The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Tanks for the Memories

One of the most dramatic transformation that occurred in the interwar years was the transformation of ground combat.  The attrition focused stalemate of the trenches evolved into a new dramatic form of maneuver warfare developed primarily in Germany.  When it was executed during the opening months of WWII it was popularly called blitzkrieg and military professionals and the general public alike associated the technology of the main battle tank with this new form of warfare.  Was the main battle tank the key enabling technological component of blitzkrieg or was it something else?  Was technology really the most important aspect of blitzkrieg?  How would you describe the importance of doctrine and leadership, including the idea of mission command,  to the blitzkrieg concept.    Finally, was blitzkrieg really a new way of war, or simply a better way to prosecute an old way of war?

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December 5, 2014 - Posted by | H200 | , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Blitzkrieg was neither a new way of war nor was it entirely dependent on technology. The thing that made blitzkrieg tactics new was that older maneuvers could be applied on a larger scale and across greater distances. The German Schlieffen Plan in WWI was essentially blitzkrieg, the only difference was that the Germans didn’t have the mechanized forces that could cover the distances they needed to cover in the time allotted to them because they were on foot or on horseback while the same applied to their supply system which had to be maintained by horse drawn supply trains once the German forces got far ahead of their rail heads. Lack of mechanization and the lack of any offensive weapons capable of fully negating the effects of machine guns and rapid fire artillery meant that breakthroughs were difficult and exploiting breakthrough next to impossible. The tank and mechanization merely redressed the disparity between offense and defense.

    Comment by Liam Bobyak | January 17, 2015

  2. The key enabler to the success of Blitzkrieg warfare during World War 2 was not limited to the innovation of the tank, but was a combination of factors within the German military that provided the ingredients to succeed. Three primary factors contributed to the success of Blitzkrieg: 1) the improvement of the tank, 2) the integration of airpower into mobile warfare, and 3) Auftragstaktic. German Improvements on the tank prior to World War 2 improved both the speed and effectiveness, thus making it more of a decisive tool in battle than was previously experience during the First World War. Secondly, the German military integrated the air force into mobile ground warfare in order to provide both reconnaissance and air support for ground forces. This integration enabled the speed of the ground forces to increase as the air force provided a third dimension (artillery and ground troops being the other two) stressor to their enemies on the ground. Lastly, the German military operated under “auftragstaktic”, enabling the junior leaders to make decisions on how to best achieve the commander’s desired end state. This philosophy of leadership created a fail-safe environment in which the organization became a learning organization ripe for adapting to the conditions on the battlefield. Initial operations into Czechoslovakia and Poland experienced many issues, however due to the learning environment of the German military, adjustments were made and future operations during World War 2 were inherently executed more effectively than the early stages of the Blitzkrieg.

    Comment by Aaron Adams | January 26, 2015


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