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Hans von Seeckt
Hans von Seeckt was born in Silesia on 22nd April, 1866. He joined the German Army where he served in the 1st Grenadier Guards. In 1897 he was appointed to the General Staff of the 3rd Army Corps in Berlin.
On the outbreak of the First World War Seeckt had reached the rank of lieutenant colonel and in 1915 was promoted to colonel. In June 1916, he became chief of the General Staff of the Austro-Hungarian Army. The following year he became chief of staff to the Turkish Army in 1917.
He remained in the army and in 1919 succeeded General Paul von Hindenburg as chief of the General Staff. The following year he refused to support the Kapp Putsch. He also opposed the Spartakist Rising and put down the Beer Hall Putsch. As a result Seeckt was described in a Nazi newspaper as a "pawn of sinister Jewish-Masonic elements." He was also accused of being under the influence of his Jewish wife.
The Versailles Treaty limited the German Army to a strength of 100,000 men and as Chief of Army Command he had the difficult task of maintaining morale of the armed forces. Disliking traditional theories of mass armies and trench warfare, he remolded the army as a mobile shock force of thirty-five divisions.
He was dismissed from office in October 1926 after making several controversial decisions. This included offering a senior post to the son of the former Prince Wilhelm and issuing an order recognizing dueling among officers.
In 1928 Seeckt published Thoughts of a Soldier (1928). In the book Seeckt questioned the value of huge conscript armies. He argued that it was technical science and tactical skill that would win the wars of the future. He predicted that "the whole future of warfare appears to me to lie in the employment of mobile armies, relatively small but of high quality, and rendered distinctly more effective by the addition of aircraft, and in the simultaneous mobilization of the whole forces, either to feed the attack or for home defence."
Seeckt initially opposed Adolf Hitler and the rise of the Nazi Party. However, he gradually changed him mind and after being elected to the Reichstag in 1930 he supported the policies of Hitler. Hans von Seeckt died in Berlin on 29th December 1936.
(1) Hans von Seeckt, Thoughts of a Soldier (1928)
A conscript mass, whose training has been brief and superficial, is 'cannon fodder' in the worst sense of the word, if pitted against a small number of practised technicians on the other side.
In this way a military mass is constituted which, though unsuited to take part in a war of movement and seek a decision in formal battle, " were able to fulfil the duty of home defence, and at the same time to provide from its best elements a continuous reinforcement of the regular, combatant army in the field.
In brief, the whole future of warfare appears to me to lie in the employment of mobile armies, relatively small but of high quality, and rendered distinctly more effective by the addition of aircraft, and in the simultaneous mobilization of the whole forces, either to feed the attack or for home defence.
(2) Basil Liddell Hart, The Other Side of the Hill (1948)
His vision of the future emerged clearly from the book he wrote soon after he left office - Thoughts of a Soldier
(1928). He there questioned the value of the huge conscript armies of the past, suggesting that the effort and sacrifice was disproportionate to their effect, and merely led to a slow-grinding war of exhaustion. "Mass becomes immobile; it cannot manoeuvre and therefore cannot win victories, it can only crush by sheer weight." Moreover, in peace-time, it was important "to limit as far as possible the unproductive retention of male labour in military service".
The bulk of the nation's manpower would be better employed during peacetime in helping to expand the industry required to provide the professional army with an ample equipment of up-to-date weapons. The type of weapons must be settled well in advance, and arrangements for rapid mass production developed. At the same time a brief period of compulsory military training should be given to all fit young men in the country, "preceded by a training of the young, which would lay less emphasis on the military side than on a general physical and mental discipline". Such a system would help to link the army with the people, and ensure national unity.