Horses in the Wehrmacht

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Penn44
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Postby Penn44 » 01 Jun 2007 19:44

I think the issue would not be how the animal was killed, but how long the animal had been dead.

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Postby Zebedee » 02 Jun 2007 10:11

Andreas wrote:It is actually a very interesting topic, but like you I understand little about it. The logistical implications of supplying horses are significant, not just in terms of output (i.e. how much they could produce in terms of mobility and speed), but also in terms of input (fodder needs are ten times the ration needs of a soldier per day; separate veterinarian infrastructure, etc.)

An area with lots of implications.

All the best

Andreas


Hi Andreas,

it would seem that there was a deficit of something like 30% of the required feed for horses in embargoed Germany (Evans cites this in The Third Reich in Power). It's also interesting to note that amongst the first items on the list for confiscation under the 'Hunger Plan' are cattle and horse feed.

On another horsey note, Churchill mentions in volume 2 of his history of WW2 that Britain and Ireland sold Germany a substantial number of horses pre-war. I believe the word he uses is 'improvidently'. Does anyone know whether this is true and if so to what extent it is true?

Zeb

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Postby Jon G. » 02 Jun 2007 13:20

There are clear consquences of moblizing horses for war - horse feed needs are the same or may actually increase a bit because military horses can't use pastures to the same degree that agricultural horses can. Also, fodder for military animals has to be transported over potentially long distances.

To boot, there will be fewer horses for agricultural production since agricultural horses were mobilized heavily and moved from the productive agrarian sector to the wholly unproductive military sector - that is, the agrarian sector will be left with significantly fewer horses to cover the same (or rising) needs.

Note how Polish oats production rises relatively and absolutely in the tables below - Poland was closer to the East Front, and horse fodder for the Ostheer was probably a much higher priority than keeping Poland well-fed was.

I've ruthlessly swiped these tables illustrating grain production in key European countries during WW2 from the article I quoted from earlier:

Image
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Postby Jon G. » 05 Jun 2007 18:58

Quoting from this post by Andreas

viewtopic.php?p=1065606#1065606
20.6.41
3,050,000 men
625,000 horses
600,000 motorised vehicles including armoured reconnaissance (PSW)
3,350 tanks (excluding PSW) ...


...it is perhaps prudent to revise the common image of the horse-plodding Wehrmacht trotting through Russia? I'm somewhat surprised at the quantity of motor vehicles (which is not the topic of this thread anyway), but the horse:motor vehicle relationship should teach us something about German strategic choices and capabilities?

After all, the DAK which was motoring around in Libya at the same time didn't include a single equine in its tables of organization and equipment as far as I know. I think it is fair to say that the Wehrmacht could have deployed more motor vehicles and fewer horses for Barbarossa if they had wanted to. To me, the decision to concentrate motor vehicles in relatively few Panzer/motorized units, while also spreading those specialized units over two continents, says everything about the German decision to conduct a swift campaign against the USSR, and nothing about the capacity of the German/occupied European motor industry.

From Lone Sentry's collection of intelligence bulletins, here is an article about German Horse Cavalry and Transport

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Postby Andreas » 06 Jun 2007 11:11

Good point Jon. I think it would be interesting to get the information to compare for, say, May 1942, when the demotorisation of a lot of Wehrmacht units took place. My guess is that then we'll see a much higher horse/motor vehicle ratio.

All the best

Andreas

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Postby LWD » 06 Jun 2007 12:45

Are motor cycles included as motor vehicles?

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Postby Andreas » 06 Jun 2007 12:55

I should think so.

All the best

Andreas

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Postby Jon G. » 07 Jun 2007 16:37

LWD wrote:Are motor cycles included as motor vehicles?


I also believe that they are although terminology may be playing tricks on me. According to the Lone Sentry article which I linked to, above, early German infantry divisions had '...5,300 horses, 1,100 horse-drawn vehicles, 950 motor vehicles, and 430 motorcycles...'

According to van Creveld some de-motorization of ordinary infantry divisions took place already in the winters of 1939/1940 and again 1940/1941, but I translate that as infantry divisions of later Wellen simply having fewer motor vehicles on establishment. If the horse to motor relationship stands, that would leave proportionally far more motor vehicles than horses with higher echelon and specialized formations - which makes sense, for the number of panzer divisions was increased from six to ten 1939-1940, and again from ten to 20 in 1940-1941 if memory serves me. I think this tendency amplifies as the war goes on - the motor vehicles don't disappear, they just concentrate in specialized formations.

Andreas wrote:...I think it would be interesting to get the information to compare for, say, May 1942, when the demotorisation of a lot of Wehrmacht units took place. My guess is that then we'll see a much higher horse/motor vehicle ratio...


Well, the horse establishment of the Wehrmacht rose constantly throughout the war, but the motor vehicle inventory also rose until quite late in the war if this table (from the USSBS) is to be believed:

Image

...perhaps it is more correct to say that the Wehrmacht kept concentrating their available motor vehicles in relatively few specialized units to the increasing detriment of ordinary infantry divisions.

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Postby Larrister » 10 Jun 2007 11:28

Here's two photos from a Inf. Rgt. 19 album.

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Postby Larrister » 10 Jun 2007 11:29

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Postby Jon G. » 10 Jun 2007 21:38

Nice pictures, Larrister. One is reminded about just how much space horses tend to occupy compared to humans.

From a text about Napoleon's Spanish campaign
Otto von Pivka wrote:...Horses for cavalry, staff, regimental baggage, artillery, ammunition and commissariat-say, 150,000. Oats-each horse would require on average 8 lbs per day, total per week 8,400,000 lbs. Hay-for each horse 12 lbs per day, total per week 12,600,000 lbs. Now all this requires carriage. Supposing the magazines are 50 miles in the rear, and that each horse goes 100 miles per week, it would require for transport of ‘food only’ for the army 112,000 extra horses. This number must also be fed and therefore require a further 4,659 horses to carry their food plus their own. Oats at 8 lbs per day for each horse totals 9,799,356 lbs per week, making a grand total of 44,332,264 lbs per week...from this page

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Postby Zebedee » 11 Jun 2007 09:33

Jon G. wrote:According to van Creveld some de-motorization of ordinary infantry divisions took place already in the winters of 1939/1940 and again 1940/1941, but I translate that as infantry divisions of later Wellen simply having fewer motor vehicles on establishment. If the horse to motor relationship stands, that would leave proportionally far more motor vehicles than horses with higher echelon and specialized formations - which makes sense, for the number of panzer divisions was increased from six to ten 1939-1940, and again from ten to 20 in 1940-1941 if memory serves me. I think this tendency amplifies as the war goes on - the motor vehicles don't disappear, they just concentrate in specialized formations.

Well, the horse establishment of the Wehrmacht rose constantly throughout the war, but the motor vehicle inventory also rose until quite late in the war if this table (from the USSBS) is to be believed:

...perhaps it is more correct to say that the Wehrmacht kept concentrating their available motor vehicles in relatively few specialized units to the increasing detriment of ordinary infantry divisions.


Hi Jon,

I believe that the increase in motor vehicles was also due to the confiscations from domestic use in German-occupied areas and Germany itself (eg the mobilisation plans of the mid-30s allow for a couple of hundred thousand vehicles to be taken from the domestic economy). This is fine in its own way as a stop-gap measure but such civillian trucks were not necessarily of the quality to meet military requirements (I am reminded of Montgomery's acidic comments about the BEF's civillian trucks in 1939/40). In addition it meant that the logistical network of Europe started to break down (as rolling stock was also removed from occupied areas). This particularly affected the relatively heavily motorised Western Europe which were more dependant on motor vehicles for every day needs.

According to Tooze, the demotorisation plans were due to severe oil and rubber deficits which could not be overcome. Whilst Germany was more than able to produce large numbers of military specification motor vehicles and supplement them with civillian ones, the issue was always whether it could actually run them for any period of time. Whilst there may be large numbers of motor vehicles in the inventory, I wonder how many of them were operational at any one time?

In such a scenario, it certainly makes sense to equip the 'spearhead' units to the best of your ability whilst reducing the use of motor vehicles in other units. Of course, this is fine when there is some other way of taking up the slack (eg railway) but it does lead one to why the German logistics effort got into such trouble in the SU.

Perhaps the problem is one of perception? Very few countries could supply both the rubber and oil requirements to keep fully motorised armies running in WW2. Britain and the US are the only two I can think of with the USSR if it receives outside assistance. I don't think one should necessarily 'damn' Germany for not being able to match this.

All the best,

Zeb

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Postby Jon G. » 11 Jun 2007 11:31

Hi Zebedee and thanks for the clarity of that post.

Zebedee wrote:I believe that the increase in motor vehicles was also due to the confiscations from domestic use in German-occupied areas and Germany itself (eg the mobilisation plans of the mid-30s allow for a couple of hundred thousand vehicles to be taken from the domestic economy).


Yes, absolutely. Two of the the three transportation regiments (commonly referred to as the Grosstransportraum) which the Wehrmacht had on strength had conscripted civilian trucks as a matter of routine already pre-war; the two 'conscript' regiments were only activated when war broke out.

This is fine in its own way as a stop-gap measure but such civillian trucks were not necessarily of the quality to meet military requirements (I am reminded of Montgomery's acidic comments about the BEF's civillian trucks in 1939/40).


Yes, the German economy - which wasn't very motorized - could not manage motorizing both the army and the civilian economy. Therefore, some efforts were made towards standardizing German truck output into a few types which could be used both by the civilian sector and the army - so the conscripting of civilian trucks into the army was in fact planned for, it wasn't merely a stop-gap measure.

Even so, corners had to be cut in order to ensure sufficient truck output; the military-specs Einheitsdiesel was too expensive to build in the required numbers:

viewtopic.php?p=724992#724992

(yes, pretty self-serving to link to a post I wrote myself :) )

The result was that the Wehrmacht had to accept using vehicles which to a large degree weren't built to military specifications. That of course also goes for vehicles confiscated from occupied Europe.

In addition it meant that the logistical network of Europe started to break down (as rolling stock was also removed from occupied areas). This particularly affected the relatively heavily motorised Western Europe which were more dependant on motor vehicles for every day needs.


Well, Western Europe wasn't very motorized. Places like French Morocco had relatively many motor vehicles, but by and large Europe still relied on horses and rails for its transportation needs. For example, the British economy had more motor vehicles per capita than the German economy, and until 1960 the USA had more motor cars than the rest of the world put together.

Horses were also requisitioned by the Wehrmacht - I gave some numbers for that on p 1 of this thread - though perhaps not quite as many horses as you would expect; it appears that many of the Wehrmacht's horses came from the occupied parts of the USSR and their fodder from occupied Poland.

According to Tooze, the demotorisation plans were due to severe oil and rubber deficits which could not be overcome. Whilst Germany was more than able to produce large numbers of military specification motor vehicles and supplement them with civillian ones, the issue was always whether it could actually run them for any period of time. Whilst there may be large numbers of motor vehicles in the inventory, I wonder how many of them were operational at any one time?


IIRC van Creveld mentions that the Germans expected 30% of their Grosstransportraum to be out of action due to maintenance and repairs at any given time. From this, it appears that the Wehrmacht took into account that many of its vehicles would be substandard civilian types, likely to break down often when driven hard over poor roads or in combat zones.

In such a scenario, it certainly makes sense to equip the 'spearhead' units to the best of your ability whilst reducing the use of motor vehicles in other units. Of course, this is fine when there is some other way of taking up the slack (eg railway) but it does lead one to why the German logistics effort got into such trouble in the SU.


Absolutely it does, and I am not contesting the wisdom of concentrating one's motor vehicles in a handful of specialized units; that probably makes it easier to conserve fuel and keeping all necessary expertise, workshops etc. centralized probably works wonders for serviceability too.

The prize for that is that your ordinary infantry divisions become less mobile and more dependent on horse and rail transport. In other words, demotorization of most of their army was a deliberate choice on the Germans' part, it wasn't forced by a declining motor vehicle inventory.

Perhaps the problem is one of perception? Very few countries could supply both the rubber and oil requirements to keep fully motorised armies running in WW2. Britain and the US are the only two I can think of with the USSR if it receives outside assistance. I don't think one should necessarily 'damn' Germany for not being able to match this.


The USSR was a major supplier of Kautschuk (sp?) until Barbarossa. There is something rather symbolic about horses becoming such a major plunder item after the Germans attacked the Soviet Union.

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Postby Art » 11 Jun 2007 13:28

Jon G. wrote:The USSR was a major supplier of Kautschuk (sp?) until Barbarossa.

South-Eat Asia was a supplier of natural rubber and USSR was used as a transit route. And what is more important the synthetic rubber played an increasingly important role in German rubber comsumption. Allready in 1941 the consumption of synthetic rubber exceeeded the consumption of natural one.See for details:
http://sturmvogel.orbat.com/ussbsappc.html

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Postby Zebedee » 13 Jun 2007 15:29

Hi Jon,

forgive the fragmented nature of my reply :)

Jon G. wrote:Hi Zebedee and thanks for the clarity of that post.

Yes, absolutely. Two of the the three transportation regiments (commonly referred to as the Grosstransportraum) which the Wehrmacht had on strength had conscripted civilian trucks as a matter of routine already pre-war; the two 'conscript' regiments were only activated when war broke out.


I wasn't aware of that aspect of the GTR. I knew that the plans were in place for the outbreak of war but I was not aware that even pre-war they had 'conscripted' civillian vehicles. Mighty interesting.


Yes, the German economy - which wasn't very motorized - could not manage motorizing both the army and the civilian economy. Therefore, some efforts were made towards standardizing German truck output into a few types which could be used both by the civilian sector and the army - so the conscripting of civilian trucks into the army was in fact planned for, it wasn't merely a stop-gap measure.

Even so, corners had to be cut in order to ensure sufficient truck output; the military-specs Einheitsdiesel was too expensive to build in the required numbers:

viewtopic.php?p=724992#724992

(yes, pretty self-serving to link to a post I wrote myself :) )

The result was that the Wehrmacht had to accept using vehicles which to a large degree weren't built to military specifications. That of course also goes for vehicles confiscated from occupied Europe.


I've read of the efforts to standardise vehicle output pre-war. It's an interesting aspect of the Nazi economy. Thanks for the link to the Einheitsdiesel information. It's always useful to see broadbrush arguments I've read elsewhere filled in for detail on these forums :) Perhaps I was wrong to use the word 'stop-gap' - perhaps 'sub-optimal' might have been more correct.

Well, Western Europe wasn't very motorized. Places like French Morocco had relatively many motor vehicles, but by and large Europe still relied on horses and rails for its transportation needs. For example, the British economy had more motor vehicles per capita than the German economy, and until 1960 the USA had more motor cars than the rest of the world put together.


I suppose the argument here would depend on relative values. France was certainly more motorised than Germany and Tooze argues that the oil deficit the Grossraum had under the Allied blockade effectively destroyed the French economy when combined with the pillaging of all forms of transportation.

Horses were also requisitioned by the Wehrmacht - I gave some numbers for that on p 1 of this thread - though perhaps not quite as many horses as you would expect; it appears that many of the Wehrmacht's horses came from the occupied parts of the USSR and their fodder from occupied Poland.


I believe that there may be a link to this point with a wider argument about food and starvation but I'll leave that to another time and thread :)


IIRC van Creveld mentions that the Germans expected 30% of their Grosstransportraum to be out of action due to maintenance and repairs at any given time. From this, it appears that the Wehrmacht took into account that many of its vehicles would be substandard civilian types, likely to break down often when driven hard over poor roads or in combat zones.


30% seems quite low as an estimate to me. Especially when one considers the rate of actual mechanical issues in panzer units, which were presumably less bothered by a lack of good infrastructure etc.

Absolutely it does, and I am not contesting the wisdom of concentrating one's motor vehicles in a handful of specialized units; that probably makes it easier to conserve fuel and keeping all necessary expertise, workshops etc. centralized probably works wonders for serviceability too.

The prize for that is that your ordinary infantry divisions become less mobile and more dependent on horse and rail transport. In other words, demotorization of most of their army was a deliberate choice on the Germans' part, it wasn't forced by a declining motor vehicle inventory.


I'm not certain whether I can quite agree with your logic here. I certainly agree that the issue wasn't numbers of motor vehicles. But I do believe that the issue was that Germany could not run anything like enough of them to sustain fully motorised armies. Is that a deliberate choice or one forced upon them by basic lack of strategic raw materials?

The USSR was a major supplier of Kautschuk (sp?) until Barbarossa. There is something rather symbolic about horses becoming such a major plunder item after the Germans attacked the Soviet Union.


There is a heavy irony in that. But I suppose one has to point out that the rubber and oil coming from the SU was nowhere near enough to fuel the Grossraum economy or the German war effort on its own. Synthetic rubber and oil could meet some of the slack but there was no way in the timescale of WW2 that it could meet all the needs (I need to get my copy of Tooze back in order to quote some figures on this - one interesting point he raises is that the Buna factory in Poland built by Nazi Germany is still in use today and is a major world supplier).


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