gigatos | February 12, 2022
Blitzkrieg, commonly known by its German name Blitzkrieg ( ˈblɪʦˌkʀiːk (?-i)), is the name given to a military tactic aimed at developing a rapid and forceful campaign culminating in a clear victory, thus avoiding the possibility of total war and the attrition it entails in terms of lives and resources. It is an attack tactic consisting of an initial bombardment, followed by the use of mobile forces, attacking with speed and surprise to prevent the enemy from carrying out a coherent defense.
The basic principles of this tactic were developed in the 20th century by several nations from the interwar period onwards, and is best known for its adaptation by the Wehrmacht to the use of modern weapons and vehicles, and subsequent implementation in World War II as an effective method of avoiding trench warfare and fixed-front warfare. From the second half of the 20th century, the bombardment phase has been carried out mainly by air (but also by artillery), followed by a rapid and forceful advance of ground units, as in the Six-Day War. Since the element of surprise is crucial in a successful Blitzkrieg, it involves taking the initiative in the attack and usually in the campaign.
Blitzkrieg is a German word that literally translates to “blitzkrieg”, referring to its rapid outcome. Uncommonly used in World War II, the word was rarely used in military publications, such as the Deutsche Wehr in 1935, in the context of an article exposing how states with insufficient food and raw materials could win a war. In 1938 it was used again in the Militär-Wochenblatt, where it was defined as a “strategic attack” carried out with the use of armored, airborne and airborne forces. In his book Blitzkrieg Legende, Karl-Heinz Frieser, who researched the origin of the term, points out that the use of the word before the war was very rare and that it practically never entered the official terminology during the war.
In the English-speaking world the term was made popular by a journalist from the American magazine Time, in his description of the invasion of Poland in 1939. Published on September 25, 1939, with the campaign in full swing, the journalist”s account mentions:
“The battle front has been lost, and with it the illusion that had always existed in a battle front. In this there was no war of occupation, but a war of rapid penetration and cancellation-Blitzkrieg, lightning war. Rapid columns of tanks and armored trucks plunged into Poland while bombs rained from the sky announcing their arrival. They cut off communications, killed animals, dispersed the population, spread terror. Acting sometimes 50 km ahead of the infantry and artillery, they wiped out the Polish defenses before they had time to organize. Then, while the infantry mopped up, they moved to attack again far behind what was known as the front.”
Historians and military experts have defined Blitzkrieg as the use of maneuver and combined forces warfare concepts, mainly developed in Germany during the interwar period and World War II, and subsequently implemented in several war conflicts throughout the 20th century and early 21st century. From the strategic point of view, the idea is to achieve a rapid collapse of the adversary with a short campaign waged by a small and professional army. Operationally, this goal is achieved by indirect means, such as mobility and surprise, rendering the adversary”s plans impracticable or irrelevant. Combinations of armored formations, motorized infantry, engineers, artillery and fighter-bombers have been used to achieve it.
Beyond blitzkriegs, the use of the word Blitz became popular with reference to military operations emphasizing surprise, speed and concentration. Even during World War II, bombing raids on the city of London by the Luftwaffe became known as Blitz. In the 1990s, American Shock and Awe theorists claimed that Blitzkrieg was a subset of strategies they called “rapid dominance.”
Apart from the military field, there is also a fast chess modality called Blitzschach (lightning chess).
The first practical examples of this concept, coupled with modern technology, were those established by the German Wehrmacht in the initial battles of World War II. While the operations in Poland were fairly conventional, the following battles (particularly the invasions of France, the Netherlands and the first operations in the Soviet Union) were effective due to surprise penetrations, the general unpreparedness of the enemy and the inability to react quickly to German offensives. The victory of the German army against a technically superior and more numerous enemy in France led many analysts to believe that a new system of warfare had been invented.
The generally accepted definition of Blitzkrieg operations includes the use of maneuver rather than attrition to defeat an opponent, and maps operations using the concentration of combined forces of mobile assets at a central point, the armor closely supported by mobile infantry assets, artillery and air support. These tactics necessitated the development of specialized support vehicles, new methods of communication, new military tactics and effective decentralization of the command structure.
In general terms, the Blitzkrieg required the formation of mechanized infantry, self-propelled artillery and engineer corps that could maintain the equipment and mobility of the tanks in good condition. German forces avoided direct combat in order to disrupt communications, decision-making, logistics and reduce enemy morale. In combat, the Blitzkrieg left little choice to the sluggish defending forces beyond breaking into isolated pockets, which were surrounded and subsequently destroyed by German infantry.
For the first time the strategy was applied during the Polish-Soviet war (1919-1920). The Polish Armed Forces were inferior to the Soviet ones. To move troops, the strategy was used for the first time, which won the war and, consequently, Polish independence was prolonged for 19 years.
The imminent development of the Blitzkrieg began with the German defeat in World War I. Shortly after the conflict, the Reichswehr created veteran officer committees to evaluate 57 wartime issues. Shortly after the conflict, the Reichswehr created committees of veteran officers to evaluate 57 issues of the war. The reports of these committees shaped doctrine and training publications that would become standard in World War II. The Reichswehr was influenced by its analysis of prewar German military thinking, particularly its infiltration tactics and the maneuver warfare that dominated the Eastern Front.
German military history was heavily influenced by Carl von Clausewitz, Alfred von Schlieffen and Helmuth von Moltke, who were proponents of maneuver, mass and enveloping maneuver. Their concepts were successfully applied in the Franco-Prussian War and in the attempted Schlieffen Plan. During the war, these concepts were modified by the Reichswehr. Its chief of staff, Hans von Seeckt, moved away from the doctrine arguing that it focused too much on speed-based envelopment. Speed gave surprise, which allowed for its exploitation if decisions were made quickly, and mobility gave flexibility and speed. Von Seeckt advocated making breaks against the enemy center when it was more profitable than envelopments, or where envelopments were impractical.
Under von Seeckt, the modern update of the doctrinal system received the name Bewegungskrieg (German for war of movement), and his system of tactics called Auftragstaktik (German for tactics according to the mission) was developed resulting in the well-known Blitzkrieg effect”In addition, he rejected the notion of mass that von Schlieffen and von Moltke had advocated.
While the reserves occupied four-tenths of the German forces in the prewar campaigns, von Seeckt sought the creation of a small, professional volunteer military force supported by a defensive militia. In modern warfare, he argued that a small force was more capable of offensive action, quicker to be ready and less expensive to equip with modern weapons. The Reichswehr was forced to adopt a small professional army because of the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles which limited the German army to a maximum of one hundred thousand soldiers.
The Bewegungskrieg needed a new hierarchy of command that allowed military decisions to be made as close to the military unit level as possible. This enabled units to react and implement decisions more quickly, which was a critical advantage and one of the main reasons for the success of the Blitzkrieg.
The German leadership had also been criticized for not understanding the technological advances of World War I, leaving tank production as a low priority and not conducting machine gun studies before the war. In response, German officers attended technical schools during the reconstruction period after the war.
Infiltration tactics, created by the German army during World War I, became the basis for later tactics. German infantry had evolved into small decentralized groups, which avoided resistance and tried to reach weak points and attack rear communications. They were aided by coordinated artillery and aerial bombardment, followed by larger ground forces with heavy weapons that destroyed points of resistance. These concepts formed the basis of Wehrmacht tactics during World War II.
The eastern front of the war did not stagnate in trench warfare. The German and Russian armies fought a war of maneuver over thousands of miles, giving the German leadership the unique experience that the western front lacked. Studies of operations in the east led to the conclusion that small coordinated forces possessed more combat capability than large uncoordinated forces.
During this period, the major combatants of the war developed their own theories on mechanized forces, those of the Western Allies being substantially different from those of the Reichswehr. British, French and American doctrines at the beginning of the First World War envisaged a role for armored vehicles reduced to the function of mere support for and subordinate to infantry forces, with little focus on combined groups and the concentration of armored forces. This had a decisive influence on the design of the Allied tank models in service: slow and heavy, with heavy armor and armament designed for fire support. The Germans would have, on the contrary, less armor and firepower in exchange for much greater speed and maneuverability, at least in the initial phases of the war and until the appearance of the heavier panzer models.
Early Reichswehr publications contained many translated articles from Allied countries, although the more the doctrinal lines differed, the less interest they received from the German General Staff. Technical developments from foreign countries were, however, monitored and used in part by the Armament Office. In general, foreign doctrines had little influence, with four possible exceptions: the French Charles de Gaulle, the Soviet Mikhail Tukhachevsky, and the British J.F.C. Fuller and Basil Liddell Hart.
De Gaulle, who was then a colonel in the French army, was a well-known advocate of the concentration of armor and aircraft, an opinion despised by his high command, but which some claim influenced Heinz Guderian. In 1934 De Gaulle had written in his book L”armée de metier some theories where he defended the combined use of tanks and infantry in collaboration with aviation. The French army”s higher commands rejected such ideas, but many excerpts from De Gaulle”s text were quoted literally as useful theory in German military manuals of the time.
Fuller and Liddell Hart are associated with the development of the Blitzkrieg by Guderian himself in his memoirs. At their proposal, the British War Office permitted an Experimental Mechanized Force, formed on May 1, 1927, which was fully motorized and included self-propelled artillery and motorized engineers. His articles with the conclusions drawn from them were widely circulated in Germany, and Guderian himself was even responsible for translating them. Both authors were widely known to the pre-rearmament German officer corps (Erwin Rommel, for example, had original copies and some of Guderian”s translations in his home). However, the Allies (and especially Great Britain) discarded these initial studies and fully adopted the chariot doctrine as infantry support.
What is beyond doubt, therefore, is that it was Guderian and other German generals who were the first to design and implement this doctrine in a wide and successful range of scenarios during World War II. From the river crossings by the first combined forces and the exploitation of penetration during the advance into France in 1940 to the massive enveloping advances into Russia in 1942, the German army showed a mastery and innovation that enabled it to overcome its numerical and material inferiority. In large part this was due to Guderian”s determined work as a tireless promoter of the armored weapon; his leadership was supported and encouraged by the Reichswehr General Staff, promoting both the design of the weapon and improvement in its use through war games during the 1930s.
Moreover, the Reichswehr and the Red Army collaborated in military exercises and tests in Kazan and Lipetsk in early 1926. During this period, the Red Army was developing the theory of Depth Operations, which would guide Red Army doctrine during World War II. Located within the Soviet Union, these two centers were used for aviation and armored vehicle testing up to battalion level, as well as to house armored and airborne schools. These initial tests were conducted secretly on Soviet Union territory as part of an exchange program by which the Germans sought to avoid the impositions of the Treaty of Versailles on war research. In spite of this, the Great Purge launched by Stalin in 1935 meant that many Soviet military chiefs advocating “war in depth” were arrested and then shot, with the consequent government prohibition to continue studying war concepts whose authors had lost the favor of the regime. Ironically, it would be precisely the Soviets who would suffer most from the technical mastery achieved by the German forces thanks to this initial covert collaboration.
Guderian in the Wehrmacht
Following Germany”s military reforms in the 1920s, Heinz Guderian emerged as a strong supporter of mechanized forces. Within the Troop Transport Inspectorate, Guderian and his colleagues carried out theoretical and exercise work in the field. There was opposition by many officers who gave primacy to infantry or simply doubted the usefulness of armor. Among them was Chief of Staff Ludwig Beck (1935-1938), who distrusted that armored forces could be decisive. Nevertheless, panzer divisions were created during his term of office.
Guderian advocated that the tank was the decisive weapon of war. He stated in one of his writings that “if the tanks succeed, then victory is achieved.” In an article addressed to critics of armored warfare, Guderian wrote “until our critics can come up with a new and better method of making a successful ground attack other than indiscriminate slaughter, we will continue to maintain our beliefs that armor – properly employed, needless to say – is now the best means available for a ground attack.”
Addressing the increased rate at which defenders could reinforce an area that attackers would have penetrated during World War I, Guderian wrote that “since reserve forces will now be motorized, the creation of new defensive fronts is easier than it used to be; the possibilities for an offensive based on artillery and infantry cooperation are consequently simpler than they were in the last war.” He continued that “we believe that by attacking with armor we can achieve a higher rate of movement than has hitherto been possible, and – what is perhaps even more important – we can maintain it once a breach is opened in the front.” In addition, Guderian called for widespread use of radio to facilitate coordination and command.
The Panzertruppen and the Luftwaffe
The Blitzkrieg would not be possible without the modification of Germany”s standing army, which was limited by the Treaty of Versailles to 100,000 men, its air force disbanded and the development of the tank banned. After becoming head of state, Adolf Hitler ignored these obligations.
An armored troop command was created within the German Heer (Army), the Panzertruppen. The Luftwaffe, or Air Force, was re-established, and the development of fighter-bombers and doctrines began. Hitler was a strong supporter of this new strategy. He read Guderian”s book Achtung! Panzer! and observed armored field exercises at Kummersdorf, where he commented “This is what I want: and this is what I will have.”
Spanish Civil War
German volunteers first used armored vehicles on actual battlefields during the Spanish Civil War of 1936. The armored corps consisted of Battalion 88, a force created with three Panzer I tank companies that functioned as a training cadre for the national army. The Luftwaffe deployed squadrons of fighters, dive bombers and transports under the name of the Condor Legion.
Guderian said that the deployment of tanks was “on too small a scale to allow accurate assessments to be made. The real test for his “armored idea” would have to wait until World War II. However, the German Air Force also provided volunteers to test tactics and aircraft in combat, including the first use of the Stuka.
The Blitzkrieg always pursued decisive actions. To this end, the theory of the Schwerpunkt or focal point was developed: it was the point of maximum effort. The panzer forces and the Luftwaffe were used only at this point of maximum effort whenever possible. Through local success at the Schwerpunkt, a small force achieved a break in the line and gained advantages by fighting in the enemy”s rear. It was summarized by Guderian as “Nicht kleckern, klotzen!” (Without tickling, hitting! or else “not in bits and pieces, but all at once”).
To achieve a break in the front, the infantry, and less frequently, the armored forces themselves, would attack the enemy”s defensive line, supported by artillery fire and shelling to create a breach in the enemy line through which the entire mechanized force would pass. The attacking force opens the flanks to increase security with distance. This moment of the breakthrough has been labeled a “hinge” because the mechanized forces maneuvered inward and created leverage against the defending forces.
In this, the initial phase of the operation, air forces attempted to gain air superiority over enemy forces by attacking ground-based aircraft, bombing their airfields and attempting to destroy them in aerial combat.
A final element was the use of airborne forces beyond enemy lines to disrupt enemy activities and seize important positions, as occurred at Eben Emael.
By opening a gap to the enemy rear areas, the German forces tried to paralyze the enemy”s decision-making and implementation process. Moving faster than their opponents, the mechanized elements exploited this weakness and acted in anticipation of any opposing response. Guderian wrote that “success must be exploited without respite and with every bit of available strength, even at night. The defeated enemy must not be at ease.”
A main point for this was the decision cycle. Every decision made by German or enemy forces needed time to gather information, make a decision, distribute orders to subordinates, and then implement the decision through action. Thanks to superior mobility and faster decision-making cycles, mechanized forces were able to take action in a situation before their opponents.
Direct control (Auftragstaktik) was a fast and flexible method of command. Instead of receiving an explicit order, a commander would be informed of his superior”s intent and the role his unit would have within that concept. The exact method of execution would then be a matter for the commander to determine as best suited the situation. The burden on the staff was reduced to handing out and extending along with the orders more information about their own situation. In addition, encouraging initiative at all levels helped its implementation. Consequently, important decisions could be executed quickly either verbally or with short written orders.
The final phase of an operation was called Kesselschlacht or battle of the cauldron or pocket. It consisted of a concentric attack on an encircled force. It was where most of the losses were inflicted on the enemy, especially with the capture of prisoners and armament.
Although the term Blitzkrieg was coined during the 1939 invasion of Poland, historians generally maintain that German operations were more consistent with more traditional methods. The Wehrmacht”s strategy was more in line with Vernichtungsgedanke, focusing on envelopments to create pockets. Panzer forces were deployed spread out among the three German concentrations without a strong emphasis on their independent use, being used to create or destroy pockets of Polish forces and capture strategic points to support the infantry on foot that followed.
The Luftwaffe gained air superiority with a combination of superior technology and numbers. It is erroneously claimed that the Polish Air Force was destroyed at the beginning of the campaign while on the ground. Polish aircraft were moved to hidden airfields approximately 48 hours after the start of hostilities.
The understanding of operations in Poland has changed considerably since World War II. Many early postwar chronicles incorrectly attributed the German victory to “an enormous development in military technique that occurred between 1918 and 1940,” incorrectly citing that “Germany, which translated theories into practice…calling the result Blitzkrieg.” More recent histories identify German operations in Poland as relatively cautious and traditional. Matthew Cooper wrote:
“Throughout the Polish campaign, the employment of mechanized units revealed the idea that they would be used only to facilitate the advance and support infantry activities…. Thus, any strategic exploitation of the armored idea was dead. Command paralysis and the breaking of the state of mind were not the ultimate purpose of the…German ground and air forces, and were only by-products of the traditional maneuvers of the rapid envelopment and the supporting activities of the Luftwaffe”s flying artillery, both having as their intent the physical destruction of the enemy. Such was the Vernichtungsgedanke of the Polish campaign.”
Cooper went so far as to say that the use of tanks “left much to be desired…. The fear of enemy action against the flanks of the advance, the fear that was proved so disastrous to German chances on the Western Front in 1940 and in the Soviet Union in 1941, was present from the beginning of the war.” John Ellis stated that “there is considerable justice in Matthew Cooper”s assertion that Panzer divisions did not have the kind of strategic mission that was characteristic of the true armored Blitzkrieg, and that they were almost always subordinate to several armies of infantry.”
In fact, “while Western accounts of the Polish campaign emphasized the shock power of tanks and Stuka attacks, they tended to underestimate the punishing effect of German artillery on Polish units. Mobile and available in significant numbers, the artillery destroyed as many units as the other branches of the Wehrmacht.”
The invasion of France consisted of two phases: Plan Yellow (Fall Gelb) and Plan Red (Fall Rot). Fall Gelb began with a feint directed against the Netherlands and Belgium with two armored corps and paratroopers. Three days later Panzergruppe von Kleist attacked through the Ardennes and achieved a break in the front with air support. The group moved quickly along the Channel coast, overtaking the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), the Belgian Army and some divisions of the French Army.
The motorized units initially advanced much farther than the divisions following them. When the German mechanized forces met the counterattack at the Battle of Arras, the British heavy tanks created a brief panic in the German High Command. Later, the motorized forces were halted at the gates of the port city of Dunkirk, which was being used to evacuate Allied forces. Hermann Göring had promised that his Luftwaffe would finish the job but air operations did not stop the evacuation of most of the Allied troops, some 300 000 French and British, in an operation called Dynamo.
The Red Plan began with XV Panzer Corps attacking towards Brest and XIV Panzer Corps attacking southeast of Paris, towards Lyon and XIX Panzer Corps completing the envelopment of the Maginot Line. The defending forces were too hard pressed to organize any kind of counterattack. French forces were continually ordered to form new lines of defense along the rivers, often finding that the German forces had already passed.
Eastern Front, 1941-45
The use of armored forces was crucial for both sides of the Eastern Front. Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, involved a number of front breaks and envelopments by motorized forces. Its objective was to “destroy Russian forces deployed in the West and prevent their escape into the open spaces of Russia.” This was achieved with four Panzer armies encircling the surprised and disorganized Soviet forces, followed by foot infantry completing the envelopments and defeating the trapped forces. The first year of the offensive on the Eastern Front can be considered the last successful major Blitzkrieg.
Having failed to destroy the Soviets before the winter of 1941, the limits of German tactical superiority became apparent. Although the German invasion successfully conquered large areas of Soviet territory, the overall strategic effects were more limited. The Red Army was able to regroup beyond the main line of battle, and eventually defeat German forces for the first time in the Battle of Moscow. This was compounded by the fact that German tactics were hampered by the weather and by the fact that the front line was moving further and further away from the industrial centers of Germany and this feature had not been adequately foreseen.
In the summer of 1942, when Germany launched another offensive against the southern Soviet Union over Stalingrad and the Caucasus, the Soviets lost a significant amount of territory, only counterattacking once more during the winter. The German triumphs were limited by Hitler”s diversion of forces to attack Stalingrad and attempt to reach the Caucasus oil fields simultaneously rather than immediately as had been considered in the original plan. The front was more overextended than ever and this made supply difficult. The Red Army, on the other hand, possessed a vast rearguard that allowed it to plan maneuvers and movements that could not be attempted by the French or the Poles against the Wehrmacht.
Western Front, 1944-45
As the war progressed, Allied armies began to use combined force formations and deep penetration strategies that Germany had attempted to use in the early years of the war. Many Allied operations in the Western Desert and on the Eastern Front relied on massive concentrations of firepower to obtain frontline breaks by mobile armored units. These artillery-based tactics were also decisive in western front operations after Operation Overlord, and both the Commonwealth and U.S. armies developed flexible and strong systems using artillery support.
Following the Allied Normandy landings, Germany made attempts to crush the landing force with armored attacks but failed to achieve its objective due to lack of coordination and Allied air superiority. The most significant attempt at the use of depth operations in Normandy was at Mortain, which ended with the creation of the Falaise Pocket and the final destruction of the German forces in Normandy. The Mortain counterattack was launched against the Allied forces acting in Operation Cobra, the U.S. 12th Army Group. The German 7th Army attacked towards the shores of Saint-Lô, attempting to cut off the U.S. 3rd Army, commanded by George S. Patton in Operation Lüttich. It was unable to reach the break in the line against the defending infantry and, stuck, was encircled and destroyed by the XII Army Group.
The Allied offensive in central France, spearheaded by the armored units of Patton”s Third Army, used breaking and penetration techniques that were essentially identical to Guderian”s prewar “armored idea.” Patton acknowledged that he had read Guderian and Rommel before the war, and their tactics shared his ideas of speed and attack.
The last German offensive on the Western Front, the Battle of the Bulge, called Operation Wacht Am Rhein by the Germans, was an offensive launched towards the vital port of Antwerp in December 1944. Launched in bad weather against a weak Allied sector, it was a surprise and an initial success while Allied air forces were blocked by cloud cover. However, defensive pockets in key locations across the Ardennes, a shortage of serviceable roads and a poor logistical plan caused delays for the Germans. Allied forces deployed on the flanks of the German penetration and Allied aviation were able to strike back at the armored columns. While the strategy had been sound, the capabilities of the German troops had been reduced to the point where they could not exploit the initial gains.
Countermeasures and limitations
The concepts associated with the Blitzkrieg designation, deep armored penetrations, large envelopments and combined force attacks, had an important dependence on terrain and weather conditions. Where there was no capacity for rapid movement, armored penetrations were often avoided or resulted in failure.
The terrain should ideally be flat, firm, without natural obstacles or fortifications and interspersed with roads and railroad tracks. If instead it was hilly, wooded, with swamps or urban areas, armor would be vulnerable to infantry in close combat and unable to get out at full speed. In addition, units could be stopped by mud or snow. Artillery and air support also depended on weather.
Allied air superiority became a significant impediment to German operations during the last years of the war. Early German successes enjoyed air superiority, close air support and aerial reconnaissance. However, Allied fighter-bombers were feared for their tactical successes, so that after Operation Overlord, German vehicle crews showed reluctance to move en masse in daylight.
In fact, the last German Blitzkrieg operation, the Battle of the Bulge, was planned to take place in bad weather with Allied aircraft on the ground. Under these conditions, it was difficult for German commanders to employ the “armored idea” to its intended potential.
Blitzkrieg was very effective against the static defense doctrines that most countries developed at the end of WWI. The first attempts to defeat the Blitzkrieg can be dated during the invasion of Poland in 1939, where Polish General Stanisław Maczek, commander of the 10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade, prepared a detailed report on German tactics, their use, effectiveness and possible precautions for the French Army. However, the French staff ignored this report, which was captured by the Germans, unopened.
During the Battle of France in 1940, De Gaulle”s 4th Armored Division and elements of the British Expeditionary Force Armored Brigade made attacks against the German flank, even pushing back the advanced armored columns during the Battle of Arras. This may have been the reason for Hitler”s order to halt the German advance.
These attacks, combined with Maxime Weygand”s hedgehog defense, became the main basis for responding to the Blitzkrieg in the future: deployment in depth, allowing enemy forces to bypass defensive concentrations, reliance on anti-tank artillery, employment of the greatest force on the flanks of the enemy attack, followed by counterattacks on the base to destroy the enemy advance. Holding the flanks was essential to channel the enemy attack, and artillery, properly employed, would cause a greater number of casualties to the attackers.
While the Allied forces in 1940 lacked the experience to successfully develop these strategies, resulting in the capitulation of France with heavy losses, they were characteristic of later Allied operations. In the Battle of Kursk, the Red Army employed a combination of defense in great depth, extensive minefields and a tenacious defense on the flanks of the line break. In this way, they reduced the combat capability of the Germans even as German forces advanced.
Although effective in the rapid campaigns against Poland and France, Germany could not sustain the Blitzkrieg in the last years of the war. Blitzkrieg has the inherent danger of overextending its supply lines, and the strategy could be defeated by a determined enemy willing to sacrifice territory for the time necessary to regroup and rearm, as the Soviets did on the Eastern Front, the familiar strategy of giving ground in exchange for gaining time.
Tank and vehicle production was a constant problem for Germany. In fact, by the end of the war, many panzer divisions had no more than a few dozen tanks. As the war drew to a close, Germany also faced critical shortages of fuel and ammunition due to Allied strategic bombing. Although production of fighter aircraft continued, they could not fly due to lack of fuel. Fuel was sent to the Panzer divisions, which even then could not operate normally. Of the Tiger I”s that were lost to the U.S. Army, almost half of them were abandoned for lack of fuel.
The broader influence of the Blitzkrieg was within the Western Allied leadership of the war, some of whom took inspiration from the German approach. U.S. General Patton emphasized rapid pursuit, the use of an armored spearhead to make a break in the front, and isolating and disrupting enemy forces before they made a break for it. He also put into practice the idea attributed to cavalry leader Nathan Bedford Forrest of “getting there faster, with most of the forces.”
Blitzkrieg was to some extent the tactic adopted (although not under this name) by the Israel Defense Forces in several conflicts, including during the Sinai War, but most notably in the Six-Day War. Israel”s strategy in these conflicts was to create flexible spearheads, with close air support. In order to deal with several armies on several fronts, the plan of attack was divided into phases, each focused on a particular front, from south to north, making a rapid and forceful advance, and then sending the remaining forces as it gained control of it, to support the next.
An important aspect of the blitzkriegs from the second half of the 20th century onwards is the use of modern fighter-bombers to achieve air superiority by bombing air bases and runways. This tactic had its maximum exponent in the Six-Day War, when the Egyptian and Jordanian air forces were practically destroyed, and Israel achieved total air control, which would be crucial to be able to offer close air support to ground units.
As for ground tactics, it was a matter of creating flexible spearheads to advance between enemy units relatively close to each other, in order to conquer strategic points behind enemy lines, and subsequently attack the enemy from various directions. The flexibility of this type of tactics also lay in the autonomy of the commanders in the field to carry out operational decisions on their own and according to the development of the battle.
From the point of view of a Blitzkrieg, the Six-Day War was exceptional in the sense that it was fought primarily for defensive purposes, since defensive forces do not normally take the initiative, which is an indispensable part of a successful lightning campaign.
Many experts have defined the allied invasion of Iraqi-occupied Kuwait in 1991 as a blitzkrieg.
Again, the first phase involved one of the most intensive aerial bombardments in modern military history and with the most modern and capable aircraft, including the dropping of a total of 88,500 tons of bombs and more than 100,000 flights into Iraqi airspace. After the cessation of the bombing, the entry of the ground units involved a massive incursion and a series of intense battles, culminating in a cease-fire after barely a hundred hours of combat, although the bombing phase had lasted 42 consecutive days.