June 18, 2014

“The Art of Modern Warfare”

Hermann Foertsch
In 1939 Oberst Hermann Foertsch published a book with the title: “Kriegskunst heute und morgen” which roughly means: “The Art of War Today and Tomorrow”. At the time Foertsch was an instructor at the War Academy in Berlin. The book was translated in English in 1940, by Theodore W. Knauth, and published under the title: “The Art of Modern Warfare”. It was highly esteemed by the U.S. Army.

In his book Foertsch proved to be a true disciple of the Schlieffen school. He envisioned victory in the battlefield as the annihilation of an encircled enemy. To make sure that the enveloping wing would succeed in this purpose, he suggested that the enemy had to be threatened simultaneously with a breakthrough at his front and envelopment at his flank. Only then the enemy cannot decide where to commit his reserves, looses time and when he finally acts it is too late. The double threat paralyzes the enemy’s decision circle.

The Battle of France
2. In the Battle of France Army Group B attacks frontally, while
at the same time Panzer-Group Kleist envelops the French right.

In the early years of the war this approach was actually used and it was successful. In Barbarossa, for instance, the Fourth and Ninth Armies, of Army Group Centre, attacked the Soviet Western Front frontally, while at the same time the 2nd and 3rd Panzer-Groups were encircling it. Later, when the German offensive potential was diminishing, only the enveloping wings had enough strength to participate in the offense. The enemy was not faced with a double threat and could employ his reserves in the anticipated axes of advance. In Kursk, for instance, only the enveloping wings (Ninth Army, Fourth Panzer Army) took part in the assault. The frontal army (Second Army) didn’t have the required strength to be engaged, so the Soviet Army was not presented with a dilemma.

June 1941
3. In June 1941 the Fourth and Ninth Armies attacked the Soviet Western Front frontally,
while simultaneously the 2nd and 3rd Panzer-Groups were enveloping it.

The Battle of Kursk
4. In the Battle of Kursk the Ninth Army and the Fourth Panzer Army tried to
encircle the Soviet armies but the Second Army was too weak to perform
a frontal attack. The Soviet reserves were not presented with a dilemma.

Hermann Foertsch (1885-1961) held various staff positions, commanded the 21st Infanterie-Division, the X Armeekorps and for a brief period, at the end of the war, the Nineteenth and First Armies. He rose to the rank of General der Infanterie. He was held in prison from 1945 to 1948 and faced trial for war crimes committed mainly in the Balkans. He was found not guilty.

Cole, Hugh M. Book Reviews. The Journal of Modern History vol. XIV (March-December 1942): 88-90
Wallach, Jehuda L. The Dogma of the Battle of Annihilation. London: Greenwood, 1986.

Photos attribution
2. Department of History, United States Military Academy, additional details: author
3. ShadeOfGrey, CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons
4. derivative work: Alexpl, CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

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