One of the Great Problems of Defensive Warfare

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

One of the great problems of defensive warfare, von Mellenthin notes, is traffic congestion:

The difficulty was that the rear services of all front-line formations congregated at  the road junctions. During a Russian offensive these places became centers for people who were not keen to fight, and of masses of vehicles impossible to disentangle. If the Russians broke through, hundreds of thousands of vehicles were lost and had to be burnt; moreover, important movments of armor were drowned in this quagmire of men and vehicles. The root of the trouble was that life in the towns was easy and soft, and that the open country was dominated by guerrillas. It was perhaps the most effective, but least recognized consequence of guerrilla warfare, that all rear services crammed together in traffic centers.

The lesson of Zhitomir as afterwards applied by the 48th Panzer Corps in other towns; we simply declared such road junctions out of bounds to all troops and ruthlessly enforced this order. The rear services were spread out and accommodated in villages, a practice which automatically put an end to guerrilla warfare. Moreover, Russian air attacks on these traffic centers became relatively ineffective. The rear services had certainly to put up with a number of inconveniences so far unknown to them; in particular they had to find more guards and perform security duties.


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