Thanks again for the referral to Supplying War. I was able to pick it up through my alma mater's library.Lars wrote:From the diagnosis the Van Creveld makes it is faily easy to improve on the German supply system. The way to do it is through railroads. Better functioning railroads with greater capacity closer to the front, more Soviet rolling stock, more railroad batallions, more signals materiel, etc.
As an initial matter, I have to disagree with Van Creveld that the railroads prevented German capture of Moscow in 1941 [He sort of implies that such capture would be decisive to the outcome but I disagree with that judgment as well]. Creveld states on Page 173 that "after the middle of November, the relative importance of" railroad problems versus mud shifted towards the railroads. No doubt that's true but by the middle of November the Red Army had recovered its strength and possessed an enormous reserve that only began fighting around December 5th. By December 1 the RKKA outnumbered Ostheer by ~4.5mil to ~2.5mil, whereas in the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Ostheer had a slight numerical edge across the front and overwhelming local advantage before Moscow. If the Germans were going to take Moscow, it probably would have happened in a "no-rains" ATL during October (as I've said elsewhere, I think that ends in Stalingrad-like catastrophe for Ostheer so they're lucky the mud stopped them). Creveld isn't an expert on the operational aspects of the Eastern Front (he says Timoshenko opposed AGS at the start, for example - it was Kirponos; only later Timoshenko had a mostly-irrelevant coordinating role for Southwest/South fronts).
You're right that the book has some tantalizing nuggets about the exact causes of German rail troubles. My biggest complaint is I wish he had written 500 pages about Barbarossa instead of one chapter of 29 pages:
- Creveld mentions there were no railway connections across the Dniepr and 6th army was "improvised with sections of Russian track" while PzGr1 received air supplies. This drives home how deeply the strategic folly of short war preparation impaired Barbarossa. AGS didn't even plan to run ferry operation to the rail network east of the Dniepr? I wonder at what point the Eisenbahntruppen crossed the Dniepr. Given Kleist's state of affairs in November, it seems they weren't operational even then.
- Creveld provides some detail on how inefficiently individual formations used their integral logistics lift - Kleinkolonenraum - even while the Grosstransportraum was overtaxed. I recall reading that divisions were sending trucks back to GERMANY to retrieve supplies - an obviously wasteful use of lift.
- Creveld's discussion of the French and Polish campaign is a reminder that Barbarossa's logistics problems were foreseeable and differed from past campaigns in scope rather than in kind. The Germans were well aware that their lorry columns would suffer huge losses. It's very interesting that Hitler personally intervened in logistics, ordering "the army's supply system to be completely reorganized" during the Battle of France. The stereotype of Hitler (repeated elsewhere by Creveld) is that he lacked attention to logistics details.
- I like this quote: "The German general staff seemed to have abandoned rational thought... Rather than cutting down their goals to suit their limited means, they persuaded themselves that their original goals could be achieved more easily" pg. 151
- Two related quotes:
"By April  overall capacity of the railroads crossing Poland from west to east had been increased to 420 trains in both directions... This, it turned out, was in fact too much and was never fully utilized" pg. 153.
This implies that the Germans built up sufficient rail capacity in Poland for Barbarossa but that Hitler didn't intervene effectively on behalf of Ostheer supply.The governor of Poland, Frank, was uncooperative, and it was not until November 1941 that the army finally succeeded in having its demand for absolute priority for military trains accepted." p.178
- There are many episodes that reflect not so much a failure of railways or a lack of vehicles but rather the generally shambolic state of German logistics practices. Motorized columns dedicated to the spearheads, for example, sat around at times while the rest of the army went dry/hungry. Troops circumvented normal channels and thereby wasted resources, as already mentioned.
- Of the Eisenbahntruppe, Creveld says they were inadequate in number, training, vehicles (had only 1,000 of 355,000 trucks in Barbarossa), were starved of fuel by their army groups. Also they were "short of signal and communications gear, which was expected to last for the first sixty miles only."
- Creveld relates several anecdotes that show the Ostheer having serious logistical problems very early in the campaign, quite close its well-stocked border depots. Guderian, for example, had to be airlifted supplies on June 25th because infantry interfered with his supply columns.
- "That the utilization of the lorry companies was not always perfect is shown by the incredible diversion of 5,000 tons of precious Grosstransportraum from Bock to Rundstedt, at the very moment when the former was about to begin his decisive offensive against Moscow." p.179
First, we have to differentiate between the shambolic logistics that were integral to German military culture and those problems caused directly by the strategic folly of assuming a short war. The former is unchanged in this ATL; any additional forces will, like all German units, have occasional Three Stooges routines regarding supply. The latter strategic impact is what concerns me.
Van Creveld and others show that Germany had too few Panzertruppen and invested too little in equipment for the efficient operation of the Ostheer's rail supply (having only sufficient signals and communications equipment for 60 miles of track, for example, would grievously impact supply of the deeper offensive). Apparently no plan was made for bridging the Dniepr, despite the fact that Barbarossa's most critical strategic objectives were beyond it (Donets basin, most of the Black Earth region, eventually the Caucasus). It wouldn't surprise if OKH assumed the Russians would kindly leave them an intact bridge there, just as they'd kindly leave all of their rolling stock behind for the Germans.
All of these strategic issues can be resolved with plans for a two-year campaign. Doubling the Eisenbahntruppe costs only 10,000 men. In addition: (1) additional ferries for the Dniepr and/or pre-fab'd sections for a replacement bridge, (2) enough signals/communications equipment to increase capacity on rail lines, (3) water tanks for insertion on shorter intervals than existed on Russian rails (4) more rolling stock. It was not beyond the capacity of German rail professionals to foresee these needs and to address them, had they been asked to do so.
In addition to these "fixes," Hitler should have planned immediately to build/upgrade high-capacity lines across the Ukraine. Given his ambition to move millions of tons of oil from the Caucasus, iron/manganese from Nikopol, Krivoy Rog, and Kursk, any capacity added to support Barbarossa would serve the Reich's long-term interests.
Such enhancements would not have been free of course. We'd need some kind of estimate. I can't see them exceeding the cost of, say, supplying two infantry divisions, however, and my ATL Barbarossa has plenty of room to shed a few infantry divisions if necessary. And there are other ways to shift resources towards the paramount strategic priority.
There are additional logistics remedies. As I've elsewhere, a coherent strategic plan would have kept AGS and AGN on a tighter leash to the railheads, thereby reducing strain on, and destruction of, the truck columns. Very little on the way to Leningrad and Moscow is valuable; a more methodical advance (e.g. pause between Minsk and Smolensk battles and for AGN on the Dvina) would have saved fuel and truck capacity.