The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

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The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by Guaporense » 21 Jul 2016 23:01

By January 1945, according to Wehrmacht Monthly Casualty Reports, between June 1941 and the end of 1944, the German army had lost killed in action 1,091,962 soldiers in the Eastern front and 107,024 soldiers in the Western front, Italy, North Africa and the Mediterranean combined. So 91.1% of the German KIA in active fronts was in the Eastern front during the 1941-1944 period.

Including losses of the air-force and the navy, the Wehrmacht lost 1,153,470 soldiers killed in action in the Eastern front and 178,552 soldiers killed in the western front, Italy, North Africa and Mediterranean combined. That's 86.6% of KIA in the Eastern front in all branches of the armed forces combined.

If you analyse it by the distribution of Heer and Waffen-SS divisions we have the following:

Image

And excluding the divisions in inactive fronts (like Norway, the Western front before June 1944, etc), and including only divisions in fronts were there was systematic combat we have the following:

Image

From mid 1941 up to the end of 1944, on average, 89.2% of all frontline divisions were in the Eastern front. During the decisive years of 1941 up to mid 1943, 98% of the Wehrmacht frontline ground forces were in the Eastern front, decreasing to 94%-88% with the opening of the Italian front. With the opening of the Western front, based on Zetterling's analysis that only 37 divisions out of the 66 divisions were deployed in combat in Normandy, I made the following assumption: in June 1944, 1/4 of all divisions were assumed to be frontline, in July, 1/2 of all divisions were assumed to be fronline, un August, 3/4 of all divisions were frontline and 100% were frontline in september.

Using KDF33's data on the size of field army (http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 2#p1987572), I assumed each point was a "midyear" (yes I know it's not rigorous but I am working with the data I have) and assumed a monthly decrease of 180,000 personnel after mid 1944. This way I adjusted the size of the divisions by the total size of the field army to get an idea of the total manpower in the frontlines:

Image

On average 90.1% of the frontline manpower was in the Eastern front from mid 1941 to the end of 1944. Interestingly, the decline in manpower in the Eastern front began in mid 1943 and was continuous afterwards.

Soviet advance was almost continuous from the Battle of Stalingrad onwards, it's speed did not increase after the opening of the Western front although in mid 1943 the opening of the Italian front mean 20 German frontline divisions there which decreased manpower for the Eastern front by about 10%, the only period of German territorial recovery/stalemate after Stalingrad in the Eastern front was from march-july 1943, just before the Italian landings. But overall, it appears to me that the decline in manpower in the Eastern front overall is more a function of German casualties than redeployments outside of the Eastern front from the opening of new fronts.

Soviet advances in 1943 and 1944:
Image

Overall, it appears to me that by far the most important Western allied strategic contribution was the fact that even in 1941 to mid 1943, the Wehrmacht had ca. 60-70 divisions stationed outside of it to defend against possible Allied landings over Europe.

Indeed from June 1941 to the end of December 1944 we had:

66% of the Wehrmacht in the Eastern front.
26.5% of the Wehrmacht in non-active fronts.
7.5% of the Wehrmacht in active fronts outside of the Eastern front.

The inactive fronts were much more important than the active fronts in just diverting Wehrmacht manpower outside of the Eastern front. Considering that the bulk of the Wehrmacht expenditures were with personnel and not munitions or equipment that means that a large fraction of total military outlays went to the non-active fronts. This implies that strategically the greatest contribution the western allies did was not strategic bombing (which did not affect total German industrial production significantly until late 1944), nor the invasion of Italy or France, it was the threat of invasion itself.
Last edited by Guaporense on 22 Jul 2016 21:15, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by Guaporense » 22 Jul 2016 20:29

By the way, while it's pretty much agreed that the USSR took out Germany's army while the Western Allies defeated their airforce and navy, one should understand that the vast majority of Germany's military expenditures were with the ground forces, average monthly expenditures in aircraft and ships were 825 million RM in the 3rd quarter of 1943 (Tooze(2005), No Room for Miracles page 460), compared to average monthly total government expenditures of ca. 10.4 billion RM in the year 09.42-08.43 that's only 8%.

For the German war effort, the navy and the airforce were only supplementary to the army. For contrast in the US, a naval power rather than a land power, expenditures on ships and aircraft in 1943 was 25 billion dollars (at 1945 prices) out of total government expenditures of ca. 85 billion dollars.

Also, even in 1944, a large fraction of the Luftwaffe activity (hence, fuel consumption) was in the Eastern front. And in 1941-1943, the bulk of the Luftwaffe activity was in the Eastern front (although I lack data on number of sorties in the period 1941-43).

Overall, though the main cost of an airforce was the volume of sorties it executed not the number of combat losses, because even in 1944, a large fraction of Luftwaffe losses were accidents and the costs of operation of the aircraft was also very substantial compared to the cost of production. The high combat losses in the Western front had a small size compared to the total government expenditures: the Luftwaffe lost ca. 20,000 aircraft through combat in the West in 1944, however most of these were fighters the cost of producing a fighter was 100,000 RM, that's ca. 2.5 billion RM (taking into account more expensive types), that the value of less than 2% of the total government expenditures during the period.

I don't even think there was such a thing as "defeating the Luftwaffe", the airforce in Germany's case consisted of a tactical support arm of the ground forces, it's function was to provide support for the ground forces and hence it's operation could be said to be disrupted and it's support be reduced, but to be defeated means the defeat of the whole ground forces together with their support.

Finally, the saying that "40% of German output was aircraft" is based on Wagenfuhr's index which is just a weighted selection of a few categories of armaments produced and aircraft had a weight of 40% in that overall index. However, everything computed together in that index consisted of total average monthly sales of 1.71 billion RM in 3rd quarter of 1943, that was only 17% of total government expenditures.
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Re: The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by Guaporense » 26 Jul 2016 03:34

Guaporense wrote:Including losses of the air-force and the navy, the Wehrmacht lost 1,153,470 soldiers killed in action in the Eastern front and 178,552 soldiers killed in the western front, Italy, North Africa and Mediterranean combined. That's 86.6% of KIA in the Eastern front in all branches of the armed forces combined.
Note: this includes "Defense of the Reich".
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Re: The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by stg 44 » 26 Jul 2016 12:56

The loss totals until the end of 1944/early 1945 is way off, it was significantly higher than that. For one thing that doesn't include died of wounds. It doesn't include MIA, which was over 1 million men by the end of January 1945. Nor does it include disabled from wounds and illness.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_ca ... _War_Diary
Nor does it include death via accidents.
Total deaths on all fronts up to the end of 1944 was 2 million including accidents. Then on top of that a further 2 million MIA/POWs. Wounded and sick were over 4.4 million, not sure how many of those were permanently disabled.

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Re: The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by Appleknocker27 » 29 Jul 2016 13:32

Guaporense wrote: Overall, it appears to me that by far the most important Western allied strategic contribution was the fact that even in 1941 to mid 1943, the Wehrmacht had ca. 60-70 divisions stationed outside of it to defend against possible Allied landings over Europe.
Aside from Western Allied ground forces, you should take note that the Allied naval blockade created shortages of materials and blocked markets for the Axis as a whole, which is a huge war fighting function that severely hurt the Axis economically. Also, the Allied strategic bombing campaign forced the Germans to take massive counter-measures. The Luftwaffe Flak arm was the same size as the Army's entire artillery park and most of that was deployed against western air forces. The Todt agency and other German construction services consumed huge amounts of resources building the Atlantic Wall, Flak Towers and other anti air defenses and air raid shelters, not no mention the approximately 1 million able bodied Germans dedicated to clean up after Allied bomber attacks. The Atlantic wall also ate up most of the Navy's artillery park as well. The Allied bomber campaign also spurred the German V-1 and V-2 projects, the V-2 project cost as much as the Manhatten project. Then you have to account for the lost industrial and oil production due to Allied bomber attacks which is a huge number. Allied air forces destroyed the German day fighter force and turned air superiority to air supremacy and virtually bombed at will after "Big Week" in early 1944.
Should we mention Allied lend lease of tactical trucks to the Soviets as a contribution?

That's just a bit off the top of my head, but its clear that the Western Allies didn't cause as many German Army casualties as the Soviets, but they sure as hell had a massive effect on the German ability to wage war (at the least it was equal to the Soviet contribution).

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Re: The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by doogal » 31 Jul 2016 07:41

Measuring strategic importance through German casualty figures .... hardly needed tbh,,,,,

The eastern front was of critical strategic importance to all sides and it was the front which decided WW2

For Germany and the SU the main front of operations during WW2 (hence we dont need casualty figures to illustrate the point)
The majority of the German Army is deployed on this front so its casualty figures reflect that.
For the Allies it was critical that the SU survived and continued fighting.
Guoparense wrote Overall, it appears to me that by far the most important Western allied strategic contribution was the fact that even in 1941 to mid 1943, the Wehrmacht had ca. 60-70 divisions stationed outside of it to defend against possible Allied landings over Europe. -
This wasnt created by Allied design though, so i do not think this is an allied strategic contribution, rather these were German strategic choices which led to foreign soil being held militarily which then had to be defended. These were German strategic mistakes which the Allies just sat there and capitalised on. Even if Germany had only its borders to defend it would have required a similar size force comparable to what it had defending the European mainland.

As for the most important Western Strategic contribution in relation to the Eastern front, well that has to be three fold
first moral then financial and finally engaging German forces from NA to Italy to France.

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Re: The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by Guaporense » 10 Aug 2016 00:01

doogal wrote:
Guoparense wrote Overall, it appears to me that by far the most important Western allied strategic contribution was the fact that even in 1941 to mid 1943, the Wehrmacht had ca. 60-70 divisions stationed outside of it to defend against possible Allied landings over Europe. -
This wasnt created by Allied design though
It was created by their existence.
so i do not think this is an allied strategic contribution
It was in the sense that if Germany were only at war with the USSR they wouldn't need to put all these divisions there.
rather these were German strategic choices
I wouldn't think it was a choice since they were forced to defend territories they held.
which led to foreign soil being held militarily which then had to be defended. These were German strategic mistakes which the Allies just sat there and capitalised on. Even if Germany had only its borders to defend it would have required a similar size force comparable to what it had defending the European mainland.
Therefore, you contradicted yourself: you claim it was a strategic mistake to occupy western Europe and them you claim they would have to keep the same forces in Germany anyways. Well, if the UK accepted Hitler's peace terms in July 1940 they wouldn't need to keep more than a couple of divisions in Western Europe to keep the partisans on hold.
As for the most important Western Strategic contribution in relation to the Eastern front, well that has to be three fold
first moral then financial and finally engaging German forces from NA to Italy to France.
In my opinion their contributions in order:

1st - Their existence as a threat forcing the Wehrmacht to keep 60-80 divisions outside of the Eastern front.
2nd - Lend-lease to the Soviet Union.
3rd - Blocking imports. Without the Western Allies at war and the British blockade the Germans could have easily imported all oil and trucks they needed from the US and allowing the Wehrmacht to be 100% motorized with top notch trucks, that would have helped greatly with the logistics.

According to Germany and Second World War, volume 7, in 1943 there was one motor vehicle per 19 personnel in the field army while the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine had 1 motor vehicle per 10 personnel, ideally, in a 100% motorized force you would need about 1 motor vehicle per 6-7 personnel. Importing a few hundred thousand trucks and APCs from the US would have done the job.
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Re: The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by stg 44 » 14 Aug 2016 22:27

Guaporense wrote: In my opinion their contributions in order:

1st - Their existence as a threat forcing the Wehrmacht to keep 60-80 divisions outside of the Eastern front.
At what time? In 1944 the combat divisions diverted from the East were critical. In 1941-42 not quite so much in raw numbers, as the vast majority of divisions outside of the Eastern Front were non-combat worthy divisions, just security/occupation troops that lacked the equipment of a 1st or 2nd line division, not to mention lacked the personnel to really be able to fight except defend against partisans. Sure they might have been able to put more men into occupation duties in the East, but they still needed to keep substantial occupation troops in occupied Europe.

It certainly would help having Rommel and his guys in the East, same with the troops historically committed to Greece, but the Balkan occupation forces would still need to be there even without a Western Front.
Guaporense wrote: 2nd - Lend-lease to the Soviet Union.
LL didn't require active Allied participation.
Guaporense wrote: 3rd - Blocking imports. Without the Western Allies at war and the British blockade the Germans could have easily imported all oil and trucks they needed from the US and allowing the Wehrmacht to be 100% motorized with top notch trucks, that would have helped greatly with the logistics.
That was pretty huge. Also Allied purchasing of neutral production of raw materials to drive up prices and deny them to the Axis. That seriously hurt the Axis war effort. I doubt though the Germans could have bought that many trucks from the US or that the US would sell them, but being able to buy sufficient rubber and oil so as not to having to build huge, expensive synthetic industries would be very helpful. I mean look at the Auschwitz synthetic rubber plan that never got into production.
Guaporense wrote: According to Germany and Second World War, volume 7, in 1943 there was one motor vehicle per 19 personnel in the field army while the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine had 1 motor vehicle per 10 personnel, ideally, in a 100% motorized force you would need about 1 motor vehicle per 6-7 personnel. Importing a few hundred thousand trucks and APCs from the US would have done the job.
Sure that would have been very helpful...had the US been willing to sell. There is no way the US would sell the Germans military equipment. Of course had Europe not been blockaded occupied Europe could produce trucks and vehicles for German contracts.

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Re: The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by doogal » 15 Aug 2016 10:02

Geoporense wrote - In my opinion their contributions in order:

1st - Their existence as a threat forcing the Wehrmacht to keep 60-80 divisions outside of the Eastern front.
2nd - Lend-lease to the Soviet Union.
3rd - Blocking imports. Without the Western Allies at war and the British blockade the Germans could have easily imported all oil and trucks they needed from the US and allowing the Wehrmacht to be 100% motorized with top notch trucks, that would have helped greatly with the logistics.
1) 1940-1941 British forces are forced off the continent and fight on the periphery of Europe. Engaged in Norway, Crete, Greece, North Africa.
Not until December 1942 when Hitler declares war on America does Germany face the possibility of a land war on its western front and this quite some time off. It was not the threat of Allied intervention in the west north or south which kept Wehrmacht divisions outside of the eastern front up to 1942.
Going into 1943 with the commitment to commit US troops to a Western European theatre, Germany faced the strategic conditions you refer to.

2) Agreed, the use of American vehicles, and the financial and moral support of lend lease were key aspects in the partnership which formed with the USSR.
Guaporense wrote:
2nd - Lend-lease to the Soviet Union.

stg44 wrote - LL didn't require active Allied participation.
LL did require Allied political and economic participation so its it still a strategic contribution.

3) Did the blockade preclude Germany from mass producing a military truck ???

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Re: The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by Kelvin » 16 Aug 2016 20:36

Guaporense wrote:
doogal wrote:
Guoparense wrote Overall, it appears to me that by far the most important Western allied strategic contribution was the fact that even in 1941 to mid 1943, the Wehrmacht had ca. 60-70 divisions stationed outside of it to defend against possible Allied landings over Europe. -
This wasnt created by Allied design though
It was created by their existence.
so i do not think this is an allied strategic contribution
It was in the sense that if Germany were only at war with the USSR they wouldn't need to put all these divisions there.
rather these were German strategic choices
I wouldn't think it was a choice since they were forced to defend territories they held.
which led to foreign soil being held militarily which then had to be defended. These were German strategic mistakes which the Allies just sat there and capitalised on. Even if Germany had only its borders to defend it would have required a similar size force comparable to what it had defending the European mainland.
Therefore, you contradicted yourself: you claim it was a strategic mistake to occupy western Europe and them you claim they would have to keep the same forces in Germany anyways. Well, if the UK accepted Hitler's peace terms in July 1940 they wouldn't need to keep more than a couple of divisions in Western Europe to keep the partisans on hold.
As for the most important Western Strategic contribution in relation to the Eastern front, well that has to be three fold
first moral then financial and finally engaging German forces from NA to Italy to France.
In my opinion their contributions in order:

1st - Their existence as a threat forcing the Wehrmacht to keep 60-80 divisions outside of the Eastern front.
2nd - Lend-lease to the Soviet Union.
3rd - Blocking imports. Without the Western Allies at war and the British blockade the Germans could have easily imported all oil and trucks they needed from the US and allowing the Wehrmacht to be 100% motorized with top notch trucks, that would have helped greatly with the logistics.

According to Germany and Second World War, volume 7, in 1943 there was one motor vehicle per 19 personnel in the field army while the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine had 1 motor vehicle per 10 personnel, ideally, in a 100% motorized force you would need about 1 motor vehicle per 6-7 personnel. Importing a few hundred thousand trucks and APCs from the US would have done the job.

British naval blockade was effective weapon in WWI but no longer worked in WWII. Because : before the invasion of USSR, Hitler had food and minerals import from USSR. And by that time, Hitler had conquered the most of Europe and many neutral states were also afraid of him and offered what he wants :

From Neutral states : Hitler had high grade iron ore (60% iron content) from Sweden, ball bearing for arms industry from Sweden, Tungsten from Portugal and Spain, Chrome from Turkey and arms and some machinery from Switzerland, also financial service from Swiss. Also like iron, leather from Spain, canned fish from Portugal.

From occupied territories : medium grade iron ore (30% iron content) from France (Lorraine), Trepca lead mine (third largest in Europe) and Bor copper mine (2nd Largest) from Yugoslavia, coal and Lignite from Czech, coal and zinc from Poland, small Erzberg iron ore from Austria, Knabena molybdenum mines. Some bauxitue and antimony from Greece and Yugoslavia.

From allies, Nickel from Finland, Nyiregyhaza oilfield and bauxite from Hungary, Ploesti oilfield from Romania.

When entering USSR, Ukraine further provided what he needs : grain from Ukraine steppe, Kirig Rog iron ore and Nikopol manganese ores and coal field from Donbass area.

Only situation in war became worse made neutral states begin to prevent from importing important ores to Germany. In 1942, Portual offered US$1,000 per ton for Tungsten, then $6,000 per ton in 1943 and $14,000 in early 1944. Sweden also terminated the supply of iron ore and ball bearing in 1944 and so did Turkey in chrome.

I don't think all motorized troop was advantage in war. Fully motorized troop like British did not get any upper hand on German. But I think German motorized troop keep the ration at 20-25% is perfect like 1939.

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Re: The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by Michael Kenny » 16 Aug 2016 21:56

Fully motorized troop like British did not get any upper hand on German. But I think German motorized troop keep the ration at 20-25% is perfect like 1939.
It might be 'perfect when the front is fairly static and the enemy has you by the neck. (June-July.) Once you break and run (August) it is a disaster for your horse drawn soldiers.

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Re: The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by Guaporense » 09 Sep 2016 22:54

doogal wrote:1) 1940-1941 British forces are forced off the continent and fight on the periphery of Europe. Engaged in Norway, Crete, Greece, North Africa.
Not until December 1942 when Hitler declares war on America does Germany face the possibility of a land war on its western front and this quite some time off. It was not the threat of Allied intervention in the west north or south which kept Wehrmacht divisions outside of the eastern front up to 1942.
Yet in 1942 they raided Dieppe. If the Germans didn't have troops there...
3) Did the blockade preclude Germany from mass producing a military truck ???
Of course. Because trucks run on gas an Europe was not rich in oil. During the war the whole European motor vehicle industry was operating far below capacity.
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Re: The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by steverodgers801 » 10 Sep 2016 06:13

Germany did not have a mass production industry for vehicles which is one reason for their lack of motorization.

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Re: The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by Stiltzkin » 10 Sep 2016 07:17

Germany did not have a mass production industry for vehicles which is one reason for their lack of motorization.
Because the upkeep was more problematic and expensive than the mere possession of motorized vehicles for the average citizen.

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Re: The Strategic Importance of the Eastern front

Post by Richard Anderson » 10 Sep 2016 17:33

Stiltzkin wrote:
Germany did not have a mass production industry for vehicles which is one reason for their lack of motorization.
Because the upkeep was more problematic and expensive than the mere possession of motorized vehicles for the average citizen.
Yes they did have a "mass production industry for vehicles", but it was less advanced than other industry in 1934. The Nazi's pushed industry expansion and from 1934 to 1939, truck production expanded 363%, automobiles 174%, and motorcycles 276 percent. In 1939, 101,745 trucks, 250,788 automobiles, and 204,115 motorcycles were produced. However, production in 1938 and 1939 were limited by government steel allocation limits and could have been higher.

The main reason a larger number of motor vehicles was not produced during wartime was that much of the motor vehicle industry was converted to production of other war materiel and the remainder was underutilized due to lack of material or manpower or both. For example, Adam Opel at Russelheim and Daimler-Benz, at Unterturkheim, the first and third largest auto producers, were converted to component production for the aircraft industry by 1942. The Volkswagen plant in Fallersleben is another good example. Completed in 1939, it was the largest and most modern in Europe, but was always underutilized. Through 1941, only 20-25% of the plant capacity was used and throughout the war no more than 50% was ever used.

Other self-inflicted problems were the government insistence from 1935 on that much plant expansion be east of the "Hannover Line" in order to help protect such expansion from possible bombing by England and France in the event of war. The result were things like the Adam Opel - Brandenburg truck plant expansion, which was 200 miles east of the main Adam Opel - Russelheim plant. Such lack of centralization was common, unlike the American concentration of vehicle plants in Detroit. While it did provide dispersed bombing targets, it also did not facilitate industrial synergies.
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