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The German Army During the Interwar Period

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The German Army During the Interwar Period

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  • October 2011
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Possibly one of the most asked questions in military history is how was the German Army able to decisively defeat a numerically equivalent Allied Army in France during May and June 1940? One of the primary reasons for Germany’s success was their innovation in armored warfare, particularly at the tactical and operational levels during the interwar period. The study of the German Army during a period of prolonged peace and constrained resources reveals that one of the most important qualities that a military should possess to innovate effectively is the ability to learn as an organization. A learning organization creates knowledge internally, externally acquires knowledge, and diffuses knowledge throughout the organization . Learning organizations have a leadership culture that leverages the experience and talents of its individuals in order to internally create knowledge and innovate. Immediately after World War I, the Commander in Chief of the German Army, General Von Seeckt, capitalized on the opportunity to change the culture of the Army’s officer corps during the drawdown process in accordance with the Versailles Treaty. Rather than retaining those officers that were politically connected or front line leadership, he retained educated and experienced staff officers .

General Von Seeckt immediately placed the collective mental capacity of one tenth of the total officer strength to work answering the question of why did the First World War turn into a stalemate ultimately leading to the defeat of the German military? Although interested in what occurred, General Von Seeckt directed an impartial and systematic approach to finding out why events occurred. He guided their collective efforts in determining areas where new tactics and technology were successfully implemented, and issues still needing addressing. By 1923, this concerted effort produced doctrine that emphasized offensive maneuver, decentralized operations, and leadership and...

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