Development of Operational Thinking in the German Army in the World War Era

Gerhard Gross


This manuscript focuses on German command  at the higher operational and strategic levels during the First and Second World Wars. It emphasizes the admiration which commentators often express for German operational qualities and analyses their development and performance between 1871-1945, explaining the roots of this behavior, and the strengths and weaknesses of the approach. Its characteristics are contextualized, noting the limits to the famous auftragstaktik (mission oriented command), which did not work quite as its supporters  imagine. Both the success of German operations and the failure of its strategy, stemmed from the same central root, an attempt to achieve a continental hegemony which Germany was too weak to acquire, but insufficiently wise to avoid. 

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JMSS is a publication of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.