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Thread: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

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    Default Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    Just finished John Mosiers book "The Blitzkrieg Myth" It is a well researched book written by a credible historian. He does make a compelling case that the Blitzkrieg mania was largely overblown especially by the allied countries. He shows how the quick capitulation of Poland, France and the Netherlands was really more of a political surrender than a destruction of the defending armies. As evidenced by the large losses suffered by the Germans during those invasions as well as the large portions of Polish French and Dutch Armies which were still very capable of putting up more resistance if it wasn't for there goverments orders to stop fighting.
    He also shows that the best way to defeat the germans was on a broad front which the Russians did from '43 onward not by Blitzkrieg tactics.
    He makes the point that the U.S. was ready for a blitzkrieg war as evidenced by the amazing production of the Sherman which was meant as a breakthrough vehicle not meant to fight other tanks, which is why it had a pea shhoter gun.
    Anyway, is the Blitzkrieg Real or an invention from overzealous war planners?
    Last edited by Sickles; 08-26-2008 at 08:00 AM.

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    Default Re: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sickles View Post
    As evidenced by the large losses suffered by the Germans during those invasions as well as the large portions of Polish French and Dutch Armies which were still very capable of putting up more resistance if it wasn't for there goverments orders to stop fighting.
    In all conflicts you mentioned the invaded countries suffered more losses than the germans. When the war takes place on your own ground meaning your cities are erased and thousands of civilians die, the decision to surrender is made much more easier.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sickles View Post
    He also shows that the best way to defeat the germans was on a broad front which the Russians did from '43 onward not by Blitzkrieg tactics.
    As far as I recall the literature about the russian-german war said that the russians beat the germans with their own tactics: concentrated use of tanks in own unit and not using tanks in dribs and drabs as infantry support.
    "I just ran out of ammo. I will ram this one. Good bye, we'll meet in Valhalla." - Major Heinrich Ehrler, April 4, 1945

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    Default Re: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    Some of the books points:

    The idea of "Blitzkrieg" or Armored breakthrough is not a distinctly German idea.
    No Allied army wanted a repeat of 1914-18. The British and Americans both planned around the idea of strong armored thrusts combined with powerful bomber support.

    The idea of Blitzkrieg as a successful way to wage war is flawed. It was never sucessful in a large scale in WW2. Why? Because the mobility of a modern army can simply fall back or retreat faster than an aggressor can race through and then supply its tanks.
    Also An armored breakthrough would invariably expose the attacking armored flanks to anti-tank guns which all modern army's had en masse in WW2.

    The French were ridiculed by historians as "Antiquated" for building the Maginot Line.
    In fact the Germans spent much more of its Iron supply building the West Wall. So much in fact that they had precious little iron to build tanks which partially explains there poor state of armored readiness at the beginning of the war. The French at least had enough iron to build a superior tank force than the Germans by 1940. (in numbers and armoured thickness)

    If the Germans were indeed the architects of Blitzkrieg they would have gone to war with more and better tanks than the the Pz1-2-3-and short 4s. Almost every Allied Army had more and superior tanks than the Germans. This is an obvious and really pathetic point.

    The German Army was the least mechanized Army from 1939 thru 1944.

    The German army was able to overrun hundreds of thousands of Russians during Barbarossa, mostly because the Russians were perilously close to there own border while preparing to invade Germany first! Also the Germans could never score a knockout punch to the Russians because the bulk of the Red Army retreated faster than the Germans could advance and supply their Army Groups.

    The German Army was extraordinarily succesful in WW2 (despite massive flaws) mostly because of the quality of the Wermacht's officers and the resulting discipline they instilled. 100 German Soldiers were equal to 120 Americans, or 200 Soviet soldiers in combat effectiveness.
    Last edited by Sickles; 08-25-2008 at 05:41 PM.

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    Default Re: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    The way I understand it,Bewegungskrieg(a.k.a blitzkrieg) was a military doctrine used by Prussia since Frederick the great during the seven years war(Battle of Rossbach,Leuthen and Zorndorf).Nothing new except the means( motorised and armoured divisions) applied to Prussia's culture of War.As far as I know,real Bewegungskrieg only applied in North Africa and the first year of Barbarossa due to the perfect terrain for the war of movement.
    Also what the Red army did was only to apply the Deep Operation doctrine which they have been adopting on and off since the mid-thirties.In 1936 the level of motorised and armoured division was superior than Germany and unfortunately had been decreasing until 1942.According to David Glantz ,one of the main reason Russia was taken off-guard in 1941 was that the Red Army was in a transition phase(Reforms of October 1940) to go back fully to the Deep Operation/Battle and the changes in organisation that goes with it(creation of first and second echelon armies).
    The closest to its doctrine Russia fought was at the end of the war during the Vistula-Oder offensive.
    So to answer your question,Blitzkrieg was real ,just a bit inflated by the Allied media who had to find a reason why the biggest army in the world(France in 1940 that is) collapsed.
    Also interesting was the different views from Eisenhower and Montgomery on how to pursue the invasion of Germany after the Battle of Normandy and the German Ruckmarsch.Eisenhower somehow was more inclined to a Deep Operation kind of offfensive(push the ennemy on all fronts until the defense collapse) and Montgomery more a blitzkrieg kind of attack with a spearhead that would push through a certain point(Schwerpunkt) and open the door to Germany.
    EDIT:
    To respond to some of your points Sickle:
    During Barbarossa(I belive Zitadelle must be a mistake) the 10th,3rd,13th,18th,6th,12th,16th,20th,19th,37th,5t h,21st and 26th Soviet Armies were surrounded and most of them annihilated.The reason being that the Red Army were given a direct order from Stalin himself to stand fast,resist and certainly not to retreat resulting in them being trapped.The change of tactics only started by mid-42 (results shown after Operation Blue first phases I,Millerovo and II ,Rostov being called Luftstoss/blow into the air)after the slaughter that was the Battle of Kharkov in May 1942.
    And no the Blitzkrieg is far from being a German idea.But they were more inclined (see the comments about Prussia) to adopt ideas from the French and the British.
    As for the French Maginot line being ridiculed,let's just say that the Wehrmacht never managed to capture a Gros Ouvrage so if france would have been able to fortify the Belgian border as much as they did in the Moselle region let's say,Germany would have had a hell of a problem to go through as they did in Sedan.
    Overall I would say Mr Mosiers is one of these sensationalists writers desperate to get some attention with some avant-guarde ideas and theories but in the end I am not convinced.
    Last edited by kamehouse; 08-25-2008 at 05:33 PM.

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    Default Re: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sickles View Post
    100 German Soldiers were equal to 120 Americans, or 200 Soviet soldiers in combat effectiveness.
    Oooh, this will cause riots.
    "I just ran out of ammo. I will ram this one. Good bye, we'll meet in Valhalla." - Major Heinrich Ehrler, April 4, 1945

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    Default Re: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    Kame,
    Yes Barbarossa not Zittadelle,,, Thank you!

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    Default Re: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    Quote Originally Posted by flamethrowerguy View Post
    Oooh, this will cause riots.
    I agree with the Russian part but not the american ratio.

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    Default Re: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    Quote Originally Posted by SS Ouche-Vittes View Post
    I agree with the Russian part but not the american ratio.
    I'm sure you don't but I'd really like to know how such a ratio is determined.
    "I just ran out of ammo. I will ram this one. Good bye, we'll meet in Valhalla." - Major Heinrich Ehrler, April 4, 1945

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    Default Re: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    Quote Originally Posted by flamethrowerguy View Post
    I'm sure you don't but I'd really like to know how such a ratio is determined.
    Here is a quote from the end of book: "The German army did more than fight on; it was consistently successful on the field of battle, regardless of the specifics of the engagement This superiority is not subjective. The American researcher Trevor N. Dupuy quantified it as long ago as 1977, discovering that, on average 100 German soldiers were the equiveleant of 120 American, British, or French soldiers... Dupuy found that the 1.2:1 ratio was generally true throughout the war, while on the Eastern front the ratio of combat efectiveness was much higher: 100 German soldiers were as effective as 200 Soviet soldiers."


    I am not sure how the ratio is determined either but would imagine it takes into account casualty figures and losses of material. Mosier makes the point throughout the book that German casualties were consistently lower than there adversaries throughout the entire war whether on offense or defense.

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    Default Re: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sickles View Post
    Here is a quote from the end of book: "The German army did more than fight on; it was consistently successful on the field of battle, regardless of the specifics of the engagement This superiority is not subjective. The American researcher Trevor N. Dupuy quantified it as long ago as 1977, discovering that, on average 100 German soldiers were the equiveleant of 120 American, British, or French soldiers... Dupuy found that the 1.2:1 ratio was generally true throughout the war, while on the Eastern front the ratio of combat efectiveness was much higher: 100 German soldiers were as effective as 200 Soviet soldiers."


    I am not sure how the ratio is determined either but would imagine it takes into account casualty figures and losses of material. Mosier makes the point throughout the book that German casualties were consistently lower than there adversaries throughout the entire war whether on offense or defense.
    That's interesting but now we created a new problem: American, british and french soldiers with the same ratio. I guess especially the american and british will estimate their veterans achievements much higher.
    Last edited by flamethrowerguy; 08-26-2008 at 10:37 AM.
    "I just ran out of ammo. I will ram this one. Good bye, we'll meet in Valhalla." - Major Heinrich Ehrler, April 4, 1945

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    Default Re: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    Normandy campaign:
    US losses 125k
    Commonwealth 83k
    German 200k (plus 200k in prisoners)

    Ardennes Campaign
    US losses 81k
    Commonwealth losses 1.4k
    German losses 100k.

    ??? Doesn't stack up with that theory really does it.

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    Default Re: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    Quote Originally Posted by flamethrowerguy View Post
    That's interesting but now we created a new problem: American, british and french soldiers with the same ration. I guess especially the american and british will estimate their veterans achievements much higher.
    Yes they may,
    Here is where the book makes an interesting point about the French.
    Historians like to pile on the French for their quick capitulaion as a sign of weakness and even immorality (Because of the high number of communist and Nazi sympathizers in France) But the reality is this: The French always knew they could not hold out against the german army of 1940. They were to rely on the British for help which was promised to them. The British BEF did come to the aid of France but it was really just token aid. More worried about what was in store for England they made there way to the coast (Dunkirk) leading to the eventual surrender of France...

    When the surrender occurred, The French army spread out through the country side did not want to give up their arms, most units have not even seen action yet! Those that did see action actually fared well against the German onslaught. They fought hard and the number of crosses in French cemetaries showed that the individual French soldier was not afraid to give his life for France.

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    Default Re: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    I think you just can not leave the special circumstances of every battle unregarded: air supremacy, superiority in both men and material especially heavy weapons...
    However, Sir John Hackett, regimental CO of british paratroopers in WW2 stated in his book "The Profession of Arms" (1983) about the highest soldierly achievements in from 1939 to 1945: "There is no doubt at all who wins the prize: it is the german."
    British historian Max Hastings ("Overlord", 1984): "The german Wehrmacht was the best battle troops of the war, one of the most splendid the world has ever seen." Furthermore Hastings advises the Wehrmacht as an antetype for the NATO, although is a bit way off in my humble opinion...
    "I just ran out of ammo. I will ram this one. Good bye, we'll meet in Valhalla." - Major Heinrich Ehrler, April 4, 1945

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    Default Re: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    "More worried about what was in store for England they made there way to the coast (Dunkirk) leading to the eventual surrender of France..."

    Not sure if this your or the books conclusion. However it makes it sound like the British Army had a choice and strolled back to Dunkirk and left.

    Cut off from the rest of the army by a breakthrough in the French sector the British retreated to Dunkirk and then under considerable pressure evacuated their army along with a lot of the French one too.

    It is also unfair to call it a token force. 3 corps of 10 or 11 divisions represented virtually everything available at the time and left the UK with next to no fighting troops on British soil.

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    Default Re: Blitzkrieg Fact or Fiction?

    PTIMMS,

    The commentary about the BEF is more a political one than a condemnation of its soldiers.
    The German 12th army had created an enormous bulge in the allied line between Chaleroi and Rethel. The bulge was just as hazardous to the Germans as it was to the allies since it exposed them to a threat of an offense from the BEF as well as the French 7th army. This was especially true in the south where the Germans were unable to break through.
    Here is where the panic set in, not at the front but at the rear by French commander Gamelin who ordered a retreat instead of seizing the moment to turn the tables. The same thing happened to the BEF (General Lord Gort) whose commander panicked as well. The only thought of the senior British commanders both civilian and military was to save there army. They also began a retreat.

    Yes this was a rout, but no more than the battles of 1914, this time the French govt caved in and the BEF said "were outta here".

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