Courtesy Reuters

Germany's Vulnerable Spot: Transportation

LONG before this war began, military and economic strategists were trying to calculate just where, when it did begin, the pressure of blockade and counter-blockade would first precipitate a crisis. Today, in the fourth winter of the conflict, it has become apparent that transportation is one of the critically weak spots in the modern industrialized economy.

There is no secret about the fact that all the belligerents are in the midst of a transportation crisis. Roosevelt and Churchill have dealt repeatedly with the dangerous shipping situation; on November 6, 1942, Stalin spoke of Russia's serious transportation problems; and for two years Hitler has been emphasizing his achievements in staving off a transportation tie-up. Which of the belligerents will find its military position affected most seriously by this bottleneck? The war economy of which will deteriorate first? The answers depend, first, upon the reserve capacities available to each, and, second, upon the ability of its opponents to interfere with or to paralyze the flow of its traffic.

None of the belligerents could have had more foreknowledge of the crucial importance of transportation in modern warfare than Germany. In the First World War she staked her hope of victory largely on her plans to cripple the seaborne transportation of the Allies, while keeping her own continental rail and waterway system in good order. On May 4, 1917, Count Bernstorff warned General Ludendorff of the import of America's entry into the war with "resources of a really serious nature within a year's time." Ludendorff answered: "We do not need a year; we shall have finished, by means of the U-boat war, before that time."[i] But by the fall of 1918, Germany had not only lost the submarine war; her own transportation system was in a pitiful condition, despite most impressive performances by engineering troops and the state railroads. The exhaustion of the means of transport contributed both to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and then to the defeat of Germany herself.[ii]

Entering a Second World War, the German

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