display | more...

"Intellect without will is worthless. Will without intellect is dangerous."

- Hans Von Seeckt


Without Hans von Seeckt (1866-1936), there would have been no German Blitzkrieg in the opening years of World War II. Although he was certainly no Nazi, and in fact opposed the rise of the Nazi Party, as Obergeneral of the German reichswehr from 1920-1926, von Seeckt did all in his power to ensure the survival of the mighty German war machine through a dark decade when the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I limited all German armed forces to a mere 100,000 men.

In the wake of the First World War, the victorious Allies justly feared a future rearmed Germany, and took advantage of their total victory to impose a number of severe limitations on German military power. In addition to the 100,000 man total limit (ridiculously low for a country of 70 million people, and not even enough to secure Germany's own borders at the time), the Allies also limited Navy to only 15,000 men and a handful of tiny ships, and proscribed any airforce whatsoever.

Working under the watchful eyes of the Inter-Allied Military Control Commission and his own pacifist government, von Seeckt had his work cut out for him to maintain not only the German military's pride and traditions, but also its leadership core, as the Allies understandably sought to make sure that even if Germany rebuilt her armed forces someday it would have no trained or experienced leadership to command them, by strictly limiting the number of officers and generals in the force to a tiny handful. Von Seeckt got around this by setting up a completely bogus, allegedly civilian "Department of Reconstruction, Research, and Culture" which was actually a military think tank of sorts designed to breed the generals of a future full-sized German armed forces.

At the same time, he instituted an advanced system of training for the 100,000 servicemen that actually trained them all to be future officers, while publicly printing bogus training manuals that purported to train them only to be grunts. Thus in war games, each company of soldiers was granted the insignia of one of the old Imperial Army units from World War I and imagined itself to be the officers in charge of an invisible regiment of soldiers. This also helped to preserve the regimental pride and traditions that would have otherwise died out.

Meanwhile, von Seeckt set about laying the groundwork for a future revival of the German navy and air force. As with the future army generals, cadres of naval men were stashed away in civil ministries. Naval gunners practiced their gunnery on army artillery. A U-boat building program was laid out in detail, and crews were trained in other countries, most notably Russia. As for the proscribed air force, von Seeckt began hoarding experienced airmen for future use, secreting them in civil ministries or in the army. Under the guise of expanding civil aviation, a massive air field and air support infrastructure was built up, and civil aircraft were designed to be readily convertible to military use. In addition, "gliding clubs" were started throughout the country to encourage young Germans to become "air-minded."

Von Seeckt's greatest achievement, however, was the creation of a new military doctrine of combined operations of the three forces that would later form the basis of the mighty German "blitzkrieg" of World War II. Von Seeckt was convinced that the German failure in World War I was a failure of tactics as much as anything else, and that all the old doctrines had to be thrown out. He set his think tanks to work thinking of what the new doctrines should be. The result was the idea of many small, independent, fast-moving, and most importantly motorized, infantry units all working in close concert with each other and with coordinated air and sea support. In short, the blitzkrieg.

Thus, when Hitler came to power in 1933, he found everything he needed to fulfill his meglomaniacal visions waiting at his beck and call - a highly trained officer corps only in need of an army to command, trained navy personnel itching to head out to sea, and legions of skilled aviators just waiting for planes to fly, along with a brand new military doctrine designed to conquer large swaths of land in the shortest possible time.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.