The defeat of the German army in World War II was accomplished through a massive undertaking by a multinational force and brilliant military strategies executed effectively. But despite that defeat, it is important to step back and give credit where credit is due. The German military attack plans delivered to Hitler victory after victory to such an extent that it seemed German was poised for world domination.
The military genius behind the German’s early successes utilized every resource at their disposal to achieve victories that created deep fear in Germany’s enemies. Along with a powerful army, navy and aerial combat capability, Germany also used clandestine methods to strike their enemies and weaken them before the battle was joined. One such clandestine method was an elite strike force that entered enemy territory and executed acts of subterfuge that made the task of the soon to come invading armies much easier to accomplish. That elite strike force came to be known as the Brandenburg Commandos.
The Brandenburg Commandos were the brainchild of a veteran of World War I, Theodore von Hippel. Hippel was astute in observing how effective guerrilla tactics worked when used by Germany’s enemies in Turkey and the Middle East. He conceived of developing a small, clandestine unit that would be used to go ahead of an invasion force and create disruption and disable enemy defenses before the primary military operation got underway.
Hippel met with some resistance with the German military establishment about putting together such a unit. The feeling was that since these commandos would strike without warning and work in secrecy, often blending in with the local population, these tactics violated the normal rules of warfare. Because use of espionage and guerrilla tactics were “beneath” the dignity of the rank and file military, even when Hippel was allowed to move forward with his plan, he was not able to call them soldiers which is why the term “commandos” was used to describe this elite unit.
Finally the German high command allowed Hippel to put together a unit of commandos to use in the upcoming invasion of Poland. Known as the Ebbinghaus Battalion, their effectiveness at going ahead of the invading army and conducting sabotage on unsuspecting enemy sites was a tremendous success. While the Ebbinghaus Battalion was dissolved after one successful venture, the success of its mission was noticed by German intelligence. Hippel put together a similar unit in Brandenburg made up of many of the skilled commandos from the Ebbinghaus Battalion.
In every way the Brandenburg commandos were different from the rest of the German military. They were racially mixed and their composition and training was focused on allowing to slip into the enemy population and blend in seamlessly in advance of a German attack to perform espionage and sabotage on the enemy’s defenses.
From the Polish campaign going forward, German military planners utilized the specialized skills and focus of the Brandenburg commandos to soften each new point of invasion and set up victory after victory for the German invading armies. From Poland to the Balkans to Stalingrad, the Brandenburg Commandos had a big part to play in each major German military victory. Small wonder that this small elite battalion earned more medals and commendations than any other German military unit of the time. The Brandenburg Commandos were one the reasons that throughout the most sweeping war of the twentieth century, the German army was feared worldwide.