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18 Foreign Aff. 254 (1939-1940)

handle is hein.journals/fora18 and id is 260 raw text is: BLITZKRIEG

By Henry 7. Reilly
-D'LITZKRIEG or lightning war is not a German term for
jD     just any kind of quickly waged and violent war. It is a
name for a special kind of quickly waged and violent
war which has a technique of its own. The ideas which lie back of
this technique began taking shape in Germany in the period after
the failure of either the Allies or the Germans to break through
on the Western Front during 1915 and 1916, and they matured
after the outbreak of the civil war in Spain.
While some of the guiding conceptions of the Blitzkrieg were
tried out in Ethiopia, the results were not considered conclusive.
The Ethiopians were a semi-savage people, and they lacked the
modern armament and equipment necessary to offer the Italian
invaders the kind of resistance essential if Blitzkrieg were to
receive a real and complete battlefield test. But Spain furnished
a fine proving ground. Then Albania was a dress rehearsal. And
in Poland the system was put to the final proof.
The technique of Blitzkrieg is based on the principle of surprise
as opposed to an effort to crush an enemy by bringing an over-
whelming superiority in numbers and armament to bear against
him. It can be likened to the swift and deadly thrust of a rapier as
opposed to the crushing blow of a battle-axe or a war club. The
objective is not the enemy civilian population but the enemy
armed forces, both ground and air.
From the days of earliest military history, surprise has played a
prominent part in winning victory. When coupled with better tac-
tics - that is, superior methods of combat on the battlefield -
surprise has always given victory against an enemy that relies on
superior numbers and courage.
The Christians talked of Mongol hordes in an effort to ex-
plain their own quick and bloody defeats at Mongol hands. There
were no military Mongol hordes in superior numbers. Probably
the Christians outnumbered the Mongols in all the battles fought.
But the Mongols used their ability to make long, hard marches
on their tough Asiatic horses to take by surprise the slow-moving,
ponderous masses of knights, men-at-arms and foot soldiers com-
posing the Christian armies. In battle the Mongols had a definite
tactical scheme. First their mounted archers, keeping out of reach

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