When did Blitzkrieg die? If it ever did.

Discussion in 'General' started by von Poop, Feb 23, 2019.

  1. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Mr Ball's reading this, and we'll hopefully get a review soonish, but the subtitle has got me wondering.
    Greece 1941

    'The Death Throes of Blitzkrieg.'

    I imagine most of us might cite the grind towards Moscow as the death of WW2 Germany's lightning war, but I quite like the idea of Greece as a candidate, or maybe being put on the defensiive around Alamein.
    Or did Germany ever ditch the concept, with the Bulge perhaps being a last roll of the Blitzkrieg dice? Despite insufficient forces, the will seems to have been present.
    Or do such approaches never die, really.
    The American civil war's general Forrest is often paraphrased as relying on 'Fastest with the mostest', which about sums Blitzkrieg up. Modern shock & awe/rapid dominance doctrine doesn't seem that far off.

    Can a specific point be identified for the German application of Blitzkrieg first starting to curl its toes?
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  2. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    "blitzkrieg attempts to unbalance the enemy by making it difficult for it to respond to the continuously changing front, then defeat it in a decisive battle"

    Marc Milner's book, Stopping the Panzers, offers some insight into this subject. The Germans never did ditch the concept. In fact, Milner asserts that "Their doctrine, organization, and equipment, especially their devolution of of command, control, and firepower to a low level, were structured for mobile battle."
    In Normandy, he argues that the old blitzkrieg tactics of shock and surprise no longer worked as they had in Russia with the inference that the Allies had adapted. I believe he makes an astute comment in describing the Germans as "masters of chaos on the battlefield". When they could not cause the battle to tumble and become fluid, they were far less effective in offensive operations.

    The effective use of Kampfgruppes right until the end of the war would suggest that the short, fast application of combined arms formations remained at the core of their philosophy. They were simply incapable of doing that on a larger scale in the face of Allied airpower, artillery and AT firepower. Although the Ardennes offensive in late 1944, with the attempted armoured thrust to Antwerp, demonstrated the same commitment to the blitzkreig style of warfare.
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  3. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Blitzkrieg died the moment the Germans adopted it. At no point in the war did they ever win strategic blitzkrieg - and that is all that mattered. They had lots and lots of tactical and operational blitzkrieg victories but at no point were they ever going to win at the strategic level - they simply did not have sufficient equipment, money or fuel. For the invasion of France and Russia, the armoured forces still depended on the plodding horse drawn main body to catch up - hence both the British and Russians, despite losses, eventually escaped the encirclements.

    The German economy simply could not sustain the cost of a fully armoured force that a strategic victory required. A German armoured division cost 17 times the cost of a plodding, line infantry division.


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  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Very interesting

    I would assume from the first blast of Blitzkrieg the unprepared were caught out.
    As stated logistics played a part or lack of logistics.

    From To Lose a Battle ,detailing the events of the 1940 Blitzkrieg before and after.
    From my viewpoint it gives a very good account of the time and shows it wasnt all about charging full steam ahead.

    "Meanwhile the employment of the handful of Brandenburgers disguised in Dutch uniforms was itself to achieve a major success of psychological warfare for Hitler"

    "One after another the Sedan bridges erupted until not one was standing-although in the heat of the moment Paul Renaud was later to claim that some had been left intact by treachery.

    "But at Houx that afternoon they had spotted what looked like an ancient weir connecting with a narrow island in midstream which unaccountably it seemed the defenders had neglected to destroy,Under cover of darkness and further aide by a low mist clinging to the river bed.Rommels foot patrols now explored the weir and reported it viable.Immediately the infantry commander ,Colonel Furst ordered the divisional motor cycle battalion to infiltrate across it on foot which they did."
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2019
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  5. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    With the reference to the 'front', this actually reads more like Monty's gameplan in Normandy where the conditions for the 'blitzkrieg' have to be created.

    I've always understood the perennially-vague concept of BK to be more concerned with the dislocation of forces than their destruction in battle or collecting topographical trophies. Bulge sort of fits in with this as the physical wedge driven between the Allies was intended to create an even bigger political one.

    Until everyone has agreed what BK was/is, it's equally hard to decide what it wasn't, which I think is what we're trying to do.
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  6. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Defining Blitzkrieg...

    Umm, yeah. It's tricky really, isn't it.
    I used to think the Soviets' 'Deep Battle' was roughly the same thing, (which possibly demonstrates uncertainty over definitions) but that's more about multiple planned simultaneous encounters gradually leading to a stated end, rather than the rush to one large aim while avoiding conflict until necessary that I think is implied by Blitzkrieg. The meat-grinder versus the schwerepunkt.
    If it fails to take an entire country in weeks, with minimal actual fighting, is something really Blitzkrieg? Which makes one wonder at just how Blitzkrieg-y any campaign is after 1940.
    That thought makes me like the suggestion of it being as much a political concept as a military one. The formations go vorwärts at all costs, while the leadership screams abuse at all levels. Capitulate or be utterly destroyed.

    'Masters of chaos' a nice phrase. Blitzkrieg & Kampfgruppe not so bad. Steady general staff work, maybe less so.

    Terrain & mechanisation seem essential for the implied speed. Once you've nailed your colours to the concept, could it ever work in mountains or mud...

    Not read Hobart's early stuff on motorised war for a long while. Might have to dig that out while musing on what exactly Blitzkrieg might be.
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  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Be interesting to read your thoughts on how Blitzkrieg would work in ......... lets say ..................... Burma

  8. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    If you read Frieser's "The Blitzkrieg Legend" then you'd probably begin to think that "Blitzkrieg" was, well, just a bit of a legend.


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  9. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Hitler is recorded as saying to his military circle in the preparation for Barbarossa and his anticipated defeat of Russia..."all we have to do is kick in the front door and and whole house will come tumbling down".He envisaged that it would take six weeks....this from the experience of the strategy of Blitzkreig in the overrunning Western Europe in 60 days.He was proved wrong....Russia was a different enemy and was fought on a different battlefield terrain.Hitler's war strategy was to achieve lightening victories at minimum cost with the defeated paying occupation costs.It's well known that he went to war with minimum oil stocks and as history proved there were no victories after the failure to inflict defeat on the Red Army in the summer of 1943 at Kursk.

    I have always thought that the Blitzkreig ended as a strategy after the victories in the victories in the summer of 1940.Russia was a different battlefield.... large...... extensive..... where when there were large concentrations of the enemy to be annihilated,if this was achieved,the Russians regrouped and did not fall into the danger of encirclement as practised in the early days of the invasion.

    Also lacking were refugees packing the roads and hindling any fightback from the Russians...Russian citizens did not have access to vehicles and were committed to stay where they were. There was also the fact that the Red Army had a ever sustainable force of manpower,while by 1943,the German war machine were running out of manpower

    As said, the Wehrmacht went to war with a distinct lack of motorised mobility for the infantry,a deficiency which prevailed throughout the war.There was an added difficulty for the assault East and that was as the campaign dragged on the lines of communication were stretched longer and longer, giving rise to supply challenges....not something associated with the Blitzkreig philosophy.
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  10. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    The Malayan campaign was certainly about dislocation. Mechanisation wasn't necessary to maintain the tempo in that case, many arguing that our mechanisation worked against us by tying us to the roads.
  11. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    (You can even game it, it seems:
    The Blitzkrieg Legend – PBEM )

    The more you try and think about it, the more you come to a broadly similar conclusion.

    Though I do really like the suggestion of it existing as a political & propaganda concept, rather than a specifically military one.
    Suppose it also works for the opposition to have a loose term for enemy actions. A motivational germanic-sounding word.
    'Look how fast they move! Rapaciousness as a doctrine! Blitzkrieg! Lightning war! Act!'
    It's a word that's all over culture & military history. Caught on as it's... catchy.

    "Germany's power grows every day... this is why Germany will be victorious." (Apparently... I have no Russian.)
    No mention of the specific word, but the same suggestion being made. We are faster, and better at this than you, we press forward.
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  12. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    "Terrain & mechanisation seem essential for the implied speed. Once you've nailed your colours to the concept, could it ever work in mountains or mud."

    Audacious and far more risky but the Ardennes worked once and almost twice.
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  13. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    I just looked at the blurb for this book on Amazon, and now I really want to read it!
  14. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Gunner Tours

    As a media and political/ military strategy the concept was still alive and kicking in 2003 as "Shock and Awe"

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