Military history

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Military history (also: war history ) is the documentation and research of conflict-laden events in the history of mankind and the military apparatus of the individual peoples. It ranges from differences of opinion among tribes to interstate conflicts to world wars . Outside of these conflicts, she deals with the military armaments and troops of the individual states.

About the subject

Military history is a branch of historiography

  • with the internal structure of the military and its actions in the strict military sense and
  • with the interplay between the military as an institution and the respective society in political, cultural, sociological and, last but not least, technological terms.

(see also History , Political History )

In contrast to the older war history and the military history of the interwar period, the field of vision has been expanded to include the actual history of the battles: the aspect of the “ militarization ” of society has also been included. The Peace Research takes this overall social component in terms of the genesis (especially contemporary military conflicts) strengthened into view. Various problem areas emerge within the narrower traditional approach:

The military and their commanders

The roles of the top military and the politically responsible were identical in absolute monarchies, but they have mostly been separated in modern times. A distinction is made between command and command . A divergence between the two shows the relationship between Wilhelm II and Hindenburg . Military men who occupy political power (this behavior is called Bonapartism after the best-known representative ), are used to decorate themselves with the associated contemporary title, be it "Emperor" or "President" (examples today: Pakistan, Burma). The totalitarian systems of the 20th century were not military dictatorships : the terms “Führer”, “Duce”, “Wost” are general terms of a non-military nature. The persons concerned had also had no significant rank.

What applies to historiography in the general sense ira et studio seems to be particularly important for military historiography: Under the “miles aeternus” aspect, both convinced supporters and opponents of the military cultivate military-historical aspects under moral and ethical views of their respective time to judge.

"The colorful skirt"

Uniforms , flags , medals , decorations and ranks , weapons and branches of service are very clear and therefore often of great general interest. Within the military, the designations of function and rank appear of particular interest. The dividing line between leaders in the sense of a socially exclusive group and socially deprecated soldiers does not run along the qualitative criterion of the number of subordinate soldiers; For example, it is not very illuminating to translate “ Centurion ” as “ captain ”.

The area of ​​armament and tactical organization is also of interest. In the interplay with technical developments, new structures are designed and old ones deleted or traditionally filled with new content. (Designation of light armored troops as " cavalry ").

The battle and the war

The general interest in the military conflict in a limited place within a certain period of time is even more evident, although this limitation has been partially lost in recent times ( Battle of Verdun ; Battle of Britain ).

In the past, attempts were often made to work out differences in the 'character' of soldiers (or certain groups of soldiers, e.g. branches of arms) and / or in the ' national character ' and thus explain the course of war or the outcome of battles. There are different types of wars, e.g. B. Religious wars , ideologically motivated wars, "imperialist" wars (according to the Marxist-Leninist view in particular to secure raw material sources and sales markets - see war of conquest ), wars of "revenge", wars of aggression and wars of defense . According to the type of origin, a distinction can be made between wars that started “by chance” (see World War I ) and wars that started according to plan (see, for example, war in Iraq ).

The intercultural dimension

In this sense, military meetings between members of differently developed societies ( knights versus Mongols ) are interesting . It turns out that the technologically advanced side is by no means always victorious. The motivation, training and personal skills of those involved certainly also play an important role. In historiography, this often degenerated into a very extensive consideration of the quality of the general . Of course, however, the biographical aspects of individual military personnel are quite important.

Military and society

Last but not least, the relationship between fighters and non-combatants is of great interest. The military constitution between the general contingent, militia , conscription , professional soldiers and mercenaries , the legal components of the “ius ad bellum” and the “ius in bello” are central topics. Vietnam War to Peace Movement and Cold War

Development of the field of military history

Particularly in the history of Prussian-German military historiography as "war history", the ideological appropriation by the political elite in the sense of an anti-democratic dynastic basic orientation of society (increasingly after the wars of unification ) can be noted, especially in the sense of the House of Hohenzollern .


This problematic basic constellation is exacerbated by the developments that have emerged from it: “Especially in the German-speaking area, the research area of ​​military and war history is characterized by fundamental contradictions and confusion, which arise both from breaks in the continuity of military history itself and from the large number of institutions and groups of people result […]. ”(Nowosadtko, Jutta: War, violence and order: Introduction to military history, Tübingen 2002. p. 16)

In the early modern times

Military history, which has its roots in the early modern period, has been shaped by application since its inception. Your task should be to learn by understanding and preparing the military events of the past for future battles and campaigns and to avoid mistakes by allowing the knowledge gained from the analysis to flow into the planning and actions. The focus here was on direct practical use, but not on the gain of scientific knowledge in the sense of modern historiography . The overarching name of this activity was accordingly rather "war science" (in the sense of an applied technology), the "war history" was only an aid. This war science was practiced by the appropriate specialists, the soldiers, and over the decades it has also been charged with a clear tradition-preserving character, which diametrically opposed the scientific-critical method.

In modern times

It was not until the 19th century that civil historians broke into this domain of military experts with Max Jähns (in rudiments), but above all with Hans Delbrück , and tried to establish the methods of historical science in “war history” as well. A long-term dispute, the so-called "strategy dispute" was the result. The two sides faced each other irreconcilably: the civil historian and his followers believed that the history of war should not be left in the hands of scientifically ignorant or unwilling laypeople as an application tool, but rather should be made a sub-discipline of general history. The military, on the other hand, did not want to give up the authority to interpret the history of their specialist area to civilians, who for their part were scientifically qualified but, in their opinion, were militarily too ignorant. The resistance to Delbrück's plans was insurmountable, however: "Delbrück's project of a military history was largely rejected by the institutions mentioned - with consequences that could not be overlooked even after decades." (Deist, Wilhelm: Comments on the development of military history in Germany, in: Thomas Kühne, Benjamin Ziemann : What is military history. Paderborn 2000, pp. 315–323) Or to put it clearly: Delbrück lost the struggle with the military. The writing of the history of the First World War was again firmly in the hands of the military, with consequences that continue to have an impact on the discourse about this war to this day.

Against this background, the traditional and application-oriented understanding of war history, the sources and the thought processes hidden therein must always be considered. This point of view, wanting to draw direct practical application from a consciously narrowed perceived historical perspective, was one of the decisive factors for the developments that are examined in this work. Even after Delbrück's singular advance, military history remained in the hands of the soldiers, and thus applied war history. The political has only found its way into this sphere insofar as the history of war was now used to legitimize political actions - but its methodological nature remained unaffected.

Journal "Military Scientific Communications"

After the First World War , all military journals in Austria were discontinued in 1918/19. The armed forces were initially subject to the same restrictions as those of the German Reich, which is why no general staff was allowed to be set up after the war that could have carried out an official military historiography. In addition, in the turmoil of the post-war period there was no interest in a specialist press for military information for the armed forces. From the summer of 1920, the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Army, with the support of the Army Inspectorate, published the “ Technischen Mitteilungen ”, a magazine that had existed since 1869. However, this only dealt with military-technical and artillery topics. More could not be achieved at this time, as the " Standing Parliamentary Commission for Army Affairs ", headed by General Theodor Körner, opposed any other form of " Habsburg tradition ".

When Körner retired in 1924, the magazine was renamed "Military Science and Technical Communications"; later in " Military Scientific Communications ". Extensive military topics were dealt with in it again. Under the direction of two officers, the size of the magazine increased four-fold by 1932 and comprised about 1000 pages per year. In addition, special issues were published on larger subject areas. There was one issue a month; In addition, a "publishing house for military science communications" was set up, which published books on military topics.

The writings were intended to serve the processing of the tactical lessons of the First World War, for troop training and as a discussion platform. The contributions often influenced the creation of the new training regulations or provided important cooperation work with the military history department of the war archive , which had meanwhile started the official Austrian military history of the First World War. However, there were hardly any works on war theory. In the editions, so-called “Defense Policy Overviews” appeared regularly, in which the armed forces of Europe and the strategic situation were analyzed. Literature reviews made up a large part of the magazine.

After the annexation of Austria to the German Reich in 1938, the publication of the magazine was placed under the responsibility of the “ German Society for Defense Policy and Defense Sciences Berlin - Branch Vienna ”.

Many of the contributions to the course of the First World War have become very valuable, as many original files were lost during the Second World War . Historians are also interested in the “Military Policy Overviews”, as they give an insight into how experts at the time perceived the military situation in Europe.

In National Socialism

The next attempt to expand the history of war took place under the aegis of the National Socialists, when an attempt was made to develop the history of war into a so-called "military history" under the leitmotif of the national community. On the one hand, it was methodologically expanded by explicitly broadening its focus. However, she gambled away this advantage by explicitly stipulating an uncritical, system-supporting character and subordinating all her findings to an evaluating and ordering principle. However, this concept went under with the regime that sought to legitimize it.

After 1945

"The two following decades were [...] dominated by the memoirs of high officers of the Wehrmacht ." (Deist, Remarks, p. 318) Now finally, after the dimensions of the horror of the Second World War had made this kind of historiography unbearable, set In dealing with this same type of historiography that maintains tradition, the scientific-critical military history differs from the old war history. In a slow process that spanned the 1960s and 1970s, military history finally established itself as a fully fledged subdiscipline of general history. The performance of the Military History Research Office (MGFA) as the core cell of this process can hardly be overestimated. “The fundamental reorientation of military history […] was limited to a small minority of scientists in the MGFA, who had to laboriously work out the connection to general historical science in dealing with the epigones of a traditional military and war history. On the basis of fundamental individual publications since the 1960s, the Military History Research Office, by virtue of its institutional authority, formulated the conditions and opportunities for expanding military history to include a sub-area of ​​general historical studies in a position paper that is still noteworthy. "(Funck, Markus: Militär, Krieg und Gesellschaft, in: Kühne / Ziemann, Militärgeschichte, pp. 157-174, here p. 158. Cf. the above-mentioned position paper, e.g. in: MGFA (Ed.): Military history, problems - theses - ways, Stuttgart 1982. Pp. 48–59.) The MGFA explicitly set itself apart from any kind of appropriation, but was founded not as a free institute, but as a research office, which always creates a certain area of ​​tension and leads to a "[...] force-wasting permanent conflict between scientific and military Requirements […] ”(bet, Wolfram: Military history between science and politics ik, in: Kühne / Ziemann, Military History. Pp. 49-71, p. 61) leads. Nevertheless, it was not least due to the natural succession of generations that young, critical scientists (such as Manfred Messerschmidt ) overcame the resistance of the traditionalists and established a historiography that meets all the requirements of the critical-scientific method.

Military history in expansion, or "modern military history"

In the 1970s, in the course of joining the scientific community, the instruments of military history, as it was now increasingly called in contrast to the old history of war and operations, were expanded to include social-historical perspectives. The focus was no longer only on the conduct of war as such, but on the entanglements of the military as a social group with the society around them in their entire, almost unmanageable diversity - also, but not only, in times of war. This approach was supplemented by the integration of the perspective of the history of mentality, which was particularly helpful in understanding mass phenomena, as they often occur in armies as sometimes very homogeneous groups. With the help of these approaches, the perspective was then shifted at the beginning of the 1990s, and the view from below, including the view of everyday history, moved into the attention of military historians. In connection with this, a more differentiated view of the roles of perpetrators and victims was cultivated. Nevertheless: Even in 1989 an introduction to the study of modern history read: “Among the sub-disciplines of our subject, war and military history tends to a particularly high degree to an existence in seclusion, which stands in striking contrast to its objective significance. “(Opgenoorth, Ernst: Introduction to the Study of Modern History, Paderborn 1989. p. 218)

It was not until the 1990s that the distance between university history and a separate military history was practically completely dissolved. Modern military history has experienced an unexpected boom in the last ten years, not least because military historians organized themselves in the Military History Working Group after the Historians' Day in 1994 and thus created a productive platform.

The new diversity of perspectives leads to a surprising problem: While the old war history was thematically so focused that it was hardly insightful, regardless of its operators, its successor, modern military history, is so open to so many approaches that it is difficult to define them at all. It is no coincidence that Gerd Krumeich chooses the sentence structure: "Today, military-historical topics in the context of an institutional, social and mental history have definitely become topics of general history." (Krumeich, Gerd: Sine ira et studio ?, views of a scientific military history. In: Kühne, Ziemann, Military History, pp. 91-105, p. 91) Military history has become more of a thematic facet of the approaches that it originally wanted to adopt. A precise delimitation and definition is therefore difficult; Novosadtko, Kühne, Ziemann and others unanimously agree with this judgment. From this point of view, military history does not seem to be a separate discipline, but only a subject of the respective methods. That would be too short-sighted, however, as this objection would ignore the fact that the thematic concentration, including various methods, produces results of its own, which would not have been achieved without this thematic focus. Certain findings can only be gained against the background of the thematic network “military history”, regardless of the methods used.

The fact that it is difficult to delimit it does not result in arbitrariness, but rather a great freedom of research with original perspectives of its own, which definitely includes old approaches, and leads to the final definition: "Military history is a special discipline of general historical science ," which addresses the military realities in to the full breadth of its diverse manifestations ”(MGFA Working Group, 1976). (To be found, for example, at: Karl-Volker Neugebauer , Introduction, in: ders. (Ed.): Basic features of German military history , Volume 1: Historical overview, Freiburg 1993, pp. 9-11. P. 9) For The part of military history that deals with the actions of the armed forces in war, taking historical methods into account, is known today as “history of operations”; In the past one spoke of 'war history' in this context. "

Research trends

The current research trends are correspondingly broad, of which only the most essential can be shown here. One of the central debates is the question of the farewell to Clausewitz, or rather the image of war that he shaped. In view of the differentiated modern forms of war, the question of how war should actually be defined is increasingly emerging. Low-intensity conflicts, guerrilla wars , warlord economies - the forms to be examined are numerous, the methodological approaches varied due to their proximity to political science and sociological conflict research and so far little explored from a specifically historical perspective.

Closely related to this is the question of the theory of total war . The exact definition of this (often used without reflection) word and a related theory formation are of great interest. The main research areas are dealing with the history of the GDR military, discussions about the concept of the military revolution, about discipline and disciplinary mechanisms, and the question of how war and the gender order are interrelated.

Inspired by the debates about media staging of recent wars, the connection between media and war is increasingly in the focus of historical research (most consistently with Ute Daniel , Frank Becker and Gerhard Paul ).

Names and functions of military divisions in history


The terms "cavalry", "infantry", "navy", "weapon type", "artillery" have to be understood in their respective context, because the modern emergence of the terms colors back strongly on the ancient reference objects, which can lead to undesirable associations. (The command “fire”, for example, is difficult to imagine in ancient times.) The military function and social origin of the soldier exercising it are inseparable from each other, regardless of individual talent.

While the chariot still played an important role between ancient Egypt and its enemies in today's Middle East, the cavalry as a whole cannot fundamentally play the decisive role in the battle, regardless of the fact that the members of the cavalry are socially highly regarded. The use of elephants, especially against the Romans, has not proven successful, as injured elephants also represent a danger to your own side.

Exceptions in individual battles, such as the personal bravery and riding skills of Alexander the Elder. Size one might think, cannot cover up the elementary lack of ancient horsemen: the lack of the stirrup . As a result, a shock tactic such as that used by the (heavy) cavalry of modern times, as well as the knight armies, was not actually possible, at least not if the foot troops attacked were disciplined and armored.

In any case, there was really only light cavalry that carried long-range weapons, i.e. H. Bows, or spears, or mounted, but fought from a standing horse with a sword or possibly also dismounted and essentially carried out reconnaissance, pursuit and courier services.

It is significant that the Roman army of the late Republic and the Imperial Era only had cavalry in the form of auxiliary units. This is despite the fact that the equites were the second highest social class after the senatores .

The foot troops were therefore the most important type of weapon. The heavy foot troops could withstand the fire from arrows and spears relatively well. The light foot troops began the battle with their long-range weapons, which also included crossbows and slingshots, in order to disorder their opponents, but were never decisive in the battle. Sieges were little valued in antiquity; it was customary to massacre or enslave the population of a conquered city. Therefore, the role of the pioneers is also a little respected. Not only during sieges, but also in the field, there were approaches of a heavy long-range weapon, which one might call artillery, in the sense that more than one man was needed to operate it.

After Actium , no more important sea battles were fought in antiquity. Small units at the river borders, such as the Rhine or Danube of the empire, served as police forces.

Middle Ages and Early Modern Times

The term “Middle Ages” in its true sense refers to Europe. In Marxist historiography, the term "feudalism" was used, but it also covered the more recent times up to the French Revolution. On the basis of this broader term, one could assign the term “Middle Ages” to non-European cultures shaped by feudal structures, such as those of the shogunate period in Japan. In military history, the mark can be seen in the individual martial art of the socially superior knight or samurai. The separation in Japan between infantry and cavalry is not so clear in terms of social stratification; the main weapon of the samurai was the sword, but he also mastered the bow. (Cf. Budo )

In Europe, the era is characterized by armored (initially not necessarily aristocratic) riders, who gradually develop into the professional warrior who is to be looked after by others. Since antiquity, warfare has rather developed backwards, away from ordered formations consisting of well-trained professional warriors in clearly structured hierarchies to mixed troops, composed of peasants (armed with converted work equipment and making up the largest number of the troops) via the non-noble foot soldiers (Miles ) up to the highly armed, well-trained knight. Even if there are certain battle orders, fights are usually fought individually, which, depending on the status, are more or less strictly regulated. Weapon technology also developed from spear and short sword to lance and long sword and in the high and late Middle Ages the spread of crossbows and firearms.

The previously regulated use of the crossbow and, to a small extent, the use of firearms make it possible for a large number of inexperienced combatants to successfully fight a knight. This fact and social developments make it uneconomical to procure and maintain armaments and warhorses, especially since the availability of purchasable warriors increases who, compared to knights, only have to be paid for when needed. The great mercenary armies of the early modern era emerged, without which wars like the Thirty Years War would not have been possible. With the new warriors, tactics emerge that were most recently used in antiquity - movement and combat in fixed formation and the distinction according to "arms" (light / heavy infantry, various long-range weapons, light and heavy cavalry, etc.). Only parts of the armor (cuirass) and the still great tactical importance of the cavalry are preserved.

What does not change is the fact that almost exclusively nobles are leaders of larger associations. A new, more differentiated structure is slowly developing, but it took until the end of the 18th century for non-nobles in European standing armies to gain access to the officer ranks. However, this does not become common until the beginning of the 20th century.

The artillery

The age of the first firearms in Europe is also the time of the " condottieri ", a term from the time of the permanent wars of the Italian city republics. It marks the military entrepreneur, who is also active as a commander, who leases himself and his unit to the highest bidder (best-known representative: Wallenstein ). It is no coincidence that Machiavelli also lived at this time. The mercenary armies in the empire were also given the designation of Landsknechte .

Armaments in the
Graz armory

Artillery is by no means a new type of weapon in its own right , siege devices such as the onager , the ballista and the catapult already existed among the Romans, and the distinction between the type of guns between shallow and steep guns is not new. The first field snake will have had more of a psychological effect due to its low effective range and shooting speed. The howitzer and mortar , also called bombarde, serve as siege weapons in indirect shot .

For the Ottoman artillery, see Topey .

In modern times the cavalry loses its social status; only the officers continue to come from the nobility.



In the early modern era, the Spanish army was the benchmark for land forces for a long time, before this rank was passed to France and later also to Prussia. The Spanish " Terzios ", d. H. "Piles" of more than a thousand men consist of a mixture of pikemen and arquebusers. The former successfully repel the cavalry, whereby the assault forces them into inefficient long-range combat. The elite troops of the Turkish army are the Janissaries . These are Christian boys orphaned or torn from their parents, raised in the Muslim faith and at state expense, from the conquered areas of the Ottoman Empire .

In Europe, uniforms for the entire army did not take place until later, shortly before 1700. Even then, individual units of an army still showed great differences in their respective uniforms.

The infantry is generally divided into musketeers , equipped with smooth-barreled muskets , fusiliers (fight in a closed formation; very powerful through rifle salvos and bayonet assaults), hunters (actually professional hunters in the beginning , equipped with rifles with rifled tubes, fight in loose formation) , Grenadiers (throwing grenades with fuse) and pioneers .

The cavalry

The names of the cavalry are also different. There are in addition to the heavy cavalry, known as cuirassiers (because of their breastplate cuirass ) also armed with lances Lancers , originally Polish lancers. In addition, light cavalry is used for reconnaissance, such as the hussars (originally Hungarian light riders) or mounted infantrymen, such as dragoons or hunters on horseback . The cavalry is used as a reserve to support retreating infantry in the event of defeat or to drive the enemy to flight. The artillery gains in importance through Napoleon, a former artilleryman, but is socially under the cavalry. As early as the Napoleonic Wars it became apparent that cavalry attacks on closed infantry in a column or square are not very promising and result in losses, such as in the Battle of Waterloo or in the Crimean War , in the " attack of the light brigade " in the Battle of Balaklava . In the American Civil War or the Franco-German War , the era of the cavalry is finally over.

The decisive factor here is the development of the machine gun . During the First World War, cavalry was only used promisingly on the Eastern Front. A new branch of the First World War are the mountain troops . The predominance of the defensive by the machine gun is not overturned by chemical warfare agents, but only by the armored forces, which can operate as an independent branch of arms, especially during the Second World War. This again shows that a combination of different branches of arms is more promising. By escorting tank grenadiers on lightly armored vehicles with mounted infantry, the losses of the tanks by enemy infantry are reduced. Artillery on self-propelled guns and tank destroyers, so-called “ assault guns ”, also appeared in World War II. Conventional guns with a tractor are only of limited use when the enemy has superior air and strong artillery.

The paratroopers were a new branch of the Second World War . Their major disadvantage, however, is the parachute descent to the ground, during which they are easy targets. For this reason, airborne troops in later wars (e.g. Vietnam) are usually brought into battle with helicopters.

The telecommunications troops are becoming more and more important, the stronger, faster and more precise the weapon effect and the speed of movement of the troops become. It is essential for the transfer of information, knowledge of the situation of enemy movements and the state of one's own troops and their leadership.

After the Second World War

The nuclear weapons

The Second World War came to an end with the use of the American atom bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The explosive power of the bombs and their effect exceeded that of the "1000 bomber" attacks on Cologne, Hamburg and Dresden or on Tokyo. The H-bomb , another hundred times more powerful, is actually no longer a weapon, but a means of genocide. An operation cannot be envisaged under rational military considerations.

The use of the A-bombs in 1945 made military sense, however, since a landing on the main Japanese islands would have caused higher losses not only for the attacker but also for the Japanese civilian population. The main effect of these operations, however, was psychological in nature, in that disagreement arose in the Japanese government as to whether the war was to continue, which gave the Tennō room to intervene with regard to the peace party.

In view of the nuclear weapons and the MAD ( mutually assured destruction ) between the superpowers in the Cold War , the “great war” has become very unlikely, at least between nuclear powers of roughly equal strength. A war between very unequally armed nuclear powers such as the USA and China does not seem impossible in the future .

As early as the 1980s, the USA was assumed that retrofitting with Pershing II missiles would open up the possibility of restricting a nuclear war against the Soviet Union to Europe (using tactical nuclear explosive devices), whereby it was assumed that the Soviet Union would be defeated in Europe would not answer to a strategic H-bomb attack on the US itself; the efforts of the Reagan administration to build the SDI have been interpreted as efforts to give the United States a first strike capability against the strategic potential of the USSR. The argument was that even an SDI (not yet completed) would never be able to absorb a first strike by the USSR, but the weakened retaliatory strike would be.

Military branches of today's army

In view of the improbability of further “great wars”, the specific traditional structure of modern armies is inherently outdated; The separation of the function of western armed forces into intervention forces and national defense as reinsurance will remain more important in the future . The names for these two main tasks will certainly change frequently.

However, the army continues to use terms from the Cold War era to this day. A distinction is made between combat troops , combat support troops , leadership troops and logistics troops . In terms of numbers, the former are clearly in the minority; Modern war technology is not only expensive, but also very complex and therefore prone to failure. This creates an advantage for irregular forces who, due to the circumstances, fight with simple means and whose logistics are based on the country and the population.

The combat force is divided into infantry, divided into hunters, paratroopers or airmobile troops mostly with helicopters, mountain fighters , in the Bundeswehr formerly armored grenadiers with armored personnel carriers , hunters formerly mostly with unarmored vehicles as part of the territorial defense , marine infantry (in Germany not available; own armed forces or belonging to the navy) and the armored forces, divided into battle tanks , tank destroyers , armored reconnaissance troops, and today also armored infantry and armored artillery . The most important type of weapon of the combat support troops is the artillery , either on self-propelled guns (SFL, English: self-propelled gun) also as tank artillery or field artillery with guns pulled by a towing vehicle as well as rocket artillery , which has been an important one since the Second World War (" Stalin organ ") Role play. In addition, the pioneers are an important combat support and traditional weapon.

Newer branches of arms are the army aviation , independent only after the war, to defend against tanks by helicopters and also airplanes, the NBC defense force to defend against atomic, biological and chemical weapons, the army air defense , as a tactical force to strengthen the air defense of all troops with flak - and FlaRak tanks. To the guiding forces include the Signal Corps , Fernspäher and the Military Police , the Military Police of the Armed Forces . In every longer war, however, the logistics troops , who secure supplies and are responsible for the repair of materials and medical care for the soldiers - medical services - are of decisive importance. Military music is a cultural institution .

Designation of military units

Without going into the - historically French - origin of the terms company (as the smallest basic unit), battalion , regiment , brigade (as the smallest large unit), division and (army) corps (possibly also army and army group ), it should be noted that that the names of a larger unit or association by no means only contain smaller units that use the names of the same military type as the higher-level unit. This would also not be possible at all if the battle of the combined arms is sought. A tank battalion has an armored infantry company, a tank division has artillery, etc.

From the type of composition, statements about the intention of the respective armed force can be derived with regard to attack or defense disposition. Differences between armies of NATO and the Warsaw Pact exist in terms of the number of attack forces in certain divisions, the "shock divisions" and "guard divisions" of the USSR. In addition, there is the different nomenclature in individual social systems. In the NVA , the tank grenadiers called in German are called Mot.-Schützen (mot. = Motorized).

The modern navy

Developments in ship types

In addition to the land forces, there have also been naval forces since ancient times. The sea was increasingly perceived and used not as a separation but as a connection between countries and continents. However, this maritime trade was always threatened by piracy and hostile powers, so that the development of pure naval forces - that is, ships that no longer carried commercial goods but only had to protect the trade or were supposed to take offensive action against the trade of the enemy - began early on. To the individual types of ships are already many excellent item, so that in the following only a brief outline of the development of the naval forces ( Navy is to take place), the not exhaustive arises:

The first drastic change in modern times was the change in ship propulsion . From the 15th century onwards, ships emerged that could sail (“cross”) against the wind, were no longer dependent on rudder power, and thus gradually replaced the older types of ships, galleys and galeas . The Spanish galleon was one of the first modern, pure sailing ships, was increasingly heavily armed and, in its various forms, became the forerunners of the larger sailing warships. The main warship in later times was the ship of the line , named after its task of lining up a large number of these ships in the main battle. The frigate and corvette were of medium size ; they were used for reconnaissance, but also for independent trade protection and war. The terms brig and brigantine for smaller, two-masted sailors, on the other hand, are not military terms, but merely describe their rigging. In the 19th century, the sails were initially supported by steam propulsion and then replaced entirely by this. At the beginning of the 20th century, the conventional steam engine was replaced by the turbine drive and - somewhat later - supplemented by diesel technology.

A second, very dynamic development took place in the armoring and arming of warships. The armor protection initially consisted of multiple layers of wood and was later replaced by iron and steel. The quality of armor steel has been continuously refined through new processing methods. The armament changed insofar as from the middle of the 19th century it was no longer set up rigidly on the sides, but in pivoting gun turrets; their range increased steadily. The (sailing) ships of the line became steam-powered ships of the line (already referred to as battleship in Great Britain ), and the frigates and corvettes became the cruiser . At the beginning of the 20th century the "Dreadnoughts" were created, so named after the first ship of this type, HMS Dreadnought , which had a main artillery in swiveling towers of uniform, large caliber ("all-big-gun"). The "Dreadnoughts" comprised the rather slow ship of the line or battleship as well as the type of battle cruiser , in which massive armor was dispensed with in order to enable the ships to have a powerful propulsion system and thus a high speed. The last classic - and largest - naval battle between battleship and battlecruiser fleets was the Skagerrakschlacht (Battle of Jutland) in 1916. After the First World War, the types of ships of the line and battlecruisers were merged into the "fast battleship" in almost all larger navies: Good armored and relatively fast ships, which were getting bigger and therefore more expensive to build and maintain. The Japanese Yamato- class ships displaced over 70,000 tons, and the unrealized Montana-class (USA) units would have grown even larger. As a result of the development of the air forces and their weapons, the importance of ship armor receded after the Second World War, as it became clear that no armored ship, however armored, could be effectively protected if the enemy had air sovereignty.

A third and very important modification of the naval forces resulted from the introduction of a completely new weapon, the torpedo . This was developed towards the end of the 19th century and could be used by small units, such as the torpedo boat , but also by the torpedo boat destroyer developed to combat it (later destroyer ) and by submarines to combat war and merchant ships. Thus, at the beginning of the 20th century, three completely new types of ships were created. Destroyers and torpedo boats were seldom used in their original role as fast attackers during World War II, but mainly used defensively, for example to protect naval units and convoys against submarines.

The submarine was the fourth decisive innovation in modern naval warfare. The first submersible was used in the American Civil War (1861-1865); powered by human power, it was ineffective. The submarines only became a weapon of strategic importance in the two world wars, when German submarines in particular inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. However, until about 1943 all submarines were purely submersible; only towards the end of the Second World War emerged with the submarine class XXI types that could remain under water for a long time as snorkel submarines . After the war, the introduction of new technologies, such as B. the nuclear drive and the "drop shape" of the hull, the time spent underwater and the speed under water are considerable. The size of the boats also increased to such an extent that one can speak of submarines.

The aircraft carriers appeared as the fifth innovation from around 1920 . In the Second World War - contrary to the expectations of most naval commanders - they became the main weapon of strategic naval warfare, especially in the Pacific, where large units of this type fought each other in spectacular sea air battles. But even in the Atlantic, the aircraft carrier became a guarantee for the victory of the Allies; here it was mostly smaller escort aircraft carriers whose planes ensured uninterrupted flight monitoring of the Atlantic convoys and thus increasingly affected the German submarines since 1942/43, so that their successes declined sharply. Germany, too, began building an aircraft carrier ( Graf Zeppelin ) from 1935 onwards , but this was never completed due to disputes over competence with Göring's air force and the course of the war.

Amphibious naval forces

The United States ( United States Marine Corps ) and Great Britain ( Royal Marines ) traditionally maintain larger amphibious combat units, which are often considered to be elite troops and are supported by specially built warships and boats. Even Russia , China, France and Spain possessed or have such units. In the past, they fought from the deck of sailing ships with infantry weapons against sailors or marines on the other side. At the end of the 19th century they became naval landing forces, who can also fight infantry alongside the army units on land for a long time and have their own logistics and communication for this. During World War II, amphibious operations became decisive not only in the Pacific War , but also in the landings in North Africa, southern Italy and Normandy. The types of ship used here include landing craft , larger units that only approach the coast, as well as landing craft that run aground on the beach to unload troops and material. Since around 1970, hovercraft - air cushion boats - have also been used to undermine defensive fire as quickly as possible. To support the landing forces there are special storm deck dropships, a combination of helicopter carrier and dropship, which have attack helicopters for tactical support.

Supply ships are of great importance in the aft sea space of all maritime overseas operations. They have fuel and supplies, spare ammunition and spare parts for the front units and can also provide repair assistance for small to medium-sized damage. Hospital ships today are large floating clinics, do not carry weapons and, especially in times of war, must be clearly marked as such on the outside (e.g. by means of light paint and large-area symbols). Both types are also used today in civil disasters, such as after the devastating seaquake off the Indonesian Banda Aceh .

Naval forces of the future

The effect of sea- and land-based aircraft and, more recently, of ship-to-ship missiles suggests that the future belongs to submarines and aircraft carriers in strategic "Great Wars". Smaller surface vessels will support their cover and air surveillance, but otherwise they will rather “show the flag” - ie demonstrate presence and clout in “small wars” without ever actually having to use their firepower.

In any case, the latest trend in naval forces is moving from larger units (except for submarines and aircraft carriers) to smaller combat ships. The cruiser, already only available in the US and Russian fleets, seems to be disappearing, as is the destroyer . The names frigate (today a type of ship approaching the size of destroyers, often equipped with 1–3 helicopters) and corvette (similar, but smaller and usually also slower) are revived. The fight against piracy, one of the tasks of frigates and corvettes in the sailing ship era, will again be a main task of their modern namesakes in the future.

air force

The air forces in each country are also generally called the Air Force; however, the word is often used to describe the German Air Force, especially as an opponent of the RAF / USAF.

As a branch of the armed forces, departments in the army and the navy were established first after the First or, in the case of the United States Air Force, in the Second World War. were merged into an independent armed force. Nevertheless, at a later point in time, naval and army aviators emerged in addition to the air forces. Characteristic of the states of the Warsaw Pact or the former USSR was or is the division of the air force into flying formations and air defense forces, in the case of the SU additional strategic air forces etc.

First World War

The biplane and triplane of the First World War were slow and initially unarmed, the pilot tried to hit the enemy machine with his pistol, the observer dropped small bombs with his hand. In this phase the aircraft only had reconnaissance functions. The legendary dogfights began with the synchronized machine gun that could shoot through the propellers. Bomb planes and zeppelins as bombers terrified London, even though the latter were easily flammable and the overall bomb load was low.

Interwar period

But the memory of the horror of these first air raids stayed alive in England. “The bomber always comes through” was the motto of the representatives of the strategic bombing war, in contrast to the view that the air force as a tactical weapon, as “flying artillery”, was mainly used on the battlefield. In naval warfare, too, the use that the aircraft would be able to provide in reconnaissance and use against ships by means of torpedoes and bombs was not really recognized. Flak units and fighter squadrons emerged at the same time as the bomber units.

Second World War

For (ground-based) air defense belonged in World War II first exclusively flak - anti-aircraft gun (English: Anti-aircraft, AA) , at the end of the war came with the "waterfall" the first FlaRak in appearance. In contrast to the RAF, the German Air Force was conceived as a tactical air force to support the ground forces and fulfilled this expectation, mainly with the dive bombers (" Stuka "). Used in an operational role against London and other cities in 1940, due to the insufficient range of their aircraft and insufficient bomb load, they could not meet these requirements and suffered heavy losses, also because they did not have four-engine bombers.

The British Air Ministry rejected on 14 February 1942 in the area bombing directive ( "statement to carpet bombing " ) to the RAF to concentrate the operations on the morale of the enemy civilian population - in particular those of industrial workers. This goal was not achieved (possibly quite the opposite). Although the RAF and USAF deployed considerably more and larger bombers against Germany, the area bombing failed to fulfill its strategic function; neither morale nor production suffered significantly. The attackers suffered heavy losses; therefore in 1942 they attempted three attacks with a “1000 bomber fleet”: on 30./31. May 1942 this bombed Cologne (" Operation Millennium "). June Essen (956 aircraft) and on 25/26. June Bremen (960 aircraft). Later in the war there were again “1000 bomber attacks” exclusively four-engine machines with a significantly higher bomb load. The air raids on Dresden , Berlin and the Ruhr area in particular went down in history.

The Anglo-American bomber offensive ( Combined Bomber Offensive ) had the war-political aspect to relieve the USSR and to demonstrate to her the seriousness of the war efforts of the Western powers.

Cold War

During the Cold War , the strategic, i.e. H. H-bomb air forces first used the only delivery systems for the new weapon. This meaning went to the agricultural and submarine -based ICBMs lost. Pure bomber planes in a non-strategic function have become rare; the tactical attack role is taken over by fighter-bombers and ground combat support aircraft or helicopters, the latter, however, being assigned to army aviators. The helicopter is also used to transport airborne units.

During the Cold War, too, it became clear that air forces are of considerable tactical importance, for example in the fight against tank units, and that they do not have a decisive effect on the war in strategic use against a determined defender (North Vietnam) despite the enormous bomb load.

Latest time

To avoid own losses of ground troops and to avoid the problem of a declaration of war , air strikes were carried out repeatedly, for example during the Kosovo war . The aim is to target and eliminate military units, armaments factories and logistical hubs (“surgical air strikes”) and to demoralize the population. However, this psychological effect of air strikes is extremely controversial, as civilian casualties almost always occur in such operations, which can be used in the media against the attacker. Instead of the hoped-for demoralization, the opposite can also occur, namely the civilian population - even those against the system - moving closer to the government. This experience had to be made back in World War II .

Armed forces and media

Propaganda and disinformation have existed at all times. Among other things, there were British posters during World War I showing ape-like German soldiers impaling Belgian babies on their blood-drenched bayonets . Also of British origin is the claim that German soldiers chop off civilians' hands in occupied Belgium.

Nazi Germany directed the media through the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda . Listening to foreign radio stations (" enemy stations ") was threatened with severe penalties, including the death penalty. In democratic states, a certain patriotic attitude is required from the media, but this can nonetheless lead to the disclosure of unpleasant facts that should not be addressed by the military-political leadership. (The Mỹ Lai massacre etc.)

On the other hand, television images have a much stronger suggestive power, so that local defeat can give the impression of a lost war. Since the American military got the impression that they would have won the Vietnam War without such negative TV images (not entirely accurate; the political impossibility of attacking the north with ground troops gave the enemy an indestructible base of operations), this should be stopped in the Third Gulf War . That is why the “ embedded journalist ” was born, a reporter whose life depends on the soldiers of the unit he is reporting on, and will devote himself to this task in the sense of military camaraderie (ie keeping silent and hiding unpleasant details). However, the reality has surpassed the media presentation there.

By region

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Military history  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence