Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

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Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

Post by MarkN » 27 Mar 2024 19:52

On 20 May 1940, elements of 2.Pz.Div reached the Atlantic coast near Abbeville separating the Anglo-Belgian-French Forces north of the Somme from those to the south. For the British and French, this meant a severing of their Lines of Communication to their main supply dumps and depots. Historically, we know this was an irrevocable split.

In effect, the Panzertruppen had effected a successful single-pincer encirclement of the 'Northern Armies' where the Channel is seen as a natural barrier.

Doctrinally speaking, was it at that point that a Kesselschlacht of those Northern Armies commenced?

The HG.A KTB entry for 20 May 1940 noted:
Beuteilung der Lage:
Mit Erreichen der Küste bei Abbeville ist einerster Abschluss der Operation erreicht. … Die Möglichkeit einer Einkesselung der Nordgruppe der verbündeten Heere beginnt sich abzuzeichnen.
This quote suggests the encirclement has not yet been completed in the eyes of HG.A commanders.

So when did they consider a Knesselschlacht had begun?

Later orders at various levels, use the word eingeshlossenen (trapped) rather than Einkesselung (encirclement) to describe the Northern Armies.

Does that mean the commanders never understood a Kesselschlacht was being conducted? A true / doctrinal Kesselschlacht needing complete Einkesselung not just eingeschlossenen?

Discuss.

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Re: Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

Post by Aida1 » 27 Mar 2024 20:58

As long as you have the coast with ports behind you, you are not surrounded so no socalled 'Kesselschlacht'.

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Re: Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

Post by ljadw » 27 Mar 2024 21:18

Eingeschlossen and Einkesselung mean the same .The encircled forces in Stalingrad were eingeschlossen or eingekesselt .
It is the same for the Allied forces north of the Somme.
Frankfurter Rundschau 18 March 2023
Title : Die Ukrainischen Soldaten in Bachmut eingekesselt
Text :
"Laut russischen Medienberichten sollen hunderten Ukrainischen Soldaten in Tunneln unter einem Industriegebiet in Bachmut eingeschlossen sein und ......"
Translation
The Ukrainian soldiers in Bachmut encircled
"Following reports from Russian media hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers would be encircled in tunnels under an industry region in Bachmut .''
Eingekesselt /eingeschlossen mean the same , but German has two words for the same meaning and English only one word .

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Re: Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

Post by MarkN » 28 Mar 2024 15:36

My interest in this topic is to understand the thinking at the time which guided choices and decisions at the time; what the Heer generals thought in May 1940. Thoughts derived from 80 years of hindsight obfuscate proper understanding if not prevent it outright.

The excerpt from the HG.A KTB I quoted above used the word "Einkesselung" and suggest it had yet to be achieved. A few days later a series of documents use the word "eingeschlossen" or "eingeschlossenen" as something already achieved. In practical terms, I'm comfortable in understanding they mean the same thing to the Heer generals at the time UNLESS the two words have specific and different means in contemporary Heer doctrine.

Do they?

Here are four examples of the use...

OKW / Fuhrer (24 May)
Der Führer und Oberste Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht
OKW/Abt. L Nr. 33 028/40 g. K. Chefs.

Weisung Nr. 13 für die Kriegführung

1.) Nächstes Ziel der Operationen ist die Vernichtung der im Artois und in Flandern eingeschlossenen franz.-engl.-belg. Kräfte durch konzentrischen Angriff unseres Nordflügels sowie die rasche Besitznahme und Sicherung der dortigen Kanalküste Aufgabe der Luftwaffe ist es hierbei, jeden Feindwiderstand der eingeschlossenen Teile zu brechen, das Entkommen englischer Kräfte über den Kanal zu verhindern und die Südflanke der Heeresgruppe A zu sichern.
OKH (26 May)
OKH Gen St d H Op.Abt. (Ia) 20133/40 g.Kdos

Fur die Fortsetzung des Angriffes gegen den von den Heeresgruppen A u. B eingeschlossenen Feind wird angeordnet.
HG.A (25 May)
Heeresgruppenkommando A Ia Nr. 1123/40 g.Kdos

Heeresgruppenbefehl Nr.6

1.) Starke Feindkrafte (wahrscheinlich wesentliche Teile der englischen, belgisvhen und granzosischen 1. und 7.Armee) sind zwischen Heeresgruppe B und 4.Armee eingeschlossen; mit Durchbrauchsversuchen derselben nach Sudwesten bezw. Suden muß weiter gerecht werden.
Pz.Gr.Kleist (26 May)
Gruppenbefehl Nr.17 fur den 27.5.1940

1.) Der in Nordfrankreich und Belgien eingeschlossene Feind sucht mit starken Teilen nach der Kuste zu entkommen.
The language of these four documents implies the Northern Armies were trapped and a Kesselschlacht was about to ensue.

With hindsight, we know that a large portion of those 'trapped' forces managed to get away. With hindsight, it is easy to claim no encirclement had occured and point to the port of Dunkirk as justification of that view.

But was that the view of the Heer generals at the time? The historical evidence suggest it was not.

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Re: Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

Post by Christian Ankerstjerne » 30 Mar 2024 01:17

Two off-topic posts were removed.

MarkN does not postulate that the Allied forces were objectively encircled. Rather, the topic of discussion is how the situation was percieved by the German Army at the time within the framework of official doctrine. This is a perfectly reasonable subject of discussion, especially considering the history of controversy over the decision to halt the German advance. In full accordance with forum guidelines, MarkN has quoted multiple primary source documents to advance the discussion.

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Re: Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

Post by Aida1 » 30 Mar 2024 22:01

Christian Ankerstjerne wrote:
30 Mar 2024 01:17
Two off-topic posts were removed.

MarkN does not postulate that the Allied forces were objectively encircled. Rather, the topic of discussion is how the situation was percieved by the German Army at the time within the framework of official doctrine. This is a perfectly reasonable subject of discussion, especially considering the history of controversy over the decision to halt the German advance. In full accordance with forum guidelines, MarkN has quoted multiple primary source documents to advance the discussion.
If something was german official doctrine, it was encirclement and annihilation and from that perspective the allied forces were not encircled because in order to do that Heeresgruppe A and B would have needed to close the pincers around the allied forces which was not achieved among others because of the halt order.
Given the fuss about the halt order, clearly the german high command did not think the allies were surrounded either. :roll: Somebody incorrectly using the word 'eingeschlossen' in some original document cannot change that . :roll: Actually ,the author of the document being no idiot would no doubt have known also that the allies were not really encircled in the true sense of the word and simply used the word without giving it much thought so one can certainly not make overblown deductions from this about the judgment of the situation by the germans or about german doctrine. :roll:
Always dangerous to literally interpret any document of whatever nature given it meanings the author no doubt never intended. :roll: This thread is a typical example of that.

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Re: Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

Post by MarkN » 03 Apr 2024 16:14

Christian Ankerstjerne wrote:
30 Mar 2024 01:17
In full accordance with forum guidelines, MarkN has quoted multiple primary source documents to advance the discussion.
Unfotrunately, the discussion is not advancing as others seem determined to shut it down.

Above, I quoted FOUR different orders from FOUR different headquarters which used the word eingeschlossen - or a derivative thereof - to describe the state of the Anglo-Belgian-French forces east of Dunkerque and Ostend.

Rather strangely, poster Aida1 has tried to deny that historical evidence by making up some bizarre narrative where a smart Heer staff officer used the word incorrectly. It seems that officer's lapse was infectious as three other Heer staff officers also suffered from exactly the same lapse too.

I am really not interested in attempts 80 years after the event to deny historical evidence which don't fit a particular individual's agenda, false narrative or myth. I'm interested in understanding what historically occured and on what basis.

I have not researched every single KTB to see how many orders issued at the time used the word eingeschlossen or similar. What I did note from those I did look through, the majority did not. That may, or may not, indicate the general census that the northern armies were not considered trapped or encircled. But the ones that did (see above) were those at the very highest level and those that determined directly how the majority of the panzerstruppen were used.

xxx

Operational doctrine is constantly evolving and usually at a fairly rapid rate when forces are actively engaged. Professional miliaries learn from experience and mistakes. [MarkNote : except the British who seemed for a long time determined not to learn anything of use!] Therefore, it would be quite wrong to assume that something considered doctrinally 'correct' in August 1939 was still considered doctrinally 'correct' in May 1940. Similarly, something doctrinally 'correct' in the summer and autumn of 1941, may not have been doctrinally 'correct' in May or June 1940.

Hence my decision to start this thread. I have a gap in my understanding of panzertruppen doctrine and how contemporary thinking evolved on that matter.

I think we all accept and understand the basic concept that within the wider philosophy of Vernichtungskrieg or Vernichtungsschlacht, panzertruppen doctine involved the panzer divisions driving deep into enemy territory to implement a single or double pincer envelopment of enemy forces. An envelopment trapping an enemy before prior to its destruction in a kesselschlacht. This doctrine was not what the panzer purists really advocated, but was a necessary compromise of their capabilities within the wider Heer philosophy.

My question(s):

Having completed an encirclement, what exactly was the next task of the panzertruppen? Was it to...
1) turn back into the kessel driving the entrapped enemy upon the slower advancing infantry divisions,
2) take a bit of breather whilst securing their flanks and preparing for the next dash forward (leaving the kesselschlacht to the infantry divisions),
3) something other...

Of course, every situation will require responses appropriate to the exact context and operational requirement. But as a basic principle, were the highly extended panzer divisions required to do the bulk of the fighting of a kesselschlacht or conserve their combat capability for the next advance?

To me, the logical response is the latter. But there are examples in both FALL GELB and FALL ROT where the panzers divisions turned into a kessel, or apparent kessel, to do the fighting rather than continuing to pursue the deep battle. One of those was in the hinterland behind Dunkerque.

Even if it was not a 'true' kesselschlact (based upon the caveat of evacuation ports with limited capacity still being held by the enemy) was it 'correct' panzertruppen doctrine to have panzer divisions driving the enemy onto the anvil of infantry divisions?

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Re: Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

Post by Aida1 » 04 Apr 2024 09:51

MarkN wrote:
03 Apr 2024 16:14
Christian Ankerstjerne wrote:
30 Mar 2024 01:17
In full accordance with forum guidelines, MarkN has quoted multiple primary source documents to advance the discussion.
Unfotrunately, the discussion is not advancing as others seem determined to shut it down.

Above, I quoted FOUR different orders from FOUR different headquarters which used the word eingeschlossen - or a derivative thereof - to describe the state of the Anglo-Belgian-French forces east of Dunkerque and Ostend.

Rather strangely, poster Aida1 has tried to deny that historical evidence by making up some bizarre narrative where a smart Heer staff officer used the word incorrectly. It seems that officer's lapse was infectious as three other Heer staff officers also suffered from exactly the same lapse too.

I am really not interested in attempts 80 years after the event to deny historical evidence which don't fit a particular individual's agenda, false narrative or myth. I'm interested in understanding what historically occured and on what basis.

I have not researched every single KTB to see how many orders issued at the time used the word eingeschlossen or similar. What I did note from those I did look through, the majority did not. That may, or may not, indicate the general census that the northern armies were not considered trapped or encircled. But the ones that did (see above) were those at the very highest level and those that determined directly how the majority of the panzerstruppen were used.

xxx

Operational doctrine is constantly evolving and usually at a fairly rapid rate when forces are actively engaged. Professional miliaries learn from experience and mistakes. [MarkNote : except the British who seemed for a long time determined not to learn anything of use!] Therefore, it would be quite wrong to assume that something considered doctrinally 'correct' in August 1939 was still considered doctrinally 'correct' in May 1940. Similarly, something doctrinally 'correct' in the summer and autumn of 1941, may not have been doctrinally 'correct' in May or June 1940.

Hence my decision to start this thread. I have a gap in my understanding of panzertruppen doctrine and how contemporary thinking evolved on that matter.

I think we all accept and understand the basic concept that within the wider philosophy of Vernichtungskrieg or Vernichtungsschlacht, panzertruppen doctine involved the panzer divisions driving deep into enemy territory to implement a single or double pincer envelopment of enemy forces. An envelopment trapping an enemy before prior to its destruction in a kesselschlacht. This doctrine was not what the panzer purists really advocated, but was a necessary compromise of their capabilities within the wider Heer philosophy.

My question(s):

Having completed an encirclement, what exactly was the next task of the panzertruppen? Was it to...
1) turn back into the kessel driving the entrapped enemy upon the slower advancing infantry divisions,
2) take a bit of breather whilst securing their flanks and preparing for the next dash forward (leaving the kesselschlacht to the infantry divisions),
3) something other...

Of course, every situation will require responses appropriate to the exact context and operational requirement. But as a basic principle, were the highly extended panzer divisions required to do the bulk of the fighting of a kesselschlacht or conserve their combat capability for the next advance?

To me, the logical response is the latter. But there are examples in both FALL GELB and FALL ROT where the panzers divisions turned into a kessel, or apparent kessel, to do the fighting rather than continuing to pursue the deep battle. One of those was in the hinterland behind Dunkerque.

Even if it was not a 'true' kesselschlact (based upon the caveat of evacuation ports with limited capacity still being held by the enemy) was it 'correct' panzertruppen doctrine to have panzer divisions driving the enemy onto the anvil of infantry divisions?
There was not a specific panzer operational doctrine as panzerdivisions were new and about how they were to be tacically and operationally used there was certainly no consensus. Panzerdivisions give a new dimension to the already existing operational concept of surrounding and annihiliting enemy forces. Preferably panzerivisions should not be taking part in the actual cleaning up of a pocket once it is formed and they are relieved by infantry divisions. Depending on the situation their priority must be either pushing forward or taking a rest period for maintenance.
Anyway, allied forces in Northern France and Belgium in may 1940 were never surrounded. Without the halt order, the intent would have remained to close the pincers around allied forces cutting them off completely and destroy them. The actual destruction could be left to infantry once the pincers have closed.
The use of the word 'Kesselschlacht' for lack of a better one(one could hardly call it a 3/4 Kessel) does not mean Germans suddenly considered a pocket being formed when the enemy force is attacked on 3 sides, one side being open.
Trying to making out 80 years after the facts as if the halt order did not matter despite all the many discussions about the why of it over the decades is an exercise in futility as the disagreements about it at the time are a matter of record.

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Re: Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

Post by msktszb » 04 Apr 2024 21:59

On the narrow question of using 'Einkesselung' vs 'Eingeschlossen', here's something that uses both:

T315-R0140-00887 snip.jpeg
from T315-R0140 pg 00887 frame 00882, 3rd Pz KTB, 'Befehl für den Angriff gegen den Beroka-Abschnitt.' 23.5.42
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Re: Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

Post by Christian Ankerstjerne » 04 Apr 2024 22:19

Just an observation: In the examples provided in this thread, 'Einkesselung' is used as an active process while 'eingeschlossen' is used as a passive state.

While the number of examples is hardly conclusive, without any formal definitions, this would seem to me to be the type of vernacular that tends to develop organically.

I'm not sure it really means anything. If no formal definitions of the words exist (I can't recall seeing any), it may indicate that there was no practical semantic difference.

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Re: Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

Post by MarkN » 06 Apr 2024 15:42

msktszb wrote:
04 Apr 2024 21:59
On the narrow question of using 'Einkesselung' vs 'Eingeschlossen', here's something that uses both:


T315-R0140-00887 snip.jpeg

from T315-R0140 pg 00887 frame 00882, 3rd Pz KTB, 'Befehl für den Angriff gegen den Beroka-Abschnitt.' 23.5.42
Christian Ankerstjerne wrote:
04 Apr 2024 22:19
Just an observation: In the examples provided in this thread, 'Einkesselung' is used as an active process while 'eingeschlossen' is used as a passive state.

While the number of examples is hardly conclusive, without any formal definitions, this would seem to me to be the type of vernacular that tends to develop organically.

I'm not sure it really means anything. If no formal definitions of the words exist (I can't recall seeing any), it may indicate that there was no practical semantic difference.
Thank you to both of you.

The excerpt from the 3.Pz.Div KTB seems to indicate no practical difference in meaning between Einkesselung and eingeschlossen. It seems that the word used is determined by the author's need of a noun Einkesselung or an adjective or verb form (past participle) eingeschlossen for the sentence to be grammatically correct. That is consistent with the five examples I previously posted.

However, I remain open to the possibility that there may be a difference in meaning as specified by a doctrinal definition which remains elusive.

From this linguistic understanding, it appears that the OKW, OKH, HG.A and Gr.Kleist command staff considered the Anglo-Belgium-French forces in the Dunkerque-Ostend hinterland were indeed encircled or trapped or whatever English translation is most applicable.

It thus follows that their subsequent orders and instructions would accord with that in mind.

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Re: Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

Post by MarkN » 07 Apr 2024 17:44

Until now I have used the word Kesselschlacht in this thread when discussing the battle to destroy enemy forces trapped in a pocket such as that observed in the coastal area and hinterland east of Dunkerque-Ostend.

However, contemporary OKH and HG.A documents do not refer to a Kesselschlacht, they use the word Einkreisungsschlacht.

Again, is there a doctrinal difference between the two or do they mean the same thing?

This terminology appears on 23 May after documents describing Anglo-Belgian-French forces as being eingeschlossen.

Note the introductory paragraph of Brauchitsch's directive for 4.Armee to be transferred from HG.A to HG.B command.

Image
Image

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Re: Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

Post by MarkN » 09 Apr 2024 16:23

MarkN wrote:
07 Apr 2024 17:44
However, contemporary OKH and HG.A documents do not refer to a Kesselschlacht, they use the word Einkreisungsschlacht.

Again, is there a doctrinal difference between the two or do they mean the same thing?
My first impression from the brief words in the OKH directive above are that the Einkreisungsschlacht began on 10 May and that the "letzten Akt" in effect refers to the Kesselschlacht about to begin.

xxx

Moving on.

Almost 24 hours before that directive was issued, the OKH had issued a more regular directive (OKH Gen St d H - Op.Abt. (Ia) Nr. 5848/40 g.Kdos) whose opening sentence was:
Der nördl. unseres Durchbrucks haltende Feind ist im Bereich Gent - Tournai - Douai - Kuste eingeschlossen.
As you can see, the OKH mindset from the night 22/23 May had already come to understand the enemy forces were already "eingeschlossen".

That OKH directive prompted the following in Heeresgruppe A KTB. The entry for 23 May 1940 begins:
Eine neue Weisung des OKH gibt Anordnung für die Vollendung der Entschließung des Feindes in Nordbelgien unf Frankreich. Der Heeresgruppe A fallt dabei die Aufgabe zu, die Einkesselung von Suden her (Valenciennes - Arras) zu verengen, mit den schnellen Kraften uber die Linie Bethune - St.Omer - Calais gegen die Linie Armentieres - Ypern - Ostende einzuschwenken und die Hohestufe Lens - St.Omer - moglichst bald mit infanteristischen Kraften in die Hand zu nehmen.
No longer are the panzertruppen to be concentrated in such a way as to (fully) encircle the trapped forces by massing on the left flank and advancing up the coast - since the enemy is already encircled - they are to advance line-abreast to beat the enemy onto Heeresgruppe B's infantry divisions like a grouse shoot.

The generally perceived understanding of panzertruppen doctrine is for them to take a breather after they have completed an encirclement to rest and recuperate ready for the next dash forward in the deep battle. But here, in Flanders, we have the OKH directing lower commands to drive the panzer divisions into a Kesselschlacht as the main destructive tool of Vernichtungskrieg.

Back to my questions to fill my gaps in knowledge.

Is this an example of a doctrinal misuse of the panzer divisions for operational imperatives, or is it an example of the evolution of panzertruppen doctrine?

A short while later at the beginning of FALL ROT, Hoth's panzerkorps severed the French IX Corps from the main force when it reached Rouen. Instead of crossing the Seine and continuing with the deep battle, they turned back into the Kessel to destroy the IX Corps. That decision gave the remaining 150.000+ British troops in France ample opportunity to evacuate in reasonably good order.

Was it only after the fall of France that panzertruppen doctrine had evolved to the idea that panzer divisions should be excused the Kesselschlacht where possible to preserve their combat capabilities for the deep battle, or where senior Heer generals simply not using them correctly? Or, was their use an operational compromise in the knowledge that the geographical extent of France was far less than that of the Russian empire?

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Panzertruppen doctrine

Post by MarkN » 13 Apr 2024 14:58

The more I read on the subject of panzertruppen doctrine, the more obvious it becomes there is not just a gap in my understanding but a great chasm in wider historical understanding too. Thousands of pages have been written on the matter, but the more you read the more you see it's mostly generalizations and guesswork.

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Re: Dunkerque: Kesselschlacht or not?

Post by Christian Ankerstjerne » 14 Apr 2024 16:44

A lot of older books describe a very formulaic, step-by-step approach that just doesn't match the way Germany fought. When I read through German Army field manuals the approach is much more broadly defined. There are of course still certain prescribed steps, such as performing reconnaissance prior to an assault.

I suspect a lot has been influenced from the way tactics were and are described in newspapers and magazines, where the emphasis is to make things understandable to someone who won't be able to tell apart a tank from an APC from a self-propelled gun, rather than to be absolutely correct. This has then been repeated to the point where it has become perceived truths.

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