1. DECISIVE CHARACTER OF TANK ACTION
At the end of the first World War two German generals,1 Eimannsberger and Guderian, devoted themselves to developing the theory of the tank. They had been much impressed by the shock, even the panic, that the sudden introduction of the tank had caused among the German troops, but they were convinced also that the Allies had used the new instrument timidly and sparingly. They saw united in the tank the three main elements of decision in a modern battle: (1) surprise, (2) powerful and instantaneous fire, and (3) breadth, flexibility, and relative invulnerability of movement. They perceived that so redoubtable an arm could be employed with much greater effectiveness than the Allies had imagined.
2. THE TANK AS A STRATEGIC RATHER THAN TACTICAL WEAPON
The Allies had used the tank only for the rupture of the enemy front. The German generals conceived a more audacious use of it in the exploitation phase to disorganize the reserves and the enemy rear areas, so that the enemy would be unable to delimit the defeat by establishing himself in new positions. The strategic consequences of such an action might well be incalculable. They drew the following conclusions:
a. Speed and the Radius of Action Must Be Utilized to the Utmost
"The attack by tanks," wrote Guderian in 1936, "must be conducted with maximum acceleration in order to exploit the advantage of surprise, to penetrate deep into enemy lines, to prevent reserves from intervening, and to extend the tactical success into a strategical victory. Speed, therefore, is what is to be exacted above anything else from the armored weapon."
Speed makes possible the maximum degree of surprise because it overcomes delay in concentrating forces at chosen points. Speed neutralizes the enemy defense by limiting the possibilities of fire from his antitank weapons.
b. Tanks Will Impose Their Rhythm on the Modern Battle
Infantry and artillery will link their action as closely as possible to that of the tanks. The German standard regulations stated the new law: "In the zone of action of the tanks, the action of other arms is to be based on that of the tanks." In short, in the German plan of operations the armored weapon became, on the ground, the essential arm of combat and no longer figured, as it had in the French conception, merely as support for infantry and artillery.
c. The Combined Action of the Air and Armored Forces Will Govern the Battle
The decisive factor will no longer be the infantry-artillery team, because the air units, being better qualified to furnish immediate, brutal, and accurate support for the mobile and rapid tanks, will henceforth constitute the "attack artillery."
d. This Association Will Transform Not only the Pace but the Sphere of Application of the Modern Battle
Abandoning the idea of a more or less straight front line, the modern battle will take place throughout the entire depth of the enemy position as well as at all altitudes. The factor of time will play a decisive role. The modern battle will depend on speed multiplied by mass. The most rapid ground and air weapons will participate in it, in numbers never previously imagined.
"War will no longer be the war of airplanes and tanks; it will be the war of thousands of planes and thousands of tanks."
e. The Tank Army Must Be Made Autonomous
The armored Army must be capable of prosecuting war with its own means. Therefore, the German generals rejected the French formula of 1918 which, providing only for the distribution of tanks among the large infantry units, had thus reduced their speed and mobility.
3. HOWEVER, THE GERMAN THEORISTS PERCEIVED THAT THE ARMORED ARM WOULD SUCCEED ONLY IF IT COOPERATED WITH OTHER ARMS
General Guderian analyzed this problem at length in an article which appeared in the "Militär Wissenschaftliche Rundschau," dated October 15, 1936:
"The armored branch will include all other arms. Infantry, artillery, and engineers are necessary to the development of its action, but it will impose upon them its own method of combat by making them dependent on the motor. Supporting infantry, artillery, and engineers will be motorized and partially armored within the framework of the Armored Division2 and the Motorized Infantry Division. They will adjust their new tactical program and employment to their new speed.
"An important role will be played by the engineers, who will have abundant matériel for crossing gaps, and who will be trained to use it rapidly and to oppose the action of enemy tanks by the rapid construction of antitank obstacles.
"The desire to protect the armored weapon against the counterattack of its most dangerous enemies, the tank and the plane, will require the incorporation of numerous and powerful antitank and antiaircraft weapons into the panzer division. Thus, the armored arm--minutely trained on the other hand for cooperation with the air arm--will be able to fight its own battle."
4. THE ORGANIZATION OF THE NEW MECHANIZED DIVISION DID NOT BRING THE THIRD REICH TO GIVE UP THE CONCEPTION OF A "NATION IN ARMS"
The conception was affirmed emphatically in the book "Total War," the military testament of General Ludendorff, which has greatly influenced recent German policy.
Behind the motorized and armored elements, manned by a young personnel kept constantly on a war footing and permanently prepared for a bold attack, the "mass army" will be ready to act as soon as mobilization furnishes a formidable number of effectives from the enormous population of the Reich.
This vast national Army, itself with considerable motorized equipment, will assist the action of the armored groupments in the principal theater, will take care of the defensive missions in passive and secondary sectors, will fight its own battles in regions where the use of tanks is not advisable, and finally will occupy the conquered territory in order to liberate the panzer divisions for still further tasks.
2 "The German Armored Division," Information Bulletin No. 18, June 15, 1942, Military Intelligence Service, contains a translation of a captured German training manual which describes the principles taught by the Germans for the operation of the armored division.