Stationary versus mobile WWI and WWII

Oct 2019
82
Near the dogbowl
Your understanding is generally correct. The technologies that enabled WW2 mobility (like tanks, aircraft, radios, and light machine guns) were too immature to allow the same level of mobility in WW1. The deadlock of WW1 stimulated the development of these mobility enhancing technologies.

In the century after Waterloo, almost all new military technologies favored the defense - rapid fire rifles, barbed wire, the telephone, quick firing artillery, smokeless gunpowder, railroads, etc. so that by WW1 the defense had gained a marked advantage over offense. The trend reversed after 1920 as most armies concentrated on developing new technologies and tactics for offensive warfare. France with their Maginot Line was the biggest exception. They stayed with defensive tech and tactics.

I would disagree and say that good old fashioned trucks were the most important or at least as important as armored formations. In WWI they could make holes, but could not move up troops fast enough to exploit the breach before the enemy concentrated defensive forces. Trucks, halftracks, top of tanks anything mobile allowed formations to exploit the hole and get into rear formations before the defense could solidify.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
5,006
Dispargum
To conclude my original point wasn't to say that WWI was a mobile war but that the premises of Blizkrieg were already there before 1920. Clearly tactics changed after 1917 on both sides allowing to breach the defensive lines...
I've already conceded on the date of 1920. There's no need to keep harping on that. I've also acknowledged that basic or proto fire and maneuver tactics existed already in 1918.


I insist on the fact that allied superior mobility first avoided a defeat in spring but also accelerated the defeat of Germany.
Everything I've read about the Spring Offensives of 1918 says they were stopped by the Germans losing momentum and outrunning their supply lines, not by anything the Allies did.


To conclude my original point wasn't to say that WWI was a mobile war...
Then we agree.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
5,006
Dispargum
I would disagree and say that good old fashioned trucks were the most important or at least as important as armored formations. In WWI they could make holes, but could not move up troops fast enough to exploit the breach before the enemy concentrated defensive forces. Trucks, halftracks, top of tanks anything mobile allowed formations to exploit the hole and get into rear formations before the defense could solidify.
Care to elaborate? I don't see the disagreement. I agree that in WW1 armies could not move up troops fast enough to exploit breaches, but not because the defenders had more trucks. There are several factors that make it easier for defensive forces to move faster that offensive forces. Defenders generally don't have to cross moonscapes while attackers often must. Defenders can also cross streams on bridges that haven't been destroyed by retreating enemies. Defenders usually know the terrain better than attackers do, etc.

I also agree that in WW2 trucks, halftracks, and tops of tanks were useful for rapidly moving troops forward.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,983
Actually the trend changed long before 1920, during the war itself.

WWI started as an offensive war where the aggressor tried to quickly gain a significant territorial advantage hoping that like in 1870 this would be enough to win, therefore Hindenburg and Lunddendorf plans required an aggressive strategy in order to threaten Paris as fast as possible.
Hindenberg and Lunddendorf were noty in cmmandof the germans armies toill late 1916. Hinden was actually retired in 1914 at the the strat of the war before he was reclled. They fought in the east in 1914.
The German Plans of 1914 were not Hindenberg or Lunddendorf's plans.

When that strategy failed, only then did the war became a static war where defensive warfare got the advantage, but only until the German spring offensives of 1918 : the new offensives techniques based on short but incredibly intensive artillery preparation followed by the attacks of specialized German shock troops made instantly obsolete the classical trench warfare, and if eventually allied forces resisted victoriously they were originally totally unprepared to open field combat unlike those German new commandos, and only the superior mobility of the French troops that could carry entire divisions in a four hours to close the gaps avoided the defeat.

So ironically the allied forces were saved by their mobility, not static defensive warfare.

Later on during the aliied final summer offensives, Foch restart using very offensive tactics that were unachievable with static artillery as artillery fire couldn't support infantry attacks beyond the first enemy line of defense, but tanks changed that, being able despite their short autonomy to support infantry for a longer time, and especially because the French Renault FT 17 tank could be carried by trucks.
Throughout the 1914-1918 there was a constant evolution of tactics., and counter tactic, there was no "classical trench warfare" the change was constant throughout the war.

In 1918 teh German spring offensive and the methods used were entirely expected by the Allied forces. And counter tactics had been developed. The German tactics did not make trench warfare instantly obsolete, nor were the Germans particularly prepared for open warfare.

The British 5th Army recently taken over it's line form French troops had not prepared it's defences accordingto the defence in depth doctrine. Combintaion reasons of leadsership, new area not enough time, stretched covering the new area. These was the troops who suffered the most in the German spring offensives.
 
Oct 2019
82
Near the dogbowl
Care to elaborate? I don't see the disagreement. I agree that in WW1 armies could not move up troops fast enough to exploit breaches, but not because the defenders had more trucks. There are several factors that make it easier for defensive forces to move faster that offensive forces. Defenders generally don't have to cross moonscapes while attackers often must. Defenders can also cross streams on bridges that haven't been destroyed by retreating enemies. Defenders usually know the terrain better than attackers do, etc.

I also agree that in WW2 trucks, halftracks, and tops of tanks were useful for rapidly moving troops forward.
Sure,

Probably better to say less disagreement, more we have a differing focus. I'd argue the truck was more important than the tank in WWII on the European Fronts. While the tank was very important, the proliferation of transport allowed offensive movement faster than defensive movement, if done properly. Of course the Soviets were famous for their tank riders too.

It would have been an interesting exercise to see how several WWI infantry divisions, if mechanized via truck, would have faired.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
5,006
Dispargum
I have no problem with the importance of trucks. They were another technology that would mature during the interwar years, if not necessarily in speed or capacity of the trucks, then in the numbers of trucks that could be produced.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Troy wienerdog
Oct 2019
82
Near the dogbowl
I have no problem with the importance of trucks. They were another technology that would mature during the interwar years, if not necessarily in speed or capacity of the trucks, then in the numbers of trucks that could be produced.
Indeed, like the tank it was advancing but still potentially had a ways before reaching critical mass as it were.
 

Vaeltaja

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
3,700
Trucks alone did not do all that much however. It is good to remember that for example the Germans were still mostly foot or horse-mobile more than anything else during their operations in the WWII.