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Sakmongkol ak 47

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Lessons in Leadership

Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein

Konrad Adenauer is considered by many western leaders as one of the best German statesmen. He was the west German Chancellor after the 2nd world war.

After the war, Germany embarked on her economic reconstruction. Now fully committed to ideas of democracy, Germany became one of the countries, later to become NATO, chosen to contain the march of the Red Menace. One of the things Germany did was to reorganize the German Army to suit its new functions and purposes.

Konrad Adenauer enlisted the help of one of Germany’s military heroes; Erich Von Manstein. The military Historian, Liddell Hart who wrote many books on Strategy, mentioned the fact that Von Manstein’s peers regarded him the ablest of Germany’s military commanders during the time of Hitler.

Von Manstein genius lay in three areas:-

  1. The adoption of a mobile defense and blitzkrieg attack
  2. The willingness to disobey orders on the ground
  3. attack at the line of least expectation.

Von Manstein advocated an elastic, mobile defense. He was prepared to cede territory, attempting to make the Soviet forces either stretch out too thinly or to make them advance too fast so that they could be attacked on the flanks with the goal of encircling them. Hitler ignored Manstein's advice and continued to insist on static warfare.

Because of these frequent disagreements, von Manstein publicly advocated that Hitler relinquish control and leave the management of the war to professionals, starting with the establishment of the position of commander-in-chief in the East. Hitler, however, rejected this idea numerous times, fearing that it would weaken his hold on power.

His war memoirs, Verlorene Siege (Lost Victories), were published in Germany in 1955, and translated into English in 1958.

In them, he presented the thesis that if the generals had been in charge of strategy instead of Hitler, the war on the Eastern front could have been won.

Leave the professionals alone to manage the battle fronts. Commander in chiefs need to support them and exercise restraint in interference.

sakmongkol wishes to thank a highly intelligent and knowledgeable visitor to his blog who goes by the name of Walla, who has rekindled his interests in military history. He was the one who mentioned the name of von Manstein. Sakmongkol's late father was an avid reader in military books. sakmongkol read the book Stalingrad way back in 1971. He still has that copy, dog ears and all. Thank you walla.


A Tabib 21 October 2008 at 22:28  


You forget Captain Blackadder...

... but seriously von Manstein was one of the few German generals who were willing to stand up to Hitler, which says something about the man as Hitler was prone to equate disagreement with treason. The reward for such behaviour was usually banishment or a loaded pistol hand-delivered by a staff officer. The others that spring to mind were Guderian, Zeitzler and Rommel.

Rommel was of course alleged to have disagreed with Herr Fuehrer in extremis (involvement in an assassination plot) and presented with such a pistol. Both Zeitzler and Guderian were drummed out of the Army, the former forbidden to wear his uniform - the ultimate humiliation for a soldier.

Looks like another interest in common with you and Walla.

Apologies to the others for this self indulgent post :-)

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