The Introduction of New German Defensive Tactics in 1916-1917
Responding to the crisis posed by the battle of the Somme, in late 1916 the German army introduced new defensive tactics. It has been suggested that formal, top-down doctrine was a less important driver of this change than the bottom-up system of after-action reports, and that once initial resistance was overcome the new tactics were successfully adopted throughout the army. This article draws on little-studied archival material to reveal how doctrine evolved by stages in a complex combination of action, after-action reports, personalities and the high command’s desire to impose greater top-down control. Throughout this period, doctrine remained key to tactical change, but its implementation was patchier than the German army’s reputation suggests.
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