too. It will mean that the fortifications along the coast and more inland will be considerably stiffened, and, possibly, that German intelligence service may have found out enough about invasion plans to cause the attacking forces some serious trouble. It is expected that the Nazis will not waste many of their forces in the defense of beaches, but will resort to the cumulative defense system which worked so efficiently for the Russians in 1941.

In this system of defense, several strongly fortified circles are built up around the center of Europe. The forces defending the outer circle will retreat before they are beaten and strengthen the circle farther inland. This process will be continued until a circle is reached which his small enough and, by the aid of the retreating forces, strong enough to withstand the attack. At that point, a war of position may be forced upon the Allies which will be very, very critical. The crisis is expected to occur around August. The fall, then, will decide whether the Nazis will be defeated in 1944 or whether the war in Europe will be extended for what may be several years.

So far as the Pacific war is concerned, the world will have to reckon with at least two more years. Nevertheless, some major offensives must have been planned in that area, too. Indicative of that is a statement recently made by Admiral William P. Halsey, who said: "We can assure the people of the United States and Allied Nations- that 1944 will be a year of great decisive victories for the cause of Pacific freedom." It is possible that an invasion of Philippines may be attempted before fall of this year: also Burma may be possibly be recaptured, but the island of Japan proper will still feel safe next Christmas. Chances are that the Allies will wait for the end of the war in Europe so that all forces can be combined in an all-out attack on Japan in either 1945 or 1946.

Well, Opa does it again. His predictions are eerily on point. I'm not sure what caused the shift in the national conscience to no longer assume the war would be over immediately. Something extended the timeline, perhaps it was just the lack of major action immediately following the conferences between Britain, Russia, and the US. Maybe people hoped that meeting would result in some ultimatum, but realized (as Opa did) that such an ultimatum could not be successful in the way the Allies needed. So here we are, at the beginning of 1944, with a deep breath and acceptance that there's still a lot more fight left in this war. 

Opa gets right to it, predicting that the trajectory of 1944 will continue on the upward track that was set in 1943. He looks at all the information available to him: weather knowledge, previous invasion tactics, and logic- and gives his best guess as to how the Allies will proceed. He pretty much predicts D-Day with only a few weeks off on his timing. I guess early June could still be considered late spring, right? 

Opa's knowledge of the German defensive strategy is impressive. I'm not sure if this is something anyone could know with a little research, or if Opa is particularly knowledgeable due to his work with his Dad or knowledge from when he lived in Germany. The thing is, he was only 18 when he left. I still wonder whether Opa's observations and predictions on the war were par for the course and everyone following the global developments were on the same page, or if he was particularly gifted and wise. I don't know.

Opa's last prediction was that the Allies would sort of hold the  front in the Pacific and then once they had sort of decisively ended the war in Europe, they would turn their focus to the Pacific. This also seems to have turned out the way he predicted. Of course I can't imagine he would ever have predicted that the "all-out" attack in 1945 or 46 would look like it did at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

This is sort of an aside- but Opa's knack for journalism with his engineering mind is so.... well- familiar. When my Dad was choosing schools, he had the Air Force Academy on one end, and a liberal arts college for journalism on the other. He ended up choosing the more logical and fiscally wise choice: USAFA with its full ride and a career in the Air Force. He became a test pilot with his engineering background. But now that he's twice retired, what does my dad spend his days doing? Writing. Apple doesn't fall far from the tree. As far as I'm concerned- I never got the engineering genes. So I didn't get to make the wise and fiscally sound choice.

I hope Opa enjoyed his chance to write, even though he knew he hoped for an engineering career. I wonder if he ever considered journalism as a career. He certainly had a gift for predicting war moves.

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