Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

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Twix
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Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by Twix » 14 Feb 2010 02:01

Does anyone have a breakdown of German casualty figures either over a period of time or for specific battles that show the distribution of casualties and their causes? In other words what were the main causes of KIA/MIA for German forces on the Eastern front in terms of weapons used against them. I'm looking for something like:

Operation Bagration
40% German KIA caused by Soviet artillery
10% German KIA caused by Soviet tank forces during breakthrough
20% German KIA caused by Soviet infantry forces during breakthrough
30% German KIA caused by Soviet exploitation forces after breakthrough

Of course this is a really detailed example, any information is welcome. I'm mainly interested in this because I want to reconcile these kinds of figures with Soviet military doctrine and compare it with let's say the Western front.

Thanks.

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Re: Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by Qvist » 15 Feb 2010 11:49

The only place you can conceivably find statistics of this kind is from the German medical records, who naturally will not group losses into categories that are irrelevant to them, as these are. For an operation like Bagration there are no meaningfully precise statistics at all.

Zentralarchiv für Wehrmedizin developed statistics in 1942, based on 1.3 million individual medical reports, that grouped the causalties resulting from different weapons systems into killed, heavily wounded and lightly wounded. Would that be of interest?

If what you want to check is if the casualty distribution predicted and assumed in Soviet doctrine is correct, then I would rather suggest looking at the casualties recorded by their German counterparts during different phases of operations. Of course, that could be very different from case to case - it seems a questionable enough assumption to me that this distribution will follow a predictable pattern, as it will neccessarily depend on a lot of variable factors - the amount of artillery, German posture, the proportion of armoured forces involved, the extent to which German reserves enter the picture following the initial breakthrough battle, the length and intensity of the breakthrough phase of the battle. All of whom vary wildly from case to case.

You can forget the big encirclement battles like Bagration or Romania, because there is no data that makes it possible. If I were you I'd also drop "KIA" and stick to overall combat losses, or your sourcing and reliability problems will dramatically and needlessly increase. I suppose you'd want to avoid including vast numbers of MIA who resulted from encirclements and so on, but you're not going to find the data you need for those battles anyway. Generally speaking, the sort of data you'd need will be hard to come by for the type of operations you describe, fort the simple reason that formations who were in the process of being broken through generally were not in a position to report precise, up-to-date and accurate casualties until after the battle, by which time it was no longer possible to make a precise distribution in time.

In other words, you can probably find general statistics to account for causes of wounds statistically over long periods, or you can find casualties that are specific to times and places. But something that shows both? Forget it. If you're prepared to put in a massive research effort, you might find some anecdotal evidence, that's about it.

On the other hand, it might be doable to approach it initially in a simpler way. In order for the rates you describe to be possible, that would require a certain proportion of the German casualties to take place during a certain phase of the battle - for instance, roughly 30% during the exploitation phase. That is, in theory, checkable. And if it turns out that this cannot be showed, then that means the formula doesn't hold. In other words: See first if the data broadly speaking falsifies the prediction.

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Twix
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Re: Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by Twix » 15 Feb 2010 18:17

Thank you very much for your reply Qvist.

Where can I find information about Zentralarchiv für Wehr medizin? Is it available online?

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Re: Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by Michael Kenny » 15 Feb 2010 23:29

From 'Quiet Flows The Rhine' by French L Maclean


DEATHS AND SERIOUS WOUNDS

During Worid War Two, the German Central Archives for Military Medicine analyzed some 3,015,589 wounded soldiers with extremely detailed results. Overall, they found that of every 100 casualties, 24% were killed in action, 30% were seriously wounded and 46% were classified äs lightly wounded. This compared to a casualty rate of 13.8% killed and 86.2% wounded in Worid War I. The archivists believed the increased death rate was due, in pari, to an increase in weapons' lethality; additionally, the greater fluidity of the Worid War II battlefields made casualty evacuation more difficult than in the more statte Worid War I battlefields.
In 1942 the Archives did a study äs to the location of war wounds on the human body. They found that of all wounds inflicted on German soldiers 5% were skull wounds, 8% facial wounds, 1.3% throat wounds, 6.3% shoulderwounds, 7.3% ehest wounds, 6.3% upper arm wounds, 16.5% lower arm wounds, 3.5% stomach wounds, 10.1% upper leg wounds, 28.3% lower leg wounds and 3.4% back wounds.2 By 1944 wounds were further categorized (shown below) äs to location on the body (such äs direct hit (massive simultaneous multiple wounds), head, ehest, stomach, back, throat, legs and arms)with respect to casualties who were fatally wounded, seriously wounded (but survived) and lightly wounded.

Wound Location (by percentage)
site of wound..................................fatal ............................Serious ..........................Light
Direct Hit .....................................15.23..............................0.45..............................0.17
Head...........................................42.61.............................16.66.............................16.49
Chest..........................................22.11.............................11.28...............................3.00
Stomach........................................7.95..............................7.69................................0.79
Back.............................................4.11.............................10.45...............................9.06
Throat..........................................3.36...............................2.92...............................2.82
Legs............................................3.04..............................28.02 .............................29.90
Arms............................................0.64..............................22.53.............................37.77

Thus it was shown that of those patients who were fatally wounded, 42.61 had received head wounds while only 3.04 had been wounded in the legs. Leg wounds (28.02), on the other hand, were the most frequent injury for seriously wounded patients, while arm injuries (37.77) were the most frequent type of injury to those patients who were classified äs lightly wounded. Casualties who had serious wounds in their arms or legs had their damaged limbs amputated more frequently than in Western Allied armies.
Amputations reduced the possibility of infections and actually allowed the soldier to sometimes return to limited duty.
Last edited by Michael Kenny on 15 Feb 2010 23:45, edited 1 time in total.

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Qvist
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Re: Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by Qvist » 15 Feb 2010 23:41

If I'm not much mistaken, the records are in Berlin. I doubt they are accessible online. Some of it is referenced in Müller-Hillebrand's Statistical System, which you can get online at footnote.com.

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Re: Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by Piotr Kapuscinski » 03 Apr 2010 17:09

Here you can find interesting info on causes of mortal losses of 45. Inf.Div. in the Polish & Western campaigns:

http://www.biologiezentrum.at/pdf_frei_ ... 1-0274.pdf

I made such a summary of causes of mortal losses in 45. Inf.Div. during the Polish campaign:

1. Not given, indefinite or other combat (incl. melee weapons and bit by bit from all other) = 10,13% (or 18,99%):

Question mark --------------------------------------------------------------- 7,60% --------------------------------------- = 12
KIA; burnt in a house -------------------------------------------------------- 2,53% --------------------------------------- = 4
Empty (probably means "as above") --------------------------------------- 0,00% (or 8,86%) ------------------- = 0 (or 14)

2. Small arms and heavy machine guns (without hand grenades) = 65,82% (or 60,12%):

Head; head & belly; head & throat; head & back ----------------------- 39,87% (or 34,81%) ---------------- = 63 (or 55)
Belly; belly & throat; liver; lungs & arm --------------------------------- 12,66% (or 12,02%) ----------------- = 20 (or 19)
Heart ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 4,43% --------------------------------------- = 7
Chest; chest & belly -------------------------------------------------------- 3,16% --------------------------------------- = 5
Throat ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 1,27% --------------------------------------- = 2
Back ------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1,90% --------------------------------------- = 3
Shoulder; shoulder & upper shoulder; rifle shot; MG series ----------- 2,53% -------------------------------------- = 4

3. Artillery, mortars, grenade launchers, hand grenades, air bombs (incl. splinters & direct hits) = 22,16% (or 19,00%):

Artillery fire ---------------------------------------------------------------- 13,92% (or 11,40%) ------------------ = 22 (or 18)
Grenades ------------------------------------------------------------------- 3,80% --------------------------------------- = 6
Hand grenades ------------------------------------------------------------- 1,90% --------------------------------------- = 3
Infantry guns -------------------------------------------------------------- 1,27% --------------------------------------- = 2
Air bombs ------------------------------------------------------------------ 1,27% (or 0,63%) ----------------------- = 2 (or 1)

4. DiA, DoS and other reasons not connected with direct enemy action = 1,89%

Car accident; diarrhea; fell out of window ------------------------------ 1,89% -------------------------------------- = 3

Total ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 100% --------------------------- = 158 (+ 360 WIA)

As you can see many soldiers died because of multiple wounds (head & belly; belly & throat; chest & belly; etc.)

Apart from 158 KIA the division also lost 360 WIA in Poland according to German sources. Most of divisional losses occured in the forest battle of Oleszyce fought between 15 and 16 September against remnants of Polish 21st Inf.Div. (124 KIA and 300 WIA according to "Armia Kraków 1939" by Władysław Steblik - I didn't check it in the above list yet).
During Worid War Two, the German Central Archives for Military Medicine analyzed some 3,015,589 wounded soldiers with extremely detailed results. Overall, they found that of every 100 casualties, 24% were killed in action, 30% were seriously wounded and 46% were classified äs lightly wounded. This compared to a casualty rate of 13.8% killed and 86.2% wounded in Worid War I. The archivists believed the increased death rate was due, in pari, to an increase in weapons' lethality; additionally, the greater fluidity of the Worid War II battlefields made casualty evacuation more difficult than in the more statte Worid War I battlefields.
I actually always wondered why e.g. in the Polish campaign the WIA / KIA proportion was less than 3:1 (closer to 2:1)?

Any reasonable explanations?
40% German KIA caused by Soviet artillery
10% German KIA caused by Soviet tank forces during breakthrough
20% German KIA caused by Soviet infantry forces during breakthrough
You will hardly find such data. You can find how many were killed / wounded by small arms and MGs and how many by gunfire - but you will hardly find info on how many of these MGs and how many of these guns were tank MGs / guns.

By the way - here is an interesting study, although not necessarily related to Wehrmacht casualties:

http://www.bordeninstitute.army.mil/oth ... ffects.pdf

Another interesting info is that according to Dunnigan's "The Russian Front: Germany's War in the East, 1941-45" the efficiency of artillery and thus the percentage of enemy losses inflicted by artillery depends directly on the speed of its respond and reaction on changes on the battlefield - which is in turn directly connected with the number of radio assets distributed to units. That's how he explains the poor efficiency of Soviet artillery in WW2, despite its large size. Dunningan writes that approximately 50% of German losses on the Eastern Front were suffered from artillery, while at the same time the figure for the Western Front was 70 - 80%. Dunningan also writes that German artillery is responsible for well over 80 - 85% (he even writes: close to 90%) of all losses suffered by Germany's enemies.

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Re: Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by Art » 10 Apr 2010 13:28

Domen121 wrote: Dunningan also writes that German artillery is responsible for well over 80 - 85% (he even writes: close to 90%) of all losses suffered by Germany's enemies.
That looks too much IMO. According to the Soviet medical statistics the proportion of wounds inflicted by splinters (shells, rounds, hand grenades, mines, bombs etc) was between 50 and 60%. Namely:
In the first year of the war - 50,4 %
In the second - 54,5%
third - 57,89 %
fourth - 61,5 %
The rest were for the most part inflicted by bullets, except a very small number caused by cold arms. I don't know what is meant by year - a calendar year or the year beginning from June 1941, anyway these numbers indicate a steady increase in the proportion of wounds caused by explosive ammunition throughout the war.
Source
For comparison, according to the same source in the Soviet-Finnish War of 1939-40 the distribution of wounds was: 67,45% by bullets, 32,4% by splinters, 0,15% by cold arms. In the Khalhin-Gol conflict in August 1939 - 54% by splinters, 44,2% by bullets, 0,9% by cold weapon.
For men killed in action this distribution was probably different, but it's unlikely that it would reach 90%.
It would be interesting to see similar statistics for Western Allies in WW2.

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Re: Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by Piotr Kapuscinski » 12 Apr 2010 13:02

For men killed in action this distribution was probably different, but it's unlikely that it would reach 90%.
I agree, among KIA percentage of losses caused by artillery is most certainly smaller than among WIA.

But if it comes to the Soviet data you quoted above:

Well, data of the People's Polish Army (combats in 1944 and 1945) shows something a bit different:

Data from the Polish People's Army in late WW2 (1944 - 1945):

Causes of wounds during the Pulawy-Deblin Operation:

1st Infantry Division / 2nd Infantry Division / Surgical hospital No 2:

Small arms: 26,5% / 31% / 25%
Artillery fire: 73,5% / 68,3% / 58%
Air Attacks: - / - / 17%
Melee weapons: - / - / -
Other causes: - / - / -

Causes of wounds during combats for the liberation of Praga:

Small arms: 21,1% / 19,1% / 21%
Artillery fire: 79,9% / 6,1% */ 58%
Air Attacks: - / 2,2% / -
Melee weapons: - / - / -
Other causes: - / 72,6% */ 21%

* Probably a mistake? Maybe artillery should be 72,6% and other causes 6,1%?

Causes of wounds during combats for the bridgeheads in Warsaw:

2nd Infantry Division / Surgical hospital No 2:

Small arms: 18,3% / 21%
Artillery fire: 81,7% / 58%
Air Attacks: - / -
Other causes (indefinite): - / 21%

Causes of wounds during combats for the Western Pomerania:

Period of combats: February 1945 / 1 - 6 March 1945 / 6 - 18 March 1945:

Small arms: 57,1% / 52,4% / 43,0%
Artillery fire: 41,1% / 31,3% / 54,6%
Air Attacks: 0,7% / 13,5% / -
Melee Weapons: 0,7% / 2,8% / 2,4%

Causes of wounds during the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation:

2 Inf.Div. / 3 Inf.Div. / 4 Inf.Div. / Hospital No 616 / Hospital No 2914 / Surgical Hospital No 5174:

Small arms: 41,9% / 33,5% / 39,8% / 51,9% / 40,0% / 31,4%
Artillery fire: 58,1% / 53,2% / 57,3% / 48,1% / 60,0% / 49,2%
Air Attacks: - / 6,0% / 2,5% / - / - / 19,4%
Melee Weapons: - / - / 0,4% / - / - / -
Other causes (indefinite): - / 7,3% / - / - / - / -

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

Data on the Winter War from Krivosheev:

Among the total number of wounded who were sent from the troops of the North-Western Front to Leningrad for treatment (from 1st of January 1940 until 13th of March 1940), the wounds were distributed by type in the following manner:

Gunshot - 68,0%
Wounds from artillery shells - 31,6%
Wounds from mines - 0,3%
Wounds from non firing weapons - 0,1%

Here the serious wounds and those of medium severity comprised 80,8% and the light wounds comprised 19,2%

Data about the nature of wounds in a percentage relationship are:

Wounds to the head and neck - 10,2%
To the throat - 7,4%
To the abdomen and pelvis - 4,6%
To the upper extremities - 45,5%
To the lower extremities - 27,4%
Multiple wounds - 4,9%

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
It would be interesting to see similar statistics for Western Allies in WW2.
Reports of 1st Canadian Army about causes of wounds in period 3 February 1945 - 31 March 1945:

1. Shell wound HE - 53,8% (1429)
2. Shell wound mortar - 15,4% (408)
3. GSW bullet - 17,4% (461)
4. GSW rifle - 4,8% (128)
5. GSW MG - 3,3% (87)
6. GSW pistol - 0,7% (17)
7. BW aerial - 0,5% (14)
8. BW mine, grenade - 4,1% (28)

Total: 100% (2572)

BW - blast wound (usually grenades, mines or mortars)
GSW bullet - not recognized bullets
GSW rifle - rifle bullets
GSW MG - MG bullets
GSW pistol - pistol bullets

And some interesting links:

http://www.bordeninstitute.army.mil/oth ... ffects.pdf

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/ref ... l#contents

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Re: Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by Inselaffe » 12 Apr 2010 15:39

Domen 121 - Thanks for posting these figures, very interesting.
Domen121 wrote:BW - blast wound (usually grenades, mines or mortars)
GSW bullet - not recognized bullets
GSW rifle - rifle bullets
GSW MG - MG bullets
GSW pistol - pistol bullets
Do you know wether SMG/MP were classified in with MGs or pistols?

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Re: Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by Piotr Kapuscinski » 12 Apr 2010 18:13

I'm not sure, but probably with MGs (despite the fact that SMGs / MPs usually fired with pistol bullets).

These statistics are probably based on what the wounded soldiers said on what caused of their wounds.

If they didn't remember what exactly caused their wound, they were classified as "GSW bullet".

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Re: Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by Art » 04 May 2010 10:42

Some stuff on location and lethality of wounds from "Statistics Systems" by Mueller-Hillebrand:
http://community.livejournal.com/warhis ... tml#cutid1
I was impressed with lethality of blows with the rifle butt, in almost 2/3 of cases they resulted in death.

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Re: Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by Piotr Kapuscinski » 04 May 2010 12:26

Hi Art,

Very interesting stuff!
I was impressed with lethality of blows with the rifle butt, in almost 2/3 of cases they resulted in death.
But I don't really think that one rifle butt = dead in 2/3 of cases. This rather includes dead due to multiple hits.

This rather shows the cruelty of face to face combat. They were finishing off already knocked out enemies.

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Re: Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 10 May 2010 13:51

Twix wrote:Does anyone have a breakdown of German casualty figures .....

Of course this is a really detailed example, any information is welcome. I'm mainly interested in this because I want to reconcile these kinds of figures with Soviet military doctrine and compare it with let's say the Western front.

Thanks.
Exactly what in Soviet or RKKA doctrine are you studying?

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Re: Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by H@wkeye! » 11 May 2010 01:22

Domen121 wrote:Hi Art,

Very interesting stuff!
I was impressed with lethality of blows with the rifle butt, in almost 2/3 of cases they resulted in death.
But I don't really think that one rifle butt = dead in 2/3 of cases. This rather includes dead due to multiple hits.

This rather shows the cruelty of face to face combat. They were finishing off already knocked out enemies.
I would question the data on killed instantly. This is because how often would a body be discovered with multiple woulds, and how does one decide which wound killed him? I suspect, for example, blows by a rifle butt are questionable, as i doubt a serious investigation is undertaken to discover exactly how many blows killed said soldier. So they likely just write, killed by rifle butt blow. Similar a man with both rifle wounds, and artillery fragments and more, which box gets ticked? Just my understanding of statistics coming out, question everything :)

But seriously only 2/3 chance of serious wounds or killed outright after being run over by a tank? A straight 1/3 split indicates questionable data, 1/3 each for all three sections never really happens

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Re: Wehrmacht Casualty Distribution

Post by Guaporense » 15 May 2010 03:02

Well, second to analysis on the QJM, usually between 50-70% of the operational lethality index came from artillery in WW2 engagements. Aircraft varied between 0% (when the enemy had airsupremacy) to 10% (usually for the Allies in battle were they had massive airpower).

For the US army, in the mediterranean theater, artillery and mortar was responsible for 62% of hospitalized and 65% of KIA. For the European theater, these figures are respectively 59% and 52%.
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