Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Blitzkrieg on Speed


Historian James Holland and his team attempt to walk 22 miles wearing 60 pounds of equipment just as the Nazi army did in the blitzkrieg sieges of WWII. But can they do it without the aid of amphetamines?

Secrets of the Dead: Bombing Aushwitz is now streaming on and PBS apps


German troops, fueled by meth-amphetamine, crush the combined arms of Western Europe in little over a week.

Nazi tactics and technology seem unstoppable.

But did the Wehrmacht truly need a stimulant to achieve victory in 1940?

Was marching 22 miles in a single day an amazing pace?

Or, has the blitzkrieg tale, like the word itself, been warped into legend over time?

Today, Jim'''s gathered a group of fellow history fanatics to put this question to the test.

We'''ve got it all laid out.

We'''ve got British here, the German here . I presume this is an ammunition pouch?

That's right.

That's the ammunition pouch.

You've got three clips in each of those pouches.

They do love leather, don'''t they?

The Germans.

I mean every bit of it is made of leather!

Leather, leather, leather.

And the British had a simpler idea which was to carry a cotton bandolier.

And you just pull the bullet clips out ready to push it into the rifle So the real point of this entire experiment is-- after walking 20 miles around here with all this kit, if you've got a drug that can keep you going can we understand why they're using this in 1940?


Let'''s do it.

Oh my feet.

Now they hurt We'''ll maybe leave that bit out!

Two hours and seven miles in, the group breaks for tea.

For many Allied soldiers, caffeine was the stimulant of choice.

Coffee was so critical to American GI Joes that today, Cup of Joe''' is synonymous with the drink.

They may not be in combat [Dog Bark.] But they are carrying the same 60-pound load that German and British soldiers would'''ve humped back in 1940.

And it'''s proving no easy task.

Where'''s the short cut?

If it'''s another hundred yards I'''m going to absolutely collapse in a pile there.

...My feet are broken My ankles are broke.

So I reckon the 20 miles is achievable.

But day after day, that'''s a very hard thing to ask for a platoon of soldiers.

Despite bruised ankles, they'''ve logged 14 miles in just under four hours.

At this pace, they'''d have easily hit the 22-mile mark of the Wehrmacht.

You know they'''re all trained up for doing this sort of stuff.

So you have to think that walking 22 miles a day over consecutive days for those guys really shouldn't have been a massive problem --without drugs.


PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.