[lit-ideas] Re: Virility and Slaughter

  • From: Robert.Paul@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Robert Paul)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: 01 Feb 2005 21:02:01 PST

Eric Yost says:

After millions have died in WWI trench warfare, the Germans discovered that one
can reinforce a breakout in a single point on a line, rather than overcoming the
entire line.

The result? Blitzkrieg, the only major strategic development of the 20th

*And then there's Colonel Doughty.



Many of the concepts associated with blitzkrieg are actually myths. This is a
consequence of poor military history and the preponderance of popular accounts
of the 1940 campaign. For example, German doctrinal innovation was due more to
the unfavorable situation Germany faced rather than to any "revolution" in
technology or concepts of warfare. Their planning the 1940 campaign did not
expect a swift, easy defeat of France nor was its success solely attributable to
technology, specifically tanks and airpower. Rather, the campaign had modest
objectives, German strategy and tactics were extremely important, and the
infantry played a critical role in its success 

The concept of blitzkrieg as it is now understood was not developed by Hitler
and the German General Staff. Rather, it was formulated for public consumption.
The term appeared occasionally in the literature between 1936 and 1940 and was
the subject of a Time magazine article after France's defeat. At this time,
blitzkrieg simply meant a knockout blow in contrast to the trench warfare of
World War I. The Germans, for example, employed the term to refer to a short
war. No theorist used it to refer to a combined offensive by armored forces and
aircraft to deliver a knockout blow against an adversary.

*I'm about halfway through Churchill's six-volume history of the Second World
War (which is more often than not a record of Churchill's memorandums,
telegrams, notes, and exculpatory second thoughts). It is though good on the
political history of the war and on the tactics and strategy of both sides
during the 1940 invasion of France, Belgium and the Netherlands. It's clear that
Hitler's generals out-generaled the French politicians, but the success of their
strategy was certainly more the result of what the Allies failed to do (and
could have done) than of what the Germans did.

*Reinforcing a breakout through a single point on a line is a strategy at least
as old as the Peloponnesian Wars, I would think. Although in World War I it
would have been extremely hard to break through a 'single point' of the line
because the refinement and use of machine guns made even approaching an
opponent's trenches a hard sell tactically, the concept of reinforcing a
breakthrough was surely in the minds of the generals.

Robert Paul
Reed College

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