The Path to Blitzkrieg – Robert Citino

Doctrine and Training in the German Army, 1920-39

This is another book that supplements Citino’s thesis about how the roots of Blitzkrieg grew out of the conceptual training of the army, and was a continuation of the ideas of the Prussian and German army since the time of Frederick the Great and before rather than a new concept rising in the 20th Century.  The concepts of rapid movement, independent action, and aggressive attacking fit with the requirements of a small nation trying to survive amid stronger, or at least larger foes.

After the defeat in WWI, the army was by treaty limited to a tiny size and could not hope to compete with even a weak neighbor state.  Ironically this helped focus the army on training its officer corps in essentials and to decide on what modern developments to adopt without having to deal with the politics of entrenched cliques that the victors had to.  Instead, the Germans concentrated on developing close interaction of the arms they had and bold leadership with independence and initiative.  These leaders were able to quickly adopt new technology like the tank and aircraft and fit them into their plans and produce the blitzkrieg.

The book describes the various exercises and the struggles for funding at first and later some of the problems with the massive expansion under Hitler.

Lest you think that this is praises the Germans too much, the same “small state on the defense” framework tended to thwart them as they went on in the war.  A small state doesn’t have to worry about supply, since they are fighting at home or nearly so.  A quick and decisive war doesn’t require a long term view of production and manufacturing.  The sort of issues that Britain or the US have to solve just to get a single man in combat were just brushed off by the Germans, and when the war was extended in time and distance the problems they refused to cope with turned out to bite them.

In the business of combat they were superior, but in strategy and in logistics they were not even amateurs, but often were bunglers.

A very interesting book on a part of history that hasn’t been written a lot about.


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