“Blitzkrieg”: Stuka & Panzer – DEBUNKED


This additional episode about Panzers and Stukas was made possible by the free to play online game War Thunder, which I enjoyed a bit too much. As you can see on the screenshot. And if you want to get a shot at me use the link in the description for a free premium vehicle, but more on this later. Now the popular view is that the Wehrmacht used a combination of Panzers and Stukas to roll over Poland, Denmark The Netherlands, Belgium, France and later the Soviet Union where the Panzers were heavily supported by Stukas overwhelming the enemy ground forces. Now the problem here is that the details on how this was actually done are rather scarce. As such, there are various assumptions and misconceptions around. At least I had plenty myself before I took a closer look. So in this video we will take a deeper dive (ha ha) on how Panzers and Stukas actually coordinated their efforts in Poland 1939, France 1940, and the Soviet Union in 1941. Before the invasion of Poland in 1939 the Luftwaffe had gained some experience in the Spanish Civil War. Now the number of Stukas used there was rather limited as Murray notes… Another important development that happened before Poland was the basic organization to allow for the Luftwaffe and army to coordinate their units. They needed various liaison officers. Initially, there were basically two types; the “Kommandeure der Luftwaffe” meaning “Commanders of the Air Force” usually called Koluft, and “Flieger-Verbindungersoffiziere”, in English “Pilot Liason Officers”. Usually called Flivo. The Kolufts were assigned to large army units like corps and armies. And they were in charge of the airborne reconnaissance units that were assigned to the army. The Koluft advised the army command on all matters about the air force yet the problem was he had no ability to directly communicate to the Luftwaffe’s operational command. As such, he could not provide proper channels for requesting close air support. This is where the “Flieger-Verbindungsoffiziere” come in. Yet one major drawback was that there was no direct relationship between the Kolufts and the Flivos. As such, they usually coordinated informally. So lets take a closer look at the Polish campaign where in a matter of weeks the Wehrmacht destroyed the Polish army. Yet one major issue here is that due to popular media we often forget about the realities of war. Namely, that morale, suppression, supply and attrition, play a far bigger role than mere firepower. As such, quite often the air units did only destroy a limited amount of enemy forces. Yet, successfully broke their will to fight. To give two examples; “Interestingly, the Luftwaffe commentators were willing to admit that the material effects of such attacks were not impressive, rather it was the impact on enemy morale that resulted in significant accomplishments. The Spanish War tactics of attacking in waves and keeping the enemy under constant pressure worked dramatically in Poland. General Speidel asserted that “The effect of the Stukas on the morale of the enemy was often decisve.” One major advantage of the Stukas was their relatively high accuracy combined with firepower and speed. As such, they could be used successfully against fixed positions. Now this is the important part; the Luftwaffe helped the Panzer forces break through. Attack enemy formations during assembly and bomb fixed positions. Yet there were clear limits to the support the Luftwaffe could provide. Namely, when the front was moving and mobile warfare was in full progress. One major issue during mobile warfare is that areas which were enemy territory a few days or hours earlier could be now be occupied by friendly troops. As such, air commanders were often not up to date on the situation on the ground. As a result, there were various friendly fire incidents even despite the deployment of recognition devices by ground troops. The military historian, Markus Pohlmann gives the following example for the 3rd Panzer Division; Another one is by Murray for the 10th Panzer Division; Another problem was the lack of common radio frequencies between the army and the Luftwaffe. As such, after Poland changes to the table of organization and equipment were suggested yet that request was not made in time to have effect on the Battle of France. Now to improve the coordination between the ground forces and the Luftwaffe in April 1940 experiments were conducted. A lot of operational weaknesses were reduced but various officers cooperating at a personal level did circumvent various limitations and differences in the command structure. One major official change was the reorganization of most Stuka groups into a specialized close air support force, the 8th Air Corps. This meant for the invasion of France there were several aspects that were clearly improved. Yet since direct communication was not yet possible in various aspects the coordination between the army and the Luftwaffe was still along rather static measures of communication. As such, similar to Poland the Stukas served as mobile siege guns that suppressed the French forces while the German units crossed the river Meuse. Although the well-entrenched French lost few casualties to the air attacks, these air attacks

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