Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by Zefer, Sep 2, 2009.
Simply math tells us that they had sufficient supplies for the number of men they had.
Simple math should tell you this is impossiple. Germany was short of many of the materials necessary to fight a modern war and were the only nation whose industry was subjected to heavy bombardment through the war. The industry they did have was ill equipped to fight a war on the scale of WWII, facing the multiple enemies as they did. They certainly did not have the agriculture necessary to support millions of men in the field. The math is quite simple and can be backed up by any careful reading. I believe it was Guy Sajer's memoir that I read years ago which described his life as an infantryman with very little to eat and shortage of decent clothing and boots.
You have to remember that many of the stories we hear about how Germany was, are from foreigners and they often sight other foreigners who also sight others, and there ends up being no truth in it.
You also need to be careful about easily believing the German perspective. I've seen it mentioned by many sources that German generals pretty much altered a lot in their memoirs for the sake of personal and national pride. There are a host of reasons for the Germans to lie while a non-German historian has very little to gain by pointing out German dificiencies.
You have to be very skeptical of what you read...
This is true and I have to wonder why you choose to believe Germans. Numerous accounts of combat have been exagerated, tank kills inflated, etc. What makes German combatants believeable to you? There are many non German writers that do excellent research and a simple look at their sources will tell that.
So who are you going to believe? Scuttlebutt, or two decorated vets who fought through the entire war and on all fronts between the two of them?
Statements like this seem to indicate a bias on your part. These men were decorated by the NAZI regime. The same regime that encouraged atrocities of every kind. The same regime that inflated numbers of tank kills for commanders to parade them as poster fighters for the war effort. Read some of the fabricated accounts by German tankers and tell us about who to believe.
The idea that Germany couldnt even drive its own trucks is completely wrong. They even had enough gas for the company commander to make nightly trips to his girls home...
The problem with reading one book is generalizing it to the war as a whole.
The size of a unit is all relative. A Russian Division is only about 5-6k men, does that mean that they are only at 1/3 strength?
No. It means that they have a different make up to a division. The same would apply to the difference between the number of men in an armored division and an infantry division. They are simply different.
Not at all. If the Germans had 100 divisions which only had 50 divisions of men and equipment, they had 50 divisions of men and equipment, split in half.
The difference being that if they send divison I north and it is short it shows up to battle short. It doesn't take men from division II to fill out its ranks. The problem with this is that each unit within the division is understrength. If the division commander sends a battalion to meet an enemy threat in a certain area it will be short of the men he wants it to have to do the job. This should be easy to understand.
If the Germans had taken their troops and combined them into whole units, they would have had completely full units. Its only a technicality that the units had limited men and supplies.
NO, this is wrong.
The units were small and had small supplies. If they were so low, then it must be a lie that they pushed all the way across Russia and Europe.
The numbers agree with the first person stories, supplies were available, and they were delivered regularly with trucks, almost without interruption. Many times they didnt even have problems with air attack
And they didn't lose the war either.
... like Otto Carius did. Even he himself says not to believe anybody who cant show you where and what he did in his official German paybook.
He should know, he's German.
Master Chief has spoken....
In France for example, the Germans ran on a logistical shoestring and often utilized captured supplies like fuel (filling their tanks and vehicles at French gas stations and the like) to allow them to push beyond the 300 mile limit and reach the Channel coast. The push into the middle of France had to wait more than a week to begin to give time for the supply train to catch up with the advancing army. That the road and rail network in both Belgium and France was largely intact and usable as was helped immensely.
Thats funny, Rommel had no problems of the sort. In fact, the only time he ever ran low on support was when his own support troops failed to resupply him one night. Otherwise, his papers which were written each day did not describe any shortages at all.
When the Germans move to Russia they don't have the luxury of a rail and road system that is intact and usable. So, they substituted motor transport (Grosstransportraum / Large transport colums). For the short term this worked to allow them to push an additional 300 or so miles into Russia. The collapse of the Red Army allowed an even further push. But, by the time they got close to Moscow they had pushed past their culmunating point and were looking at making the final push to take that city with small improvised columns of what mobile troops still retained some degree of ability to advance and fight. It was not going to be enough to win. Hence a stalemate ensued.
The stalemate ensued after the Germans allowed the Germans to get into place. You cannot say that waiting an entire summer to build up supplies, and to attack just before the roads became nearly impassible helped anybody but the Russians. Any argument which does not take into account the Germans sitting on their own rears, is not an argument. Nothing else matters if they let the Russians build up and fortify.
When it comes to transport, yes, the Germans mainly used trains for long distances. They did not have small and improvised columns, even at half strength each unit had over 60 trucks. Even soldiers like George Grossjaohan, who fought in a otherwise normal infantry unit, did not describe many time when they were in need. It was only in the times when they were in extemely poor situation, like being attacked by naval artillery in Normandy, or bein surrounded by the enemy, that they ever talked about having low supplies. During normal operations they never complained about such things. If the huge majority of operations had adiquate supplies, than its not fair to say that the main reason the Germans lost was their supplies. It was tactics, like leaving their flanks open by Hitler's direct order which allowed the encirclement of some of the best armies. It was also things like trying to break stalingrad instead of using blitzkrieg to surpass and encircle the city. The idea that the Russians could launch attacks out of the city and into the Germans sides was absurd, as they were limited by the same road network and could not move forces laterally like that. Tactics, and only tactics, is what caused Germany to fall.
The Soviet counterattack was also too weak and poorly supported to do more than be a spoiler that forced the Germans onto the defense for winter. The following spring with a somewhat improved, but still marginal, supply situation the Germans again pushed forward with Army Group South. Again, they went past the 300 mile supply distance and past the culminating point of victory. They ran their supply system on a shoestring. It resulted in defeat at Stalingrad and the destruction of 6th Army.
Once again, you totally overlook the most basic observations. So some historian wrote that the Germans were on the defensive in the winter, it must be right. The fact is that the Germans had several extremely effective offensives in the winter. Even in the winter of 43/44, they suffered very little failures in the north, as they destroyed massive numbers of Russians and then counterattacked and took the land back. The Russians ended the winter with nothing more than what they started with. They even attempted a landing on the Baltic coast with elite troops, and were decimated by an extremely small number of German troops.
Stalingrad wasn't caused by a railhead, you have got to be kidding me. Its common knowledge that the Germans had railheads right up to the battlefield, and that tanks were offloaded just miles from their positions. The supply situation outside of Stalingrad was rather good, but after they were surrounded due to Hitlers orders, they lost supplies from the ground entirely. Goring guaranteed 1000 tons daily, but even if the entire Luftwaffe had been used to fly in supplies, it would have been only a third of that. It was solely the orders from Hitler and Goering's lies which caused the massacre in Stalingrad. You just dont let the enemy build up forces like that because you feel like you want a huge army. What is the point of Blitzkrieg if you are going to allow the enemy to rest for months at a time? Keep them on the move!
Citing Carius as a source on logistics is dubious at best. He served in highly unusual units within the Wehrmacht. That is, he was always in small seperate corps level units that were exceptionally rare. Yes, Tiger battalions are a rarety.
As such these units were less exposed to logistical difficulties and generally got more attention when it came to supply as their chain of command had more pull than say, an infantry battalion in some run-of-the-mill infantry division.
Carius was deployed almost exclusively to back up infantry units which were about to fall. He did not have special logistics, and often did not have enough time to put ramps in place to offload his Tigers. Even in these extremely poor situations, his unit still managed to get supplies. The units which he was sent to help out were often in good enough shape to have in their possession different specialty items which the tankers would trade liquor and cigarettes for. They sometimes had food shortages, but what do you expect when you are hastily being sent to one of the worst positions on the front? A typical position would have been much better, as even these supposedly awful positions had enough supplies to allow the infantry the ability to warm themselves at night.
People have this idea that because German troops froze and starved at stalingrad, that it was like that everywhere. It was not. There were times when the troops had running water and hot baths, just behind some of the most violent sectors at the time. In the Narva sector, the troops were using saunas and hot tubs immediately after one of the largest Russian offensives of the winter. Not every sector was Stalingrad, and every account I have ever read also talks about being treated very well on certain occasions. They were not constantly on the verge of starvation and running out of fuel, that was only in situations like stalingrad and NA.
Rommel is mentioned. The reason Rommel was short on fuel was because he operated far beyond the 300 mile tactical transport limit. At Alamein he was using roughly 6 gallons of gasoline to deliver one to the front. Overall, he was using about 80% of the fuel delivered to North Africa just to deliver supplies and 20% to the front using trucks.
Tobruk was ruined as a port and the Germans had no way to fix that. Bengazi operated at a fraction of its capacity due to war damage. That left Tripoli as the sole terminus available for supply.
The Germans did try to get the Vichy French to allow Tunis to be used as a port. Tunis had rail lines to Tripoli and also about triple the capacity of Tripoli as a port. But, the Frenhc refused. When the Vichy threw in with the Allies and Rommel moved into Tunisia having Tunis as a port allowed him to support almost double the divisions he previously could.
This is why the British pre-war had built a double track rail line to the Lybian border in Egypt. Their military planners knew that it would be necessary if they were to fight the Italians there. Italy either couldn't built or ignored the need for a similar line in Lybia.
Rommel had very detailed papers which he kept for Hitler, and Rommel states very clearly that in El Alemein, the only thing he needed was fuel, and that the Italians, as usual, screwed up and sent off a full tanker which had made it into the harbor. The Italians did things like that constantly, at one point dropping off and entire Italian division in the middle of an offensive while they had not even delivered half the German troops for Rommels three divisions. They left their own troops for Rommel to feed and arm, and they would not listen to Rommel when he asked for certain supplies.
At one point Rommel had lied to the Italians and they did not trust him any more. They put their own spies in place who were really just a bunch of "yes men" and sent back reports about how rommel had ten times the tanks he really did, and that they were overflowing with supplies. The Italians therefore constantly dropped off really bizarre numbers and types of supplies, due to these extremely flawed reports. Rommel was constantly at arms with his Italian rivals, he was constantly sending reports back to the high command about the ridiculous things they did, and the High Command refused to intervene. They pretty much told them to sort things out themselves.
This sort of stuff is not the venue of personal ancedote and typical historical narrative. It is the stuff of engineers, accountants and, science. Logistics can be measured and calculated. The bottom line is that the Germans ran their war on a logistical shoestring. In short campaigns it made little difference and they won. Where they could not win in a short campaign they lost and lost every time. The risk trade off between adequite supply and the advance rate wouldn't allow them to win.
This is why the US and British put so much material, manpower and, effort into civil engineering. To provide the necessary transportation systems to allow their armies to be supplied in the field. This is something the Germans largely failed to do or, where they did do it they did it poorly.
This is a joke, right? Ever heard of the Rollbaun? They built roads all the way across russia, which the Russians used to successfully against them later on. If the German roads werent so great, then it must be my imagination that the Russians were able to supply themselves "so well". The Russians were vulnerable to the same things as the Germans, and they had less than 10% more trucks than Germany. They produced less than 200k themselves, and got 450k from the US. Thats almost exactly what Germany had. The entire theory about Germany being so overwhelmed by armies of Russian trucks is absurd.
In terms of combat effectiveness logistical shortages work on an inverse expotential curve. A small loss of supply has little effect. Major shortages do not negate fighting power completely. Instead, some residuial always remains. The fact that even small amounts of resistance equate to a large slowing of operations also means that from an ancedotial point of view it appears that the side with the shortage fought much better than would be expected given the supply situation. The problem is that this conflates two seperate issues for which cause and effect are not interrelated. That is, it is an analytically wrong result from the information provided.
I would say thats totally a fair comment, its probably the reason the eastern front was so much more fierce. Both the Germans and Russians had lived for decades in poverty, while the western soldiers and officers had spent only about half of less of their lives in any kind of hardship. The Germans and Russians showed the inner strength which only they had. The west really didnt show the amount of improvisation which was typical of most Germans, even today, German culture has something different than the other major nations. They themselves or their parents had to live through the aftermath of WWII, and the spirit of improvisation is still strong. Last time I checked, no other country makes a car which goes 25k miles between oil changes on normal oil. The spirit of improvisation is still strong.
Unfortunately, it seems like the Russian hardship only pushed them to accept low standards and extremely poor expectations at work. I grew up with Russians BTW, so I would know.
That post reminds me of the medieval idea that the sun and planets revolved around the Earth, which is flat of course. heavier objects fall faster than light ones also...
Gotta love the regularly-appearing "Everything historians have said about WW2 is wrong because of some observations I made" posts.
The AOK reports by Rommel to the OKW are very clear. Rommel was in a desperate supply situation nearly all the time because he advanced well beyond 300 miles from his major sources of supply and simply had no way to move those delivered to the front.
His major ports were initially Tripoli (roughly 45,000 tons per month with 4 quays) and then Bengahazi (800 tons per month or so with 2 quays). Tobruk added another roughly 20,000 tons and 3 quays when it was taken.
The problem was at the Alamein position supplies that were delivered, even in adequite quantity, usually sat on the docks or in warehouses for want of a means to move them forward. Rommel simply didn't have the trucks and he had no alternative.
So, at Alamein he needed roughly 100,000 tons of supply per month for the entire army. This required the bulk of the supplies be shipped to Tripoli. Bizerte in Tunisia added 20,000 as the French reluctantly agreed to allow its use to a limited degree. Bengahazi was minor. Tobruk proved too costly as a port as Italian shipping losses jumped from 5 to 10% to almost 50 as Tobruk was well within the range of the RAF in Egypt.
So, the Italians stopped using Tobruk at all as they couldn't afford the shipping losses.
Making matters worse the biggest convoy the Italians could send was just four ships. This represents the amount that could unload in Tripoli at any given time. Sending more meant that the additional ships simply sat a anchor for a week or more waiting for a slot at the piers.
Trucking supplies from Tripoli to Alamein took about 10 days over the almost 1500 mile route. Supply columns were subject to air attack and the occasional SAS or LRDG raid as well. Thus, after being at the Alamein position for nearly a month Rommel found he had 8,000 tons out of about 30,000 he needed to resume the offensive and that this was declining in volume not increasing.
The Luftwaffe promised to fly in 500 tons daily but this fell far short of promise. The Italians recognized the problems just as Rommel did. But neither they nor the Germans could do anything to change the situation. Trucks were not going to be delivered by the thousand to move the supplies. Convoys were limited in size by the ports available. The driving distance meant most of the supplies sat for weeks or months unused on the piers far to the rear waiting for transport.
As for fuel, it arrived in sufficent quantity to operate the Axis forces at the front. Unfortunately, most of that got squandered delivering the rest. There simply wasn't enough being delivered to do both. Also, alot of it simply sat in Tripoli where it couldn't be moved. There was simply nothing to move it in.
The Germans used the one paved road from Minsk to Smolensk to Moscow. Outside that their other supply routes were unpaved dirt roads. The Germans didn't build any paved roads of any note in Russia. They lacked the equipment to do it.
The reason the Soviets succeeded where the Germans failed was they recognized the culmination point of their offensives and stopped after advances of 300 or so miles. Then they took up to 6 or more months resupplying and readying for the next push. The Germans pushed far beyond the 300 mile distance and paid the price.
I suggest you read:
The German Campaign in Russia -- Planning and Operations (1940 - 1942) Dept. of the Army Pamplet 20-261a
Military Improvisations During the Russian Campaign DoA pamplet 20-201
Selected German Operations on the Eastern Front (mulitple volumes) US Army War College.
These last are written almost entirely by various German generals and thoroughly support my position. Volume II Chapter IV discusses in detail German civil engineering efforts through 1942 in the East.
It goes on for several pages describing the abominable condition of Russian "roads" and all of the problems with them.
Stalino was the rail head for Stalingrad. Per the first book I listed. See pg 128 "Rail Transportation."
The Luftwaffe started flying in critical supplies as early as mid October during this offensive to support units that had advanced beyond their capacity to be supported by trucks.
During the actual Stalingrad "airlift" once 6th Army was surrounded the Luftwaffe promised 300 tons per day but never once during the entire airlift managed to actually reach that figure. And, the Luftwaffe did throw in virtually everything to try and supply 6th Army.
Every He 111 bomber Gruppe was pulled in. The prototype Ju 90's were used. Fw 200 were flown in. All the available Ju 52 were used. Between the weather and horrible airfield conditions at both ends of the airlift it failed miserably.
German engineering and logistics in the East were abyssimal.
If I might elaborate on that a bit.... I would start by stating the old cliche' of "garbage in, garbage out" in regards to Wehrmacht logistical planning. German logistcial planners, logistical functions, engineers, etc. were not inherently incompetent or anything less than highly skilled in their craft. The situation was made what it was first and foremost by faulty and inadequate Intelligence work coupled with an operational-centric driven mindset that forced logistical planners to try and support a plan they had no input on that was based on incorrect assumptions. Thats hardly an indictment of incompetence, more like another old cliche' "set up for failure".