German logistics in the east

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Der Alte Fritz
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German logistics in the east

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 31 Jan 2012 13:58

Have been reading Christian Woolmers book on Railways in wartime "Engines of War" and some other material on the expereince of the DRB in the East.
There seems a lot of information on the initial advance in 1941 and the problems associated with it. But rather less on the defensive phase of 1942-44. How did DRB get on - there seems little record of any problems other than local ones but does anyone have any further information. I know that by 1942 they had changed the gauge over most of the Eastern theatre except in front line areas, so there was little problem with lack of rolling stock. Of course the number of lines was quite limited but did this have an impact on the supply of the Ostheer and the corresponding troops movements behind the front line and the economic activity to move economic materials such as wheat from Russia back tot the Reich.

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Re: Deutsche Reichsbahn [DRB]

Post by stcamp » 31 Jan 2012 14:16

I would think that after 1943 the partisans attacks on the lines would have disrupted traffic to some extent and made the job a lot more hazardous. I believe it took 20 trains to move an armored division. Traffic management also had to have become difficult too as the war progressed. I think Krakow had a huge DRB admin center that used IBM punch cards at one point.

Edit: I am way off on the number of trains it took to move an armored division
Last edited by stcamp on 31 Jan 2012 17:54, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Deutsche Reichsbahn [DRB]

Post by Jon G. » 31 Jan 2012 16:05

The big crisis period for German railroads in the east was the winter of 1941-1942 when bad weather, overworked and undersized railroad units and poor Soviet infrastructure conspired to create a logistic crisis for the attacking Germans. After the winter crisis the DRB was, by and large, able to serve the Wehrmacht's needs, and also providing rolling stock for the plunder of occupied territories.

It was of course easier to catch up after the initial successes of Barbarossa, and after 1941 the Germans didn't try attacking along the whole front at the same time, which made the railroad troops' job somewhat easier.

Here's a map of line performances in the occupied USSR as of July 1. 1943 measured (as I understand it) in trains per day with (still as I understand it) the lesser figure denoting trains heading west.

Image

...and here is a diagram of partisan attacks/month against German railroads in the east in 1942-1943.
Image

As can be seen, partisan activity against the railroad lines peaked around the 1943 German summer offensive (I think that peak applies to the whole war as well) and was very disruptive, but usually not for long - in most cases a sabotaged railroad line was operational again in less than 24 hours. The Soviets didn't consider the summer 1943 sabotage offensive worth the effort - although railroad sabotage of course continued for the rest of the war, it never reached its summer 1943 peak again.

Both illustrations from Hans Potgiesser's book Die deutsche Reichsbahn im Ostfeldzug pp 101 and 86 respectively.

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Re: Deutsche Reichsbahn [DRB]

Post by stcamp » 31 Jan 2012 17:37

Very interesting. Thanks

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Re: Deutsche Reichsbahn [DRB]

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 31 Jan 2012 17:49

Yes my understanding from the Soviet side was that even major partizan anti-rail operations such as CONCERT were deemed failures as the Germans were able to repair the damaged lines very quickly often within 24 hours and that the slack in the system allowed them to catch up within a couple of days. This chimes very well with other attempts at disrupting railways, starting with the American Civil War, you had to destroy miles of track and cart away or destroy the rails and sleepers by either using a big claw mounted on a flatcar or by heating and bending the rails. The most effective way was used in the Franco-Prussian war where the French blew up tunnels and cuttings but since few Soviet railways used either, this option was not available to them.

Could you email me the first picture as the resolution is just low enough to obscure the numbers.

I think the line running up to Rschew was the one that they had kept at the Russian gauge of 5' which is why there seems to be no traffic in this area.

So when I read of shell shortages or only a few rounds per gun per day being available in Army Group Centre in the Autumn and Winter of 1943, why is this happening? Is it a lack of production at the factories, distribution problems in the Reich, lack of stocks at the rail head or logistical prolems at the units, since the DRB was clearly able to move supplies from the Reich up to the railhead.

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German army logistics on the Eastern Front

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 04 Feb 2012 11:11

I have been reading various accounts of fighting in AG Centre during 1943 and they all talk of shell shortages.
Why was this since the DRB railways were operating well and seemed to be able to shift enough supplies from the Reich to the railheads.

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Re: German army logistics on the Eastern Front

Post by j keenan » 04 Feb 2012 12:34

Kursk ?

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Der Alte Fritz
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Re: German army logistics on the Eastern Front

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 04 Feb 2012 13:43

Well the accounts cover the period after Kursk right up to December, so a local shortage due to a build up elsewhere is unlikely.
It could be a lack of supply at the Reich end of the supply chain
It could be an inability to shift supplies from the railhead to the units
Or something else

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Re: German army logistics on the Eastern Front

Post by Larry D. » 04 Feb 2012 13:58

Partisan attacks and sabotage of the rail lines was a major problem that caused serious interruptions and delays along the entire network in Belorussia (Belarus). Also, the VVS was much feistier from mid-1943 and sent waves of Il-2s and Pe-2s against rail junctions, rail bridges, yards and sidings that made things even more difficult.

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Re: German army logistics on the Eastern Front

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 04 Feb 2012 18:59

We have been discussing this very thing on the DRB thread and it is extraordinarily difficult to close a railway other than to cause minor delays. http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=82145

You have to destroy miles after mile of track and bring down large numbers of bridges and major structures such as tunnels before closing a railway for more than a few days.

The Soviets concluded after Operation Concert in Sept 1943 that this anti-rail operation had been a failure as it had produced little strategic results with only days of disruption to the German rail network.

History is littered with attempts to close railways that fail. The UN forces few 170,000 sorties against the North Korean network in the 1950s and failed to stop the supplies getting through.

The Allied bombing campaign against the German home network only succeeded in the last month of the war despite a huge effort and even the Normandy campaign closed a limited area of network despite a very large partisan and bombing campaign. The essential point here was the very large number of river crossings in the area and the destruction of bridges which later hampered the Allied advance and caused their own logistical problems.

A general study of this can be found in "Engines of war" by Christian Woolmers

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Re: German army logistics on the Eastern Front

Post by Larry D. » 04 Feb 2012 20:25

Larry D. wrote:Partisan attacks and sabotage of the rail lines was a major problem that caused serious interruptions and delays along the entire network in Belorussia (Belarus). Also, the VVS was much feistier from mid-1943 and sent waves of Il-2s and Pe-2s against rail junctions, rail bridges, yards and sidings that made things even more difficult.
I stand by the above. It is essentially what is given in numerous books concerning the central section of the Eastern Front, the German KTBs und Anlagen for Herresgruppe Mitte, AOKs 2, 4, 9, Pz.AOK 3 and mostly especially the rückwärtige Armeegebiete records in NARA T-501 (Rear Areas, Occupied Territories and Others). Was this the only reason? Certainly not. But partisan sabotage did cause major delays. Did they destroy miles and miles of track on one line and collapse all of the bridges and tunnels thus closed the line forever and for all time? No. You might want to check out some of the Project Alexander studies done by Johns Hopkins University under Department of Defense contract in the 1950-56 period. A number of these cover the rail war in Belorussia and are filled with statistical data taken from the tons of German records captured after the war. These would save you a lot of time, as otherwise you would have to go to BA-MA Freiburg and stay there for a year to go through all the records that the Project Alexander teams covered.

As for your other reasons, by mid-1943 the Air Ministry's Directorate of Intelligence knew pretty well where the German shell-filling establishments were located and presumably had already set about bombing them. You might want to look into that. Otherwise, your guess is as good as mine.

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Re: German army logistics on the Eastern Front

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 05 Feb 2012 08:13

I did not mean to cast doubt on the fact of the amount of partizan activity which as you say is well documented. I question whether it has a major effect on the combat operations of the Ostheer. In a case like Normandy, there was a major dirusption as reserves were unable to get forward, supplies ran out and there was an effect at the sharp end. But I question if something like Operation Concert produced a major effect. It was certainly troublesome to the railways and produced delays, but these were relatively short and the supplies got through to the Armies. It tied down a lot of security troops but lacking training and heavy weapons, their front line combat effectiveness was always quite low. Cerainly during the Smolensk Operation (which co-incided with Operation Concert) 4 and 9 Armee conducted a classic and successful defence.

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Re: German army logistics on the Eastern Front

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 05 Feb 2012 08:15

I have spent the evening reading Adam Tooze's The Wages of Destruction which reveals two things

Firstly that ammunition production with a baseline of 100 for June 1940 reached a low point in November 1941 of just 10 but that this had been reversed by new allocations of steel and reached an index of 150 for most of 1943 and an index of 170 by Oct 1943.

Secondly that the rapid rise of armaments production was halted by the more effective British bombing starting in early 1943 with the Battle of the Ruhr and Hamburg. Ammunition accounted for fully 50% of the rise in armaments production and was directly related to the amount of steel allocated to it. So ammunition production doubled in 1942 but only increased by 20% in 1943.

So the ammunition supplies ran short in Dec 1941 as Barbarossa ran through the original stock piles and recovered during 1942 as new production began to replace these stock piles. But the heavy fighting in the winter of 1942 and the continual fighting from the summer of 1943 onnwards would have caused an extra demand. What I would need to establish now is whether the demand for ammunition outstripped supply

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Re: Deutsche Reichsbahn [DRB]

Post by Jon G. » 05 Feb 2012 09:15

First, from the Potgiesser book mentioned above, here is a very illuminating graphic showing the effects of partisan attacks on German-operated railroads in the occupied USSR in a select week in July 1943 - namely the week running from Mon 20 to Sun 26.

At first, the picture makes no sense at all, but with patience it all comes clear: the blacked-out parts denote periods when the rail line was out of operations; the <- and -> arrows show in which direction the disturbance applied (for double-tracked lines, see far left of pic) along with a measure of how many hours ('Std.') of the selected week the line was out of service, also calculated as a percentage.
Image
I am very sorry for the somewhat blurry pic. Next time, I'll have a drink first.

Yes, it looks serious - I note in passing just how much more vulnerable to disturbances of all kinds single-tracked lines are compared to double-tracked ditto - but not all that bad either, chiefly because most damage could be repaired again in (says Potgiesser, and it's more or less validated by his graphic) two to eight hours.

That means that effective railroad sabotage has to be run as a sustained effort - particularly when we consider the customary ruthlessness with which the Germans dealt with captured partisans and suspects; i.e. it's likely that you'll run out of partisans and supporting civilians long before the Germans run out of trains.

Potgiesser also paraphrases a 2nd quarter 1943 report from the Wirtschaftsstab Ost, which says that traffic is '...running more fluidly than ever [...] operations are developing favourably, despite constant partisan activity in the Western Ukraine...'

But then it is probably a good deal more difficult to mount an effective partisan campaign in relatively open Ukraine than it is in densely forrested Byelorus; I am not well enough versed in Soviet geography to tell the exact locations of the rail lines in the graphic above, but it does appear that the line running out of Minsk was the worst-hit double-tracked line in the third week of July.

Finally, also from Potgiesser (p. 103) is a table of trains running in HG Mitte's area of the front from April 1943 to August 1944 (after that date, HG Mitte had ceased to exist, more or less)

Code: Select all

          Wehrmacht trains    Total    'Wirtschaft' trains*    Grand total
          Supply    Troops
1943

Apr.      1,146       885     2,031           339                2,370
May       1,123       752     1,875           321                2,196
June      1,114       768     1,822           321                2,143
July      1,131     1,151     2,282           357                2,639
Aug.      1,025     1,134     2,159           348                2,507
Sept.       543     1,009     1,552           209                1,761
Oct.        630       722     1,352           154                1,506
Nov.        712       745     1,457           134                1,591
Dec.        785       947     1,732           112                1,844

1944

Jan.        814     1,005     1,819           152                1,971
Feb.        726       745     1,471           188                1,659
Mar.        736     1,169     1,905           174                2,079
Apr.        738       969     1,707            -                   -
May         857       963     1,820            -                   -
June        661     1,013     1,674            -                   -
July        373     1,589     1,962            -                   -
Aug.        439     1,523     1,962            -                   -

                             30,582         2,809               33,391

*includes trains with coal for the railroads' own needs.
I haven't bothered checking the number of trains against the overall size of HG Mitte at select times during the period, but the build-up to Zitadelle should be readable from the table - I am rather less certain if we can see any effects of partisan activity from the numbers offered.

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Re: German army logistics on the Eastern Front

Post by Art » 05 Feb 2012 10:01

Der Alte Fritz wrote:I have been reading various accounts of fighting in AG Centre during 1943 and they all talk of shell shortages.
Do they define it in any quantitative manner? Generally speaking ammunition expenditure on the Eastern Front in the summer months of 1943 reached the global peak. For example, according to the account on operations of the 9 and 2 Panzer Armies available in "German View" by Newton the expenditure by the said armies from 5 July to 18 August 1943 was some 120 000 tons. In particular almost 2 millions of light howitzer shells were consumed (compare with expenditure of the entire Heer in 1943 - 26 millions rounds). That was more than total expenditure during the entire Western Campaign in 1940. If there was any lack perceived it was most likely because consumption skyrocketed not because supply was low. For production see:
http://sturmvogel.orbat.com/GermWeapProd.html

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