Adolf Hitler, the Wehrmacht and military jointness

Wehrmacht jointness

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Adolf Hitler and Joint Warfare


by


Joel Hayward

Reprint edition. Copyright © 2018 by Joel Hayward. 


First published:


Wellington: Military Studies Institute, NZ Army, 2000


ISBN 0-478-11451-6

ABSTRACT:


Joint operations involve the closely synchronised employment of two or more service branches under a unified command. Military theorists and commentators now believe that they prove more effective in most circumstances of modern warfare than operations involving only one service or involving two or more services but without systematic integration or unified command. Many consider the Wehrmacht, Nazi Germany's armed forces, pioneers of "jointness". They point out that Blitzkrieg, the war-fighting style that brought the Wehrmacht stunning victories between 1939 and 1941, depended upon the close integration of ground and air (and sometimes naval) forces and that, even after the Blitzkrieg campaigns gave way to a drawn-out war of attrition, the Wehrmacht routinely conducted operations in a fashion that would today be called "joint". That is, elements of two or more services participated in close cooperation with mutually agreed goals, relatively little inter-service rivalry, and a command structure that, at least at the "sharp end" of operations, promoted, rather than inhibited, a spirit of jointness. As a result, the scholars claim, the Wehrmacht enhanced its capabilities and improved its combat effectiveness.


This view of the Wehrmacht goes back a long way; back, in fact, to the war itself. For example, in 1941 the United States War Department, which, closely monitored events in Europe and North Africa, claimed in its Handbook of German Military Forces: "The outstanding characteristic of German military operations in the present war has been the remarkable coordination of the three sister services, Army, Navy and Air Force, into a unified command for definite tasks. These services do not [merely] cooperate in a campaign; rather their operations are coordinated by the High Command of the Armed Forces."


Without becoming anachronistic — after all, jointness as a defined concept is very recent ― this monograph attempts something long overdue: an analysis of Adolf Hitler's influence on the Wehrmacht's efforts to integrate the employment of its forces and thereby increase its effectiveness. The study demonstrates two main points: first, that Hitler certainly understood the value of integrating his land, sea and air forces and placing them under a unified command (first Field Marshal Blomberg's; later his own); and second, that he also saw the benefit of placing them under operational commanders who possessed at least a rudimentary understanding of the tactics, techniques, needs, capabilities and limitations of each of the services functioning in their combat zone. Hitler was thus innovative and several years ahead of his peers in the democracies, Italy and the Soviet Union. Yet this study concludes that, largely because of Hitler's unusual command style and difficulties with delegation, the Wehrmacht lacked elements that today's theorists consider essential to the attainment of truly productive jointness (a single joint commander or Joint Chief of Staff, a proper joint staff, a joint planning process, and an absence of inter-service rivalry) and that, as a result, it often suffered needless difficulties in combat.






For Wehrmacht joint operations, see also:

Joel Hayward, “Eine Fallstudie früher integrierter Kriegführung: Eine Analyse des Krimfeldzuges der Wehrmacht im Jahre 1942”, Vierteljahreshefte für Geschichtsforschung, 3. Jahrgangs. Heft 1 (März 1999), pp. 21-37. Read this article HERE.


ABSTRACT: Die meisten Militärtheoretiker und Kommentatoren glauben, daß die Durchführung integrierter Militäroperationen - also Einsätze unter Einbindung von zwei oder mehreren Teilstreitkräften unter einem vereinten Oberkommando - unter den meisten Umständen der modernen Kriegführung effektiver sind als Einsätze, an denen nur eine Teilstreitkraft beteiligt ist oder auch mehrere Teile ohne systematisch integriertes bzw. vereintes Kommando kämpfen. Viele betrachten die Wehrmacht des nationalsozialistischen Deutschland als frühen Pionier einer "Integration". Die Wehrmacht, so behaupten sie, führte routinemäßig Einsätze durch, an denen Elemente von zwei oder mehr Teilstreitkräften in enger Kooperation und mit untereinander vereinbarten Zielsetzungen kämpften, und zwar mit relative wenig Rivalitäten und einer Kommandostruktur, die zumindest am "scharfen Ende" der jeweiligen Unternehmen den Integrationsgeist förderte, anstatt ihn zu behindern. Als Ergebnis dessen stieg die Kampfkraft der Wehrmacht.


Ohne anachronistisch werden zu wollen - immerhin ist das Konzept der Integration sehr neu - untersucht dieser Artikel das Ausmaß und die Auswirkung der Bemühungen der Wehrmacht, ihre Wirksamkeit durch die Integration der Einsätze ihrer Teilstreitkräfte zu erhöhen. Abgesehen von einer mehr allgemeinen Diskussion des Themas Integration ruht diese Arbeit auf einer Fallstudie: Der Einsatz der Wehrmacht während des Krimfeldzuges vom Mai und Juni 1942, der zwei erfolgreiche deutsche Offensiven umfaßt (die Schlachten von Kertsch und Sewastopol), die zu Land, zu Wasser und aus der Luft durchgeführt wurden. Anlaß für die Wahl dieses Feldzuges für die Fallstudie war nicht nur die Tatsache, daß er rasch den Ruhm einer frühen integrierten Kriegführung erwarb, sondern mehr noch wegen seiner unvergleichlichen Tauglichkeit für eine solche Analyse: Er umfaßte eine substantielle Planung, den Einsatz bedeutender Kräfte, die Teilnahme aller drei Teilstreitkräfte, und er endete mit einem schlüssigen Ergebnis.


Dieser Artikel zeigt auf, daß die Wehrmacht den Wert der Integration ihrer Land-, See- und Luftstreitkräfte verstand und diese Teilstreitkräfte daher unter ein Einsatzkommando stellte, das zumindest ein rudimentäres Verständnis von der jeweiligen Taktik, Technik, den Anforderungen, Fähigkeiten und Beschränkungen der in ihrer Kampfzone eingesetzten Teilstreitkräfte hatte. Er zeigt zudem, daß die Bemühungen der Wehrmacht in diese Richtung zur erwünschten Steigerung der Kampfkraft führte. Er schlußfolgert aber auch, daß es der Wehrmacht an Elementen fehlte, die von heutigen Theoretikern als Voraussetzung angesehen wird, um eine wirklich effektive integrierte Kriegführung zu erzielen - ein einziger Oberkommandierender, ein integrierter Stab sowie die Abwesenheit von Rivalitäten zwischen den Teilstreitkräften - und daß sie daher als Ergebnis dessen im Kampf mit unnötigen Schwierigkeiten zu kämpfen hatte.


Joel Hayward, "A Case Study in Early Joint Warfare: An Analysis of the Wehrmacht's Crimean Campaign of 1942", The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 22, No. 4 (December 1999), pp. 103-130. Read this article HERE.


ABSTRACT: Military theorists and commentators believe that joint operations prove more effective in most circumstances of modern warfare than operations involving only one service or involving two or more services but without systematic integration or unified command. Many see Nazi Germany's armed forces, the Wehrmacht, as early pioneers of 'jointness'. This essay demonstrates that the Wehrmacht did indeed understand the value of synchronizing its land, sea and air forces and placing them under operational commanders who had at least a rudimentary understanding of the tactics, techniques, needs, capabilities and limitations of each of the services functioning in their combat zones. It also shows that the Wehrmacht's efforts in this direction produced the desired result of improved combat effectiveness. Yet it argues that the Wehrmacht lacked elements considered by today's theorists to be essential to the attainment of truly productive jointness - a single tri-service commander, a proper joint staff and an absence of inter-service rivalry - and that, as a result, it often suffered needless difficulties in combat.


Joel Hayward, "A Case Study in Effective Command: An Analysis of Field Marshal Richthofen's Character and Career", New Zealand Army Journal, No. 18 (January 1998), pp. 7- 18.


ABSTRACT: This article analyzes the leadership of Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, a senior Luftwaffe commander and one of the most effective air strategists, tacticians and leaders of all time. It focuses on his masterful command of Luftflotte 4 and Fliegerkorps VIII on the eastern front during World War II, including during the Stalingrad campaign.


Joel Hayward, "Von Richthofen's 'giant fire-magic': The Luftwaffe's Contribution to the Battle of Kerch, 1942", The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, Vol. 10, No. 2 (June 1997), pp. 97-124. Read this article HERE.


ABSTRACT: Adolf Hitler's directive for the 1942 summer campaign in the east clearly reflects the unfinished nature of the previous year's campaign. Although the Fuehrer claimed to Mussolini on 30 April 1942 that, with the exception of just a few 'blemishes which will shortly be eradicated, ... the Crimea finds itself in our hands,' the reality was very different. In April 1942 the Crimea was neither firmly nor entirely in German hands, as Hitler well knew. It was certainly not the 'bastion in the Black Sea' that he described to his Italian counterpart. On the contrary, powerful Soviet forces still held both Sevastopol, the Soviet Union's main naval base and shipyard in the Black Sea, and the strategically important Kerch Peninsula, which Hitler planned to use as a springboard to the Caucasus. Therefore, he stated in his directive for the 1942 summer campaign, before the major offensive into the Caucasus could commence it would be necessary 'to clear up the Kerch Peninsula in the Crimea and to bring about the fall of Sevastopol.' In May and June, the powerful Eleventh Army, commanded by Generaloberst Erich von Manstein, reputed to be Hitler's best operational army commander, launched strong attacks on the Soviet forces at each end of the Crimea. These attacks proved stunningly successful, destroying the enemy and finally giving Hitler total mastery of the Crimea. Von Manstein's Kerch offensive, codenamed Operation Trappenjagd (Bustard Hunt), and his assault on Sevastopol, codenamed Operation Storfang (Sturgeon Catch), deserve their prominent place in historical works on the Eastern campaigns. Skillfully guided by von Manstein, Eleventh Army defeated numerically superior and better-situated forces quickly and, especially during the Kerch offensive, with relatively few losses. However, the role of the Luftwaffe, which performed superbly as it provided the army with an unprecedented level of tactical air support, has been poorly covered by historians of these events, whose works focus primarily on army operations and von Manstein's much-touted tactical genius. Describing and explaining Luftwaffe operations during Trappenjagd, the first of the two Crimean campaigns of 1942, this study attempts to correct that imbalance. Eleventh Army, it argues, would not have succeeded were it not for the outstanding efforts of Luftwaffe forces, led by a commander of equal genius.


Joel Hayward, "The German Use of Airpower at Kharkov, May 1942", Air Power History, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Summer 1997), pp. 18-29.


ABSTRACT: In March 1942, Joseph Stalin rejected the sound advice of Marshal Boris Shaposhnikov, his army chief of staff, who argued that the Red Army should adopt a temporary strategic defensive posture for the spring and early summer. Instead, the Soviet leader, still claiming that constant attack was the best strategy, supported Marshal Semyon K. Timoshenko's plan to launch individual pre-emptive offensives near Leningrad, in the Demyansk region, in the Smolensk and Lgov-Kursk sectors, in the Kharkov area, and in the Crimea. The Crimean campaign—really only a series of attempts by armies trapped on the Kerch Peninsula to break into the Crimean mainland—ended miserably. As will be shown, the Kharkov campaign of May 1942 ended not only in outright failure, but also in a disaster of huge proportions. The Battle of Kharkov features prominently in historical works on the eastern campaigns—and deservedly so. Operation Fridericus (Frederick), the skilfully-executed German counter-offensive, not only thwarted Timoshenko's plan, but grew into 1942's first large-scale battle of encirclement and annihilation. It also placed important areas of the Donets Basin in German hands, thereby giving Axis forces an excellent staging area for Operation Blau, the coming summer campaign. However, the role of the Luftwaffe—which performed superbly under difficult circumstances as it provided the army with a high level of tactical air support—has been poorly covered by historians of these events, whose works focus primarily on army operations and the purported superiority of German doctrine and tactics over those of the Soviets. Describing and explaining Luftwaffe operations during the Battle of Kharkov, this article attempts to correct that imbalance. Without the Luftwaffe's substantial contribution to the battle, I believe, the German army would probably not have avoided encirclement at Kharkov, let alone have turned the tables on the Soviets.


This archival source-based analysis of the role and effectiveness of airpower during the Battle of Kharkov in May 1942 demonstrates that it was the critical factor in determining German success. Masterfully commanded by Generaloberst Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, the Third Reich's close air support expert, the Luftwaffe delivered highly effective support to the German army and prevented a major Soviet encirclement attempt from succeeding.


Joel Hayward, "Stalingrad: An Examination of Hitler’s Decision to Airlift", Airpower Journal, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 1997), pp. 21-37. Read this article HERE.  It can be read in Spanish HERE.


ABSTRACT: After February 1943, the shadow of Stalingrad ever lengthened ahead of Adolf Hitler. The battle for that city had ended in disastrous defeat, shattering the myth of his military "Midas touch," ending his chances of defeating the Red Army, permanently damaging relations with Italy, Rumania, Hungary, and other allied nations, and, of course, inflicting heavy losses on his eastern armies. More than 150,000 Axis soldiers, most of them German, had been killed or wounded in the city's approaches or ruins; 108,000 others stumbled into Soviet captivity, 91,000 in the battle's last three days alone. (Although Hitler never learned of their fate, only six thousand ever returned to Germany.) The battle has attracted considerable scholarly and journalistic attention. Literally scores of books and articles on Stalingrad have appeared during the 50 years since Stalin's armies bulldozed into Berlin, bringing the war in Europe to a close. Most have been published in Germany and, to a lesser degree, Russia, where the name "Stalingrad" still conjures up powerful and emotional imagery. Comparatively few have been published in the English-speaking world, and this is understandable. Because no British, Common wealth, or American forces took part in the battle, they can number none of their own among its many heroes, martyrs, prisoners, and victims. Moreover, although the German defeat at Stalin grad was immediately seen in the West as a turning point, its effects were not directly felt by the Anglo- - American nations. The main focus of Stalin grad historiography, including the dozen books published in 1992 and 1993 to commemorate the battle's 50th anniversary, has been the fighting, encirclement, suffering, and destruction of Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Paulus's Sixth Army. Few books and articles have devoted adequate attention to the activities of the Luftwaffe, although it made substantial contributions to all battles throughout the 1942 summer campaign—of which Stalin grad was the climax—and it alone was responsible for the maintenance of Sixth Army after Marshal G. K. Zhukov's forces severed it from all but radio contact with other German army formations. Even fewer works—and none in English—have analyzed in depth Hitler's decision to supply the forces trapped at Stalin grad from the air, even though this decision led to the destruction of those forces after the Luftwaffe failed to keep them adequately supplied.