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 16, 2016 - Posted by | H200, military history, Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. I believe that Blitzkrieg was simply a better way to prosecute an old way of war. During WWI the Allies’ total mobilization demanded their collective resources in order to stop the Central Powers. At the end of the first war, economies had change to produce massive amounts of ammunition, guns, airplanes and other war materials. The inclusion of the airplane as a reconnaissance platform was pivotal to the way war was being fought. The interwar period did not stop the advancement of technology and the amplification of the airplane’s role in warfare. In fact, I believe Germany thought that the plane brought an undeniable capacity to The Western Way of War (increased lethality). The use of methodical application of German ground traditional tactics of Bewegungskrieg (CAM), deep penetration bypassing the enemy’s strong points and then changing direction to ambush the enemy in a Kesselschlach (encirclement battle) helped to define Blitzkrieg. This method of warfare by which the attacking forces spearheaded by concentrating armored and mechanized infantry formations with CAS support to break the enemy’s defense by rapid and powerful attacks. In layman’s terms Blitzkrieg was Germany’s answer to an old way of war using the newest technology in the most advantageous way according to traditional military principles.

    Comment by Diego Alvarado | December 21, 2016

  2. I agree with Diego. The driving factor for the German’s success during WWII was not so much the technology, but rather the doctrine that they used to employ their armored forces. Since Germany was not allowed to have tanks post WWI, they made the best of what they had. The Germans used trucks to develop sound doctrine and when they finally began producing tanks, although technologically inferior to other nations, their sound doctrine gave them a distinct advantage. Add to this the inclusion of a radio and operator within each tank, and the Allies were initially unable to keep up.

    In a way, technology did prove useful to the Germans, but it was more the technology of the radio within the tank instead of the tank itself.

    Comment by Justin Reddick | January 4, 2017

  3. Blitzkrieg is considered one of the most powerful surprises for Germany’s enemies. Germany used Blitzkrieg as a secret tool which provided her with a strong advantage and led her for achieving the victory but after Blitzkrieg becomes common, its advantages became very limited. The main battle tank was one of the keys enabling a technological component of blitzkrieg but there were other keys which were almost as the main battle tank importance or even more like the air superiority and the anti-tanks missiles. These keys made Blitzkrieg successful. The technology was not really the most important aspect of blitzkrieg. France had very developed tanks which were even more developed than the german tanks, but their usage of these exciting technology was very poor. In the other hand, the urge for the german troops was higher than the french which make them successful by using Blitzkrieg. The doctrine and leadership, including the idea of mission command, to the blitzkrieg concept, were very importance for Blitzkrieg. Even during the war, Germany doctrine and leadership was learning from its fault and fixing it especially at the tactical level. Blitzkrieg was really a new way of war, which made the performance of every single equipment is the maximum. Blitzkrieg made a unique role of the tanks, it increased the importance of having air superiority. There is no dought that Blitzkrieg is a better way of the fight but it approved that it was very successful on the tactical level but it is very limited in the operational level or the strategic level.

    Comment by mohamed ibrahim | January 24, 2017

  4. The tank was not the key enabler for Blitzkrieg, it was the German military culture, linked with lessons learned, combined with the forced downsizing of the German military. While other countries sat idle during the early part of the interwar period the Germans while limited in military manpower focused on building sound doctrine. The doctrine was based on years of testing battle techniques with pseudo technology (like Justin mentioned earlier using trucks for tanks). Because they did not have the money or personnel to build a large Army they were forced to be creative and use intellect. By the time the funding came back they knew exactly what they wanted to do and were able to execute it quickly. In conclusion the technology was not the most important part of Blitzkrieg, but it was the lessons learned and the testing of doctrine during the interwar years.

    Comment by Jeffery Hoover | January 27, 2017

  5. To be successful, Blitzkrieg needed both technology innovations and the appropriate doctrine/culture. The Germans had already proved that quick tactical offensive maneuvers could have rapid success penetrating enemy lines at the conclusion of WWI. Their main problem was providing attacking forces with the situational awareness to protect their gains, prevent culmination, and carry their attacking momentum forward to areas that could translate into sustained operational level success. The technology introduced by the Germans in WWII was critical to bridging this gap. It was not the addition of armored tanks or improved weapons that made Blitzkrieg work (though those improvements certainly helped). Rather, the introduction of the radio allowed attacking forces to send/receive information quickly from the point of attack which enabled Blitzkreig tactics to overcome the challenges of WWI and give the German land forces a marked advantage in combat against the French. German doctrine came to emphasize “Auftragstaktik” – or mission command- that gave leaders maximum flexibility to take initiative and develop the situation at their level. Complemented by the new technology enabling communication, Blitzkrieg tactics dominated the Western European battlefield in WWII.

    Comment by Scott Harr | January 28, 2017


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