Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Germans and their intelligence failures

Discussion in 'Codes, Cyphers & Spies' started by Wolfy, Feb 28, 2009.

  1. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2008
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    90
    It seems that the Germans suffered from horrible military intelligence- they underestimated the capabilities of many of their foes which lead to defeat after defeat.

    The Allies, on the other hand, seemed to have a much clearer picture of strategic reality.

    Why were German intelligence services so poor in WW2?
     
  2. Miguel B.

    Miguel B. Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Messages:
    956
    Likes Received:
    67
    lack of technology and poor planing.



    Cheers...
     
  3. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    23,455
    Likes Received:
    1,254
    It seems to me they really overtrusted their intelligence measures with enigma, nothing could break the codes. Then again the Allied fed them with false info through many double agents. And on top of that Canaris wanted Hitler to lose the war.

    Would love to know all the tricks Canaris did in the end....
     
  4. Hufflepuff

    Hufflepuff Semi-Frightening Mountain Goat

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2008
    Messages:
    1,362
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Sewanee, Tennessee, USA
    The enigma machine was cracked brilliantly by the blokes at Blechley Park too, so the Germans were screwed code-wise by 1943. Man, those decoders saved THOUSANDS of lives...
     
  5. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Messages:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    81
    Unfortunatly there is not enough written about Canaris, and there probablly wont be. Anyone who really knew what he was up to likely died in a Gestapo execution as well. Canaris left little in writing, and if the US or Britians intel people understood any of it the record has not yet been made public.

    A second problem was the fragmented nature of Germany intellegence. Churchill and Roosevelt understood their subordinates needed to work together and were fairly sucessfull in forcing them to do so. Hitler prefered to rule through divsion and the result was rampant ineffciency. While different sections of German intelegence had some spectacular sucesses the overall product was a mess.
     
    brndirt1 likes this.
  6. Ripvulcan

    Ripvulcan Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2009
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    6
    That's actually a very good question and one I've often asked myself. It seems that wartime German military intelligence consistently failed throughout the war. And it's a difficult question to answer in light of East-German intelligence success during the Cold War in the postwar period. The East-German intelligence apparatus was highly successful in what it did and was second to none in the Warsaw Pact including the KGB, according to Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB colonel, London's KGB resident, and double agent who defected to Britain. So just why was German military intelligence (and counterintelligence) so plodding and ineffectual during the National-Socialist period? Both the Western Allies and the Soviets' military intelligence and counterintelligence organizations ran rings round the German espionage/intelligence effort before and during the war.
     
  7. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    23,455
    Likes Received:
    1,254
    And Philby told the Soviets what the West knew....

    Kim Philby (British intelligence officer and Soviet spy) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia

    While a student at the University of Cambridge, Philby became a Communist and in 1933 a Soviet agent. He worked as a journalist until 1940, when Guy Burgess, a British secret agent who was himself a Soviet double agent, recruited Philby into the MI-6 section of the British intelligence service. By the end of World War II, Philby had become head of counterespionage operations for MI-6.....
     
  8. drakhl

    drakhl Member

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2009
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    3
    One of the interesting points about the German Abwehr (military intelligence department) was that it became a haven for disillusioned officers who were not at all happy with Hitler and the Nazi party. In many cases it openly flaunted its disloyalty. Notable examples were in 1940 when the chiefs of the Abwehr warned both the Norweigans and the Danes of the upcoming invasions of their country before it occured. One can imagine no greater treason.

    It is not hard to imagine that the disillusion of the Abwehr contributed directly to its failings. Compared this to the Wehrmacht at large, where many of the same feelings were present but the officers dedicated themselves to burying their fears and misgivings in their work, leading to the very best high command staff in the world early in the war.
     
    WotNoChad? likes this.
  9. SwitchFX

    SwitchFX Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2009
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Nearing the last year to year and a half of the war it started spreading to all the other branches. Most of the people didn't want to be jailed when the war ended so they started planning on mischievous plans to overthrow the Reich.
     
  10. marc780

    marc780 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2008
    Messages:
    585
    Likes Received:
    55
    It is true that the Enigma machines were more or less compromised throughout most of the war. The British had managed to get their hands on one in 1939, sent to them from a Polish technician right before the invasion of Poland. The enigma in theory, sent messages coded in a way that were unbreakable in real time, even if the enemy possessed another enigma machine to intercept the message. There were two factors at play that helped the allied codebreakers, the first sent coded message and the laziness of some of the German operators. The first signal sent by an enigma was always supposed to be a code to tell the other machine what message code to use. The allied code breakers exploited this.

    Also some of the enigma operators were lazy, they were supposed to change the sending code each time to scramble it but often didnt, thus the code breakers then had a point of reference for decoding. Enigma messages iintercepted were more often than not, not able to be decoded at all, or not decoded in time to be of use. But there were several instances during the war when intercepted Enigma messages turned the course of battles (at Kursk in 1943, for example.)

    German intelligence was generally good domestically and in their captured territories, so good that the population in most of them remained thoroughly cowed throughout the war with relatively little attempt at resistance. A combination of paid Gestapo informers, brutal reprisals, and the threat of being sent to the concentration camps was more than enough to keep the captured countries in line. But when it came to war intelligence the Germans were indeed often lacking.

    In Britain the Germans had a network of informers that were almost entirely double agents. The British quickly identified and captured most german spies in England and gave them the choice of either changing sides, or death. Thus the Germans received lots of fake intelligence from their "spies" in England that only painted a picture the British wanted them to see.
     
    Wolfy likes this.
  11. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2000
    Messages:
    8,386
    Likes Received:
    885
    Location:
    Jefferson, OH
    I do not think it was intelligence failures but more like the leadership not accepting what intelligence was providing. Reinhard Gehlen provided great intelligence from the Section Foreign Armies East department. I will look for some examples.
     
  12. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2008
    Messages:
    9,713
    Likes Received:
    1,501
    I believe it has been discovered that the Gehlen operation was a total bust in that the whole thing was so infiltrated with communist double-agents that none of the data obtained was of more than marginal value.

    His, and his "cohorts" escaping allied justice was a blemish on the allies reputation. At least I've never heard of any "great" intel. that hasn't been thrown into doubt or discredited completely. If there is some, please post it, I will accept that it is possible.
     
  13. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2000
    Messages:
    8,386
    Likes Received:
    885
    Location:
    Jefferson, OH
    I will have to look into my library. The one book that comes to mind is von Mellenthin's 'Panzer Battles'. I believe he has made references to Gehlen's intel and how it was disregarded by OKW. I will take a looksie
     
  14. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2008
    Messages:
    9,713
    Likes Received:
    1,501
    I mis-read your post, I was thinking of the post-war Gehlen organization sponsered by the allies (America) and infiltrated by the Soviets. His intel. for the Nazis may well have been of quality and ignored by OKW. They were pretty good at doing that sort of thing. They seemed to place trust in the wrong places (Canaris/Abwerhr), Enigma, "Garbo", and Eddie Chapman.

    Sorry for the mis-read on my part. Opps.:eek:
     
  15. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2000
    Messages:
    8,386
    Likes Received:
    885
    Location:
    Jefferson, OH
  16. Richard

    Richard Expert

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2006
    Messages:
    5,847
    Likes Received:
    333
    Far to much faith in enigma which resulted in some operators being rather sloppy with there transmissions. Even in the case of the U-Boats whom had a better tighter system with there codes were in the end being translated. On saying that there was far more to it than just cracking the enigma codes.
     
  17. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2009
    Messages:
    13,846
    Likes Received:
    2,316
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
  18. WotNoChad?

    WotNoChad? Member

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2007
    Messages:
    985
    Likes Received:
    134
    Outstanding points, I'd add how the Abwehr found itself in competition with SS int. activities under Heydrich and Schellenberg. Not only did H&S concentrate time undermining the Abwehr to increase their own worth, but once given superior powers they spent a lot of energy undermining internal party rivals, or coming up with quite bizarre operations such as Salon Kitty which for three years produced very little in comparison with what every other nations' ops achieved.
     
  19. Heidi

    Heidi Dishonorably Discharged

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2009
    Messages:
    609
    Likes Received:
    24
    i have recall this befor!

    thee german did not have poorer intelligence thee germans,thee alles actually listen to there intelliagence more often,while hitler thuoght he knew everything himself.
     
  20. SOAR21

    SOAR21 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2008
    Messages:
    554
    Likes Received:
    43
    Speaking of intelligence, Hitler was rather lacking in that respect.
     

Share This Page