Oskar von Hutier
Oskar von Hutier was one of Imperial Germany's most successful and innovative generals of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...



Hutier was born in Erfurt
Erfurt is the capital city of Thuringia and the main city nearest to the geographical centre of Germany, located 100 km SW of Leipzig, 150 km N of Nuremberg and 180 km SE of Hannover. Erfurt Airport can be reached by plane via Munich. It lies in the southern part of the Thuringian...

, in the Prussian Province of Saxony
Province of Saxony
The Province of Saxony was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia and later the Free State of Prussia from 1816 until 1945. Its capital was Magdeburg.-History:The province was created in 1816 out of the following territories:...

. He spent the first year of the war as a divisional commander in France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan 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 Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n-ruled Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 and Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 during the next two years.

Rising to army command early in 1917, Hutier began to apply the lessons learned from his three years of commanding troops, as well as his study of tactics of other armies. He devised a new strategy for the Germans to break the stalemate
Stalemate is a situation in chess where the player whose turn it is to move is not in check but has no legal moves. A stalemate ends the game in a draw. Stalemate is covered in the rules of chess....

 of trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

. His tactics were so successful in 1917 and 1918 that the French named them "Hutier tactics", although today they are called "infiltration tactics
Infiltration tactics
In warfare, infiltration tactics involve small, lightly equipped infantry forces attacking enemy rear areas while bypassing enemy front line strongpoints and isolating them for attack by follow-up troops with heavier weapons.-Development during World War I:...


Hutier tactics

Hutier saw that 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, 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
Shock troops
Shock troops or assault troops are formations created to lead an attack. "Shock troop" is a loose translation of the German word Stoßtrupp...

 (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 gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

s and mortars would make heavy attacks along narrow fronts against any Allied strongpoints the shock troops had 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.

Other generals had planned attacks along similar lines in the past, the best known of which was Russian general Aleksei Brusilov
Aleksei Brusilov
Aleksei Alekseevich Brusilov was a Russian general most noted for the development of new offensive tactics used in the 1916 offensive which would come to bear his name. The innovative and relatively successful tactics used were later copied by the Germans...

 in his eponymous offensive of 1916.


On 3 September 1917, Hutier, commanding the German Eighth Army, ended the two-year siege of the Russian-ruled city of Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

 with his tactics. He followed this success with an amphibious assault (the only successful one of the war) to seize Russian-held islands in the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...


Though Hutier was not present, other German generals used his methods in October 1917 to win a spectacular victory over the Italians
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 at the Battle of Caporetto
Battle of Caporetto
The Battle of Caporetto , took place from 24 October to 19 November 1917, near the town of Kobarid , on the Austro-Italian front of World War I...

. Hutier was awarded the Pour le Mérite
Pour le Mérite
The Pour le Mérite, known informally as the Blue Max , was the Kingdom of Prussia's highest military order for German soldiers until the end of World War I....

 by Kaiser
Kaiser is the German title meaning "Emperor", with Kaiserin being the female equivalent, "Empress". Like the Russian Czar it is directly derived from the Latin Emperors' title of Caesar, which in turn is derived from the personal name of a branch of the gens Julia, to which Gaius Julius Caesar,...

 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
Spring Offensive
The 1918 Spring Offensive or Kaiserschlacht , also known as the Ludendorff Offensive, was a series of German attacks along the Western Front during World War I, beginning on 21 March 1918, which marked the deepest advances by either side since 1914...

. He hammered the Allied line along the gap between the French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 armies, advancing some 40 miles along the Somme River
Somme River
The Somme is a river in Picardy, northern France. The name Somme comes from a Celtic word meaning tranquility. The department Somme was named after this river....

 toward Amiens
Amiens is a city and commune in northern France, north of Paris and south-west of Lille. It is the capital of the Somme department in Picardy...

. The German Army captured 80,000 prisoners and 975 artillery pieces. 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 German Army advanced in what became known as the Second Battle of the Marne
Second Battle of the Marne
The Second Battle of the Marne , or Battle of Reims was the last major German Spring Offensive on the Western Front during the First World War. The German attack failed when an Allied counterattack led by France overwhelmed the Germans, inflicting severe casualties...

, they found the American and French defenders had created a deep defensive system which the depleted and exhausted shock troop units failed to break. Once the German advance 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.

Nevertheless, Hutier returned to postwar Germany as a hero. Like his overall commander and cousin, General Erich Ludendorff
Erich Ludendorff
Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff was a German general, victor of Liège and of the Battle of Tannenberg...

, Hutier maintained that the German Army had not been defeated in the field, but was "stabbed in the back
The stab-in-the-back legend is the notion, widely believed in right-wing circles in Germany after 1918, that the German Army did not lose World War I but was instead betrayed by the civilians on the home front, especially the republicans who overthrew the monarchy...

" by domestic 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
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

in 1934.

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