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The Concept of Blitzkrieg
"The Lightning War"
PzKpfw IV Ausf D from 5th company of 2nd Panzer Division
in Semois on May 12th of 1940.
World. The German Army late in World War I initially developed basic
tactics that eventually evolved into modern mobile warfare. Germans
developed those tactics in an attempt to overcome the static trench
warfare on the Western Front. Elite "Sturmtruppen" (Stormtroops) infantry
units were created to attack enemy positions using the momentum of speed
and suprise but eventually failed because of the lack of mobility and
support needed in order to continue advancing further into enemy
controlled territory. During 1920s, British military philosophers Captain
Sir Basil Liddell Hart, General J.F.C. Fuller and General Martell further
developed tactics of mobile warfare. They all postulated that tanks could
not only seize ground by brute strength, but could also be the central
factor in a new strategy of warfare. If moved rapidly enough,
concentrations of tanks could smash through enemy lines and into the
enemy's rear, destroying supplies and artillery positions and decreasing
the enemy's will to resist. All of them found tank to be an ultimate
weapon able to penetrate deep into enemy territory while followed by
infantry and supported by artillery and airforce. In late 1920s and early
1930s, Charles De Gaulle, Hans von Seekt, Heinz Guderian and many others
became interested in the concept of mobile warfare and tried to implement
it in an organizational structure of their armies. Heinz Guderian
organized Panzers into self-contained Panzer Divisions working with the
close support of infantry, motorized infantry, artillery and airforce.
From 1933 to 1939, Germany was on a quest to fully mechanize their army
for an upcoming conflict.
German High Command used Spanish Civil War (1936-38) as a testing ground
for newly developed tactics, which proved to be a formidable combination
of land and air action. In September of 1939, Germany invaded Poland using
mechanized ground force (Wehrmacht) working with the close support of the
airforce (Luftwaffe) to breakthrough and penetrate deep behind Polish
lines of defense - Polish Campaign (Fall Weiss). This combined use of
mobile units and air power was possible by the extensive use of radio and
communication network. It was soon known as Blitzkrieg - Lightning War. In
May of 1940, during the invasion of the Low Countries and France, the
Germans once again used same tactics (including the use of
Fallschirmjaeger - paratroops) to shock and disorganize the defenders.
From October of 1940 to March of 1941, Germans conquered Balkans using the
same proven tactics. When in June of 1941, Germany invaded Russia, tactics
of Blitzkrieg allowed them to reach the outskirts of Moscow in December of
1941. Tactics of Blitzkrieg were also implemented with great success by
Erwin Rommel in North Africa (1941-1943). Since late 1942, outnumbered
German Army was fighting a defensive war on two fronts and was unable to
launch any major offensives with exception of Kursk (June of 1943) and
Ardennes (December of 1944) offensive. Overall, tactics of Blitzkrieg were
the main contributor of early German victories (1939-1942), when German
supply base and logistics were able to maintain the speed of the advancing
units. This was not the case on the Eastern Front and in the North Africa,
when limited German supply base and logistics were unable to cope with
transportation and weather conditions decreasing effectivness of German
attacks and armed forces in general.
appreciated by the Allies, who implemented its tactics on all fronts. US
Army General George Patton used Blitzkrieg and mobile warfare tactics in
his European operations of 1944. After World War II, tactics of Blitzkrieg
and mobile warfare developed by the Germans were used by Israeli forces
during their numerous conflicts with the Arab Nations as well as by
American forces during the Operation Desert Storm.
Overall, tactics of Blitzkrieg are based on coordinated, concentrated and
precise air and land attacks to provide a rapid and powerful punch through
the enemy lines in order to eventually encircle the enemy and/or capture
strategic position. Important factor behind mobile warfare was
communication between the HQ and field units and vice-versa, as well as
prepared starting points along with supply base and logistics to maintain
the speed of the initial attack. Although, it is often forgotten that
suprise was also very important to the success of Blitzkrieg and that is
why Germany never declared war on any country that it attacked. The
revolutionary tactics of Blitzkrieg and mobile warfare developed during
World War II formed a base for future development of weaponry and warfare.
The Concept of Blitzkrieg.
Airforce attacks enemy front-line and rear positions, main roads,
airfields and communication centers. At the same time infantry attacks
on the entire frontline (or at least at main places) and engages enemy.
This restrains the enemy from knowing where the main force will attack
and makes it impossible to prepare any defenses.
Concentrated tank units breakthrough main lines of defense and advance
deeper into enemy territory, while following mechanized units pursuit
and engage defenders preventing them from establishing defensive
postions. Infantry continues to engage enemy to misinform and keep enemy
forces from withdrawing and establishing effective defense.
Infantry and other support units attack enemy flanks in order to link up
with other groups to complete the attack and eventually encircle the
enemy and/or capture strategic position.
Mechanized groups spearhead deeper into the enemy territory outflanking
the enemy positions and paralyzing the rear preventing withdrawing
troops and defenders from establishing effective defensive positions.
Main force links up with other units encircling and cutting off the
Panzer's companion - Junkers 87 Stuka - dive bomber.
(Ju-87 R-1 Stuka of 2nd Staffel of Stukageschwader 3, Sicily, 1941).