Breaking Free of the Railhead

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

The secret of the dominance of the offensive in the second cycle was not to be found in the tanks, personnel carriers, and self-propelled artillery of blitzkrieg armies:

The secret lay, instead, in the ability of a portion of the maneuver force — in the case of the Wehrmacht, just 10 of 117 divisions — to break free of the railhead long enough to reach deep into an enemy’s rear with enough sustaining strength to collapse his psychological center of gravity and hold it down long enough for following forces to solidify the victory.

Today the railhead has been replaced by an equally cumbersome and constrictive logistical umbilical cord.

I have my doubts about the information revolution solving our modern logistical problems:

Information technologies will allow us to deposit outside the close combat zone all but those forces necessary to move, observe, and kill. Detailed knowledge of the enemy’s strength will free us from our traditional fixation on stockpiling and “worst casing” so that we will be able to carry with us into the close combat zone only what we need when we need it. In effect, we will know enough to know what to leave behind.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    You still need trains, trucks and planes to supply troops. NATO could not intervene in Kosovo until the US supplied the transport. NATO would not be able to engage Russian troops unless Russia managed to get fairly deep into NATO territory.

  2. Lucklucky says:

    Yeah. Blinded by technology and science. Supposes that having scientific approach to war will have a scientific result.


    War in its ensemble is NOT a science, but an art. Strategy, particularly, may indeed be regulated by fixed laws resembling those of the positive sciences, but this is not true of war viewed as a whole. Among other things, combats may be mentioned as often being quite independent of scientific combinations, and they may become essentially dramatic, personal qualities and inspirations and a thousand other things frequently being the controlling elements. The passions which agitate the masses that are brought into collision, the warlike qualities of these masses, the energy and talent of their commanders, the spirit, more or less martial, of nations and epochs,in a word, every thing that can be called the poetry and metaphysics of war,—will have a permanent influence on its results.

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