Effects of reduction in German occupation forces in the West in 40/41

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Russ3Z
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Effects of reduction in German occupation forces in the West in 40/41

Post by Russ3Z » 16 Oct 2018 22:00

Background
After the successful conclusion of the Spring 1940 campaigns, Germany stations a significant occupation and defense force in France, Norway, and the Low Countries. Part of these are low-grade general occupation/administration units, others are higher-caliber units to counter any potential British incursions into Norway (to interdict/disrupt the flow of Swedish iron ore) or France.

Historically, the Germans seem to have initially overestimated the British capability to undertake offensive operations against occupied Europe. Indeed, after the initial setbacks in the East, the Western theater is increasingly seen as a "quiet sector" from which reserves may be drawn to bolster other fronts, only changing after American involvement becomes more significant and the renewed threat of invasion becomes more realistic.

Divergence
Suppose German planners instead downgrade the threat posed by the British during the '40-'41 time period, and decide to reduce their military footprint in the Western theater. What form might this take, and what effects will this have on both Axis and Allied decisions and outcomes?

Let's tackle 3 key areas:

1. Which type(s) of occupation forces and how many will be transferred from the West to *other* uses?

2. What other uses may these forces be used for? Absorbed back into general economy? Used to directly bolster Barbarossa invasion forces? Used to expand logistical/construction/other non-combat forces for Barbarossa? (or North Africa, or whatever, but for now I will assume default priority remains Russia)

3. What effects will this force reduction have on British/Soviet dispositions?
a. At what force level reduction does a British invasion become plausible in the view of the British?
b. At what force level reduction do Soviet planners discount any German cross-channel and/or large-scale North African invasion plans and (rightly) see themselves as the intended target?

ATL Scenario 1 - Economic solution
We'll start by demobilizing just 5 of the higher-Wave infantry divisions. Generally these will be older men, relatively poorly-equipped. Being mobilized later, however, they are more likely to contain a higher proportion of skilled/experienced labor whose economic value would have sheltered them from the initial mobilization waves.

Adding in the corps and higher levels support elements freed up by their disbanding, and let's assume this will result in ~75k men re-entering the economy. If we expand this to 10 or 15 divisions, call it ~150k or ~225k respectively.

The effects on output from adding X additional units of labor is obviously very complex and likely beyond our scope, but would anyone mind if, as a very crude first approximation, we assume that overall economic output will increase proportionally to the increase these manpower numbers add as a percentage to the existing labor pool?

This is intended to function as a relatively plausible way to justify the various "What if Germany had X more tanks/planes/whatever on June 22?" questions that tend to pop up in a What-If scenario, given the very real constraint that the labor shortage exercised on the economy.

ATL Scenario 2 - Military solution
In this case, let's take an opposite approach and re-deploy the 5/10/15 highest-quality divisions from the West to "somewhere else". Will these extra divisions be of any immediate use? This is centrally a question of "Did Germany invade Russia with enough forces?"

If the answer to this central question is "No", then will the extra divisions be enough to change the outcome of the invasion? If instead the answer is yes, consider instead a variant of Scenario 1, in which the highest-quality West divisions are disbanded rather than the lowest. Will the addition of their arms, transport, etc to the general pool available for use on June 22 impact the outcome of the invasion?

ATL Scenario 3 - Logistical solution
Perhaps the most provocative to me, consider a middle-ground approach, where 5/10/15 divisions (choose your types) are instead diverted to an expanded RAD, Todt, or similar organization to provide increased construction, road, rail, transport, etc resources.

Here the question (oft-posed here, I notice) becomes one of whether German logistical support services were up to the task, and whether their augmentation would result in a substantially different outcome to the invasion.

ATL Scenario 4 - Some or All of the above
Finally, it may be simplistic to assume that any one single change mentioned above is the best approach, if indeed any of them would be better than the historical choice. Will a more nuanced solution (release some of the most skilled conscripts back into the workforce, bolster some other fronts with additional military forces, and increase the general logistical capabilities of the military all at once) be a better option? I will grant that this is somewhat hand-waving the difficulty of the choices away, but it may still have some validity.

------------------------------

Thoughts on the general premise of this? Historically Germany did siphon off ground forces from France with no significant adverse effects, but was this option truly available pre-Barbarossa? Would any of the above or other scenarios make any difference, and would they be enough to change outcomes?

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Re: Effects of reduction in German occupation forces in the West in 40/41

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 17 Oct 2018 17:13

I don't have the information at hand, but it would be necessary to identify what was stationed in the west during the time specificfied.

From my shaky memory; as of June 1941 posted in France and Belgium there was a 'mobile corps' consisting of a couple standard infantry divisions, with mostly horse transport, and some French automotive transport. The only armored force at hand were a couple of "battalions" of French tanks with German crews in training. Any corps artillery with this mobile units was French equipment IIRC. The remainder of the garrison in France, Belgium, and Netherlands were late mobilization wave infantry divisions of older reservists and younger recent conscripts. these had been rendered static by stripping them of the bulk of their transport, automotive and horse, to reinforce the forces in the east that were to attack the Red Army. These formations were positioned in the ports and supplemented with naval perssonel occupying the French naval bases and coastal fortifications surrounding the ports.

If my understanding is correct here the Germans were gambling the British could do nothing of strategic significance as far as returning to the continent. What the reality was I'd not speculate on without a lot of further information.

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Re: Effects of reduction in German occupation forces in the West in 40/41

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 24 Oct 2018 17:42

Here : https://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/CGSC/CARL/ ... 41GIAE.pdf

...is the OB of the garrison in Holland, Belgium, and France. Army Group D, as of September 1941. Note that most of the units are late mobilization wave units. ie: 320th ID was a Welle 13 formation, organized in December 1940. This OB confirms the only armored force was a Brigade of four "Panzer Regiments", of French or possibly left over Cezch tanks. No artillery or other service/suppiort units are shown as part of this brigade. Some sources I've read indicate it was affiliated with the automotive salvage unit responsible for custody and maintenance/modification of French tanks.

A quick look at the locations of the infantry divisions confirm that most were parked in the French & low countries port cities. I have not yet figured out which formations might have been in reserve, or configured as a mobile field corps.

What I am seeing is that if the British were crazy enough to invade France in the summer of 1941 it would have been a battle of tiny armies by WWII standards.

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Re: Effects of reduction in German occupation forces in the West in 40/41

Post by thaddeus_c » 25 Oct 2018 11:49

could there be an ATL scenario 5 in which occupied territory is reduced? had in mind Low Countries, Nord Pas-de-Calais , and a line to (re-oriented) Maginot Line.

then use elements from the other four scenarios to reduce troop levels.

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Re: Effects of reduction in German occupation forces in the West in 40/41

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 25 Oct 2018 20:59

thaddeus_c wrote:
25 Oct 2018 11:49
could there be an ATL scenario 5 in which occupied territory is reduced? ...s.
The best version of that is Hitler pursuing a Franco German peace treaty. France gets most of its territory back and the bulk of the German garrison withdraws. Ditto for Belgium. In return both guarantee to Germany neutrality. To insure this their armies are banned from the eastern half of France and Belgium, They can build strong defenses facing the west. Their armies have to be relatively static forces, and their air forces unsuitable for attacking Germany. The Germans get to keep inspectors in France and Belgium. Both have to pay reparations to Germany, which can be paid in specified war material Germany needs.

This makes it more difficult for Britain to strike at Germany since there are neutral nations, with viable defense in the way. The German forces in the west can be reduced to a mobile strike force of a large corps. Germany still gets its choice of weapons and automotive transport from France and Belgium.

Germany benefits with a smaller garrison in the west, reduced occupation cost. and a shield of neutral nations between it and Britain.

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Re: Effects of reduction in German occupation forces in the West in 40/41

Post by thaddeus_c » 26 Oct 2018 00:00

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
25 Oct 2018 20:59
thaddeus_c wrote:
25 Oct 2018 11:49
could there be an ATL scenario 5 in which occupied territory is reduced? ...s.
The best version of that is Hitler pursuing a Franco German peace treaty. France gets most of its territory back and the bulk of the German garrison withdraws. Ditto for Belgium. In return both guarantee to Germany neutrality. To insure this their armies are banned from the eastern half of France and Belgium, They can build strong defenses facing the west. Their armies have to be relatively static forces, and their air forces unsuitable for attacking Germany. The Germans get to keep inspectors in France and Belgium. Both have to pay reparations to Germany, which can be paid in specified war material Germany needs.

This makes it more difficult for Britain to strike at Germany since there are neutral nations, with viable defense in the way. The German forces in the west can be reduced to a mobile strike force of a large corps. Germany still gets its choice of weapons and automotive transport from France and Belgium.

Germany benefits with a smaller garrison in the west, reduced occupation cost. and a shield of neutral nations between it and Britain.
that was what my implication was, a treaty with France, do you think the Vichy regime would sign a deal with Low Countries still occupied?

(that is the cynical deal, France somewhat restored and Belgium and Netherlands pay, with their gold reserves and colonial empires)

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Re: Effects of reduction in German occupation forces in the West in 40/41

Post by Russ3Z » 26 Oct 2018 01:35

That kind of sounds like some (proposed, how seriously?) plans for what the map might have looked like long-term if an actual peace treaty was signed, where Germany occupies the major French industrial areas near their former border and sets up a sort of satellite "Greater Flanders" entity split off from France, leaving the rump still large enough to maintain her colonial empire but lacking the industrial capacity and population to be a serious threat to Germany.

The only problem would seem to be that, if all this happens and Germany withdraws forces to a fortified border region, what is to prevent a renewed Anglo-French alliance from attacking once Germany invades Russia? The lack of Atlantic coastal bases will hamper the commerce and air war against Britain, potentially enabling her to build forces for such an attack earlier. If the British can rebuild a mobile striking force of their own, they might try (with French consent) to land in France, rush east, and if they can defeat the German mobile corps and other defensive elements, occupy the Ruhr to strangle German industry while the Germans are busy in Russia.

Of course, the air war over Britain does not take place in this scenario, so either the Germans have more planes for Barbarossa, and/or have a very effective air umbrella in the west to deter such an attack.

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Re: Effects of reduction in German occupation forces in the West in 40/41

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 26 Oct 2018 02:33

thaddeus_c wrote:
26 Oct 2018 00:00
...that was what my implication was, a treaty with France, do you think the Vichy regime would sign a deal with Low Countries still occupied?
Petains objective was to restore French power, as much as possible. He would have been less interested in the Dutch fate.
(that is the cynical deal, France somewhat restored and Belgium and Netherlands pay, with their gold reserves and colonial empires)
Britain had its grip on the Dutch gold reserves, or the portion evacuated to Britain. I'm unsure how much was in the colonies or in the International Settlements Bank in Switzerland. I'd expect releasing that bullion to Germany would require a settlement that Britian could live with? Not sure where all the Belgian gold was. The Germans lobbied the Settlements Bank in Switzerland to hand over the Belgian gold there, the Brits argued its was theirs, as payment for something or other. IIRC the Swiss kept it all?

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Re: Effects of reduction in German occupation forces in the West in 40/41

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 26 Oct 2018 02:49

Russ3Z wrote:
26 Oct 2018 01:35
That kind of sounds like some (proposed, how seriously?) plans for what the map might have looked like long-term if an actual peace treaty was signed, where Germany occupies the major French industrial areas near their former border and sets up a sort of satellite "Greater Flanders" entity split off from France, leaving the rump still large enough to maintain her colonial empire but lacking the industrial capacity and population to be a serious threat to Germany.

The only problem would seem to be that, if all this happens and Germany withdraws forces to a fortified border region, what is to prevent a renewed Anglo-French alliance from attacking once Germany invades Russia? The lack of Atlantic coastal bases will hamper the commerce and air war against Britain, potentially enabling her to build forces for such an attack earlier. If the British can rebuild a mobile striking force of their own, they might try (with French consent) to land in France, rush east, and if they can defeat the German mobile corps and other defensive elements, occupy the Ruhr to strangle German industry while the Germans are busy in Russia.
Nothing is impossible here. Tho Petain & Co had little interest in reviving the war at the start of the Armistice years. The continued occupation and random looting, the German approval of the Japanese occupation of French Indo China in violation of the Armistice agreements, and the German defeats in battles in the USSR and Africa changed Petains mind in 1942. However, if he obtained a peace treaty, and avoided the apparent dismemberment of the empire then a Petain government may be inclined to focus on rebuilding while the Germans immolate themselves in the east. I expect that if Germany took too much of Frances industry it would be a incentive to return to war against Germany.

Beyond that treaty clauses preventing France from deploying its army in the eastern half, German inspectors, & other actions to neutralize the French army vs Germany would serve to prevent any short fuzed surprises.
Of course, the air war over Britain does not take place in this scenario, so either the Germans have more planes for Barbarossa, and/or have a very effective air umbrella in the west to deter such an attack.
Actually it could have. No reason why not. Petain was under the impression France and Germany would negotiate a peace treaty in the autumn/Winter of 1940-41 & have a peace treaty wrapped up in the spring, irregardless of what Britain did. He & his fellows were a bit nonplussed when this did not happen, and the first cracks in Petains popularity came when the Germans did not march away in the spring of 1941 as most French expected.

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Re: Effects of reduction in German occupation forces in the West in 40/41

Post by thaddeus_c » 26 Oct 2018 11:58

Russ3Z wrote:
26 Oct 2018 01:35
That kind of sounds like some (proposed, how seriously?) plans for what the map might have looked like long-term if an actual peace treaty was signed, where Germany occupies the major French industrial areas near their former border and sets up a sort of satellite "Greater Flanders" entity split off from France, leaving the rump still large enough to maintain her colonial empire but lacking the industrial capacity and population to be a serious threat to Germany.

The only problem would seem to be that, if all this happens and Germany withdraws forces to a fortified border region, what is to prevent a renewed Anglo-French alliance from attacking once Germany invades Russia? The lack of Atlantic coastal bases will hamper the commerce and air war against Britain, potentially enabling her to build forces for such an attack earlier. If the British can rebuild a mobile striking force of their own, they might try (with French consent) to land in France, rush east, and if they can defeat the German mobile corps and other defensive elements, occupy the Ruhr to strangle German industry while the Germans are busy in Russia.

Of course, the air war over Britain does not take place in this scenario, so either the Germans have more planes for Barbarossa, and/or have a very effective air umbrella in the west to deter such an attack.
my speculation was for Germans to withdraw to a re-oriented Maginot Line (that gives them symbolically Strasbourg and as victors they are not going to leave major fortifications under French control) so while it was bypassed during the invasion of France it might deter (any) British operation? and there would be German Siegfried Line on other side of the Rhine?

the line in northern France would be less clear, as described a Greater Flanders. the counterpart under this scenario to Vichy regime, a pawn to try and control Dutch and Belgian colonies.

the loss of (potential) u-boat bases on French Atlantic coast would be significant loss but they had schemed to use Norway initially anyways? and they could return to historical bases on Belgian coast, they built the huge u-boat pens but were stymied by 1943? necessity might force earlier adoption of Dutch snorkel.

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