Arising from the Ashes...the German Army between the World Wars

There's an old saying that the losers of a war learn more than the winners.  This is certainly true of the German Army between the World Wars.  In this highly detailed and not for the faint of heart book, Dr. Robert Citino, one of my favorite authors of German military history...who has written extensively on the German Wehrmacht in 1942 and 1943, examines the rebuilding of the German army and how the concept of "blitzkrieg" was developed.

First of all, as mentioned, this book is only for the hardiest of military historians.  Citino has clearly done a magnificent job of research and analysis, and he can be a bit overwhelming at times with his facts and details.

But, patience is rewarded and some really interesting patterns and analysis emerge about military innovation in the inter-war years, especially armored and maneuver warfare.

First, all of the world powers know of the importance of the tank and airplane to warfare.  Britain, France, Russia, and Germany all attempted to understand and fit these new weapons into their doctrine and strategy. At various times the British and Russians had very advanced thinking on the use of armor, but the pusillanimous treatment of the military in Britain and Stalin's great purges stopped their progress cold, for which they paid a steep price when war came again to Europe.

Second, the German use of tanks was not really that novel, at least according to their own developments in tactics and doctrine from the last year of the war.  German sturmtruppen and infantry infiltration tactics had been highly developed and extremely successful in the last German offensives of 1918..they simply ran out of men and material to sustain their offensive to victory and could not overcome the 2,000,000 American troops that were committed to the war.  There is a really awesome paper on the topic from the Combat Studies Institute.

What did set the Germans apart from other world powers, and made the Wehrmacht so lethal an operational force was not the introduction of tanks to warfare, but the perfection of Combined Arms Warfare, which Citino describes in convincing detail.  The Germans understood that tanks would be the dominant weapon on the next European battlefield, but they would need to be supported by infantry, artillery, anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank guns, engineers and reconnaissance troops.  This ability to combine these various arms under a unified command, tied together with radio and signal troops and then support them with tactical air power exemplified by the Stuka dive-bomber made the Wehrmacht into a very efficient killing machine.

This was a really excellent book in understanding not only the details of German blitzkrieg, but how armies innovate in response to new weapons, tactics, and operational requirements.  If you are a serious student of World War II, strategy and doctrine, or military innovation and technology, this is a very worthwhile read.