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Preparing Leaders


Preparing Leaders For Auftragstaktik (Mission Command): A Historical Analysis of the German Army 1809-1945 Donald E Vandergriff ARCIC Forward What is Mission Command? – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Preparing Leaders

Preparing Leaders For Auftragstaktik (Mission
Command) A Historical Analysis of the German
Army 1809-1945 Donald E Vandergriff ARCIC Forward
What is Mission Command? What is the outcome?
What did the German concept of Auftragstaktik
really look like? It seems to have been made up
of these elements Independent Decision-Making,
Freedom of Action, Initiative, operational
(Commanders) Intent, Mutual Trust, Forward
Command, and Order Techniques. Each element was
to some degree dependent on the others. Most of
these elements had been with the German army for
a long period of time Campaigning (Sept
2006) Joint Warfighting Schools p. 37
Whereas in the United States the officer was one
cog among others in the huge machine, one member
of the vast team, in Germany the officer was
considered the switch to the machine or its whole
power source. Accordingly, the utmost care was
taken in selecting officers and no costs were too
high or challenges too great. Indeed, during
several army expansions in the history of Prussia
and Germany, it was argued correctly that it was
better to have a smaller army well led than more
manpower but a mediocre officer corps. Dr.
Jörg Muth Command Culture p. 182
  • References
  • Why the German Army?
  • Baseline
  • Origins of Auftragstaktik
  • Selection of Officer Cadets
  • Program of Instruction
  • Progression
  • Kriegsakademie
  • Peacetime Practices
  • Kriegsschule
  • Wartime Practices
  • Advantage of Germans aspects to Training and
  • Summary

  • Briefing drawn from over 700 primary and
    secondary sources (British, Finnish, French,
    German, Israeli and US-20 years of intense
    study), experiments, interviews, but 6 books
    provide excellent insights
  • Jörg Muth, Command Culture Officer Education in
    the U.S. Army and the German Armed Forces,
    1901-1940, in the Consequences for World War II
  • Bruce I Gudmundsson, Storm Troop Tactics
    Innovation in the German Army 1914-1918
  • Eitan Shamir, Transforming Command The Pursuit
    of Mission Command in the U.S., and Israeli
  • William S. Lind, Maneuver Warfare Handbook
  • Martin van Creveld, Fighting Power German and
    U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945
  • James Corum, Roots of Blitzkrieg Hans von
    Seeckt and German Military Reform
  • The best and most recent reference comparing US
    and German leader development. Author of this
    brief has also discussed the thesis with each
    author over the last five years especially Dr.
    Muth and Dr. Gudmundsson as recently as
    April-August 2012

Why the German Army?
  • As a nation surrounded by several potential
    enemies, had to develop a quick win doctrine
    focused on operational and tactical excellence
  • Developed Auftragstaktik (first mentioned in 1888
    manual) poorly translated to Mission Command by
    the West
  • Result victories over Denmark 1864,
    Austro-Prussia 1866 and Franco-Prussia 1870,
    Eastern Front 1914-1917, Defense 1917 and spring
    offenses 1918 western front (tactical excellence,
    but operational immobility-solved in the interwar
    years) 1939-1941
  • The best example of how to implement Mission
    Command, linked to education of leaders, in
    peacetime in order to succeed in war-rapid
  • Both world wars inflicted 41 casualties over
  • Even when greatly outnumbered, small unit leaders
    and units fought well (Normandy 1944 and Eastern
    Front 42-45)
  • Only arrogance of senior leaders bribed by Hitler
    allowed severe strategic errors to undo tactical
    and operational excellence in WWII
  • German strategy always boiled down to making
    enemies faster than they could kill them, felt
    that great tactics and operational art could
    overcome lack of/no strategy

Origins of Auftragstaktik (Mission
Command) Frederick the Great
  • Prussia was at the beginning a small country with
    little population
  • Frederick II (later the Great) the first King who
    was drilled in the line with regular soldiers
  • Started his first war age 29 with little
    knowledge of battle
  • In the first Battle, Mollwitz April 8, 1741, both
    wings of the Prussian army defeated. King went
    away to gather reinforcements (best rider in the
    army). But then grizzled old field marshal von
    Schwerin orders center to attack. Prussia wins
    while sustaining heavy casualties.
  • Frederick realizes two things a) never to leave
    the battlefield again b) to draw from the
    experience of his old battle wise regimental
  • Since then Frederick insists that his regimental
    commanders act on their own initiative and act
    aggressively. Unheard of concept in Early Modern
    Times when a regimental commander was only
    responsible to form a line/maintain order in
    battle/follow orders
  • Frederick harsh taskmaster. Prussian army highest
    number of officer court martials (up to general
    rank). But NEVER was an officer court martialed
    because of a mistake made due to aggressiveness.
  • In desperate moments the king would move forward
    into the first battle line and thus set and
    unprecedented example for all officers

Origins of Auftragstaktik (Mission
Command) Napoleonic Wars and Prussian Reform
  • Fredrick leaves no capable successor. As he was
    king as well as battle leader the army- but
    especially the officer corps - slowly withers
  • The Battle of Jena and Auerstaedt, 1806,
    stretched over more than 20 miles with three
    different points of gravity. Prussian soldiers
    show themselves to be far superior to French, but
    Prussian command and control is horribly top down
    and centralized thus the double-battle ends in a
    humiliating defeat (officers extremely brave, but
    will not make decisions without higher
    permission-cannot adapt to changing battle)
  • Prussian army reformers study again Frederick the
    Greats numerous writings on leadership and
    initiative and re-emphasize the independence of
    the commander on the spot during Prussian army
  • Reform movement begins in 1801 with Gehard
    Schnarhorst forming an intellectual group to
    write papers and debate regardless of rank
  • First Reforms occur in the Act of 1809
    emphasizing leader development, restructure of
    corps and divisions and first application of
    general staff specialist to advise commander
    (follow on focus on training of soldiers)

Origins of Auftragstaktik (Mission
Command) Helmuth von Moltke (the elder)
  • Moltke student of Fredericks writings
  • Pupil of Carl von Clausewitz
  • In the age of mass armies and rapid
    transportation of an entire corps by railroad
    independence in command more important than ever
  • Moltke the first to formulate the concept of
    Auftragstaktik as critic of maneuvers in 1858
    when not yet Chief of Staff
  • Appalled by the sluggishness of the chain of
    command and the lack of initiative shown and
    states that as a rule an order should contain
    only what the subordinate for the achievement of
    his goals cannot determine on his own
  • Everything else was to be left to the commander
    on the spot
  • After becoming Chief of Staff, he and his pupils
    relentlessly championed the introduction of
    Auftragstaktik as a new command system.
  • Heavily embattled within the German army
  • The 120 American officers who visited Europe and
    Prussia during the 19th century completely
    (1870-1890s) miss out on discussion of
    Auftragstaktik (contribute German military
    culture to efficiency and business models)

  • German public education was considered one of the
    finest in the world
  • Officer aspirant had to possess an Abitur degree
    (general qualification for university entrance)
  • Discipline was already established in a highly
    authoritarian society, ironically, the Army put
    cadets through one of the most advanced and
    liberal educations in the world
  • 50 of officers came from Kadettenshulen and 50
    from the ranks during expansion (NCOs corps
    maintained high standards as well focused on
    combat leadership)
  • Will focus on Kadettenschulen (Cadet Schools)-all
    were Voranstalten (preparatory academies)
  • Admitted as early as 10 yrs but normally 14 yrs
    (Hauptkadettenanstalt (HKA) in Berlin) until as
    late as 19 yrs
  • After a difficult exam, ensigns would be sent to
    the Kriegsschule (War School) for 8 mos to 1.5
    years (last formal school overseen by General
    Staff at Army level)
  • Schools focused on combat leadership, and the
    training of subordinates for combat-art of
    decision making

Selection of Officer Cadets
  • Stepping into a regiment as Fahnenjunker age 16
    to 19
  • Entering a cadet preparatory school (Voranstalt)
    age 10 to 15
  • Entering the Main Cadet Institution
    (Hauptkadettenanstalt) age 15 to 17
  • Example Voranstalt and Hauptkadettenschule
  • Curriculum of a civilian school with added
    military drill and a large portion of athletics
    including bayonet fighting
  • With the introduction of Auftragstaktik (1860s)
    hazing was banned from all schools. Hazing is
    detrimental to developing self-confident,
    innovative, honest and quick-thinking leaders.
  • Measures against hazing
  • Upperclassman directly responsible for protecting
    younger cadets. They would lose rank if they
    failed. No Beast barracks at German schools.
  • Officers present at all times and role-models in
    treating the young cadets
  • Newcomers got an upperclassmen as helper to
    introduce him to the system
  • One upperclassmen responsible for one room of
    young cadets (room elder). He would be judged by
    their performance. Thus every room elder would
    automatically be motivated to protect his flock.

Selection of Officer Cadets
  • Leadership performance determined advancement and
    promotion and not scholarly capabilities. In
    exceptional cases cadets who had failed many
    courses but showed themselves to be exceptional
    leaders were still advanced
  • All cadets, no matter their seniority, divided
    into 5 moral classes. Promotion based on standing
    in moral classes not seniority
  • Showing exceptional performance younger cadets
    could be promoted over the heads of older cadets.
  • Several examinations also determined advancement.
    With each successful completion the uniform of
    the cadet changed slightly
  • Hauptkadettenanstalt
  • After successfully finishing all ensign
    examinations cadets could stay on and get their
    Abitur degree (general entry to university)
  • Of those a few were selected for an advanced
    class (a cadet version of SAMS)
  • Of this class only a handful had the chance to be
    commissioned as Lieutenants
  • All others moved to their assigned regiments
    WITHOUT being commissioned yet
  • Several months at the regiment, some more at a
    Kriegsschule and after that a council of the
    regiments officers would decide if the officer
    candidate would become a Lieutenant.

  • Civil War hero and military reformer General
    Emory Upton, USMA 1861, noted after his tour
    through Europe that the entire mathematics
    curriculum of the Hauptkadettenanstalt military
    academy would be taught at the United States
    Military Academy in one year. This observation
    shows remarkably well the narrow focus of a
    former West Pointer and the misunderstandings
    about an officer education.
  • Dr. Jörg Muth
  • Command Culture
  • P. 107

Program of Instruction (POI)
  • The best of the best were selected as cadre for
    duty at formal schools (American officers were
    fascinated by German officer teaching
  • Leadership and Faculty took active debate in
    evolving curriculum based on latest learning
    methods (no centralized driven POI apart from
  • Free time or time off was part of leader
    evaluation, and was handed out quite liberally
    compared to US Military Academy of the same
    period (another way to look at character and
  • Element of Surprise was common in German leader
  • Graduating and Grading system was complicated.
    Cadets were evaluated equally for character and
    scholarly abilities. One could out perform others
    with higher academic standing due to their own
    leadership abilities
  • No expense held back, cadets trained on the
    latest weapons and equipment
  • Curriculum consisted of little lecture, more
    mapexes, wargames, tactical decision games, as
    well as a liberal education
  • Technical fields such as engineering, signal
    and medicine were the only ones focused on
    math/science intensive fields

  • ALL 1st Lieutenants (Oberleutnant) with five to
    years eight years of service had to take defense
    district examination (Wehrkreis-Prüfung). Had
    been voluntary but was mandatory after 1870. Took
    the examination when regimental commander deemed
    them ready. Preparation took over a year.
  • Examination took five to 7 days
  • Applied tactics (command a reinforced regiment
    in two cases)
  • Map problem
  • History essay
  • Constitutional law essay
  • What do you think question? (Is the new armored
    car of the cavalry also suitable for the
    artillery? What kind of modifications would you
  • Translation (German officers needed to prove 2 x
    language skills)
  • Athletic test
  • Between 15 and 30 percent allowed to enter the
    Kriegsakademie. Character assessment of
    regimental commander counted as much as
    examinations results.

  • Three years, class size 12 to 15
  • Not a General Staff School but a military
    university to advance the level of military
    knowledge within the army
  • One main teacher (Hörsaalleiter) only slightly
    more senior than students, usually teaching
    military history and tactics. Had to earn respect
    of students by performance. Other instructors for
    different topics. Hörsaalleiter would write
    character assessment for each student
  • Only one stint in a row allowed for
    Hörsaalleiter. Had to be rotated back to his unit
    because of fear to become truppenfremd (alienated
    to troops)
  • Teacher position not a dead end but highly
    respected. Was selected after teacher journey and
    trial lecture where instructor was assessed by
    officers from the high command
  • Completely free in his teaching and not doctrine

Kriegsakademie (cont.)
  • Rotation to different branches for six months
    infantry officers would serve in artillery units
  • Emphasis on no school solution during all
  • Students freely criticize instructors solution
    and vice versa
  • War games freewheeling and not scripted. Often
    lasting several days and situation altered
    depending on which solution adapted at the end of
    the day. Often students solution solved the
    wargame problem
  • Element of surprise during every war game
  • Führerausfall leader fatality. Pre-set
    positions for all members of war games were
    instantly rotated
  • Written character assessment for each student
    after three years
  • Only 15 to 30 percent selected for general staff
    classes after finishing Kriegsakademie
  • Further weeding out during those classes. Only a
    fraction made it to the Great General Staff

  • By 1941 the Americans had recognized the
    advantage of the German practice of command and
    based the new FSRs Field Service Regulations
    (doctrinal manuals) on the German 1933-1934
    Leadership of Troops. Nevertheless, the Americans
    failed to capture the essence of the German
    approach, centered as it was on friction and
    chance and considering war a free creative
    activity. The American approach was influenced by
    Frederick Taylors principles of scientific
    management. They sought to control war through
    efficient planning and execution processes. Thus,
    for example, the regulations emphasized loyalty
    as opposed to independent action.
  • Dr. Eitan Shamir
  • Transforming Command
  • p. 62

Peacetime Practices
  • There was no TRADOC, no centralized control,
    except General Staff guidance, which was minimal
    (one page directives outlining outcomes reference
    to training, and what war plans specified
  • Except for mobilizations plans, which were
    strictly enforced and allowed for no Mission
  • Promotions in peacetime were decentralized to
    regiment and divisions up to LTC, while COLs and
    GOs were centralized. Overhead of field grade
    and GOs very low. Overall officer ratio to
    enlisted 3-5
  • Commanders were responsible for the development
    of their subordinates and the training of their
  • Formal schooling ended at the 1st LT and CPT
    level (if chosen to attend the Kriegsakademie)
  • Formal schooling for all officers were the cadet
    schools and the war school (5-18 months)
  • Independence of commanders was valued over
    everything else. Wide latitude within the
    framework of Commanders intent was given in
    training of units based on outcomes
  • Commanders and their units were evaluated on the
    results of yearly free play force on force
    exercises and in division, corps and army level
  • Divisions were responsible to integrating the
    latest lessons learned from General Staff
    officers sent to observe the most recent
    conflicts-forming courses on a need basis
  • Debates through professional journals and papers
    highly encouraged

  • 5 to 18 months based on ability of individual to
    progress based on results of free play force on
    force wargames (exams)
  • Platoon and company tactics (students were still
  • Tactical Decision Games
  • Wargames
  • Discussions on student solutions to problems
  • Military history
  • Weapons training
  • Ensigns put together in classes regarding their
    individual knowledge and learning speed
  • In all courses, not just the Kriegschule, the
    Germans sought clarity and brevity in their
    orders, one page was the standard
  • Free time and social events to assess character
    off duty

Wartime Practices
  • Manualscultureencouraged independence,
    initiative, decisiveness and innovation over
    conformity, loyalty to process and regulations,
    loyalty to chain of command vice outcome (until
    1942 Hitler took over all major decisions that
    eventually filtered down to the tactical level by
  • Wars of Unification1864, 1866 and 1870officers
    were encouraged not to obey out of date orders if
    they felt the situation demanded it
  • World War I first war where NCOs, squad leaders
    given the authority in the attack to change
    avenues if it avoided enemy strengths
  • World War I defense, battalion commander in
    contact could decide where reinforcements would
    counterattack even if the reinforcing commander
    outranked them
  • German officers of all ranks, even field marshal
    felt an obligation to lead by example if they had
  • Almost at all costs, unit cohesion was maintained
    (until 1944)
  • Divisions were pulled off line, where they took
    in new replacements, from same regions and
    integrated lessons learned in division ran
  • Divisions could be destroyed in previous battle,
    but rotated back with core of veterans and return
    later more effective

Advantages of German aspects of training and
  • Quicker decision making and command
  • Allows for unusual non-doctrine solutions and
    thus keeps the enemy guessing and off-balance
  • More flexibility during the fight
  • Enhancement of fighting power
  • A better command climate because based on trust
  • Tougher selection
  • Less officers needed (3-5 of total force
  • Cleansing effect Easier to weed out unsuitable
    officers because requires command where the
    bullets fly, and based on results of free play
    force on force exercises

In Summary
  • Must remember, different times and conditions
  • Other than the Israelis (1948-73) , Finnish and
    exceptional units in other armies (US Army 4th
    AD, 82nd 101st (ABN) and 87 ID) , Germans
    provide the best example
  • There are aspects of their PME and personnel/unit
    management we can emulate in regards to
    professionalism (decentralization /trust)
  • All leader accessions, education and training led
    back to the support of Auftragstaktik
  • Development of adaptability, innovation,
    decisiveness, focus on strength of character
    began at the very beginning of a leaders career,
    not later
  • Great tactics and operational art is not a
    substitute for lack of or bad strategy
  • German strategy boiled down to making enemies
    faster than they could kill them
  • Must watch for arrogance as a substitute for
    professionalism (as Germans (WWII Eastern front)
    and Israelis (1973 2006) learnednever under
    rate your opponents)