A nation can have the most up to date technology but be incompetent with exploiting new tactical methods that they might allow. Others can be quite competent.
Were the successful use of tanks in the opening of WW II a case of intelligent and novel application of combined arms–new arms–, or was the success of the Poland invasion not that much related to the new techs+tactics as it was to Polish weaknesses to any attack from a military colossus?
Plus, when did Blitzkrieg stop being Blitzkrieg, as it were, and just become a “typical” military tactic like others used by Axis and Allies?
Blitzkrieg was much more effective from a psychological than a military standpoint. In Poland, the leading edge of tanks was very thin; the Wehrmacht was primarily a horse-drawn and footsoldier army at that point. The reason blitzkrieg succeeded in Poland relates to the proper tactics against it. What an army should do against a blitzkrieging foe is prepare “defenses in depth.” The inital, counterintuitive reaction to a blitzkrieg attack should be not to oppose it head-on, but to step aside, to delay it, much as a jiu-jitsu fighter deals with a direct blow. The Poles, however, insisted on setting up a forward defense and because their tactical doctrine was drawn from nineteenth-century cavalry practices, they didn’t voluntarily yield ground or retreat, even when it would have been prudent to do so.
The Russians at Kursk in 1943 beautifully demonstrated the tactical doctrine of defense in depth as an antidote to blitzkrieg.
In the final analysis, blitzkrieg isn’t/wasn’t effective because the advance units quickly outrun their own support and are subject to being isolated and destroyed.
I had this image of (relatively) “wonder tanks”–radically new weapons–combined with new finesse in using them, as per OP.
Wow, horse-drawn “blitz.”
Ignorance fought. Thanks.
(Wasn’t the 1967 Sinai campaign–a blitzkrieg of phenomenal proportion (is ”blitzkrieg"a correct use of the word here?) had air drops so far deep and ahead of the lines that even the commanders on the field were stunned?)?
Allowing an advance and then encircling the forward elements was always the Polish plan. The plan called for defense to hold strong lines in depth to the North and South of the Vistula, near Posen and Thorn. The center line between was weaker. The idea was that the Germans would be channeled along the direct line from Berlin to Warsaw. Then Armies Pomorze and Poznan would close the gap and Army Prusy would smash the advanced units.
The Polish problems were many:
First - They were grossly outgunned. The Poles had the best tank in the campaign, the 7TP. But they only had about 140 of them. And only 900 total. Against three times as many. They only had about 400 aircraft against about six times as many. In theory they had 39 divisions. But in an attempt to head off war politically, they hadn’t fully mobilized. So in practice they had about half that. It took the Germans nearly two months to cross Belgium in WWI. So the Poles thought they would have at least two weeks to finish mobilizing. Of course two weeks in the Germans had already smashed across the boarder everywhere. And had isolated or destroyed every Polish army. And Army Prusy never even formed. So the theoretical 39 divisions against 60 divisions never took place. And even if it had. A german division had more men, more artillery, more of everything. So instead of the 3-2 battle the Poles were expecting, it was more like 3-1 division to division and 5-1 in actual combat capability.
Second- The majority of the population and the majority of the industry were in the West. So Polish doctrine demanded that the line hold in the South. They had a mobile doctrine, but a strategic situation the demanded a static defense. Not a good combo.
Third- They were not only outnumbered and pinned in place by a need to defend significant points, they were surrounded on three sides (four eventually when the Soviets joined in), and they had no good natural defense lines. They had no mountain lines, and the rivers all ran parallel to the German advance, not across it. So there was no defense line to build on.
In the end the Poles were doomed. They were attacked by a vastly superior force. The fact that the Germans had developed the new tactical doctrine of Blitzkreig, probably cut the length of the campaign in half. But Poland was in a fight it couldn’t win.
Also, Poland in the West is mainly flat plains-no need for roads, the Panzers could cross the fields. The Polish C-in-C (Marshal Smigly-Rydz) had dispersed his forces over a wide front. Unfortunately, the Germans had upgraded their “Enigma” coding machines-and Polish Army Intelligence was unable to break their latest codes.
So the Poles were kept guessing about the German order of battle.
The Polish campaign also exposed the German war methods, in all their brutality-Stuka dive bombers would dive bomb and machine gun refugee columns-so as to terrorize the population. Then ,Stalin joined in on the fun-and the Poles realized that they had no chance at all.
Well, Kursk doesn’t demonstrate stepping aside or deflecting a blow, although it was a defense-in-depth. The Kursk defenses were layered and super-heavy, but I wouldn’t use Kursk as an example of the isolated “hedgehogs” style of dense that is one frequently-cited sophisticated response to blitzkrieg.
John Keegan wrote that blitzkrieg requires some degree of participation by its victims – usually through panic, but also through vulnerable initial dispositions and a lack of reserves available to counterattack the “neck” of the long, thin salient blitzkrieg tends to form. After the first couple of years, the psychological shock had worn off and defending forces no longer “cooperated” in blitzkrieg, so it lost a lot of its effectiveness as a strategic solution, becoming just another tactic in the rock-paper-scissors game of measures and countermeasures.