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Did Czechoslovakia stand a chance in 1938?

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Goral View Drop Down
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  Quote Goral Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Did Czechoslovakia stand a chance in 1938?
    Posted: 26-Jul-2013 at 21:26

From 1936 on, the government of Czechoslovakia was aware of the great menace from Germany.

Taking under consideration this growing threat, the decision to modernize army was made. Before 1936 Czechoslovakian army was outdated and was mostly designed to counter the Hungarian opponent. According to Gen. Faucher of French military mission to Prague, Czechoslovakian army was  “ in poor state and overly obsolete”. Strong and dynamic armament industry in Czechoslovakia was working mainly to fulfill export orders as there were no domestic requirements from the armed forces.

From 1936 the rapid modernization of army and air force started and thanks to well developed armament industry the progress was evident.

12 Existing   infantry division of infantry, 2 mountains brigades and 3 brigades of cavalry reformed  into 17 division ;13 infantry division ,2 mountains division and 4 “Fast” divisions  comprising  1 cavalry brigade and 1 mechanized brigade. We must add that this modernization was not completed before Munich Dictate and until the end there were serious shortage of trained personnel and equipment. Eg, only 1st and 4th “Fast Divisions” had full amount of tanks where 2nd division comprised only one tank battalion , 3rd “Fast Division” had only one tank company.

It was expected that after full mobilization, Czechoslovakian Armed forces will be 1.25 million strong (Army 970,000), equivalent of about 30 divisions.

The major problem was the ethnic components of Czechoslovakian Armed Forces. Ethnic German will comprise almost 30% of all personnel. General staff tried to remedy the situation by sending German reservist to the eastern part of the country and Slovakian, Hungarian and Ruthenian reservist from the east part of the country were sent to the west. Such a movement complicated mobilization of the armed forces.

Great effort was wasted for erection of static fortifications modeled on Maginot Line. The strongest forts were erected on the northern Czech-German border at the region of Upper Silesia and Morava . 250 (out of total 267) heavy forts capable of withstanding heavy shells were erected there. These forts were destined to block German attack from direction of Oppeln in middle Silesia.

Fortifications of remaining Czechoslovak-German border were mostly light bunkers incapable of withstanding heavy shelling but hilly country of Sudetenland provided natural good defensive position. Border between Austria and Czechoslovakia was only lightly fortified.

German Army was numerically much stronger. The army comprised 36 infantry divisions 4 of them motorized infantry divisions, 3 armored divisions (2 more were in final stage of training but were not ready for active duty yet) and 1 Light division plus division of mountain infantry and brigade of Cavalry.

Additionally, Austrian units were reformed into 2 infantry division, 2 mountain divisions plus 1 Light Division. Total around 49-50 fully trained and armed divisions plus same auxiliary units.

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Jul-2013 at 04:11
As with the Maginot line I'm pretty sure the Germans would have exploited those areas of less resistance, which is to say the areas not expected to need strong fortification. In this case this would be the Austrian border. March 12 1938 Austria was annexed to Germany, with no resistance given by the Austrians. The Austrian armed forces then increases the strength of Germany. The question is did Czechoslovakia have enough time to formulate an adequate defence to the rapidly changing situation on the ground? 

Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 27-Jul-2013 at 19:31
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  Quote Goral Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Jul-2013 at 06:06
No, they did not IMO

Edited by Goral - 27-Jul-2013 at 06:06
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  Quote Mountain Man Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Jul-2013 at 10:27
They would have had they not had so many ethnic Germans in their population.

The Czech forts impressed Hitler so much that he copied them for the subsequent German defenses.  Ironically the Germans, who proved the worthlessness of static fortifications, became their biggest proponent and ended up fortifying the entire Atlantic coastline of the Reich at enormous - and wasted - effort and expense.

From that standpoint alone the Czech fortresses were worth their weight in gold.

The Czech forts did have one major weakness - periscopes to allow viewing the enemy.  German snipers learned that they could shoot out the lenses and render the forts blind.


Edited by Mountain Man - 28-Jul-2013 at 10:29
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  Quote Goral Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Jul-2013 at 16:22

 

 

As a result of annexation of Czechoslovakia, Hitler armour  acquired excellent tanks to equip his Panzer Divisions.

Below is an extract from relevant website

http://hosted.wargamer.com/Panzer/czech.html 

 

PzKpfw 35(t) and PzKpfw 38(t): Czech tanks in German service



Despite the considerable effort made in the late 1930s to equip the Panzer Divisions with effective vehicles, the outbreak of war in September 1939 found the Germans woefully short of their needed tanks. It is unlikely that Hitler would have gone to war in 1939 had he not acquired the Czech tank fleet and manufacturing capacity, for the production of the PzKpfw III and IV was too low. Popular myth has left to this day the legend that the Panzer Divisions which stormed into Poland, Flanders and France were a huge and unstoppable armored force. But the truth is that it was only the acquisition of the Czechoslovak tank industry after the Munich Agreement of 1938 which gave the German forces sufficient tanks for an adequate panzer force. 

Several armaments firms in Czechoslovakia, prior to the occupation by Germany, were concerned with the design, development and production of tanks and other fighting vehicles -both for use by the Czech Army and for commercial sale to foreign armies. The two main tank models were the Skoda LT-35 and the CKD (Cesko-moravska Kolben Danek) TNHP, which the Germans took into service as the PzKpfw 35(t) and the PzKpfw38(t), respectively. The (t) was an abbreviation of  tscheche, the German for Czech. 


 

PzKpfw 38(t)

In 1933 the CKD firm in Prague began the design of a new light tank series intended for export. The first completed model was called the LT (Light Tank) L-H and for export purposes it was often referred to as the LT-34. Results of trials with all available Czech tank designs showed that the improved TNHS was the most exceptional model of those submitted to the tank evaluation, and after a 3000 mile test, of which some 1000 miles was across country, the tank showed virtually no mechanical defects. After alteration the new tank received the designation LTL-P (TNHS), which had improved armament and armor. Throughout its life the tank chassis earned great respect for its reliability and durability. The maintenance and servicing needed were found to be minimal and could be carried out in the field. 

Following a report on these tests the Czech Defence Department specified that the TNHS should enter production and become the standard tank of the Army. Orders were issued for 150 vehicles. After alteration the new tank was given the designation TNHP, and became the standard tank of the Czech army. CKD received also orders for most of the developed models from foreign goverments, including Sweden, Switzerland, Peru and Yugoslavia. A total of 196 tanks were exported. 

 


 

The original 8-ton TNHP mounted a 37.2mm tank gun L/47.8, which was intended to fire only when the vehicle was stationary, and a coaxial 7.92mm machine-gun in a turret with all-round traverse. The bulge at the rear of the turret was fitted for ammunition storage. A second machine-gun was ball-mounted at the front of the hull. The five-speed traverse gear, which was fast and light in action, was operated by the gunner, and could be thrown out of action when the gunner had to push around the turret. Four rubber-tyred single wheels were provided on each side, mounted on a cranked stub-axle and controlled by a semi-elliptic spring. Protection was 25mm basis at the front, 19mm on the sides, and 15mm on the rear. 

 

Following the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, from 15 March 1939, all tanks in service with the Czech Army were taken over, as well as those in production under export contracts. The Germans designated the TNHP the PzKpfw 38(t) and continued its production until early 1942. They ordered the manufacturers to increase the frontal armor to 50mm, and that on the sides to 30mm. A total of 1168 tanks of this type was built for the Wehrmacht, and saw service in Poland, France, Yugoslavia, Greece and Russia, and formed a major part of the tank strength of Rommel's 7th Panzer Division during its rapid drive across Northern France in the 1940 campaign. During 1940-1941 the PzKpfw 38(t) formed 25% of the total German tank force, and its importance was therefore considerable, the vehicle being superior in hitting power to either the PzKpfw I or II. As late as 1944 the vehicle was still being used as an artillery observation vehicle. 


 

PzKpfw 35(t)

The other Czechoslovakian tank to see service with the Panzer Divisions in the early days was what the Germans designated PzKpfw 35(t). The design of this vehicle went back to 1934 when the Skoda firm, based on the experiences with a prototype tank, the MU4/T1, produced a larger machine. This was designated the Skoda 10.5 ton tank, Model T-11 and has been referred to as the LTM-35. Particular care was taken in the design to enable it to travel long distances under its own power. In addition to having a high degree of manoevrability considerable emphasis was placed on crew comfort and the durability of the power train. The main accessories were double installed to ensure a high degree of reliability and performance. 

The particular advantage in the design was the operating efficiency which reduced driver fatigue. The vehicle was very fast and easy to steer, and had a remarkable durability of the suspension.The vehicle was armored with plate up to 35mm, and was armed with  a 37mm gun in a traversing turret -the first Skoda tank to be fitted with one. Horizontal movement was made by hand traverse of the entire turret, while fine adjustments were secured by a handwheel. This arrangement proved successful with light tanks since the counterweight at the rear of the turret balanced the gun's weight. Like the TNHP tank the LT-35 had two machine-guns.

 


 

This vehicle was adopted by the Germans during 1939, and was issued to the 6th Panzer Division. Originally the Germans had 106 of these tanks in service. During service in the Russian winter it was found that the steering system froze, and consequently a heater was installed. When the 35(t)s were phased out of service they were used for towing or tank recovery purposes with a two-men crew. No self-propelled mountings are known to have been produced by the Germans on this chassis, although the Hungarian produced an extensively modified version of this tank, designated the Turan II (Hungarian units equipped with this vehicle fought alongside the Wehrmacht during operations in Russia). 

 




Edited by Goral - 30-Jul-2013 at 16:25
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  Quote Mountain Man Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Jul-2013 at 17:50
Right, the Skoda works.
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  Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Jul-2013 at 22:59
Mountain Man, in think you're reading the German's wrong here:

"Ironically the Germans, who proved the worthlessness of static fortifications, became their biggest proponent and ended up fortifying the entire Atlantic coastline of the Reich at enormous - and wasted - effort and expense."

First, the Maginot line was never finished, and the Germans exploited those parts which had been left unfinished, with the exception of the one fort they attacked for propaganda purposes. Second, IIRC Alistair Horne's "To Lose a Battle", the Maginot line was never meant to be a static defence system, any more than Germany's Atlantic Wall. Both were supposed to have mobile forces behind them that could counter enemy penetrations and restore the defensive line. In France's case, the modern mobile forces were never fully developed, though small token efforts were made. (I.e., token French airborne units and mechanized forces). In Germany's case, the War in the East impacted significantly on what was available to back up the Atlantic Wall. Finally, it helps to remember that D Day was never a guaranteed success. It could have ended otherwise despite the best efforts of ourselves, Canada and Britain.

That God it did not.

Edited by lirelou - 30-Jul-2013 at 23:00
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  Quote AnchoritSybarit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Mar-2017 at 18:52
The question is not how badly Czech... would have been beaten, rather could the Germans have prevailed.  First of all had warfare broken out it is not unlikely that one or more of France, GB, Poland and the USSR would have gotten involved.  Secondly much of Czech... was mountainous, therefore easily defended territory.  Thirdly all German successes in the war involved their superb utilization of their armoured forces.  Those forces would have been less than useless over the terrain involved and indeed at the time were less than a shadow of those used in Poland.  Fourthly give credit to the Czechs.  As has been mentioned Skoda made good weapons and the Czechs would have been highly motivated and fighting on their own turf with all the advantages that that entailed.

As an aside regarding the Maginot line.  It worked.  PERIOD.  FULL STOP. 

Had Hitler ordered his generals to attack it, they would have unanimously rebelled.  Given the technology of the day it was the closest thing to impregnable.  The sad fact (for France) was that it was never completed.  Whether through lack of funds.  From a disinclination to disrupt the heart of its manufacturing region.  Or from some insane idea that the line had to include poor little Belgium had the fortifications simply continued following the French border, Hitler would be a minor footnote in European history not the great ogre of the 20th Century.


Edited by AnchoritSybarit - 13-Mar-2017 at 18:59
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