Blitzkrieg, "lightning war." It is believed that the main role in this aggressive Wehrmacht strategy played Tanks. In fact, the blitzkrieg was based on a combination of advanced achievements in all areas of military affairs - in the use of intelligence, aviationradio communications ...
July forty-first. The tank armada of Kleist, Goth, Guderian, crossing the border, rush into the depths of Soviet territory. Motorcyclists, machine gunners on armored personnel carriers and tanks, tanks, tanks ... Our tanks are better, but they are too few. The units of the Red Army, which cannot recover in any way after the sudden attack of Hitler, heroically hold their defenses. But what can machine guns and rifles do against armor? Grenades and bottles with a combustible mixture are used ... This continues right up to the approaches to Moscow, where a handful of infantrymen, 28 Panfilov's heroes, stop the German tanks ...
Maybe this picture is somewhat exaggerated. But not only Soviet propagandist historians portrayed the beginning of the Great Patriotic War in this way, but also writers and filmmakers — in general, it was this image of war that entered the mass consciousness. All this is not very consistent with the numbers.
By 22 June 1941, the group of Soviet troops on the western border numbered 15 687 tanks. On the other side of the border, an invasion army was preparing for attack, having ... an 4 171 tank, and this number included assault guns. The advantage of the USSR was in the aircraft. But here everything is clear - the Luftwaffe pilots seized dominance in the air due to the destruction of a significant part of the Soviet Air Force by a sudden attack on airfields. And where did the Soviet tanks go?
Not in tanks
Take a look at history a little deeper. May 1940. The tank group of the same Guderian cuts the allied troops and goes to the sea. The British are forced to quickly evacuate from Northern France, while the French are trying to establish a new line of defense. Soon, not wanting to turn Paris into ruins, they would declare their capital an open city and surrender it to the enemy ... Again, everything was decided by the tanks.
Meanwhile, it was the French army that was considered to be the strongest in Europe before the Second World War! Maybe France did not have tanks or they were worthless? It turns out that there were more French tanks than German ones, and they were not so bad. Do not forget that in 1940, the German tank forces looked even less impressive than in 1941. Much of them were light Pz. II, armed with 20-millimeter cannon. The combat units were machine guns Pz. I, who were generally designed for educational use only - however, they got on the battlefield (and they fought in Russia too).
In the history of the victorious breakthrough of the Panzervawe to the English Channel, there is an episode when a column of German tanks was suddenly attacked by the British. The German tankers saw with amazement that their shells were bouncing off the armor of the British Mk like peas. II Matilda. Only by calling dive bombers, managed to cope with the situation. A year later, the story repeated itself - the shells of German tank guns could not penetrate the armor of the Soviet KV and T-34 ...
Consequently, they conquered almost the whole of Europe and reached Moscow troops ... armed with mediocre tanks, which, moreover, were few. Yes, they had an excellent tactical training and a blitzkrieg strategy. But what is a blitzkrieg? Deep breakthrough tank wedges. Will tactics help if the defending side has stronger tanks and more of them? Will help. Paradoxically, but a fact - the German tank divisions were indeed the best tool of the mobile war at that time, despite their bad tanks and a small number of them. Because the blitzkrieg was not just a strategy, but also a new technology of the war - which until 1942 did not have any belligerent state, except Germany.
Blitzkrieg in Russian
There is a saying that the military is always preparing not for a future war, but for the past. Of course, in all countries there were those who assessed the newly emerged armored vehicles as an independent means of achieving decisive success in the war. But the majority of European head thinkers (including in Germany) in the 1930s operated with categories of positional warfare, based on the experience of the first World War. They believed that tanks should be used only to support infantry units.
Only in the USSR they relied on the experience of civil war - and they believed that the future war would also be maneuverable. The fact that in Germany they would call it a “blitzkrieg” was developed in the USSR! Only here we called it the "Theory of Deep Offensive Operations." “Tanks, without getting involved in a long battle, quickly and defiantly penetrating the enemy’s marching orders, bring disorder into the enemy’s ranks, sow panic and disrupt the control of the troops deployed for battle ...” This quote perfectly describes the essence of blitzkrieg, taken from Guderian’s famous book “Attention, tanks!”, And from the Soviet textbook on tactics of tank units 1935 of the year of publication.
Produced in the USSR and technology, ideal for blitzkrieg. These are the famous BT tanks, they could move both on caterpillars and on wheels. The top of the development of this type of combat vehicles was the BT-7М with a 500-powerful diesel B-2 (speed 62 km / h on tracks and 86 km / h on wheels - no worse than any other car of that time). If we take into account that the Soviet marshals were going to fight "in low blood and in a foreign land", where the roads are better than domestic ones, then you can imagine how famously these tanks could walk through the enemy's rear ... And, of course, our BTs were much better suited for deep tank breakthroughs than even the most modern German tanks Pz. III and Pz. IV (with their maximum speed on the highway about 40 km / h). In the USSR, the ideas of crushing the enemy with the help of powerful tank wedges since the 1920-s have been maintained at the highest level.
What are good tanks?
But in Germany, the enthusiast of tank troops Heinz Guderian had to overcome the resistance of the staff officers for a long time. Otto von Stülpnagel, inspector of the Reichswehr’s motorized units, said to him: “Believe me, neither you nor I will live to see the time when Germany will have its own tank forces.” Everything changed after the Nazis came to power. At the top of the new leadership, the ideas of Guderian found complete approval. Having broken with the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty, Germany could produce tanks and other equipment. Advanced military thought from different countries was studied.
In 1934, Ribbentrop named the best French technical expert "Colonel de Gaulle". In fact, the future head of the Resistance was not a colonel at the time. In the General Staff he was so bored with his articles and projects that his 12 years were marinated with the rank of captain ... But Charles de Gaulle offered approximately the same thing as Guderian! At home, they did not listen to him, which predetermined the future fall of France.
De Gaulle called for the creation of specialized tank divisions, and not to distribute tank brigades among infantry formations. It was the concentration of moving forces in the direction of the main strike that allowed them to overcome arbitrarily strong defenses! The First World War was mainly of a "trench" character. Although at that time they knew how to smoke enemy soldiers from trenches and shelters, to destroy minefields and wire barriers — this required a long, sometimes several days, artillery preparation. But she showed where the blow would be struck, and while the shells plowed up the front edge of the defense, the enemy’s reserves hurriedly to the site of the attack.
The appearance of mobile troops, whose main force was tanks, made it possible to act completely differently: to secretly transfer large forces to the right place and to advance at all without artillery preparation! The defensive side did not have time to understand anything, and its line of defense was already broken. Tanks of the enemy rushed to the rear, hunting for staffs and trying to surround those who still held their positions ... To counter, we needed moving units with a large number of tanks in order to react to the breakthrough and organize countermeasures. Broken through tank groups are also extremely vulnerable - no one covers their flanks. But some adventurous blitzkrieg inactive opponents could not be used for their own purposes. That is why Poland, Greece, Yugoslavia fell so quickly ... Yes, France had tanks, it could not use them correctly.
And what happened in the USSR? It seems that our military leaders thought in the same categories as the German ones. The structure of the Red Army was even more powerful compounds than the German - mechanized corps. Maybe the case in a sudden attack of Germany?
How the strategy works
“I have never used the word 'blitzkrieg' because it is completely idiotic!” Said Hitler once. But even if the Fuhrer did not like the word itself, we must not forget who exactly served the strategy of the “blitzkrieg”. The Nazi state attacked without declaring war, and the sudden invasion became an integral part of the Blitzkrieg. However, it is not necessary to reduce everything to surprise. England and France were at war with Germany from September 1939 of the year, and before the spring of 1940, they had the opportunity to prepare for German strikes. The USSR was attacked suddenly, but it is impossible to explain by this that the Germans reached Moscow and Stalingrad.
It is all about the technical equipment and organizational structure of the German divisions united in tank groups. How to hack the enemy defenses? You can attack in the place that the higher superiors have mapped out. And you can - where the enemy has the weakest defense. Where will the attack be more effective? The trouble is that from the headquarters of the front or the army vulnerable defense spots are not visible. The division commander needs autonomy to make decisions — and information so that the decisions are correct. The Wehrmacht implemented the principle of "potato strategy" from the film "Chapaev" - "the commander in front of a dashing horse." True, the horse was replaced by an armored personnel carrier, but in the mobile units the place of commanders was always in the attacking order. The importance of this, not everyone understood in Germany. Chief of the General Staff Beck asked Guderian: “How will they lead the battle without having a table with cards or a phone?” The famous Erwin Rommel, who fought in North Africa, was thrown together ... right in the open Horch car! A telephone connection replaced the radio.
The radiation of the German tank divisions is a factor that is often underestimated. Such a division was like an octopus, groping for the enemy's position with tentacles, which were played by mobile reconnaissance units. The commander, receiving from them radio messages, had a clear idea of the situation. And in the place of the decisive attack, the German general was present personally, with his own eyes watching the development of events. He clearly knew the location of each unit: the radio gate kept in constant contact with them. Encrypting Enigma machines helped to make orders inaccessible even if the enemy intercepted them. In turn, the platoon of radio intelligence, listened to the talks on the other side of the front line.
The representative of the Luftwaffe, who was in the advanced units of the attackers, maintained constant radio contact with the aircraft, directing the bombers to the targets. “Our task is to attack the enemy in front of the shock wedges of our armies. Our goals are always the same: tanks, cars, bridges, field fortifications and anti-aircraft batteries. The resistance in front of our wedges must be broken in order to increase the speed and strength of our offensive ”... - as the pick-up officer Hans-Ulrich Rudel describes the first days of the war with the USSR.
That is why the relative weakness of the German tanks did not interfere with the strike power of the tank divisions! Effective aviation support made it possible to weaken the enemy before the fight with him, and intelligence (including air) revealed the most vulnerable places suitable for attack.
And what about our mechanized corps? The Germans in the tank division were all motorized units — infantry, sappers, repair brigades, artillery, fuel and ammunition services. Our tanks were faster, but the rear of them all the time lagged behind. It is difficult to penetrate the T-34 armor, but without shells, fuel and spare parts, it turns into a fixed armored box ... The tank commander controlled his tanks by flag signaling, the headquarters sent "communications delegates", and not having a radio station the reconnaissance fighter could only tell intelligence information airfield (while they were needed by army commanders). The lack of reliable radio communications led to the "loss" of regiments, divisions and even corps. In addition, the immediate commanders were deprived of any independence in the decisions. Here is a typical case ...
The axiom of a tank war - parts must be entered into battle after full concentration, attacking the enemy with all his might. This, of course, was also known to the commander of the 8 th mechanized corps Dmitry Ryabyshev. His body had more than 800 tanks, including KV and T-34. A huge force that could play a decisive role on the scale of the whole front!
In the early days of the war, obeying conflicting orders from above, the corps performed a series of meaningless maneuvers, losing equipment, wasting fuel and exhausting people. But finally, the moment of the counteroffensive came, which could cut off the German tank wedge at the base ...
Ryabyshev waited for all his divisions to arrive, but at that moment a member of the Front Military Council Vashugin arrived (in other words, a front-line party commissar). Not one arrived - with the prosecutor and the commandant's platoon, threatening to shoot Ryabyshev on the spot if the offensive does not start right now: “You, the traitor to the motherland, will be heard by the field court. Here, under the pine, we will listen and shoot at the pine ... ”I had to send those who were close at hand to the battle. The first group (armored division with reinforcement), which launched the offensive immediately, was cut off and eventually left the encirclement on foot. So 238 tanks were lost! Characteristically, there was only one radio station in the group. Yes, and the group commander Nikolai Poppel managed to contact only with ... a German radio intelligence officer, who in Russian tried to find out the location of the headquarters, posing as Ryabyshev ...
It was the same everywhere - so you shouldn’t be surprised at the colossal losses of Soviet tanks. And yet, it was precisely such poorly organized and often suicidal counterattacks at the beginning of the war that ultimately predetermined the collapse of the blitzkrieg. In France, the 4-I tank division commanded by Charles de Gaulle, which by this time had reached Colonel, delivered successful counter-attacks to the Germans. We attacked all. Blitzkrieg defense to cope was impossible! The constant counterattacks of the Soviet troops in the summer of 1941 might have seemed meaningless - but they were the ones who forced the Germans to waste their forces at the first stage of the war. Of course, the victims of the Red Army were even more serious at the same time, but they made it possible to prolong the war until the autumn thaw, when the "lightning speed" of German tanks instantly faded.
“You shouldn’t fight the Russians: they will respond to any of your cunning with their stupidity!” Bismarck warned at the time. In smart Europe, antidotes against the cunning German Blitzkrieg have not been found. And the way they tried to resist him in Russia, the Germans considered stupid. But the war, however, ended in Berlin ...