The Dynamics of Doctrine: The Changes in German Tactical Doctrine During the First World War
This paper is a case study in the wartime evolution of tactical doctrine. Besides providing a summary of German Infantry tactics of the First World War, this study offers insight into the crucial role of leadership in facilitating doctrinal change during battle. It reminds us that success in war demands extensive and vigorous training calculated to insure that field commanders understand and apply sound tactical principles as guidelines for action and not as a substitute for good judgment. It points out the need for a timely effort in collecting and evaluating doctrinal lessons from battlefield experience. --Abstract.
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21 March achieve advance aggressive Allied artillery apply artillery fire Balck barrage batteries battle zone battlefield became bombardment British Official History Bruchmiiller Cambrai casualties chief of staff Combat Studies Institute conduct counterattack units creeping barrage Crown Prince Wilhelm defensive doctrine demands depth Despite developed elastic defense-in-depth enemy position experiences Falkenhayn field army firepower forces forward French Fritz von Lossberg front line German Army German attack German defense German General Staff German infantry German Sixth Army German units Hermann Balck Hindenburg Hutier Imperial German Army infantry assault Infantry Division infantry units initial Kuhl Laffargue Ludendorff Ludwig Renn method military Nivelle Nivelle offensive Nivelle's offensive tactics OHL operations section organization outpost zone principles regiments reserve Rohr's sector shells Sixth Army small unit soldiers Somme storm battalion strategic breakthrough strongpoints tactical change tactical concepts tactical methods tanks terrain U.S. Army U.S. Army Command Verdun weapons western front Wetzell World Wynne
Page 50 - Consequently, although a desperate resistance was offered by the survivors of its garrison, the Forward Zone as a whole was overrun at the first rush, the machine guns still in action hardly firing a shot. Making good use of the valleys, where the fog lay heaviest, the leading waves of German infantry swept onwards towards the Battle Zone, leaving the posts and redoubts still holding out in the Forward Zone to be dealt with by special parties.
Page 40 - From overhead, low flying aircraft ... bombed and machine gunned the British defenders, causing further casualties and, especially, distraction at the critical moment. Nevertheless, few posts appear to have been attacked from the front, the assault sweeping in between to envelop them from flanks and rear.' ( The Official History ...) The phrase 'infiltration tactics' has been widely used to describe the German infantry's new offensive technique.
Page 9 - Army in tactics and in equipment. On the Eastern front we had for the most part adhered to the old tactical methods and the old training which we had learned in the days of peace.
Page 47 - I made practice attacks with the company on complicated trench systems, with live grenades, in order to turn to account the lessons of the Cambrai battle ... we had some casualties ... A machine gunner of my company shot the commanding officer of another unit off his horse, while he was reviewing some troops. Fortunately the wound was not fatal.
Page 34 - They were heralded by very accurate artillery fire concentrated on the point of attack. The ground the Germans intended recapturing would be turned into a field of smoke and flame under a roaring, screeching sky that seemed about to collapse, forcing down the heads of the defenders; trenches would rock and cave under the violence of the explosions, then the air would buzz as the steel wasps of German machine gun bullets came over ... Suddenly the range would lengthen and, looming out of the smoke...
Page 58 - There is no panacea. A formula is harmful. Everything must be applied according to the situation.
Page 41 - Acknowledging the impossibility of destroying all enemy forces in such a deep penetration, the German tactical doctrine did not require complete destruction. Instead, disruption of enemy units and communications was essential. Throughout the doctrine, keeping the enemy off balance, pressing the attack continuously, and retaining the initiative received great emphasis.
Page 34 - ... turned into a field of smoke and flame under a roaring, screeching sky that seemed about to collapse, forcing down the heads of the defenders; trenches would rock and cave under the violence of the explosions, then the air would buzz as the steel wasps of German machine gun bullets came over ... Suddenly the range would lengthen and, looming out of the smoke of the last explosions, shadowy forms would rush forward, gesticulating wildly, enemy soldiers throwing grenades. (Spears, Liaison 1914)...
Page 48 - It all works marvelously, there isn't silence for a moment, it just went on uninterruptedly, rumbling and banging away; rapid fire of every calibre was rattling down on the French, and we hoped they still had no notion of what was coming. Not a single battery had done any range-firing, but our shooting was a masterpiece of accuracy, all worked out and plotted according to the latest principles of ballistics.
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