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Topic: How did Blitzkrieg tactics really work?

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All Forums : [THE MILITARY ACADEMY] : Military History > How did Blitzkrieg tactics really work?
4 AUG 2011 at 7:25pm

vonkohlmann

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It has been alluded to above, but what Guderian understood that the Allied generals mostly didn't was the importance of a concentration of tanks working together, rather than spread out merely assisting the infantry.

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4 AUG 2011 at 8:02pm

Dale H

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@Besilarius -> Just so & well put.           May's thesis in Strange Victory was that it was so anomalous considering all factors. The stars aligned for Hitler & the Germans against France. They had both the luck & a winning doctrine. Their luck ran out in the Soviet Union & the Ruskis figured out how to counter the doctrine. So it goes...           The German assaults on the Eastern Front during the first & second summers were more kesselschlacht than blitzkrieg.

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana

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4 AUG 2011 at 8:06pm

phredd1

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Originally Posted By Besilarius
Just a couple of observations that people may want to argue. The French weren't stupid in laying out their forces for the defense of France in 1940.  They had done a study of the approaches into France and decided that the Ardennes' limited and very restricted road net would not allow heavy artillery to travel through, not to mention the logistic tail it would require. They felt very comfortable with Corap's army of third line troops defending in probably the most defensible terrain on their border.  They did not anticipate the Stuka.  It took the place of the heavy artillery and broke up the defensive positions the army anticipated could hold indefinitely. Their other problem was that the French First Army, their armored reserve and mass of maneuver had been originally placed perfectly to blunt the german assault.  It would have been in a great position to smother the german spearheads as they piecemealed out of the Ardennes roads. The French CinC, Weygand?, apparently became fixated on the original german plan of attack.  It had been given to the French when two staff officers flew with a copy of the plan and their Fieseler Storch went down.  They tried to burn the document, but it was so thick that it only was singed on the edges, before French troops arrived. This original plan was very conventional and positied the main effort go through Holland and Belgium.  Weygand moved the First Army to the far left of the line to meet this attack. Unfortunately, when Hitler found out about those two dumkopf members of the Gros General Stab, he cancelled that plan in a rage.  Hearing from Manstein of his plan, Sickelschnitt, for a daring thrust through the Ardennes, he intuitively trusted the concept and put it in motion. Thus when the panzers broke through at the Southwest tip of the Ardennes, the army reserve was wa-ay out of position on the far left.  (Whether the force would have fought effectively is another question, but just from sheer numbers, it may have held the panzers back.) As Patton once remarked, Weapons change, but man does not.  The principles of war are effected by weapons, but the basic tenets are always the same. My old tactics instructor had given us a firm grounding in the tactics of the French Revolution, which Napoleon harnessed into a nineteenth century blitzkrieg.  Try to look at the mechanised blitz of the 1940s by comparing them to Napoleon's campaign in 1805, or 1806.  The fighting is different, but the strategy and the ordering of the army are shockingly similar.
+1.  You won't get any argument from me on this.

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4 AUG 2011 at 8:11pm

Achilles

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In reading Keegan's book on the second world war, I found it interesting that he seemed to focus on how for blitzkrieg to succeed that the defender must make some blunder. 

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4 AUG 2011 at 8:50pm

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I recommend The Blitzkrieg Legend by Karl Frieser. Besides being one of the finest WWII military history books, this book has detailed descriptions of the military decision making before and during the invasion of France (from the German side, off course). Also, check out Citino's The German Way of War. No such thing as blitzkrieg tactics ... As one poster said a couple of posts above, just a continuation of a way of fighting that goes back to Frederick the Great. With bad ass new weapons! Cheers,

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4 AUG 2011 at 9:42pm

The Gray Mouser

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Interesting discussion.  My understanding of Blitzkrieg primarily come from a dedicated WW2 history class i took as an undergrad     The professor stressed that Blitzkrieg worked really well when their was a sufficient ratio of force (ie men) vs space.    So Poland France, the low countries, great results.   One might theorize , if Germany somehow was able to get several corp intact onto the shores of britain, it likly would have been succcesful there as well.   The ist stages of Barbarossa, again great results as indicated by the huge pockets of Russian soldiers isolated and reduced by the slow  follow up infantry armies.  The second round of deep thrusts were quite amazing as well.  Then things started to go awry.  Russia , being shaped like a funnel( the deeper you go east , the more the county stretches to the north and south), the longer supply lines etc and the rapidly decreasing ratio of force to space slowed the massive gains.  Basically the spear was blunted, as things slowed the shock and awe was decreased  and subsequent  pockets of russians found they werent  so islated after all and could counter attacked from the rear....  Winter and fresh Siberian troops ended the blitz pretty much there. 

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31 AUG 2011 at 1:55am

Ronpaul

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I guess the key to the whole operation was that the armor not engage in any stand up fights, and keep moving.  That really makes sense GDS Starfury.

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31 AUG 2011 at 1:56am

Ronpaul

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        I guess the key to the whole operation was [image]http://dev.mediaglue.com.au/mediaglue_new/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/spam_light1.jpg[/image]

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31 AUG 2011 at 4:23am

Centurion40

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Had to get the ads in for the duplicate post, eh? Well, at least this spam is on topic, so kudos for that.

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31 AUG 2011 at 4:48am

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Since we are on the topic, I would like to bring out attention to the Battle of Gembloux Gap.  This was a victory for the French during the BoF by the French First Army against the German Sixth Army. This was one of the largest tank battles in the BoF, the Germans fielding nearly 700 tanks for a strike through Belgium. The 2nd and 3rd DLM (Medium Armor Divisions) managed to hold the line for several days in May against the german onslaught. By the time things were said and done, the 6th Army was shattered and retreating. The strategic situation elsewhere forced the French to retreat as well, rendering this a pyrrhic victory. It does show, however, what could have been in the BoF and that the French were not so inept at modern warfare that defeat was a guarantee.

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19 AUG 2012 at 8:26am

xwormwood

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Don't forget that the german attack on France was a huge gamble. It might have ended in a total failure if something would have went wrong while the german tanks speeded through the ardennes. A few and hard air attacks on the endless columns of tanks and trucks on those small roads might have made all the difference.

Hitler was a gambler, and this time he had quite a bit of luck.

 

When we talk about Kursk, than you shouldn't forget that the russians knew about the german attack.

They knew where and when the germans would come, and they could prepare for this for weeks and months.

 

Any strategy or tactic has the best chances to fail if your opponent know exactly about your battle plans.

 

At christmas 1941 the 3rd Reich was done for, because the Russians did fight very hard.

And even with all those big cauldrons and hundreds of thousand russian prisoner, the Wehrmacht was never able to replace its own horrendous losses of 1941.

 

 

 


"You will be dead, so long as you refuse to die" (George MacDonald)


Last edited by xwormwood : 19 AUG 2012 8:31am
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19 AUG 2012 at 12:38pm

danlongman

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There is a POS book out entitled "The Myth of the Blitzkrieg" by an

english prof in florida named John Mosier who imagines himself to be a

myth busting historian.  It is an incredibly poorly and selectively

argued tretise that there was/is no such thing.  Read it for laughs

only.  In 1940 the Allies judged German capabilities based on their

own which suggested some of the things the Germans did were impossible.

It would have been..for them.  The Wehrmacht had better doctrine for

the use of armour but the key concept of "Lightning" warfare is to get

inside you enemies' decision cycle and break it.  This is what the Germans

essentially did to the Allies in 1940 and the Soviets in 41-42.  Counter-measures

to the German moves always arrived too little, too late and in the wrong place.

The German infantry moved on foot and when the panzers raced to the coast

after the Sedan breakthrough the German high command was like a bunch

of coon dogs pooping broken glass... but the Allies were not capable of any real

response.  Deighton's book is superb in explaining all the things that went wrong

for the Allies and right for the Germans.  The French Army apparently did not

even know the French Air Force's fone number.

cheers


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17 SEP 2012 at 3:28pm

GeorgeV

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I've just read David Glantz' "Barbarossa Derailed" volumes 1 and 2. Based on these studies (they are more studies than stories) a clear pattern emerges of the Russian (Stalin's and STAVKA's) answer to "Blitzkrieg": attack, attack and keep attacking. Of course, during the first 6 months of the war, this "strategy" cost the Russians millions of men and one might wonder if there would have been a better way to stop the Germans.

 

But the pattern in the Battle of Smolensk he describes is all too clear: as soon as the German advance halted for a while (either for reducing encircled troops or building up supplies for a next lunge into the depth of Russia) the Russians started counter-attacking almost immediately. Since their troops were mostly green recruits these counter-attacks resulted in severe Russian losses, which facilitated subsequent offensives of the German forces. After the Russian attacks "petered out", the Germans struck back and quickly rolled up and encircled what was left of the Russian front-line armies.

 

This usually happened in the way described in other posts: concentration before the attack (Russian intel was pretty poor, they often were surprised by German attacks), breaking through the front and then cutting of lines of supply and communication. Because of the inexperience of Russian soldiers and commanders, their deployments were vulnarable to these kinds of attacks and left them in no state to mount a coordinated counter-attack.

 

Glantz states that these Russian offensives in September paved they way for the subsequent disasters at Vyazma and Orel/Briansk during the opening phase of Operation Typhoon because the Russian armies lost much of their strengths in futile (counter) attacks. He also claims that the losses incurred by the Germans in these battles, sapped so much of their strength that it set them up for defeat in December.



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17 SEP 2012 at 7:22pm

Walloc

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Nm



Last edited by Walloc : 17 SEP 2012 7:35pm
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16 OCT 2012 at 2:15pm

Kon093

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How did Blitzkrieg work?

 

For me litttle had changed in tactics since Napoeon.  Hower, the enhanced success hinges upon one unit being able to communicate effectively with another. 

 

Guderian realised that emerging 1930s mobile radio technology would enable break-through units to communicate across command levels and inter-service. Thus allowing concentration of effort and husbandry of logistics.

 

With particular regard to the Russian campaign, you will find that Russian units (like the French in 1940),  relied upon dispatch riders to pass messages to active and mobile units: added to the inherent delay in giving new orders, Russian tanks in the field were controlled using semafore (flags).  On the Russian front matters did not iprove measurably until American Lend-Lease radios became widely available. 

 

The Fog of War, that is, the delay in responding to a threat was much reduced using new 1930s technology.  However, this at the moment will not help defenders to win war games.  You have political handcuffs  from Stalin and a blindfold, due to poor radio comms to contend with.

 



Last edited by Kon093 : 16 OCT 2012 2:15pm
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18 OCT 2012 at 2:50pm

nero

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Originally Posted By Kon093 (16 OCT 2012 2:15pm)

How did Blitzkrieg work?

 

For me litttle had changed in tactics since Napoeon.  Hower, the enhanced success hinges upon one unit being able to communicate effectively with another. 

 

Guderian realised that emerging 1930s mobile radio technology would enable break-through units to communicate across command levels and inter-service. Thus allowing concentration of effort and husbandry of logistics.

 

With particular regard to the Russian campaign, you will find that Russian units (like the French in 1940),  relied upon dispatch riders to pass messages to active and mobile units: added to the inherent delay in giving new orders, Russian tanks in the field were controlled using semafore (flags).  On the Russian front matters did not iprove measurably until American Lend-Lease radios became widely available. 

 

The Fog of War, that is, the delay in responding to a threat was much reduced using new 1930s technology.  However, this at the moment will not help defenders to win war games.  You have political handcuffs  from Stalin and a blindfold, due to poor radio comms to contend with.

 

 

Tactics changed immensely during the early 20th century. The rank and file of the Napoleonic era could not suffice with the machines and firepower of World War 1. Tactics continue to change, constantly. Just like everything else.

 



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13 DEC 2012 at 12:58pm

kujalar

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First the enemy front was pinned. Germans attacked forcefully from many locations so that they draw reserves forward and did not reveal the intended breakthrough point. Germans were also ready to exploit sudden succes in any point of attack.

 

After pinning the enemy they started the main assault and punched a hole. On a moment they got their hole they sent the mechanised reserve forward in a fast moving column. Not stopping in any small pockets of resistance they encounter behind the lines. For this they needed fast moving reconnaisence units and Stukas.

 

When fast moving mechanized troops drive through the front line and reach enemies artillery positions they force the artillery to relocate and leave frontline without support. Same goes with supply and communications.

 

In 1941 red army had very thin defence. After punching a hole it was easy for Germans just drive forward. The gap needed to be just 1 kilometer wide initally.

 

Germans didn't consider breakthrough succesfull unless it reached the artillery positions.

 

 



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25 MAR 2013 at 3:07pm

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Originally Posted By Scotters (2 AUG 2011 7:59pm)
I'm playing WITE as the Russians, and I'm currently being decimated by the Blitzkrieg.  .....

 

I love WITE passionately, but I have some real issues with how easy the Germans have it in the early days.  But any game that is turn based will have flaws in portraying Blitzkrieg combat...because the basic premise of a turn based game is that the defender is so stunned they just sit there doing nothing while being surrounded.   Also in WITE, it is too easy for relatively small armored units (say a regiment) to slice behind an entire army of infantry, cut them off and reduce their movement and effectiveness.  In reality, for a small unit to effectively cut off communications (ie. take control of a hex), they would need to garrison roads, rail and movement routes with ambush teams to interdict the defenders supply movement.  So a regiment really trying to interdict enemy movement, would be spread very thin. 


"No, No, mix them all up.  I'm tired of state's rights." 

Union General George Thomas' reply to his chaplain, when asked if the dead from the Chatanooga campaign should be buried by state as had been done at Gettysburg.

 


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