WarPeople - Oskar Von Hutier

One of Germany's most successful World War 1 generals, Hutier rose to army command in 1917 after commanding at the divisional level in earlier years of the war. Hutier applied the lessons learned in three years of commanding troops to devise a strategy aimed at breaking the stalemate of trench warfare. These tactics were to prove so successful in 1918 that the French dubbed them 'Hutier tactics'.

Hutier had noticed that earlier attacks - a lengthy artillery barrage followed by a massed infantry assault - led to disastrous losses. His alternative tactics consisted instead of four basic steps.

  • A short but heavy artillery bombardment with numerous poison gas projectiles would neutralise the enemy front lines, but not destroy them.
  • Under a creeping barrage, German shock troops (Stosstruppen or stormtroopers) would move forward and infiltrate the Allied lines at previously identified weak points. These troops would avoid combat where possible and attempt to capture enemy headquarters and artillery strongpoints.
  • After the shock troops had done their job, heavily equipped German Army units would make heavy attacks against enemy strongpoints which the shock troops had bypassed.
  • In the final phase, regular infantry would mop up any remaining pockets of Allied resistance.

Though these tactics had been used as early as the American Civil War on a small scale, Hutier was the first to employ them on a large, theatre wide scale.

In 1917, Hutier ended the two year siege of the Russian city of Riga with these tactics. He followed with the only successful amphibious assault of the war, seizing Russian held islands in the Baltic. At Caporetto, other German generals using Hutier's tactics achieved a spectacular victory over the Italians.

Hutier was awarded the Pour le Merite by Kaiser Wilhelm and transferred to the Western Front near Arras in February, 1918.

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