The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Tanks for the mechanized memories

The title of H202 is “Interwar Mechanization.”  BUT, mechanization was a very uneven and in most countries incomplete process.  Was mechanization even the most important ground warfare innovation?    Would mechanization have mattered if it was married to flawed doctrine?  How do you account for the fact that the French and British developed more technically capable tanks but are generally considered to have “flubbed” the mechanization of their armies?  Who “mechanized” best?  Was it more important to “mechanize” and create great combined arms panzer divisions but have most of your army rely on horse drawn transport; or more important, as the Americans did, to fully motorized all your artillery and logistics and lag behind in creating armor formations?  How do you rate the importance of the radio and motorization as innovations compared to the idea of creating tank formations through “mechanization?”

December 7, 2010 - Posted by | cavalry, H200, military history | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Our current WFFs are a useful framework to examine this problem. The questions posed above can essentially be boiled down to this: What happens if you don’t synchronize all your war fighting functions when you mechanize, or for that matter, innovate in any way technologically?

    If you mechanize Movement/Maneuver, but don’t bring the rest of the WFFs along, you probably won’t do well.

    The Germans did the best (initially) of addressing the implications in most of the WFFs. Not only did they mechanize their Movement and Maneuver formations, but they made changed in C2 (radio and mission command), Fires (integration of close air support), and Sustainment (the Germans improved from WWI, though logistics became and issue later in the war).

    In short, an army must consider modifying all WFFs to accommodate a technological innovation.

    Comment by MAJ Trent Lythgoe | December 11, 2010

  2. I couldn’t agree more with MAJ Lythgoe. In the Interwar period between WWI and WWII or between any war, transformations must account for all WWF’s. The question is when does modernization end? Did modernization end end at the start of WWII or does it continue as the battles are waged. I look forward to exploring this topic in our classes throughout H200.

    I will however offer up some of my opinions early. I believe that transformation is very similar to the way we plan for wars from an operational stand point. We sit in a room and we try to figure out how all the stages of the war will occur. Then we develop a plan to win that war. I think that we approach improvements with technology in much the same manner. Mechinization I’m sure occured in the interwar period much like the changes in our combined war strategies did before the conflicts we are fighting today.

    However, once the conflict started, the plans that we developed were flawed. I don’t think it is due to any great fault of anyone, it is just the belief that the first casualty of war is the plan. So now it is time to address those issues. I know that during WWII, all of the countries involved had to overcome many challenges. Those countries (allies) that adapted the fastest, won the war.

    So the question is, are we currently adapting quicker then the terrorists we are fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan? Many of us have our opinions on this, but in the end only history will actually be in a position to judge the answer to that question.

    Comment by MAJ David Price - SG 17D | December 12, 2010

  3. While mechanization was a tremndous advancement in transformation, the radio was perhaps more important than the tank. Tanks provided more firepower and lethality but the radio greatly advanced command and control capabilities.

    I do not believe that tanks would have mattered if the doctrine is flawed. As we learned in class, the Germans had inferior tanks compared to some of their enemies but the way that the Germans combined tanks and the radio gave them a distinct advantage over their enemies who did not have the ability to communicate by radio.

    I’d rate the importance of radio and motorization higher than tank formations. I am a tanker and tanks are a devastating source of combat power but if one force had tanks and the other force had motorized forces and radios, the motorized force with radios would have the advantage due to its superior ability to better command and control it forces.

    To answer MAJ Price’s question, I do not think that we’re adapting quicker than the terrorists that we’re fighting. I think that the terrorist are adapting quicker than we are and that we are one step behind the TTP’s of the terrorist. A terrorist life hinges on staying ahead of a superior force(US Army) so it must continuously find different ways to defeat us.

    Comment by Eric Morris | December 13, 2010

  4. I agree with MAJ Lythgoe as well; in order to optimize the potential advantage of a new technology, you have to consider all of the WFF.

    I personally “rate the importance of the radio and motorization as innovations” as at least comparable to “tank formations.”

    Comment by Rachel Wienke, SG 17D | January 5, 2011

  5. I agree with Trent’s observations. Without appropriate synchronization of technologies, doctrine and those who are destined to use these technologies, all efforts can be fruitless. A lack of such synchronization by various militaries will only demonstrate their lack of confidence in the technology itself, in the doctrine and may result in catastrophic events.

    Comment by Pia Romero | January 7, 2011

  6. The evolution of the wireless Radio was nothing more than a key enabler that facilitated the combat effectiveness of tank and mechanized formation making them easier to command and control.

    The Russians mechanized the best. Following the German invasion in 1941, the Russians moved their war time industrial production capabilities to Siberia (over 1000 miles east of Moscow) and opened new factories backed by American and British material support. The T-34 tank was by far the most superior main battle tank of WWII. The Russians could mass produce them, they were faster and more agile than the German Panther and Tiger and far more reliable and mobile than the Sherman with a larger main gun. Based on production capability, the Russians were able to out number the Germans. The T-34 had a lower profile than the German and American tanks and was the first tank to employ sloped armor.

    If you would like to learn more, here is a link to some good websites ,

    Comment by James Lucowitz | January 7, 2011

  7. Who “mechanized” best? To answer this question, I believe it is important not only to look at the various WFF and combined arms warfare, but it is also important to look at the various levels of warfare. One might argue that Germany “mechanized” best based on its blitzkreig tactics during the early years of WWII and its ability to successfully synchronize infantry, armor, artillery, and air power at the tactical and operational levels. Strategically, however, the Allies’ industrial base far outperformed Germany. For example, Germany produced over 50K Panzer tanks during WWII while the Allies produced over four times that amount of armor and SP artillery.

    Comment by MAJ Tim Brower, 17C | January 8, 2011

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