The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H202: 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 14, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized

6 Comments »

  1. Please remove me from distro

    Sent from my iPhone

    Comment by Mason, Carl Eric Sr LTC USARMY 4 ID 4 IBCT (US) | December 14, 2015

  2. The German tank capabilities and associated blitzkreig doctrine directly enabled the rapid land assault. German innovation and adherence to combined arms force integration directly enabled the rapid movement and initial successes of World War II. While the technology of the tank directly enabled the blitzkreig, the German commitment to innovation and seizure of the initiative played a heightened role in the blitzkreig’s success.

    The Germans understood the importance of battlefield leadership and established technological capabilities to reflect this understanding. The incorporation of the radio on all vehicles as well as the issuance of mission type orders directly enabled the rapidity of assault and a change in the operational tempo of warfare. These innovations stemmed from lessons learned in World War I and changed the nature of warfare in the modern world.

    Blitzkrieg was a new way of war. Predominantly because of the German codification of dynamic leadership as well as the fruition of German innovation and transformation in the interwar period. Germany showed the importance of aligning political will to military culture while also reflecting the importance of communication and leadership on the battlefield. While Blitzkrieg did not fully materialize as envisioned, the doctrinal and leadership transformation and importance of innovation drastically altered the existing way of warfare.

    Comment by Matt Wunderlich, 19A | December 15, 2015

  3. I disagree with Matt. I don’t think that technology was the key to blitzkrieg or a rapid land assault. Although tanks and other motorized technologies increased the speed at which troops move, the key to success in the rapid land assault was avoiding culmination as long as possible. Prior to WWII, the Germans suffered from a culmination of mission orders. The stormtrooper concept enhanced by radio communication allowed for follow on orders to continue longer. Armies have always suffered culmination when the front line outruns the supply line. Trucks were essential to keep up with the speed of tanks, but coordination of supply was just as crucial. Although new technologies enhanced the Blitzkrieg’s successes, I think the key was the doctrine, decentralized leadership(mission command) and planning.

    Comment by Laura Proffit, 19C | January 5, 2016

  4. Technology was not the most important aspect of Blitzkrieg. Instead, the ability to innovate organization and doctrine to support maneuver warfare was the most important aspect. The French had the enabling technology for Blitzkrieg, but were not able to harness its potential because they did not innovate their organization and doctrine to exploit it. Based on their experience from World War I, the French believed in a tightly controlled “methodical battle” with emphasis on the effects of firepower. Consequently, the French viewed the tank as a support weapon for the infantry and did not exploit the strategic and tactical mobility that the tank offered.

    The Germans, however, were very successful at adapting doctrine to exploit the advantages offered by the tank. Blitzkrieg was a new way of war using existing technology. Besides changes to doctrine, there were also other enabling factors, such as radio communications technology and mission command. Radio communications enabled effective command and control of tank units over large distances, while mission command facilitated the swift movement of large formation of tanks to surprise the enemy.

    Comment by Luke Goh, SG19B | January 20, 2016

  5. The main battle tank was not the key to enabling the technological component of blitzkrieg. The key was utilizing the technology that already existed (the radio) and incorporating it into mission command. This allowed the combined arms maneuver to continue to exploit the initiative and rapidly move through enemy force defenses. At the end of World War I was the rapid movement of the German forces was hampered when it out ran its logistical support as well as not knowing what to do next. The advent of radio communication during World War II allowed the continued and coordinated action against the enemy.

    The Germans changed their doctrine from waging front line attacks against their adversary to finding weak points in the adversary’s front line and exploiting the respective weak points. It was important that the German forces did not get mired down in trench warfare. Getting through the front line as quick as possible would reduce German loses. They did this by using air dive bombing followed by a rapid ground assault through the frontline to sever and disrupt lines of communication. The ground assault used tanks and infantry Soldiers. The speed of the German’s Blitzkrieg assault often paralyzed the enemy and did not give the enemy time to react or regroup.

    Comment by Neil Hogie, 19B | January 29, 2016

  6. Technology was key to enabling the development of blitzkrieg. Of that the development of the main battle tank was key to operating in this new concept. With the advent of radio systems and greater command and control, the Nazis could effectively communicate and deploy rapidly. Although the Germans revamped their old doctrine from the storm trooper concept; they effectively developed a maneuver tactic that employed mission command to a greater level that was enabled by new technology. Radio communications allowed commanders to provide subsequent orders and expanded the distance. The use of Tanks and motorized forces allowed them to go greater distances at rapid rate. The Nazi leadership could give orders and effectively allow subordinate commanders to execute, while using the concept of initiative in mission command.
    Blitzkrieg was an evolution of an old way of war the Germans had previously. However with new technologies the Germans were able to C2 the fight more effectively. They however did not evolve the way the infantry fought, who still moved from objective to objective on foot. This impacted how blitzkrieg was fought. The speed of the tanks outran the rest of the Army. Which over time would cause it to fail.

    Comment by James Stall | February 10, 2016


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