J.C.S. Files

Report by the Combined Intelligence Committee 1

Enclosure to C.C.S. 660/1

Prospects of a German Collapse or Surrender (as of 8 September 1944)

the problem

1. To review the principal factors bearing on German surrender or the collapse of German resistance and to estimate the form which such an event is likely to take and the time when it is likely to occur.


2. See Appendix.

[Page 238]

summary and conclusions

3. The German strategic situation has deteriorated to such a degree that no recovery is now possible. In addition to the disintegration of the German front in the West, the crumbling of the German position in the Balkans, and the penetration of German defenses in Italy, the general decline in Germany’s war potential brought about mainly by Allied bombing and by German losses of manpower has contributed largely to this situation.

4. The present German Government, or any Nazi successor, is unlikely to surrender. Control by the Party appears strong enough to prevent governmental overthrow or internal disintegration prior to an extensive collapse of military resistance.

5. Although causes for collapse are undoubtedly present, the lack of visible symptoms indicates that German national life is still mobilized behind the war effort. This support is not likely to break down until the final military debacle has reached its final stage.

6. The collapse will probably take the form of piecemeal surrenders by field commanders, who will be influenced both by the tactical pressure on them and by their individual appreciation of the hopeless strategic situation, and possibly by their disagreement with the policy of the Central Government.

7. Unmistakable signs of the imminence of collapse are unlikely to be apparent until the end of resistance is close at hand, but collapse, once begun, is likely to spread rapidly. We consider that organized resistance under the effective control of the German High Command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) is unlikely to continue beyond 1 December 1944, and that it may end even sooner.


1. Strategic Situation

a. Ground. Prior to the opening of the summer offensives, German strategy had as its primary goal the crushing of any Allied attempt to establish a front in western Europe. In order to accomplish this, Germany was prepared to yield ground elsewhere under pressure in the hope that, after defeating Allied operations in the West, she might be able to retrieve such situations as had worsened in the meantime.

This strategy failed to produce the desired results. In France the German front has virtually ceased to exist. Since the break through in Normandy, the Germans have been unable to hold any line and the Allies are advancing against very light resistance to the German Frontier. In Italy, the German defenses based on the Gothic position have been penetrated. In the Balkans, the whole German position is crumbling. In the East, although the Germans have, at the moment, an [Page 239] organized front between the Russian and the German Frontier, they cannot be confident of holding their present line in Poland against a renewal of the Russian offensive.

The aim of German strategy must be to prolong the war and to prevent, for as long as possible, the invasion of the Reich itself; but the speed of recent events has taken Germany completely by surprise and has left her without the resources and apparently without any coordinated plan to meet her radically altered strategic position.

Sound military strategy would long ago have seemed to dictate territorial retrenchment in order to concentrate additional forces in the decisive areas. This, however, would have involved grave political dangers, the very weakness of Germany’s position making it imperative for her to disguise the true state of affairs as long as possible, not only from her enemies, but from the wavering satellites and neutrals, the restive populations in occupied territories, and her own people.

We believe that Hitler may now have realized that his only hope of using some of his troops, now in outlying parts of Europe, for the prolongation of the war and the defense of the Reich, lies in with drawing them immediately. There is evidence that this process has already started from the most outlying areas. Even so, he has waited too long. During September he might be able to make available for the defense of the West Wall, in addition to the divisions he is able to extricate from France, the equivalent of 10–15 full divisions from elsewhere, excluding the Eastern Front. These would include some ten low category divisions at present forming in Germany, but they are generally under strength, inadequately trained, short of artillery, and fitted only for static defense, and are considered equivalent to about five full-strength divisions. We are also unable to exclude the possibility that some divisions might even be transferred from the Eastern to the Western Front. Any divisions which Germany can make available will be sent to the West so long as this front presents the most immediate threat. However, if these transfers do take place, they will not be sufficient to hold the Allied attack in the West.

b. Air. The offensive strength of the German Air Force has declined to negligible proportions. In view of Germany’s increasing shortage of oil and air crews no revival of effort on an intensive or sustained scale is possible.

In order to provide for the defense of vital strategic objectives in the Reich against Allied bombing operations, the Germans have already found it necessary to curtail drastically air support of their military operations on all fronts and the air defense of occupied territories. Nevertheless, the German Air Force is unable to prevent heavy and systematic destruction of high priority objectives by Allied [Page 240] bombing attacks, nor will it be able to prevent the invasion of the Reich or exert any important influence on the final outcome of that invasion. Although some temporary increase in fighter strength may be achieved by the avoidance of combat, the shortages of fuel and of trained pilots probably preclude any substantial improvement in defensive capabilities.

Jet propelled aircraft have now appeared operationally in relatively small numbers. Although this may necessitate some slight revision of Allied air tactics, it is highly unlikely that a sufficient number of this type will become operational before the end of the war to change substantially the present over-all ineffectiveness of the German Air Force.

c. Sea. The German operations against Allied shipping and against Allied supply lines to the Continent have degenerated into harassing activities owing principally to the success of Allied anti-submarine measures and, to some extent, to the impotence of the German Air Force.

The enemy still disposes of a large U–boat fleet and is now constructing improved types. An increase of activity may be expected in the autumn. When these new types become operational, it is likely that these operations may temporarily meet with more success than has been the case for some months past. Operations will, however, be seriously hampered by the loss of bases in the Biscay and consequently by the disadvantages of being forced to use Norwegian ports. Such operations are, therefore, unlikely to achieve a sufficient degree of success to exert any important influence on the course of the war.

The German surface forces may still be able to delay further deterioration of the situation in the Baltic, where all the major units except the Tirpitz are now concentrated, but it is very unlikely that they will be able to influence appreciably developments in any other theater. No forces remain in areas south of the Straits of Dover.

New technical developments in U–boat equipment and in such weapons as torpedoes, bombs and mines may, as in the past, prove of material value to the enemy. The operation of “Small Battle Units,” comprising one-man torpedoes, explosive motor boats, and such weapons, may be intensified. It is very unlikely, however, that the enemy will be able by these means to exert any important influence on the course of the war.

d. Manpower. Lack of combat-fit manpower constitutes one of the most critical over-all weaknesses in the German situation. The number of physically fit young men remaining in the entire German population is already substantially less than the minimum requirements of the armed forces. German losses in manpower have already been enormous. These can no longer be replaced nor can the fighting effectiveness [Page 241] of her combat units be maintained in the face of this heavy attrition. Mobilization of the civilian labor forces is already virtually complete and the importation of more foreign workers is not now possible on any substantial scale and would increase the already grave potential source of danger they represent. Announced German measures for “full mobilization” of the home front therefore cannot have any substantial effect in alleviating the manpower crisis.

e. Political and Psychological Factors. The strongest elements in the German strategic situation are the political and psychological forces which maintain the German will to resist in spite of the overwhelming pressure exerted by the adverse military situation. Nazi controls governing every aspect of German life continue to be outwardly effective. As a result of the attempted coup d’état of 20 July, Nazi control has been further extended into the Wehrmacht. Undoubtedly, the extent of the plot, which came to light on 20 July after brewing for months, indicates serious discontent in the armed forces, especially in the officer corps. This discontent is being kept in check only at the expense of further weakening the fighting power of the army through the re placement of disaffected officers by Nazi officers of less ability and experience.

The attitude of the civilian population continues to oscillate between apathy and hopes for a negotiated peace. The complete Party control of the home front, in any case, renders the likelihood of purely civilian revolt extremely remote.

f. Economic. There is evidence that the Allied attacks on Germany’s oil production, stocks, etc., are now confronting her with disaster. This is the most serious shortage of material with which Germany is at present faced, and seriously reduces her capacity to deal with the catastrophic developments in her strategic situation. Other shortages, especially in ferro-alloys, will become increasingly acute.

The German war economy is now clearly unable to meet Germany’s military requirements. Shortage of tanks, military vehicles, and even ammunition is now seriously affecting operations on the fighting fronts. Losses in equipment have been enormous and cannot possibly be replaced.

The civilian supply position, although increasingly tight, is unlikely directly to cause military difficulties or to precipitate a civil revolt. Lack of civilian goods may cause some political difficulties and may reduce labor efficiency.

g. Occupied and Satellite Countries. The satellite states are increasingly concerned to save themselves from the effects of a German defeat. Rumania has already proclaimed her surrender and declared war on Germany. Bulgaria has asked for an armistice and is reported to have declared war on Germany. Finland has accepted Soviet conditions for [Page 242] the opening of armistice negotiations and claims to have received Germany’s agreement to the withdrawal of German forces from her territory. Hungary still remains in the war because she is unwilling to restore to Rumania the ceded territories in Transylvania and because she fears the U.S.S.R.2

The Germans are reported to be already withdrawing from Finland, but it is unlikely that more than one-half of the total force can be withdrawn sufficiently rapid[ly] to be effective as reinforcements. German withdrawal from southern Greece and the Aegean Islands may have begun already. The only area from which German withdrawal is unlikely is Norway which now provides the only bases from which German U–boats can hope to operate in the Atlantic.

h. Relations With Neutrals. The remaining European neutrals may be expected to cling to their neutrality; they will nevertheless give greater assistance to the United States and Great Britain at Germany’s expense despite the apprehensions of some of these neutrals over the increase of Soviet influence on the Continent. As her position deteriorates, Germany will get less and less economic aid from the neutrals.

i. German Hopes. For many months the only bases for German hopes of avoiding unconditional surrender have been the possibility of division among the United Nations, the possibility of new weapons that would affect fundamentally the course of the war, and the possibility of war weariness or discouragement in one or more of the United Nations. At present the relations of the three major United Nations are more harmonious than ever. Secret weapons cannot, of course, be evaluated precisely in advance, but the overwhelming weight of scientific and military conjecture holds that the Germans are not likely to produce a new weapon that can fundamentally alter the course of the war. The Allied advance in the West has already occupied or cut off all the main areas from which ground-launched flying bombs or long-range rockets can be operated against England and has thus destroyed German hopes of influencing the course of the war by the use of these weapons. War weariness among the United Nations can scarcely be expected to become critical at a time when their military progress is more rapid than in any former period. Thus, the virtual hopelessness of the German situation is driven home more forcefully week by week as the hope of being able to pro long the war recedes.

2. Explanation of Continued German Resistance

The preceding paragraphs indicate that the factors which should produce a collapse or surrender are already present in the German [Page 243] situation. Continued German resistance is chiefly due to the fanatical determination of the Nazi Party leaders to fight to the end and to their possession of the necessary political and psychological control within Germany. This determination is based on the doctrine held by the Nazis that Germany surrendered too quickly in 1918; their fear for their own safety; a fanatical belief in their own capabilities which prevents them from accurately appraising the situation; and the lack of any alternative to continued resistance which would seem to offer opportunities for a later revival of their power. It is possible that preparations are being perfected to maintain, even after defeat, an underground organization. The failure of the coup d’état of 20 July has given the Party still more complete control of both the home front and the Wehrmacht. The civilian population alone has neither the courage nor the capacity to risk revolt, even if it is beginning to appreciate the hopelessness of continued resistance. In the Army, discipline remains reasonably firm although the confidence of the rank and file is being undermined by the shortage of men, munitions, motor transport, and liquid fuels and by the inescapable contrast between German and Allied artillery and air power. Therefore although the strategic situation indicates certain defeat, German resistance is likely to continue beyond the time when any rational objectives within the immediate or distant future seem to be served by doing so.

3. Symptoms of German Collapse or Surrender

There are still no certain indications that German groups are acting as though collapse or surrender is imminent. Despite the plot of 20 July and the fact that the promotion of SS officers had a bad effect on the morale of officers of the Army proper, there is no evidence that the officer corps or the rank and file of the Army has been generally and seriously demoralized. Although surrenders are occurring more readily than formerly, large scale mutinies or desertions have not yet developed. In certain areas German soldiers continue to fight tenaciously but elsewhere they have lost the will to resist and only discipline prevents a complete collapse of morale. On the home front, strikes and demonstrations have apparently not yet assumed dangerous proportions. Serious peace feelers have not been put forth by the Germans, but the satellite states, which might be expected to break away from a defeated Germany before final collapse, have already begun to do so.

4. Form of Surrender

Since it is unlikely that the present German Government or any Nazi successor will surrender, the end of German resistance is most likely to come through a series of piecemeal surrenders by German armed forces in the field. Individual commanders who find themselves [Page 244] in difficult situations will be influenced to surrender by their own appraisal of the general strategic situation and possibly by their disagreement with the policy of the Central Government. Once the tendency toward piecemeal surrender gathers momentum, elements of the Wehrmacht which have retreated into Germany under arms may even carry out the actual final expulsion of the Nazi regime. But this possibility cannot be envisaged until one or more of the main fighting fronts has collapsed.

5. Time of Surrender

We believe that organized German resistance under the effective control of the German High Command (Oberkcommando der Wehrmacht) is unlikely to continue beyond 1 December 1944. In reaching this conclusion we consider the collapse of the German front in the West, the rapid deterioration of the position in the East, especially in the Balkans, the impotence of the German Air Force, and increasing shortages of oil and weapons of war which will have become most critical by that date. The military situation therefore is ripe for a collapse. It is impossible to forecast the date at which this collapse might begin, but once begun it is likely to spread rapidly. We therefore believe that organized resistance may end even sooner than 1 December.

  1. Submitted for consideration by the Combined Chiefs of Staff under cover of a note (not printed) by the Secretaries of the Combined Chiefs of Staff (C.C.S. 660/1) dated September 9, 1944. This report was noted by the Combined Chiefs of Staff at their 172d Meeting, September 12, 1944. See post, p. 305.
  2. For documentation on these developments, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vols. iii and iv .