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General A. C. Wedemeyer

Was he Silenced by Churchill?

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The Kriegs Akademie Chapter I 1936 - 1938

 

Chapter I

The Kriegsakademie 1936-1938

 

General Albert C. Wedemeyer’s most significant military learning experience was the two years he spent at the German Military School, in Berlin the Kriegsakademie, 1936-1938. The experience shaped his entire professional outlook, and had a profound impact on his career. Wedemeyer was taught Grand Strategy, battle tactics, armored infantry maneuvers, tactical use of air power, and how to effectively coordinate these military employments in battle. The knowledge he gained proved of enormous value to America when Wedemeyer later wrote his Victory Plan in the spring of 1941. Wedemeyer was selected to attend the German school on the recommendation of the staff of the Command and General Staff School at Leavenworth where he had graduated in 1936. He had graduated with honors and had  knowledge of German. At this time the United States and Germany had an agreement whereby their respective armies would accept students from each others countries for study. (Unknown Future p. 8)

Wedemeyer was fortunate to have attended the school during these critical pre-war years when momentous events were transpiring in Germany, which would soon engulf most of western civilization and a good part of Asia in the Second World War. While a student at the school, he had the unique opportunity to enormously expand his knowledge of military science, and was an eye witness to the build up of the events which plunged the world into the cataclysm of World War II. He saw the young Germans, part of the new youth movement, proudly marching with flags flying and Nazi armbands parading through the streets, young men soon to spill their blood on the battlefield, Storm troopers and Brown Shirts persecuting the Nazi’s new enemy the Jew. He marveled at the Nazis building up their armed forces at a dizzying rate. It was obvious that Germany was preparing for war. He was there on March 12, 1939 when Nazi troops marched into Austria, the Anschlus (Annexation). In Vienna he saw German troops goose-stepping between rows of cheering crowds.[1]

Amid all this excitement Wedemeyer and his classmates were working around the clock to keep pace with the instruction at the school. His instructors and classmates at the school included many of the major German military figures in the war, including Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, who planted the bomb in the unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler, and Ferdinand Jodl, brother of the famed World War Colonel General Alfred Jodl.

Wedemeyer describes these crucial years in “Education of a Strategist,” Chapter IV of his book Wedemeyer Reports! and is no exaggeration to say that what Wedemeyer observed in Germany during those years and what he learned at the German school had a permanent influence not only on his entire career but shaped his life long philosophy of life, of war, and of society. Wedemeyer was only the second American to ever have attended this institution, and the only one during the critical years 1937-1938. There were approximately 120 students in the class, including nine from other nations, including China, Argentina, Bulgaria, Japan, and Turkey.[2]

The military curriculum was totally different from what Wedemeyer had previously been exposed to both in method of teaching and content. The schedule was arduous, the students were serious, and a sense of urgency prevailed. The curriculum was designed to familiarize the students with all the modern military equipment that the Nazis had developed, indoctrinate them with the knowledge of battle tactics, and the command of large and small units. In addition, and just as important, they were given instruction on broader topics such as diplomacy, the causes of war, and how grand strategy is employed to achieve political goals. Many of these subjects were never taught at American military schools. There were only a few occasions when foreigners were excluded on the grounds of military security.[3] Early on he realized the superiority of what he was being taught at the Kriegsakademie to what he had learned at West Point and at Leavenworth. The Germans were determined not to repeat the mistakes of World War I and get bogged down in trench warfare. Mobility and aggressiveness were the new concepts. Everything, the organization, doctrine, equipment, and training were all aimed at revolutionizing the tempo of the battlefield.”[4] These new tactics of mechanized warfare integrated with air power, and concentrated with enormous power at a single point of attack were specifically designed to obviate the mistakes of the last war. These new tactics called “blitzkrieg” revolutionized modern warfare. The enormous success of these new tactics is evidenced by the way that the Germans quickly overran Poland and France, and in the early years of the war, the Russian front. This particular tactic, the concentration of a large mobile force in a single spot, with support of armor and aircraft, a tactic unknown to armies of other nations at that time, was to be one of several a key recommendations of Wedemeyer when he returned to America and later wrote the Victory Plan. He planned to use the very same tactics that learned at the Kriegsadademie to defeat the German army.

The instruction was not limited to class room. Practical exercises were introduced and a good deal of instruction was outside the classroom. They studied and visited the battlefields of many of the European wars, and read and discussed the tactics of the great generals of the past. Wedemeyer, in one exercise was given the opportunity to command a Panzer division during one maneuver. This exercise was invaluable to him in understanding the capabilities of the modern German tanks, and the method of deployment of the tanks in conjunction with troops and aircraft. His careful notes were part of his final report and greatly influenced the American weapons planners in their own development of tanks and their proper use in battle. Hypothetical battles were taught, for instance the so called “Czechoslovakia campaign” which turned out not to be hypothetical at all in less than one year.[5]

Wedemeyer also acquired a deeper and broader understanding of international affairs and of the true causes of world tensions. In addition to warfare, the curriculum included a wide range of subjects all designed to give the students a broad insight and understanding of the concept of a country’s “strategy” and the long range goals of which war was only one component in the process. “Strategy” to the Germans encompassed all the tools available to a nation, including, political, economic, and propaganda, which were integrated into a seamless web with a single defined goal, namely the advancement and prosperity of the nation.[6]  The Germans stressed the strategic factors in warfare, with particular emphasis on those elements, which are today accepted and understood to be part of grand strategy. Economic factors and its power to fuel the war potential was another new concept for Wedemeyer. These were new and startling revelations to Wedemeyer, which made a profound impact on his life time outlook becoming a principal of Wedemeyers life time philosophy, and the strategy he outlined in his Victory Plan took these lessons into account.

Another key facet of strategic thinking to which Wedemeyer was introduced at the German school was the “heartland theory” the author of which was Sir Halford MacKinder. According to MacKinder, physical and human geography should be integrated into a single discipline, and it follows that if you conquer Eastern Europe you dominate the “Heartland.”[7] Hitler understood this principal and it was his dream as he stood at Nuremberg. The Nazis embraced and appropriated MacKinder’s theories and stressed them at the German school. Later, when Wedemeyer articulated his strategic plans in the “Victory Plan” the early domination of the heartland was a central point, representing yet another of the several critical disagreements which Wedemeyer had with his British strategists. Churchill, whose opinions dominated the British planners, opposed a cross channel invasion, and a march toward Germany with a large force, instead advocating a series of relatively small peripheral attacks on the Nazi stronghold, in France, the Balkans, Norway, and various other places.

Wedemeyer, on the other hand, in opposition to his British planners, urged a large concentrated cross-channel attack at a single point, in France, in 1943 followed by a march directly through the Heartland into Germany. This is the tactic he learned at the German school, and his view was spelled out in the Victory Plan, and ultimately embraced and agreed to by the Americans. It did not find favor with the British. Ironically, as will be demonstrated in this dissertation, Wedemeyer’s profound new understanding of why long range “strategy” was so critical to nation, was to become Wedemeyers strongest asset, and yet, paradoxically, at least from the viewpoint of his adversaries, his weakness. Later, when Wedemeyer along with American strategists met and interacted with their British counterparts, the British quickly recognized Wedemeyer’s theories, and were not happy with them to the extent that they often conflicted with their concept of strategy. Thus Wedemeyer’s “strength” was used against him. Very likely it was the reason that he was “promoted” and transferred to Asia, and did not get the chance to participate in the invasion, the planning of which he played such a pivotal part.

There is a long tradition in most western nations, especially in the United States which recognizes a sharp line of demarcation between the military and the political, each having its own separate and distinct role to play, with the political component having the final and ultimate say and control. In the United States the politicians expect the military to check their strategic concepts at the cloak room before entering the military conference



[1] Wedemeyer Reports!.  p. 57.

[2] Ibid. p. 54.

[3] KeighEiler. “The Man Who Planned the Victory”. American Heritage,October/November 1983. p. 43.

[4] Ibid. p. 39.

[5] Wedemeyer Reports!.p. 53.

[6] Wedemeyer Reports!. p. 49.

[7] Ibid. pps. 53-3.

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