The development of the German Army’s operational thinking in the world war era and beyond is one of that institution’s most significant historical questions. That history is composed of several intertwined narratives and has endured the loss of two world wars. As is often the case in history, this narrative is neither black nor white, but made up of shades of grey. The genesis of German operational thought can be found in the mid-19th century and underwent a continual evolution in the years that followed. Driving this was the military leadership’s consideration of factors such as Germany’s central geographic position, its inferiority in personnel and materiel, and an ambition to become a major world power. These considerations, which were present upon the German Empire’s creation, became the foundation for Germany’s operational and strategic planning until the end of the Second World War.
Dr. Gerhard P. Groß is a German Army colonel at the Bundeswehr Center of Military History and Social Sciences (ZMSBw) in Potsdam, Germany. Between 1988 and 1996 he was a lecturer for military history at the army military academy, Hannover. Since 1996 he has been a military historian at the German Army’s Military Research Institute, Potsdam. Formerly the chief of the institute’s ‘First World War’ research section, he now heads the department ‘German Military history to 1945’. He is author or editor of several books and articles dealing with the Imperial German Army and Navy, including, The Schlieffen plan: international perspectives on the German strategy for World War I (Lexington, 2014) and The myth and reality of German warfare: operational thinking from Moltke the Elder to Heusinger (Lexington, 2016).