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What if the Germans switched their doctrine to "defence in depth"

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by JTF-2, Dec 9, 2008.

  1. JTF-2

    JTF-2 Member

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    Anglo-Canadian doctrine was chosen to counter the germans. The allies emphasis on dug in troops with support from artillery proved to be highly effective as long as the enemy stuck to its doctrine and pressed forward into caculated zones of fire.

    So my question to you is. What if the enemy, switched their doctrine to "defence in depth" and limited there counter attacks in response to allied advances and used to regain vital ground??

    P.S. Dempsey's decision to use the 7th Armoured Division in a deep penetration role while sending the Canadian Amoured Brigade to seize open high ground near Le-Mesnil-Patry resulted in losses comparable to those suffered in attacks by the 12th SS. This was an example of the Allies trying to do the german doctrine.
     
  2. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Are you refering to a specific campaign here? There are more than a few expamples of the Germans using a 'defense in depth' or a flexible defense. I was just studying the battle of Mareth 16 - 28 1943 which illustrates flexibility in the defense and a absence of Hitlers interferance. They delaying action in the Sicillian campaign is another good example, and how Kesselring used the multiple defense zones in the Italian campaign shows this at both the upper and lower ends of the operational level of wafare.

    One part of answering your question be taking a detailed look at several examples both types of battle and comparing how the German and Allied armys fought in each.

    As far as the US Army of 1944 it would better match was was expected. The frequent compliance to Hitlers 'stand & die' orders, rigid forward placed defense plans as in Normandy or in the 1944/1945 border battles into the Rhineland, ran contrary to what the US Army leaders considerd good sense. They had expected a highly flexible defense with operational reserves arrayed in depth. Many US Army officers had studied German methods in the 1920s and 1930s, some like Wedermeyer had attended the Kreigsacadime. The historcal German army doctrines were understood and it was assumed they would be prevalent. Hitlers strategy of frequently defending at the forward edge of the battlefield in Normandy and other locations in 1944 was a suprise.

    I dont know about the British in general. Montogomery did make the key decisions for Neptune and was a key player in the overall strategy for Overlord. He & Eisenhower expected that once the Allied armys were ashore in Normandy the Germans would recognize the stratigic problem of defending there and make a fighting withdrawl into the French interior. Some time in September the Germans would begain something similar on a broader front. Using the rivers, forrests and hills of central and western France to fight a series of large scale delaying actions, much like in Italy. It was not expected that Paris would pass into Allied hands until late September at the earliest, and the German border would not be reached until November or December.

    Anyway there a lot of large scale battles and campaigns where the Germans fought it both ways for comparing outcomes.
     
  3. socioanthroman

    socioanthroman Member

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    A great example of defense in depth that allows a defensive line to move is the Battle of Târgu Frumos.
     
  4. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Defense in depth requires lots of good infantry and presupposes the defender's mobility to be a match for the attacker's. The Wehrmacht could take neither as granted.
     
  5. JTF-2

    JTF-2 Member

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    I was thinking of the Western Front. In regards to the 21st Army Group. And yes I would assume there are small examples of the germans using this doctrine, but as a whole they did not.

    I realize that they wern't very mobile and that would hinder them trying to have a good defence in depth. But there are ways around that to create the desired effect.
     
  6. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Maybe you'd like to refer to a specific campaign and battle? And I couldn't think of too many campaigns of decision that an elastic defense would be decisive but alot in which it would be unviable.
     
  7. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Officially, this was German doctrine. The problem is that reality got in the way.

    In this case, by mid war the Germans no longer had anywhere near the manpower, units, or mobility to actually carry out a real indepth defensive system like their doctrine called for. The typical German infantry division by even late 1942 lacked the mobility to carry out such defensive tactics. By 1944 even the mobile units that were available had to be thrown into the front rather than held in reserve as a mobile defensive unit.
    The creation of Panzer Brigades in late 1943 early 1944 was an attempt to create such a unit, primarily for the East Front. Most of these units were thrown into the September battles around Nancy France in an attempt to stop the US breakout. They simply were ground up in nothing flat.
    In the ETO in 1944 a second reason a mobile defense would have been difficult for the Germans to carry out was Allied air and artillery superiority. Here the Germans would have (and did) found that their artillery was largely neutralized by its Allied counterpart and that tactical air power made massing mobile units for counterattacks all but impossible.
     
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  8. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Italy probablly has the best examples. Often the terrain nuetralized Allied mobility. One example is of a October 1943 attack by the 8th Army. A 'colossal Crack' was made, & it fell on a deserted defense. The Germans had fallen back 10km to another river defense line.
     
  9. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    T. A. Gardner nailed exactly what I wanted to say with more gusto and concision.

    It is not for nothing that both Rommel and Model preferred to place Panzer units at forward defensive positions! The Soviet and Anglo-American armies could run circles arround the less mobile Wehrmacht so the prevention of any breach was absolutely essential.

    To make elastic defense work, there must be an ample reserve of manpower to man the depth that would transmute brittleness to elasticity and the mobile formations with which to make counter blows. When your lines are crust thin it becomes difficult to extricate the units engaged without causing the front to crumble. Once allied armor run amok, no effective counter was possible.

    To be fair to the German army, Hitler's standfast orders did cause inordinate and unnecessary losses, but after 1943 the permitting of no retreat was more of a de facto recognition of reality than choice. Even if the German army fell back to escape the cauldrons then one is tempted to ask to what end? The decisve counterblow to eliminate the enemy salient?
     
  10. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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    Yes, Germany didn't have the resources to pursue such a strategy by as early as 1942.

    A good quality first wave German grenadier division in 1942 had only 1,000 vehicles, tons of horses, and could expect at most a battery or two of Stugs or a company of self-propelled A/T guns. Very paltry.
     

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