German Counterinsurgency Revisited

Charles D. Melson


Regular (external) war is, by way of underlying concepts, between nations using the entire spectrum of the people, army and state. In irregular (internal) war, some parties are neither independent states nor state sponsored actors, as in the case of rebellion against a foreign occupying power. It can also be conflict within a nation such as a revolution or civil war.  Regular and irregular conflicts can take place together, separately, or even on a sliding scale. Subversion, sabotage, terrorism, partisan or guerilla fighting are techniques and are not ends in themselves, and are all regarded by Clausewitz as tactics and the ultimate school of the soldier.How do these terms and concepts illuminate the German suppression of rebellion in occupied territories during World War II?  This question will be examined in three parts: 1) background from Clausewitz through the World War (1831-1932); 2) doctrine that was available in Nazi Germany (1933-1945); and 3) practice from examples in Yugoslavia (1942-1944). By focusing on the question of “what,” rather than “who, when, or where,” This paper uses “reverse engineering” to understand final doctrine and experience rather than strict chronological development. In doing so, it offers a tool to consider specific cases of internal conflict during this global war.

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

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.