German logistics and supply flow

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arctic fox
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German logistics and supply flow

Post by arctic fox » 12 Sep 2005 18:05

Hi!

I am doing research for a computer strategy game I am developing, and have difficulties finding answers to some questions. Here are some questions related to logistics and the use of supplies. I would be very thankful for any corrections, information and sources (unfortunately I don't speak German well enough to read books).

My current understanding of the supply flow (onwards from railheads) is following:

Supplies arrive at a railhead and are moved to Army/Corps dumps. Divisional supply columns pick up supplies from the dumps and transfer them to divisional distributing points (different for infantry and artillery ammunition, fuel and rations). Battalion supply columns pick up the supplies from divisional distributing points and transfer them to battalion/company supply points. If the division is motorized or armoured, it will have a fuel dump of its own. If division/battalion is short of trucks, army supply columns many be used to transfer the supplies to divisional distributing points, but sometimes battalions/companies had to pick up the supplies from army dumps.

Is the information so far correct?


Now some questions. I am trying to ask only some questions at first. :)


There was no regimental level to logistics and supplies? All supplies usually went straight from divisions to battalions/companies?

At East Front, railheads were sometimes as far as 700 km from the front. Were divisional transportation still used to transfer the supplies, or were army level transportation used instead?

Who provided security, if any, for the army level, division level and battalion/company level supply transportations? What kind of security typically, if any?

On what unit level were supplies stockpiled before offences were launched? How much / for how many days were supplies typically (or what was prefered, "by the book") stockpiled before offences?

What did "living off the land" mean in practice at East Front? Did it only mean eating food that was found, or did German forces also collect crops and so forth? Was it easier at country side and harder in the cities? Ability to live off the land must have varied dramatically thru the year?


That's all for now. Hope some of you can answer some of the questions, point out errors or tell me about books that cover these subjects! :)

Thanks!

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Post by AdolfDettmer » 12 Sep 2005 22:04

Well here is a quick response to part of your many questions.. (which most of can be answered through forum searching..)

To provide security for the supply columns and lines either the division detached troops, or as was the case on a large part of the East Front, 2nd line divisions and "Security" units (ranging from company to division strength) would be assigned the task of protecting the dumps and supply lines.

For more information search for "Security Divisions" and "Sicherungs (sp?)"

I would provide more answers but college life calls! Time to kick back a few brews!

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Post by arctic fox » 13 Sep 2005 00:41

Thanks for your response!

Sorry for the many questions, I tried to limit them to just a couple basic ones. I also tried using the search, but faced difficulties in getting useful results. I will try harder in the future.

I have the impression, and correct me if my impression is wrong, that Security Divisions (Sicherungs Divisionen in German?) were located mostly at the rear areas, offering security for the railways and depots. I wonder if there were other units that protected those supply columns that transported the supplies from the forward army dumps (located forwards from the railhead) to divisional distributing points?

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Post by Christoph Awender » 13 Sep 2005 07:59

Hello
Supplies arrive at a railhead and are moved to Army/Corps dumps. Divisional supply columns pick up supplies from the dumps and transfer them to divisional distributing points (different for infantry and artillery ammunition, fuel and rations). Battalion supply columns pick up the supplies from divisional distributing points and transfer them to battalion/company supply points. If the division is motorized or armoured, it will have a fuel dump of its own. If division/battalion is short of trucks, army supply columns many be used to transfer the supplies to divisional distributing points, but sometimes battalions/companies had to pick up the supplies from army dumps.

Is the information so far correct?
See my response further down.
There was no regimental level to logistics and supplies? All supplies usually went straight from divisions to battalions/companies?
The regiment was the main (administration, logistics..) level of the supply flow. The supply structure also changed a lot during the war and the regiment got more "important" later in the war.
At East Front, railheads were sometimes as far as 700 km from the front. Were divisional transportation still used to transfer the supplies, or were army level transportation used instead?
Divisions receive their supply with the railway and from there with Armeenachschubkolonnen to a ordered "Umschlagestelle" (transfer installation) where they load it on divisional supply columns or picks up the supply directly from the Army supply dump.
Who provided security, if any, for the army level, division level and battalion/company level supply transportations? What kind of security typically, if any?
There were hardly enough security troops available for guarding fixed positions. The transports were usually defended by the drivers and co-drivers themselves.
The security in the Korps rear area was a cooperation of Korücks with their various subordinated forces. The supply installations at Divisions and lower levels were secured by the headquarter units and various small detachments of the fighting elements if available.
On what unit level were supplies stockpiled before offences were launched? How much / for how many days were supplies typically (or what was prefered, "by the book") stockpiled before offences?
No matter of the combat situation every unit had to have the "erste Munitionsausstattung" (first ammo load) which consisted of:
a) Feldausstattung (Field load) which is the ammo stored in the vehicles (Gefechtswagen, Protzen etc...) of the companies, batteries etc.. and the 1. and 2.Munitionsstaffel (ammo squadrons)
b) The ammo transported in the Leichten Kolonnen (light columns)
c) The ammo in Divisionsnachschubkolonnen (divisional supply columns)

This stock should be filled up before the unit goes into combat (usually daily). For this the company usually reports the ammo stock to the battalion until 17:00. The battalions report it to the regiment which reports the entire ammo level to the division usually until 18:00.
The division collects the ammo reports of all subordinated units and reports it to the Korpskommando. Then the Korpskommando calculates the Ammo usage of each unit with the difference between the last and the actual report and calculates how much ammo is needed to fill up the "erste Munitionsausstattung". These numbers are reported to the A.O.K. which takes care that the Korps receives the needed ammo. Of course all reports have to contain the exact type of ammo.

Usually the ammo arrives at the regiment in the next but one night. The companies have to be filled up through the divisional supply columns in the meantime. In very urgent special situations the delivery is ordered faster. If the unit has a large ammo usage in the night the division reports the used ammo of this night to the A.O.K. via the Korps which takes that into account in the evening.

The ammo is stored in the divisional "Munitionsausgabestelle" (ammo distribution) usually one for artillery ammo (Artillerie-Munitionsausgabestelle) and other ammo (Infanterie-Munitionsausgabestelle). In special situations these two can be combined in one.
The location for a Infanterie-Munitionsausgabestelle is usually 6-8km behind the front. For a Artillerie-Munitionsausgabestelle 15-20km behind the front.
From there the divisional columns transport the ammo to ordered "Umschlagstellen" (=Regiment) where the companies and batteries pick up the ammo with their Munitionstaffeln etc...
At motorized units they usually pick up their ammo directly at the divisional "Munitionsausgabestelle".

Here a image which shows the system.
http://chrito.users1.50megs.com/dokumen ... hschub.jpg
What did "living off the land" mean in practice at East Front? Did it only mean eating food that was found, or did German forces also collect crops and so forth? Was it easier at country side and harder in the cities? Ability to live off the land must have varied dramatically thru the year?
The Wehrmacht mainly relied on the "supply from the land" which does not at all mean that they just used found food. The divisional butchery and bakery companies used the "fruits" of the land which was taken and bought from everywhere. In cities bakeries, butcheries etc... were used for supply. Usually the supply with rations from the homeland was not needed as they as I said mobilized the infrastructure of the captured land.

hope this helps,
Christoph

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Post by arctic fox » 13 Sep 2005 17:34

Thank you for your very informative post Christoph! I value this information very highly.

I can see that I had an incorrect view of the German supply flow. I will now digest all this new information and try to find additional information based on your post.

Thanks again for your reply.

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Post by Larrister » 13 Sep 2005 23:29

Hi arctic fox

PM sent.

Larrister

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Christoph Awender
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Post by Christoph Awender » 13 Sep 2005 23:42

Larrister wrote:Hi arctic fox

PM sent.

Larrister
Hello

Could the info in your pm also be interesting for the rest of us?

\Christoph

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Post by Larrister » 14 Sep 2005 02:21

Hello Christolph

In answer to your question yes it would be of interest to viewers, however, the information is scanned from a book and is several pages which would be too big for this thread.

Cheers
Larrister

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Re: German logistics and supply flow

Post by Jon G. » 14 Sep 2005 07:08

Hi arctic fox,

Just some supplying (sorry...) info from me, mostly gleamed from Handbook on German Military Forces, available in reprint from Louisiana University Press.
arctic fox wrote:...Supplies arrive at a railhead and are moved to Army/Corps dumps. Divisional supply columns pick up supplies from the dumps and transfer them to divisional distributing points...
AIUI, supplies were mostly managed at army (AOK, not Heer) and division level, with corps and army group only occasionally being active parts of the supply stream. Supplies would be requisitioned and procured at AOK level and pushed forward to army level railheads. Division supply columns (ideally trains, but could also be trucks depending on rail net) would then 'pull' supplies to division level collecting and distribution points. Below division level there seems to have been some variation, HoGMF suggests that the final supply distribution level would be the battalion.
At East Front, railheads were sometimes as far as 700 km from the front. Were divisional transportation still used to transfer the supplies, or were army level transportation used instead?
700 kms would be extreme, also on the Eastern Front. HoGMF states that 90 to 120 miles would be the average for the early stages of the German campaign in the east. Army-Group level Grosstransportraum (each of 20,000 tons capacity) were organized for Barbarossa.
Who provided security, if any, for the army level, division level and battalion/company level supply transportations? What kind of security typically, if any?
Security would presumably be the responsibility of the relevant level - army for army dumps, division for division dumps and so on. Obviously security requirements would vary a lot, but it appears that 'guarding' supplies from other branches attempting to hijack supplies for themselves was a high priority, perhaps especially when on the offense. Van Creveld mentions armed Luftwaffe guards on supply trains destined for HG Nord, so that their supplies wouldn't be stolen by other branches.
On what unit level were supplies stockpiled before offences were launched? How much / for how many days were supplies typically (or what was prefered, "by the book") stockpiled before offences?
I would assume at AOK level.
What did "living off the land" mean in practice at East Front? Did it only mean eating food that was found, or did German forces also collect crops and so forth? Was it easier at country side and harder in the cities? Ability to live off the land must have varied dramatically thru the year?
Living off the land simply means commandeering local resources, either through outright confiscation, by purchase, or by whichever shade of grey inbetween these two extremes. On the Eastern Front, locally available resources would probably chiefly be horse fodder and firewood.

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Post by arctic fox » 14 Sep 2005 13:43

Christoph,

Could you explain some parts of your post bit further?

Did Munitionsstaffel consist mostly of horse teams, and was their function to receive and store the ammunition from supply columns and then move the ammunition within the specific unit as needed? Were the Munitionsstaffel responsible for operating the unit's possible supply vehicles (where ammunition was stored) as well?

You wrote that erste Munitionsausstattung consisted also of the ammunition transported in the Leichten Kolonnen and in Divisionsnachschubkolonnen. Did you just mean that these supply columns brought the needed new ammunition to units, or did you mean that they had some other function as well (like storing ammunition)?

Were the Leichten Kolonnen used only to transport ammunition from Umschlagstellen to units? Did Divisionsnachschubkolonnen transport ammunition to units from the Munitionsausgabestelle and Army Dump, or from Umschlagstellen as well / only? Was it normal to use all the three sources, and the two kinds of columns, or were the divisional columns used only when units needed additional ammunition already during the day or when Leichten Kolonnen couldn't transport all the needed ammunition?

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Post by arctic fox » 14 Sep 2005 13:46

Larrister,

I haven't received a private message. I will send my email address to you in a PM.

I will post the additional information the scanned pages contain, when I have received and read them, so that others can benefit from them as well.

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Re: German logistics and supply flow

Post by arctic fox » 14 Sep 2005 14:12

Shrek wrote:Hi arctic fox,

Just some supplying (sorry...) info from me, mostly gleamed from Handbook on German Military Forces, available in reprint from Louisiana University Press.
Can you tell if it's the U.S. War Department Technical Manual TM-E 30-451? It has so far been my only, even somewhat detailed, source of German logistics in WW2. It seems that it contains some errors, as the picture of logistics given by Christoph is quite different from the one in the Handbook.

Below division level there seems to have been some variation, HoGMF suggests that the final supply distribution level would be the battalion.
This was my previous understanding as well, but the model Christoph is offering is quite different. The Handbook doesn't cover the important role of the Regiments, for example.

700 kms would be extreme, also on the Eastern Front.
Yes, but it often was several hundred kilometers, at least in 1941. I wonder if they changed the model in such situations?

Van Creveld mentions armed Luftwaffe guards on supply trains destined for HG Nord, so that their supplies wouldn't be stolen by other branches.
Yes, I have read Van Creveld, I value his "Supplying War" greatly, as it's my only book that deals specifically about WW2 logistics, and I was intending to ask about this subject. :)

So, did units really steal supplies sent to other units? If it did happen, did it happen only on Army level, or did it happen also on divisonal level and lower?

I would assume at AOK level.
I would assume so as well. Van Creveld mentions that offences were often halted for days, so that supplies could be stockpiled before continuing with the offence.

However, I have no real information if supplies were stockpiled on lower levels as well. Does anyone know? I would imagine that it did happen, at least after offence, when units were trying to recover supply situation, but what about when supply situation was OK but it was expected to get worse because of coming days of offence?

Living off the land simply means commandeering local resources, either through outright confiscation, by purchase, or by whichever shade of grey inbetween these two extremes. On the Eastern Front, locally available resources would probably chiefly be horse fodder and firewood.
I wonder on what level these actions were organized?


Thanks for sharing your information, Shrek!

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Post by Christoph Awender » 14 Sep 2005 20:18

Hello
Did Munitionsstaffel consist mostly of horse teams, and was their function to receive and store the ammunition from supply columns and then move the ammunition within the specific unit as needed? Were the Munitionsstaffel responsible for operating the unit's possible supply vehicles (where ammunition was stored) as well?
During advance and mobile operations the units just had the ammo available which it was able to transport in the available vehicles/horse carts etc...
Of course in static situations ammo was stored depending on the situation also at battery level.
The Munitionsstaffel was the ammo transport section in artillery and other batteries (e.g.Stb.Bttr....). Have a look into this KStN to see how it looked like: http://chrito.users1.50megs.com/kstn/kstn4341okt38.htm

Non mot. infantry units had the so called Gefechtswagen (which were horse carts) which transported the ammo for the platoon.
These Gefechtswagen and Mun.Staffeln did pick up the ammo from the "Umschlagplätze"
You wrote that erste Munitionsausstattung consisted also of the ammunition transported in the Leichten Kolonnen and in Divisionsnachschubkolonnen. Did you just mean that these supply columns brought the needed new ammunition to units, or did you mean that they had some other function as well (like storing ammunition)?
As I said above the 1.Munitionsausstattung was when all these columns were fully loaded with ammo. Depending on the situation they also stored ammo but usually the ammo storage was done at higher level to keep the batteries, regiments etc.. mobile with the available ammo that it was able to transport.
Were the Leichten Kolonnen used only to transport ammunition from Umschlagstellen to units? Did Divisionsnachschubkolonnen transport ammunition to units from the Munitionsausgabestelle and Army Dump, or from Umschlagstellen as well / only? Was it normal to use all the three sources, and the two kinds of columns, or were the divisional columns used only when units needed additional ammunition already during the day or when Leichten Kolonnen couldn't transport all the needed ammunition?
The ordered and ideal way was like I posted above (Sources are officer school documents from Panzertruppenschulen, Artillerieschulen and Infanterieschulen) but of course the system was varied in certain situations and when needed.
My understanding is that the leichten Kolonnen and the Divisionsnachschubkolonnen acted as kind of bumber in the time where the ammo was ordered and delivered from the A.O.K./Korps etc.. which as I posted usually took one day.

Below division level there seems to have been some variation, HoGMF suggests that the final supply distribution level would be the battalion.
This was my previous understanding as well, but the model Christoph is offering is quite different. The Handbook doesn't cover the important role of the Regiments, for example.
Well that is a matter of interpretation. The last "Umschlagstelle" from divisional supply columns to lower levels was the Regiment. Of course a battalion or Abteilung had supply and transport elements. Just look into the KStN of battalion HQ on my site. IT also depended on the time because later in the war the company organic supply elements were moved to higher levels which can be seen in the various KStN (fG) = freie Gliederung.
Yes, but it often was several hundred kilometers, at least in 1941. I wonder if they changed the model in such situations?
Yes the model was often changed according to the situation. I remember a divsional report about supply I read a few days ago where the divisional supply columns needed 2 days to return from depots 200-400km away from the front (296.Inf.Div. 1941)
Yes, I have read Van Creveld, I value his "Supplying War" greatly, as it's my only book that deals specifically about WW2 logistics, and I was intending to ask about this subject.

So, did units really steal supplies sent to other units? If it did happen, did it happen only on Army level, or did it happen also on divisonal level and lower?
Supplies, reinforcements etc.. were redirected (I wouldn´t call it stealing :-) ) by officers at all levels but usually at divisional and lower level because there no other institution (hgh ranking officer etc..) was able to intervene. At higher level you would get problems with the general of the next division etc..
A Waffen-SS Ib I interviewed told me about several things Hausser "redirected" during his duty in the SS-Panzerkorps including Sturmgeschütze etc...

I would assume so as well. Van Creveld mentions that offences were often halted for days, so that supplies could be stockpiled before continuing with the offence.

However, I have no real information if supplies were stockpiled on lower levels as well. Does anyone know? I would imagine that it did happen, at least after offence, when units were trying to recover supply situation, but what about when supply situation was OK but it was expected to get worse because of coming days of offence?
Especially in mobile warfare situation ammo was not stockpiled at lower levels because they were not able to transport it and it was very important that the attack could continue. Ammo was usually stored at A.O.K. level because they had the ability to transport large ammounts and did not have to move that fast as divisions for example.
The most important thing was that the 1.Munitionsaustattung was filled up fast and reliable from the A.O.K.
I wonder on what level these actions were organized?
This was done by the single man who catches the pig at the next farm and grills it with his platoon comrades up to the highest level which organized the rebuild of farms, food factories, butcheries etc...
Of course the first official organized level was the IVa Stabsoffizier (= Divisionsintendant) in the divisional headquarter who was responsible for the food supply of the division.

\Christoph

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Post by Christoph Awender » 15 Sep 2005 15:41

Hello again

Maybe a summary mixed with examples gives also an impression of the divisional supply system. Hope it helps.

A division June 1941:
17200 men
5400 horses
1320 vehicles (120 different types)
1114 l.M.G., 249 l.Gr.Wf., 112 s.M.G.
54 s.Gr.Wf., 75 Pak, 26 Inf.Gesch., 36 le.F.H., 12 s.F.H.

The divisions available transport space:
6 columns (3 horse drawn, 3 motorized) 30to each = 600 Ztr., additional 3600 Ztr. = 180to

3 horse-drawn columns with 15to each = 3x 300 = 900 Ztr. = 45to
1 column for 30to fuel = 1x600 Ztr. = 30 000 litre = 30to
This means transport space for 4500 Ztr. ammo = 225to and 30 000 l fuel = 30to

Gepäcktroß:
Was motorized and each unit had a truck. On these trucks the cloth reserves, office material and files as well as small number of luggage was transported. The transport space of all Gepäcktroß vehicles of the division is 90to.
Unloaded these vehicles built a good transport reserve for the division. There were used in tactical and transport emergencies.

Verpflegungstroß
It was the connection between the "Divisionsverpflegungsausgabestelle" and the troops. For infantry units there was a motorized and a horse drawn element (V I and V II) while motorized units had a V (mot).

Gefechtsfahrzeuge
These carts/vehicles transport the weapons, ammo and the personal luggage of the soldiers especially the backpacks. The field kitchen is also counted as Gefechtsfahrzeug. They were "commanded" by the units themselves. In special situations and transport emergencies the Quartiermeister could also use them as reserve transport space for the division.

Problems which occured:
a) The armies were not able to establish the supply depots close enough to the front because of the fast advance and the destroyed railways. The distances to them were much longer than expected.

b) The vehicles of the division did not meet the requirements of the road conditions. The vehicles of the columns were used up too fast before replacements could have been sent from home.

c) The weather conditions caused that the available transport space could not be used properly. The roads turned nearly impassable which caused vehicle breakdowns and the time needed for each supply run.

d) A certain kind of performance decrease was also caused by non proper use of transport space for tactical purposes. Battaliosn which had been attached to other divisions had to be moved or horse drawn columns had to replace mot columns that were stuck in the mud.

c) Eventually the change of commanding armies caused longer supply routes because the system of army depots and Umschlagplätze took usually three to four days to be changed to the new command situation.

Here the distances and times for July 1941 298.Inf.Div.

Armeelager - - distance - - loading - - unloading - - Days from departure to return
Mogilew - - - - - 100 - - - 1/4 day - - - 1/4 day - - - 2 days
Orscha - - - - - - 120 - - - 1/4 day - - - 1/4 day - - - 2 1/2 days
Borriosow - - - - 250 - - - 1/4 day - - - 1/4 day - - - 4 days
Minsk - - - - - - 300 - - - 1/4 day - - - -1/4 day - - - 4 1/2 days
Bobruisk - - - - - 200 - - 1/4 day - - - -1/4 day - - - 3 days

Organisation and calculation of ammo and fuel usage/supply

Each division was equipped with ammo for 3 days ("normal combat"). This was 100% (Erste Mun.Ausstattung) which was used to calculate the usage. The ammo usage of each day was reported in percent of this ammo load.
1/3 was loaded on the Gefechtsfahrzeugen and Protzen, 1/3 on the horse drawn columns and 1/3 on the mot. columns which were responsible to fill up the ammo from depots.
For the transfer between troop vehicles and columns the division established "Munitionsausgabestellen" which were under command of the Divisionsnachschubführer and run by the Nachschub-Kompanie. When the columns were empty because they gave their ammo to the Mun.Ausg.St. they were sent to the depots of the army to be 100% fuelly loaded again.
The Gefechtsfahrzeuge had to get their ammo from the Mun.Ausg.St. Just in case of larger operations or rising need of ammo the columns were also used to fill up the fire-positions.

The fuel was calculated in so called "Verbrauchssätzen". The division should have 3 1/2 Verbrauchssätze from which 30cbm (about 1/3) was on the fuel column of the Div.Nachsch.Fhr. One Verbrauchssatz was sufficient for about 100km.

\Christoph

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Post by Andy H » 15 Sep 2005 16:28

In regards to defensive measure's as mentioned in your original question would also utilise Armoured trains where applicable.

Armoured Trains had several functions such as:-
Independent Offensice Tasks
Independent Defensive Tasks
Support Tasks

and Securing Tasks.
Within the last category there were several functions which included:-
a. Securing and repairing railway features
b.Securing connections to the rear
c.Securing troop concentrations
d.Securing Supply depots
e.Securing troop & supply trains during transport
f.Patrol runs for railwat surveillance

In addition where conditions and material allowed, a division (or some such unit) would construct a light railway to help with the distribution of men & materials etc. Obviously this was the exception rather than the norm.

Regards

Andy H

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