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Strained German Logistics

Posted: Sun May 20, 2007 11:42 pm
by Iron_Bismarck

The Russian Front — Barbarossa: Hitler Turns East (DVD)
Combat on the Russian Front (DVD)
War of the Century — When Hitler Fought Stalin (DVD)


German logistics were severely strained by Operation Barbarossa. First, the distances involved were extreme. Second, Russian roads were almost always unsurfaced. Thus, despite the common belief that Russian roads only became impassible when the fall rains (Rasputitsa) turned them to mud, in actual fact the mere passage of German armored columns would tear them up. Then, even a slight summer rain would render them impassible. Third, Luftwaffe bombings and Soviet scorched-earth policy heavily damaged the Russian rail network. Moreover, the Russian rail network was a different gauge than those in Germany. Thus, only Soviet locomotives could operate on the Russian rails, and the Germans had access to few of these engines. This meant that the Germans had to either modify their locomotives, or modify the Russian rail network — both extremely time consuming tasks. Lastly, although the Wehrmacht was supported by a fleet of over 70,000 vehicles, the vast majority of these were destroyed in the first 9 months of Barbarossa (by Mar. '42). And despite common perceptions, only 20% of the German army was mechanized. The rest marched into battle on foot, as their fathers had in WWI, and were supplied with 625,000 horses.

The net result of these logistical challenges was that: (1) the Germans could not supply both sufficient fuel to their armored spearheads and sufficient food for their infantry; and (2) the Germans could not supply their infantry with both sufficient ammunition and cold-weather clothing.

This is why German soldiers on the march had to "live off the land", which involved "appropriating" food stocks from local civilians.

This is also why German soldiers were at first not equipped with winter uniforms — although large stocks of winter wear were stockpiled in Germany, the High Command had to prioritize ammunition over clothing as the Russians counter-attacked.

Posted: Mon May 21, 2007 10:50 am
by derGespenst
Nice to know that DVDs are now considered authoritative sources for the most basic information.


Posted: Wed May 23, 2007 1:55 pm
by timobrienwells
In response to the "analysis"
the germans had to either modify their locomotives,or modify the russian rail network.
This is just rediculous.All 3 army groups in Barbarossa had eisenbahn truppen battalions following the combat divisions and they started converting the russian rail from day 1 of the offensive.
extremely time consuming tasks
Rubbish!The rail lines were converted at the rate of 20 klms per day on the way to Minsk.
the Wehrmacht was supported by a fleet of 70,000 vehicles...
Wrong!The Wehrmacht had around 600,000 vehicles.
the germans could not supply bothsufficient fuel to their armoured spearheads andsufficient food for their infantry
Inaccurate!Only during the Rasputitsa and severe winter did supply services break down.

The reason for the "winter clothing" issue is still not fully known.The Luftwaffe and Waffen SS were fully supplied with winter gear,but the army was not.

Posted: Wed May 23, 2007 5:17 pm
by phylo_roadking

do you or do you NOT have any connection in any way with any historical video production company?
...and your answer is???

Posted: Sun May 27, 2007 5:30 pm
by sid guttridge
Hi IB,

Given your repeated reference to particular DVDs, which are not normally authoritative sources, Phylo's question seems reasonable.

Nobody here minds having their brains picked for information and forum members often advertise their own work, usually books.

If you have a connection with a DVD company, just come clean. Having publishing connections is not a crime here. Many of us aspire to just that. However, we do get a bit iffy when such connections are not acknowledged.



Posted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 2:25 am
One of the more authoritative analysis on german logistics is to be found in MArtin Van Creveld: Supplying War. See chapter 5: Russian Roulette.

Van Creveld does a good job in analysing whether Barbarossa was based on a sound estimate of supplies needed and the actual logistics system in Russia.



And just for the record I am not affiliated with Martin Van Creveld, Cambridge University Press, or the Russian Ministry of Transportation.