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For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg (disambiguation)

Blitzkrieg (German, "lightning war"; About this sound listen ) is an anglicized word[1][2][3][Notes 1] describing all-mechanized force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery and air power, concentrating overwhelming force and rapid speed to break through enemy lines, and once the latter is broken, proceeding without regard to its flank. Through constant motion, the blitzkrieg attempts to keep its enemy off-balance, making it difficult to respond effectively at any given point before the front has already moved on.

During the interwar period, aircraft and tank technologies matured and were combined with systematic application of the German tactics of infiltration and bypassing of enemy strong points.[7] When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Western journalists adopted the term blitzkrieg to describe this form of armoured warfare.[8] Blitzkrieg operations were very effective during the blitzkrieg campaigns, 1939 - 1941. These operations were dependent on surprise penetrations (e.g. the penetration of the Ardennes forest region), general enemy unpreparedness and an inability to react swiftly enough to the attacker's offensive operations. During the Battle of France, French attempts to re-form defensive lines along rivers were constantly frustrated when German forces arrived there first and pressed on.[9]

Only later, during the invasion of the Soviet Union, would the flaws of blitzkrieg come to be realized. In France and Poland the foot-bound infantry had been, at most, a few hours behind the armored spearheads. In the vast open Russian steppe delays of hours would become days, allowing the Soviet forces to gather at points far behind the lines and thereby give their infantry enough time to set up defensive positions.[10] In the Battle of Stalingrad for instance, the Soviet forces formed up hundreds of kilometers from the German breakout point. The Germans as well as the Allies, both in the West and the Soviet Union, would eventually realize the failings of blitzkrieg warfare.[11]

Academics since the 1970s have questioned the existence of blitzkrieg as a coherent military doctrine or strategy. Many academic historians hold blitzkrieg itself to be a myth. Others continue to use the word to describe German strategy and doctrine throughout the Second World War (see controversy section).

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