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Eastern Front and land warfare was not decisive in WW2

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by Fransen, Jan 7, 2016.

  1. Fransen

    Fransen New Member

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    The idea that WW2 was won by land armies of Allies and that Soviet Union played main role is too easily swallowed by common wisdom. However those who have studied statistics of military production during 1939-45 have found interesting facts challenging the land warfare Eastern Front centric perspective. Here are some of munition production facts might surprise those never heard about them:

    1. USA and UK invested some 20% for land warfare.

    2. Germany invested 58% for air war including anti-aircraft artillery, 12% for sea warfare and just about 30% for land warfare.

    3. Japan used 85% of their war production for air and sea warfare.

    4. Much more German and Japanese aircraft was lost in production or on deployment process to battle zone than in combat.

    5. Germany likely invested less than 20% of their munition production for Eastern Front land warfare.

    6. Germany produced some 100 000 aircraft in 1939-45 but only 9 000 - 10 000 were lost in Eastern Front warfare.

    7. At least twice as many German aircraft was lost in production by allied strategic bombing than in Eastern Front

    8. Germany invested 3 billion for V-2 weapons, a sum value of some 30 000 Pzkw IV tanks of StuG III assault guns.

    9. Just in 1943 Germany invested 4-4.5 billion RM for concrete shelter construction, 80% of it targeting western allied strategic air war (securing production)

    10. Even in late 1944 and early 1945 new generation German XXI U-boats were in high priority for German war production.

    11. German Army was subordinated to defend Courtland until the very end for that Kriegsmarine had place to train and test their new XXI U-boats

    12. Eastern Front was never in high priority compared to protecting war production. From late 1943 to 1945 average 12-13% of German AA-guns were in east. In 1944 just over 15% of Luftwaffe fighters were in whole Eastern Front. German military HQ more likely sacrificed divisions and armies in east or south to secure production especially synthetic fuel, aircraft, U-boats, V-weapons, transport and whole infrastructure.

    13. While Germans invested huge resources and studies for new weapons like V-2, jet aircraft almost all of them were targeting western allied, not Eastern Front. Not a single V-weapon was shot to east.



    These are some of the main points suggesting that Eastern Front, unlike the common wisdom is suggesting might not have been the most important front for Germany at all. If land warfare got just average about 25% of munitions of all military powers it seems to not have been decisive warfare at all. What those powers really were focusing was war in air and sea. Germany had actually only one real strategic weapon so shake allied and it was their U-boat fleet in Atlantic. And indeed there was short period especially in early 1942 when both Churchill and Roosevelt were very worried about the future of war when e.g over 20% of bauxite was sunk by less than 10 German U-boat crews in Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico or east coast of USA. American aircraft production was not able to produce planned 60 000 aircraft in 1942 - they produced 20% less, 48 000. Because U-boats of Dönitz.

    After the war most of German military commanders did agree that Germany lost the war because Luftwaffe lost the war against western allied. Soviet Union played minor role on that process. The truth about land warfare of WW2 (in east, south and west) is that divisions without air cover at all have not much battle value left. They will lost their mobility and become pray for enemy. Western allied leaders made important decision during 1942 to cut budgets of armies and instead give more and more resources to air and sea power. USA (especially Marshall) planned in 1941 to build army of more than 200 divisions. However those plans were abandoned (by Roosevelt and others) and USA had never more than 91 divisions. Britain made same decision: less army divisions, much more air power. Even as early as late 1940 Winston Churchill had mentioned that "the era of huge land armies is over".

    Germany in many ways tried to act in same way. They invested mostly for air and sea warfare. Instead of reducing army they just decided not to give divisions much. German army in Eastern Front was mostly not different than that of 1914-18, horse pulling force. Land warfare was relatively cheap. Equipment losses were easily replaced. Destroyed war production however was nightmare for Nazi regime. Some of the worst was that offense by Spaatz to German synthetic fuel production in spring of 1944.
     
  2. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    Very interesting post, please don't be offended, it's not that I wouldn't trust you! But what are your sources?
     
  3. Fransen

    Fransen New Member

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    USSBS reports. I would recommend also: Phillips Payson O'Brien: "How The War Was Won."

    Though most of history books are suggesting WW2 was not just chain of "decisive land battles". Actually like examples of Operation Citadel are telling, losses of even greatest land battles were not huge at all. Germany lost materian in battle ground of Citadel (first two weeks) just about 0.6% value of their annual war production (of 1943). Even with all losses of whole Eastern Front in July-August 1943 those material losses including aircraft were not devastating: 3.5% of their war production.

    The material losses of Operation Bagration in June-August 1944 were even less devastating: just about 2% of German war production in 1944. Losses in Normandy during same period were much more bad for Germans: about 5%. But still comparing how western allied strategic air war damaged German war production (like synthetic fuel production) those losses in Normandy were not near as terrible. Especially equipment of army were cheap, they were fast and soon replaced by war production.

    Strategic air war by USAAF and RAF had several huge influences. First it forced Germans to pull their air cover from land warfare (east and south) to the Reich. Second it really destroyed production ( 6 000 aircraft in 1943). Third: it sent Luftwaffe to death spiral degrading training programs for pilots even in 1943 and especially after spring of 1944. One should also remember that Romanian oil was not at all as vital for German fuel production as so often claimed. Actually in early months of 1944 only 22% of oil production was imports (including Hungarian oil). Some 94% of German aviation fuel was synthetic production.
     
  4. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    You can make statistics tell whatever you want with a little effort on picking the right ones. I could come with different numbers showing the western effort was irrelevant after 1940 and the bombing campaign a waste of effort with no effect on German industrial output as production continued to rise until the factories were physically occupied, but looking at numbers dies not tell the right story.

    The decline of the Luftwaffe was more due to attrition over the battlefield in the USSR and the Mediterranean as to the big air battles over Germany, by the time the bomber offensive got in full swing the air war was already lost for the Germans, what it did was just attrition the remains.

    Planes are expensive, rifles are cheap, but as the US rediscovered in Korea and the Soviet in Afghanistan no amount of planes will stop a determined enemy with a rifle. Control of the air will prevent large mechanized offensives, but will not ensure victory, you need boots on the ground to win.
     
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  5. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Ummm...No.

    The 60,000 aircraft was a unrealistic demand from President Roosevelt following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Just as his previous demand for 50,000 aircraft was unrealistic. However, he was the President, and the WPB scrambled to come up with a plan to meet Roosevelt's 1942 goal. Further, by March, 1942(the U-Boat attacks had only just begun in mid-January), the WPB already had a good idea that it would be impossible to meet Roosevelt's demanded 60,000 aircraft, and that they expected to produce 33,000 tactical aircraft in 1942.

    Finally...Roosevelt demanded 125,000 aircraft in 1943...The WPB had scheduled some 88,000 aircraft for production during 1943, but, accepted 105,000 as their goal...US production of aircraft for 1943 was just under 85,000.

    U-Boats and Bauxite loss won't explain this shortfall.

    FYI, Roosevelt also wanted 45,000 tanks in 1942, he got about 27,000.
     
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  6. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    How exactly did the U-boats affect US aircraft production? As Takao points out this is not the case as these were numbers wanted but unrealistic, But that aside to my knowledge the US did not require any imports from the UK to build there aircraft, They were to my knowledge 100% American built right down to the raw resources used so unless the U-boats were fitted with wheels and attacked the US factories on land there is no way for them to have affected US aircraft production.
     
  7. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    It's good to have a chance to pick apart sacred cows to see where the truth ends and the lazy thinking begins.

    My personal opinion is that the Eastern Front being the real lynch pin for victory is a bit over stated, but just a bit. I have come to the conclusion that when all factors are calculated credit should be shared nearly equally between the US, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Each brought something unique to the table that neither of the other two could, forcing Germany to fight on every conceivable front and aspect of the battlespace meant she had to counter everything thrown at her.

    Remove any one of the Grand Alliance and victory might still be won, but that may have only resulted in a Pyrrhic Victory for the victors.
     
  8. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    This is an old can of worms that you have reopened and I wil predict the result : from all sides,chauvinists will appear to proclaim that their side was decisive .

    I also object to the use of ammunition production figues to prove your claim .

    The truth is that Germany would lose in all possible constellations ,and that there is no possibility to prove who of the allies was decisive .

    Germany would lose to the SU alone, it would lose against the SU and the US,against the SU and Britain, against the US and Britain Germany against UK ,or Germany against the US can be excluded ..
     
  9. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    I must warn for the use of the USSBS reports : the USSBS members were biased and the German figures they used were manipulated by the Speer lobby (Wagenfûhr)
     
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  10. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    You bring up an excellent point here. And while yes, technological advances within the spectrum of the Second World War were considerable (in fact many advances today were born from the conflict), without land elements, scores of objectives could not have been reached. Look directly at the battle on the Volga. Artillery and aerial forces continuously bombarded key installations to no avail. Strongholds consistently changed hands over and over as the fighting progressed, completely eliminating fighting elements. Without soldiers on the ground, key objectives would never be reached.
     
  11. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    This is...a ridiculous argument.

    85% of Japanese war production is less than the 20% the USA supposedly devoted to land warfare, and far less than the 20% the US & UK devoted to land warfare.

    I am wondering as to your reasoning for even bringing this up?
     
  12. MLW

    MLW recruit

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    World War II could never had been won by the Allies without occupying Germany and Japan. To do that, we had to destroy their military and take ground. That meant ground combat with ground forces fighting on the ground.
     
  13. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    First, I'd have to say that you have not taken into consideration the short range of the V-2, some 200-250 miles, into your calculations.
    Second, the V-2 was practically worthless against tactical targets, and was only moderately effective against city-sized strategic targets.

    How many valuable city-sized Soviet targets were within roughly 200 miles of the German front lines as of August, 1944?

    Edit - I would also add that the V-1 had an even shorter range, and was just as useless against tactical targets.
     
  14. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    There is an empirical rule in economics known as the "law of diminishing returns", it shows that adding a single factor to a process will not increase output once you reach a certain level unless you increase all the other factors as well. It can also be applied to military operations, the success of the German boats off the US coast is an example, a handful of U-Boats did significant damage, trebling the numbers would probably not have increased it by much. The WW1 Zeppelin raids are another example, material damage was minimal, disruption and diversion of resources significant, increasing the number of Zeppelins would probably have achieved nothing.

    Firepower (and aerial bombing is firepower) is a classic case, it's a "denial" not a "control" tool, and humans, given sufficient time, usually adapt to "denial" and continue operating even if probably at reduced efficiency. Adding more and firepower in isolation, late WW1 artillery stile, will get you nowhere unless you trigger a morale effect, it may even be counterproductive. But the morale effect is, unfortunately for the military, not easy to determine in advance.

    Concentrated firepower over a sort period can shock or at least cause massive disruption, that brings about a temporary reduction of enemy capabilities or even a collapse of the will to fight, this is IMHO why the A bomb had more effect than the fire bombings that actually killed more people and why artillerist developed the time on target fire patterns. On the other hand large amounts of firepower that fail to cause collapse apparently can produce a "firepower resistant" breed of defendants, like happened at Cassino and Stalingrad, o, r over and over again in WW1, that will prove extremely hard to defeat.
    The same happens with aerial bombing, it may cause surrender like at Warsaw, Nagasaki or Rotterdam, or increase enemy resolve like Malta and the Battle of Britain, but it's pretty impossible to determine in advance what the result will be though proximity of ground troops to the target is possibly a factor.

    Precision bombing campaigns, like the recent one against Serbia, may be a different beast altogether, as they actually targeted the capability of a complex modern state to function by hitting point targets, but they were way beyond the capabilities of a WW2 era air force.
     
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  15. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    This is re-opening a rather sterile argument that has been covered extensively in history books.

    The figures quoted by the OP is that it is expressed purely in economic effort . Military conflict is a human activity - famously an extension of politics and a struggle between people politicians and and commanders. It cannot be adequately described purely in economic terms.

    There are three components of military force - physical, conceptual and spiritual. The physical component is made up of trained servicemen and women as well as munitions.

    It may be true that the war against the western powers absorbed disproportionate German munitions production. But German manpower, and losses were disproportionately employed and lost on the Eastern Front. Germany and its allies lost some 5 million dead and suffered 4.5 million wounded on the Eastern front. That human cost cannot be expressed purely in economic terms.

    Trained manpower was a limiting constraint on the German ability to wage effective war. By the end of the War the Germans were turning out tens of thousands of aircraft for which it had no adequately trained pilots. Sure, this was a function of the oil shortage,caused partially by western bombing, but also by the defence of the Causasus in 1942 and capture of Rumania by the Red Army.

    Psychologically the turning point was probably Stalingrad. I think this was the time the Germans thought they were likely to lose.
     
  16. Fransen

    Fransen New Member

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    The idea of using body count as best measure for military losses is very common among mainstream historians too. However as the death spiral of Luftwaffe in 1943-45 process is showing: the land army with not real air cover at all didn't have much battle value left. It's very important also to understand that the demise of Luftwaffe was almost totally run by RAF and USAAF. Even Luftwaffe lost figures per combat missions in west and east are suggesting the same. There is clear correlation between high military casualties and lost air dominance (or no air cover at all). Besides majority of those 100 000 aircraft German industry produced were not lost in combat. Deploying problems to Luftwaffe units was big issue in 1943-45. There was revealing trend how Luftwaffe non-operational losses started to rise up much faster than their aircraft strength especially after mid 1943. Until late 1942 losses were not very high. German records are suggesting that in 1944 total 9 872 aircraft were lost or damaged on non-operational duty. In 1942 total 8 498 aircraft were lost or damaged in operational duties in all theaters of war while 2 200 in non-operational. Non-operational losses increased some 350% in two years. Western allied air power sent Luftwaffe to that devastating death spiral were combat losses increased but non-operational losses even much faster. That huge pressure degraded e.g Luftwaffe training programs. Fastest growing losses were those damaged aircraft in non-operational duties.

    I know it's pretty hard for those armchair generals focusing WW2 mostly as a chain of "huge decisive land battles" and hyping especially tanks to realize how much more vital strategic air and sea warfare was. The ability to destroy enemy's war production, cutting ties between industry and its raw material was indeed crucial. But there is one other aspect. If you have compared value of e.g German war machine even in Kursk, all those armour, weapons, vehicles, half-trucks even including aircraft were somewhere just between 250-300 million dollars. On the other hand that military power American Navy and Navy Air Force did have in Marianas year later even excluding enormous numbers of all kind of merchant/support vessels plus thousands of smaller landing vessels had production value of more than 3 billion dollars. Production value did indeed have correlation with battle value and fire power. Generally speaking - land warfare technology was much much less advanced than in air and at sea. Though most of war documents (poisoned by war time propaganda) are showing armies in Eastern front as "powerful" the reality was much more moderate and even ironic. German army in east was horse pulling force with average infantry division having some 5 400 horses while just about 400 trucks in 1943. Amazingly backward compared to the idea of most people have: "huge tank armies with high fire power".

    There is not much need to say about Soviet technology. They got indeed enormous numbers of much better material from west compared to their own obsolete crap. Their tanks like famous T-34 had always serious technical issues because poor production quality. There are new studies also suggesting that it took actually 17 000 working-hours per one T-34, not less than 4 000 hours as myth makers of Soviet Union had claimed. Their aircraft industry is another interesting example. We all know that common Russian mythology how their weapons were "96% made in USSR". Sad to destroy that myth with the fact that without that western aluminium USSR would have never be able to produce 140 000 aircraft. Actually 60% of aluminium was imports. There are lots of other similar interesting details debunking that "96%" myth. Even Zhukov admitted in 1960's. Eastern Front land warfare was relatively backward compared to that in Atlantic and Pacific Navy-Air warfare.
     
  17. Fransen

    Fransen New Member

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    Quote from O'Brien, "How The War Was Won", page 334-335:

    "There is a mistaken notion that the loss of Romania as part of the land war made significant difference in this. In 1944, imported oil made up a relatively small percentage of German fuel products even before the largest oil-production areas were captured by land armies. Ploesti, the large Romanian oil facility near Bucharest which was the largest exporter of fuel product into Germany, fell to the Red Army on August 10, 1944. However, between January and July 1944, imported oil made up only 22% of German oil products and imports had already declined significantly since March. In fact, that what the production figures show is that by the time Ploesti was physically captured, Germany had already lost access to most of its fuel production."

    (note: not all imports came from Romania. Germany got some Hungarian oil too)

    For Luftwaffe itself Romanian oil fields meant even less. In the first quarter of 1944, Germany produced 546 000 tons of aviation fuel, of which 503 000 tons came from hydrogenation.

    For those claiming that hydrogenation, expensive way of producing fuel, been painfully burden for German war production, don't make no mistakes but the little bit over double cost of synthetic fuel compared to imports was just about 2% of German war production. The lost resources, money and time more with fiascos like He-177, Me-410, jet rocket aircraft investing much but receiving not much at all were indeed much heavy burden. However Germans prioritizing air power and new generation XXI U-boats and leaving their hapless bulk infantry horse pulling divisions on their own in east underlines the fact how vital protecting and securing own war production or trying to sunk enemy's production was compared to cheap and less vital land warfare. This is hard for those focusing WW2 from perspective of just body count.
     
  18. Fransen

    Fransen New Member

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    Japanese war production and the share of Army ordnance (all):

    1941: 19%
    1942: 19%
    1943: 14%
    1944: 13%

    (Note: Japanese produced over 200% more in 1944 than in 1941)

    Japan produced also 3% (1943) and 2% (1944) motor vehicles but not all went to Army. Navy got some 50% of all production and Air Forces (both Navy and Army AF) got some 1/3 of war production.

    Source: USSBS, Pacific Report 53, pp. 203-204
     
  19. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    No :

    1) The SU weapons were not crap .

    2) You are exaggerating the importance of LL aluminium : that 60 % of the Soviet aluminium was imported is meaningless : it learns us nothing about how much of the Soviet aluminium was used to produce aircraft .

    3) You can't use the value in money as an argument

    4) You are exaggerating the importance of the allied (=till 1943,mainly British) air attacks on Germany .

    5) WWII was not won by quality,but by quantity
     
  20. Fransen

    Fransen New Member

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    Japan and USSR: production of certain raw materials, 1942-44

    .................1942.............1943..................1944

    Steel ingots (millions of metric tons)
    Japan: ......8.0................8.8......................6.5
    USSR.........8.1................8.5...................10.9

    Coal (millions of metric tons)
    Japan: .......118..............117....................107
    USSR:..........75............... 93....................121

    Iron ore (millions of metric tons)
    Japan: ........7.7................7.5................... 6.1
    USSR:.........9.7................9.3..................11.7

    Aluminium ingots (thousands of metric tons)
    Japan: .....105.................144....................110
    USSR:........ 52.................. 62..................... 82

    Sources: USSBS, Pacific Report 53, p. 112 for Japanese steel ingot production. For Soviet production, see Ellis, The World War II Databook (London, 1993) pp. 274-6

    It's very important to remember how The Battle of Marianas, perhaps one of the few really decisive battles of WW2 really reduced Japanese production after mid 1944. Before that there was steady and impressive increased production. With those figures especially until mid 1944 there are lots of good reasons why e.g Phillips Payson O'Brien mentioned this comment (page 66):

    "While Japan was unable in the end to cope with American production and technology, it showed much greater industrial power than many Eurocentric historians of the war have realized, and its technology in the air-sea war was superior to that of the USSR. Under wartime conditions, it was estimated by the United States that the Japanese were able to double the zise of their GDP between 1937 and 1944. Japan also had to operate during the war without the support of its main ally, while USSR received raw materials and finished goods on an enormous scale, material without which its aircraft construction would have been severely reduced. Japan tried desperately to fight a modern air-sea war but in the end it was overwhelmed. "
     

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