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Horses in the Wehrmacht

Discussions on High Command, strategy and the Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) in general.

Postby JonS on 13 Jun 2007 23:27

No one has mentioned DiNardo's book? (presumably an outgrowth of the article Jon quoted from earlier)
Last edited by JonS on 14 Jun 2007 00:24, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Jon G. on 14 Jun 2007 00:12

Hi again Zebedee. On one hand I fear we may be warping this subject away from its original subject. On the other hand, you can't really discuss to which degree the Wehrmacht depended on horses without also determining the size and nature of the Wehrmacht's motor vehicle inventory.

Zebedee wrote:...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.


Heh, I'll take you on your word and link to another post I made about the GTR :) viewtopic.php?t=108967

...yes, it is a bit trite to link back to my own posts again, but then the number of replies to that post underline that this is something of a niche subject :|

...
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


I lifted the table below from the Statistical Yearbook of the League of Nations, an excellent resource.

Image
Image

I will immediately concede that this table doesn't directly contradict your (or Tooze's) claim that France was more motorized than Germany - after all, it's only production numbers which are listed, not total motor vehicle inventories. France probably imported more motor vehicles pre-war than Germany did.

What can be read from the table, though, is that German motor vehicle production surpasses French production at the same time that German rearmament kicks in and that British production persistently is higher than German production.

BTW, I would have expected Czech truck production to be higher than listed - and Halder's quote about a meagre 4,000 trucks each year for the Wehrmacht (out of a production of 16,000/year) can also be rejected if the LoN's numbers are to be believed.

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.


I haven't yet read Tooze, but I would disagree with that. The Germans would always give themselves priority for whichever oil could be squeezed out of occupied Europe - and despite France's relatively high degree of motorisation, shortages of coal, horses and fodder would be far more critical than shortages of oil and motor vehicles.

At any rate the Germans were plundering the French (& the rest of occupied Europe, to varying degrees) economy systematically and deliberately through a number of means - notably an artificially low Franc to Reichsmark exchange rate and 20 million Francs daily reperations.

...30% [truck breakdowns] 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.


As a planning assumption, 30% trucks out of action at any given time seems fairly pessimistic to me. I think Guderian is talking about a 30% breakdown rate assumed for panzer units somewhere in his memoirs (I could be wrong about that though), but tanks probably break down more often than trucks do.

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?


That is an interesting question! My point was that the de-motorization of the Wehrmacht's infantry divisions happened because the Germans wanted to field ever more panzer and motorized divisions, not because they were running out of trucks.

The lack of strategic materials was known throughout; if the Germans knew in 1939 that they didn't have enough oil and rubber, why did they only demotorize parts of their army gradually and as time went on?

...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).


Fuel-wise the Germans seem to have been able to get by - just - with Romanian oil plus domestic synthfuel production. It was only when the Allied air forces began bombing the synthfuel industry in 1944 that the oil shortage became critical.
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Postby Zebedee on 14 Jun 2007 09:43

Jon G. wrote:Hi again Zebedee. On one hand I fear we may be warping this subject away from its original subject. On the other hand, you can't really discuss to which degree the Wehrmacht depended on horses without also determining the size and nature of the Wehrmacht's motor vehicle inventory.


Hi Jon :)

It's something of which I am very conscious. I'm sure that the subject will wrap around again to horsey issues. But as you say, the transport arrangements of the Wehrmacht cannot really be discussed without a broader overview.

Heh, I'll take you on your word and link to another post I made about the GTR :) viewtopic.php?t=108967

...yes, it is a bit trite to link back to my own posts again, but then the number of replies to that post underline that this is something of a niche subject :|


It's an interesting subject. I'm certainly familiar with Van Crefeld and other works on the GTR and German logistics but, as ever on this forum, I find myself in the 'special needs' class of forumites and tempted to post but rarely and then only if I can hope to add something to the discussion ;)


I lifted the table below from the Statistical Yearbook of the League of Nations, an excellent resource.

I will immediately concede that this table doesn't directly contradict your (or Tooze's) claim that France was more motorized than Germany - after all, it's only production numbers which are listed, not total motor vehicle inventories. France probably imported more motor vehicles pre-war than Germany did.

What can be read from the table, though, is that German motor vehicle production surpasses French production at the same time that German rearmament kicks in and that British production persistently is higher than German production.

BTW, I would have expected Czech truck production to be higher than listed - and Halder's quote about a meagre 4,000 trucks each year for the Wehrmacht (out of a production of 16,000/year) can also be rejected if the LoN's numbers are to be believed.


I think the answer is in the import of vehicles for France. I really need to get my copy of Tooze back rather than relying on memory as he provides hard figures with citations to the research on the subject. Tooze's main point is that the German economy was nowhere near as reliant on motor vehicles as the French economy - primarily, I suppose because the extremely poor rural areas of Germany could not afford the cost of investment in them. Tooze points to how we should consider rural Germany of the 1930s with rural Ireland of the same time - I think his primary argument is that Germany was not the economic superpower which it is often presented as.

Regarding production figures, I think we can safely assume that Germany was not importing to the same degree from the US as any other European country would be doing (foreign exchange being what it was) and with starting at a lower base, I wonder just how much Germany caught up with French levels of motorisation in society (let alone US levels).

[edit some hours later] An interesting comparison is in Forty's British Army Handbook (1939-1945) where he says that the British Army was using 1.25 million 'motor vehicles' by the end of the war. I'm not certain quite what comparison in size one can make between the British Army in 1945 and the Heer in 1941 but I'd imagine it would put the 600000 figure into a different light. Maybe ;)

The Czech figures are interesting. There must be a rational explanation other than Halder was plain wrong?

I haven't yet read Tooze, but I would disagree with that. The Germans would always give themselves priority for whichever oil could be squeezed out of occupied Europe - and despite France's relatively high degree of motorisation, shortages of coal, horses and fodder would be far more critical than shortages of oil and motor vehicles.

At any rate the Germans were plundering the French (& the rest of occupied Europe, to varying degrees) economy systematically and deliberately through a number of means - notably an artificially low Franc to Reichsmark exchange rate and 20 million Francs daily reperations.


I think that we're looking at the same point from different perspectives here. The other issues to do with the French economy certainly were there (and Tooze covers them in some depth) but the critical factor was that 'produce' was just not able to be transported from one location to another. Interestingly, coal could have been roughly balanced throughout the Grossraum with the necessary investment in infrastructure but the oil deficit of the Grossraum was well beyond repair.

As a planning assumption, 30% trucks out of action at any given time seems fairly pessimistic to me. I think Guderian is talking about a 30% breakdown rate assumed for panzer units somewhere in his memoirs (I could be wrong about that though), but tanks probably break down more often than trucks do.


Possibly. IIRC van Creveld is referring solely to GTR trucks in the invasion of SU planning stages, or am I misremembering?


That's is an interesting question! My point was that the de-motorization of the Wehrmacht's infantry divisions happened because the Germans wanted to field ever more panzer and motorized divisions, not because they were running out of trucks.

The lack of strategic materials was known throughout; if the Germans knew in 1939 that they didn't have enough oil and rubber, why did they only demotorize parts of their army gradually and as time went on?


I think this may lead us into further areas to do with 'long' wars and 'short' wars :p

Fuel-wise the Germans seem to have been able to get by - just - with Romanian oil plus domestic synthfuel production. It was only when the Allied air forces began bombing the synthfuel industry in 1944 that the oil shortage became critical.


If I may disagree with you here, and yet again cite Tooze (yawn!!), Germany got by through totally destroying the Grossraum economy. The oil had to be found from somewhere and it was found by massive cutbacks in the civillian sector. If one is talking solely of the German war machine as an entity on the field, I'd agree wholeheartedly but I think the issue has to be looked at in a broader context. If you suck out the civillian logistical network to get the war machine, then you are effectively looking at a very limited amount of time to wage war before it starts to hurt.

(forgive brevity - I have 30 minutes per day to use internet atm!)
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Postby Jon G. on 14 Jun 2007 20:39

Hi again Zebedee. I must say, you get the maximum out of your 30 minutes of allocated internet time :)

Zebedee wrote:...
...BTW, I would have expected Czech truck production to be higher than listed - and Halder's quote about a meagre 4,000 trucks each year for the Wehrmacht (out of a production of 16,000/year) can also be rejected if the LoN's numbers are to be believed.


I think the answer is in the import of vehicles for France. I really need to get my copy of Tooze back rather than relying on memory as he provides hard figures with citations to the research on the subject. Tooze's main point is that the German economy was nowhere near as reliant on motor vehicles as the French economy - primarily, I suppose because the extremely poor rural areas of Germany could not afford the cost of investment in them.


I've been searching for more hard and fast numbers on German motorization relative to French (&c) degrees of motorization. I've found a fairly bland reference to the 1933 German statistics yearbook (from this paper) which maintains that Germany had a paltry two motor vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants in 1932, which compares infavourably to France's eight and Britain's six. But evidently, Germany began to catch up in the 1930s, especially when you consider that the domestic French motor industry apparently never got fully over the effects of the depression until war broke out.

Tooze points to how we should consider rural Germany of the 1930s with rural Ireland of the same time - I think his primary argument is that Germany was not the economic superpower which it is often presented as.


Well, in absolute economic terms Germany began surpassing France after rearmament began accelerating, and after Anschluss and Czechoslovakia, Germany's economic potential was larger than France's.

The discussion about the underdeveloped German agrarian sector is interesting and related - I think the German efforts to achieve autarchy and avoid dependence on food imports should be part of the evaluation of the German rural economy - also, a backwards and inefficient rural sector may have had relatively more horses for the army to requisition?

Edit: ok, I now learn that France was just as self-sustainable with food as Germany was - 82 to 84% self-sustainability for both countries cf. data from this post by DrG: viewtopic.php?p=754260#754260

...although I wonder how dependent metropolitan France was on Tunisian/Algerian grain imports? Technically, these areas were parts of France proper. They were not colonies.

Regarding production figures, I think we can safely assume that Germany was not importing to the same degree from the US as any other European country would be doing (foreign exchange being what it was) and with starting at a lower base, I wonder just how much Germany caught up with French levels of motorisation in society (let alone US levels).


I've trawled through the LoN statistics data which I linked to above for data on this but, try as I might, I haven't found anything. Instead, a table lifted from Overy will have to do:

Image
From R. J. Overy: Cars, Roads and Economic Recovery in Germany, 1932-8 The Economic History Review, vol. 28, no. 3 (1975) Oddly, Overy sources his numbers to the same set of statistics which I've been searching through in vain for this information.

...in other words, from one German vehicle for every four French vehicles in 1932 to, roughly, one German vehicle for every three French vehicles in 1935.

1935 is the year when German auto production surpasses French production, but I dare not extrapolate forwards and guess at the two countries' relative degrees of motorization on the eve of war. Probably France was still more motorized than Germany in 1939.

Editedit OK, at the risk of obfuscating matters, I am offering this snippet of 1941's table 93 from the source given above. The tables show developments in automobile production from 1929 thru 1940 with 1929=100. Therefore, we can only use this sub-table for looking at how auto production was developing in selected countries - we can't use it to establish which country was more motorized. I'm including this table because it reaches right into 1940.

ImageImage
According to footnote 13, German production only includes passenger cars

[edit some hours later] An interesting comparison is in Forty's British Army Handbook (1939-1945) where he says that the British Army was using 1.25 million 'motor vehicles' by the end of the war. I'm not certain quite what comparison in size one can make between the British Army in 1945 and the Heer in 1941 but I'd imagine it would put the 600000 figure into a different light. Maybe ;)


The number of British Army vehicles is certainly useful for comparative purposes - like you I am unsure how large the 1945 British Army was compared to the 1941 Wehrmacht, but instinctively I would presume it was a bit smaller.

The Czech figures are interesting. There must be a rational explanation other than Halder was plain wrong?


Sorry, my reference to Halder came out rather obscurely. He wrote in his diary in 1940 that the Heer was allocated 1,000 trucks each quarter of the year. This, he maintained, constituted 1/4 of total truck production. He further maintained that 4,000 new trucks each year were not enough to even maintain the current degree of motorization in the Heer.

(I'll skip your further points about Tooze for now. I haven't yet read his book, but it's in the mail)

...
...The lack of strategic materials was known throughout; if the Germans knew in 1939 that they didn't have enough oil and rubber, why did they only demotorize parts of their army gradually and as time went on?


I think this may lead us into further areas to do with 'long' wars and 'short' wars :p


Yes :) It may also lead us to conclude why Hitler eventually went east while matters were still unresolved in the west. He could get many of the things he needed from occupied Europe - but no oil, and no rubber.

If I may disagree with you here, and yet again cite Tooze (yawn!!), Germany got by through totally destroying the Grossraum economy. The oil had to be found from somewhere and it was found by massive cutbacks in the civillian sector. If one is talking solely of the German war machine as an entity on the field, I'd agree wholeheartedly but I think the issue has to be looked at in a broader context. If you suck out the civillian logistical network to get the war machine, then you are effectively looking at a very limited amount of time to wage war before it starts to hurt.


I agree with you that we need to look at the issue in a broader context, and not just hold the Wehrmacht's needs against the aggregate oil production of Romania and synthfuel plants. Clearly the German economy was militarized to a high degree ('conscript' trucks for the GTR; increasing production following rearmament etc.) - but the economic sphere which the Germans established in occupied Europe was clearly built for plunder as it were, war or no war.
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Postby Jon G. on 14 Jun 2007 21:32

JonS wrote:No one has mentioned DiNardo's book? (presumably an outgrowth of the article Jon quoted from earlier)


Arrgh, another of those insanely expensive Greenwood books! On this occasion, Amazon remarkably isn't more expensive than the rest of the market - the book fetches 102.95 US$/59.95£ directly from the publisher :| Unless one has the nerve (or the credentials) to order an 'examination copy', in which case the book comes with a 50% discount,

You must be right that the article grew into the book rather than the other war round - the article is from 1988 whereas the book is from 1991.
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Postby JonS on 14 Jun 2007 22:20

Stackpole may have a cheaper copy. As a side note, while the quality of Stakpoles books might be a bit sub-par (and I personally am not very keen on their cover design ... complete with egregious irrelevancies) I must say that making older (and not so old) books available at a very reasonable price has my full support.

As an example, I got "Colossal Cracks" 4 years ago in it's original hardback from Praeger for about US$65. The same book is now available from Stackpole for about US$17.

Information not shared is lost, or sumfink.

*checks* Mmm. No - it seems Stackpole only has DiNardo's "Germany's Panzer Arm in World War II", which coincidentally arrived in the mail a few days ago. It, too, has quite a bit about horsies in the German armed forces, partly I should think because it is in turn an outgrowth of "Juggernaut or anachronism".

The copy of "JorA" I read was from a local university library. Interloan maybe?
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Postby Zebedee on 15 Jun 2007 12:51

Hi Jon,

thanks for the figures. Just a short post today while I digest and to give me chance to dig up info over the weekend :)

The number of British Army vehicles is certainly useful for comparative purposes - like you I am unsure how large the 1945 British Army was compared to the 1941 Wehrmacht, but instinctively I would presume it was a bit smaller.


I believe the British Army was in the region of 47 divisions and a total of 3 million men when the inventories were taken. Of course, an exact comparison with the Heer is somewhat flawed but it does give a rough ball park figure. The figure of 1.25 million vehicles is for category B (softskin) vehicles. Category A (armoured) was in the region of 32000 (total armoured cars and tanks) + (a currently unknown to me figure of APCs and SP guns). Category C vehicles (static engines and plant) are also not counted in the 1.25 million figure. On horses in the British Army, the same work cites a total figure of 45000 horses and mules used during the Italian campaign and a substantial number in Burma (although no total or peak figures are given, 5500 mules are cited for the 2nd Chindit operation).

edit: the figure for manpower is from April 1945 (peak for Britain), inventory of vehicles was taken June 1945. In April, Britain had 11 armoured, 34 infantry and 2 airborne divisions. Of these, 2 armoured and 9 infantry saw no combat as divisional entities - although that is not to say they saw no combat (eg Hobart's 'funnies' armoured division saw extensive action although not as a divisional formation).

On civillian requisitions for the British Army, of the BEF's 55000 vehicles in 1939/40, 14000 were of civillian origin. A further 21000 were requisitioned post-Dunkirk.

Yes :) It may also lead us to conclude why Hitler eventually went east while matters were still unresolved in the west. He could get many of the things he needed from occupied Europe - but no oil, and no rubber.


And one can also add in sufficient food supplies. It's interesting that the need for constant 'quick' victories played such a role in German strategic planning. And perhaps offers a counter-argument to those who condemn the Anglo-French plan of blockading Germany.

I agree with you that we need to look at the issue in a broader context, and not just hold the Wehrmacht's needs against the aggregate oil production of Romania and synthfuel plants. Clearly the German economy was militarized to a high degree ('conscript' trucks for the GTR; increasing production following rearmament etc.) - but the economic sphere which the Germans established in occupied Europe was clearly built for plunder as it were, war or no war.


Definitely. The German economy was serving the military to a massive extent - one of the points I think you may find of interest in Tooze is how that then means there was relatively little leeway once war began to further militarise the economy. Using pre-war figures, the Grossraum should have been an economic superpower under German control and yet it just clearly wasn't able to be so. Is there an argument that to fuel the German war economy in the short term, that any long term prospects of a Grossraum war economy were sacrificed? And that the longer the war dragged on the less and less capable the German economy was of supporting it? It certainly could provide additional reasons for Hitler's hopes for making peace with Britain once France had fallen.

I hope you enjoy Tooze as much as I did. It really is a very interesting piece of work. It also provides several sets of data which would be useful for this discussion. The problem I'm having is getting my copy back from people I lend it to!! :)
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Postby Jon G. on 11 Jul 2007 05:44

Hi again Zeb,

Sorry for having left this discussion on the back burner for a while. I wanted to at least skim Tooze before returning to this thread. I agree with you that Tooze's book is brilliant, but he has precious little horsey stuff in it - or rather, the horse-relevant things must be implied rather than read directly, if one is to accept Tooze's overall thesis that the German economy in fact was more primitive (and therefore more reliant on equines) than the western economies were.

Zebedee wrote:... On horses in the British Army, the same work cites a total figure of 45000 horses and mules used during the Italian campaign and a substantial number in Burma (although no total or peak figures are given, 5500 mules are cited for the 2nd Chindit operation).


Well, apart from the fact that the British Army employed some ~4% of equines used by the late-war German army (as per numbers stated earlier in this thread), it is perhaps important to state that the British probably used horses and mules in Burma and Italy because horses (&c) are well-suited for those theaters, not out of necessity. Quite unlike the Ostheer, which - save perhaps for a handful of mountain divisions - employed thousands of horses because it had to.

The US Army, surely the most mechanized army of all major combatants, also used lots of mules in Italy. Here is an interesting page about the US QM remount service in Italy (link is dead right now, hopefully it will work again later.)

...On civillian requisitions for the British Army, of the BEF's 55000 vehicles in 1939/40, 14000 were of civillian origin. A further 21000 were requisitioned post-Dunkirk.


Considering that Britain was more motorized than Germany measured as per capita number of vehicles, I wonder how British vehicle requisitionings compare to German ditto? Probably the British requisitioned less from the civilian economy than the Germans did; according to van Creveld p 147, Wagner, QM General of the Heer, demanded 'all lorries of Germany' put at his immediate disposal as early as May 20th 1940 due to losses suffered in the first ten days of the campaign in the west.

Yes :) It may also lead us to conclude why Hitler eventually went east while matters were still unresolved in the west. He could get many of the things he needed from occupied Europe - but no oil, and no rubber.


And one can also add in sufficient food supplies.


Regarding food supplies, I am reposting these interesting figure's from DrG's post for clarity:

DrG wrote:...
These were the percentages of yearly alimentary self-sufficency (autarchy) calculated by the

Institut für Konjunkturforschung and provided by the same source of the aforementioned data.

Belgium 51
Bulgaria 109
Denmark 103
Finland 78
France 83
Great Britain 25
Germany 82-84
Greece 80
Ireland 75
Italy 95
Netherlands 67
Norway 43
Portugal 94
Romania 110
Spain 99
Sweden 91
Switzerland 47
Hungary 121

USSR 101

Japan 95

Canada 192
USA 91

Argentina 264
Brazil 96
Chile 93

Australia 214
New Zealand 173
...


...these figures obviously only constitute a quick and dirty pre-war snapshot. For example, the USSR's capacity for food production definitely fell below 100% during the war; domestic British food production probably rose from the stated 25% of indigenous needs; I'm fairly certain that Sweden achieved food autarchy during the war, and I am also a little surprised to see that Denmark only had 3% of its agricultural produce available for exports after domestic needs had been satisfied.

What is more interesting in this context is how these ball-park figures must have fluctuated during the war. Tooze casually mentions that French pre-war per capita oil consumption was 40% above German per capita oil usage*. After the Germans occupied France, French oil consumption fell to a disastrous 8% of pre-war levels, which hit the civilian economy doubly hard - pre-war France was already a net food importer cf. the figures given above; with so little gas left for the civilian economy much food couldn't be transported to centers of consumption and consequently went to waste.

In other words, robbing France of trucks and oil made France more dependent on imported food. The monthly situation reports which I linked to earlier seem to acknowledge the dilemma clearly enough, with frequent passages about lack of horses for the economy. The same Lageberichte also make mention of food imports from Spain - herself a net food importer; frankly I don't believe the 99% food autarchy figure which I reposted above - and French North Africa, but probably not enough to cover the gap.

Zeebedee wrote: It's interesting that the need for constant 'quick' victories played such a role in German strategic planning. And perhaps offers a counter-argument to those who condemn the Anglo-French plan of blockading Germany.


Absolutely. Tooze is quite an eye-opener :) It is f.e. interesting to note how all but the most rudimentary long-term planning was very deliberately thrown to the winds as early as 1940 on the explicit assumption that Germany would beat France - that is, many long and medium term projects were axed or cut back in favour of increased ammunition production for the upcoming campaign. That surely explains why 1940 German production numbers for tanks, aircraft etc. seem so low compared to later years' production figures.

Baltasar made an interesting post about June 1941 German ammunition stocks here:
viewtopic.php?t=68895

The only snippet of longer term planning that survived during the war, it seems, was the increased priority for the Luftwaffe which was enacted when Barbarossa appeared successful in the late summer of 1941. The 1941 investments in infrastructure and new plant paid off in the skyrocketing German production of aircraft in 1943 and 1944. Notably, Tooze credits Milch and not Speer with this production increase.

... The German economy was serving the military to a massive extent - one of the points I think you may find of interest in Tooze is how that then means there was relatively little leeway once war began to further militarise the economy. Using pre-war figures, the Grossraum should have been an economic superpower under German control and yet it just clearly wasn't able to be so...


Yes. Tooze makes for fascinating reading. Particularly how the juggling around with inflated steel allotments (=allocating more steel than was in fact available to various Wehrmacht contractors) made everything seem possible at once, yet the German war economy - and it is surprising, at least to me, how militarized the German economy was - was in fact living hand to mouth from day one.


*Although it is tempting, this shouldn't lead us to conclude that France was 40% more motorized than Germany on the eve of war. Pre-war the Germans made a conscious effort to reduce all oil consumption in the energy sector and elsewhere, so the case may well be that a higher percentage of Germany's oil was used by the Wehrmacht.
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Postby Andreas on 11 Jul 2007 09:55

Jon G. wrote: The 1941 investments in infrastructure and new plant paid off in the skyrocketing German production of aircraft in 1943 and 1944. Notably, Tooze credits Milch and not Speer with this production increase..


This is a point that was made a long time ago, and quite convincingly, by Murray, in 'Strategy for Defeat'. He added that of course Göring's decision to send his men off to become ground soldiers came exactly at the moment when these guys would have been needed to service the increasing number of planes. So not only where the LW ground troops a total waste of space not contributing anything comparable to their numbers to defense in the east, taking them away also negated at least part of the advantage gained from building up plane numbers.

At least the additional infantry numbers must have pleased Adolf. But hey, if the German dictactorship had been a rational endeavour, they might have won. :roll:

All the best

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Postby Jon G. on 11 Jul 2007 11:29

Andreas wrote:
Jon G. wrote: The 1941 investments in infrastructure and new plant paid off in the skyrocketing German production of aircraft in 1943 and 1944. Notably, Tooze credits Milch and not Speer with this production increase..


This is a point that was made a long time ago, and quite convincingly, by Murray, in 'Strategy for Defeat'...


Yes, and Tooze makes ample references to Murray. My point, though, was more that few if any other projects survived for very long past the paper stage, not so much that the 1941 aircraft industry expansion plan (itself a response to American plans to increase aircraft production) in fact paid off.

Later on, after aircraft had fallen under Speer's purview, SS general Kammler and the hangman Jägerstab ensured that the aircraft factories got the most out of their forced labourers. Similar cross-departemental scrambles to increase locomotive production*or tank output went hand in hand with Speer's partnership with the SS and other parts of the state and party apparatus. Anyone who was thought not to do his utmost for the panzer programme, for example, might well attract the attention of the Volksgerichte peoples' courts.

Other attempts at speedy rationalization went less smoothly - for example, Tooze makes the point that the introduction of the revolutionary Type XXI U-Boat was probably delayed by several months by the Speer ministry's decision to outsource hull construction to inland factories who had no past experience with building submarines.

*Choo-choo, there's definitely some more literature I need to acquire there :)
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Postby LWD on 11 Jul 2007 13:00

I'm not sure I'm reading that chart right. Is it saying the US wasn't producing enough food to feed it's population? If so I'm wondering how this was calculated. I'm pretty sure the US was importing a fair amount of food but I believe it was also exporting quite a bit. Wonder if it's based on calories or tonage or ....
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Postby Jon G. on 11 Jul 2007 15:12

LWD wrote:I'm not sure I'm reading that chart right. Is it saying the US wasn't producing enough food to feed it's population?...


Yes, that is how I read the numbers. 100=perfect self-sustainability, with nothing to spare; less than 100=dependence on imports, and over 100=food available for exports. None of which should be any problem in open economies.

For the US, neighbouring Canada apparently had a food surplus, so the chart may simply demonstrate market forces at work in this regard. Also, the numbers were computed from 1938 data (how I don't know) It may affect US numbers negatively that the second round of the great depression hit in 1937-1938 - also evident in the auto production numbers which I gave above.
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Postby LWD on 11 Jul 2007 15:25

I know a lot of US farms were out of production during the "dust bowl" which may extend into 38. There was also a lot of sustance farming during that period that I suspect would not be captured by most official records. Forinstance my grandfather was dean of education at a state university but not only did they have a garden they raised chickens and pigs (may even have had a cow I'll have to ask my mom).
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Postby Zebedee on 13 Jul 2007 16:07

Hi again Zeb,
Sorry for having left this discussion on the back burner for a while. I wanted to at least skim Tooze before returning to this thread. I agree with you that Tooze's book is brilliant, but he has precious little horsey stuff in it - or rather, the horse-relevant things must be implied rather than read directly, if one is to accept Tooze's overall thesis that the German economy in fact was more primitive (and therefore more reliant on equines) than the western economies were.


Hi Jon,

No worries about a time delay - I welcome your opinion and views on Tooze. I hope it was a worthwhile investment for you - I know I hate it when someone recommends a book and I get it, but find I'd rather have lent it from a library! ;)

Forgive this somewhat rambling post. It will take me some time to go through the linked posts – they are very much appreciated as limited internet time makes the search function a lottery. Especially if I want to post anything :)

Fair point about direct horsey stuff although the view of the German economy as a whole is perhaps essential in pinning down why the Wehrmacht was so reliant upon horses. It does perhaps 'muddy' things when one has to bring in information which isn't perhaps directly related but perhaps this 'compartmentalisation' of the German war effort is one of the problems which has allowed so many myths to develop? It’s certainly why I recommended Tooze as part of this discussion; he gives such a superb overview that it allows one quickly to identify the economic factors behind the motorisation and demotorisation of the Wehrmacht. In fact, I think he draws attention to this on several occasions throughout his work.


Well, apart from the fact that the British Army employed some ~4% of equines used by the late-war German army (as per numbers stated earlier in this thread), it is perhaps important to state that the British probably used horses and mules in Burma and Italy because horses (&c) are well-suited for those theaters, not out of necessity. Quite unlike the Ostheer, which - save perhaps for a handful of mountain divisions - employed thousands of horses because it had to.The US Army, surely the most mechanized army of all major combatants, also US QM remount service in Italy(link is dead right now, hopefully it will work again later.)


Absolutely. It then follows that any argument that the Wehrmacht was abundantly equipped with motor vehicles is somewhat flawed. Horses and mules still had their place in terrain which was not favourable to motor vehicles but there cannot be a question that despite having large numbers of motor vehicles the Wehrmacht was nowhere near well-provided with them considering the size of the actual forces deployed. Just on the issue of horses in the British army, the 20000 or so mounts for the sole British cavalry division were used in Palestine and the middle east when the division was converted into an armoured unit in 1940/41. I believe that at least a portion of these horses were amongst those taken to Italy.

Glantz in Before Stalingrad points out how the Soviets were in a similar position to the Germans. They raised cavalry divisions and drastically cut (by two thirds) the number of trucks in their infantry divisions as a way round the problem of simply having too many troops and not enough transport.


Considering that Britain was more motorized than Germany measured as per capita number of vehicles, I wonder how British vehicle requisitionings compare to German ditto? Probably the British requisitioned less from the civilian economy than the Germans did; according to van Creveld p 147, Wagner, QM General of the Heer, demanded 'all lorries of Germany' put at his immediate disposal as early as May 20th 1940 due to losses suffered in the first ten days of the campaign in the west.


That's a very interesting point. I don't think I've ever seen the figures cited. One must also factor in the amount of rolling stock available for transport for an accurate picture as well as other means of transport (eg canals). I don't think that Britain ever suffered the near collapse of transport infrastructure which plagued Germany (eg Winter 39/Spring 40). Just as a minor point, the gathering of river transport as part of the preparations for Sealion resulted in additional problems within Europe’s transport infrastructure.

Glantz in Before Stalingrad cites only 1 in 3 German motor vehicles being operational on 1 November 1941. If the figure of 600 000 is correct, that would give only 200 000 vehicles. Hence my earlier surprise at the optimistic figures quoted by the QM staff. The rate of attrition for tanks was slightly less, being at 35% of initial numbers.

As I’ve got Glantz in front of me, he gives 2500 locomotives and 200000 wagons as being used by the Ostheer. I get my Tooze back soon (hurrah!) because I know he discusses the decline of the German railway stock during the 1930s and I’d be intrigued to know how great the shortfall actually was if Tooze gives hard figures for numbers available in the Grossreich on the eve of war.

Regarding food supplies, I am reposting these interesting figure's from DrG's post for clarity:
...these figures obviously only constitute a quick and dirty pre-war snapshot. For example, the USSR's capacity for food production definitely fell below 100% during the war; domestic British food production probably rose from the stated 25% of indigenous needs; I'm fairly certain that Sweden achieved food autarchy during the war, and I am also a little surprised to see that Denmark only had 3% of its agricultural produce available for exports after domestic needs had been satisfied. What is more interesting in this context is how these ball-park figures must have fluctuated during the war. Tooze casually mentions that French pre-war per capita oil consumption was 40% above German per capita oil usage*. After the Germans occupied France, French oil consumption fell to a disastrous 8% of pre-war levels, which hit the civilian economy doubly hard - pre-war France was already a net food importer cf. the figures given above; with so little gas left for the civilian economy much food couldn't be transported to centers of consumption and consequently went to waste. In other words, robbing France of trucks and oil made France more dependent on imported food. The monthly situation reports which I linked to earlier seem to acknowledge the dilemma clearly enough, with frequent passages about lack of horses for the economy. The same Lageberichte also make mention of food imports from Spain - herself a net food importer; frankly I don't believe the 99% food autarchy figure which I reposted above - and French North Africa, but probably not enough to cover the gap.


I have no problem with the food figures as ballpark approximations. My concern is that if Tooze is correct regarding the German food situation, then the picture of the food situation overall in Europe may well be inaccurate, at least as a guide for the actual war years. I’m perhaps being a tad pedantic but… For instance, Greece is 80% self-sufficient pre-war but we know that there was a severe famine there which shows just how much the war (and primarily German food requisitions) hit that particular country. The data also doesn’t take into account population figures for individual countries to allow a comparison. The other detail not factored in as far as I can tell, is the impact of good and bad harvests. Eg I believe that Eastern Europe had a particularly good harvest (Romania in particular) in 1941/42 which was primarily exported to Germany. edit: 1938, the year which the data is based on was, according to Tooze and his German grain figures, an exceptionally good year for at least the German harvest with crop yields up 25% over 1937...

There is also the problem that one is not really comparing like for like in that the German economy was operating at almost peak capacity (feeding the German military buildup) whereas most of the world was still coming out of the depression so it takes no account of any 'slack'. As you point out, sometimes it is not the food being produced which is the problem but getting that food to market. This echoes the coal situation which Tooze also brings up - theoretically, Europe should have been near self-sufficiency in coal but the transport infrastructure was so borked by the need to serve the German war effort that the coal was bound to get stuck in bottlenecks with resultant consequences even if one ignores all other factors (eg calorie deficient diets). As I recall, a similar issue was that of nitrate production. Theoretically self-sufficient for agricultural purposes pre-war, I wonder just how much the need for nitrates for ammunition impacted upon late war crop yields throughout mainland Europe.

Another consideration is that Germany had introduced rationing (albeit surreptitious) long before the outbreak of the war and I think this can be attributed directly to the militarisation of the state. Tooze cites a couple of German reports on the ration levels (one I believe dating from the start of the war) which state that even the initial 1939 ration was incompatible with long-term health in the German population. One hears often of how rationing improved people's diets during the war, which may be true only as a relative statement if one considers the absolute poverty of huge sections of society in, for example, Germany and Britain.

It's quite bizarre about the food imports from Spain but it could have been a way for Spain to make a quick profit and the figures are perhaps reflecting certain cash crops. However, it is interesting that food reserves in Spain were apparantly quite low - at least low enough for Franco to make it a reason for not entering the war on the Axis side.

The issue with regards to French oil use is perhaps interesting in that even if one accepts that Germany was reducing oil consumption, one has to then question why and look at how badly the German economy was suffering due to a lack of foreign exchange. I agree that a 40% gap in use is not necessarily indicative of 40% more motor vehicles per capita (eg the French had a fairly substantial fleet of ships) but one does have to come to the conclusion that France must have been exceptionally more motorised on a per capita basis. More importantly perhaps, it had access to the oil it required both via allied control of the seas in wartime and the ability to afford imports in peacetime. If one takes German ‘strategic’ planning pre-war, one then comes to appreciate how it approaches cloudcuckooland – I believe Tooze says that to fly all the aeroplanes and sail all the ships planned would have required more oil annually than was actually produced in the world at the time.

Returning to our horses, I think that from the pieces assembled in this thread it’s becoming more and more obvious just how badly the Grossraum was suffering during the war years in order to maintain Germany’s war effort. Tooze links in with this the impact of these problems on German war crimes but I don’t think this is the thread to really go into that. I feel terrible for somewhat derailing a thread specifically concerning horses into one which is far more general.

One thing which is puzzling me is just how the Ukrainian harvest was going to be gathered in. The Soviets are stripping horses away, the Germans likewise. Germany cannot produce the machinery to open up the oilfields it historically gained control of (eg at Maikop) let alone the machinery to harvest and then transport the harvest. And that’s ignoring where the oil is coming from to fuel any new machinery. It could only be reasonably done if Britain had come to a negotiated settlement which would allow Germany the breathing space to create the necessary ‘infrastructure’.

If one takes it as a truism that once the Luftwaffe bombing had failed to force Britain to negotiate peace, and that Germany therefore had no way to actually force Britain to the negotiating table, it really does demonstrate just how much German (or more specifically Hitler’s) planning was faulty from the outset of the war but has been concealed very well by the collapse of France. It is a somewhat deterministic argument, but I don’t see how one can put any other gloss on it.

Absolutely. Tooze is quite an eye-opener It is f.e. interesting to note how all but the most rudimentary long-term planning was very deliberately thrown to the winds as early as 1940 on the explicit assumption that Germany would beat France - that is, many long and medium term projects were axed or cut back in favour of increased ammunition production for the upcoming campaign. That surely explains why 1940 German production numbers for tanks, aircraft etc. seem so low compared to later years' production figures. Baltasar made an interesting post about June 1941 German ammunition stocks here: The only snippet of longer term planning that survived during the war, it seems, was the increased priority for the Luftwaffe which was enacted when Barbarossa appeared successful in the late summer of 1941. The 1941 investments in infrastructure and new plant paid off in the skyrocketing German production of aircraft in 1943 and 1944. Notably, Tooze credits Milch and not Speer with this production increase.


The thing which I found very intriguing is that it puts the 'short' war and 'long' war arguments into context. When Hitler was talking about a 'short' war, he wasn't foreseeing a land war of only a couple of months duration but one which was at odds with the 'long' war (ie of 3 years+ duration) planning which various sections of OKW and other Reich ministries were undertaking.

The 1940 production planning is of interest in that it has often been used as a stick with which to beat Hitler's 'carelessness' or 'overconfidence'. Instead, as you say, there was massive dislocation caused by the transport crisis of the first quarter but more importantly the gargantuan demands of the ammunition programme. Even when the plans for the ammunition programme were cancelled, there is the inevitable time lag between orders and reality. The lead times are something which one often forgets when talking about the economy. One can also add in the use of German stockpiles in the three quarters before June 1940 which could then only be replaced with French stockpiles (and the resultant lead time delays) as another factor in the sluggish figures of 1940.

I think Tooze is correct to 'credit' Milch with the increase in aircraft production if the evidence is as he presents it. It is however very much a backhanded compliment as Tooze points out how the increase was achieved by continuing production in obselescent fighter aircraft (the 109). I’ve not yet managed to pick up the work cited by Tooze but I will be chasing that one up as it sounds fascinating.

Another key point Tooze makes is that of the role of Bomber Command in diverting German industry from production for the war in the East. Neillands has made similar points in the past although without the economic evidence to support them and relying on the aerial equivalent of the ‘fleet in being’ argument (ie that the threat of a bomber is almost as effective as a bomber itself in diverting resources into air defence). Even if one ignores the actual damage done and the resulting disruptions, the scale to which German industry was focused on aircraft which were predominantly for air defence of the Grossreich is amazing – if my memory serves me well, the Luftwaffe was absorbing at least 40% of Germany’s war industry throughout the war.


Yes. Tooze makes for fascinating reading. Particularly how the juggling around with inflated steel allotments (=allocating more steel than was in fact available to various Wehrmacht contractors) made everything seem possible at once, yet the German war economy - and it is surprising, at least to me, how militarized the German economy was - was in fact living hand to mouth from day one.


I think that is one of the key conclusions of his work. The headstart of the German war economy over that of other nations was time-limited for as soon as the French and British started to militarise to a similar scale then that advantage would quickly be overhauled. If my memory is not playing tricks on me, I think Tooze cites a German appreciation which points out that as early as the late 1930s France, Britain and the US in combination were devoting more hard capital to rearmament than Germany (and it’s also interesting how the US was assumed to be a future belligerent). And in addition one has the massive foreign reserves available to Britain and France which allowed them to effectively jumpstart the US war economy…

The steel problem perhaps also shows why Hitler was so concerned about Norway and why the British were consistently able to play on those fears even when not actually considering operations in that area - without Swedish iron ore the German war economy would have been in a terrible situation. This is something which is perhaps still underappreciated due to the portrayal of German steel production figures in most works. That Germany was burning through its limited reserves of all raw materials in order to keep feeding their industry is something which is often overlooked. It really does emphasise the slender margin of hope for a successful war on which WW2 was begun.

After reading Tooze, I started to question a lot of assumptions which are so casually made. But returning to the subject of horses and mechanisation, I think that Tooze's picture of the German war economy does make one realise just how little 'give' there was to actually produce the vehicles needed for full mechanisation even if one takes out any problem with regards to the oil situation.

All the best,

Zeb
Last edited by Zebedee on 14 Jul 2007 09:40, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby JonS on 13 Jul 2007 21:14

Thanks Jon G. and Zebedee. Good posts.
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