Germany and Oil

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
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Lars
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Post by Lars » 11 Jul 2005 10:59

Bronsky,

Regarding Ploesti, you are right of course that oil drillings were intensified during the war. However, the obvious fact is that if the Germans had used their drilling equipment and oil technicians in Ploesti or elsewhere rather than in Maikop they would have got a better deal. Maikop yeilded almost no oil (30 barrels a day or so) and there was virtually no way of getting the Maikop oil to the refineries in Rumania had they pumped the oil up. As it was, the German drilling equipment was largely left behind in the haphazard withdrawal in January 1943, and before that the German oil technicians at Maikop were targets of Soviet partisan attacks and many were killed.

It would have been better to use the drilling equipment and the oil technicians at Ploesti - or in Austria, Hungary, eastern Ploand and Germany - to get some additional 10s or 100s of thousands of tonnes out these wells instead of the waste at Maikop.

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Re: German oil

Post by Lars » 11 Jul 2005 11:32

Bronsky wrote: I disagree with Lars (not for the first time :wink: ) that capturing / interdicting Baku would put a crimp on the Soviet war effort, because 1/ the Soviet Union was also undergoing a fuel crisis and as a result waging a low-tech war, particularly at that point, and 2/ the Soviets effectively lost most of the Baku output as things were, and that was for the duration of the war because they didn't have the technology to restore the oilfields to working order - see the figures on e.g. Jason Pipe's page to which links have already been provided in this thread.


Bronsky,

I´m glad you disagree with me if that makes you post all those stats :wink: Interesting indeed.

However, I don´t think that Soviet oil figures can be read as you do. As Richard Overy puts it, the Soviet society ran on oil. It was a society much more dependent on oil than, say, Germany which had to do with coal. Even in 1945, after the distructive effects of Case Blue, the Soviet´s own partial destruction of the Baku fields, and after four years of war, the Soviets still produced 19.4 mio. tonnes of oil, a figure which the Germans could only dream of in their wildest dreams! And even in 1945, Baku supplied 59% of the Soviet oil production. Taken in combination with the other Caucasus oil fields at Grozny, Maikop, Georgia and Dagestan, the total figure is an impressive 71%.

The Caucasus produced 70-80% of the Soviet oil all through the war. Not even the Soviets could take that loss and still wage an offensive warfare with thousands of fuel guzzling tanks, planes, and trucks. However, they would manage to stay alive if they stayed on the strategic defensive, which they would then have to do.

The loss of the Caucausus would also mean that the lend-lease supply route of aviation gas from the British Persian Gulf would be severely curtailed. No more Soviet tankes on the Caspian Sea transporting aviation gas across that sea when the Germans occupied the western shore of the Caspian. All of the British avgas would go by train along the eastern shore rail-road which would limit supply or go via Murmansk or Vladivostok which would put a severe strain on British tanker capacity.


http://orbat.com/site/sturmvogel/SovOil.html

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Post by Bronsky » 11 Jul 2005 19:33

Lars,

No question that Axis drilling equipment would have been better used elsewhere than in Maïkop, the question is "would it have made a significant difference ?". Without enough micro-management and hindsight, I feel fairly confident that I could carve up a respectable successor to the Roman Empire for WWII Italy, but how realistic would that be ? The point here is that it's ok to examine one decision (i.e. "ton't zend der drilling equipment to Maïkop until it's fully zecure ! Let's keep it on our own fields vor ze dime being !"), then you have to factor in normal sloppiness i.e. ineffective drilling, equipment lost in accidents, sabotage, transport, Allied bombing, lack of spare parts, etc. Sure, it's never going to be as bad as the total loss in Maïkop, but since we're talking about using it on essentially uneconomical areas we shouldn't expect miracles either (and yes, any extra ton gained by the Axis is better than not having it).

Regarding the Soviets, first the 1945 figures show a recovery from the lowest point in 1942-43. And yes, the mechanized Red Army overrunning Germany from the east is going to need that oil. My point was that you had made interdiction of Baku critical to Axis success in 1942, and I pointed out that by late 1942 the Soviets had, for practical purposes, essentially lost the Caucasus oil. Yet they fought on. In a defensive, low-tech mode (most of the new tanks and aircraft were just getting out of the assembly lines, so fuel demand hadn't picked up yet), but still enough to constitute a serious threat to Germany.

Essentially, I don't see Germany being able to hold the Soviets at by by holding on the Caucasus. As long as the Soviet Union is in the war, the Germans are going to eventually lose the Caucasus, which means Soviet oil production will pick up, etc. For Germany to ever hope to achieve critical results against Russia, the target must be Moscow, not the Caucasus, IMO. But we've been through that before so no use restating it. :wink:

Louis

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Post by Paul Lakowski » 11 Jul 2005 21:04

I was reading in USSBS that the german synthetic fuel production cost them about 200 RM per ton to produce, so a 3 million ton synthetic fuel industry would cost them about ~ 1 BRm. By 1944 that would be ~ 1.4-1.5 BRm. This is a tiny drop in the bucket in terms of budgets. The survey also notes that drilling schedules fell behind due to lack of steel allocation. About 1 ton of steel was needed to manufacture 0.6 tons of annual oil production. Thats about 1.7 million tons steel per million tons annual capacity.

Given that in the early war period 3/4 of the steel production was going to civilian sources theres is room for military expansion. Plus a further 1/4 million persons to the coal and drilling industries.Given the small amount of personel and money they possiblities of reallocation of steel from civilian to military production, they could have added an additional million tons of oil production per year starting in the late 1930s...and maybe reached 12-14 million tons by 1944.

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Post by sturmvogel » 12 Jul 2005 00:04

Bronsky,
The Germans were very ineffectual at interdicting the oil coming over the RR running on the northwestern side of the Caspian, so I'd dispute your statement that the Soviets had essentially lost the oil.

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Post by Bronsky » 28 Jul 2005 21:46

sturmvogel wrote: The Germans were very ineffectual at interdicting the oil coming over the RR running on the northwestern side of the Caspian, so I'd dispute your statement that the Soviets had essentially lost the oil.


My understanding, admitedly from a Sovet-era Russian-language history, was that the Soviet Union was so busy shutting down and evacuating everybody that oil output essentially collapsed between mid-42 and early '43 which is why I wrote that the Soviets still had enough oil to attack the flanks of the German salient.

Essentially, my point is that an "Operation Saddam Hussein in Kuwait" aimed at Baku wouldn't work. To starve the Soviets of oil, the Germans have to leave Stalingrad alone and concentrate on cutting off the Caucasus (as opposed to trying to grab the oil for themselves) and weathering the subsequent Soviet counterattack. This should indeed, after a few months, severly curtail the Soviet ability to launch large offensives at the cost of course of admitting strategic defeat (i.e. this strategy leaves the Soviet Union in the war).

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Post by Bronsky » 28 Jul 2005 21:49

Paul Lakowski wrote:Given that in the early war period 3/4 of the steel production was going to civilian sources theres is room for military expansion.


Be careful that a lot of "civilian sources" are so categorized by Wagenführ (or Speer) which both have good reasons to make the German economic indexes of 1942-45 look better than the 1933-41 ones. There are a lot of "civilian" projects that are instead building railroads for military purposes, using steel in construction (a "civilian" administration even when it builds bunkers), building militarily-useful infrastructure with theoretical civilian uses (like major airfields) etc.

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Post by Paul Lakowski » 28 Jul 2005 23:09

Bronsky wrote:
Paul Lakowski wrote:Given that in the early war period 3/4 of the steel production was going to civilian sources theres is room for military expansion.


Be careful that a lot of "civilian sources" are so categorized by Wagenführ (or Speer) which both have good reasons to make the German economic indexes of 1942-45 look better than the 1933-41 ones. There are a lot of "civilian" projects that are instead building railroads for military purposes, using steel in construction (a "civilian" administration even when it builds bunkers), building militarily-useful infrastructure with theoretical civilian uses (like major airfields) etc.


According to the USSBS the 1944 steel allocation to the military for armaments [planes ships tanks trucks guns arty flak MG ans small arms plus all the ammo for these systems] amounted to about 850,000 tons per month or about 10 million tons out of a production of 28 million tons that year. What was the rest of that steel production used for? I have heard of massive building programs like the altantic wall that consumed about 1.5 million tons of steel, but that would have been over a number of years. Are there any other examples?

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Post by Lars » 01 Aug 2005 16:45

Cutting the oil from Baku by taking the oil fields would amount to the Soviets what the fuel famine was to the Germans from May 1944. It will not win Germany the war in itself (but would a go-Moscow strategy in 1942 do that?), but it would certainly come in handy for them.

I agree that it could be argued that the whole Case Blue idea could be seen in the context of a strategic defence, e.g. to keep Germany in the war rather than to go after the knock-out blow against the Soviets (whatever the Germans could do in 1942 to achieve that).

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Post by Jon G. » 02 Aug 2005 07:45

Bronsky wrote:Essentially, my point is that an "Operation Saddam Hussein in Kuwait" aimed at Baku wouldn't work. To starve the Soviets of oil, the Germans have to leave Stalingrad alone and concentrate on cutting off the Caucasus...


But taking the Caucasus hinges on taking Stalingrad or at the very least neutralizing it. If Stalingrad had remained in Soviet hands, they could have fed reinforcements into the region at their leisure. That's also why the ultimate German defeat at Stalingrad shouldn't be seen as an unmitigated disaster for the 6th Army's presence on the Volga tied down strong Soviet forces, allowing von Kleist to evacuate the Caucasus when Fall Blau failed.

Lars wrote:I agree that it could be argued that the whole Case Blue idea could be seen in the context of a strategic defence, e.g. to keep Germany in the war rather than to go after the knock-out blow against the Soviets (whatever the Germans could do in 1942 to achieve that).


Yes, unlike Barbarossa Fall Blau does not appear to have had the ultimate defeat of the USSR as its aim, but maybe a favourable peace a'la Brest-Litowsk could have been in the cards if Fall Blau had been successful? Also, concentrating on the southern sector of the front served the twin purposes of deceiving the Soviets (who thought the main German effort would be directed at Moscow) and also tying down very considerable Commonwealth forces in the Levant.

German interest in the SE Caucasus predated WWII. The Abwehr had had activites in Turkey since the 1920s, amongst other things conducting a field study to see if it would be possible to attack Baku across the border from Persia with two mountain divisions.

Additionally the political reliability of the Caucasus peoples was suspect from the Soviet point of view. IIRC the Caucasus region was not part of the mass conscription that Stalin ordered in 1941 for that reason.

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Post by Bronsky » 02 Aug 2005 13:13

Paul Lakowski wrote:According to the USSBS the 1944 steel allocation to the military for armaments [planes ships tanks trucks guns arty flak MG ans small arms plus all the ammo for these systems] amounted to about 850,000 tons per month or about 10 million tons out of a production of 28 million tons that year. What was the rest of that steel production used for? I have heard of massive building programs like the altantic wall that consumed about 1.5 million tons of steel, but that would have been over a number of years. Are there any other examples?


Off the top of my head, I would list construction, ball bearings, machinery used for the war effort (e.g. machine tools), and so on.

I think I saw some figures about the German steel industry in a German-language source but the only one that I had at hand was Aubin's & Zorn's "Handbuch der Deutschen Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeschichte" which has some stuff about steel but no details about 1944. So, apologizing for the lack of additional detail I'll extrapolate. In Milward, "The German economy" there's a table showing steel consumption that has "only" 40% going to the civilian economy, after Wehrmacht use (i.e. weapons and ammunition) and construction are factored out. He repeats that claim in his "War, Economy and Society". So this would work out to some 17 million tons in 1944, leaving 11 million (instead of 18) for civilian uses, if the mobilization ratio didn't increase - which it very likely did, as totaller krieg + Speer generally had that effect.

In addition, regarding "civilian" consumption consider the following speech from Speer to the Gauleiters in late 1943 which is not strictly about steel, the first part being about the leather industry, but illustrates the general trend (this is quoted from "The German economy", which has it both from a Speer speech and another Speer report, I'm amalgamating both). "At present, there are still being made for the Wehrmacht 512,000 paris of riding boots, 312,000 pairs of officer's boots a year, 360,000 service bags for comen signal assistants, 364,000 spur straps, 250,000 rucksacks ... I really don't know what they use them for. The Wehrmacht needs 400 million of the total yearly new production of bottles of 730 million. The Wehrmacht needs 620,000 of the new production of closets which reaches a figure of one million yearly. Out of the production of stamping surfaces for ink-pads, the Wehrmacht needs 6,200,000. The scissors production is reserved entirely for the Wehrmacht, they receive 4,400,000 a year."

The point here is that these and other items are classified as "civilian industry" by the Wagenführ indexes that the USSBS - and many later economic histories - use. You can argue that the Wehrmacht didn't always make the most efficient uses of the resources allocated to it, but the thesis of a generally under-mobilized German economy with plenty of slack remaining, particularly in 1944, is not tenable.


Shreck wrote:But taking the Caucasus hinges on taking Stalingrad or at the very least neutralizing it.


Yes, but
1/ this was essentially achieved fairly early in the campaign,
2/ as I my answer to Lars indicated, I don't think that Germany could grab the oil in 1942, though depriving the Soviets of it was probably an attainable objective (what Lars calls a defensive Fall Blau).

Paul Lakowski wrote: Yes, unlike Barbarossa Fall Blau does not appear to have had the ultimate defeat of the USSR as its aim, but maybe a favourable peace a'la Brest-Litowsk could have been in the cards if Fall Blau had been successful?


As far as I can tell, the 1942 Germans thought that they could finish off the USSR that year. Grabbing the oil fields had been an economic objective since 1939, and part of the 1941 planning assumptions.

So I would disagree that the aim was to Brest-Litovsk the Soviets, it was to finish the job initiated in 1941 and collapse the Soviet Union - which surely, according to Hitler, must be on its last legs - while capturing enough oil to wage war on a continental scale with the Anglo-Saxon powers.

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Post by César C. » 02 Aug 2005 14:35

As far as I can tell, the 1942 Germans thought that they could finish off the USSR that year. Grabbing the oil fields had been an economic objective since 1939, and part of the 1941 planning assumptions.


I do believe that during the planning phase, Fall Blau was meant to be the knock out blow for the USSR. But perhaps Hitler resorted to a "defensive Fall Blau" rather early in the campaign because he realized his forces wouldn't be strong enough to occupy the Caucasus?
If that was the case, concentrating the available resources on taking Stalingrad would make a lot of sense for the Germans.
My point is: if we are not going to take Batumi and Baku, then at least well should not let the Soviets have continued acces to the fields.
In that sense, establishing a strong and long-lasting German presence on the west bank of the Volga -preferably at Stalingrad- would
1. Cut off the Volga river traffic for good.
2. Establish a good chain of airbases in the Don bend from which the Luftwaffe would be able to strike repeteadly at the Caspian sea traffic and its adjacent railroad.

corderex

-edited 2 times total for spell-checking

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Post by Bronsky » 02 Aug 2005 15:05

César C. wrote:I do believe that during the planning phase, Fall Blau was meant to be the knock out blow for the USSR. But perhaps Hitler resorted to a "defensive Fall Blau" rather early in the campaign because he realized his forces wouldn't be strong enough to occupy the Caucasus?
If that was the case, concentrating the available resources on taking Stalingrad would make a lot of sense for the Germans.


1. I don't think that Hitler realized "rather early in the campaign" that "his forces wouldn't be strong enough to occupy the Caucasus", rather the opposite in fact. The main criticism levelled at his strategy was that he overextended himself in both directions. In that context, the "defensive Fall Blau" was a strategy which was not pursued historically but a way to make the historical Fall Blau work, at least IMO.

2. As a result, concentrating available resources on taking Stalingrad was never really done until it was too late (if then), and even then the same goal could have been achieved by masking Stalingrad (i.e. capture it if possible, but don't waste time assaulting it for the sake of reducing an insignificant bridgehead), capturing Astrakhan, and keeping a panzer army in reserve somewhere west of Stalingrad, both to ease logistics and to defend against a Soviet counterattack. Following that, infantry armies could advance to Baku in their own good time.

At least, #2 above is how I would execute Fall Blau if I was being asked to do it.

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Post by Jon G. » 02 Aug 2005 15:19

Bronsky wrote:
I wrote: Yes, unlike Barbarossa Fall Blau does not appear to have had the ultimate defeat of the USSR as its aim, but maybe a favourable peace a'la Brest-Litowsk could have been in the cards if Fall Blau had been successful?


As far as I can tell, the 1942 Germans thought that they could finish off the USSR that year. Grabbing the oil fields had been an economic objective since 1939, and part of the 1941 planning assumptions.


Well I wrote it, not Paul. That aside, IIRC the first incarnation of the German 1942 plan for the east called for a northwards drive towards Moscow after the Volga had been reached at Stalingrad. Essentially the Germans chose to go for strategic materials rather than strategic objectives.

So I would disagree that the aim was to Brest-Litovsk the Soviets, it was to finish the job initiated in 1941 and collapse the Soviet Union - which surely, according to Hitler, must be on its last legs - while capturing enough oil to wage war on a continental scale with the Anglo-Saxon powers.


Well, the Germans also planned a renewed offensive against Leningrad, to be led by Manstein after his conquest of the Crimea - so clearly the Germans didn't think that the offensive against the Caucasus alone would be enough to finish the job.

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Post by Lars » 02 Aug 2005 16:29

Bronsky wrote:

1. I don't think that Hitler realized "rather early in the campaign" that "his forces wouldn't be strong enough to occupy the Caucasus", rather the opposite in fact. The main criticism levelled at his strategy was that he overextended himself in both directions. In that context, the "defensive Fall Blau" was a strategy which was not pursued historically but a way to make the historical Fall Blau work, at least IMO.

2. As a result, concentrating available resources on taking Stalingrad was never really done until it was too late (if then), and even then the same goal could have been achieved by masking Stalingrad (i.e. capture it if possible, but don't waste time assaulting it for the sake of reducing an insignificant bridgehead), capturing Astrakhan, and keeping a panzer army in reserve somewhere west of Stalingrad, both to ease logistics and to defend against a Soviet counterattack. Following that, infantry armies could advance to Baku in their own good time.

At least, #2 above is how I would execute Fall Blau if I was being asked to do it.


The problem with Louis Bronsky´s Fall Blue Strategy: To capture or "masking" Stalingrad, then capture Astrakhan, and keep a panzer army in reserve west of Stalingrad to defend against Soviet counter attack, and only then have the infantry armies advance against Baku "in their own good time" is, that "their own good time" would not come until June 1943.

The large Caucasus passes remained open to motor transport only from June to September and the Caspian coastal road from Makhakala (sp?) to Baku was quite narrow and easy to defend, especially if the drive to Baku would come in June 1943.

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