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The name “Blitzkrieg” is directly translated into English from German, meaning “lightning war”. It was a predominant method of warfare during the Second World War utilized by Nazi Germany and adapted through use for the Western allies of the British Empire and its Commonwealth as well as the United States in its campaigns in Europe and the Pacific during World War II 1949 CE to 1945 CE. The development of blitzkrieg tactics comes from the rise of European industrialization and the carnage created by modern industrialized and later mechanized armies in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Blitzkrieg

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This is a guest post by writer Jonathan Riley. Find out more about him on his Medium page, as well as his LinkedIn, and his blog.

The first truly modern wars in terms of industrialization were the Crimean War 1853 to 1856 which had the Ottomans, the British Empire, and the French Empire under Napoleon II of France fighting the Russian Empire under Alexander II for control of the Crimea and maintaining the sick man of Europe which was the Turkish/Ottoman Empire. The next great industrialized wars were the war of 1861 CE to 1865 CE, which is estimated to have had 620,000 men Americans being killed on the battlefields of the American Civil War; the next industrial war was the war of 1870 CE to 1871 CE, which was fought between Prussia and France over the control of Alsace-Lorraine. These wars marked a transition in warfare from the Napoleonic style of warfare predominant during the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic wars from 1793 CE to 1815 CE at the Battle of Waterloo. The tactics used by Napoleonic France were still employed at the beginning of the First World War 1914 CE to 1918 CE because Generals were still caught up in the traditional methods of fighting, and they were only beginning to handle industrial warfare by the time the First World War ended in the armistice of 1919 CE.

The reason for the development of the blitzkrieg or lightning war was to avoid the carnage of the First World War, which led to the advancement of military tactics; it was the British that developed lightning war and war by movement tactics, but it was the Germans that perfected that method of warfare. During the First World War, Field Marshal Douglas Haig lead the allies to victory in the Hundred days of victory. Starting on August 8, 1918 CE, and ending with the Armistice on November 11, the Offensive led to the defeat of the German Army. By the Summer of 1918 CE, German attacks in the war had halted. What participated in this new method of warfare was the development of the tank pioneered by the British to defeat the trenches of the Germans and the Hindenburg Line, a series of defenses built by the Germans to halt the allies’ advancement into Germany. Throughout most of World War II, the movement was practically impossible; during the Somma offensive of 1916 CE, the allies only advanced 7 miles with a cost of lives of 650,000 German casualties, 420,000 British, and 195,000 French. And in the Battle of Passchendaele 1917 CE, 2.7 miles with casualties. The British suffered 300,000 casualties fighting for Passchendaele and inflicted around 260,000 on the Germans.

The Imperial War Museum John Delaney explains the three critical ingredients for any successful Blitzkrieg: the “speed of movement, speed of decision-making, and an overconfident enemy”. These factors are what the Germans used in 1940 CE to bypass The Maginot Line, an array of defenses that France built along its border with Germany in the 1930s, designed to prevent an invasion. Built at a cost that possibly exceeded $9 billion in today’s dollars, the 280-mile-long line included dozens of fortresses, underground bunkers, minefields, and gun batteries. The Germans used similar tactics during the First World War: to invade France through Belgium and Holland; unlike the First World War, the Germans now had the technology to pull the strategy off. What the Germans did was learn the technologies and lessons from the First World War; in consequence, the Allied forces of France and the British Empire had to play catch up throughout the Second World War. The Russians could not use the blitzkrieg tactic, which they are still unable to use today during the current war with Ukraine from 2014 to the present day.

For blitzkrieg to truly be successful, the invading mechanized army needed access to supply lines which the Russians in 1941 CE and the present do not have access to. According to the geopolitical writer and strategist Peter Zeilen, Russia has flat terrain, and the nature of its terrain means that building fast motorway networks is unpractical. With this being the consequence of the Russian landmass, they must rely on its sophisticated railway networks to supply their armies. When the Russians were fighting Nazi Germany and its Blitzkrieg war tactics, they tended to win battles where they were fighting 2 to 1 or 5 to 1 against the Germans. What the Soviet Union did was use its artillery and its T-45 mass-produced tank to defeat the Germans not through sophisticated tactics but through a quality of numbers. In the words of Joseph Stalin, “quantity is a quality of its own”.

The first-time blitzkrieg can be argued to reach its zenith is daring the first Iraq war 1990 CE to 1991 CE, where the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and threatened to invade the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This led to the United Nations (UN) voting to go to war against Iraq. The UN’s decision to get involved in the First Gulf War had not happened unanimously from the 1950 CE to the 1953 CE Korean War due to at that time the Soviet Union boycotting the institution of the United Nations and the UN Security Council. Between the Second World War ending in 1945 CE and the outbreak of the First Gulf War, 45 years have passed. At that time, the United States and other nations had been involved in the Korean War, the Vietnam War from 1955 CE to 1975 CE, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Chinese invasion of Vietnam in 1979 CE. All these wars do not give an actual demonstration of blitzkrieg tactics. The first Gulf War showed the use of modern satellite technology and superior mechanized American tank units, all of which came together with sophisticated supply networks that enabled the Western forces to decimate and humiliate the army of Iraq completely. The human toll of the Gulf war left as many as 100,000 deaths, 5 million displaced persons and over $200 billion in property damage. During the war, only 147 U.S. personnel and 47 British troops were killed in action; for the duration of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, U.S. noncombat deaths exceeded combat fatalities in the Kuwaiti theatre. Approximately 1,000 coalition troops were wounded.

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"Blitzkrieg and The Origins of Modern Warfare" History on the Net
© 2000-2023, Salem Media.
January 29, 2023 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/blitzkrieg-and-the-origins-of-modern-warfare>
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