[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Technical Manual, TM-E 30-451: Handbook on German Military Forces published in March 1945. — Figures and illustrations are not reproduced, see source details. — As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. — Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]
CHAPTER I. THE GERMAN MILITARY SYSTEM
Section I. INTRODUCTION
1. Total War
The Germans have long devoted a large part of their national energies to both the study and the application of the science of war. The German Army which was built up under the Nazi regime and which challenged the world in 1939 was the final product of this study. It represented the fruition of decades of long-range planning, organization, experimentation, and mechanical development directed toward the sole end of creating a military instrument which would be a match for any foreseeable combination of adversaries. Supported by the entire economic, political, and psychological resources of a totalitarian government, it was destined to overrun almost the whole of Europe in a series of victorious campaigns unequaled since the days of Napoleon. The three greatest nations on earth were forced to muster all their human and material power to crush the German military machine by the only possible method—overwhelming superiority of force.
Total war is neither a modern invention nor a German monopoly. But total mobilization, in the sense of the complete and scientific control of all the efforts of the nation for the purposes of war, and total utilization of war as an instrument of national policy have been developed to their highest degree by the German militarists. Central control and careful coordination, by qualified experts, of a military machine which is built with all the best available materials and put together for the highest efficiency of operation have been the secret of such military victories as the Germans have achieved.
It is the purpose of this Handbook to describe this military machine in all its aspects. No one of the supporting pillars of the German Army—its personnel, its High Command, its administrative structure, its unit organization, its weapons, its tactical doctrines—can stand or fall alone. The various chapters and sections which follow must be studied together as various facets of a whole.
2. The German Army Today
When the German Panzer divisions struck out across the Polish frontier at dawn on 1 September 1939, no one could predict the scope, intensity, and duration of the armed conflict which they were precipitating. The German Army then was fresh, vigorous, expansive, and obviously superior to its contemporaries. Its weapons were new and shiny; its tactics and techniques—the old doctrines adapted to the new conditions—were untried; its officers and men were young and full of enthusiasm. A career of easy conquest seemed to open up before it.
After five and a half years of ever growing battle against ever-stronger enemies, the German Army in 1945 looks, at first glance, much the worse for wear. It is beset on all sides and is short of everything. It has suffered appalling casualties and must resort to old men, boys, invalids, and unreliable foreigners for its cannon fodder. Its weapons and tactics seem not to have kept pace with those of the armies opposing it; its supply system in the field frequently breaks down. Its position is obviously hopeless, and it can only be a question of time until the last German soldier is disarmed, and the once proud German Army of the great Frederick and of Scharnhorst, of Ludendorff and of Hitler, exists no more as a factor to be reckoned with.
Yet this shabby, war-weary machine has struggled on in a desperate effort to postpone its inevitable demise. At the end of 1944 it was still able to mount an offensive calculated to delay for months the definitive piercing of the western bulwarks of Germany. Despite the supposed chronic disunity at the top, disaffection among the officer corps, and disloyalty in the rank and file, despite the acute lack of weapons, ammunition, fuel, transport, and human reserves, the German Army seems to function with its old precision and to overcome what appear to be insuperable difficulties with remarkable speed. Only by patient and incessant hammering from all sides can its collapse be brought about.
The cause of this toughness, even in defeat, is not generally appreciated. It goes much deeper than the quality of weapons, the excellence of training and leadership, the soundness of tactical and strategic doctrine, or the efficiency of control at all echelons. It is to be found in the military tradition which is so deeply ingrained in the whole character of the German nation and which alone makes possible the interplay of these various factors of strength to their full effectiveness.
The German Army of 1939 was a model of efficiency, the best product of the concentrated military genius of the most scientifically military of nations. A study of the German Army of 1945, however, older and wiser, hardened and battle-tested, cornered and desperate as it is, will show best how this military science and military genius operate in the practical exigencies of long-drawn-out total war.
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