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Oskar von Hutier: Wikis


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General von Hutier

Oskar von Hutier (27 August 1857 ‚Äď 5 December 1934) was one of Germany's most successful and innovative generals of World War I.

Hutier was born in Erfurt in the Prussian Province of Saxony. He spent the first year of the war as a divisional commander in France, performing well but not distinguishing himself until the spring of 1915, when he was transferred to the Eastern Front. There, he became a corps commander attached to the German Tenth Army, and helped that force conquer large parts of Russian-held Poland and Lithuania over the next two years.

After rising to army command early in 1917, Hutier began to apply the lessons learned from his three years of commanding troops, along with his study of tactics used by other armies. He devised a new strategy for the Germans to break the stalemate of trench warfare. These tactics were to prove so successful in 1917 and 1918 that the French dubbed them "Hutier tactics", although the more commonly used term today is "infiltration tactics".


Hutier tactics

Hutier had noticed that in many previous battles, the conventional method of launching an attack, with a lengthy artillery barrage all along the line followed by an assault from massed infantry, was leading to disastrous losses. He suggested an alternative approach, now called either Hutier Tactics or infiltration tactics, which consisted of these basic steps:

1: A short artillery bombardment, featuring heavy shells mixed with numerous poison gas projectiles, which would concentrate on neutralizing the enemy front lines, rather than on destroying them by itself.

2: Under a creeping barrage, German shock troops (Sturmbatallione) would move forward and infiltrate the Allied defenses at previously identified weak points. They would avoid combat whenever possible and attempt to destroy or capture enemy headquarters and artillery strongpoints.

3: After the shock troops had done their job, German Army units heavily equipped with machine guns and mortars would make heavy attacks along narrow fronts against any Allied strongpoints the shock troops missed. When the artillery was in place, officers could direct the fire wherever it was needed to accelerate the breakthrough.

4: In the last stage of the assault, regular infantry would mop up any remaining Allied resistance.

Many other generals had planned attacks along similar lines in the past, dating as far back as United States Army Colonel Emory Upton at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House in 1864. Allied generals had done so on a small scale in earlier battles in France, but Hutier was the first commander to employ them successfully on a wide, ongoing scale.


On 3 September 1917, Hutier, commanding the German Eighth Army, ended the two-year siege of the Russian-owned city of Riga with his tactics. He followed that success with an amphibious assault (the only successful one of the war) to seize Russian-held islands in the Baltic Sea.

Although Hutier was not present, other German generals used his methods in October 1917 to win a spectacular victory over the Italians at the Battle of Caporetto. Hutier was awarded the Pour le Mérite by Kaiser Wilhelm II and transferred to the Western Front in 1918.

In March of that year, Hutier again employed the infiltration tactics in the Spring Offensive and hammered the Allied line along the gap between the French and British armies, advancing some 40 miles along the Somme River toward Amiens. The Germans took 80,000 prisoners, captured 975 artillery pieces and Hutier was awarded the Oak Leaves to accompany his Pour le Mérite.

Final days of World War I and retirement

Hutier's tactics were used in another major victory against the French in June 1918, but the Allies had begun to develop counters to his methods. In July, when the Germans again advanced in what became known as the Second Battle of the Marne, the American and French defenders had created a deep defensive system which the depleted and exhausted shock troop units failed to break. Once the Germans lost the initiative, the Western Allies counterattacked. The introduction of new technology (improved aircraft, tanks, etc), tactics (combined arms, improved artillery handling), and training (ironically much of which was adapted from Hutier's earlier successes) meant that the Germans had lost the edge they had, and even the talent of Hutier, Hindenburg, and Ludendorff could not save the situation. The repeated batterings were to prove fatal to the German military, which eventually collapsed under the strain in all but a few sectors, forcing Germany to the peace table.

Still, Hutier returned to postwar Germany as a hero. Like his overall commander and cousin, General Erich Ludendorff, Hutier maintained that the German Army had not been defeated in the field, but was "stabbed in the back" by enemies on the home front.

Hutier left the army in 1919 and served as president of the German Officers' League until shortly before his death in Berlin in 1934.

See also



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