B. H. Liddell Hart
Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart (31 October 1895 – 29 January 1970), usually known before his knighthood as Captain B. H. Liddell Hart, was an English soldier, military historian and leading inter-war theorist. He is credited with greatly influencing the development of armoured warfare.
Life and career 
On the outbreak of World War I in 1914 he became an officer in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and saw action on the Western Front. Liddell Hart's total time in combat measured some seven weeks over a period of two years before the Army downgraded him to "light duties" in 1916 due to the after-effects of gassing  Transferred eventually as Inspector General of Training to the British Armies in France via various appointments in the United Kingdom training volunteer battalion (4th-line units), he contributed to the post-war official manual of Infantry Training published in 1920. After the war he transferred to the Army Educational Corps.
Liddell Hart retired from the Army as a captain in 1927 (after being placed on half pay from 1923 because of two mild heart attacks in 1921 and 1922, probably the long-term effects of his gassing), and spent the rest of his career as a writer. He worked as the Military Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph from 1925 to 1935, and of The Times from 1935 to 1939. Later he began publishing military histories and biographies of great commanders who, he considered, demonstrated greatness because they illustrated the principles of good military strategy. His subjects included Scipio Africanus Major, William Tecumseh Sherman and T. E. Lawrence.
Shortly after World War II Liddell Hart interviewed or debriefed many of the highest-ranking German generals and published their accounts as The Other Side of the Hill (UK Edition, 1948) and The German Generals Talk (condensed US Edition, 1948). Later Liddell Hart was able to convince the family of Erwin Rommel to allow him to edit the surviving papers of the German field marshal into a form which he published in 1953 as the pseudo-memoir, The Rommel Papers.
On 4 September 2006, MI5 files were released which showed MI5 had suspicions that plans for the D-Day invasion had been leaked to Liddell Hart. Liddell Hart had prepared a treatise titled Some Reflections on the Problems of Invading the Continent, which he circulated amongst political and military figures. It is possible that Liddell Hart had correctly deduced a number of aspects of the upcoming Allied invasion, including the location of the landings. Liddell Hart stated his work was merely speculative. MI5 placed him under surveillance, intercepting his telephone calls and letters. Their conclusion was that Liddell Hart might have received the plans from General Sir Tim Pile, who was in command of anti-aircraft defences. No case was ever brought against Pile, supporting the notion that Liddell Hart had simply came to the same conclusions that the Allied general staff had.
Liddell Hart set out following World War I to address the causes of the war's high casualty rate. He arrived at a set of principles that he considered the basis of all good strategy. Liddell Hart believed the failure to act upon these principles which was the case for nearly all commanders in World War I led to the high casualty rate.
He reduced this set of principles to a single phrase: the indirect approach. The indirect approach had two fundamental principles:
- direct attacks against an enemy firmly in position almost never work and should never be attempted
- to defeat the enemy one must first upset his equilibrium, which is not accomplished by the main attack, but must be done before the main attack can succeed.
In Liddell Hart's words,
In strategy the longest way round is often the shortest way there; a direct approach to the object exhausts the attacker and hardens the resistance by compression, whereas an indirect approach loosens the defender's hold by upsetting his balance.
As a corollary he explained
The profoundest truth of war is that the issue of battle is usually decided in the minds of the opposing commanders, not in the bodies of their men.
Hart argued that success can be gained by keeping one's enemy uncertain about the situation and one's intentions. By delivering what he does not expect and has therefore not prepared for, he will be mentally defeated.
Hart explained that one should not employ a rigid strategy revolving around powerful direct attacks nor fixed defensive positions. Instead, he preferred a more fluid elastic defence, where a mobile contingent can move as necessary in order to satisfy the conditions for the indirect approach. He later offered Erwin Rommel's Northern Africa campaign as a classic example of this theory. Liddell Hart's theory closely match what is currently referred to as Maneuver warfare, and has been advanced by John Boyd and his OODA loop Theory of combat and maneuver.
He arrived at his conclusions after studying the great strategists of history (especially Sun Tzu, Napoleon, and Belisarius) and their victories. He believed the indirect approach formed the common element in the careers of the men he studied. He also advocated the indirect approach as a valid strategy in other fields of endeavour, such as business, romance, etc.
Liddell Hart argued that theories similar to or even developed from his own, were adopted by Germany and used against the United Kingdom and its allies during World War II with the practice of Blitzkrieg. According to Shimon Naveh, after the war Liddell Hart helped to create the idea that Blitzkrieg was a military doctrine, contrary to the views of more recent historians that it did not exist as such:
It was the opposite of a doctrine. Blitzkrieg consisted of an avalanche of actions that were sorted out less by design and more by success. In hindsight – and with some help from Liddell Hart – this torrent of action was squeezed into something it never was: an operational design.
Naveh argues that by "manipulation and contrivance, Liddell Hart distorted the actual circumstances of the Blitzkrieg formation and obscured its origins. Through his indoctrinated idealization of an ostentatious concept he reinforced the myth of Blitzkrieg. By imposing, retrospectively, his own perceptions of mobile warfare upon the shallow concept of Blitzkrieg, he created a theoretical imbroglio that has taken 40 years to unravel". The early 1950s literature transformed Blitzkrieg into a historical military doctrine, which carried the signature of Liddell Hart and Heinz Guderian. In his letters to the German generals Erich von Manstein and Heinz Guderian, as well as relatives and associates of Erwin Rommel, Hart "imposed his own fabricated version of Blitzkrieg on the latter and compelled him to proclaim it as original formula".
When Guderian wrote his memoirs, the edition published in Germany differed from the one published in the United Kingdom. In the German version no mention is made of the "English" influence. The German version was published before the British copy. An explanation can be found in the correspondence between the two men. In one letter to Guderian, Liddell Hart asked the German general to give him credit for giving the Wehrmacht its tactical-operational method in 1940:
You might care to insert a remark that I emphasized the use of armoured forces for long-range operations against the opposing Army's communications, and also the proposed type of armoured division combining Panzer and Panzer-infantry units – and that these points particularly impressed you.
Guderian did as Liddell Hart requested, "hence the planted paragraph". Historian Kenneth Macksey found a copy of Liddell Hart's request to Guderian in the German general's papers, but not in Liddell Hart's. When Liddell Hart was questioned about this in 1968, and the discrepancy between the English and German editions of Guderian's memoirs, "he gave a conveniently unhelpful though strictly truthful reply. ('There is nothing about the matter in my file of correspondence with Guderian himself except...that I thanked him...for what he said in that additional paragraph'.)".
- The principal posthumous biography of Liddell Hart, Alex Danchev's Alchemist of War: The Life of Basil Liddell Hart, written with the cooperation of Liddell Hart's widow. It reveals, for example, that Liddell Hart connived at the planting of an endorsement of his own work in the English-language version of Panzer Leader, the autobiography of Heinz Guderian.
- Brian Bond wrote Liddell Hart: a study of his military thought (Cassell, 1977; Rutgers University Press, 1977), which found that Liddell Hart had an influence on generals Blomberg and Reichenau in the early 1930s. Bond also outlined Liddell Hart's influence on certain generals in the Israel Defense Forces' campaigns of 1956 and 1967.
In popular culture 
- In his collection, Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges intertextually weaves "Captain Liddell Hart" into the fictional short story The Garden of Forking Paths.
Works: Partial bibliography 
- Scipio Africanus: Greater Than Napoleon (W Blackwood and Sons, London, 1926; Biblio and Tannen, New York, 1976)
- Great Captains Unveiled (W. Blackwood and Sons, London, 1927; Greenhill, London, 1989)
- Reputations 10 Years After (Little, Brown, Boston, 1928)
- Sherman: Soldier, Realist, American (Dodd, Mead and Co, New York, 1929; Frederick A. Praeger, New York, 1960)
- The decisive wars of history (1929) (This is the first part of the later: Strategy: the indirect approach)
- The Real War (1914–1918) (1930), later republished as A History of the World War (1914–1918).
- Foch, the man of Orleans In two Volumes (1931), Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, England.
- The Ghost of Napoleon (Yale University, New Haven, 1934)
- The Defence of Britain (Faber and Faber, London, 1939; Greenwood, Westport, 1980)
- The Current of War, London: Hutchinson, 1941
- The strategy of indirect approach (1941, reprinted in 1942 under the title: The way to win wars)
- The way to win wars (1942)
- The Revolution in Warfare, London: Faber and Faber, 1946
- The Other Side of the Hill. Germany's Generals. Their Rise and Fall, with their own Account of Military Events 1939–1945, London: Cassel, 1948; enlarged and revised edition, Delhi: Army Publishers, 1965
- Strategy: the indirect approach, third revised edition and further enlarged London: Faber and Faber, 1954
- The Rommel Papers, (editor), 1953
- The Tanks – A History of the Royal Tank Regiment and its Predecessors: Volumes I and II (Praeger, New York, 1959)
- "Foreword" to Samuel B. Griffith's Sun Tzu: the Art of War (Oxford University Press, London, 1963)
- The Memoirs of Captain Liddell Hart: Volumes I and II (Cassell, London, 1965)
- History of the Second World War (London, Weidenfeld Nicolson, 1970)
- Why don't we learn from history? (Hawthorn Books, New York, 1971)
- "Files reveal leaked D-Day plans". BBC News. 4 September 2006.
- Danchev 1998, p. 64.
- Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart, The memoirs of Captain Liddell Hart: Volume 1 (1965 edition), p. 31 : "In April I married the younger daughter, Jessie, of my former assistant adjutant at Stroud, J. J. Stone..."
- Liddell Hart, Adrian John (1922–1991) at aim25.ac.uk, accessed 3 May 2011
- Michael Evans (4 September 2006). "Army writer nearly revealed plans of D-Day". London: The Times.
- Lidell Hart archive, KCL
- Naveh 1007, p. 107.
- Naveh 1997, pp. 107–108.
- Naveh 1997, pp. 108–109.
- Naveh 1997, p. 109.
- Danchev 1998, pp. 234–235.
- Danchev 1998,p. 235.
- Danchev 1998, p. 239.
- Bond, Brian, Liddell Hart: A Study of his Military Thought. London: Cassell, 1977)
- Cambridge Encyclopedia v.68
- Danchev, Alex, Alchemist of War: The Life of Basil Liddell Hart. London: Nicholson, 1998. ISBN 0-7538-0873-0
- Danchev, Alex, "Liddell Hart and the Indirect Approach", 873-0 Journal of Military History, Vol. 63, No. 2. (1999), pp. 313–337.
- Mearscheimer, John, Liddell Hart and the Weight of History. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-8014-2089-X
- Naveh, Shimon, In Pursuit of Military Excellence; The Evolution of Operational Theory. London: Francass, 1997. ISBN 0-7146-4727-6.
- "Defense Is the Best Attack". Time Magazine. 9 October 1939.
- "The Indirect Approach: In Sales Campaigns", a white paper on the application of Liddell Hart's teachings to sales
- Basil Henry Liddell Hart at Find a Grave