The Path to Blitzkrieg: Doctrine and Training in the German Army, 1920-1939

The Path to Blitzkrieg: Doctrine and Training in the German Army, 1920-1939

The Path to Blitzkrieg: Doctrine and Training in the German Army, 1920-1939

The Path to Blitzkrieg: Doctrine and Training in the German Army, 1920-1939

Synopsis

In 1939, the German army shocked and terrorized the world with Blitzkrieg, its form of mobilized warfare. This work looks at how the Germans rebuilt their army after defeat in World War I which is one of the major questions in military history.

Excerpt

On 1 September 1939, lead units of the invading German army (the Wehrmacht) crashed over the border into Poland. The operation, code-named Case White (Fall Weiss), was the world's first look at a devastating new type of mechanized warfare. Highly mobile German formations, spearheaded by massed columns of tanks and working in close cooperation with the German air force (Luftwaffe), attacked on a very narrow front, making deep penetrations of the Polish defenses within hours. The speed and violence of the attack paralyzed enemy response. German tanks scattered enemy reserves as they were coming up, overrunning headquarters, supply dumps, and railheads, preventing the Poles from reforming their line or bringing up their reserves. The climax of these armored drives came far behind the front lines, as the spearheads linked up, trapping the bewildered Polish formations in a series of isolated pockets. Despite the speed of their advance, in a recent innovation for mobile columns, the armored units stayed in communication with their own headquarters and with each other through radio. Air power also played a crucial role, helping the tanks blast through the line, with the German dive bomber (Sturzkampfflugzeug, or Stuka) serving as a sort of mobile artillery on call to the armor. Finally, once the tanks had cleared a path, mechanized infantry and artillery followed up, occupying the terrain the tanks had seized, defending it against enemy counterattack, and tightening the ring around the trapped enemy forces. Despite their bravery, the infantry and cavalry of the Polish army were no match. Cut off from supply and from communications with the rear, they had no choice but to surrender. The main fighting was over in two weeks, although Warsaw would hold out for another two. In those initial two weeks, the first mechanized campaign in military history, the Germans essentially destroyed the Polish army, inflicting about 200,000 casualties and taking almost 600,000 prisoners. Their own losses were negligible.

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