Truppenamt and the Treaty of Versailles: The First Violation

Much has been written about the treaty which concluded the First World War, its competing and sometimes conflicting goals that left no victor contented: Germany was not pacified or conciliated, nor permanently weakened. This would prove to be a factor leading to later conflicts, notably and directly World War II.

But at what point exactly was this long drawn out and hard fought-for treaty first violated, well, amazingly only a few weeks after the diplomats had locked their portable drink's cabinets and headed for home, in the form of the German 'Truppenamt'.


The Truppenamt or 'Troop Office' was the cover organization for the German General Staff from 1919 through until 1933 when the General Staff was re-created. This subterfuge was deemed necessary in order for Germany to be seen to meet the requirements of the Versailles Treaty. It completely revised German tactical and strategic doctrine and thereby conserved, re-energised and unified the military thinking and capability of the Reichswehr, later to become the Wehrmacht.
The Versailles Treaty specified that the post-World War I German army could have a maximum strength of 100,000, of this number only 4000 could be officers. At the same time, the General Staff was to be abolished. In late 1919, soon after the treaty was agreed, Hans von Seeckt the head of the General Staff dissolved the General Staff and initiated a programme to rethink and rewrite German doctrine as well as reorganise the Army to comply with the treaty. In 1920, when von Seeckt was appointed chief of the army command this expanded to rebuilding a new army from scratch.

When the General Staff was dissolved in 1919, its Operations Section became the Truppenamt whilst other sections of the Staff were transferred to government departments: the history section to the Interior Ministry Reich Archives, the Survey and Maps section to the Interior Ministry Survey Office and the Transportation section to the Transportation Ministry. The Economic and Political sections were placed directly under the control of the chief of the Army Command. Thus the core of the General Staff became the four new sections of the Truppenamt: T1 the Army section (operations and planning), T2 the organisation section, T3 the statistical section (actually intelligence) and T4 the training section. As von Seeckt said at the time "the form changes, the spirit remains the same".

One week after the dissolution of the General Staff, von Seeckt started a programme to collect and analyse the experiences of the First World War and to create a new military doctrine for the Reichwehr. The new programme consisted of 57 committees which would study tactics, regulations, equipment and doctrine. This effort was seen as important to put the experience of war in a broad light and collect this experience whilst it was still fresh. The output of the committees was to be short, concise studies on the newly gained experiences and in particular (a) what new situations arose that had not been considered before; (b) how effective were pre-war views in dealing with these situations; (c) what guidelines were developed for new weaponry during the war; and (d) which new problems put forward by the war have not yet found a solution.


Hans von Seeckt
This programme covered diverse topics from military justice and questions of troop morale to river crossings, flame throwers and the military weather service. Military leadership was a key focus with seven committees covering different levels and aspects. In order to cover these areas experienced officers were appointed to serve on the committees. These officers were often ex-General Staff but specialist experts were included even if they were not. The T4 section's job was to collect and review the committee outputs and to recommend changes to the committee structure, to military regulations and to doctrinal manuals. Seeing the intense effort being made by the Army, the Air Service within the Truppenamt embarked on a similar programme and by mid-1920 the manpower that made up all these committees was over 500 officers.

Whilst all the big nations revised their tactics post-World War I, it is a notable contrast that Germany put its experienced General Staff officers of Captain and above to the task whilst others put juniors of limited experience. For example, the UK assigned the task of rewriting the infantry manual to Basil H Liddell Hart, a 24-year old Lieutenant of limited experience. Even here, the War Office reinserted chapters from the 1911 manual where it deemed appropriate.

Most of the output of the committees have been lost but where they still exist there is a clear link to the new regulations and manuals that started to be issued in 1921. By 1923, the major outputs of this work were completed and the results show up in new manuals issued from that time which demonstrate a high level of tactical thought. Experience from World War I was incorporated as seen in the new infantry regulation of October 1922 where 10-12 squads included a light machine gun with the rifle section and fluid fire-and-manoeuvre stormtroop tactics are endorsed. It is also important to note that the manuals do not limit themselves to the armaments allowed by the Versailles Treaty envisaging tactics using forbidden infantry cannons for example. It is here that we see explicit strategic capabilities being built into the new unified doctrines, so such things as cross-training requirements being built into regulations; e.g. transport troops being required to train a set number of wagon drivers as cannon gunners and as engineers specialising in bridges.

Alongside the Truppenamt in the new army high command were the Weapons Office and branch inspectorates. The relationship between these three entities was very close since between them they determined materiel, doctrine and training. In the early 1920s, the Truppenamt contained a transportation section, T7 (there never was a T5 or T6). Altogether these three bodies contained two hundred officers, almost all ex-General Staff, who formed an efficient and practical organisation for guiding the rebuilding of the Reichswehr.