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Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.

Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby Damper on 24 Feb 2010 18:14

The shortages in Machine Tools afflicting the NAZI economy as well as the shortage of APCR anti tank rounds are the result of th llack of Tungten. However I was quite surprised to learn that Spain and Portugal had sizeable deposits which still exist today. Also Austria is currently a major producer though I'm not sure if that was the case during WWII. So what happened during the War that resulted in shortages of Tungsten?
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Re: Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby phylo_roadking on 24 Feb 2010 19:15

Damper, first of all - though both Spain and Portugal had/have "sizeable" deposits of wolframite ore for tungsten carbide - the totals being talked about in WWII are suprisingly small per year...

Portugal’s economic success hinged on its rich wolfram ore deposits. The Nazis were totally dependent on Portugal and Spain for its wolfram supplies. Wolfram or tungsten has a variety of uses including its use as the filament in light bulbs. However, it was of particular value in producing war munitions. Germany’s machining industry used tungsten carbide almost exclusively, whereas the U.S. was still largely using inferior molybdenum tipped tools, primarily because of the cartel agreement GE held with Krupp concerning carboloy or cemented tungsten carbide. Additionally, tungsten was useful in armor piercing munitions. Britain and the U.S. agreed that Germany’s minimum requirements for wolfram were 3,500 tons per year.


Considering the quantity the Nazis required and the extraordinary means they went to insure supplies of the ore, the Allies correctly surmised that for the Nazis wolfram was a vital resource. It was equally important to the Allies, but the Allies were not solely dependent upon Portugal or Spain and could obtain wolfram from other sources. Thus, one of the allied goals was to deprive Nazi Germany of as much wolfram ore as possible. In this end, the Allies bought as much wolfram as possible from Portugal. The competition for the ore was intense and by 1943, to Portugal’s benefit, the price of ore had increased 775 percent over pre-war rates. Production also soared from 2,419 metric tons in 1938 to 6,500 tons in 1942.


So - limited availability...and competion for what there was, with the Allies in effect paying to take it out of circulation. Then, as the war went on, thing began to change a little...

To maintain its neutrality, Portugal set up a strict export quota system in 1942. The system allowed each side to export ore from their own mines and a fixed percentage of the output from independent mines. England owned the largest mine, while Germany owned two mid size concerns and several smaller mines. The output of Portugal's second largest mine was owned by France and the output was tied up in legation throughout 1941. In January 1942, Portugal concluded a secret trade pact with Germany. The pact allowed the Nazis export licenses for up to 2,800 tons of wolfram. In turn, Germany was to supply Portugal with coal, steel, and fertilizer, which Portugal needed and which the Allies could not supply. In 1943, the Allies tried to negotiate a new wolfram agreement. Portugal asked for price reductions in ammonium sulfate, petroleum products, and other materials from the Allies. The Allies refused any price reductions and Portugal refused to increase the Allies export licenses. At the same time, Portugal completed a new agreement with Nazi Germany.


But look at the totals being talked about - 2,800 tons per annum!

So, eventually the Allies took action again...

By April 1944, the U.S. decided to use economic sanctions to induce Portugal to cut off the Nazi’s supply of wolfram. Portugal was dependent upon the U.S. for petroleum and other products. On June 5, 1944, the Allies pressed Portugal to cease wolfram shipments to Germany. The Germans immediately began to cloak their mining interests in Portugal by selling them and buying up other businesses. By June 1946, the Allies estimated that the Nazis had cloaked about $2 million dollars in hotels, cinemas, etc. At the same time a German U-boat seized a Portuguese vessel, increasing the anti-German sentiment inside Portugal. The U.S. also began negotiations to construct an air base in the Azores. Construction was delayed until and agreement was reached on a wide range of supplies and services. On November 28, 1944, the agreement was signed. Additionally, the U.S. agreed to Portuguese participation in the campaign to liberate Timor from the Japanese


Spain was Germany's only other supplier of wolframite...

The Nazis also acquired zinc, lead, mercury, fluorspar, celestite, mica, and amlygonite from Spain. However, wolfram was the most vital as Spain was one of two suppliers of this ore to Germany. Spanish flagged ships were used to smuggle goods from South America to the Nazis. The Allied blockade was effective in eliminating bulk items but small items, such as industrial diamonds or platinum, which serves as a catalyst in the production of nitrates and sulfuric acid, made up the bulk of the smuggling trade.

Allied trade with Spain had three main objectives. The first objective was to obtain needed goods that were not readily available elsewhere. Secondly, by purchasing vital materials from Spain, the Allies could deny the Nazis a source for these materials. Finally, by conducting trade in materials needed by the Spanish economy, the Allies sought to lessen the influence of Germany on Spain. Efforts to achieve this policy began in March 1940, by Britain when it signed a six month agreement to provide Spain with certain materials it needed, such as petroleum products and fertilizer, in return for iron ore, other minerals, and citrus fruit. The agreement was renewed every six months throughout the war. In May 1943, due to the smuggling of materials into Spain for the Nazis, the US started a program to buy up the sources of these materials in South America

However, the real competition in trade with Spain was for wolfram ore. Unlike Portugal, which had a quota system, Spain relied on an open market for wolfram. The open market provided an edge to the Allies with their better access to hard currency. By 1941, Germany had developed most of Spain’s wolfram mines and controlled the largest producer through SOFINDUS. In 1941, the Nazis acquired almost all of the wolfram ore produced. England had only managed to purchase 32 tons. Starting early in 1942, England and the US started a unified program to buy up as much of the ore as possible. The program caused mines' output to nearly double production from the previous year. Production had increased to nearly 2000 tons and the price had risen from $75 a ton to $16,800. In June, Spain set a minimum price of $16,380 per ton, which included a $4,546 export tax. In an effort to better compete with the Nazis, the Allies set up their own dummy corporate front to purchase the ore and in 1942 purchased roughly half of the ore.

In December 1942, under pressure from the Nazis, Spain signed a new trade agreement with Germany with more explicit quotas. The agreement soon fell apart with both sides blaming the other for the failure. In February 1943, Spain signed a secret agreement with Germany to replace the failed agreement. In the agreement, Germany agreed to provide Spain with armaments at cost. However, during the negotiations the Nazis had at first demanded a 400 percent markup on the weapons. The Nazis, desperate for wolfram and Spanish pesetas, had to relent to Spain’s demand of weapons for cost. After the war, the Nazi negotiator noted that the talks were strained and difficult. In August 1942, Spain had reached agreement with the Nazis to pay back its debt from the Civil War in four installments, in which the Nazis would use, the money to purchase wolfram. During 1943, Germany purchased roughly 35 percent of the total production of wolfram. Total mine production of wolfram in Spain was roughly 4 to 5 times the production of 1940.

In January 1944, after the British Ambassador, Sir Samuel Hoare, met with Franco in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Spain to suspend wolfram sales to the Nazis, the Allies imposed an oil embargo on Spain. On May 2, Spain agreed to limit the export of wolfram to Germany to 580 tons 300 tons had already been delivered. The agreement cut German exports to roughly half of the previous year. However, due to smuggling, captured documents show that Germany managed to purchase a total of 865.6 tons. Spain’s exports of wolfram to Germany ended in August 1944, when the border was closed


So you can see that while the many uses for tungsten carbide grew during the war...and the size of some of those uses such as in munitions spiralled up...Germany's access to what she needed spiralled down as the Allies eventually got their economic warfare working - then the smuggled supply from Spain dried up totally in September 1944.

The above from http://www.aracnet.com/~gdy52150/goldp6.html
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Re: Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby Ironmachine on 26 Feb 2010 19:57

If you can read Spanish, this
http://www.unizar.es/eueez/cahe/caruana.pdf
is a good article about wolfram production in Spain during World War II and the Spanish wolfram trade with both Germany and the Allies.
Regards.
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Re: Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby Jon G. on 26 Feb 2010 20:17

Also see this thread

viewtopic.php?f=66&t=2569
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Re: Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby Damper on 05 Mar 2010 00:40

Thanks for your responses... I think the shortage of key ores is part of the bigger picture of German trade with nuetral nations... I can only assume that the Tungsten deposits in Austria weren't discovered untill after the war....

The implications of the lack of tungsten were huge. A sufficient supply would have removed many bottlenecks in the German industry as well as allow the deployment of APCR anti tank rounds....

Do people think that Germany could have done more to manage their importation of raw materials from nuetral nations? The article that phylo_roadking quotes mentions that Germany was able to import other key materials using Spain as a transit point... Did german exploit that opportunity to it's full potential?
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Re: Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby phylo_roadking on 05 Mar 2010 00:43

They had other problems, as well as the Allies' efforts at economic warfare :wink: Tito's partisans, for example - their presence in Yugoslavia meant that just one trainload of chromium ever reached Germany via the originally-planned route there...
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Re: Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby G. Trifkovic on 05 Mar 2010 00:46

phylo_roadking wrote:They had other problems, as well as the Allies' efforts at economic warfare :wink: Tito's partisans, for example - their presence in Yugoslavia meant that just one trainload of chromium ever reached Germany via the originally-planned route there...


Hi phylo,

interesting info; Could you please provide us with the source?

Cheers,

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Re: Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby phylo_roadking on 05 Mar 2010 01:06

Yep - IIRC M.R.D. Foot's History of the Special Operations Executive.
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Re: Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby bf109 emil on 07 May 2010 09:30

phylo_roadking wrote:They had other problems, as well as the Allies' efforts at economic warfare :wink: Tito's partisans, for example - their presence in Yugoslavia meant that just one trainload of chromium ever reached Germany via the originally-planned route there...


was this Chromium that was sent to Germany via Yugoslavia from Turkey?

Could or would not Germany find another route from Turkey, or was Chromium reliant upon railway transportation solely through Yugoslavia?
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Re: Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby phylo_roadking on 07 May 2010 18:00

was this Chromium that was sent to Germany via Yugoslavia from Turkey?

Could or would not Germany find another route from Turkey, or was Chromium reliant upon railway transportation solely through Yugoslavia?


Yes, but

1/ as the war progressed in the balkans IIRC even these routes were lost in late 1944

2/ this was "total" war - every extra mile of diversion, hour of a railwayman's labour, shovelful of coal...was another entry on the debit side of the financial equation :wink:
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Re: Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby bf109 emil on 08 May 2010 19:50

phylo_roadking wrote:
was this Chromium that was sent to Germany via Yugoslavia from Turkey?

Could or would not Germany find another route from Turkey, or was Chromium reliant upon railway transportation solely through Yugoslavia?


Yes, but

1/ as the war progressed in the balkans IIRC even these routes were lost in late 1944

2/ this was "total" war - every extra mile of diversion, hour of a railwayman's labour, shovelful of coal...was another entry on the debit side of the financial equation :wink:


Phylo i have no qualms with this as by 1944 Russia basically took over Yugoslavia and would have controlled raillines, denying Germany Chromium.

I was just curious as to other then railway and Germany only receiving 1 trainload of chromium from Turkey i assume, was steps taken to allow delivery via another route other then rail through Yugoslavia.

also does anyone know the quantity of chromium supplied to Germany via Greece's supply?

"More than 55,000 Jews lived in the part of Greece that was occupied by the German Wehrmacht from 1941 on, and of that number, about 50,000 lived in Saloniki (Thessaloniki) alone. The Jewish population of Saloniki was forced into “work deployment” as of July 1942; many were sent into the malaria-infested swamps and the chromium mines, where they perished." source of quote from http://www.wollheim-memorial.de/en/zwangsarbeit_von_juden_und_juedinnen_im_ns

likewise sorry for diverting topic from wolfram/tungsten to chromium.
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Re: Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby ljadw on 12 Jul 2010 12:51

on Yugoslavia:
in 1939,it stood first in lead production in Europe,second in copper,while in bauxite it produced 10 % of the world production .It had the largest chrome complex and the largests copper mines in Europe.It covered 40 % of the German needs on bauxite,one third of its antimony needs,one fifth of its copper demands and 10% of its chrome requirements .
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Re: Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby Bob Forczyk on 12 Sep 2011 01:40

Does anyone know the exact date that Albert Speer imposed a ban on further delevopment of tungsten carbide penetrators? I imagine it was sometime in the summer of 1943, but am looking for an exact date.
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Re: Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby nobodyofnote on 12 Sep 2011 05:49

Prior to Japan's second invasion of China in July 1937, China supplied Germany with tungsten and antimony as part of a deal by it to purchase German weapons and machines (Chinesisch-Deutsche Kooperation). When Japan overran many of the ports and Hitler's government sided with Japan, the trade dried up. Chang Kai-Shek cancelled all of the Sino-German economic agreement in protest at Germany's position. Japan promised to continue supplying Germany with tungsten but they never did. A book which covers this issue is Tungsten in Peace and War, 1918-1946 by Ronald H. Limbaugh.
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Re: Why was Nazi Germany short of Tungsten?

Postby Tim Smith on 12 Sep 2011 12:52

Sino-German cooperation: see http://www.feldgrau.com/articles.php?ID=11

With hindsight, Germany should have increased her cooperation with China in 1934-38, and traded more weapons in exchange for greater supplies of tungsten.

I raised a what-if scenario on these lines some years ago. viewtopic.php?f=11&t=104774
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