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Operational art in the Defense: The German "Abwehrschlachten" in 1918
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLL FORT LEAVENWORTH KS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED MILITARY STUDIES
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Following five unsuccessful German offenses in early 1918, the Germans found themselves in a solely defensive situation, conducting defensive battles, or Abwehrschlachten. This monograph analyzes German operational thinking and operational art in the defensive campaign that began after the Germans last unsuccessful offensive in July 1918 and lasted until the armistice in November 1918. The paper relies on two approaches. First, it analyzes data from primary sources to identify changes in the strategic context from a German perspective using a model from Collin S. Gray. Second, it analyzes German military actions during the Abwehrschlachten using a framework of operational elements derived from a previous case study by David T. Zabecki on the German offensive operations. The analysis results in a confirmation of previous findings about the level of German operational thinking at that time. It also reveals the limitations the Germans faced in their attempts to apply their thinking through military action. Those limitations predominately emerged from significant changes in the operational environment in 1918. Current consensus, in line with Clausewitzs thoughts on the defense, is that the defense, which is tied to a negative aim, is a temporary form of warfare. Military leaders always strive to transit to the offensive form of warfighting, which is tied to a positive aim. The monograph recommends the development of a framework for operational art in the defense.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE