Antedating of "Blitzkrieg"

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sat Dec 9 18:46:37 UTC 2006

A check of "Blitzkrieg" in Wikipedia indicates that the term Blitzkrieg is a translation of English "lightning warfare" (1920s).
Below my signoff is the first paragraph of the Wikipedia item in German, and I will now translate the second sentence:
"The theories of the Blitzkrieg were created already at the beginning of the 1920s primarily by the British military historians J.F.C. Fuller and Basil Liddell Hart under the English concept "lightning warfare" [G. Cohen: "lightning warfare" appears just this way in the German article.] 
    Here is an excerpt on Hart from
"During his time as a military correspondent Liddell Hart also published a number of papers on strategy. His tenure during and after The Great War <>  left him obsessed with discovering and exposing what was wrong with the way that the war was waged. These essays culminated in his most remembered and hotly debated work, The Decisive Wars of History. In this work (presently in print as merely Strategy) he focuses primarily on the idea of using surprise as a critical strategic function and examines various battles and campaigns throughout history to illustrate his ideas. (the most recent edition also has many chapters on World War II <>  and a small section on the Arab-Israeli War <> ).

"He also spent a good deal of time in most of his books rabidly denouncing the ideas of Karl von Clausewitz <>  (author of On War <> , the then-preeminent text on war), which caused him to be rejected as a heretic by many military thinkers of the time.

"His own people, the British, largely ignored his strategic ideas before WWII <> , which would later prove to their detriment as Erwin Rommel <>  was an avowed fan of Liddell Hart's writing and the blitzkrieg <>  used by the German tank divisions <>  was a direct result of Liddell Hart's influence in military thought. To their credit, the British Army eventually adopted his ideas on mechanized warfare <> , which were instrumental in the eventual Allied successes."

Gerald Cohen

[from Wikipedia]:
Der Blitzkrieg ist eine Form der Kriegführung <>  des kombinierten, koordinierten Einsatzes verschiedener Teilstreitkräfte <> , d.h. Luft-, See- und Landstreitkräfte. Plötzliche, schnelle und unerwartete Vorstöße sollen dem Gegner im Idealfall keine Gelegenheit lassen, eine stabile Verteidigung zu organisieren. Die Theorien des Blitzkrieges wurden schon zu Beginn der 1920er Jahre vor allem von den britischen Militärhistorikern J.F.C. Fuller <>  und Basil Liddell Hart <>  unter dem englischen Begriff lightning warfare geschaffen. Damit sollte ein Ausweg aus den unbeweglichen Materialschlachten <>  des Ersten Weltkriegs <>  gefunden werden. Technische Teilaspekte dieses Konzeptes wurden jedoch schon in diesem Konflikt entwickelt, so z.B. der Panzer <>  (Großbritannien 1916), Schlachtflieger <>  (Deutsche Schlachtstaffeln ab 1916) sowie spezialisierte Sturmbataillone <>  der Infanterie <> , die auf deutscher Seite ab dem Frühjahr 1916 zum Einsatz gelangten. Ihren ersten wirklich umfassenden Praktiker fand die Blitzkriegtaktik jedoch im Zweiten Weltkrieg <>  in Person des deutschen Generals <>  Heinz Guderian <> . Weitere bedeutende Vertreter waren z.B. die Generale Erwin Rommel <> , George S. Patton <>  (beide im Zweiten Weltkrieg), Ariel Scharon <>  (Jom-Kippur-Krieg <> ), sowie Norman Schwarzkopf <>  im ersten amerikanisch-irakischen Golfkrieg 1991.


From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Jonathan Lighter
Sent: Sat 12/9/2006 12:02 PM
Subject: Re: Antedating of "Blitzkrieg"

Quite significant discoveries, Fred. The buzz among historians - undoubtedly shored up by the OED's treatment - is that this word was the colorful creation of Allied journalists.


Fred Shapiro <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Fred Shapiro
Subject: Antedating of "Blitzkrieg"

blitzkrieg (OED 1939)

1938 _Living Age_ Sept. 13 (American Periodical Series) A prize was
recently offered by the German Military Academy for the best outline of
an attack on Czechoslovakia. The prize-winning plan, printed below, is an
elaboration of Adolf Hitler's own ideas of _'Blitzkrieg.'_

1938 _Wash. Post_ 5 Oct. 9 (ProQuest Historical Newspapers) We know that
the "blitzkrieg" theory of Gen. Goering -- that a swift and fearful air
attack can be made which will totally demoralize populations -- is no
longer tenable.

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS
Access and Lecturer in Legal Research Yale University Press
Yale Law School ISBN 0300107986
e-mail: fred.shapiro at <> 


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