The Inter-war period between World War I and World War II was a time that governments relied on treaties and pacts to maintain peace rather than wage war. Some of these treaties and pacts did more to instigate war than to help deter it. Some examples of these are the Versailles Treaty, which basically all but dismantled the German military structure, another example is that of the Paris Peace Act of 1928, which was ” a voluntary renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy”. Because treaties such as these, the reciprocal effect of any deviation caused tensions which eventually resulted in global conflict. What we will discuss in the following essay will cover weapon and doctrinal advancements, which were intended to return decisiveness, back to the business of waging war, with minimal losses of equipment and human life.
During the inter-war period, militaries were primarily led by officers who were conservative in their approach to military structure and combat. One notable and very important aspect that became a topic of much debate during the period between WWI and WWII was that of armored and motorized warfare. Not only armored vehicles such as tanks but also motorized vehicles for logistical purposes as well. The conservative stance regarding these new weapons systems, which were introduced during WWI, was that they were to be utilized in a support role for the infantry and cavalry. This came at a time when most of the armies of the world were transitioning away from horse-drawn supply trains and tactical cavalry, due to the modernization of motorized military vehicles.
Several leaders who opposed the conservatives on the role of armor and motorized warfare went on to become some of the most well known military writers ever. Two of these men were British General J.F.C. Fuller and British Captain B.H. Liddell Hart. Both of these British officers wrote and created doctrine that would be instrumental in the waging of armored warfare for not only WWII but also well into the twenty-first century. Instead of using tanks and tracked artillery for nothing more than infantry support they believed in, and created doctrine that placed an emphasis on fast moving offensive operations that would strike deep into the enemy’s territory, so fast as to render the enemies attempt to regain a structured defense or counter attack futile.
This ironically would be the template for the German blitzkrieg, which was implemented by Heinz Guderian after extensive research of Fuller and Liddell Hart’s doctrinal advancements. Although the British had well made tanks which could carry out this type of warfare, Guderian took this to another level with improvements to tank engines and armament and also the structuring of motorized divisions to carry out this new brand of warfare. It was believed by these men, that one tank could do what it would take a company of infantryman to do, and more!
Advancements in the inter-war period were not only on ground fighting doctrine and weaponry, but also in the naval aspects as well. During the 1920’s, the Washington Naval Treaty imposed strict guidelines upon the navies of the U.S., Japan, France and Italy. These guidelines kept ships to certain regulations that limited the size of guns and of the countries entire navy itself. What this did basically caused atrophy in naval progression. In the 1930’s when Hitler’s Germany openly disavowed compliance with the Versailles Treaty and began the re-galvanizing of it’s army and navy, it caused the nations which would become Germany’s enemies to begin changing doctrine and methods in the conduct of naval operations.
Also, the arrival of the aircraft carrier in almost every advanced navy created new threats with aircraft. The Japanese utilized aircraft carriers heavily in the war in the Pacific, as well did the United States. No two countries during WWII put so much emphasis on the carrier. What the carrier did was to allow aircraft to be launched from a ship far away into either enemy territory or enemy seas to attack either ships or targets on land without risking the loss of a naval ship. This was a naval doctrine created during the inter-war period.
Air forces also went through extensive change during the inter-war period. First, the advancements of aircraft themselves in this period were perhaps the largest and most significant technological advancement of all. Airplanes had developed into short-range fighters, which could attack with speeds that were un-thought of in the era of bi-planes. Also, there was the advent of long range fighters to escort long-range bombers, which could hold large amounts of ordinance to drop on the enemy’s cities.
Because of these advancements, countries began racing to create the best aircraft that they could make. Each country would create superior aircraft in an effort to control the sky. The two countries that set the pace in this regard were Germany and Japan. Both enemies to Britain and the US, these two countries pushed the Allies to make formidable opposition and air defense systems.
The period between WWI and WWII was a period of radical change to doctrine and weaponry. The creation of treaties and the League of Nations served as nothing more than a hopeful buffer to deter the waging of war. By creating these strict guidelines, the world did nothing more than antagonize one another to the point of global conflict. Advancements made during this period were a direct result of men who knew that peace could never truly be attained with peace.