Operation Albion

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

The German Gallipoli, Operation Albion, played out quite differently from the British one:

In Operation Albion, which was carried out in early October, 1917 — our staff ride duplicated its timing — Germany took three large Baltic islands, now Estonian, from the Russians. In effect, it was Germany’s Gallipoli, though with very different results.

As a case study, Albion offers lessons on many levels. Two are of special importance. First, Albion illustrates a marriage of amphibious operations with the new German stormtroop tactics of late World War I, tactics that when combined with Panzer divisions created the Blitzkrieg. Instead of doing what the U. S. Marine Corps still does and send in landing waves that take a beachhead, then stop and build up combat power for a further advance — the Somme from the sea — the Germans landed multiple thrusts which immediately advanced as far and as fast as they could, without regard for open flanks. Speed was their main weapon, speed made possible because part of the force was equipped with bicycles.

Operation Albion was genuine Operational Maneuver from the Sea, a term U. S. Marines use but seldom understand. While the American model for amphibious operations remains Second Generation, Albion, carried out almost 100 years ago, was Third Generation.

Second, Operation Albion illustrates a Third Generation military’s ability to adapt to new situations quickly. The Imperial German Army and Navy put Albion together in a few weeks. They did so despite having no amphibious doctrine, no amphibious experience and no amphibious Marine Corps (Imperial German Marines were primarily colonial troops). How did they do it? Through the lateral communication and strong spirit of cooperation that characterize Third Generation forces.

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