Subtitled “From Stalemate to Blitzkrieg in Europe, 1899-1940″, this book traces the dilemma facing war planners as the increasing firepower of infantry and artillery drove wars into stalemate. The issue started to become apparent in the Boer War at the turn of the century, when the initial moves of England’s army were baffled by smaller, more mobile forces, resulting in serious losses. The 1905 Russo-Japanese war showed the tendency for the forces to resort to entrenchments, which by WWI managed to reach from end to end of many fronts, resulting in a static front and high losses.
After WWI, all armies realized that the tank and aircraft were going to be key developments in the future. The winners, however, tended to have institutional politics affecting the decision-making…usually it was the cavalry branch not wanting to be run out of business. The integration of air power was also often limited by politics, with the air power advocates over-selling the importance of strategic air bombing by claiming that bombing of cities alone would win any future war. This fear of mutual destruction by air drove a lot of the Allied hesitation in the early parts of WWII.
Ironically, the very act of dismantling the German Army after the Treaty of Versailles helped Germany avoid these issues, as the tiny army was inadequate for conventional answers, and the small size drove out the entrenched careerists that clog up the works in normal times. That, and the German national bias toward combined arms and tight integration and quick wars aided them in finding the right solution – the Panzer Division, with mobile infantry, artillery, and tanks in unison, along with tactical air power at the point of attack.
The interwar period described here in detail is interesting, and Citino adds a dash of correction to the claims of the post-war “Armor Evangelists” like J.F.C Fuller and Lidell Hart and even Heinz Guderian to have seen the entire solution from the start. He adds in the contributions of other, lesser known men like Hans von Seeckt.
Like Citino’s other books, this is an interesting and valuable history. It gives you a fresh look at even topics that have been rehashed time and time again. I have a second book that seems to be a continuation of this one – “Blitzkrieg to Desert Storm” that I will soon be giving a look to.