Blitzkrieg or Canae? -The origin of German doctrine used in WW2

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Blitzkrieg or Canae? -The origin of German doctrine used in WW2

Post  Chromos on Sat Aug 22, 2015 1:03 am

Blitzkrieg or Canae? -The origin of German doctrine used in WW2
Ususally Germany gets the term Blitzkrieg attached when thought about wich Doctrine it had used in WW2.
Blitzkrieg (German, "lightning war") is an anglicised term, describing a method of warfare, whereby an attacking force spearheaded by a dense concentration of armoured and motorized or mechanized infantry formations with close air support, breaks through the opponent's line of defense by short, fast, powerful attacks and then dislocates the defenders, using speed and surprise to encircle them. Through the employment of combined arms in maneuver warfare, blitzkrieg attempts to unbalance the enemy by making it difficult for them to respond to the continuously changing front and defeating them in a decisive Vernichtungsschlacht (battle of annihilation).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blitzkrieg

However, it is historically known, that this is not correct. There never ever was a "Blitzkrieg Doctrine". Instead Germany just used the old "Canae Doctrine" with new technically possibilities of that time to conduct its old way of highly effective warfare wich it was used and trained for since nearly 100 years.
The real German doctrine used in WW2 should thus be named according to it like "Modern Canae Doctrine". It was based on the thoughts of Schlieffen and von Moltke before him -highly influenced by the experience of the battles against Napoleon.
Spoiler:

Apart from being one of the greatest defeats ever inflicted on Roman arms, the Battle of Cannae represents the archetypal battle of annihilation, a strategy that has rarely been successfully implemented in modern history. As Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in World War II, once wrote, "Every ground commander seeks the battle of annihilation; so far as conditions permit, he tries to duplicate in modern war the classic example of Cannae". Furthermore, the totality of Hannibal's victory has made the name "Cannae" a byword for military success, and is today studied in detail in several military academies around the world. The notion that an entire army could be encircled and annihilated within a single stroke, led to a fascination among subsequent Western generals for centuries (including Frederick the Great and Helmuth von Moltke) who attempted to emulate its tactical paradigm of envelopment and re-create their own "Cannae". Hans Delbrück's seminal study of the battle had a profound influence on subsequent German military theorists, in particular, the Chief of the German General Staff, Alfred von Schlieffen (whose eponymously titled "Schlieffen Plan" was inspired by Hannibal's double envelopment manoeuver). Through his writings, Schlieffen taught that the "Cannae model" would continue to be applicable in maneuver warfare throughout the 20th century:
 "A battle of annihilation can be carried out today according to the same plan devised by Hannibal in long forgotten times. The enemy front is not the goal of the principal attack. The mass of the troops and the reserves should not be concentrated against the enemy front; the essential is that the flanks be crushed. The wings should not be sought at the advanced points of the front but rather along the entire depth and extension of the enemy formation. The annihilation is completed through an attack against the enemy's rear... To bring about a decisive and annihilating victory requires an attack against the front and against one or both flanks..."

Schlieffen later developed his own operational doctrine in a series of articles, many of which were later translated and published in a work entitled "Cannae".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cannae


An US foreword:

In the early 198Os, the Combat Studies Institute received a request for a study of all the cases in the past where armies fought outnumbered and won. The point was to distill the necessary ingredients that culminated in these armies’ victories. The flaw in this procedure, however, was that it failed to consider the preponderant number of cases where armies fought outnumbered and lost. A widened focus would have eliminated a number of possible false conclusions.

A similar exercise was conducted eighty years earlier by Count Alfred von Schlieffen, the revered chief of the German General Staff. Convinced that Germany, surrounded by powerful enemies, would have to fight outnumbered and win, Schlieffen believed the key to victory could be discovered in an account of the Battle of Cannae, written by the German military historian Hans Delbrück. Therefore, Schlieffen ordered the historical section of the General Staff to produce a set of “Cannae Studies” that would demonstrate that the principle of double envelopment practiced by Hannibal at Cannae was the master key to victory in battle.
http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/cgsc/carl/download/csipubs/cannae.pdf



Origin of German doctrine -Moltke's theory of war:
After the defeat of the Prussian Army against Napoleon Bonaparte, they looked closely on why that happend to them. They thought out a way to copy the best parts of Napoleons Army/way of leading. That Napoleon Army of that time fought -even with conscripts- a highly flexible war of manoeuvre.
But the Prussian War Academy was only formally established after the defeat of Napoleon and was an elite school. Important names here are Blücher, von Gneisenau, von Scharnhorst and of course von Clausewitz.
Next to von Clausewitz philosophical groundwork about warfare, important parts of lessons learned are:

  1. Know your enemy and your location/terrain.
  2. Speed of operation is important.
  3. Use surprise whenever possible, use #2 whenever needed.
  4. Hit hard with overwhelming forces if possible and defeat his local forces.
    "superior combat power at the decisive point" -Jomini -> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoine-Henri_Jomini
    Moltke found that enveloping is more important as massing forces at the main battle though!
  5. Disrupt the enemies supply/command chain, "hit his nerves".
  6. Take advantage out of the confusion and try to disable the enemies ability to set up a new defense(#1!).
  7. win..

The most important parts are thus speed and information. To make the most out of this both parts, the commander (on all levels!) needs to be able to make the right decsions quickly.
Moltke the Elder lead the school beginnin in 1858 and trained the German General staff about the lessons learned. This further shaped/formed the body of the later infamous German General Staff ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_General_Staff ).

Moltke's theory of war in more detail:
Spoiler:

A disciple of Carl von Clausewitz, whose theory of war was more an effort to grasp its essential nature, rather than of Jomini, who expounded a system of rules, Moltke regarded strategy as a practical art of adapting means to ends, and had developed the methods of Napoleon in accordance with altered conditions of his age. He had been the first to realize the great defensive power of modern firearms,[citation needed] and had inferred from it that an enveloping attack had become more formidable than the attempt to pierce an enemy's front.
Moltke had pondered the tactics of Napoleon at the Battle of Bautzen, when the emperor brought up Ney's corps, coming from a distance, against the flank of the allies, rather than to unite it with his own force before the battle; he had also drawn an inference from the combined action of the allies at the Battle of Waterloo. Additionally, Moltke realized that the increase in firepower reduced the risk a defender ran in splitting his forces, while the increase in the size of Armies made outflanking maneuvers more practical.
At the same time Moltke had worked out the conditions of the march and supply of an army. Only one army corps could be moved along one road in the same day; to put two or three corps on the same road meant that the rear corps could not be made use of in a battle at the front. Several corps stationed close together in a small area could not be fed for more than a day or two. Accordingly, he inferred that the essence of strategy in his day lay in arrangements for the separation of the corps for marching and their concentration in time for battle. In order to make a large army manageable, it must be broken up into separate armies or groups of corps, each group under a commander authorized to regulate its movements and action subject to the instructions of the commander-in-chief as regards the direction and purpose of its operations.
Moltke also realized that the expansion in the size of the armies since the 1820s day made it essentially impossible to exercise detailed control over the entire force as Napoleon or Wellington had done in battle. Subordinates would have to use initiative and independent judgment for the forces to be effective in battle. Therefore, overall campaign and battle plans should encourage and take advantage of the decentralization that would be necessary in any case. In this new concept, commanders of distant detachments were required to exercise initiative in their decision making and von Moltke emphasised the benefits of developing officers who could do this within the limits of the senior commander’s intention.
He accomplished this by means of directives stating his intentions, rather than detailed orders, and he was willing to accept deviations from a directive provided that it was within the general framework of the mission. Von Moltke held this view firmly and it later became a fundamental of all German military theory, especially for the field manual Truppenführung.
Moltke's main thesis was that military strategy had to be understood as a system of options since only the beginning of a military operation was plannable. As a result, he considered the main task of military leaders to consist in the extensive preparation of all possible outcomes. His thesis can be summed up by two statements, one famous and one less so, translated into English as "No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength" (or "no plan survives contact with the enemy") and "Strategy is a system of expedients".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmuth_von_Moltke_the_Elder
Reading about Moltke above leads also to the birth of the the Tactical Doctrine "Führen mit Auftrag“ (German: "Leading with Mission-Order") or also known under the term "Auftragstaktik" (Mission-type tactics).
Every NCO and Officer had to learn two positions up his command. So he could think like his direct commanders and would likely act as them when encountering changing battelfield situations or even take up their role if needed (superiors died etc..). So he could/would act in changing situations as he would be the commanding officer. That way the German Army was able to take advantage of changing battlefield situations more quickly as their adversaries that had to wait for new orders. Germans where encouraged to decide on their own towards of the military goal.

.... We always felt superior toward the Russians .... we were not afraid of them...." (General von Mellenthin)
Throughout the discussions it was clear that both the German Generals considered the individuality of the German fighting man - his freedom to take initiative and the system which engendered these policies and attitudes - to be the key to superlative German performance.
Source:
Spoiler:

3. The Character and Style of The German Army

.... We always felt superior toward the Russians .... we were not afraid of them...." (General von Mellenthin)
Throughout the discussions it was clear that both the German Generals considered the individuality of the German fighting man - his freedom to take initiative and the system which engendered these policies and attitudes - to be the key to superlative German performance.

Gen. DePuy:
"..... Were you successful in receiving from your company, platoon, and squad leaders the same individualistic responses to situations, opportunities and initiatives as you did at division, brigade and battalion?"

Gen. Balck:
"Yes, and it is very important how that was achieved. Generally the German higher commander rarely or never reproached their subordinates unlss they made a terrible blunder. They were fostering the individual's initiative. They left him room for initiative, and did not reprimand him unless he did something very wrong. This went down to the individual soldier, who was praised for developing initiative. Of course, there were exceptions, and there was sometimes trouble, but generally independent action along the line of the general concept was praised and was accepted as something good.


In this same vein the discussion turned early on, and returned often, to Auftragstaktik - the theory and practice ana training in the use of mission-type orders, in order to amplify the advantages which flow from the full exploitation of the battlefield initiative of the German officer and soldier.


Gen. DePuy:
"The American Army in World War Ii talked a lot about mission-type orders, which is our version of Auftragstaktik. One of the examples given to the American Army by German officers visiting our service schools in the 1930s was this:
'The division commander ordered the cavalry commander to seize a bridge over a river because the division was going to cross that river. When the cavalry commander got to the bridge there was an enemy tank regiment [there]. Question: what does the cavalry commander do? Auftragstak.ik solution: report to the [division] commander by radio - look for other bridges, fords, boats - in other words, do what the next higher commander would do if he were there and knew the same situation. Is that a good explanation of Auftragstaktik?"

Gen. v. Mellenthin:
"Exactly. The success of Auftragstaktik presumably rests, at least in part, on knowledge by the subordinate of the higher commander's concept of operations and objectives. In these circumstances the subordinate can choose sensible courses of action which contribute to the desired cutcome within the framework of the overall scheme. Obviously there are two ways to achieve this understanding. One is to explain it carefully; the other, is to campaign together over such a long period that the "modus operandi" is second nature to all concerned. It is also a byproduct of doctrine and training.

Gen. DePuy:
".... I would like to have General Balck tell me what [orders he would have issued] to that Panzer Division commander - in order to find out how much detail is required - how simple or extensive would that order be?"

Gen. Balck:
"The order would be, and was, the following: 'The Russians are breaking through at point X - at a certain command you attack Cat point Y]' - and that is what they did."

Further on the same subject:

Gen. DePuy:
"[Coming back to the same point], how axplicit, how complete, how detailed was the concept of the defense on the Chir River: was it standard operating procedure (SOP), or was it a detailed explanation of how [General Balck] intended to operate?"

Gen. v. Mellenthin:
- Wants General Balck to answer. This is one example of the way General von Mellenthin habitually deferred to his commander: a deference rooted in respect - respect for the system, and respect for the man.

Gen. Balck:
"It depended entirely on the subordinate. If he was a stupid fellow, you had to go into much detail explaining the situation to him; if he was an intelligent officer, a word was sufficient for him."

Mr. Karber:
"...Did the subordinate who was given a very short order, to attack such and such a unit at such and such coordinate -did he, before that, have a detailed concept of General Balck's overall battle plan?"

Gen. Balck:
"I can only answer that by saying yes, because word had gotten around that the Chir line was to be helo. We lived off a century-long tradition, which is that in a critical situation the subordindte with an understanding of the overall situation can act or react responsibly. We always placed great emphasis on the independent action of the subordinates, even in peacetime training."

This led to several exchanges on the selection of leaders and their training:

Mr. Karber:
"It has been said chat on the Eastern front, in the German Army, it was the NCOs ..... that held the fabric of the troops together. Oc you feel that the NCOs had a much stronger position than you would estimate in today's armies?"

Gen. Balck:
"Yes. When I was a peacetime commander, I made a point to see that nobody could become an NCO unless he had a half year of training .... Later on, when I wos commander of the fast, or motorized, unit, I developed the concept of having these NCO schools. I had an argument about this with our Chief of Staff (General Halder) who said: 'Oh no, two weeks will be enough!' Then there was a compromise. He said all right, 3 months - and I agreed, and then I extended it without saying anything to half a year.
..... The fact is, if somebody knows his craft, if he knows what to do, then you don't have to give him any commands, any orders. One of my successors [as regimental commander] told me after the Poland Campaign that [the regiment] had few losses among the officers because the NCOs were so well-trained that the officers did not have to be around everywhere. Another aspect is that there were very few incidents of mistreatment of subordinates, because an NCO had some knowledge. He did not have to go around misireating his subordinates, he can convince them by his mind - not by force."

Mr. Dunnigan:
"How did you select NCO candidates, and what did you teach them in those six ronths?"

Gen. Balck:
"The company commander selected them. He said, 'Oh, well, this private might be fit to become an NCO.' Then we tested them and anyone who flunked - they yere out..... ... I tried to train them to teach the recruits in a sensible way - to make tnem understand: not just duinb drill or something like that, but by giving them something to think. Any education has to be carried [out] by respect for the human being, and by respect for the individual's own free will. That is not always easy, but that is the only thing that gets you somewhere."

Mr. Dunnigan:
"....Do you have any other advice for the training system that a corps commander should use?"

Gen. Balck:
"It is extremely important for the NCO training units not to be employed under any circumstances. It happened so often in combat operations that there were losses and these valuable units were senselessly sacrificed."

Obviously General Balck as corps commander did not receive enough replacement NCOs from the training base in Germany. This is an endemic problem in all armies in peace and war. His message seem to be that you must select and train these key leaders even when their temporary absence hurts - and their training must not be interrupted, regardless of the emergency. In short, one must not eat the seed corn.

http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA097704.




At WW2, Germany has that way a military tradition of nearly 100 years in conducting such style of warfare and thus an big advantage in this area over other countries.

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Aleksei Alekseevich Brusilov

Post  CCDK79 on Wed Jan 20, 2016 8:23 am

ever heard of Aleksei Alekseevich Brusilov? - ww1 general, Russia, used a variant of the German Sturmtruppen Prinzip with some success during ww1.

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Re: Blitzkrieg or Canae? -The origin of German doctrine used in WW2

Post  Chromos on Wed Jan 20, 2016 10:46 pm

CCDK79 wrote:ever heard of Aleksei Alekseevich Brusilov? - ww1 general, Russia, used a variant of the German Sturmtruppen Prinzip with some success during ww1.
Sure. Smile
Intersting though, that according to Gen. Balck and Col. von Uslar-Gleichen, there never was such "Sturmtruppen" or von Hutiers tactics. And at least Balck served in WW1 already..
Look:
https://scootapedia.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/balck_mellenthin.pdf
The Von Hutier Issue
Perhaps only military historians will be interested, but the discussions led to a somewhat surprising exchange on the nature of evolution of German tactics. British and American historians have long put forth the theory that General von Hutier's infiltration tactics using Stosstruppen (assault troops), first employed with great success against the Russians at Riga in World War I, were the lineal forbearers of the Blitz tactics of World War II. General Balck professed ignorant of this connection.

Mr. Dunnigan: "At the end of World War I, the German Army developed what we call infiltration tactics, Stosstruppen, many energetic officers were attracted to that type of service. Did you find there was any carry-over in that mentality among those officers and troops to your tactics in World War II?"

Mr. Sprey:(Translating in German) "In the U. S. we talk a lot about the infiltration technique  of the First World War. By that they mean the breaking in with shock troops to open the enemy position, and then to follow with the other forces. The question is, does the mentality of the shock troop leader have any influence an the tank troops [Leader] or otherwise?"

Gen. Balck: "The last part of the First World War, I was in attack units (Stosstruppen).

" Mr. Sprey: "Was not the so-called Alpen Corps predominantly attackoriented?"

Gen. Balck: "[It was] one of the best attack units, and I never noticed anything of this method  of infiltration, we did not use it. We suppressed the enemy fire by strong artillery and then we deployed."

Mr. Sprey: "What here in the States is called 'Von Hutier tactics' is  not known in Germany?"  

Gen. Balck: "I can only say that I went through practically everything, but that is something  that I did not experience."1/ p.59-60


In a separate conversation later, Col. von Uslar-Gleichen, the German Army Attaché in Washington, told this reporter that the "Von Hutier" theory seemed to be confined to the British and Americans. He knew of no such ideas in German military doctrine or publications.
Given the wide adherence to the theory outside Germany, this may be a fertile field for further research.

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Re: Blitzkrieg or Canae? -The origin of German doctrine used in WW2

Post  CCDK79 on Wed Jan 20, 2016 11:47 pm

Interesting, I had forgotten about the whole Hutier deal, I wonder where Major Calsow and Hauptmann Rohr come in. From what I can figure out Rohr was in the Guards and Hutier had command of a guards unit on the western front in 1915. The notion of infiltration might have been mentioned but the terminology might have changed as it was put in the practice, thus obscuring the origin of the theory behind it further. The allies picked it up at the theoretical level during and after the war, while the germans worked from their own model adopted in the field perhaps?

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Re: Blitzkrieg or Canae? -The origin of German doctrine used in WW2

Post  Chromos on Fri Jan 22, 2016 12:17 am

Maybe it was that way.
Interestingly, the wiki entry for Stormtroopers has much more detail about it as the Hutier Entry. Calsow and Rohr are named next to Hutier etc.
It seems "similar" to the creation of the "Blitzkrieg doctrine". Maybe just "anglo saxon habit" of giving simple names to complex matters. Very Happy

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Re: Blitzkrieg or Canae? -The origin of German doctrine used in WW2

Post  CCDK79 on Fri Jan 22, 2016 12:38 am

Chromos wrote:Maybe it was that way.
Interestingly, the wiki entry for Stormtroopers has much more detail about it as the Hutier Entry. Calsow and Rohr are named next to Hutier etc.
It seems "similar" to the creation of the "Blitzkrieg doctrine". Maybe just "anglo saxon habit" of giving simple names to complex matters.  Very Happy

They do indeed like to keep it neat and simple, don't they? It's all fine and good when moving ahead, but it does make historical research difficult, all issues involving the birth of a concept or idea turn into fruitless questions on the level of what came first, the chicken? or the egg? In that regard that easy habit of theirs is kinda like shaving with a chainsaw to make sure that you won't have to shave 2 times a day, you just close your eyes, cross your fingers and give it your best, damn the consequences:)

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Re: Blitzkrieg or Canae? -The origin of German doctrine used in WW2

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