Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Discussions on High Command, strategy and the Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) in general.
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Kingfish
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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Kingfish » 18 Dec 2013 17:26

LWD wrote:
KDF33 wrote:
ljadw wrote:There also is no reason why the Germans should choose a war of attrition .
There are also a lot of obvious reasons why they should not choose a such war
Does anyone ever "chooses" to fight a war of attrition?
Yes. A classic example woult be the American Civil War paraticularly under Grant. In any case attrition is a fact of life in most military campaigns.
But did Grant choose attrition because he thought it the best strategy out of other possible options, or was it because he knew the limitations of his army and attrition was the inevitable outcome?
The gods do not deduct from a man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing.
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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by LWD » 18 Dec 2013 20:58

From what I've read he chose it because he thought it the quickest way to victory. He knew his army could absorb the losses but Lee's couldn't. Clearly he leaned on attrition where previous Northern generals had held back after a loss or even a tough fight Grant pushed on knowing that he would take even more casualties but so would Lee.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by stg 44 » 18 Dec 2013 21:22

Kingfish wrote:
LWD wrote:
KDF33 wrote:
ljadw wrote:There also is no reason why the Germans should choose a war of attrition .
There are also a lot of obvious reasons why they should not choose a such war
Does anyone ever "chooses" to fight a war of attrition?
Yes. A classic example woult be the American Civil War paraticularly under Grant. In any case attrition is a fact of life in most military campaigns.
But did Grant choose attrition because he thought it the best strategy out of other possible options, or was it because he knew the limitations of his army and attrition was the inevitable outcome?
I think Grant knew his own limitations as a general and focused on getting Lee to fight himself to death, confident that the North could handle the losses it would take in the process, unlike the South. Lee was too maneuverable and there was just too much that could go wrong in maneuver type battles, especially against the Southern officers, so Grant opted to fix his foe and force him to fight a firepower/material battle on the North's terms, rather than fighting a maneuver battle like Lee was used to; every time the North had tried that they had lost previously, so Grant wasn't taking any chances and was more concerned about wearing his enemy down in assured battles, rather than risking losing morale in a lost maneuver battle. This was very much later echoed by Montgomery, who realized the weakness and strength of the military system at his disposal, so he played to his army's strengths and minimized the weaknesses, forcing the Germans to fight on his terms if they wanted to fight at all, which is what Grant did in command. He forces the South to stand, fight, and die or risk losing its material base; the best way to do that was go at them straight on with heavy firepower, which they could just not match and would invariably lose.

IMHO Grant was painfully aware of the previous failures and wanted to avoid a repeat, so he fought in the way he was comfortable fighting and knew his enemy was not prepared for nor comfortable fighting that way. So put him off balance and force him to fight your choice of battle, just be willing to pay the price to do so, which the North could do much more easily than the South. Plus I think Grant thought the South was more worn down than it was, so he though by blowing through them by frontal engagement he could simply roll them up like he did in the West where he learned to fight the much weaker Southern forces; I think he carried that to the East where he thought the South was the same sort of force, not realizing that it had under-resourced the West to shore up the East, so when the battles ended up bloody, he though that he was getting the worst of it out of the way early and they would be rolled over more quickly than they proved to be. I don't know if he expected such a fight, but was determined to do what was working and suck up the losses, even if they were worse than expected.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Davey Boy » 19 Dec 2013 08:58

KDF33 wrote:I must disagree with the assumption that the USSR had "practically limitless" raw materials and manpower. They didn't, and in fact the damage done by Barbarossa reduced their industrial output to a mere fraction of Germany's. Likewise, their manpower situation was more precarious than is usually assumed, especially going into 1943.
I'm not surprised Barbarossa reduced the Soviet industrial output to a mere fraction of Germany's, if that is indeed what happened. It's quite amazing how unprepared the Soviets were for Barbarossa. In any case, obviously they eventually regrouped.

But I don't agree that it was precarious for them at any stage. If that was the case, then I doubt they'd have been so successful at gathering reserves for every major battle including and after the fight for Moscow.

The Germans not only had slow supply lines, which actually included horse pulled wagons to a large extent, but they also lacked the proper reserves to win the major battles. I don't understand how an army like that could've conquered European Russia, let alone also the nearby areas of Asia, which had some major centers of population and industry?

Anyone mind explaining that?

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by KDF33 » 19 Dec 2013 18:28

Davey Boy wrote:
KDF33 wrote:The Germans not only had slow supply lines, which actually included horse pulled wagons to a large extent, but they also lacked the proper reserves to win the major battles. I don't understand how an army like that could've conquered European Russia, let alone also the nearby areas of Asia, which had some major centers of population and industry?

Anyone mind explaining that?
The German supply lines weren't any worse than those of the Soviets; as for horses, the Soviets also used a lot. The Germans, in fact, were generally more motorized than them. As far as "conquering European Russia" goes, it could have been achieved by repeatedly inflicting large-scale losses on the Soviets and occupying further population centers.

Regards,

KDF

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Davey Boy » 21 Dec 2013 09:07

KDF33 wrote:The German supply lines weren't any worse than those of the Soviets; as for horses, the Soviets also used a lot. The Germans, in fact, were generally more motorized than them. As far as "conquering European Russia" goes, it could have been achieved by repeatedly inflicting large-scale losses on the Soviets and occupying further population centers.
Nope, the Soviets were more motorized and had faster supply lines because they used quite a few trucks and jeeps supplied by the Americans. You know, that lend-lease thing... :wink:

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by KDF33 » 21 Dec 2013 20:57

No, that's wrong.

Motor vehicles allocated to the Fronts, 1.5.42: 239,227
Motor vehicles allocated to the Fronts, 1.7.43: 266,613
Motor vehicles allocated to the Fronts, 1.6.44: 295,453

For comparison's sake, the Germans invaded with 577,000 motor vehicles. Even in May 1944, they still had 320,062 motor vehicles deployed in the east.

The role of the LL vehicles is most exaggerated: on 1.1.43, they made up a grand total of 5.4% of the Soviet military park, and even on 1.1.44 they still constituted a mere 19% of the fleet.

See this thread.

The Soviets reached a level of (absolute) motorization comparable to the Ostheer only around mid-1944, but then with a force twice as large.

Regards,

KDF

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by stg 44 » 21 Dec 2013 21:43

KDF33 wrote:No, that's wrong.

Motor vehicles allocated to the Fronts, 1.5.42: 239,227
Motor vehicles allocated to the Fronts, 1.7.43: 266,613
Motor vehicles allocated to the Fronts, 1.6.44: 295,453

For comparison's sake, the Germans invaded with 577,000 motor vehicles. Even in May 1944, they still had 320,062 motor vehicles deployed in the east.

The role of the LL vehicles is most exaggerated: on 1.1.43, they made up a grand total of 5.4% of the Soviet military park, and even on 1.1.44 they still constituted a mere 19% of the fleet.

See this thread.

The Soviets reached a level of (absolute) motorization comparable to the Ostheer only around mid-1944, but then with a force twice as large.

Regards,

KDF
So they were just using horses for the rest? What was the Soviet horse situation that they were able to mobilize so many? I assume their tractor situation precluded needing them for agriculture.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by KDF33 » 21 Dec 2013 21:52

Here's comparable data for the horse supply:

Horses allocated to the Fronts, 1.5.42: 751,399
Horses allocated to the Fronts, 1.7.43: 581,058
Horses allocated to the Fronts, 1.6.44: 688,319

In general terms, the Soviets had a somewhat larger horse complement than the Ostheer, but then again they also had a larger force, so on a per soldier basis the ratio was also favorable to the Germans.

The Germans drafted 2.75 million horses during the war, whereas the Soviets mobilized 3.5 million.

Despite substantial motorization of the agriculture, the Soviets still suffered from a serious shortage of horses during the war. The USSR lost over half (11 / 21m) of it's horses to occupation in 1941.

Regards,

KDF

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by stg 44 » 22 Dec 2013 01:03

How the hell did they supply the front then? They were worse off in all ways than the Germans in means of supply. Why do people keep talking about how bad the Germans were with logistics, when the Soviets were far worse off? I realize they were closer to their supply centers and that their troops had far less material support per person, such as the lack of a field kitchen for hot food.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Exlurker » 22 Dec 2013 19:01

stg 44 wrote:How the hell did they supply the front then? They were worse off in all ways than the Germans in means of supply. Why do people keep talking about how bad the Germans were with logistics, when the Soviets were far worse off? I realize they were closer to their supply centers and that their troops had far less material support per person, such as the lack of a field kitchen for hot food.
Easy answer?

Both the aggressor and the defender in this case were almost entirely reliant upon the railroad to meet their heavy logistic needs.

In a case such as this, the defender has the advantage of a much better functioning heavy logistics system...and close to hand. One that can continue to deliver massive tonnages (despite interdiction efforts) to railheads right behind the active front.

As the advance proceeds, the aggressor will quickly outrun this same facility for major supply and be forced to transship (i.e. offload and reload) it's supply at the railheads to either motorized or horsedrawn means, for delivery to the active front.

Supporting such an additional effort becomes (in and of itself) a major drain on the amount of supply tonnage that can actually be brought forward to the "pointy end". Without adequate allowance (within the initial heavy logistics planning) for delivery of the additional resources to the railheads to support and maintain this secondary distribution effort, attrition (due to lack of spares/maintenance) reduces the initial carrying capacity of the means of forward distribution at an exponential rate.

As the distance between the railheads and the fighting front increases, the ability to deliver the same tonnages forward requires a much larger "piece of the pie" which arrives each day at the railheads. Thus the fleet of transport vehicles (and the attendant "tertiary" resource requirements) would actually have to GROW in number (not shrink) to achieve the same results.

The historical records are littered with statements of "We require X number of trains per day to be able to resume offensive operations". What is overlooked is the fact that in many cases, "X" number of trains were arriving at the railheads in the rear. By the time you account for the additional cost to haul "X number of trains" of supply forward, you no longer have "X number of trains" arriving at the active front.

Wholly inadequate German logistical planning (at all levels) doomed Barbarossa.

On the other side of the fence, the Soviets just moved their railheads back along their existing LOC's and repaired the tracks when the Luftwaffe managed to put them out of service for brief periods.

That (in a nutshell) is your answer.

EDIT: This position is supported in Martin Van Crevald's work "Supplying War"; specifically the Chapter entitled "Russian Roulette". Well worth reading, if you share my interest in such matters.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by flakbait » 23 Dec 2013 16:40

The often quoted "Amateurs think in terms of `tactics`, professional soldiers think in terms of logistics..." has and will forever hold true. While even horse drawn transport can negotiate difficult terrain and weather keep in mind we are talking "roads" that are largely dirt cart pathes that with heavy use become hog wallows at best and all but impassible quagmires at worse. Even while `passable` the accumulative effort of struggling thru kilometer after kilometer of sodden semi liquid earth literally has an effect of expidentually increasing the rate of maintainance due to wear and tear, fuel consumption and sheer exhaustion upon man, machine and animal. Logistics is universally the very necessary mother of victory but the ignored unwanted step child of popular perception of combat history; most `amateurs` think food, fuel, ammo and supplies are summoned out of thin air with the wave of the magic wand. Even today mounting victorious operations on this scale would be daunting at best...but very EASILY lost !

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by victor82 » 15 Jan 2014 01:08

flakbait wrote:The often quoted "Amateurs think in terms of `tactics`, professional soldiers think in terms of logistics..." has and will forever hold true. While even horse drawn transport can negotiate difficult terrain and weather keep in mind we are talking "roads" that are largely dirt cart pathes that with heavy use become hog wallows at best and all but impassible quagmires at worse. Even while `passable` the accumulative effort of struggling thru kilometer after kilometer of sodden semi liquid earth literally has an effect of expidentually increasing the rate of maintainance due to wear and tear, fuel consumption and sheer exhaustion upon man, machine and animal. Logistics is universally the very necessary mother of victory but the ignored unwanted step child of popular perception of combat history; most `amateurs` think food, fuel, ammo and supplies are summoned out of thin air with the wave of the magic wand. Even today mounting victorious operations on this scale would be daunting at best...but very EASILY lost !
THIS!!!! X 1000%

If I could expand on what flakbait wrote: the German supply situation beginning around October is an indictment of Hitler's "Guns and Butter" economy, one that attempted to continue to provide consumer goods to Germans even through 1942. As most are aware, the shift to a Total War economy did not come until 1943, when it was entirely too late to do any good.

Had Hitler had Barbarossa in mind (as was always his sentiment) and had Roosevelt's shrewd take on the relationship between economy and success in the field, he would have begun converting the German economy to full war footing after Case White. Setting aside the fact that in the case of BARBAROSSA the operation itself attempted to do too much with too little, the German economy was not even at war footing in the summer of 1941. Panzer and PzGr units were running out of spare parts, motor pools were running short on basic items, ammunition was running short. The fuel trucks mentioned above were breaking down due to attrition. Nobody had considered winter uniforms. Even the basic summer tunics were running short.

This was a failure of decision making at the top to gear up in 1939-40 for a long campaign.

Indeed, had Tukhachevsky been alive and the Soviets presented more powerful mobile forces in that year, Hitler never would have dared invade the Soviet Union.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by ljadw » 15 Jan 2014 04:30

As most are aware, the shift to a Total War economy did not come until 1943, when it was entirely too late to do any good.

[/quote]


As most are aware (this has been discussed countless times) this is totally wrong : the shift to a total war economy started on 1 september 1939 : see : "The Wages of Destruction".

BTW :there were enough winter uniforms,but the problem was to transport them to the front .

:if Tukchatchevsky had been alife,the situation of the Red Army would have been the same .

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 15 Jan 2014 09:41

Yes the supply situation on the Eastern Front is ALL down to railways, trucks only account for the last 250km of the journey for supplies which may already have traveled 2,500km. Examples of long range truck supply only occur for short periods see Oder-Vistula Offensive (650km) or Operation Barbarossa with the Grosstransportraum (600km). For the transport of mass tonnages of supplies, especially in the Soviet Union there is no other option but railways.
If you want a lot of details of supply operations such as Stalingrad you can read the threads here:

http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forums/s ... p?t=133563 (Soviet Supply)
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 9&t=203037 (Logistics in 1944/5)
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 6&t=203286 (German Railways in the East)

and parts of (mainly the end threads):
http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forums/s ... p?t=130750 (Railway destruction thread)

Question is, why did the Soviets have an advantage over the Germans in terms of railway supply? One big reason is that in 1940, the USSR had the second largest railway business in the world, second only to the USA.
Soviet Freight transport compared to USA
Image and as they lost round 40% of their network by 1.1.1943, yet had only lost around 15% of their locomotives, they had a surplus of motive power and rolling stock in their half of the network and could run a very efficient railway service. For instance during the Stalingrad counter offensive build up, they used all of their railway lines one way and did not return any trucks. This allowed a huge tonnage to be built up very quickly even on low capacity lines. The empty trucks were pushed on further down the line to Astrakhan where they were shunted onto the tram lines in the city or even off the rails entirely. Later on these 'empties were recovered.

The reason the Germans did so badly in terms of logistics was because there was a break in the European network in Eastern Poland which they spent a lot of time and materials (600,000 tons of steel just in 1941 before the offensive) trying to build up and they did not understand how the Soviet railway worked and so spent a lot of time and effort trying to upgrade it to German standards. This combination of factors left them short of rail capacity for their entire time of the occupation of Russia. For instance during Operation Bagration, Army Group Centre received on average 65 trains a day for 1944 mainly down a major double tracked trunk line running from Warsaw - Brest - Minsk - Orscha. This traffic was divided into Troop Transports, Supplies and Railway Supplies (coal for running the locomotives, etc). Before the Soviet attack, the split of the was fairly even between supplies and transports (May 1944: 28 supply trains and 32 transports), after the attack transports increase (July: 12 supply trains and 53 transports) but they were so short of capacity that they had to cut the amount of supplies to allow enough transport trains to run into the Army Group area. This effect was down to an overall lack of capacity rather than partisans as these only produced short term delays (typically no more than 6 hours) that could be made up after the break was repaired.
But when we look at the Soviet side of the attack 1st Belorussian Front was receiving 50 supply trains a day PLUS 50 troops trains a day by using their multitude of low capacity lines, which they had just repaired. This was just one front out of four that were attacking Army Group Centre. They were probably delivering 300 trains a day compared to the Germans 65 and Soviet trains were larger and carried more cargo.

The Soviet railways had a massive job to accomplish because they had an economy to run as well as a war while the Germans ran 50% of their trains for the Wehrmacht and ran little economic traffic in the East other than food movements and shipping material and people back to the Reich. For 1944 the Soviets were loading daily 16,900 wagons for military use and 38,610 wagons for economic use roughly 280 military supply trains and 645 economic trains as well as running military troops trains.

The Soviets also benefited from a unified logistics system "Rear Area Services" which controlled everything military from the factories right through to the Army rear areas. Even Front Commanders were forbidden to give an order to a train driver! This was under the command of General A.V. Khrulev who was both a Deputy Defence Commissar, Narkom of NKPS (Soviet Railway Company) and Commander of Rear Area Services, so he combined the roles on the German side of General Gercke (Transport) General Wagner (QMG Supplies) and Ing. Dorpmuller (Reich Transport Minister) and a unified railway network while the German one was split into the SNCF/SNCB - DRB - Gedob - RVD Osten (although this improved during the course of the war as the DRB gradually gained control over the Gedob and French and Belgian railway networks after mid 1943)

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