Storm of Steel

Storm of Steel: The Development of Armor Doctrine in Germany and the Soviet Union, 1919–1939

Mary R. Habeck
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Cornell University Press
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  • Book Info
    Storm of Steel
    Book Description:

    In this fascinating account of the battle tanks that saw combat in the European Theater of World War II, Mary R. Habeck traces the strategies developed between the wars for the use of armored vehicles in battle. Only in Germany and the Soviet Union were truly original armor doctrines (generally known as "blitzkreig" and "deep battle") fully implemented. Storm of Steel relates how the German and Soviet armies formulated and chose to put into practice doctrines that were innovative for the time, yet in many respects identical to one another.

    As part of her extensive archival research in Russia, Germany, and Britain, Habeck had access to a large number of formerly secret and top-secret documents from several post-Soviet archives. This research informs her comparative approach as she looks at the roles of technology, shared influences, and assumptions about war in the formation of doctrine. She also explores relations between the Germans and the Soviets to determine whether collaboration influenced the convergence of their armor doctrines.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7139-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xx)

    On 22 June 1941 Germany began a conflict with the Soviet Union that was the ultimate test of both countries’ prewar planning. The German and Soviet militaries had spent the previous twenty years imagining future conflicts and arming their nations to win the coming war of technology. The results of the first few months of fighting seemed to show that the German army, after two decades of debate about armor doctrine, more correctly understood the nature of modern warfare than the Red Army. Yet, just five years before the outbreak of war, it was the Soviet army that had had...

  4. CHAPTER ONE The Unfinished Machine, 1919–1923
    (pp. 1-35)

    The tank appeared on the battlefield in 1916, as large as an elephant and just as frightening to ordinary German soldiers as Pyrrhus’s “secret weapon” had been to the Romans. Somewhat to their own surprise the British and French created a phenomenon new to the war: outright panic among the best infantrymen in the world. The Germans had to invent a new word, “tank horror,” to describe the panic inspired by the first use of these “monsters,”¹ and there was some hope among the Allies that they had found, at last, an answer to the stalemate of the Western Front....

  5. CHAPTER TWO Materiel or Morale? The Debate over the Mechanization of Warfare, 1923–1927
    (pp. 36-70)

    Even as the German high command relegated tanks to a subordinate fighting role and the Red Army in effect dismantled such armor forces as it possessed, officers in Germany and the Soviet Union became embroiled in a philosophical debate about the significance of the tank that showed both the depth of skepticism about machine warfare and the growing strength of those who supported the tank. This sort of discussion was not new. In France and Great Britain armor enthusiasts had argued since the world war that the tank would transform the face of warfare and that machines would soon replace...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Technology Triumphant Early German-Soviet Collaboration, 1927–1929
    (pp. 71-116)

    Just as the debate over the mechanization of warfare ended, theorists in Germany and the Soviet Union introduced the first truly innovative ideas on armor in battle and the armies of both countries became serious about producing tanks for future warfare. The breakthrough in armor affairs was influenced by a number of factors that coincided with the development of the new fast tank. Of special significance were the experiences of the British army, which from 1926 to 1929 had the world’s most advanced ideas on tank use; the writings of Fritz Heigl, whose work was read by soldiers and assigned...

  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 117-124)
  8. CHAPTER FOUR Consensus and Conflict, 1930–1931
    (pp. 125-158)

    Despite the high hopes with which the Reichswehr and the Red Army began the new decade, the first two years of the thirties were stormy for both Germany and the Soviet Union. In Germany the Communists on the left and extremist parties on the right increased their share of votes in national elections, and the Nazis began to wield a power in high places far outweighing their actual membership. The economic circumstances of the early thirties almost seemed to have been deliberately created to encourage extremism, as the worldwide slump that began in 1929 deepened into depression. Soviet internal affairs...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE A New Confidence? The End of Collaboration, 1932–1933
    (pp. 159-205)

    Despite the growing ambivalence of the Soviet government, the military collaboration between the Reichswehr and the Red Army seemed to go well in 1932. Work at the three installations proceeded smoothly, multiple educational exchanges took place, and there was large-scale participation in joint exercises. At Kazan more Soviets than ever took part in the summer course; one hundred soldiers in addition to the usual number of students came to the installation to train in armor tactics and to work on tank technology.¹

    Yet, although the collaboration was apparently at its height, the powerful forces that had already begun to undermine...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Trading Places, 1934–1936
    (pp. 206-246)

    At the beginning of 1934, an outside observer might have thought that Soviet armor affairs were in a far better position than those in Germany. The Soviets had thousands of tanks, a sophisticated armor doctrine, and official support, all of which the Germans apparently lacked. By 1936, the situation in the two countries had changed completely. The Soviet army had tried and, in the opinion of many commanders, failed to implement deep operations. Based on these experiences influential officers decided that the doctrine was unworkable in its current form and suggested substantial modifications. They even argued that the army had...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The Evidence of Small Wars Armor Doctrine in Practice, 1936–1939
    (pp. 247-287)

    During that summer of 1936, as German and Soviet officers were profoundly rethinking their armor doctrine and organization, war broke out in Spain. The conflict itself was limited to a country that had for many years been on the periphery of the great affairs of Europe, and yet within months three major powers – Italy, Germany, and the Soviet Union – had decided to intervene. By the end of the year, each would send scores of aircraft, thousands of men, and hundreds of tanks to bolster the cause that they supported in the spreading civil war. Attempts by the Western powers and...

  12. Epilogue Armor Doctrine and Large Wars, 1939–1941
    (pp. 288-298)

    With the dual invasion of Poland in September 1939, the German and Soviet armies finally tested in battle the armor doctrines that they had spent the past twenty years developing. For the Germans, the attack resulted in two triumphs: one of the Wehrmacht over the ill-prepared Polish army and the other of the concept of warfare developed by Lutz, Guderian, and other supporters of the armor division over competing ideas of combat. The initial period of the conflict followed the ideas of some officers (including Guderian) on how future warfare would begin: not with a prior declaration of war and...

  13. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 299-300)
  14. Index
    (pp. 301-310)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 311-315)