The State of the Ostheer - May 1942

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HistoryGeek2019
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The State of the Ostheer - May 1942

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 24 Dec 2019 14:16

From Moscow to Stalingrad: Decision in the East, Chapter 14:

Manpower:
Even though the Eastern Front had received 1.1 million replacements since 22 June 1941, it was short 625,000 men as of 1 May 1942. Army Group South had 50 percent of its original infantry strength; Army Groups Center and North each 35 percent. Army Group South could be fully replenished by the time the summer offensive began, but it would take until August to bring Center and North up to 55 percent of their original infantry strengths. Reserves in the form of new units could not be created. All of the men, weapons, and equipment becoming available in the summer, including the 1923 class of recruits, would have to be used to replace losses. The forces on the Eastern Front would have a solid core of veterans, but they would have to absorb large numbers of what formerly would have been regarded as underage and overage recruits, and owing to the losses during the winter, they would be short on experienced officers and noncommissioned officers.

The Germans' own count was 3.9 million men in the ground forces, distributed as follows: 2.6 million (allies not counted) on the Eastern Front proper, 212,000 in the occupied Soviet territory, 150,000 in Finland, and 1.3 million in the occupied territories outside the Soviet Union, in the Replacement Army in Germany, and in North Africa.
Equipment:
During the winter, the forces on the Eastern Front had lost nearly 7,000 artillery pieces ranging from 37-mm. antitank guns to 210-mm. howitzers. The new production, restarted in January, could not replace more than part of them. Of close to 75,000 motor transport vehicles lost, only 7,500 had been replaced; another 25,000 could be secured in Germany, but the absolute deficit would still be 42,500. More than 179,000 horses had died, and only 20,000 new animals had been secured. The 176 million gallons of motor fuel and 390,000 tons of ammunition consumed had cut deep into the stockpiles, which would therefore be proportionately smaller in 1942. The conclusion was, "The shortages cannot, for the time being, be covered by new production or by rebuilding. This will compel cutbacks and sharp emphasis on priorities in all areas."

As an "accomplishment" in sustaining firepower in spite of curtailed production, the army had sent to the Eastern Front 725,000 rifles, 27,000 machine guns, 2,700 antitank guns, and 559 pieces of light and 350 pieces of heavy field artillery. The weapons requirements for Army Group South would be "substantially" met by the time operations resumed. Army Groups Center and North would have enough infantry weapons to arm the troops they had, but their artillery batteries would have to be reduced from 4 to 3 guns and some of those would have to be old or captured pieces. All told, 3,300 tanks would be on hand in the East, 360 less than in June 1941, but heavier armament would make up the difference.

The air force reported some decline in numbers of aircraft, compensated for by newer models, better armament, and more experienced crews.51 In fact, the air strength in the East, 2,750 planes, would not be substantially less than it had been in June 1941 (2,770 planes), and a larger proportion (1,500) would be assigned to support Army Group South
Source: https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/US ... .html#cn90

HistoryGeek2019
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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 24 Dec 2019 14:17

In contrast, the Red Army:
In spite of losses in the winter and heavier ones in the spring, the numerical strengths of the Soviet forces appear to have grown steadily throughout the first six months of 1942. The History of the Second World War gives the total armed forces strength "in action" in "early 1942" as 5.6 million men, of which approximately 4.9 million were in ground forces. The armies "in action" had 293 rifle divisions (at strengths between 5,000 and 9,000), 34 cavalry divisions, 121 rifle brigades, and 56 independent tank brigades. At the beginning of the spring offensives, the ground forces had "over" 5.1 million men, "almost" 3,900 tanks, 44,900 artillery pieces and mortars, and the support of 2,200 combat aircraft. At the end of June, the ground forces "in action" had 5.5 million troops, over 6,000 tanks, 55,600 artillery pieces and mortars, and 2,600 combat aircraft in support. This amounted, with the brigades converted to an equivalent in divisions, to 410 divisions. Elsewhere, the number of divisions, brigades, and independent regiments is given as 348 divisions, 239 brigades, and 329 regiments. None of the above figures includes Stavka reserves, which the History of the Second World War gives as having been (in June) 10 field armies, 1 tank army, 3 air armies being formed, and "more than" 50 independent units. Golubovich gives the reserves as 152 divisions, 107 brigades, and 225 independent regiments.

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 24 Dec 2019 14:34

What stands out the most is the appalling state of the German infantry: Army Group South had 50 percent of its original infantry strength; Army Groups Center and North each 35 percent. And this was despite having received 1.1 million replacements since June 22 1941.

I couldn't find specific casualty information in this book, but Glantz in When Titans Clashed lists German casualties as 522,833 by September 28, 1941. Stahel puts total German 1941 casualties at 830,903, of which 302,595 were killed. Stahel also lists 262,524 casualties for November 26, 1941, to February 28, 1942. Retreat from Moscow (p. 138).

Looking at the dreadful state of the German army in May 1942, with the United States entering the war, and the Soviets continuing to field a massive army, and the Eastern Front more or less stabilized, it seems the war was already lost for Germany. The OstHeer was too weak to do anything offensively in more than one sector, and that would never be enough to knock out the Soviet Union. Germany's severe manpower shortage meant that it couldn't replace casualties or ever hope to get back to its June 1941 strength, and German industrial output could never match that of the Allies.

With the benefit of hindsight, it also shows the folly of Operation Barbarossa. Throwing away over half of your entire country's infantry strength in the bottomless pit of Russia was never a good idea.

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by Art » 25 Dec 2019 20:05

HistoryGeek2019 wrote:
24 Dec 2019 14:34
I couldn't find specific casualty information in this book
There are known figures:
Casualties Jun41-Mar42.png
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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by Hiryu- » 26 Dec 2019 00:06

If the German manpower was done by march 42 after 1,000,000 dead, missing and wounded, I wonder how the Allies did to inflict more than 12 millions other losses to the Wehmacht until may 1945.
They were probably fighting ghosts or scarecrows.

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by ljadw » 26 Dec 2019 09:22

HistoryGeek2019 wrote:
24 Dec 2019 14:34


With the benefit of hindsight, it also shows the folly of Operation Barbarossa. Throwing away over half of your entire country's infantry strength in the bottomless pit of Russia was never a good idea.
As there was no better alternative for Barbarossa, it is not serious to say that Barbarossa was a folly .

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by Peter89 » 26 Dec 2019 13:04

ljadw wrote:
26 Dec 2019 09:22
HistoryGeek2019 wrote:
24 Dec 2019 14:34


With the benefit of hindsight, it also shows the folly of Operation Barbarossa. Throwing away over half of your entire country's infantry strength in the bottomless pit of Russia was never a good idea.
As there was no better alternative for Barbarossa, it is not serious to say that Barbarossa was a folly .
There were about a million alternatives.

1. Sue for peace with the British Empire
2. All out attack on the British Empire
3. Coordinate the Barbarossa with Japan
4. Coordinate the Barbarossa with minor Axis allies properly
5. Launch the Barbarossa later
6. Reshape the mainland Europe, restoring neutrality here and there, thus increasing the pressure on the British
7. Attack the British Empire's colonies
8. Attack neutral countries such as Spain, Sweden or Turkey
9. Prepare for a prolonged war against the British Empire, allocate more resources for the aerial and naval war
10. Speed up R&D, thus gaining a technological edge (rockets, small arms, armoured vehicles, jet planes)
11. Training and equipment of small, specialized forces like Fallschirmjägers and such.

Etc etc etc
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by ljadw » 26 Dec 2019 13:28

1 Britain wanted not peace, but the surrender of Germany
2 Was tried,but failed
3 Japan refused and if it accepted, it would not help .
4 There is no proof that it was not done properly
5 The chances to succeed in 1942 what failed in 1941 were inexistent
6 Would be fruitless
7 Could not be done
8 Would be counterproductive
9 The longer the war the less chance to win
10 R&D would not help in the short run .
11 Paratroopers were only a wast Germany could not afford .

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by Peter89 » 26 Dec 2019 16:35

ljadw wrote:
26 Dec 2019 13:28
1 Britain wanted not peace, but the surrender of Germany
2 Was tried,but failed
3 Japan refused and if it accepted, it would not help .
4 There is no proof that it was not done properly
5 The chances to succeed in 1942 what failed in 1941 were inexistent
6 Would be fruitless
7 Could not be done
8 Would be counterproductive
9 The longer the war the less chance to win
10 R&D would not help in the short run .
11 Paratroopers were only a wast Germany could not afford .
These are all better choices than attacking your ally. And choices.

1. Hardly. The German offer was too much to swallow for the British, and the Germans paid no attention to the long term coexistence of European nations. Britain fought on because they understood that they stand the best chance to win there and then. If they give Germany some room to breathe, they'd get too strong.
2. It was never tried. See Sealion.
3. Japan never refused, and they considered to break the NAP with the SU (April 13, 1941) many times. They decided to attack the relatively lightly guarded European colonies in the south.
4. There's plenty of proof for that. All except the Romanian army was properly mobilized, the technology was not shared with the minor axis nations, etc. Thus, a lot of production capacity in Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Romania, etc. was producing obsolate and useless equipment.
5. There's no proof for that. As you always like to claim, the Barbarossa had to be won with the opening moves, preferably west of the D-D line. If the Soviets could build up more troops and put them on the frontiers, it wouldn't matter as much as the Axis buildup.
6. Not at all
7. It could be done and it was done (Malta, Egypt, Iraq/Syria/Lebanon), but not with proper forces, as they were tied down in the SU
8. Germany didn't hesitate to attack its allies either.
9. Against Britain alone? Hardly.
10. But soon it did.
11. Probably the best type of unit to attack the British Isles.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by ljadw » 26 Dec 2019 17:29

9 A war with Britain alone , or with the British Empire alone would never happen : every one knew in August 1940 that the US would help Britain and would very soon intervene . Whoever would be elected president in 1940 .
11 FJ could not hold longer than a few days against enemy ground forces, besides in July 1940,Germany had NO operational FJ units .
7 It could not be done, because the needed forces could not operate in the ME . Malta would not solve the German problems .The proper forces were not tied in the SU .Germany was able to send forces to Tunesia in November 1942,although Uranus was looming .
3 NO : Japan never was willing to attack the SU, and this for sound reasons : it would not help Germany and it would make Japan defenceless against the US .

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by Peter89 » 26 Dec 2019 18:34

3. YES. Please read any source about Kantokuen. How would it not help Germany???
7. You can't be serious here. The eastern front tied down most of the Wehrmacht, the Mediterran theatre was always of secondary importance. Yes, Malta itself can't solve the German problems in the Med, but capturing it would certainly solve some.
9. It's a pure speculation how long a diplomatic Germany could prolong the American entry into the war. Even with a DOW they didn't really show up in numbers up until 1943.
11. We are talking about alternatives to the Barbarossa, and not about alternatives to July 1940.

By the way your, your whole argumentation is somewhat rigged. My initial statement was that Barbarossa had a lot of alternatives. I presented you a few, and those alternatives are independent of the operational FJ units in mid-1940 or the possible American entry to the war. The Germans decision makers had a lot of choices, and they choose poorly.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by ljadw » 26 Dec 2019 21:58

After the decision of Britain in July 1940 to continue the war ( because it was convinced that US would help her ), Hitler was already thinking on Barbarossa, because he knew that Sealion was impossible,that the air attackss on British cities would have no results ,that it was idem for the submarine war, and that he could not chase Britain out of the ME and that, if he could, Britain would still continue the war .
About the ME (point 7 ) : in November 1942 Uranus was loomimg, but still Germany found the needed forces to stop the Allied landing in Morocco and Tunesia .
About Japan (point 3 ) : Japan could not help Germany as it could not defeat the Soviets in the Far East . Japan was too weak .The Soviet forces in the Far East were strong enough to defeat the Japanese, WITHOUT the transport of reserves from European Russia .
Besides : the figures about the Kantokuen operation are worthless ,as Japan had not the needed 1.5 million men.2000 tanks (Japan had not 2000 tanks ),3000 aircraft . And there was the risk of a DOW by Britain and the US ,which would make PH impossible,and without PH no oil from the DEI and without the oil of the DEI the IJN was helpless and the IJA could not fight against the Soviets .
About point 9 : the GOP convention of August 1940 made war with Germany unavoidable (the Germans were convinced of war before 1942 ) : if it was not FDR who would ask for a DOW, Willkie would ask for it .
About point 11 : the alternatives for Barbarossa had to be found in the summer of 1940 . If not, Barbarossa was the only remaining option .
The alternatives to Barbarossa would not help Germany or would only speed up the US DOW ( submarine war ) .It would take years to conquer the ME and it would not be decisive .
You still forget Germany's most important enemy : general time .
Last point about Kantokuen : already before Japan could have started its attack ,Barbarossa had already failed .And as the Japanese attack would not result in a Red Army shift from European Russia to Siberia, the effect of Kantokuen would be insignifiant .
Hitler has forbidden to inform Japan about Barbarossa,because he did not trust Tokyo, and his distrust was justified .

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by Peter89 » 27 Dec 2019 08:46

About Japan: they faced a strategic decision in early 1941, and they choose another path, but they considered to attack the SU many times over. So yes it was a possibility even though they lacked the proper forces to succeed. Btw the mere threat they posed could tie down valuable Soviet forces for the critical phases of the German onslaught in European SU.
About the US entry to the war: yes, war between Germany and the USA was unavoidable (destroyers for bases, pre lend-lease, Atlantic Charter), but the Germans again had many options: 1. try to keep out the US from war as long as they could, and / or minimize its influence, 2. sue for peace with the Wallies, 3. they could help the SU to backstab Japan by removing the threat from the European theater, etc.
You still forget Germany's most important enemy : general time .
Nope I don't. But I see that in OTL that Germany could effectively fight on for 3 years after Barbarossa, and almost 4 years in total. This reality (sic!) makes me wonder, how much more effectively could they fight on against the Wallies only? Anyway. Whatever we come up with, the ultimate deadline for Germany was the completition of the atomic bomb, and they almost dragged on for that date. And even that happened because of the Soviets.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by ljadw » 27 Dec 2019 11:36

About the German options
1Keeping the US out from war : no : the Germans had no influence in the USA
2 Sue for peace with Britain : no : Britain would never make peace with Germany
3 Helping the Soviets to attack Japan : no : the Soviets had no intention to attack Japan .
About Germany fighting against the Wallies only : it would not make any difference , as a big part of the WM still would be tied on the border with the SU, and, even if this did not happen, a war against the Wallies would last for much more than 5 years and Germany could not win him, as they could do nothing against the US : the US had an unsinkable carrier ( Britain ) from where they could attack Germany, Germany had no carrier from where to attack the US .

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Re: The State of the OstHeer - May 1942

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 22 Jan 2020 02:55

Ziemke's book was published in the later '80's - after prevailing narratives had been set but before interesting archival data emerged post-SU. Were I writing a click-bait review I'd say its commission was a cushy government job (official Army history) with little incentive to dig deeply or fashion interesting takes (the latter being something of a blessing, considering the range of quality for "interesting" takes).

The first thing to notice about Ziemke's portrayal of the May 42 Ostheer: Against the supposedly-better-situated RKKA it advanced nearly ~800km, destroying numerous armies in the process, panicking Stalin and Soviet leadership (not one step back!, blocking detachments), and convincing many in the West that the SU was done (Eisenhower and Joint Chiefs expected Soviet collapse by the end of '42).

How does he spin that narrative so well? First, he was just following that well-set narrative that Germany was hopelessly outmatched by the SU. If you start from that position, it's easy to find facts to match it. Digging in a bit:

-Ziemke states (accurately) that Germany could replace only ~1/3 of its Mot.V losses. He doesn't place those losses in relevant context, however: Barbarossa began with 600k trucks, ~50k halftracks, >100k "Light transports", and thousands of AFV's. Even taking just the trucks as a baseline, a 45,000 decline in stock is only 7.5%. Given the lower manpower, Ostheer actually was more motorized in 42 than in 41. Soviet truck losses must have far exceeded Ostheer's, while RKKA started with only ~450k trucks to supply a larger army, had lower domestic truck production, and LL wasn't a big factor in trucks yet. So Ostheer's Mot.V situation was certainly far better in 42 than RKKA's in absolute vehicles, in vehicles/soldier, and in maintaining motorization relative to 41.

-Ziemke highlights the burn of 176mil gallons of motor fuel. This is either wrong or deceptive. At 7lbs/gal, that's only 560,000t of fuel or ~8% of Germany's fuel resources. I have to believe he made a mistake there, as Ostheer fuel burn in the winter alone nearly matched the figure he gives. Either way, it's fishy/sloppy.

-Ziemke says the Ostheer was "short" some hundreds of thousands. He doesn't specify what "short" means but presumably it's actual strength vs. authorized strength of the Ostheer's formations. What he doesn't make clear is that it was worse for RKKA: He states that their divisions had 5-7,000 men but the authorized strength of RKKA rifle divisions at that time was around 12,000. So the 293 Red divisions were "short" 1.5 - 2 million men!

-The choice of May 42 is conspicuous as well. German replacements surged during June-August, first to support Blau and then to rebuild AG's N/C in anticipation of Soviet attacks. After all the bleeding of 42, the Ostheer had 3.1mil on its roles in July 43 ahead of Kursk. Liedtke's "Enduring the Whirlwind" - an easy Kindle reference for topline Eastern Front stats - has a good discussion of the Ostheer's recovery during Summer 42 - just after Ziemke's timeframe. Unlike SU, Germany valued training almost irrationally and would have withheld replacements until the final moment to provide more training - a fact that I suspect Ziemke is exploiting in his choice of May 42 strength analysis.

None of that it is to dispute what you say re May 42 broadly: Germany had no chance of "winning" in any Nazi sense of the term by then. But the Ostheer still overmatched RKKA and its qualitative edge had actually increased due to the "peasant-ification" of the Red Army over the war years. Pre-war recruits were proportionately higher-educated urbanites who had at least seen things like radios and maps before, and had adult experience in professional roles requiring at least some independent analysis (non-political of course) and personal initiative. The poor peasants (both senses of that phrase), lacking both these modern experiences, were like time-travelers into the modern world via the war. It's hard for folks to believe that the RKKA got qualitatively worse (tactically) as the war went on but the facts are pretty clear on that issue IMO.

David Stahel has emphasized in interviews (online somewhere, don't remember ATM) that it's still the case that very little is actually known about Eastern Front combat. Most authors have gone off post-war memoirs for the German perspective (out of laziness) and lacked access to Soviet documents (Soviet and now Putin-ite secrecy). Ziemke's work cites mostly the Army- and Army-Group-level diaries and correspondence; there's so much more out there to dig into. We probably disagree on Stahel's overall merits. IMO he's more towards the industrious/stupid quadrant than I'd prefer (ok that's excessively mean but like portraying Kiev as the death-knell of the panzer forces when they wrecked a million Soviets a few weeks later during Typhoon...), but I take his point: most well-regarded English-language authors on the Eastern Front have only an inkling of what really happened there.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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