From Blitzkrieg to Airland Battle: the United States army, the Wehrmacht, and the German origins of modern American military doctrine

James Curry

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

Abstract

In 1984, just two years after the release of the US Army’s Airland Battle doctrine, a West Point officer cadet wrote in Military Review: “To understand the philosophy behind [Airland Battle], we must search for its apparent antecedents. A study of military history reveals that the doctrine employed by the German army from 1917 to 1945 and its underlying philosophy bears a strong resemblance to what we are trying to instil in ourselves today.” In his attempt to better understand this new American approach to warfare, this young officer cadet exposed, in a particularly explicit manner, an interesting aspect of the intellectual history of the US military. For throughout the 1980s, Military Review became home to dozens of articles written by US officers and civilians discussing the German military tradition. Admiration for the Wehrmacht in particular became so widespread that the phenomenon was simply referred to as “the Wehrmacht mystique.” This thesis traces the origins, spread, and nature of the Wehrmacht mystique in the US Army during the two decades following US withdrawal from Vietnam. It argues that a number of factors contributed to the American fascination with the Wehrmacht and its doctrine during this period, including: a long history of US emulation of German (and before that Prussian) military methods, the similar situational challenges facing the interwar German and post-Vietnam American militaries, and the civilian reform movement, which actively critiqued and influenced US defence reform during the period.
LanguageEnglish
QualificationMasters
StateUnpublished - 2015

Fingerprint

Army
Military
Doctrine
Wehrmacht
Viet Nam
Philosophy
Mystique
Resemblance
Situational
Admiration
Military History
Prussia
Intellectual History
Warfare
1980s
German Army
History

Cite this

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title = "From Blitzkrieg to Airland Battle: the United States army, the Wehrmacht, and the German origins of modern American military doctrine",
abstract = "In 1984, just two years after the release of the US Army’s Airland Battle doctrine, a West Point officer cadet wrote in Military Review: “To understand the philosophy behind [Airland Battle], we must search for its apparent antecedents. A study of military history reveals that the doctrine employed by the German army from 1917 to 1945 and its underlying philosophy bears a strong resemblance to what we are trying to instil in ourselves today.” In his attempt to better understand this new American approach to warfare, this young officer cadet exposed, in a particularly explicit manner, an interesting aspect of the intellectual history of the US military. For throughout the 1980s, Military Review became home to dozens of articles written by US officers and civilians discussing the German military tradition. Admiration for the Wehrmacht in particular became so widespread that the phenomenon was simply referred to as “the Wehrmacht mystique.” This thesis traces the origins, spread, and nature of the Wehrmacht mystique in the US Army during the two decades following US withdrawal from Vietnam. It argues that a number of factors contributed to the American fascination with the Wehrmacht and its doctrine during this period, including: a long history of US emulation of German (and before that Prussian) military methods, the similar situational challenges facing the interwar German and post-Vietnam American militaries, and the civilian reform movement, which actively critiqued and influenced US defence reform during the period.",
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AB - In 1984, just two years after the release of the US Army’s Airland Battle doctrine, a West Point officer cadet wrote in Military Review: “To understand the philosophy behind [Airland Battle], we must search for its apparent antecedents. A study of military history reveals that the doctrine employed by the German army from 1917 to 1945 and its underlying philosophy bears a strong resemblance to what we are trying to instil in ourselves today.” In his attempt to better understand this new American approach to warfare, this young officer cadet exposed, in a particularly explicit manner, an interesting aspect of the intellectual history of the US military. For throughout the 1980s, Military Review became home to dozens of articles written by US officers and civilians discussing the German military tradition. Admiration for the Wehrmacht in particular became so widespread that the phenomenon was simply referred to as “the Wehrmacht mystique.” This thesis traces the origins, spread, and nature of the Wehrmacht mystique in the US Army during the two decades following US withdrawal from Vietnam. It argues that a number of factors contributed to the American fascination with the Wehrmacht and its doctrine during this period, including: a long history of US emulation of German (and before that Prussian) military methods, the similar situational challenges facing the interwar German and post-Vietnam American militaries, and the civilian reform movement, which actively critiqued and influenced US defence reform during the period.

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KW - Military history

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KW - German army

KW - Military doctrine

KW - World War II

M3 - Master's Thesis

ER -