Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

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Roberto Muehlenkamp
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Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby Roberto Muehlenkamp » 17 Feb 2017 17:06

Hi everybody,

The following is an article I wrote about the plausibility of German military historian Rüdiger Overmans' figures in Deutsche Militärische Verluste im Zweiten Weltkrieg, following discussions on a Wikipedia talk page mentioned under https://www.quora.com/In-the-ground-war-in-World-War-II-did-the-Americans-cause-more-German-casualties-or-did-the-Germans-cause-more-American-casualties/answer/Roberto-Muehlenkamp Feedback would be welcome, especially such that allows me to replace the Wikipedia references in the article with references to works of military historiography (e.g. regarding the casualties of both sides in the battle for Brest, France, and the number of German dead and wounded in the Battle of the Scheldt).

As the article is quite long (15,941 words including footnotes), I'll post it in several installments over the next couple of days. What follows is the first installment.

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Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

1. Introduction

In a study about German military casualties in World War II by German military historian Rüdiger Overmans[1] , it is claimed that the total number of members of the German armed forces who lost their lives during World War II or in captivity after that war was about 5,318,000.
The above figure is the result of extrapolations from a statistical sample taken from German military personnel records located at the Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt), a German government agency based in Berlin which maintains records of members of the former German Wehrmacht who were killed in action, as well as official military records of all military personnel during the Second World War. It exceeds by about one million the number of dead and missing German military personnel recorded by that agency.[2] It also exceeds by about 900,000 the figure resulting from a demographic analysis published by the West German government in 1960.[3]

Overmans’ total is broken down by theater of operations/place of death as shown below.[4] It should always be borne in mind that, notwithstanding their last-digit precision suggesting otherwise, these figures are extrapolations from a statistical sample and therefore do not represent actually recorded deaths.

Africa_ 16,066
Balkans until October 1944_ 103,693
North, i.e. Scandinavia without Finland_ 30,165
Western Front until 31.12.1944_ 339,957*
Italy until the capitulation_ 150,660
Eastern Front until 31.12.1944_ 2,742,909
Final Battles in East and West after 1 January 1945_ 1,230,045**
Other Theaters (home front, deaths at sea, Polish campaign etc.)_ 245,561
Subtotal without deaths in captivity_ 4,859,056
American captivity_ 22,000
French captivity_ 34,033
British captivity_ 21,033
Yugoslavian captivity_ 11,000
Soviet captivity_ 363,343
Other captivity_ 8,066
Subtotal deaths in captivity_ 459,475
Total _ 5,318,531


* Thereof 244,891 deaths in 1944.[5]
** Thereof an estimated two-thirds (ca. 820,030) on the Eastern Front and an estimated one-third (ca. 410,015) on the Western Front.[6]

The purpose of this article is to examine the plausibility of the above figures.

2. Internal inconsistencies

Overmans’ study was generally well received at the time of its publication, namely by professional colleagues.[7] However, there were also critical voices, namely that of Swedish military historian Niklas Zetterling, who argued that Overmans’ sample may not be reliable, that some of his assumptions (especially the one that the absence of information about an individual’s fate in a sample file necessarily means that said individual died during the war) are unrealistic, and that his claims about the inaccuracy of the German casualty reporting system, at least before 1945, are untenable.[8]

Although Zetterling suspects that Overmans’ total figure of German military fatalities, and especially his figures for certain periods, may be too high, he doesn’t examine these figures in detail, and he also makes no statement about the reliability of Overmans’ death figures attributed to individual theaters of operation. Criticism in this sense was first expressed, as far as I know, in an anonymous review of Overmans’ book[9] , the arguments in this respect being the following (my translation and emphases):

The year 1945 has always been a problem. Now, for the "Final Battles" O[vermans] strangely no longer differentiates between theaters of operation. He determines exactly 1,230,045 deaths. More precisely: (1) killed, (2) missing, (3) otherwise deceased (without prisoners of war), as is differentiated on p. 272. However, many of the missing (O. calculates exactly 697,319) were first taken prisoner and died only in captivity. Nevertheless O. boldly claims that "300,000 soldiers per month" (p.275), "that is, 10,000 men per day" (p.279, cf. p.283, strikingly also stated in the introduction) actually lost their lives – a conclusion that contradicts the previous differentiation and is mistaken anyway.[b] Thereafter O. estimates that of the 1,230,045 deaths (only Eastern and Western Front, without Italy, without deaths in captivity etc.) about two-thirds occurred on the Eastern Front (p.265). [b]This would however mean that in 1945 about 400,000 soldiers were killed in the West alone – a glaringly high number not even remotely confirmed by any other source (for the Ardennes Offensive one must assume a maximum of 20,000, for the Ruhr Pocket 10,000 dead). In total the number of deaths on the Western Front in 1945 was probably less than 100,000.
A basic problem of O.’s study is anyway the one that his individual figures are hardly ever compared with estimates from works of military history. And when in the summary (p. 321) O. sees his total of 5.3 million dead confirmed only by Soviet author Urlanis (Bilanz der Kriege, 1965), he overlooks that Urlanis’ figure of 5.5 million fallen on p. 181 expressly refers to "Germany and its former Allies", i.e. it includes Italy, Romania etc., whereas for Germany itself 4 to 4.5 million dead (pp. 185f.) are assumed throughout [Urlanis’ book].


The reviewer’s reading of Urlanis is correct. Urlanis’ estimate of over 4 million German military fatalities in World War II is mentioned in a 1966 German review of Urlanis’ book, which apparently considers this estimate to be too high.[10]

It is also correct that, on p. 272 of his book, Overmans subdivides his figure of 1,230,045 fatalities in the "Final Battles" of 1945 as follows: fallen, 401,660; died otherwise, 131,066[11]; missing, 697,319. The missing (i.e. the majority of the assumed deaths, about 56.7 %) would to a large extent be soldiers taken captive by the enemy, who may have died months or years after the end of the war.[12] This means that, if elsewhere in the book Overmans claims that 1,230,045 members of the German armed forces lost their lives on the Eastern and Western Fronts between January and May 1945 (about 300,000 per month or 10,000 per day, as he points out on pp. 275, 279 and 283), this claim is contradicted by Overmans’ own breakdown of the claimed "Final Battles" death toll.

Then there is Overmans’ split of the claimed "Final Battles" death toll between Eastern and Western Front, two-thirds (820,030) on the former and one-third (410,015) on the latter. This would mean a daily average of 6,406 deaths in the East and 3,203 deaths in the West. For the East this daily average is not implausible in light of Overmans’ monthly figures on p. 277, which add up to 882,900 deaths between June and December 1944 (4,126 per day on average), the bloodiest months being July and August 1944 with, respectively, 169,881 and 277,465 deaths (about 5,480 per day in July and 8,950 per day in August). But in the West, there were "only" 244,891 deaths in 1944, according to the Table 53 on p. 266 of Overmans’ book. Even if all these deaths had occurred after the commencement of the Allied invasion, i.e. between 6 June and 31 December 1944 (a period of 208 days), this would mean a daily average of 1,177 deaths in this period. So how can the average daily number of deaths in the West have jumped from 1,177 to 3,203, i.e. by a factor of about 2.7, between 1944 and 1945? Were the scale and intensity of the fighting on that front so much larger in 1945 than in 1944? There’s no evidence that this was so, the history of the Western Allies’ campaign in Europe rather suggesting that the fighting grew less intense towards the war’s end and the final months were an anticlimax, with resistance becoming ever more sporadic and an increasing number of German troops surrendering after token resistance or without a fight.[13]

Overmans’ two-thirds vs. one-third split also makes no sense for other reasons. Until the end of 1944, according to the table on p. 272 of Overmans’ book, there were a total of 339,957 deaths in the West (231,132 fallen, 58,000 died otherwise and 50,825 missing) versus 2,742,909 deaths in the East (1,401,462 fallen, 206,033 died otherwise, and 1,135,414 missing). So until the end of 1944 the Eastern Front accounted for 85.84% of the fallen, 78.03% of those who died otherwise and 95.72% of the missing. It seems highly implausible, not to say impossible, that this overwhelming predominance of the Eastern over the Western Front, especially as concerns the number of missing servicemen, should all of a sudden have changed into a two-thirds vs. one-third relation during the "Final Battles". Even if one assumed that all 244,891 deaths in the west in 1944 (p. 266) occurred between June and December 1944 and sets this against the 882,900 deaths on the Eastern Front in the same period, the relation would be 21.71% in the West versus 78.29% in the East. Applied to Overmans’ "Final Battles" figure of 1,230,045, this would mean 267,095 deaths in the West (about 2,087 per day) versus 962,950 in the East (about 7,523 per day). The eastern daily average would be lower than that of August 1944 (8,950) and thus not implausible in light of the 1944 figures. The western daily average, on the other hand, would still be an improbable 1.77 times higher than between June and December 1944.

Given these internal inconsistencies in Overmans’ study, the question arises if and to what extent Overmans’ figures are compatible with the numbers of German military fatalities in the respective theater that have been established by military historiography about the fighting in that theater.

This shall be examined, first of all, as concerns the Western Allies’ campaign in Western Europe from 6 June 1944 to 8 May 1945.

3. The Western Allies’ campaign in Western Europe from 6 June 1944 to 8 May 1945

According to Overmans’ estimates mentioned in the introduction, a total of about 655,000 members of the German armed forces (244,891 in 1944 and ca. 410,015 between 1 January and 8 May 1945) lost their lives on the Western Front in 1944/45. Of the 244,891 deaths in 1944, the overwhelming majority would have died between 6 June and 31 December of that year. Overmans provides no breakdown of the 1944 figure, but he claims 11,033, 12,000 and 11,000 dead for, respectively, the years 1941, 1942 and 1943.[14] Deducting half the 1942 figure for the first half of 1944, it can be assumed that 238,891 deaths would have occurred after the beginning of the Allied invasion. The sum total of German military fatalities in fighting the Western Allies between 6 June 1944 and the date of the German capitulation would thus be (238,891 + 410,015 =) 648,906. Not all these fatalities would be combat-related. As already mentioned, Overmans estimates that 58,000 of the 339,957 deaths in the West during the period up to 31 December 1944, or about 17.06 % of the total, were men who "died otherwise". As concerns the "Final Battles", he places 131,066 out of 1,230,045 deaths, or about 10.66 %, in the "died otherwise" category. As those who "died otherwise" include deaths from disease, accident, court martial execution and suicide besides men who succumbed later to battle wounds, and as it cannot be established what proportion corresponds to each cause, these fatalities shall for good measure be wholly deducted from the total number of fatalities to establish the deaths due to battle. Deducting the aforementioned percentages (17.06 % for June to December 1944, 10.66 % for January to May 1945) from the aforementioned 238,891 and 410,000 deaths for the periods June to December 1944 and January to May 1945 would yield 198,136 battle deaths in the former and 366,307 battle deaths in the latter period, for a total of 564,443 German battle deaths between 6 June 1944 and 9 May 1945. One could further think of deducting from the number of men listed as missing by Overmans a number who died after becoming prisoners of war, but first of all this number cannot be established and second Overmans’ numbers of deaths in captivity are far below those of the Maschke Commission[15] only as concerns the USSR and Yugoslavia, whereas regarding France, Great Britain and the US they exceed the Maschke Commission’s figures.[16] This means that, unlike in what concerns the Eastern Front, all missing on the Western Front can be considered battle deaths according to Overmans.

The plausibility of these figures shall in the following be examined on hand of the following records and estimates:

• US military estimates of total fatalities inflicted on the German armed forces;
• Allied and German casualties in the major engagements of the period.

3.1 US military estimates of total fatalities inflicted on the German armed forces

In General George C. Marshall’s Biennial Reports of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army to the Secretary of War for the period from 1 July 1939 to 30 June 1945, battle casualties of the US Army in the mentioned period were stated to have been 943,222, including 201,367 killed, 570,783 wounded, 114,205 prisoners and 56,867 missing. Marshall pointed out that US Army battle deaths in World War II were higher than the combined losses, Union and Confederate, in the American Civil War.[17]

These were casualties of the US Army including the Army Air Forces, not the total US battle casualties in World War II as the casualties of the US Navy, the US Marine Corps and the US Coast Guard were not included. It seems that a part of those reported missing by Marshall were later found to have been killed and/or a part of the wounded later succumbed to their wounds, for total US Army battle deaths were finally put at 234,874.[18] Battle deaths of the US Navy and US Marine Corps were respectively 36,950 and 19,733, for a total of 291,557 battle deaths of all US armed forces during World War II. In addition all services suffered 113,842 non-battle deaths due to diseases, accidents or other causes (thereof 83,400 in the Army, this figure is not included in Marshall’s report as that report refers to battle deaths only), for a total of 405,399 US servicemen who lost their lives during World War II.

Having emphasized how huge the number of US army battle casualties in World War II had been, Marshall pointed out that enemy casualties had been much higher[19] :

As staggering as our casualties have been, the enemy forces opposing us suffered many times more heavily; 1,592,600 Germans, Italians, and Japanese troops were killed for the 201,367 American soldiers who died. It is estimated that permanently disabled enemy total 303,700. We captured and disarmed 8,150,447 enemy troops.
The break-down of German and Italian losses against American, British, and French forces in the war in Europe follows:
[Theater]_ Battle Dead_Permanently Disabled_Captured_Total
_Tunisia_19,600_19,000_130,000_168,000
_Sicily_5,000_2,000_7,100_14,100
_Italy_86,000_15,000_357,089_458,089
_Western Front_263,000_49,000_7,614,794 (1)_7,926,794
_Total _373,600_85,000_8,108,983(1)_8,567,583
(1) Includes 3,404,949 disarmed enemy forces.


As can be seen above, Marshall’s figure of enemy deaths on the Western Front is 263,000. It is not clear whether Marshall’s figures include members of the Luftwaffe killed in the air battles over Germany. Given that such figures would be reported by the US Army Air Forces and thus be available to Marshall, and that Marshall’s figures of American casualties obviously includes the Army Air Forces, it is possible that his figure of German deaths on the Western Front also include the air battles over Germany. But even if it only includes enemy losses on the ground or in the air related to the ground campaigns, it cannot escape notice that Marshall’s figure is much lower than the aforementioned figure of 564,443 based on Overmans, which exceeds Marshall’s figure by a factor of about 2.15, the difference between the two figures being 301,443 or about 114.62% of Marshall’s figure.

How likely is it that Marshall should have underestimated the number of fatalities inflicted on the enemy by a factor of about 2.15, and that his estimate should have missed 301,443 German military fatalities inflicted by US, British and French forces on the Western Front between June 1944 and May 1945?

Throughout history military commanders have tended to overestimate or deliberately overstate casualties inflicted on the enemy side, especially where such casualties could not be accurately counted (as is usually the case with enemy dead and wounded, whereas the number of prisoners of war taken can be more precisely assessed). Was Marshall a big exception to this rule, a military commander who underestimated enemy fatalities by a factor of about 2.15? There is no indication in this direction in his mention of German casualties throughout his reports, on the contrary. Regarding the outcome of the German Ardennes Offensive (16 December 1944 – 29 January 1945), Marshall wrote the following:[20]

The Germans gained an initial tactical success and imposed a delay of about six weeks on the main Allied offensive in the north, but failed to seize their primary objectives of Liege and Namur. They lost 220,000 men, including 110,000 prisoners, and more than 1,400 tanks and assault guns. The operation was carried out by the Fifth and Sixth Panzer Armies, supported by the Seventh Army, thus stripping the Reich of all strategic reserves and seriously depleting the resources required to meet the powerful Soviet offensive in January.


Marshall’s figure of 220,000 German casualties in the Ardennes Offensive, thereof 110,000 killed and wounded and 110,000 prisoners of war, has not been confirmed by military historiography. The lowest estimate comes from Dipl.-oec. Ralph W. Göhlert of the Militärhistorischer Arbeitskreis, RK Ratingen, who states that the losses of the three armies involved in the offensive were about 68,000 men, thereof 10,749 killed, 35,169 wounded and 22,388 missing, versus Allied casualties of about 77,000, thereof 8,607 killed, 47,138 wounded and 21,144 missing.[21] Antony Beevor writes the following:[22]

German and Allied casualties in the Ardennes fighting from 16 December 1944 to 29 January 1945 were fairly equal. Total German losses were around 80,000 dead, wounded and missing. The Americans suffered 75,482 casualties, with 8,407 killed. The British lost 1,408, of whom 200 were killed. The unfortunate 106th Infantry Division lost the most men, 8,568, but many of them were prisoners of war. The 101st Airborne suffered the highest death rate with 535 killed in action.


Roger Cirillo of the US Army Center of Military History provides the following information[23] :

No official German losses for the Ardennes have been computed but they have been estimated at between 81,000 and 103,000. A recently published German scholarly source gave the following German casualty totals: Ardennes-67,200; Alsace (not including Colmar Pocket)-22,932.


The above-quoted sources suggest that Marshall’s aforementioned figure of German casualties in the Ardennes Offensive is rather on the high side, which in turn suggests the same for his overall total of 263,000 deaths on the German side.

According to the US Third Army’s After Action Report of May 1945, the Third Army inflicted 1,811,388 losses on the enemy forces facing it between 1 August 1944 and 13 May 1945, thereof 144,500 killed, 386,200 wounded and 1,280,688 POWs, against own losses of 16,596 killed, 96,241 wounded, and 26,809 missing in action for a total of 139,646 casualties.[24] However, Robert Fuller’s review of Third Army records, while confirming the aforementioned number of POWs, found that the number of enemy killed and wounded was somewhat lower than claimed in the May 1945 report, respectively 47,500 and 115,700. Fuller’s comparative assessment of German and Allied casualties is the following (emphasis added):[25]

Victory in the European Theater of Operations exacted its toll on the Allies. The total Allied casualties (killed, wounded, captured, missing) were 766,294 men. This included 586,628 Americans with 135,576 killed. The remainder of the Allied deaths reached about 60,000 men.
The German deaths on all fronts were about 3,000,000. German casualties on the Western Front probably equaled, or exceeded, Allied casualties. There were more than 2,000,000 Germans captured by the Allies in the West. German statistics have been less precise because of records destroyed and a progressively disintegrating German support staff at all unit levels that kept and maintained accurate figures.
The Third Army claimed by its records to have killed 47,500 and wounded 115,700 of the enemy between August 1, 1944 and May 9, 1945 at the time hostilities were to have ceased. There were 765,483 prisoners captured during the same time period. Between May 9 and May 13, there were 515,205 prisoners who were processed by various U.S. Army corps and division cages. This gave a total of 1,280,688 enemy prisoners captured. To include the killed and wounded, total enemy losses attributed to the Third Army were estimated at 1,443,888.
Between August 1, 1944 and May 9, 1945 (0001 B hours or one minute past midnight, double daylight saving time) the Third Army lost 27,104 killed and 86,267 wounded. There were 18,957 injuries of all kinds and 28,237 men listed as missing in action. To include 127 men captured by the enemy, brought total casualties of the Third Army to 160,692 in 281 continuous days of operations.
[…]
Taking German troop deaths to American deaths in the Third Army operating area would figure as a ratio of 1:1.75. That would have meant for every American death, 1.75 Germans were killed.


Fuller’s arithmetic in establishing the US Third Army’s "kill ratio" of 1:1.75 is questionable in that it only counts as killed the 27,104 Third Army servicemen listed as killed, but no part of the 28,137 men listed as missing, though it stands to reason that a part of the missing had also been killed while another part had been taken prisoner by the enemy. Fuller, who writes that German casualties on the Western Front "probably equaled, or exceeded" those of the Allies, mentions total Allied casualties (killed, wounded, captured, missing) of 766,294 men, thereof about 195,576 killed. The number killed amounts to about 25.52% of total casualties, suggesting that it includes a part of those originally reported as missing.[26]
Fuller’s figure of 766,294 Allied casualties seems to be based on MacDonald.[27] A higher total with a lower number of fatalities (780,860, thereof 164,590 killed or missing, 537,590 wounded and 78,680 captured) is given by Ellis.[28] The difference in the number of fatalities between MacDonald and Ellis may be due to the fact that wounded men who later succumbed to their wounds were counted by the former but not by the latter. According to a post-war US Army study, the army and army air forces of the United States suffered 586,628 battle casualties in Western Europe, including 116,991 killed in action and 381,350 wounded. 16,264 died of wounds and injuries, and 2,321 men (950 "captured and interned" and 1371 "missing in action") were later found to have died or declared dead, for a total of 135,576 "deaths among battle casualties".[29] Neither MacDonald’s nor Ellis’ total numbers of Allied casualties (respectively 766,294 and 780,860) seem to include (non-fatal) casualties due to non-battle causes (accidents, disease or exposure outside captivity). So the number of US Third Army fatalities corresponding to the relation between the total number of Allied fatalities (195,576) and the total number of casualties (766,294) according to MacDonald would be 25.52% of 141,735 battle casualties, or 36,174 fatalities (65.37% of the 27,104 + 28,237 = 55,341 servicemen either dead or missing). Set against this figure, the number of German fatalities according to Third Army records assessed by Fuller (47,500) would mean an Allied vs. German fatalities ratio of 1:1.31. This would be slightly less favorable to the Allies than the relation between Marshall’s estimate of 263,000 Germans fatalities and the 195,576 Allied fatalities in the entire campaign in Western Europe claimed by MacDonald and Fuller (1:1.34). If, as seems to be Fuller’s assumption in highlighting it, the US Third Army’s "kill ratio" was better than that of other Allied armies, this would be a further indication that Marshall’s estimate of 263,000 German fatalities is too high.

If, as suggested by the above evidence, Marshall’s figure of 263,000 German deaths is on the high side, this applies all the more to the aforementioned 564,443 German military battle deaths on the Western Front in 1944/45 that are suggested by Overmans’ calculations.

Even if Marshall’s figure is assumed to be realistic, the figure that Overmans’ study suggests must be dismissed as widely exaggerated in light of Marshall’s estimate.

Notes

[1] Rüdiger Overmans, Deutsche militärische Verluste im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Oldenbourg 2000. ISBN 3-486-56531-1
[2] About 4.3 million, thereof 3.1 million confirmed dead and 1.2 million missing (Willi Kammerer; Anja Kammerer- Narben bleiben die Arbeit der Suchdienste - 60 Jahre nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg, 2005, edited by the Deutsche Dienststelle and the Search Service of the German Red Cross inter alia, p. 17).
[3] About 4,440,000 according to Statistisches Jahrbuch für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1960, p. 78.
[4] Overmans, Verluste, pp. 174 and 336.
[5] Overmans, Verluste, p. 266.
[6] Overmans, Verluste, p. 265.
[7] See, for instance, the favorable review by Christian Hartmann in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 7.6.2000, online under http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/politik/rezension-sachbuch-5-3-millionen-gefallene-110707.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2, retrieved on 14.02.2017.
[8] Niklas Zetterling, ‘Comments on “Deutsche Militärische Verluste” by Rüdiger Overmans’, online under https://web.archive.org/web/20060219111518/http://web.telia.com/~u18313395/overmans.pdf
[9] ‘Vorsicht, Statistik’, written by “Hobbyhistorian” on 12 May 2011 on the page https://www.amazon.de/Deutsche-milit%C3%A4rische-Verluste-Weltkrieg-Milit%C3%A4rgeschichte/dp/3486200283, retrieved on 14.02.2017.
[10] ‘Kriegstote: Zu lange vermißt’, in: Der Spiegel, 21.11.1966, online under http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-46415229.html, retrieved on 14.02.2017.
[11] This category (“auf sonstige Weise gestorben”) includes servicemen who died from wounds, disease or accident, were executed by courts martial or committed suicide, see Deutsche Militärische Verluste, pp. 175-176.
[12] The number of deaths in captivity calculated by Overmans is about 459,000, thereof 363,000 in Soviet captivity (Verluste, p. 286). Overmans’ figure of deaths in Soviet captivity is about 700,000 lower than the number (ca. 1,094,000) established between 1962 and 1974 by a German government commission, the Maschke Commission. Overmans (Verluste, pp. 288f.) considers it "plausible, though not provable" that these 700,000, which correspond to roughly half the about 1.5 missing on the Eastern Front that he calculated, perished in Soviet captivity.
[13] For a description of the fighting on the Western Front between February and May 1945, see Max Hastings, Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45, Pan Books 2004, pp. 389-437 and 481-514. There is nothing in Hastings’ account to suggest fighting on such scale and with such intensity as would be required for several hundred thousand deaths to occur on the German side.
[14] Deutsche Militärische Verluste, Table 53 on p. 266.
[15] See note 12.
[16] See Table 65 on p. 286. France: 34,000 according to Overmans vs. 25,000 according to Maschke; Great Britain, 21,000 vs. 1,300; US: 22,000 vs. 5,000; Yugoslavia: 11,000 vs. 80,000; other states: 8,000 vs. 13,000; USSR: 363,000 vs. 1,090,000.
[17] George C Marshall, Biennial reports of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army to the Secretary of War : 1 July 1939-30 June 1945, Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1996, p. 201. Marshall’s reports are available for download in PDF format under http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/070/70-57/index.html (retrieved 14.02.2017).
[18] Congressional Research Report – American War and Military Operations Casualties, Table I on p. 2 (online under https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32492.pdf, retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[19] Biennial reports, p. 202.
[20] Biennial reports, p. 146.
[21] ‘Die letzte deutsche Offensive sollte eine Wende bringen’, text posted under http://forumarchiv.balsi.de/verlauf_weltkrieg/20924.html (retrieved 14.02.2017).
[22] Anthony Beevor, Ardennes 1944: Hitler's Last Gamble, Penguin Books 2016, p. 367.
[23] Cirillo, Roger (2003), Ardennes-Alsace, Office of the Chief of Military History Department of the Army, p. 52.
[24] U.S. Third Army After Action Report, May 1945, Headquarters, Third U.S. Army, 1 August 1944 – 9 May 1945 VOL. I (Operations) [unclassified]
[25] Fuller, Robert P. (2004), Last Shots for Patton's Third Army, Portland, ME: NETR Press, ISBN 097405190X, p. 254.
[26] According to sources cited on the Wikipedia page about Operation Overlord (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Overlord#Allies,%20retrieved%20on%2014.02.2017), Allied land forces suffered the following casualties between June and August 1944: American armies, 124,394 casualties, of which 20,668 were killed (16.42% of total casualties); First Canadian and Second British Armies, 83,045: 15,995 killed (16.42% of total casualties), 57,996 wounded, and 9,054 missing. The differences between these percentages and the proportion of men killed out of total casualties throughout the whole campaign (195,576 out of 766,294, or 25.52%) suggests that a part of the missing must be counted as killed to establish the total number of fatalities among the Allied ground forces between June and December 1944. Applied to the total of Allied casualties on the ground between June and August 1944 (207,439, according to the sources cited on this page), 25.52 % would mean 52,943 fatalities, versus (20,668 + 15,995 =) 36,663 listed as killed without including the missing.
[27] Charles B. MacDonald, The European Theater of Operations: The Last Offensive, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington D.C., 1993, page 478: "Allied casualties from D-day to V–E Day totaled 766,294. American losses were 586,628, including 135,576 dead. The British, Canadians, French, and other allies in the west lost approximately 60,000 dead. How many of the three million Germans that were killed during the entire war died on the Western Front is impossible to determine, but exclusive of prisoners of war, all German casualties in the west from D-day to V–E Day probably equaled or slightly exceeded Allied losses. More than two million Germans were captured in the west." (Emphasis added.) Not all figures in this book can be considered credible. On p. 324 MacDonald states that the Dresden bombing from 13 to 15 February 1945 "may have caused as many as 135,000 civilian deaths", citing David Irving, whose claims in this respect have been discredited (see Judgment of Mr. Justice Charles Gray at the Irving-Lipstadt trial, sections XI and XIII, online under https://www.hdot.org/judge_toc/, retrieved on 14.02.2017). The accepted estimate, confirmed by a historian’s commission appointed by the Dresden city council, is that up to 25,000 civilians were killed in these bombings (Neutzner, Matthias, et al. (2010). "Abschlussbericht der Historikerkommission zu den Luftangriffen auf Dresden zwischen dem 13. und 15. Februar 1945", p. 67. The report is available online under http://www.dresden.de/media/pdf/infoblaetter/Historikerkommission_Dresden1945_Abschlussbericht_V1_14a.pdf and was retrieved on 14.02.2017.) In this context it should be taken into account that MacDonald’s book was published in 1993, long before the Irving-Lipstadt trial and even longer before the findings of the aforementioned commission. MacDonald’s having accepted as possible Irving’s widely exaggerated figure of Dresden civilian deaths is therefore not deemed to have any bearing on MacDonald’s credibility as concerns casualty figures of military engagements.
[28] John Ellis, The World War II Databook: The Essential Facts and Figures for all the combatants. Aurum Press Ltd (1993). P. 256.
[29]Army Battle Casualties and Non-Battle Deaths in World War II. Final Report, 7 December 1941 – 31 December 1946. Available online under http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/ref/Casualties/Casualties-1.html (retrieved on 14.02.2017). The breakdown of total battle casualties is the following:
Killed in action: 116,991
Died of wounds and injuries: 16,264
Captured and interned killed in action: 224
Captured and interned died of wounds and injuries: 194
Captured and interned died from other causes (non-battle): 532
Missing in action declared dead: 1,361
Missing in action died from other causes (non-battle): 10
Subtotal fatalities: 135,576
Non-fatally wounded: 365,086
Captured and interned returned to military control: 72,809
Missing in action returned to duty: 13,157
Total battle casualties: 586,628

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[To be continued]

Jan-Hendrik
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Re: Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby Jan-Hendrik » 17 Feb 2017 18:45


Roberto Muehlenkamp
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Re: Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby Roberto Muehlenkamp » 18 Feb 2017 14:49

3.2 Allied and German casualties in the major engagements of the period

Regarding the outcome of Operation Overlord from 6 June 1944 to the liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944, Antony Beevor writes the following:[30]

The ferocity of the fighting in north-west France can never be in doubt. And despite the sneers of Soviet propagandists, the battle for Normandy was certainly comparable to that of the eastern front. During the three summer months, the Wehrmacht suffered nearly 240,000 casualties and lost another 200,000 men to Allied captivity. The 21st Army Group of British, Canadians and Poles sustained 83,045 casualties and the Americans 125,847. In addition, the Allied air forces lost 16,714 men killed and missing.


As mentioned above, the number of Allied servicemen killed (195,576) amounts to about 25.52% of total battle casualties (766,294) suffered by the Allies in the invasion of Europe according to MacDonald and Fuller. Applying this proportion to the (83,045+125,847 =) 208,892 casualties of the Allied ground forces mentioned by Beevor would yield 53,309 fatalities included in these casualties. How many fatalities are included in the German casualties? As the total of 766,294 Allied casualties in the campaign in Western Europe, of which 25.52 % are fatalities, also includes prisoners of war, one might think of estimating the number of German fatalities by applying this percentage to the 440,000 German casualties including prisoners of war mentioned by Beevor. However, it should be taken into account that the Allied forces were advancing and victorious, meaning that servicemen captured by the enemy made up a relatively small part of total casualties, whereas the German forces were defeated and retreated, which implied that a much larger proportion of German casualties were prisoners of war. According to Fuller, the US Third Army lost only 127 confirmed prisoners taken by the enemy. Additionally, the part of the servicemen listed as missing who are not assumed to have been killed must have been taken prisoner. If, as assumed above, 36,174 Third Army servicemen were killed and of these 27,104 were listed as having been killed, the remaining 9,070 would be servicemen listed as missing who turned out to have been killed as well. Deducting the latter figure from the 28,237 listed as missing would yield 19,167 captured by the enemy in addition to the 127 mentioned by Fuller, for a total of 19,294 POWs or about 13.61 % of Third Army’s battle casualties. Applying this percentage to the total of 766,294 Allied casualties in the campaign in Europe would yield 104,293 men who became prisoners of war, the remaining 662,001 being killed and wounded. If out of these 195,576 were killed, that would be 29.54% of the total number of killed and wounded. It seems reasonable, if perhaps a little too generous, to apply this percentage to the 240,000 German casualties in dead and wounded mentioned by Beevor, as there is no evidence that the quality of medical services on the German side was lower than on the Allied side. This would yield 70,896 German battle deaths during Operation Overlord – a number that is probably on the high rather than on the low side, as it is based on the assumption that over 100,000 Allied soldiers were taken prisoner by an enemy who was retreating in defeat during most of the period. On the Allied side there would be the 53,309 fatalities of the ground forces calculated above, and if the percentage killed among the 16,714 men of the Allied air forces killed or missing, mentioned by Beevor, was as high as in Patton’s Third Army (36,174 out of 55,341 listed as either killed or missing, or ca. 65.37%), then 10,926 air force fatalities must be added to the 53,309 fatalities of the ground forces, for a total of 64,235 battle deaths on the Allied side. The number of combat fatalities on both sides during Operation Overlord was thus more or less equal, the number of assumed German fatalities (70,896) exceeding that of Allied fatalities by a factor of only about 1.10.

What about the major engagements after Overlord, for which casualty figures are available? Was the ratio of German vs. Allied fatalities so much higher in these engagements as to vindicate Overmans’ estimate? And is the total number of German fatalities in all major engagements starting 6 June 1944 somewhere in the neighborhood of the aforementioned 564,443 German battle deaths on the Western Front suggested by Overmans’ figures? In the following list, I shall, whenever no different data are provided by sources of military historiography, assume that the relation between the number of German killed and wounded and the number German POWs was the same as during Operation Overlord (ca. 24:20), that 29.54% of the number of German dead and wounded were fatalities, that about 25.52 % of Allied casualties or about 29.54% of the number of Allied dead and wounded were fatalities, that the 25.52 % proportion also applies to German fatalities in engagements in which there was not a huge number of German prisoners taken, and that of Allied troops reported killed or missing ca. 65.37% were fatalities (as in Patton’s Third Army). The former two assumptions should put the number of German fatalities on the high side, especially in engagements for which the number of German dead and wounded is unknown, in which German troops fought less doggedly than in Normandy, and in which there were thus relatively more prisoners of war in comparison with the number of dead and wounded. Where there is no other information that would allow for assumptions about the fatalities of one side in a given engagement, the estimate of that side’s fatalities will be based on the relation between Marshall’s estimate of 263,000 Germans fatalities and the 195,576 Allied fatalities in the entire campaign in Western Europe claimed by MacDonald and Fuller (1:1.34).

Operation Dragoon (15 August to 14 September 1944): German casualties were 131,250 captured and up to 7,000 killed and three times that number wounded, vs. 4,500 battle casualties including 2,050 killed, captured or missing in the US VI corps as of 9 September 1944, and "slightly higher" French casualties.[31] Applying the aforementioned proportion of 65.37 % to the 2,050 US killed, captured or missing yields 1,340 US fatalities. Assuming 5,000 French battle casualties and an equal proportion killed as among the Americans yields 1,489 French fatalities, for a total of 2,829 fatalities on the Allied side in 26 days between 15 August and 9 September 1944, an average of about 109 per day. If this daily rate was maintained during the remaining 5 days of the operation until 14 September 1944, another 545 US and French soldiers were killed in these 5 days, for a total of 3,374 fatalities on the Allied side. This would mean a ratio of Allied vs. German fatalities of 1:2.07 – improbably favorable to the Allies considering the aforementioned 1:1.10 ratio in Operation Overlord, but the purpose of this exercise requires assuming the highest number of German fatalities and the ratio of own versus enemy fatalities most favorable to the Allies that are suggested by the available sources.

Battle of Brest (7 August to 19 September 1944): German casualties are stated to be over 1,000 dead and 4,000 wounded, versus Allied casualties of about 4,000.[32] Another source mentions 1,059 dead on the German side, excluding the defenders of the harbor whose corpses could partially not be found anymore, and 4,000 wounded.[33] I’ll make that 1,200 dead out of 5,200 dead and wounded for good measure, fatalities making up about 23 % of total casualties. Assuming identical ratios of dead vs. dead plus wounded, Allied casualties would be about 900 dead, meaning a ratio of Allied vs. German fatalities of 1: 1.33.

US Third Army’s Lorraine Campaign (1 September to 18 December 1944): the number of Germans killed and wounded "cannot be determined with any degree of exactness", but "it is known that at least 75,000 prisoners passed through the Third Army cages during the Lorraine operation".[34] This would (according to the above assumptions) correspond to about 90,000 German dead and wounded, thereof about 26,586 dead (29.54%). Allied casualties were 6,657 killed, 36,406 and 12,119 missing, 55,182 in total[35] , of which an assumed 25.52% or 14,082 were fatalities. The ratio of Allied vs. German fatalities would thus have been 1:1.89.

Battle of Moerbrugge (8–10 September 1944): According to a memorial to the battle built in 1944, the Canadians lost 48 and the Germans 104 killed.[36] The ratio of Allied vs. German fatalities was thus 1:2.17.

Operation Astonia (10-12 September 1944): A Canadian military report about operations against the channel ports Le Havre (Operation Astonia), Boulogne (Operation Wellhit), Calais (Operation Undergo) and Dunkirk speaks of "just under 500 casualties killed wounded and missing from 3 Sep to the end of the operation on 12 Sep" on the Allied side versus 11,300 prisoners as well as “uncounted dead“ on the German side.[37] Another publication states that "The Allied casualties were below five hundred killed and wounded for the whole period since the containment of the port, while the Germans lost several hundred killed and 11,300 captured."[38] It is assumed that “several hundred killed” means about 300 fatalities. 25.52 % of 500 Allies killed and wounded would be 128 fatalities. The ratio of Allied vs. German fatalities would thus be 1: 2.34.

Operation Wellhit (17 to 22 September 1944): The aforementioned report mentions a cost to the Allies of “only 600 Canadian casualties“, versus 9,535 prisoners taken.[39] Stacey mentions 634 killed, wounded and missing, with the highest casualties being suffered by the Highland Light Infantry of Canada (97 casualties, 18 of them fatal) and The North Nova Scotia Highlanders (96 casualties, 27 fatal).[40] Applying the Highland Light Infantry of Canada’s fatalities versus total casualties ratio to the aforementioned 634 casualties yields about 118 fatalities on the Canadian side. No information about the number of German dead and wounded is provided by either source. Applying the relation of German dead to German prisoners in Operation Astonia (300:11,300) to the 9,535 prisoners taken in Operation Wellhit yields 253 German fatalities. The ratio of Allied vs. German fatalities would thus be 1:2.14.

Operation Undergo (22 September – 1 October 1944): Stacey mentions Canadian casualties "under 300", versus 9,128 prisoners taken.[41] Applying the Highland Light Infantry of Canada’s fatalities versus total casualties ratio in Operation Wellhit (see previous bullet) to 300 casualties yields 56 fatalities. Applying the relation of German dead to German prisoners in Operation Astonia (300:11,300) to the 9,128 prisoners taken in Operation Undergo yields 242 German fatalities. The ratio of Allied vs. German fatalities would thus be 1:4.32.

Operation Market-Garden (17-25 September 1944): MacDonald mentions 11,850 casualties of the Allied airborne forces and 3,874 casualties of the Allied ground forces, for a total of 15,724.[42] He also mentions German claims that of the 1st British Airborne Division, 1,500 were killed and 6,450 prisoners were taken, thereof 1,700 wounded.[43] Deducting the unwounded prisoners (4,750) from the total number of casualties yields 10,974 dead and wounded. Applying the assumed proportion of 29.54% killed yields 3,242 fatalities on the Allied side. As concerns German casualties, MacDonald provides no total figures, mentioning only 3,300 casualties, thereof 1,100 killed, inflicted by the British 1st Airborne division at Arnhem.[44] The same figures were mentioned by Cornelius Ryan, who additionally stated that he "would conservatively estimate that Army Group B lost at least another 7,500–10,000 men of which perhaps a quarter were killed".[45] This would mean up to (1,100+2,500 =) 3,600 German fatalities in total, and a ratio of Allied vs. German fatalities of 1:1.11.

Battles of Overloon and Venray (30 September – 18 October 1944): An online article mentions 893 men killed on the Allied side (220 in US 7th Armored Division, 400 in British Third Infantry Division and 273 in British 11th Armored Division), versus about 600 killed on the German side.[46] This would means an Allied vs. German fatalities ratio of 1:0.67.

Battle of the Scheldt (2 October to 8 November 1944): MacDonald mentions 13,000 Allied casualties versus 40,000 German prisoners taken.[47] Stacey mentions 41,043 prisoners taken by First Canadian Army versus own casualties of 703 officers and 12,170 other ranks, killed, wounded and missing.[48] It seems that in this battle the number of POWs taken largely exceeded the number of German dead and wounded, for online sources mention 10-12,000[49] or 10-15,000 German dead and wounded.[50] Assuming the highest number of German casualties (15,000) and applying the aforementioned proportion of 29.54% yields 4,431 dead on the German vs. 3,803 dead (25.52 % of 12,873) on the Allied side, a ratio of Allied vs. German fatalities of 1:1.17.

Battle of Aachen (2 – 21 October 1944): MacDonald mentions 5,100 casualties "of all types" admitted to by the German side, apparently excluding prisoners of war[51] . A total figure of American casualties in the Aachen fighting is not provided; MacDonald’s figures are 3,000 casualties in the US 30th Division and 498 casualties in two battalions of the US 1st Infantry Division’s 26th Regiment, including 75 killed and 9 missing.[52] Ambrose wrote the following: "American losses were heavy, over 5,000. The 30th and 1st divisions were exhausted, used up. They were in no condition to make a dash to the Rhine. German losses were 5,000 casualties and 5,600 prisoners of war."[53] Applying the aforementioned proportion of 29.54% to the 5,100 German casualties mentioned by MacDonald would mean 1,507 German dead. Applying the proportion stated by MacDonald regarding the 26th Infantry Regiment (75 killed out of 498 casualties) to the 5,000 US casualties mentioned by Ambrose yields 753 fatalities on the Allied side. The Allied versus German fatalities ratio would thus be 1: 2.00.

Operation Clipper (10–22 November 1944): MacDonald mentions "approximately 2,000 battle casualties, including 169 killed and 752 missing" in the US 84th Division alone.[54] He provides no figures for German casualties. Applying the aforementioned factor of 65.37% to the 921 killed and missing yields 602 fatalities. Applying the default 1:1.34 ratio mentioned above to this figure yields about 807 fatalities on the German side.

Operation Queen (16 November – 16 December 1944): MacDonald mentions that the German defenders "inflicted upon the Ninth Army more than ten thousand battle casualties: 1,133 killed, 6,864 wounded, and 2,059 missing", and that "the Ninth Army actually buried 1,264 enemy dead and estimated that the Germans lost another 5,000 killed".[55] Assuming that 25.52% of the US Ninth Army’s total casualties of 10,056 were fatalities and that the aforementioned estimate is accurate (which is dubious considering the much lower number of confirmed enemy deaths), that would mean 2,566 Allied versus 6,264 German fatalities in the Ninth Army’s sector, a ratio of Allied vs. German fatalities of 1:2.44, which seems implausibly favorable to the Allies in view of US First Army’s ratio at the same time. First Army’s VII Corps is stated to have suffered 15,908 battle and 8,550 non-battle casualties, thereof 2,448 killed. Total First Army battle and non-battle casualties are stated to have been about 28,000, with German casualties being equal.[56] Judging by VII Corps figures, about 2,800 of the First Army’s casualties were fatalities. The total number of US fatalities in this operation would thus be (2,566 + 2,800 =) 5,366. The total number of German fatalities, assuming 2,800 against First Army and the implausibly high 6,264 against Ninth Army, would be 9,064. The ratio of Allied vs. German fatalities would thus be 1:1.69.

Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 to 29 January 1945): According to Antony Beevor (see item 3.1 above), German and Allied casualties in the Ardennes fighting from 16 December 1944 to 29 January 1945 were fairly equal - 76,890 on the Allied vs. 80,000 on the German side. The number of Allied killed stated by Beevor (8,607) is rather low in comparison to the total casualties and probably does not include servicemen reported missing who later turned out to have been killed. Applying the aforementioned proportion of 25.52 % to the total casualties yields 19,622 fatalities, which is in line with the number mentioned by Donna Miles, who states that "about 19,000 U.S. soldiers died, and 47,500 were wounded and more than 23,000 missing", that the British suffered 1,400 casualties with 200 killed, and that the Germans had 100,000 soldiers killed, wounded or captured.[57] The highest number of German casualties stated by Cirillo (see item 3.1 above) is 103,000. As the purpose of this exercise is to establish the maximum number of German fatalities in the major engagements of the Western Allied invasion of Europe, this number will be used instead of Beevor’s 80,000. Applying the 25.52 % proportion to Cirillo’s highest figure (which seems justified as there was no huge haul of German prisoners during the Battle of the Bulge) yields 26,286 German fatalities, versus 19,624 fatalities on the Allied side, a ratio of Allied vs. German fatalities of 1:1.34. Assuming a linear distribution of German fatalities throughout the 45 days of the battle, 9,344 of the German fatalities would have occurred in 1944 and 16,942 would have occurred in 1945.

Operation Nordwind (31 December 1944 – 25 January 1945): The Allies suffered about 31,000 casualties (29,000 American, 2,000 French), versus about 23,000 casualties on the German side.[58] Applying the 25.52% proportion to either yields 5,870 German vs. 7,911 Allied fatalities, a ratio of Allied vs. German fatalities of 1:0.74. On the other hand, Clarke and Smith mention 14,716 casualties of US VI Corps in January 1945 (thereof 9,268 battle and 5,448 non-battle), versus an estimated 17,000 Germans killed or wounded and 5,985 processed prisoners of war.[59] Applying the 25.52% proportion to the 9,268 reported US battle casualties and the 29.54 % proportion to the estimated 17,000 German dead or wounded yields 5,022 German vs. 2,365 US fatalities, a ratio of Allied vs. German fatalities of 1:2.12 This ratio is highly improbable, especially as it would be much more favorable to the Allies than the ratio in the Battle of the Bulge at about the same time, under the assumptions most favorable to the Allies. However, considering the aforementioned purpose of this exercise, the figures corresponding to this ratio shall be used. Assuming a linear distribution of German fatalities throughout the 26 days of this operation, 193 fatalities would have occurred on 31 December 1944 and the remaining 4,829 between 1 and 25 January 1945.

Colmar Pocket (20 January – 9 February 1945): Clarke and Smith mention American casualties around 8,000 and French losses about twice that number, with disease and noncombat injuries accounting for almost a third of the losses and probably even more. On the German side there were 16,438 prisoners taken "and obviously thousands more were killed or wounded, while non-battlefield casualties from the weather may also have been high"; on 10 February the Nineteenth Army recorded over 22,000 permanent (killed or missing) casualties.[60] The latter figure probably includes the POWs taken by the enemy, so the balance of (22,000 – 16,438 =) 5,562 would be fatalities. On the Allied side there were 24,000 casualties including about 16,000 battle casualties; 25.52 % of that would mean 4,083 fatalities on the Allied side. The ratio of Allied versus German fatalities would be 1: 1.36.

Operation Blackcock (14 to 27 January 1945): The official report about the operation[61] mentions over 400 casualties of the British 7th Armored Division versus 490 enemy POWs taken (p. 15). The British 52nd Infantry Division took 1,220 enemy prisoners and lost 752 men, thereof 101 killed and 651 wounded (p. 22). The British 43rd Infantry Division, which came up against only light opposition, captured 603 POWs (p. 25). Its casualties are not mentioned but assumed to be light, say 100 men at most. That would make for a total of 1,252 casualties on the British side; if the proportion of men killed was equal in all units as in the 52nd ID, there were about 180 fatalities on the British side. No total figure of enemy dead and wounded is given, but the total number of POWs reported adds up to 2,313. Assuming a similar relation of German dead and wounded to German POWs as in the Battle of the Scheldt (ca. 15,000 vs. 40,000, see above), the number of German dead and wounded would have been about 867, thereof 29.54% = 256 fatalities. The ratio of Allied versus German fatalities would thus have been 1:1.42.

Operation Veritable (8 February–11 March 1945): Allied forces suffered 15,634 casualties and inflicted 44,239 casualties, thereof 22,239 POWs and 22,000 dead and wounded.[62] Of the Allied casualties an assumed 25.52% or 3,990 are assumed to have been fatalities. Of the German dead and wounded 29.54% or about 6,499 are assumed to have been fatalities. The ratio of Allied versus German fatalities would thus have been 1: 1.63.

Operation Grenade (23 February to 11 March 1945): US Ninth Army "captured about 30,000 Germans and killed an estimated 6,000 more while absorbing less than 7,300 casualties."[63] Assuming that 25.52% or 1,863 of Ninth Army’s casualties were fatalities, 6,000 dead on the German side would mean an Allies versus German fatalities ratio of 1:3.22. This is highly improbable considering both the Western European campaign’s overall ratio (assuming Marshall’s figure for German and MacDonald’s figure for Allied battle deaths) and the ratio in Operation Veritable at about the same time, so the German figure must be an overestimate. It will nevertheless be used considering the aforementioned purpose of this exercise. Stacey states that Ninth Army captured 29,739 prisoners during the operation, and estimated to have inflicted 16,000 other casualties on the German army.[64] 29.54% of 16,000 dead and wounded would be 4,727 fatalities, implying an also improbable Allies versus German fatalities ratio of 1:2.54 in Operation Grenade, so this estimate is probably also too high.

Operation Lumberjack (7-25 March 1945): from 7 through 24 March the Remagen bridgehead fighting cost the US III Corps approximately 5,500 casualties, including almost 700 killed and 600 missing. The VII Corps, from 16 through 24 March, incurred not quite 1,900 casualties, including 163 killed and 240 missing. In the same time span the Germans lost more than 11,700 men in prisoners alone.[65] Assuming the same relation between prisoners and fatalities as in Operation Grenade according to US Ninth Army’s (probably exaggerated) claim (6,000 vs. 30,000), the number of German fatalities would have been 2,340. The total number of dead and missing in US III Corps and VII Corps were 1,703, of which an assumed 65.37% or 1,113 were fatalities. The Allies versus German fatality ratio would thus be 1:2.10.

Operation Undertone (15–24 March 1945): "The Seventh Army and its attached French units captured 22,000 Germans during the campaign, and the Third Army imprisoned more than 68,000. The Third Army estimated that the German units opposing its advance lost approximately 113,000 men, including prisoners, while the Third Army casualties totaled 5,220, including 681 killed. The Seventh Army, much of its fighting centered in the West Wall, probably incurred about 12,000 casualties, including almost a thousand killed."[66] The number of German dead and wounded according to Third Army’s estimate mentioned by MacDonald was about 45,000, of which an assumed 29.54% or 13,293 would have been fatalities. Assuming a similar ratio of dead and wounded versus prisoners among the forces facing Seventh Army, 22,000 prisoners taken by that army would correspond to about 14,600 dead and wounded, of which an assumed 29.54% or 4,313 would have been fatalities, for a total of 17,606 fatalities on the German side. Total Allied casualties were 17,220, of which an assumed 25.54% or 4,395 (those listed as killed and a part of those listed as missing) would have been fatalities. The Allies versus German fatality ratio would thus be an unprecedented 1:4.01, suggesting that US estimates of enemy dead and wounded were much too high (as becomes apparent from the differences between Third Army’s After Action Report of May 1945 and Fuller’s assessment of Third Army records, mentioned in section 3.1 above, Third Army seems to have been prone to exaggerating the number of enemy dead and wounded in its communicated estimates). Considering the aforementioned purpose of this exercise, the figures corresponding to this ratio will nevertheless be used.

Operation Varsity (24 March 1945): MacDonald mentions that during the first day of the operation the US 17th Airborne Division alone lost "159 men killed, 522 wounded, and 840 missing (though 600 of the missing subsequently turned up to fight again)", while the IX Troop Carrier Command alone lost 41 killed, 153 wounded, 163 missing.[67] He gives no figures for the British 6th Airborne Division, which also took part in the operation. Ellis & Warhurst mention 1,400 casualties in the 6th Airborne and 1,300 casualties in the 17th Airborne, versus 1,500 prisoners captured by the former and 2,000 prisoners captured by the latter.[68] Neither of the cited authors mentions the number of German dead and wounded, but an indication on how to estimate German fatalities in this operation is provided by MacDonald, who states that one of the units involved in the operation killed about 55 Germans, wounded 40, and captured 300.[69] This suggests a ratio of about 1:6 between fatalities and prisoners on the German side, which would mean that 3,500 POWs taken correspond to about 583 German fatalities. The 2,700 casualties on the Allied side are assumed to have included about 689 fatalities or about 25.52% of the total. The Allies versus German fatality ratio would thus be 1:0.85.

Ruhr Pocket (7 March to 21 April, 1945): Despite the enormous scale of this operation, in which about 317,000 German prisoners were taken[70], bloody casualties on both sides were comparatively low because the encircled German forces, aware that their cause was lost and not spurred on by fear and loathing of the enemy like German troops on the Eastern Front, no longer put up much of a fight. Starting 15 April 1945, German Field Marshal Model dissolved his command and discharged his troops, allowing them to go home or surrender to the enemy as they saw fit (though he himself, on grounds that a German field marshal should not become a prisoner, committed suicide on 21 April). Even before Model’s decrees German troops in the pocket had begun surrendering en masse, with many a German walking "mile after mile before finding an American not too occupied with other duties to bother to accept his surrender".[71] US Ninth Army lost "341 killed, 121 missing and not quite 2,000 wounded", while US First Army losses "probably were about three times as high". "Thousands" of Germans, "of whom there was no record", had perished in the fighting.[72] A German article, citing various sources of German military historiography, mentions about 10,000 deaths of Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS soldiers, Volkssturm popular militia members, civilians, prisoners of war and forced laborers (with many of the latter three having been murdered by the SS and Gestapo), vs. 1,500 killed on the US side.[73] Another article, citing German historian Ralf Blank, mentions the same number of deaths on the US side and 10,000 German soldiers and civilians killed in Westphalia alone in March and April 1945.[74] For good measure, and although this would imply an Allies vs. German fatality ratio of 1:6.67 assuming 1,500 fatalities on the US side (much more favorable to the Allies than in all previously mentioned engagements, and accordingly improbable), it will be assumed that about 10,000 members of the German armed forces, including popular militia, perished in the Ruhr Pocket fighting. This corresponds to the estimate from the Amazon reviewer cited in section 2 of this article. Ironically, it is the comparatively not so bloody Ruhr Pocket (and not, say, the far more lethal Halbe Pocket on the Eastern Front from 24 April to 1 May 1945, where over 30,000 German soldiers, out of a much smaller number encircled, were killed within a much shorter period[75] ) that Overmans expressly mentions as an example in explaining why his estimate of deaths in the "Final Battles" is so much higher than any previous estimate.[76]

Battle of Aschaffenburg (28 March - 3 April 1945): According to an article in a German paper, there were about 3,000 dead and wounded on the American and 1,620 dead and wounded on the German side.[77] A US Army research paper about the battle speaks of about 1600 killed and wounded on the German vs. more than "twenty killed and 300 wounded" on the American side, with about 3,500 POW’s taken.[78] The number of American fatalities stated is obviously a mistake as the narration of the battle points to much higher American casualties.[79] Besides, a ratio of 15 wounded for everyone killed is unheard of in the annals of warfare. My take is that the author meant to write "one hundred and twenty" instead of "twenty". Applying the 29.54% proportion to the number of German dead and wounded yields 473 fatalities on the German side, versus an assumed 120 US fatalities – an Allied versus German fatalities ratio would thus be 1: 3.94.

Battle of Würzburg (31 March - 6 April 1945): A German press article mentions about 1,000 deaths among the German defenders (largely members of the Volkssturm popular militia) and 300 deaths on the American side.[80] The Allied versus German fatality ratio would thus be 1:3.33.

Battle of Kassel (1–4 April 1945): A report by one American participant in the battle mentions 5,488 prisoners taken and "hundreds" killed on the German side.[81] No figures of American casualties are provided. It is assumed that "hundreds" means at least 300 and that the relation between German and American casualties was about the same as in the Battle of Würzburg. This would mean 90 fatalities on the American side.

Operation Amherst (7–8 April 1945): Allied forces lost 34 men killed, 60 seriously wounded and 69 POWs, and claimed to have killed a little less than 300 Germans and taken prisoner 187.[82] The claimed number of German killed, which would imply an improbable Allied versus German fatality ratio of 1:8.82, may well be exaggerated but will be used nevertheless, as the purpose of this exercise includes establishing the maximum number of German fatalities in the engagements mentioned.

Battle of Heilbronn (4–12 April 1945): The US 100th Infantry Division lost 60 men killed, 250 wounded, and 112 missing, and "killed or disabled at least as many Germans – undoubtedly many more".[83] Applying the 65.37% proportion to the 172 US killed or missing yields 112 fatalities. German fatalities were at least equal but "undoubtedly" much higher, so for good measure it will be assumed that the Allied versus German fatality ratio was the same as in Würzburg and Kassel, 1: 3.33. This would mean 373 fatalities on the German side.

Battle of Crailsheim (5 - 21 April 1945): "Even though the city had been relinquished to the Germans and the 10th Armored losses were heavy, the 10th Armored had managed to capture 2000 German soldiers, kill more than 1000 others, shoot down 50 valuable German aircraft, and divert large numbers of German troops, which were needed and engaged elsewhere, to defend Crailsheim."[84] For good measure it will be assumed that the Allied versus German fatality ratio was the same as in Würzburg and Kassel, 1:3.33. This would mean about 300 US versus the claimed over 1,000 German fatalities.

Battle of Nuremberg (16–20 April 1945): 130 US versus at least 400 German military fatalities (including popular militia) are mentioned in a German Wikipedia article about the battle.[85] This would mean an Allied versus German fatality ratio of 1:3.08.

Battle of Groningen (14 - 18 April, 1945): A Canadian account of the battle mentions 130 Germans killed versus 209 casualties on the Allied side.[86] Applying the 25.52% proportion would yield 53 Allied fatalities; however, a Wikipedia page about the battle states 43 killed and 166 wounded[87] , so this lower number of Allied fatalities and an Allied vs. German fatality ratio of 1:3.02.

Thus ends my list of 32 major engagements between 6 June 1944 and 8 May 1945 for which casualty figures are available in online and other sources. The sum total of estimated fatalities in these engagements is 210,720 on the German side (thereof 136,127 in 1944 and 74,593 in 1945) and 138,529 on the Allied side.

The average Allies versus German fatalities ratio in these engagements is 1:1.52, somewhat higher than the ratio between the 263,000 German military fatalities for the whole estimated by Marshall and the 195,576 fatalities mentioned by MacDonald and Fuller, which is 1:1.34. This is largely due to the fact that as concerns German fatalities figures were deliberately estimated on the high side where there were several possibilities and also where German casualty figures claimed by the Allies were considered improbably high, as stated regarding the respective engagement. Actual German fatalities were probably somewhat lower in many of the engagements considered. For instance, fatalities on both sides in Operation Queen an Operation Nordwind where probably more or less equal. As concerns the Battle of the Bulge, assuming the 80,000 German casualties mentioned by Beevor instead of Cirillo’s highest figure of 103,000 would yield an estimated 20,416 instead of 26,286 German fatalities and an Allied versus German fatality ratio of 1: 1.04 instead of 1:1.34. With the 67,200 German casualties according to a German scholarly source, also mentioned by Cirillo, the number of German fatalities, applying the 25.52% proportion, would be 17,149, and the Allied vs. German fatality ratio would be 1:0.87. The number of German dead and wounded in Operation Undertone estimated by US Third Army may well be exaggerated. The number of German military fatalities in the Ruhr Pocket may have been just half the 10,000 assumed for good measure. And so on.

Even though German fatalities in the listed engagements were deliberately estimated on the high side, the average Allies versus German fatality ratio in these engagements, 1: 1.52, is well below the ratio of 1:2.89 that would correspond to the aforementioned 564,443 German battle deaths suggested by Overmans’ figures. This is another clear indication that Overmans’ figures are way too high.

A further indication is the difference between 564,443 German battle deaths in the whole campaign and the (high) number of 210,720 fatalities in the listed major engagements. While Marshall’s figure of 263,000, of which 210,720 would be 80.12%[88] , is still within the range of what is plausible, this cannot be said of the 564,443 battle deaths suggested by Overmans figures, of which the 210,720 fatalities in the major engagements would make up just 37.33%. It is highly implausible, not to say completely impossible, that engagements not included in my list should have accounted for the remaining 353,723 deaths, 62.67% of the total.

The difference is especially glaring as concerns the year 1945. Readers may have noticed that as concerns this year I had to scrap the bottom of the barrel to find engagements after the Ruhr Pocket, and that these engagements are minor skirmishes compared to, for instance, the Battle of Berlin.[89] Despite thus scraping the bottom of the barrel and deliberately estimating German fatalities on the high side, I arrived at a total of only 74,593 fatalities on the German side, a mere 20.36% of the 366,307 German battle deaths on the Western Front in 1945 suggested by Overmans’ claim that about 410,000 members of the German armed forces lost their lives on that front, in battle or otherwise, between January and May 1945. It is extremely unlikely, to say the least, that engagements not mentioned in my list should have accounted for the remaining 291,714 battle deaths in 1945, 79.64% of the total. There’s no evidence even remotely suggesting such possibility.

So the final conclusion of this section is that Overmans’ estimates of German fatalities on the Western Front in 1944/45 are not just slightly exaggerated. They are grossly exaggerated and therefore should not be taken seriously. Overmans has not done military historiography any favor by postulating these glaringly exaggerated numbers.

Did Overmans’ only get the figures for Western Europe far too high, or are his other figures of German fatalities too high as well? The latter seems more probable as all figures were established according to the same methodology, and the unreliability of the statistical sample taken and/or of Overmans’ conclusions derived from this sample would thus affect all of his figures. To test this theory I’ll take a look at Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in two other theaters of military operations, the Balkans and Italy.

Notes

[30] Antony Beevor, D-Day. The Battle for Normandy. Penguin Books 2012, p. 522.
[31] Jeffrey J. Clarke and Robert Ross Smith, Riviera to the Rhine, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1993, pp. 196-97.
[32] Wikipedia page ‘Battle for Brest’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_for_Brest), retrieved 14.02.2017.
[33] German Wikipedia page ‘Schlacht um die Bretagne’ (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schlacht_um_die_Bretagne#Deutsche_Kapitulation, retrieved 14.02.2017).
[34] Hugh M. Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, HISTORICAL DIVISION UNITED STATES ARMY WASHINGTON, D.C., 1993, Library of Congress Card Number 50-60957, p. 592. Available online under https://web.archive.org/web/20080324025717/http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/lorraine/lorraine-content.html, retrieved on 14.02.2017.
[35] Cole, as above p. 593.
[36] ‘Peace Memorial Moerbrugge’, online under http://en.tracesofwar.com/article/7627/Peace-Memorial-Moerbrugge.htm (retrieved 14.02.2017).
[37] Report No. 184, Historical Section, Canadian Military Headquarters, ‘Canadian Participation in the Operations in North-West Europe 1944. Part V: Clearing the Channel Ports, 3 Sep 1944 – 6 Feb 1945’ (online under http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/his/rep-rap/doc/cmhq/cmhq184.pdf, retrieved on 14.02.2017). The cited information is on p. 9, paragraph 29.
[38] Jan Hyrman, ‘Clearing the Channel Ports. Operation Astonia – The Capture of Le Havre.’ Online under https://web.archive.org/web/20100523050156/http://www.nasenoviny.com/DunkirkENAstonia.html, retrieved on 14.02.2017.
[39] Page 36, paragraph 88.
[40] Stacey, C. P. (1966), The Victory Campaign, p. 343. Official History of the Canadian Army, Department of National Defence. Online under http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/Canada/CA/Victory/Victory-14.html, retrieved on 14.02.2017.
[41] As above, p. 352.
[42] Charles B. MacDonald, The Siegfried Line Campaign. Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1993. P. 199.
[43] As above, p. 198.
[44] As above.
[45] Ryan, Cornelius (1999) [1974], A Bridge Too Far, Wordsworth Editions, p. 457.
[46] ‘Battles for Overloon and Venray’, starting under http://www.go2war2.nl/artikel/3180/Battles-for-Overloon-and-Venray.htm?page=1, casualty figures under http://www.go2war2.nl/artikel/3180/Battles-for-Overloon-and-Venray.htm?page=4 (retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[47] Siegfried Line, p. 229.
[48] The Victory Campaign, p. 424.
[49] Wikipedia page ‘Battle of the Scheldt’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Scheldt, retrieved 14.02. 2017).
[50] Wikipedia page ‘Schlacht an der Scheldemündung’ (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schlacht_an_der_Scheldem%C3%BCndung, retrieved 14.02.2017).
[51] Siegfried Line, pp. 317.
[52] Siegfried Line, p. 318.
[53] Stephen Ambrose, Citizen Soldiers. The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, 1997 Touchstone Books, New York, p. 151.
[54] Siegfried Line, p. 557.
[55] Siegfried Line, pp. 577f.
[56] Siegfried Line, pp. 593f.
[57] Battle of the Bulge Remembered 60 Years Later, by Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service (online under https://web.archive.org/web/20110927021345/http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=24591, retrieved 14.02.2017).
[58] Zabecki, David T. (2014). Germany at War: 400 Years of Military History, p. 922.
[59] Riviera to the Rhine, p. 527.
[60] Riviera to the Rhine, pp. 556-57.
[61] Report on Operation "Blackcock", available for download as PDF under http://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p4013coll8/id/87/rec/16 (retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[62] Stacey, The Victory Campaign, p. 522.
[63] MacDonald, Last Offensive, p. 183.
[64] The Victory Campaign, p. 522.
[65] MacDonald, Last Offensive, pp. 234f.
[66] MacDonald, Last Offensive, p. 264.
[67] As above, p. 313.
[68] Major L.F. Ellis with Lieut. Colonel A.E. Warhurst, Victory in the West. Volume II: The Defeat of Germany. 2004 by The Naval & Military Press Ltd. P. 291. Cf. MacDonald (as above) regarding the number of prisoners.
[69] Last Offensive, p. 311.
[70] MacDonald, Last Offensive, p. 372.
[71] As above, pp. 369-372; the quote is from p. 370.
[72] As above, p. 372.
[73] ‘Der Ruhrkessel: Ende der Kämpfe im Westen – Verbrechen der Wehrmacht, der SS und Gestapo an der Bevölkerung bis zum letzten Tag’, from the documentation series "Dorsten unterm Hakenkreuz" (online under http://www.dorsten-unterm-hakenkreuz.de/2012/05/28/der-ruhrkessel-ende-der-kampfe-im-westen-%E2%80%93-verbrechen-der-wehrmacht-der-ss-und-gestapo-an-der-bevolkerung-bis-zum-letzten-tag/, retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[74] Monika Willer, ‘70 Jahre "Ruhrkessel" - Die letzte Schlacht des Zweiten Weltkriegs’, in: Der Westen, 30.03.2015 (online under http://www.derwesten.de/politik/70-jahre-ruhrkessel-die-letzte-schlacht-des-zweiten-weltkriegs-id10516317.html, retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[75] Antony Beevor, The Fall of Berlin 1945, Penguin Books 2003, p. 337.
[76] On p. 240 of Deutsche Militärische Verluste, Overmans writes the following (my translation): "In comparison with previous statistics the above result may surprise, but in fact it is not surprising if one considers that the period from December 1944 to May 1945 was the one in which the final battles were fought in the soil of the Reich, many people died in the Ruhr Pocket, especially in the East the fighting was conducted with utmost bitterness and the last reserves were »squandered«. It is rather surprising that the far too low estimates have so far been accepted without protest." This statement implies that the fighting in the West was also conducted with utmost bitterness, if not to the same extent as in the East. Contradicting this assessment of the final battles in the West is Overmans’ remark, on p. 321 of his book, that the proportionally higher losses of the Waffen-SS in the West (15 % of total losses) in comparison to those of the Army (5 % of total losses) could be explained by the fact that "the Waffen-SS in the West did still actually fight, whereas Wehrmacht units often did so only half-heartedly in 1944."
[77] ‘An Ostern tobte die Schlacht um »Festung Aschaffenburg«’, in: Main-Echo, 02.04.2015 (http://www.main-echo.de/regional/stadt-kreis-aschaffenburg/art11846,3549429, retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[78] Quentin W. Schillare, Maj., USA, ‘The Battle Of Aschaffenburg: An Example Of Late World War II Combat in Europe’, pp. 137-38. The report can be read online under http://www.oneonta.edu/faculty/paynene/The%20Battle%20of%20Aburg.pdf (retrieved on 14.02.2017)
[79] See for instance pp. 100/101, 103, 104, 116, 120, 125, 129 of the report.
[80] Roland Flade, ‘Ostern 1945: Der sinnlose Kampf um Würzburg’, Main Post, 16.12.2008 (online under http://www.mainpost.de/regional/wuerzburg/Ostern-1945-Der-sinnlose-Kampf-um-Wuerzburg;art735,4879909, retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[81] Major Ben M. Faribault, Infantry, ‘Operations of the 1st Battalion, 318th Infantry, 80th Infantry Division, in the Capture of the City of Kassel, Germany, 1-4 April, 1945 (Central Europe Campaign) (Personal experience of a Battalion Executive Officer)’, p. 21. The report can be read under https://web.archive.org/web/20070624233728/https://www.infantry.army.mil/monographs/content/wwii/STUP2/FaribaultBenM.%20MAJ.pdf (retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[82] Online article ‘Operation Amherst’, part 7: ‘Execution of the Operation’ (http://www.go2war2.nl/artikel/2621/Operation-Amherst.htm?page=7, retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[83] Edward G. Longacre, ‘Heilbronn: One Last Place to Die’, online under http://www.americainwwii.com/pdfs/stories/heilbronn-one-last-place-to-die.pdf, retrieved on 14.02.2017.
[84] Dwayne Engle, 162 Days and a Bronze Star: The Seventh Army 10th Amored Division During The Final Months of World War II, p. 106.
[85] ‘Schlacht um Nürnberg’, https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schlacht_um_N%C3%BCrnberg (retrieved on 14.02.2017). The figures seem to be based on Karl Kunze, Kriegsende in Franken und der Kampf um Nürnberg im April 1945.
[86] ‘Groningen’ (online under https://web.archive.org/web/20070926225535/http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/mediawiki-1.5.5/index.php?title=Groningen#Aftermath, retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[87] ‘Battle of Groningen’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Groningen, retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[88] The 138,529 fatalities on the Allied side make up only 70.83% of the MacDonald’s 195,576, but this is largely due to the fact that Allied fatalities were estimated conservatively whereas German fatalities were estimated on the high side, besides the fact that MacDonald’s total includes deaths in captivity and men who later succumbed to their wounds.
[89] The Wikipedia page ‘Battle of Berlin’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Berlin, retrieved on 14.02.2017) mentions 81,116 dead or missing on the Soviet side based on Krivosheev, G. F. (1997), Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century, vs. 92,000–100,000 German military fatalities based on German historian Rolf-Dieter Müller.

Roberto Muehlenkamp
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Re: Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby Roberto Muehlenkamp » 19 Feb 2017 11:58

4. The Balkans

Overmans’ figure of 103,693 fatalities in the Balkans until October 1944[90] is over three times higher than the previously assumed order of magnitude for the entire war.[91] Of these, applying the relation between Overmans’ numbers of servicemen fallen, otherwise died and missing for theaters of war other than West, East and "Final Battles"[92], the Balkans figure would consist of 51,085 fallen, 29,062 died otherwise and 23,546 missing. Assuming that all the missing were deaths in captivity included in the difference between Overmans’ and the Maschke Commission’s figures for Yugoslavia and other countries[93], and that the better part of the fallen (say 60 %) occurred in Yugoslavia, that would mean 30,651 German fallen on the German side in Yugoslavia. According to Croatian historian Vladimir Zerjavic, military casualties of Yugoslavia during all of World War II amounted to 237,000 resistance fighters vs. 209,000 "collaborators and quislings".[94] The war in Yugoslavia was essentially a civil war between the resistance army commanded by Marshall Tito and the "collaborators and quislings", essentially the forces of the "Independent State of Croatia". If these "collaborators and quislings" inflicted casualties equal to their own on Tito’s partisans, only 28,000 deaths among these partisans would have been caused by other Axis forces, namely Germans and Italians. And if Tito’s partisans accounted for 30,651 German battle fatalities, that would make them the only partisan force in World War II (not to say in all of recorded history) to inflict on a better-equipped conventional enemy force casualties in excess of those suffered (at an unprecedented and unequaled ratio of about 1.09:1 counting the assumed German battle deaths alone, without including battle deaths suffered by Italian forces). This alone shows that Overmans’ figure for the Balkans is wildly out of touch with reality. For comparison, Soviet partisans in Belorussia, whose numbers didn’t differ much from those of Tito’s partisans until late 1943[95], managed to inflict only about 6-7,000 fatalities (not including local auxiliaries) on the German forces facing them[96] , while losing about 37,800 of their number, 26,000 killed and 11,800 missing mostly killed as well[97], an enemy-versus-own fatality ratio of less than 0.2:1. There’s nothing in the related evidence to bear out the notion that Tito’s partisan army was that much more combat-effective a fighting force than the Soviet partisans in Belorussia.

This, in turn means that Overmans’ figure of German fatalities in the Balkans must also be dismissed as grossly exaggerated. The only possibility of rendering Overmans’ figure more credible would be to assume that the claimed 103,693 fatalities in the Balkans mostly consist of 69,000 deaths in Yugoslavian captivity, i.e. the difference between Overmans’ figure of deaths in Yugoslavian captivity (11,000) and that of the Maschke Commission (80,000).[98] However, Overmans provides no indications in this direction, and besides his figure for the Balkans only refers to the period until October 1944, which renders it even more unrealistic.[99]

5. The Italian Campaign (10 July 1943 to 2 May 1945)

According to Overmans’ estimates mentioned in the introduction, a total of 150,660 members of the German armed forces lost their lives fighting the Western Allies in Sicily and on the Italian mainland between 10 July 1943 and 2 May 1945. Of these, applying the relation between Overmans’ numbers of servicemen fallen, otherwise died and missing for theaters of war other than West, East and "Final Battles"[100], this number would consist of 74,225 fallen, 42,225 died otherwise and 34,210 missing. As was done regarding the Western Front, only the fallen and the missing, which add up to 108,435, shall be assumed to be battle deaths claimed by Overmans. The plausibility of this figure shall be examined on hand of the following records and estimates:
• Other estimates of total fatalities inflicted by the Allies on the German armed forces;
• Allied and German casualties in the major engagements of the period.

5.1 Other estimates of total fatalities inflicted on the German armed forces

General Marshall’s breakdown of Axis losses in the Italian campaign is the following[101]

[Place]_Battle Dead_Permanently Disabled_Captured_Total
Sicily_5,000_2,000_7,100_14,100
Italy_86,000_15,000_357,089_458,089

Though this breakdown is stated to include both German and Italian losses, the stated numbers of captured obviously refers to Germans alone[102], presumably due to the fact that Italy had changed sides on 8 September 1943. It is not clear whether this also applies to battle dead and permanently disabled, but the fact the total number of Axis fatalities on Sicily far exceeded the 5,000 mentioned by Marshall[103] suggests that only German dead are being referred to. On the other hand, it makes sense that the 86,000 dead on the Italian mainland should include not only Germans, but also forces of the Italian Social Republic fighting on the German side after 18 September 1943. If including only Germans, Marshall’s total of 91,000 fatalities would be about 17,000 lower than the sum of German servicemen fallen or missing according to Overmans (108,435).
Ellis mentions 59,940 killed and missing, 163,600 wounded and 357,090 captured, with the following note:[104]
From September 1939 to 31 December 1944, German killed and missing is killed only. Figures include SS and foreign volunteers. Another set of figures, for the Field Army only, between June 1941 and 10 April 1945 gives 46,800 killed, 208,240 missing and 168,570 wounded.

A direct comparison of either set of figures with Overmans’ figure is not possible, as they refer to different periods and the former set also includes foreign volunteers, whereas the latter refers to the Field Army only while Overmans’ figure also includes other branches of service. However, assuming that the overwhelming majority of the 208,240 missing in the second set of figures consists of POWs included in the 357,090 captured during the whole campaign (Marshall’s figure minus 1), and that total battle deaths in the Field Army were about 50,000, Overmans’ sum of dead and missing is about twice as high as the number killed in the Field Army.

5.2 Allied and German casualties in the major engagements of the period

Ellis provides no overall figures of Allied servicemen killed and missing in the Italian campaign. According to Blaxland, Allied casualties on the Italian mainland 3 September 1943 and 2 May 1945 amounted to 59,151 killed, 30,849 missing and 230,000 wounded.[105] In the Allied invasion of Sicily, the British and Canadian forces suffered 2,721 KIA, 7,939 wounded and 2,183 MIA, while US forces suffered 2,811 KIA, 6,471 wounded and 686 MIA.[106] Total Allied casualties in the Italian campaign were thus 64,723 killed, 33,718 missing and 244,310 wounded. The number killed is higher than the proportion (65.37 %) of the sum of killed and missing assumed in section 3.2, so it can be assumed that all 33,718 missing were prisoners of war.

Set against the number of Allied servicemen killed, Marshall’s total of 91,000, if referring to German forces only, would imply an Allied vs. German fatalities ratio of 1:1.41. Overmans’ figure of 108,435 would imply an Allied vs. German fatalities ratio of 1: 1.68. If either of these ratios were also reflected in the Allied and German casualty figures in the major engagements, it would indicate the accuracy of the respective figure. If, on the other hand, the Allied vs. German fatalities ratio in all major engagements was substantially lower than either or both of the above ratios, this would indicate that either or both of the above figures are too high; as concerns Marshall’s it might also indicate that his figure for the Italian mainland (86,000) also includes Italians fighting on the German side.

The major engagements of the Italian campaign for which casualty figures on both sides are available or can be estimated were the following:

Allied Invasion of Sicily (9 July – 17 August 1943): According to the Historical Branch of the Italian Army, Italian military losses were 4,678 killed, 36,072 missing, 32,500 wounded and 116,681 captured. A large part of the missing were presumed to have been killed and buried on the battlefield or in unknown locations, whereas another part presumably included locally recruited soldiers who deserted and returned to their homes.[107] Allocating equal probability to each hypothesis stated regarding the missing, 18,036 of the missing would been killed and buried on the battlefield or in unknown locations, in addition to the 4,678 confirmed deaths for a total of 22,714 Italian deaths. German losses included 4,325 men killed and 4,583 missing[108] , for a total of 8,908; assuming that 65.37% of these were fatalities yields 5,823 deaths of the German forces. Of the Allied forces 5,532 were killed.[109] The Allied to Axis fatalities ratio would thus have been 1: 5.16, which seems improbably high. The Allied to German fatalities ratio, on the other hand, would only have been 1:1.05.

Operation Avalanche (9-16 September 1943): An internet source states that Allied forces sustained 2,009 killed, 7,050 wounded, and 3,501 missing while German casualties numbered around 3,500.[110] I’m not sure if these casualty figures refer to the same period and battle for either side. Regarding the Salerno battle Atkinson states that Allied casualties totaled about 9,000 – 5,500 for the British and 3,500 for the Americans –, of whom more than 1,200 were killed in action, versus German losses of roughly 3,500, of whom an estimated 630 had been killed.[111] Assuming Atkinson’s figures, the Allied vs. German fatality ratio was 1:0.53.

Battle of Ortona (20-28 December 1943): An online account of the battle contains the following information: "Casualties for the Loyal Edmonton Regiment had been 172 (over 60 of which were fatal). The Seaforths had lost 42 killed and 78 wounded. German losses remain unknown, though 100 bodies were recovered by the Canadians after the battle. One source states that 200 Germans were killed in total." [112] The lower number of German deaths would mean an Allied vs. German fatalities ratio of 1:0.98, the higher an improbable ratio of 1:1.96, which will nevertheless be assumed as the purpose of this exercise involves assuming the highest number of German fatalities and the ratio most favorable to the Allies that is borne out or suggested by the available figures.

Battle of Monte Cassino (17 January – 18 May 1944): Whereas the Germans suffered some twenty thousand killed or wounded, the Allied forces incurred fifty-four thousand casualties.[113] Applying the 25.52% proportion from section 3.2 to either figure yields 5,104 German versus 13,781 Allied fatalities, an Allied versus German fatalities ratio of 1:0.37.

Battle of Anzio (22 January – 5 June 1944): A Wikipedia page citing Carlo D’Este mentions 43,000 casualties (7,000 killed, 36,000 wounded or missing) on the Allied site versus 40,000 casualties (5,000 killed, 30,500 wounded or missing, 4,500 prisoner) on the German side.[114] A brochure from the US War Department’s Historical Division[115] speaks of Allied combat casualties in the order of 30,000, including at least 4,400 killed and 18,000 wounded in action, and German casualties of between 28,000 and 30,000, including at least 5,500 killed and 17,500 wounded in action. Assuming the latter figures, the Allied versus German fatalities ratio would be 1:1.25.

Gothic Line Offensive (25 August – 17 December 1944): An online article mentions 40,000 Allied casualties but gives no figures for German casualties.[116] Another article mentions that on 7 October Allied General Alexander "assessed 30.000 allied and 42.000 German casualties".[117] This would mean an Allied versus German casualty ratio of 1:1.40. Applied to the aforementioned 40,000 figure for the whole campaign this would mean 56,000 casualties on the German side, a figure that would include forces of the Italian Social Republic. True to the purpose of this exercise as explained above, it will nevertheless be assumed that the figure includes German casualties only. Applying the 25.52% proportion to casualties on either side would yield 10,208 Allied versus 14,291 German fatalities, an Allied versus German fatalities ratio of 1:1.40.

Operation Grapeshot (6 April 1945 – 2 May 1945): Allied casualties were 16,258, thereof 3,102 killed, 12,859 wounded and 297 missing. German casualties were estimated at 32,000 by a German staff officer.[118] Applying the proportion of 25.52% yields 8,166 fatalities on the German side. The Allied versus German fatalities ratio would thus be 1:2.63.

The battle dead figures assumed for these seven major engagements add up to 39,714 German and 38,325 Allied servicemen, an Allied versus German fatalities ratio of 1:1.04, despite the "generous" assumptions regarding German fatalities whenever there were several figures to choose from. German and Allied fatalities in these engagements being roughly equal, one would expect these fatalities to make up roughly the same percentage of, respectively, total German and Allied fatalities in the Italian campaign. Yet that is not so if one assumes Marshall’s 91,000 figure as including only German (and not also Italian) battle dead, let alone if one assumes 108,435 German battle deaths in Italy according to Overmans. While the 38,325 Allied fatalities in the listed engagements make up 59.21% of the 64,723 Allied fatalities in the whole Italian campaign, the 39,714 German fatalities make up only 43.64% and 36.62% of, respectively, Marshall’s and Overmans’ figure. This indicates that both of these figures are too high. Marshall’s figure would imply that in engagements other than those listed Allied forces killed 51,286 of the enemy (56.36% of Marshall’s total) while losing only 26,398 of their own (40.79% of the total of 64,723 fatalities in the Italian campaign), an Allied versus German fatalities ratio of 1:1.94. Both propositions are highly improbable considering that the engagements listed include the six largest engagements of the Italian campaign and there’s no reason why the Allied versus German fatalities ratio, in a multitude of comparatively minor engagements that got less if any attention from military historiography, should have been almost twice as favorable to the Allies as in the major engagements. Such assumption is also belied by the nature of the fighting in Italy, in which determined defenders including crack units had all the advantages that a mountainous terrain offers to the defense. What is more probable, considering these advantages on the one hand and Allied material superiority in artillery and air power on the other, is that the total number of German fatalities in the Italian campaign equaled, or at most slightly exceeded, the number of Allied fatalities.

In this context it is worth noting that one monograph about the war considers the casualties of both sides to have been "fairly balanced".[119] A blogger commenting on this monograph criticizes the author’s having included German troops that surrendered at the end of the war, and argues that "If we look at combat losses during the period of actual fighting it is obvious that the casualty figures were not fairly balanced but the Germans had a slight advantage."[120]

If Marshall’s figure is too high assuming that it includes only German fatalities, that applies all the more to Overmans’ figure of 108,435 German fallen and missing in Italy. This figure would imply that, in engagements other than those mentioned above, Allied troops killed 68,721 of the enemy (63.38% of Overmans’ figure) while losing only 26,398 of their own, an Allied versus German fatalities ratio of 1:2.60 (roughly the ratio that was Operation Grapeshot alone, while in the other listed engagement the ratio was much less favorable to the Allies) Assuming a ratio of fatalities that favorable to the Allies in the Italian campaign flies in the face of everything that is known about this campaign.

6. Conclusions

Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German fatalities on various German battlefronts in World War II – the Western Front until 12/31/44, the western part of the "Final Battles in Germany in 1945", the Balkans (until Oct. 1944) and Italy (until the surrender in 1945) – must be considered largely exaggerated, with the exaggeration as concerns the "Final Battles" in the West being especially egregious.

Given that all of Overmans’ figures were established on the basis of a statistical sample according to the same methodology, this means that also the figures not examined in this article should be treated with caution and are probably too high, and that the same applies to Overmans’ total of ca. 5.318 million German military fatalities in World War II.

It is therefore recommended that any references to Overmans’ figures in works of military history and encyclopedias should be made with the caveat that Overmans’ figures are maximum figures at best, and that the actual figures may well be much lower.

Notes

[90] Deutsche Militärische Verluste, pp. 174, 336. Deaths in the Balkans after October 1944 were allocated to the Eastern Front.
[91]Basil Davidson, Partisan Picture, ‘The Sixth Offensive’ (online under http://www.znaci.net/00001/3_2_8.htm, retrieved on 14.02.2017) mentions that "according to German casualty lists quoted by The Times for July 30th, 1945, from documents found amongst the personal effects of General Reinecke, head of the Public Relations Department of the German High Command, total German casualties in the Balkans amounted to 24,000 killed and 12,000 missing, no figure being mentioned for wounded", and that "A majority of these casualties suffered in the Balkans were inflicted in Jugoslavia."
[92] Deutsche Militärische Verluste, Tab. 56 on p. 272: 269,066 fallen (49.27%), 153,066 died otherwise (28.03%) and 124,013 missing (22.71%).
[93] There were 11,000 deaths in Yugoslavian captivity according to Overmans, 80,000 according to Maschke. For other countries the figures are, respectively, 8,000 and 13,000 (Deutsche Militärische Verluste, Table 65 on p. 286).
[94] Vladimir Zerjavic, Yugoslavia – Manipulations with the Number of Second World War Victims, Croatian Information Center, p. 6 (online under http://www.hic.hr/books/manipulations/p06.htm, retrieved on 14.02.2017), Table 5.
[95] According to the Wikipedia page ‘Yugoslav Partisans’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yugoslav_Partisans, retrieved on 14.02.2017), citing Cohen, Philip J.; Riesman, David (1996). Serbia's Secret War: Propaganda and the Deceit of History, Texas A&M University Press, Tito had 215,000 men under arms in September 1943 and 329,000 in late 1943. The Belorussian partisans, according to German historian Christian Gerlach (Kalkulierte Morde: Die Deutsche Wirtschafts und Vernichtungspolitik in Weißrussland 1941 bis 1944, 1999 by Hamburger Edition, p. 861), numbered 103,600 in September 1943, 122,600 in November (plus 30,800 now behind the front line), 180,000 in March 1944 and in total at various times 374,000 partisans, thereof 283,000 fighters.
[96] Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, p. 866. Gerlach remarks that considering the partisan movement's numerical strength its military successes in this respect were minor, as can hardly be expected otherwise of a guerrilla army.
[97] As above, pp. 957-58.
[98] See note 93.
[99] See note 90.
[100] Deutsche Militärische Verluste, Tab. 56 on p. 272: 49.27% fallen, 28.03 % died otherwise and 22.71 % missing.
[101] Biennial Reports, p. 202
[102] On p. 119 of the Biennial Reports, Marshall writes that "for the Axis the loss of Sicily was a major military disaster. Their casualties totaled 167,000 of which 37,000 were Germans". It follows that 130,000 of the Axis losses were Italians. The number is far higher than the combined number Axis losses in Sicily according to the breakdown on p. 202, which suggests that the majority of Italian casualties were POWs. According to the Historical Branch of the Italian Army, Italian military losses in Sicily were 4,678 killed, 36,072 missing, 32,500 wounded and 116,681 captured (Le Operazioni in Sicilia e in Calabria (Luglio-Settembre 1943), Alberto Santoni, p.401, Stato maggiore dell'Esercito, Ufficio storico, 1989, cited on the Wikipedia page ‘Allied invasion of Sicily’ - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_invasion_of_Sicily, retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[103] German losses were 4,325 men killed, 4,583 missing, 5,532 captured and 13,500 wounded according to the source mentioned in the previous note and German historians Messerschmidt et al, cited on the same Wikipedia page. The number of German and Italian soldiers killed on Sicily would thus be 9,261, not counting a portion of the missing who were also killed.
[104] Ellis, John (1993), The World War II Databook: The Essential Facts and Figures for all the combatants, p. 255.
[105] Blaxland, Gregory (1979). Alexander's Generals (the Italian Campaign 1944–1945). London: William Kimber. P. 11.
[106] Hart, Basil H. Liddel (1970). A History of the Second World War. London, Weidenfeld Nicolson. P. 627.
[107] Le Operazioni in Sicilia e in Calabria (Luglio-Settembre 1943), Alberto Santoni, p.401, Stato maggiore dell'Esercito, Ufficio storico, 1989, cited on the Wikipedia page ‘Allied invasion of Sicily’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_in ... Casualties, retrieved on 14.02.2017). The title of the source cited by Wikipedia suggests that the figures include not only the fighting in Sicily but also the fighting in Calabria in September 1943.
[108] As note 103.
[109] As note 106.
[110] ‘World War II: Invasion of Italy’ (http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/WWIIEurope/p/World-War-Ii-Invasion-Of-Italy.htm, retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[111] Rick Atkinson, The Day of Battle. The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, 2007 Holt Paperbacks, New York, p. 236.
[112]‘Ortona’ (https://web.archive.org/web/20070926225422/http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/mediawiki-1.5.5/index.php?title=Ortona, retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[113] Alan Axelrod, The Real History Of World War II. A New Look At The Past. 2008 Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., New York. P. 208.
[114] ‘Battle of Anzio’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Anzio, retrieved on 14.02.2017). Work cited: d'Este, Carlo (1991), Fatal Decision: Anzio and the Battle for Rome, New York: Harper, p. 490.
[115] ‘Anzio Beachhead (22 January-25 May 1944)’ (online under http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-A-Anzio/index.html, retrieved on 14.02.2017; the cited information is under http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-A-Anzio/USA-A-Anzio-6.html).
[116] C. Peter Chen, ‘Gothic Line Offensive’ (http://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=315, retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[117] ‘Battle of Rimini’ (http://www.gothicline.org/inglese/offensiva/offensiva.htm, retrieved on 14.02.2017).
[118] Wikipedia page ‘Spring 1945 offensive in Italy’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring_1945_offensive_in_Italy, retrieved on 13 February 2017), citing Jackson, General W.G.F.; with Gleave, Group Captain T.P. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO 1988]. Butler, Sir James, ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume VI: Part III - November 1944 to May 1945. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. P. 334.
[119] Ian Gooderson, A Hard Way to Make War: The Allied Campaign in Italy in the Second World War, 2008 by Conway, London, p. 326. Gooderson’s figures are the following: Allied killed, wounded, missing (September 1943 - May 1945) 312,000 (188,746 Fifth Army/ 123,254 approx in Eighth Army); German killed, wounded, missing 434,646 (48,067 killed, 172,531 wounded, 214,048 missing).
[120] Christos T., ‘German vs Allied losses – Italian front’ (http://chris-intel-corner.blogspot.pt/2013/05/german-vs-allied-losses-italian-front.html, retrieved on 14.02.2017).

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Re: Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby Roberto Muehlenkamp » 19 Feb 2017 12:58

Question to readers:

I would like to contact Niklas Zetterling, given that he has also written a critical article about Overmans' figures. Does he post on this forum (if so, under what name?), or do you have any e-mail address under which I might contact him? (I tried niklas.zetterling@telia.com but it doesn't seem to be active anymore.)

Thanks in advance.

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Re: Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby MichaelJS » 22 Feb 2017 05:04

(First time poster here)

I joined because this subject, and particularly Overmans' research, has interested me as well. This is some good work you've done thus far, Roberto. I admire your dedication to the topic.

Some things which might alter your numbers a bit - first, you are correct in your assumption that many of the "missing" in fact died in prison camps. Overmans himself actually admits this. He says that about 180,000 of the "missing" attributable to the Western Front were actually Germans who either died in French camps, or disappeared and possibly fought in Indochina with the French Foreign Legion. Overmans says this on p.287.

So that would bring the actual battle dead, according to Overmans, on the Western Front from 1944-45 to 384,443. This might change your thesis a bit, just wanted to make you aware.

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Re: Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby Roberto Muehlenkamp » 22 Feb 2017 17:00

Hi Michael,

What Overmans writes on p. 287 is that there are indications supporting the assumption that of the ca. 180,000 missing in the West many actually died in French custody or as mercenaries of the French Foreign Legion in Indochina, in addition to the 34,000 he calculated as having died in French captivity.

He also reckons (pp. 288-89) that of the about 1.5 million missing on the Eastern Front about 700.000 may have died in Soviet captivity. The overwhelming majority of the 697,319 missing in the "Final Battles" according to Table 56 on p. 272, (697,319 - 180,000 =) 517,319, went missing on the Eastern Front. It is likely that a large part of these missing servicemen died in Soviet captivity months or years after the war.

Yet despite these reasonable considerations, Overmans claims on several occasions (e.g. pp. 275, 279 and 283) that 1,230,045 German servicemen died between January and May 1945, pointing out that this means 300,000 deaths per month and 10,000 every day.

And that, as you will probably agree, is nonsense, moreover as it contradicts the aforementioned considerations on pp. 287-289.

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Re: Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby MichaelJS » 22 Feb 2017 18:56

Yes, I agree, he contradicts himself greatly on that point.

Regarding the West, here is a list of all the '44-'45 Allied casualties I could find, just for comparison. Combat dead only.

United States - 135,576 dead (Army & Air Force only). Navy – 1,106 died in France landings: http://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/u/us-navy-personnel-in-world-war-ii-service-and-casualty-statistics.html. A total of 136,682 combat dead.

France - 67,157 combat dead from 1944 onwards, according to this thread: viewtopic.php?t=171126. Subtract about 8,600 who died in the Italian Front (Ellis' numbers) = 58,557 dead. Plus about 20,000 French resistance killed = a total of 78,557 combat dead.

U.K. – 36,587 Army dead in Western Europe ’44-45(obtained from UK Army Roll of Honor) and 47,268 Bomber Command losses in Defense of the Reich campaign, 23,642 of which occurred during 1944-45, about 15,552 of which were from British RAF itself - http://www.lancaster-archive.com/bc_casualties.htm Also according to UK Army Roll of Honor – 2,694 UK Army deaths in “United Kingdom” front during 1945, 3,469 during 1944. I assume these were probably men who were wounded on the Western Front and died in hospitals back in the UK. Total = 58,302 combat dead.

Canada - Information on Canadian losses can be found here: http://www.canadaatwar.ca/content-7/world-war-ii/facts-and-information
24,970 Army & 17,974 Air Force killed, - 4,069 killed before 1944 (see Lancaster link) and 5,400 Army killed in Italian campaign (Ellis’ numbers). Total = 33,475 combat dead on the Western Front.

Polish Army in the West – Total losses of Polish Armed Forces in the West and 1st Army in the East were 33,256 KIA and 8,548 MIA. 10,400 casualties were sustained in the final Berlin offensive in the East. According to Dr. Mark Ostrowski, To Return to Poland or Not to Return, The Dilemma Facing the Polish Armed Forces at the End of the Second World War, Chapter 1, by July 1945 the Polish Armed Forces in the West suffered about 26,830 soldiers KIA, MIA or died of wounds.

Australia – In the war against Germany, 900 RAN KIA, 2610 Army KIA + 756 DOW, 5036 RAAF KIA + 67 DOW (Gavin Long, The Final Campaigns, 1963, p.633-634). Total = 9,369 combat dead.

Belgium – 4,000 resistance fighters killed during the retaking of Belgium according to Bob Moore (2000), Resistance in Western Europe, p.38.

Spain – 25,000 died in camps or fighting with the Allies in France: https://libcom.org/history/1939-1945-spanish-resistance-in-france
R.J. Rummel (Democide: Nazi Democide & Mass Murder) estimates 20,000 died in camps. This leaves about 5,000 combat deaths.

Total Allied combat dead in '44-'45: 352,215.

352,215 Allied combat dead against 384,443 German combat dead seems much less striking. Although perhaps the German figures are still too high? If you have more information on how they should be lowered, that would be appreciated.

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Re: Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby Roberto Muehlenkamp » 05 Mar 2017 18:39

Overmans states that "many" of the 180,000 missing in the West may have died in French captivity or as mercenaries of the Foreign Legion in Indochina. "Many" is not all and need not even be most.

And even assuming 384,443 battle deaths on the German side, this would leave 173,723 deaths outside the major engagements (45.19%
of the total) unaccounted for. Where are all that many deaths supposed to have occurred?

As to Allied casualties, Ellis' numbers are the following:

American: 109,820 killed or missing, 356,660 wounded, and 56,630 captured;
British: 30,280 killed or missing, 96,670 wounded, 14,700 captured;
Canadian: 10,740 killed or missing, 30,910 wounded, 2,250 captured;
French: 12,590 killed or missing, 49,510 wounded, 4,730 captured;
Poles: 1,160 killed or missing, 3,840 wounded, 370 captured.

I understand the difference regarding American killed or missing, but what about the other differences to your figures?

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Re: Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby Stiltzkin » 05 Mar 2017 22:53

Good conclusion by the OP. His methodology is somewhat flawed, total fatalities perhaps (which is speculative), I mean after 44 the reporting system became unreliable. Individual scenarios however, no they they are not plausible at all.

Example for 44: There is a correlation between wounded and killed, if we accept Overmans figures, this would indicate that during this year the Ostheer had 1,3 million deaths, the wounded exceeded 5 million and the Wehrmacht would have received more than 6 million men as replacements, which would be inconsistent with the Iststärke (actual strength) and all further figures/reports.

I wonder if his work was somehow politically motivated. He failed to prove that the casualty reporting system was deficient and did not realize that the 10 days were never designed to answer his central question.

I would like to contact Niklas Zetterling

You could try to contact the Swedish War College or ask the TDI (dupuy institute).

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Re: Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby G. Trifkovic » 31 Mar 2017 14:51

Hi Roberto,

a couple of points regarding the Balkans' part:

by Roberto Muehlenkamp » 19 Feb 2017 11:58

This, in turn means that Overmans’ figure of German fatalities in the Balkans must also be dismissed as grossly exaggerated. The only possibility of rendering Overmans’ figure more credible would be to assume that the claimed 103,693 fatalities in the Balkans mostly consist of 69,000 deaths in Yugoslavian captivity, i.e. the difference between Overmans’ figure of deaths in Yugoslavian captivity (11,000) and that of the Maschke Commission (80,000).[98] However, Overmans provides no indications in this direction, and besides his figure for the Balkans only refers to the period until October 1944, which renders it even more unrealistic.[99]


I agree with this conclusion that Overmans' figure seems way too high. Perhaps the figure includes, in addition to the regular operations from October 1944 onwards, also the POW deaths (still not properly established), and overall military losses of the German ethnic group on all fronts (in excess of 20,000 if I remember correctly).

and that the better part of the fallen (say 60 %) occurred in Yugoslavia


Not counting the April 1941 campaign and the invasion of Crete, I would say that war in Yugoslavia accounted for more than 60% of fatalities: according to Volksbund, 2400 Germans lost their lives in Albania, 15000 in Greece (5500 on Crete), 1800 in Bulgaria, 20100 in Croatia (big question is whether this includes Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had been a part of the Independent State of Croatia at that time), 15600 on the territory of the former state of Serbia and Montenegro, 6300 in Slovenia,1700 in Macedonia.

According to Croatian historian Vladimir Zerjavic, military casualties of Yugoslavia during all of World War II amounted to 237,000 resistance fighters vs. 209,000 "collaborators and quislings".[94] The war in Yugoslavia was essentially a civil war between the resistance army commanded by Marshall Tito and the "collaborators and quislings", essentially the forces of the "Independent State of Croatia". If these "collaborators and quislings" inflicted casualties equal to their own on Tito’s partisans, only 28,000 deaths among these partisans would have been caused by other Axis forces, namely Germans and Italians.


This I wouldn't agree with: fighting between the Partisans and the collaborationist/anti-Communist formations tended to be of much lower intensity than the one between the Partisans and the Germans; most of the Partisan losses were inflicted by armies of occupation (particularly the Wehrmacht), and a substantial part of collaborationist deaths were caused in massive post-war executions, especially in Slovenia.

For comparison, Soviet partisans in Belorussia, whose numbers didn’t differ much from those of Tito’s partisans until late 1943[95], managed to inflict only about 6-7,000 fatalities (not including local auxiliaries) on the German forces facing them[96] , while losing about 37,800 of their number, 26,000 killed and 11,800 missing mostly killed as well[97], an enemy-versus-own fatality ratio of less than 0.2:1. There’s nothing in the related evidence to bear out the notion that Tito’s partisan army was that much more combat-effective a fighting force than the Soviet partisans in Belorussia.


One example: the biggest Axis anti-Partisan sweep in Belorussia, Operation Cottbus in May 1943, was carried out by some 16,000 German and auxiliary troops; at that same time, in the border region between Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro, Germans had some 65,000 of their own troops, plus some 20,000 Italians carrying out Operation Schwarz. For a better understanding of the war in Yugoslavia and the functioning of armies on both sides, consult http://www.axishistory.com/axis-nations/croatia/135-campaigns-a-operations/anti-partisan-operations-in-croatia/1934-anti-partisan-operations-in-the-independent-state-of-croatia, as well as the books by Klaus Schmider (Partisanenkrieg in Jugoslawien, 2002) and Ben Shepherd (Terror in the Balkans: German Armies and Partisan Warfare , 2012), as well as some of my articles listed here: https://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=224539

Cheers,

G.

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Re: Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby thorwald77 » 04 Apr 2017 12:51

On p.174 Overmans points out that the the Balkans includes East front casualties up until Oct.1944. This would include the battles in Romania and Hungary in mid 1944.

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Re: Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby thorwald77 » 04 Apr 2017 13:32

Roberto you have done quite a bit of excellent research on the topic of German casualties. I am not saying Overmans is right or wrong only that the casualties need to be viewed in the context of the total German military organization in the course of the war. Overmans does not break out the losses according to the field army and "ersatz" rear army. The huge causalities at the end of the war would more than likely include the losses of unarmed support units overrun during the German collapse in 1944-45. The units in the field would report the combat losses that you and Zetterling cite, the support units in the rear area included personnel in depots that may have been missed. There were thousands of Slavic speaking conscripts taking care of the horses behind the lines, they were overrun in the final battles. There was a similar situation on the Soviet side, however Krivosheev attempted to enumerate only the battle dead in the field reports and exclude losses not related to the units at the front.

IMO Overmans did his study because the the top brass got nervous when there was a buzz about the James Bacque book, they must have known that the the records at Dienststelle included a lot more missing and dead than than the 4.3 million officially reported. Overmans was probably told to determine if these additional casualties included men who died as POW of the Western Allies. Also IMO Overmans covered up the 300-400,000 missing in the West by using the description "Endkampf". There may be a grain of truth in the James Bacque book.

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Re: Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby Guaporense » 05 Apr 2017 05:57

Overmans figures make sense in the context of what they mean: dead of all causes and missing. German reports are something completely different, who counted casualties in a very different fashion. They are actually not inconsistent with each other if you include all the dead and missing from the OKW reports (the missing which are interpreted to be mostly POWs) and discount the confirmed POWs, though. Thing is that most field army soldiers who became POWs are recorded as missing in the records.

Still his figures are too high in the context of comparative evidence: in WW1 the German army reported a similar number of KIA and wounded as reported by the OKW in WW2:

German casualties in the World Wars:

------------- KIA+died of wounds ---------- WIA ---------------- MIA
WW1 ------------ 1,773,700 ------------ 4,216,058 --------- 1,152,800 (http://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.ne ... es_germany)
WW2 ------------ 1,810,061 ------------ 4,429,875 --------- 1,902,704 (up to January 31 1945) (OKW)

Notice the much higher MIA in WW2, due to the Soviet encirclements and huge number of prisoners took by the Allies in the Western front. Overall though, in WW1 the German army suffered even heavier casualties than in WW2: 7.15 million casualties in 4.25 years versus 8.13 million in 5.4 years and higher casualties in proportion to the number of soldiers mobilized: 13.315 million mobilized in WW1 versus 17.893 million mobilized in WW2. Which imply in a casualty rates of 53.7% and 45.4%, respectively.

Yet, his estimates of total dead are 2.6 times as high in WW2 as in WW1: 2.037 million to 5.319 million. Something is really weird there. Well, WW1 didn't have a Nazi regime so they could be less "critical" of its military performance.

It's hard to fit 5.319 million dead with the German records and the number of soldiers mobilized as well: deaths usually were about 15% of those mobilized (like France and Germany in WW1), and in WW2 Germany mobilized 17.9 million, which would suggest around 2.6-2.7 million deaths, even the Soviet Union didn't have more than about 6 million battle deaths out of almost 35 million mobilized.

The biggest divergence though is the Western Front: in 1944 Overmans claims 244,891 German fatalities. Müller-Hillebrand Das Heer 1933–1945 cites 54,754 dead. That's almost a 5 fold difference. My conclusion is that his estimate for that front is rubbish and it's inconsistent with the magnitude of fighting there: you had about 30 to 70 divisions engaged over a 7 month period (started with only a couple dozen in July, expanded to about 50 by September-October and 71 by December with the offensive), we know in the Eastern front the average monthly KIA rate was 26,000 for a force equivalent to about 150 to 200, 1944 division slices, or about 170 to 130 KIA per division per month, applying that logic to the Western front implies in about 8,500-6,500 KIA per month or about 59,500 to 45,500 KIA, adding about 10 thousand dead from wounds we get about 70,000 to 55,000 dead.

Thing is, Overman's figures are such that his methodology (random sample) is more robust for the whole war than for individual fronts, the higher the resolution desired, the higher is his margin of error: he took a sample of a few thousand soldiers, if in a certain front only 3% of the KIA happened like in the Western front in 1944, his sample is represented by only a few dozen soldiers. Hence, his figures for dead in individual fronts for relatively small periods are simple rubbish.
"In tactics, as in strategy, superiority in numbers is the most common element of victory." - Carl von Clausewitz

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Re: Are Rüdiger Overmans’ figures of German military fatalities in World War II plausible?

Postby thorwald77 » 05 Apr 2017 12:55

Hence, his figures for dead in individual fronts for relatively small periods are simple rubbish.

I agree with this assessment because Overmans does not break out the Feld and Ersatz Heer. My hunch is that Overmans was ordered to prove Bacque to be wrong, that may be why he broke out the losses by front and period.


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