Guderian was less interested in destroying the enemy than in forcing defenders to keep their heads down

Wednesday, June 28th, 2023

Before the campaign to invade France started, Bevin Alexander explains, in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II, Guderian had worked out a plan of attack by the Luftwaffe:

Since few of his own artillery pieces could get to Sedan in the press of men, horses, and machines on the roads to the rear, Guderian intended to use Stukas as aerial artillery to help his infantry get across the river. He wanted a few aircraft to remain over Sedan before and during the crossing to make both actual and fake bombing and strafing runs on the French positions. Guderian was less interested in destroying the enemy than in forcing defenders to keep their heads down so his infantry could rush across the stream and find lodgment on the far side. This is what he had worked out with the Luftwaffe staff.


They used the tactics he had worked out beforehand: one group of Stukas bombed and machine-gunned trenches, pillboxes, and artillery positions (or pretended to do so), while a second group circled above, waiting to take over. Above these was a fighter shield.


The effects were remarkable. When the assault force, 1st Rifle Regiment, assembled on the river just west of Sedan, enemy artillery was alert and fired at the slightest movement. But the unending strikes and faked strikes by the aircraft virtually paralyzed the French. Artillerymen abandoned their guns, and machine-gunners kept their heads down and could not fire.

As a consequence 1st Rifle Regiment crossed the river in collapsible rubber boats with little loss and seized commanding heights on the south bank.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    He also wanted his troops to carry automatic rifles for same reason, suppression of enemy troops.

  2. Cassander says:

    Bombing from the air, at least in WW2, had morale effects massively in excess of the damage they caused. I think I get why. You see a plane flying above you, it starts to dive, the engine roars, it feels like it’s coming right at you, the bomb releases, and it flies away. It feels very personal, and that there’s nothing you can do about it.

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