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Development of German Armoured Doctrine


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#1 Vince Noir

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 11:34 PM

Hi all. Been lurking and posting here and there but I thought I would take the plunge and post s thread! Its kinda come from reading peoples posts on tank decline and stuff on German armour. Now I have read a fair bit but Im in no way a 'historian' as some guys on here... sadly I dont have the time to read as much as I want with a young family!

However, Id like to share a theory I have on German armour and would like to know if I maybe on the right track or completly barking up the wrong tree!

What Im wondering is if the post-WW1 limits on the German Armed Forces actually helped doctrinal development. With few armoured vehicles and little development allowed it forced the army to look at doctrine and use of armour. Add to this the lack of pre-concieved ideas of tank use, as the Germans did very little in WW1, and the experiences suffered at the hands of Allied combined arms attacks in the last weeks of WW1.

They firstly developed a doctrine, for want of a better term 'Blitzkreig' , and then developed the vehicles to exploit this.

Would this then be the reason for German superiority in tank design as they built vehicles to suit their doctrine rather than the Allies in the pre-war & early war years who seemed to fit the doctrine to the tank design.

If that makes any sense! :)

#2 PzJgr

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 01:04 AM

I would say the restrictions posed onto Germany by the Versailles Treaty did in fact help Germany. When Germany came out into the world as a military power, it did so with an armed force with modern equipment. The equipment was limited in numbers but as you have stated, it was suited for the blitzkrieg method of battle. Had Hitler only waited until the Wehrmacht was properly armed, it would have been the most modern army to date.

As for the other victors of WWI, well, so much money was spent on the war and so many men lost that the people and governments lost interested in the arms race. There were a few generals who had philosopies much like Guderian. As a matte of fact, didn't Guderian get his blitzkrieg ideas from a Brit General ( can't remember his name)? Or was it Rommel? Nevertheless, Generals of the Weimer government were not as enthusiastic about blitzkrieg until Hitler became Chancellor. Then the arms race began, albeit in secret. I concur with your thoughts.
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#3 Kai-Petri

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 01:13 PM

I do think as well that the Germans were following with interest the British military scene. I think it was Liddell Hart and J. Fuller whose writings they carefully read.
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#4 Carl W Schwamberger

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 02:35 AM

"I do think as well that the Germans were following with interest the British military scene. I think it was Liddell Hart and J. Fuller whose writings they carefully read."

Guderian states as much in his autobiography 'Panzer Leader'. He also makes it clear he & the others had much work to do turning the theory of Hart & Fuller into actual practice. Many of the German ideas proposed in the 1920s or early 1930s proved impractical when actual motorized divsions with tanks were formed and begain training. Even as late as 1941 the actual practice of the German armored divsions still did not reach what Guderian thought possible.

"Had Hitler only waited until the Wehrmacht was properly armed, it would have been the most modern army to date. "

Not so. One of the serious defects of the German military was its intellegence service. It was belived by the German leaders that their tanks and other mechanized equipment of 1939 was equal to anyone elses. They were quite shocked to find in battle the French tanks commmonly better armored than their panzers. They were also suprised to find both the French 47mm gun and the British 2 pounder much better than the 37mm gun their tanks were armed with.

True the Germans had 50mm tank gun ready for production, but the French had a 75mm high velocity gun ready, and the British six pound gun was better than the 50mm gun, and entering production. The French were also testing a hypervelocity 90mm gun.

None of the German tank designs on the drawing board of 1940 or prototypes being tested had any great improvement over the existing models. It was only after they examined true heavy tanks such as the B1, or the British Matilda, or the medium S35 that they wrote specifications that led eventually to the Tiger I.

Similarly the French SAU 40 & ARL 40 armored artilliery vehicls were superior to the StGIII, both in cannon and armor.

I could go on with this for many pages. The examples of new & better equipment designs of the Allies in 1940 are many. The Germans actually had little to show in 1940 other than a few prototype tactical bombers, and their jet aircraft engine development. It took a look at the modern equipment of the French, British, and Soviet armys in 1940 & 41 to trigger serious new designs for weapons. Had Hitler waited his enemies woud have been far better armed.

#5 PzJgr

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 12:31 PM

At the time of the invasion of France, there were very limited numbers of the Mk IV pz with the low velocity 75 which was an error when the high velocity 75 was suppose to have been produced. Again, I state if Hitler had allowed the Wehrmacht the time to arm itself it would have had modern arms such as the Mk IV which was equal to if not superior to the French tanks. Germany was on track to produce newer tanks whereas the western countries were not even contemplating such a move.
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#6 Seatco

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 02:42 PM

Of course the whole impact of the panzers was HOW they were used, not their armor. In 1944 the US general Patton was at a tank demonstration in England where Shermans, and the M26 Pershing were being shown off. Patton (who had the major input as to what tanks should be used in Europe) stated that he did not want the heavy tanks, because what he needed was speed and he did not desire to use tanks to knock out hard targets, he only wanted to bypass such things and go around them for deep penetration attacks. This was indeed the very essence of Germany's early panzer victories.

Now compare that with Hitler's WWI vision of tanks - rather than meet the T-34s with a German version of the same, he pushed for the idea of an iron-pillbox: the Tiger I. Yes, it's victories against Russian tanks were amazing - like when one Tiger at the Battle of Kursk charged a large Russian tank force and knocked out 22 T-34s by itself without infantry or aid from other tanks. It allowed such men as Otto Carius and Wittmann to rack up huge tank kill totals. But the introduction of the Tiger I more or less marks the end of the period of Germany's amazing panzer penetrations. Of course some of these operations were done, but not many ended with the cutting of Russian supply lines. Kursk was a failure - even though Germany called it a victory because of all the tank kills (But this was VERDUNish thinking, i.e. bleed the enemy white - and with Russia being aided by the USA that wasn’t going to happen). The Tiger I, besides costing a lot, being fairly slow and less able to traverse rough terrain (as compared to the T-34) - and also having a lot of malfunction issues like throwing a tread if it tried to back up and turn at the same time (Read Otto Carius), or catching on fire when overheating, was mainly a lumbering pillbox – kind of like the tanks Hitler saw in WWI. It proved itself wonderful for defensive fighting and its units were often shipped around to plug up holes in trouble spots. It ate a lot of fuel and this was a problem in a fuel-starved Germany.

Hitler's philosophy continued onwards as more lumbering giants were designed and churned out - culminating in such iron-pillboxes as the Jagdpanzers and the Elephant. Only the Panther was a real modern Blitzkrieg tank. It should have been the final word in Germany's productions. It still cost too much and was built to the usual anally retentive tight specs German industry fixated on, but it was indeed a real Blitzkrieg capable tank.

Tiger IIs – ‘the fuel sucking vortexes’ - while they made a big show in the Battle of the Bulge, ran out of fuel. Most of their pile of steel they carried around was actually a waste of time and money in that battle.

Of course Hitler's other bad habit - forcing panzer forces to hold ground until their last bullet and drop of blood ran out, made it impossible for the German army to function with ANY panzer theory anyway. It always comes back to Hitler – he was an archaic man.




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