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The Concept of Blitzkrieg


"The Lightning War"

The foundation of mobile warfare has its roots in Ancient and Medieval 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.

At the same time, potential of Blitzkrieg and related tactics was fully 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Main force links up with other units encircling and cutting off the enemy.

George Parada