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Generaloberst Hans von Seeckt

Hans von Seeckt, chief of staff of the army from 1919 to 1920 and army commander in chief from 1920 to 1926, was born in Schleswig, Germany on April 22, 1866. Although Seeckt died in 1936, evidence of his work was everywhere in the German Army in World War II. The real author of Mackensen's victories in the Great War, after the Armistice Seeckt set about to make the best he could of the treaty-restricted, hundred-thousand-man Reichswehr. His best was very good indeed.

As leader of the Reichswehr from 1920 to 1926, Gen Hans von Seeckt [far less commonly, von Seekt] provided an impression on the German military that was to last through World War II. The most prominent spokesman of the "trench school" was General Walter Reinhardt, whoserved briefly as Chef der Heeresfeitung prior to Seeckt. Reinhardt was dismissed from this position as a result of the Kapp Putsch in 1920. Although Seeckt was an ardent advocate of maneuver warfare, his early influence was counterbalanced by other senior officers of the "trench school." Seeckt, whose wartime experience had been mostly on the more fluid Russian and Balkan Fronts, retained an enthusiasm for maneuver.

The Kapp Putsch, was the first protest against the sudden changes which had taken place since the fall of Imperial Germany, and against the acceptance of the Versailles Treaty. Wolfgang Kapp, an East Prussian landowner; Captain Hermann Ehrhardt, commander of a Free Corps marine brigade; and retired General Erich Ludendorff, who had been First Quartermaster General prior to General Groener, provided the leadership for the uprising.

The Kapp Putsch revealed the philosophy which General von Seeckt used to construct the Reichswehr, though the question of why General von Seeckt refused to support the government is not easily answered. General von Seeckt was determined to keep the Army out ofdomestic politics. "There is a danger of mistaking the state for the state form and even more, the party for the state, " he said. And,further, "We . . . look for the healthy development of the empire structure along the following lines: unconditional maintenance of empire unity toward the outside world . . . "

Germany attempted to secure permission from the allied conference at San Remo to maintain the strength of the Reichswehr at 200,000 men. This was refused. By a decision of the Allies on April 27, 1920 Germany was allowed to maintain an army of 200,000 men until July 10, 1920, when her forces were to be reduced to 100,000, as stipulated by the Treaty of Versailles. Meanwhile a German decree of March 6, 1920, established a new table of organization for an army of transition which was to supplant the Reichswehr. This Uebergangswehr was to have the same number of units as the future army in its final form, namely, twenty mixed brigades, three cavalry divisions, and special and sanitary troops. At the Spa conference of July 7, 1920, between the Germans and the Allies, General von Seekt, speaking for Germany, asked for a delay of fifteen months in order to reduce the army from two hundred thousand to one hundred thousand men. This request resulted in fresh negotiations and the granting of further delays to Germany.

Although the new German army was finally reduced to the table of organization provided by the Treaty of Versailles, it reflected nevertheless the best work of those German military leaders, such as General von Seekt, who have since the November revolution devoted all their energies to the military reorganization of the Fatherland. As a result, the present German ministry of war was perhaps better organized than the war ministries of France, England, and Italy. It incorporated in the details of its organization many of the important lessons of administration and instruction which were learned during the world war.

The training of the Reichsheer was one of the most important imprints left by General von Seeckt, who became the first Chief of Staff and remained in that position until 1926. The time spent on the school of the soldier and close order drill Avas reduced once discipline had been established. Emphasis was then placed on field training.

Seeckt was convinced that a renewed emphasis on bold offensive maneuver could, in the future, result in rapid battlefield victories. A man of strong convictions, Seeckt was intolerant of subordinates who did not endorse his ideas. Those officers of the trench school who were unwilling to adapt themselves to Seeckt's theories were either silenced or dismissed.34 Therefore, Seeckt was able to bend the Reichswehr's training sharply in the direction of mobility and maneuver.

Seeckt believed that the mobility lost in the trench warfare of World War I could be regained by the infantry-artillery team with tank and air support. Trucks were made into mock tanks for training purposes by the addition of cardboard and wooden superstructures. Such passive air defense measures as camouflage were stressed. Former tank officers were assigned to the supply and transportation services

General von Seeckt's policy required military personnel to refrain from engaging in political activities, giving credence to the belief that the Army represented the German nation and not the administration in office. Nevertheless, during Seeckt's tenure, there was considerable deference by political leaders to the Reichsheer. An icy, aloof individual, Seeckt spoke for the Army as a solid, determined block of 100,000 armed men and the ultimate government force.

Military developments under Weimar centered around the dominant personalities of Generaloberst Hans von Seeckt and Generalmajor Kurt von Schleicher, the former responsible for the development of the Reichswehr. While 'Chief of the Truppenamt or General Staff, General von Seeckt brought order to Germany and provided the stability that offered the leaders of Weimar an opportunity to establish an effective government. He created a "leaders" army, reintroduced the strategy of mobile warfare, and attempted to separate the Officer Corps from domestic politics. He sought to reestablish Germany as a world power, and, in order to do so, evaded the military provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. Junior officers under General von Seeckt could not fail but observe the treaty violations and secret rearmament. Thus, the Prussian traditions of discipline, duty, and honor that General von Seeckt sought to develop were undermined by von Seeckt himself.

He was (1930-32) a member of the Reichstag, representing the conservative People's party. In 1934-35 he was a military adviser to Chiang Kai-shek in China. Among his writings are The Future of the German Empire (tr. 1930) and Thoughts of a Soldier (1929, tr. 1930).

When Seeckt retired under political pressure in 1926, he left a legacy of solid doctrine and high technical ability in the Reichswehr. He had held the army together and turned its attention to new kinds of warfare. But one of the earliest rearmament measures ordered by Hitler was the construction of fortifications along Germany's border with France - a repudiation not only of the Versailles Treaty, but, also of Seeckt's doctrines of offensive maneuver. Ironically, the building of the Maginot Line was inspired in part by French fears of Seeckt's theories of preemptive offensive warfare.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:55:36 ZULU