Preparing Leaders For Auftragstaktik (Mission Command): A Historical Analysis of the German Army 1809-1945 Donald E Vandergriff ARCIC Forward
What is Mission Command?What is the outcome? “What did the German concept of Auftragstaktik really look like? It seems to have been made up of these elements: Independent Decision-Making, Freedom of Action, Initiative, operational (Commander’s) Intent, Mutual Trust, Forward Command, and Order Techniques. Each element was to some degree dependent on the others. Most of these elements had been with the German army for a long period of time” Campaigning (Sept 2006) Joint Warfighting Schools p. 37
“Whereas in the United States the officer was one cog among others in the huge machine, one member of the vast team, in Germany the officer was considered the switch to the machine or its whole power source. Accordingly, the utmost care was taken in selecting officers and no costs were too high or challenges too great. Indeed, during several army expansions in the history of Prussia and Germany, it was argued correctly that it was better to have a smaller army well led than more manpower but a mediocre officer corps.”Dr. Jörg Muth Command Culture p. 182
Agenda • References • Why the German Army? • Baseline • Origins of Auftragstaktik • Selection of Officer Cadets • Program of Instruction • Progression • Kriegsakademie • Peacetime Practices • Kriegsschule • Wartime Practices • Advantage of German’s aspects to Training and Auftragstaktik • Summary
References Briefing drawn from over 700 primary and secondary sources (British, Finnish, French, German, Israeli and US-20 years of intense study), experiments, interviews, but 6 books provide excellent insights: • Jörg Muth, Command Culture: Officer Education in the U.S. Army and the German Armed Forces, 1901-1940, in the Consequences for World War II* • Bruce I Gudmundsson, Storm Troop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army 1914-1918 • Eitan Shamir, Transforming Command: The Pursuit of Mission Command in the U.S., and Israeli Armies • William S. Lind, Maneuver Warfare Handbook • Martin van Creveld, Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945 • James Corum, Roots of Blitzkrieg: Hans von Seeckt and German Military Reform * The best and most recent reference comparing US and German leader development. Author of this brief has also discussed the thesis with each author over the last five years especially Dr. Muth and Dr. Gudmundsson as recently as April-August 2012
Why the German Army? • As a nation surrounded by several potential enemies, had to develop a quick win doctrine focused on operational and tactical excellence • Developed Auftragstaktik (first mentioned in 1888 manual) poorly translated to Mission Command by the West • Result: victories over Denmark 1864, Austro-Prussia 1866 and Franco-Prussia 1870, Eastern Front 1914-1917, Defense 1917 and spring offenses 1918 western front (tactical excellence, but operational immobility-solved in the interwar years); 1939-1941 • The best example of how to implement Mission Command, linked to education of leaders, in peacetime in order to succeed in war-rapid transition • Both world wars inflicted 4:1 casualties over allies • Even when greatly outnumbered, small unit leaders and units fought well (Normandy 1944 and Eastern Front 42-45) • Only arrogance of senior leaders bribed by Hitler allowed severe strategic errors to undo tactical and operational excellence in WWII • German strategy always boiled down to making enemies faster than they could kill them, felt that great tactics and operational art could overcome lack of/no strategy
Origins of Auftragstaktik (Mission Command)Frederick the Great • Prussia was at the beginning a small country with little population • Frederick II (later the Great) the first King who was drilled in the line with regular soldiers • Started his first war age 29 with little knowledge of battle • In the first Battle, Mollwitz April 8, 1741, both wings of the Prussian army defeated. King went away to gather reinforcements (best rider in the army). But then grizzled old field marshal von Schwerin orders center to attack. Prussia wins while sustaining heavy casualties. • Frederick realizes two things a) never to leave the battlefield again b) to draw from the experience of his old battle wise regimental commanders • Since then Frederick insists that his regimental commanders act on their own initiative and act aggressively. Unheard of concept in Early Modern Times when a regimental commander was only responsible to form a line/maintain order in battle/follow orders • Frederick harsh taskmaster. Prussian army highest number of officer court martials (up to general rank). But NEVER was an officer court martialed because of a mistake made due to aggressiveness. • In desperate moments the king would move forward into the first battle line and thus set and unprecedented example for all officers
Origins of Auftragstaktik (Mission Command):Napoleonic Wars and Prussian Reform • Fredrick leaves no capable successor. As he was king as well as battle leader the army- but especially the officer corps - slowly withers away • The Battle of Jena and Auerstaedt, 1806, stretched over more than 20 miles with three different points of gravity. Prussian soldiers show themselves to be far superior to French, but Prussian command and control is horribly top down and centralized; thus the double-battle ends in a humiliating defeat (officers extremely brave, but will not make decisions without higher permission-cannot adapt to changing battle) • Prussian army reformers study again Frederick the Greats numerous writings on leadership and initiative and re-emphasize the independence of the commander on the spot during Prussian army reform • Reform movement begins in 1801 with Gehard Schnarhorst forming an intellectual group to write papers and debate regardless of rank • First Reforms occur in the Act of 1809 emphasizing leader development, restructure of corps and divisions and first application of general staff specialist to advise commander (follow on focus on training of soldiers)
Origins of Auftragstaktik (Mission Command):Helmuth von Moltke (the elder) • Moltke student of Frederick’s writings • Pupil of Carl von Clausewitz • In the age of mass armies and rapid transportation of an entire corps by railroad – independence in command more important than ever • Moltke the first to formulate the concept of Auftragstaktik as critic of maneuvers in 1858 when not yet Chief of Staff • Appalled by the sluggishness of the chain of command and the lack of initiative shown and states that “as a rule an order should contain only what the subordinate for the achievement of his goals cannot determine on his own” • Everything else was to be left to the commander on the spot • After becoming Chief of Staff, he and his pupils relentlessly championed the introduction of Auftragstaktik as a new command system. • Heavily embattled within the German army • The 120+ American officers who visited Europe and Prussia during the 19th century completely (1870-1890s) miss out on discussion of Auftragstaktik (contribute German military culture to efficiency and business models)
Baseline • German public education was considered one of the finest in the world • Officer aspirant had to possess an Abitur degree (general qualification for university entrance) • Discipline was already established in a highly authoritarian society, ironically, the Army put cadets through one of the most advanced and liberal educations in the world • 50% of officers came from Kadettenshulen and 50% from the ranks during expansion (NCOs corps maintained high standards as well focused on combat leadership) • Will focus on Kadettenschulen (Cadet Schools)-all were Voranstalten (preparatory academies) • Admitted as early as 10 yrs but normally 14 yrs (Hauptkadettenanstalt (HKA) in Berlin) until as late as 19 yrs • After a difficult exam, ensigns would be sent to the Kriegsschule (War School) for 8 mos to 1.5 years (last formal school overseen by General Staff at Army level) • Schools focused on combat leadership, and the training of subordinates for combat-art of decision making
Selection of Officer Cadets • Stepping into a regiment as Fahnenjunker age 16 to 19 • Entering a cadet preparatory school (Voranstalt) age 10 to 15 • Entering the Main Cadet Institution (Hauptkadettenanstalt) age 15 to 17 • Example Voranstalt and Hauptkadettenschule: • Curriculum of a civilian school with added military drill and a large portion of athletics including bayonet fighting • With the introduction of Auftragstaktik (1860s) hazing was banned from all schools. Hazing is detrimental to developing self-confident, innovative, honest and quick-thinking leaders. • Measures against hazing: • Upperclassman directly responsible for protecting younger cadets. They would lose rank if they failed. No “Beast barracks” at German schools. • Officers present at all times and role-models in treating the young cadets • Newcomers got an upperclassmen as helper to introduce him to the system • One upperclassmen responsible for one room of young cadets (room elder). He would be judged by their performance. Thus every room elder would automatically be motivated to protect his flock.
Selection of Officer Cadets • Leadership performance determined advancement and promotion and not scholarly capabilities. In exceptional cases cadets who had failed many courses but showed themselves to be exceptional leaders were still advanced • All cadets, no matter their seniority, divided into 5 moral classes. Promotion based on standing in moral classes not seniority • Showing exceptional performance younger cadets could be promoted over the heads of older cadets. • Several examinations also determined advancement. With each successful completion the uniform of the cadet changed slightly • Hauptkadettenanstalt: • After successfully finishing all ensign examinations cadets could stay on and get their Abitur degree (general entry to university) • Of those a few were selected for an advanced class (a cadet version of SAMS) • Of this class only a handful had the chance to be commissioned as Lieutenants • All others moved to their assigned regiments WITHOUT being commissioned yet • Several months at the regiment, some more at a Kriegsschule and after that a council of the regiment’s officers would decide if the officer candidate would become a Lieutenant.
“Civil War hero and military reformer General Emory Upton, USMA 1861, noted after his tour through Europe that the entire mathematics curriculum of the Hauptkadettenanstalt [military academy] would be taught at the United States Military Academy in one year. This observation shows remarkably well the narrow focus of a former West Pointer and the misunderstandings about an officer education.” Dr. Jörg Muth Command Culture P. 107
Program of Instruction (POI) • The “best of the best” were selected as cadre for duty at formal schools (American officers were “fascinated” by German officer teaching abilities) • Leadership and Faculty took active debate in evolving curriculum based on latest learning methods (no centralized driven POI apart from outcomes) • Free time or time off was part of leader evaluation, and was handed out quite liberally compared to US Military Academy of the same period (another way to look at character and self-discipline) • “Element of Surprise” was common in German leader development • Graduating and Grading system was complicated. Cadets were evaluated equally for character and scholarly abilities. One could out perform others with higher academic standing due to their own leadership abilities • No expense held back, cadets trained on the latest weapons and equipment • Curriculum consisted of little lecture, more mapexes, wargames, tactical decision games, as well as a liberal education • “Technical” fields such as engineering, signal and medicine were the only ones focused on math/science intensive fields
Progression • ALL 1st Lieutenants (Oberleutnant) with five to years eight years of service had to take defense district examination (Wehrkreis-Prüfung). Had been voluntary but was mandatory after 1870. Took the examination when regimental commander deemed them ready. Preparation took over a year. • Examination took five to 7 days • Applied tactics (command a reinforced regiment in two cases) • Map problem • History essay • Constitutional law essay • What do you think question? (Is the new armored car of the cavalry also suitable for the artillery? What kind of modifications would you recommend?) • Translation (German officers needed to prove 2 x language skills) • Athletic test • Between 15 and 30 percent allowed to enter the Kriegsakademie. Character assessment of regimental commander counted as much as examinations results.
Kriegsakademie • Three years, class size 12 to 15 • Not a General Staff School but a military university to advance the level of military knowledge within the army • One main teacher (Hörsaalleiter) only slightly more senior than students, usually teaching military history and tactics. Had to earn respect of students by performance. Other instructors for different topics. Hörsaalleiter would write character assessment for each student • Only one stint in a row allowed for Hörsaalleiter. Had to be rotated back to his unit because of fear to become truppenfremd (alienated to troops) • Teacher position not a dead end but highly respected. Was selected after teacher journey and trial lecture where instructor was assessed by officers from the high command • Completely free in his teaching and not doctrine bound
Kriegsakademie (cont.) • Rotation to different branches for six months: infantry officers would serve in artillery units etc. • Emphasis on “no school solution” during all exercises • Students freely criticize instructors solution and vice versa • War games freewheeling and not scripted. Often lasting several days and situation altered depending on which solution adapted at the end of the day. Often students solution solved the wargame problem • Element of surprise during every war game • Führerausfall – leader fatality. Pre-set positions for all members of war games were instantly rotated • Written character assessment for each student after three years • Only 15 to 30 percent selected for general staff classes after finishing Kriegsakademie • Further weeding out during those classes. Only a fraction made it to the Great General Staff
“By 1941 the Americans had recognized the advantage of the German practice of command and based the new FSRs [Field Service Regulations (doctrinal manuals)] on the German 1933-1934 Leadership of Troops. Nevertheless, the Americans failed to capture the essence of the German approach, centered as it was on friction and chance and considering war a free creative activity. The American approach was influenced by Frederick Taylor’s principles of scientific management. They sought to control war through efficient planning and execution processes. Thus, for example, the regulations emphasized loyalty as opposed to independent action.” Dr. Eitan Shamir Transforming Command p. 62
Peacetime Practices • There was no TRADOC, no centralized control, except General Staff guidance, which was minimal (one page directives outlining outcomes reference to training, and what war plans specified • Except for mobilizations plans, which were strictly enforced and allowed for no Mission Command • Promotions in peacetime were decentralized to regiment and divisions up to LTC, while COLs and GOs were centralized. Overhead of field grade and GOs very low. Overall officer ratio to enlisted 3-5% • Commanders were responsible for the development of their subordinates and the training of their units • Formal schooling ended at the 1st LT and CPT level (if chosen to attend the Kriegsakademie) • Formal schooling for all officers were the cadet schools and the war school (5-18 months) • Independence of commanders was valued over everything else. Wide latitude within the framework of Commander’s intent was given in training of units based on outcomes • Commanders and their units were evaluated on the results of yearly free play force on force exercises and in division, corps and army level wargames. • Divisions were responsible to integrating the latest lessons learned from General Staff officers sent to observe the most recent conflicts-forming courses on a need basis • Debates through professional journals and papers highly encouraged
Kriegsschule • 5 to 18 months based on ability of individual to progress based on results of free play force on force wargames (exams) • Platoon and company tactics (students were still ensigns) • Tactical Decision Games • Wargames • Discussions on student solutions to problems • Military history • Weapons training • Ensigns put together in classes regarding their individual knowledge and learning speed • In all courses, not just the Kriegschule, the Germans sought clarity and brevity in their orders, one page was the standard • Free time and social events to assess character off duty
Wartime Practices • Manuals—culture—encouraged independence, initiative, decisiveness and innovation over conformity, loyalty to process and regulations, loyalty to chain of command vice outcome (until 1942 Hitler took over all major decisions that eventually filtered down to the tactical level by 1944) • Wars of Unification—1864, 1866 and 1870—officers were encouraged not to obey out of date orders if they felt the situation demanded it • World War I first war where NCOs, squad leaders given the authority in the attack to change avenues if it avoided enemy strengths • World War I defense, battalion commander in contact could decide where reinforcements would counterattack even if the reinforcing commander outranked them • German officers of all ranks, even field marshal felt an obligation to lead by example if they had too • Almost at all costs, unit cohesion was maintained (until 1944): • Divisions were pulled off line, where they took in new replacements, from same regions and integrated lessons learned in division ran schools • Divisions could be destroyed in previous battle, but rotated back with core of veterans and return later more effective
Advantages of German aspects of training and Auftragstaktik • Quicker decision making and command • Allows for unusual non-doctrine solutions and thus keeps the enemy guessing and off-balance • More flexibility during the fight • Enhancement of fighting power • A better command climate because based on trust • Tougher selection • Less officers needed (3-5% of total force officers) • Cleansing effect: Easier to weed out unsuitable officers because requires command where the bullets fly, and based on results of free play force on force exercises
In Summary • Must remember, different times and conditions • Other than the Israelis (1948-73) , Finnish and exceptional units in other armies (US Army 4th AD, 82nd & 101st (ABN) and 87 ID) , Germans provide the best example • There are aspects of their PME and personnel/unit management we can emulate in regards to professionalism (decentralization /trust) • All leader accessions, education and training led back to the support of Auftragstaktik • Development of adaptability, innovation, decisiveness, focus on strength of character began at the very beginning of a leaders career, not later • Great tactics and operational art is not a substitute for lack of or bad strategy • German strategy boiled down to making enemies faster than they could kill them • Must watch for arrogance as a substitute for professionalism (as Germans (WWII Eastern front) and Israelis (1973 & 2006) learned—never under rate your opponents)