The nineteenth century marked a revolution in warfare brought about by industrialization and changing technology. Until then, land warfare depended on the slow movement of soldiers by horse or foot. The development of steam power harnessed to rails - the railroads - gave strategic and operational mobility to larger forces that could cover more ground in shorter periods of time and be logistically sustained in large concentrations. Other technological developments brought about a tremendous change in the range and lethality of weapons. For hundreds of years the effective range for most muskets was less than one hundred meters; with the development of the conical bullet and rifling, range and accuracy increased tenfold. Breech-loaded artillery and firearms added to tactical flexibility and improved target acquisition and marksmanship. Smokeless powder, better ordnance, and recoil-absorbing cannon also increased artillery range, lethality, and accuracy. The battlefield that had once covered a few square miles in the early nineteenth century blanketed dozens of square miles before the century ended. Within fifty years and two world wars, battles were being fought along 200-mile fronts. Campaigns that once embraced small regional areas had by World War II swallowed entire nations. The telegraph connected faraway places - where horse-borne messengers took days and hours, the telegraph could issue news and orders almost instantly. Lastly, states could now arm themselves with mass-produced weapons, so that large forces now meant million-man armies.
The change brought about by rail, rifle, artillery, and the telegraph led to the recognition of different ways in which to conduct warfare. In this section, Michael D. Krause points to German Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke’s recognition of this changed dimension of warfare. Using railroads to deploy and concentrate his forces and the telegraph to direct their movement, Moltke developed the distinction between strategy and tactics. Moltke used the term operational conduct to describe his ability to oversee the campaign and synchronize the movement of forces to battle. Because of changes in range and lethality, tactical battle had changed the relative strength of defensive versus offensive power. Moltke argued that tactical defense was made stronger than offense. Only through operational conduct on the offensive could an opponent be outflanked. Moltke, in his writings on operational art, used modern terms and meanings that could be applied to students and practitioners
today. He was arguably the first to connect tactics to strategy through the operational conduct of war.
Günter R. Roth carries Moltke’s contribution through the German Chief of the General Staff, Alfred Graf von Schlieffen, one step farther into the twentieth century. Schlieffen studied and developed the means to move million-man armies in a synchronized, preplanned way to outflank an opponent. Unfortunately, he undermined Moltke’s efforts to tie strategy, operational conduct, and tactics together by emphasizing that operations alone could solve strategic dilemmas. Roth traces Schlieffen’s effect on German operational planning and execution. With the development of the tank, plane, and radio, Blitzkrieg was born. Field Marshal Erich von Manstein’s employment of these means in a campaign illustrated his understanding of operational conduct and its direction.
Karl-Heinz Frieser traces Manstein’s operational concept for the campaign against France in 1940. Frieser points out that the strategic aim - the defeat of Allied forces - was achieved by the operational method of making a breakthrough and deep penetration at Sedan. Frieser uses the revolving door analogy to explain the campaign, with French and British forces pushing into Belgium - precisely as the Germans wanted - and the German forces pushing this same door by cutting through the Ardennes toward the Channel. Manstein’s operational concept - brilliantly focused and executed - demonstrated his understanding of operational art and its application.
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