THE GERMAN GENERAL STAB (GENERAL STAFF): A SCHOOL OF THOUGHT

 

Another important organizational element of the German army was the General Stab, the General
Staff. The General Stab and the Staff Officer Corps were of great importance for the professionalism
of the German army. The Allies recognized the importance of the General Stab which they saw as the
genius of the German army and banned the institute promptly after the First World War. The Germans took counter measerures and in secret the General Stab was accommodated in the Truppenamt in 1918, and started building a new army. 
 
 
Why were the Allies so apprehensive about the General Stab? The German General Stab can be seen as the knowledge and innovation center of the German army. She played an important role in the development and monitoring of the application of the command concept and the tactical doctrine of the German army. More specifically, the General Stab was responsible:

  • for keeping the command concept, the doctrine and the methods and techniques derived
    from it in the form of Standard Operating Procedurs for all kinds of combat situations, up to date
  • training the officer corps in the application of the command concept, the doctrine and the
    methods and techniques in theory and practice 
  • embedding the command concept, the doctrine, the methods and techniques in the width and the depth of the command structure in such a way that officers and units actually used the whole system 
  • selecting officers for key positions, who met set standards and prevented those who did, from
    being eligible.
     

This was the powerhouse of thinking where new ideas were born and the intellectual backbone of the Prussian/German army was made. Discussions were free, new ideas were welcomed, junior officers were invited to express their view on wargames.

 

The presence or officers of the General Stab at division level, minding the 'going concern' of the division, made it the commanders possible to focus on the next move and to be 'up front', were these officers were supposed to be.

 

Another - briljant - dimension was the fact that the staff officers rotated between the front and the General Stab: in this way they could not alineate from the reality of the men up front and had the most recent information on the battlefield performance of the troops, tactical issues, quality of material and the way the enemy operated.

 

American Army

  • The General Staff was a real staff department, without a connection with the battlefiield, actually slowing down development of new ideas
  • At the Command and General Staff School Fort Leavenworth and Westpoint students learned only standard solutions to solve tactical situations, thus creating officers that had not learned to deal with complex situations or suprise
  • The map was the main source of informa-tion, officers were not trained to lead up front

 

British Army

  • The British Imperial Staff could not do more than connect the contradictionary views of the various regiments, independent ideas or doctrine were out of the question
  • Sometimes the function of a Chief of Staff was used on the division or army level, but always on the personal initiative of the commander; this was more an administrative and supporting function