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28 THE GERMAN ARMY: STRENGTHS By all appearances, the German Army of 1941 was at the height of its power. Traditionally, the Prussian and, later, German officer corps had prided itself on offensive maneuver warfare, or Bewegungskrieg, using speed of movement to offset the risks of attacking even when outnumbered. Since Napoleon defeated the Prussian Army in 1806, the Prussians had relied upon a unity of training and thought that allowed junior officers to exercise their initiative because they understood their commanders’ intentions and knew how their peers in adjacent units would react to the same situation. After World War I, General Hans von Seeckt presided over an exhaustive series of studies that produced a coherent doctrine of combining the different combat arms to achieve rapid penetration of the enemy’s defenses, followed by exploitation to disrupt his organization.1 During the later 1930s, this doctrinal unity was disrupted by disagreements concerning the correct employment of armor. Ewald von Kleist’s 1940 panzer group, which had so impressed Soviet commanders, was in fact an experiment in this regard, with traditional commanders waiting to subordinate the mechanized units to infantry headquarters in the event of failure.2 The success of this experiment vindicated those German officers who believed in mechanized warfare. The panzer or armored division had become the key organization to implement this offensive doctrine. In order to satisfy Hitler’s desire to create more such units for the Russian invasion, the number of tanks in both existing and newly formed armored divisions declined during the winter of 1940–1941. The 1941 panzer divisions had only two to three tank battalions each, with an authorized strength of 150 to 202 tanks per division. In practice , the average number of operational tanks was probably 150 per division. Moreover, despite the manifest weaknesses of the lightly armed and armored Panzer I and Panzer II vehicles, Germany did not have enough newer vehicles to eliminate these earlier models from combat units. In addition to these tanks, the division contained five infantry battalions, four mounted in trucks and one in a combination of motorcycles and other vehicles. Very few of these infantrymen—often only one company in the motorcycle battalion— CHAPTER THREE Opposing Armies, 1941 Opposing Armies, 1941 29 actually had armored personnel carriers, and it is therefore unsurprising that the majority of casualties fell among the infantry. The only exceptions in this regard were the 1st and 10th Panzer Divisions, with two and one battalions , respectively, mounted in half-tracks. The typical panzer division also included armored reconnaissance and engineer battalions and three artillery battalions equipped with 105mm howitzers towed behind trucks or tractors. These elements, together with communications, antitank, and antiaircraft units, on paper totaled roughly 17,000 men. Motorized infantry divisions were smaller, generally having only one oversized tank battalion, seven motorized infantry battalions, and three or four artillery battalions.3 Typically, a German motorized corps (relabeled in 1943 as a panzer corps) consisted of three mobile divisions, either two panzer and one motorized or the reverse, plus one or more infantry divisions to secure the flanks and line of communications. In turn, two to four motorized corps formed a panzer group, an organization that was still so unusual that it did not receive the designation “panzer army” until late in 1941. In most instances, this redesignation occurred when conventional infantry corps became attached to panzer groups. Infantry divisions had generally retained the triangular structure imposed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty. The core of such a division was composed of three infantry regiments, each with three infantry battalions and small supporting elements of artillery, engineers, antitank, and reconnaissance . The typical division also had one battalion of 150mm howitzers and three battalions of 105mm howitzers, plus a motorized antitank battalion and various supporting elements. Many of the divisions created late in the mobilization process had significant shortages of vehicles and equipment, however.4 The battles of 1939–1940 had rarely forced the Germans to defend against a deliberate attack; therefore, the German defensive doctrine remained largely that of 1918. This remarkably effective doctrine relied upon infantry units that created elaborate defenses in depth, with the bulk of forces held in reserve rather than placed in the front line. When the enemy attacked, the forward elements were allowed to fall back while preparing rapid counterattacks to eject the intruder. This doctrine rested on three assumptions, all of which were invalidated in Russia: that sufficient German infantry would...


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