Conference Program


85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky


Title: Vignettes on the German Military Experience in the Era of the Two World Wars
Abstract: In this panel three German military historians present vignettes on the German military experience in the 1914-19145 era. This comparative topical sampling will elucidate continuities and contrasts in the German martial tradition during the era of the two world war. Professor DiNardo examines the operational employment of German cavalry in 1915 on the Eastern Front and their attempt to conduct deep penetration operations to encircle and annihilate Russian forces in a kesselschlacht (cauldron battle), explaining why this attempt failed. Professor Hart explores desperate Nazi fanaticism during 'endstage' conflict in the dying days of the Second World War with focus on three specific operations that demonstrated the suicidally ineffective and nihilistically violent nature of German military operations during National Socialism's final paroxysm of disintegration and defeat. The vignette examined are: Nazi efforts to confiscate German civilian transportation to continue prosecuting a lost war; Luftwaffe efforts to drop saboteurs behind Allied lines to slow and disrupt the Allied advance; and Luftwaffe attempts to stop marauding Allied armor by reviving an anti-armor capability by converting surplus light trainers into improvised tank-busters. Finally, Professor Dorondo explores German use of horses in the Second World War, with specific reference to the evolution of the German remount and veterinary services; services that represent an important, yet understudied, dimension of the Nazi war machine, the bulk of which remained predominantly horse-drawn throughout the war.
 
Russell Hart, Hawaii Pacific University
Participant's Paper Title: They Did Not Go Quietly into the Night: Vignettes on Nazi End-Stage Operations, April-May 1945
Participant's Paper Abstract: By April 1945, Nazi Germany was doomed: strategically bankrupt, militarily defeated, and largely occupied. As defeat loomed, strategy became irrational and nihilistic as death and destruction became ends unto themselves. Operations proved suicidal and ineffectual: this paper examines three last-ditch Wehrmacht defensive efforts.
The first is Operation Bienenstock - the tactical Luftwaffe deployment of volunteer demolition teams landed via light training aircraft behind Allied lines to sabotage the enemy rear. Yet, Bienenstock proved an abject failure, for reasons the paper will elucidate. The second case is Operation Bienne, a mass Wehrmacht confiscation of German civilian horse-drawn carts to sustain it's dwindling mobility. Bienne reflected depraved indifference to German civilians' fates because it prevented them from escaping Soviet wrath. Bienne laid bare the post-war German generals' justifications that they fought on to shield German civilians from Soviet vengeance, reflecting the nihilism of Hitler and the Nazi leadership - that if the Aryan volk were unfit to conquer then they deserved enslavement.
The final case reflects a Luftwaffe attempt to revive an anti-armor capability to smash the Allied armor rampaging across Germany. Their solution was to put green young pilots in monoplane Bucker 181 trainers and strap short-range panzerfaust antitank rockets to the wings. The result was a cheap, easily assembled, improvised tank-buster. It proved, however, a suicidally ineffective weapon. Green pilots had to press attacks at low altitude through Soviet defensive AAA fire to launch their rockets. Unsurprisingly their operational survival rates were slim; yet tank busting squadrons continued these futile attacks until the war's end.
These vignettes illuminate the suicidal, nihilistic, and ineffectual nature of Nazi operations in its final days. They remind us that ideologically motivated totalitarian regimes rarely go quietly into the night - instead they go out in a blaze of senseless, nihilistic violence.
Eugenia Kiesling, US Military Academy
Richard DiNardo, Command & Staff College, US Marine Corps University
Participant's Paper Title: The Last Hurrah: The German Cavalry Raid on the Eastern Front, 1915
Participant's Paper Abstract: The battlefields of World War I in Europe offered little scope for the

employment of cavalry in large numbers. Perhaps the only exception was the

eastern front, but even then, the actual event proved disappointing compared to

the expectations. An early attempt by Conrad von Hötzendorf to employ the

Austro-Hungarian cavalry in a large scale raid against the Russian forces in

Galicia proved to be nothing more than a pointless horse ride. Swarms of Russian

cavalry proved unable to save the Russians disaster at Tannenberg.

The events of 1915, however, offered the Germans another possibility for

the cavalry to redeem itself. With the Russians retreating in haste from Russia's

western provinces, most notably Poland and Lithuania, Ober Ost, the German

headquarters in the east, concentrated the majority of its cavalry forces into an ad

hoc corps, and launched it in an effort to get behind the Russian forces, thus

creating the great encirclement so desired by Paul von Hindenburg and Erich

Ludendorff. They did so even though by the summer of 1915, the German

command in the east had grave doubts about the ability of its cavalry to undertake

even elemental missions. This paper will look at the conduct of this operation,

why it failed and why it was undertaken at all. The latter aspect shows that despite

experiences that showed Tannenberg was the exception and not the rule, Ober Ost

was still pursuing the elusive chimera of the great encirclement.
Steve Waddell, US Military Academy



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