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German Tactical Doctrine, Military Intelligence Service, Special Series No. 8, December 20, 1942
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the wartime U.S. War Department publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


FREDERICK THE GREAT, as the result of his experiences in the Seven Years' War, is credited with establishing the first General Staff in the history of military forces. This Staff was created to handle administrative details, thus releasing more time to the commanders for tactical considerations. It was not, however, until 1810 that Frederick's successors established a school to train officers for General Staff duty. Because successful military results were achieved, France, Great Britain, the United States, Japan, and other countries based the formation of their General Staffs upon the model set by Germany.

Beginning with Scharnhorst, such distinguished leaders and strategists as Moltke (the elder) and von Schlieffen were closely associated with the development of the General Staff School, which operated continuously from 1810 until the outbreak of World War I. Subsequent to that war the Versailles Treaty forbade the continuance of the school, and it was not until 1933 that the Kriegsakademie, as the Germans call it, was officially reopened in the Berlin location that it was occupying at the outbreak of World War II.

During the years from 1935 to 1939, the United States was allowed to send four individual officers to take the course. From their illuminating reports it is possible to learn the trend of German methods and teachings up to Hitler's attack on Poland. Our observers unanimously agreed that the main body of doctrine taught at the Kriegsakademie--the body of dQoctrine that underlies the German warfare of today--is set forth in Truppenführung, the German tactical bible so very similar in matter and precept to our own FM 100-5, Field Service Regulations, Operations.

The following partial résumé of doctrine1 taught at the Kriegsakademie is actually a practical adaptation of relevant parts of Truppenführung. It will be noted that this résumé (ignoring the factor of translation) is written almost exactly as a German would instruct Germans. This faithfulness to the tone of the original lectures has been made possible because of the extremely adequate reports which were made by the U.S. officer-students.

Throughout, striking similarities will be observed between German tactical doctrine and that set down in pertinent manuals of the U.S. Army. U.S. officers, however, should not be misled by the similarities to overlook the differences that also exist. With regard to one of the basic similarities in doctrine, it has been pointed out by one of our Kriegsakademie graduates that "Owing to the phlegmatic nature of the German individual, initiative and aggressive action have to be forced on the lower leaders and staff, rank and file, whereas we possess these characteristics as a natural heritage."

1 The Military Intelligence Service has published the following bulletins which describe various aspects of German military methods: "The German Armored Division," Information Bulletin, No. 18, June 15, 1942; "German Methods of Warfare in the Libyan Desert," Information Bulletin, No. 20, July 5, 1942; "The German Armored Army," Special Series, No. 4, October 17, 1942; "The Development of German Defensive Tactics in Cyrenaica--1941," Special Series, No. 5, October 19, 1942; "Artillery in the Desert," Special Series, No. 6, November 25, 1942. Information about specific organizations and weapons may be found in TM 30-450, Handbook on German Military Forces.

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