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Discussion in 'Command Ops Series' started by J. van Limpt, Feb 8, 2020.
Can someone tell me whether the supply system in CO2 also includes replacement soldiers and repairs?
I might be wrong but I think supplies only cover basic (food) supply as well as ammunition and fuel.
Thank you. That's also my impression.
No replacements or repairs in the engine at the moment. That's why it can sometimes end up a bit ahistorical if scenarios are very long. I always think that, as long as we don't have replacements and repairs it's more realistic to stick to scenarios not much above 3 days long. Just my view. Depends on the nature of the scenario, of course. For example, From the Meuse to the Rhine, around 9 days long, iirc, is still quite historical for the Allies, because most of the para troops didn't get any repairs or replacements in real life (didn't in any event have a great deal of afvs or arty/AT assets) . But other scenarios miss this feature, I think.
What was the timescale for replenishing casualties at the company and above level, back then? I was under the impression that that only really happened in the rear, and that replenishment mostly consisted of rotating reserve companies/battalions/etc. in, and withdrawing the depleted ones.
Edit: same question, but for equipment replenishment alone. Do supply trains have skeleton crews bring up new AFVs to units which need replacements? Or tow along guns?
True. It's could be different for troops. Not sure about troops, though a quick browse of internet material suggests that US policy during WW2 was to individually and actively replace casualties in the line from replacement depots, though some commanders chose not to do this due to the disruption caused and would try to wait to rebuild unuts out of the line . I read a great book about tank repair in WW2 though, which made it clear that normally there was a massive effort to recover and repair damaged afvs, plus get replacements forward during offensives. 'Death Traps' by Belton Y Cooper.
In combat, there are two forms of replenishment rates for personnel -- the replacement rate for bringing in new personnel to fill out formations weakened by casualties, and caring for wounded soldiers so they can return to the fight.
A nominal estimate on returning wounded soldiers (those who cannot fight well enough to effect the outcome of a battle, but could be returned to duty if damage from their wounds are corrected) is at least two weeks within the theater of operations and longer if the casualties are evacuated to the rear for care.
Requisitioning soldiers to fill out formations from "ready reserves" is even longer considering the administrative lead time necessary to document the need, communicate it to the echelon responsible for managing the reserve, assigning troops to fill the needs, and transporting them from the personnel depot location to the gaining unit.
At least for the US, the focus on manpower was in bringing reserve and national guard formations up to strength in the US and then deploying them overseas. The replacement troops necessary to flesh out already fielded formations were held in reserve untilt he fielded formations were pulled out of line for rest, refitting and replenishment in rear areas.
Given the length of the typical CO2 scenarios, a vast majority of the manpower replenishment couldn't have taken place within the timeframe of the battle.
Here is some discussion of the strategic issues the US faced with replacements during the war:
Equipment replacement and repair is somewhat more likely to occur within the timeframe of the typical CO2 battle, but not at a rate that would return any formation losing equipment to 100 percent during the term of the battle.
Replacement alone, where the equipment is destroyed and replaced with a new piece is highly unlikely during the term of a CO2 battle.
Traditional equipment "float" -- having unused pieces of equipment available for movement to the fight when called, -- was planned at 1-3 percent of the authorized strength at a battalion level, during the production planning for filling out battalion strengths, but those planned levels were often ignored in favor of building new battalions rather than holding back "reserve" equipment for already fielded battalions. Even so, the equipment available for a a regiment with 120 tanks may have 1-3 "spare" tanks after calculations are rounded to whole vehicles authorized to fill out a depleted battalions. For the most part, that was a paper estimate (and still is) with the real "float" consisting of equipment evacuated to a division repair location for major repairs requiring two weeks or more to complete, and being returned to a front line unit which suffered the most losses during that time.
It meant a battalion suffering losses of 10 tanks in a battle may get up to three returned IF those 10 losses are the most significant among all the losses within the division. ,
While it would be great to model repair and replacement in CO2 (I was a logistician for the Army, that kind of stuff was my professional interest) in practical terms it doesn't make much difference.
All the combatants suffer loses at relatively the same rate in a battle, and having replenishment troops, replacement troops, and replacement and repair of equipment within the timescale of the typical scenario wouldn't alter the play balance at all.
What may alter the balance slightly would be modeling the various repair capabilities of the competing forces. Some were staffed and equipped better than others. But, going that deep into the historical background of maintenance and repair is ability of a typical scenario developer to research in terms of both available historical data and making any significant impact during the term of the typical scenario.
Thanks Jim. So my assumption from reading various books - that in the US services some effort was made during longer operations to replace casualties during the operation by moving men up from reserve areas and to both replace and repair AFVs - is wrong, perhaps? In which case, I would stop asking the Devs to put repairs and replacements on the wish list and happily start playing all those longer scenarios again.
But Belton's book - which you actually recommended to me ages ago, I think - seems to give a different picture as far as tanks go, no? That is, that there could be meaningful and rapid repair of tank units during operations, depending, of course, on the cause of damage or fault. It is highlighted in this book that this was a difference, at least late war, between US and Axis capabilities - that the Axis were not good at this and the US was.
The difference was in strategic timeframes vs. tactical time frames.
For the timeframe of already existing scenarios, none of which I see exceeding two weeks, the differences in repair system capabilities didn't make much difference to the immediate combat. A battalion might get a single tank back to one of its companies which has lost three of its four over the typical scenario timeframe, or a company may get five men to replace some of the dozen lost in a battle over that timeframe, but by the time that was all accomplished and factored into combat capability it wouldn't make much relative difference, particularly if the replenishment rate was essentially the same for each side in a combat.
Where the US excelled in repairing equipment was in the level of the sustainment echelon where major repairs could take place rather than what repairs could be accomplished. Where the Axis may have to send a damaged tank back to Germany for major repairs, the US could perform the same repairs at a corps or army HQ location because it invested in more portable and flexible repair facilities and had more "spare" manpower to perform repairs than the Axis could late in the war.
The repairs weren't accomplished any quicker, but the shipment time from the site of damage to the repair site, and return was shorter. Essentially, you still had a minimum of two weeks to repair major battle damage, but the US capability could get the item shipped to the repair site in a day or two before that two-week repair effort started, and the Axis may require a week for each leg of the shipment.
Where the Axis also lagged was in having enough manufacturing capacity to fabricate spare parts to be used for the repairs in addition to having parts to build more modern equipment.
Addressing the problem got reflected more in the make up of a typical Axis TO&E where, for example, the number of vehicles in a tank battalion or the number of battalions assigned a tank regiment was scaled back later in the war to maintain formation designations but not necessarily the same combat strength in each unit.
This gets reflected in the "at start" configurations for battles rather than adjusted during a typical scenario timeframe, except as depleted units are disbanded and available assets are merged into peer formations during gameplay.
The disbandment and merger of units is actually quite a major accomplishment in the programming because that essentially mimics what was done under field conditions during the typical timeframe of a scenario to maintain units of a more standard combat strength.
I think that is a misconception of the German repair and "recycle"-system.
For aircraft and aircraft equipment, for Instance, the industry established their own "Frontreparaturbetriebe" (front repair shops), which took care of equipment that could not be fixed in the various Luftwaffe field repair shops (Feldwerftabteilungen). This saved the Luftwaffe the rather complicated transport (and hassle) back to germany, in many cases. A Feldwerftverband consisted of 3 light Feldwerftabteilungen and the 4th and 5th heavy repair shop Abteilung, not sure if there were Coys.
The field repair shops also maintained so called "Bergetrupps" (literal translation: "recovery troops" or "squads"), which were responsible for retrieving crashed German planes and crashed or captured enemy planes/equipment and for applying temp fixes to move/relocate/retrieve the equipment. In 1943, these squads were replaced by Retrieval Coys and Bns, where - in my opinion - the expansion to Coys was performed to bolster this dedicated retrieval/repair system.
Only if those factory-run repair shops failed to accomplish a given repair job, and only if the plane was still rated to be repair-worthy, then the plane/equipment was sent back to Germany.
The repair system for vehicles was similarly organized, but I am not sure to what extent factories were involved/present in occupied countries. But still, for instance, the Wehrmacht maintained various major repair shops, like the one in Lemberg (Lwow), in the (western) Ukraine, for example. In 1942, that major repair shop employed - in addition to German workers and engineers - hundreds of Jews as slave workers who were forced to perform disassembly and repair on damaged/destroyed cars and all sorts of armored vehicles that kept flowing back from the fronts. Such main shop could perform all types of duties, replace turrets, engines and apply armor upgrades and even more complex repairs. Only if vital (larger) parts of a tank hull had to be repaired or replaced, or if similarly complex repairs were in order, then the factory in Germany had to take care of it.
There are quite interesting pictures stored at the Federal Archive, where you can see how a regular field repair shop crew (not a main hub, like the Lwow hub) replaces a complete turret on a Tiger by using a crane that resides on the compound of a Russian factory (not a tank factory, and the pictures are tagged "summer 1943", and were taken on 21st of June 1943, according to the Fed Archive. Photographer: Kipper, Propaganda Coy 637):
(EDIT: The guys sitting on the barrel serve as counterweights, in order to keep the turret balanced during the replacement procedure):
As you can see, the repair shop engineers must have decided that it would be too cumbersome (or impossible) to replace the damaged gun mantlet, so they are replacing the whole turret, instead.
Even in later stages of the war, when the first version of the Panther's gun mantlet had turned out to be a shell trap, where enemy projectiles had been deflected (into the driver/radio operator compartment, right below the mantlet) by the rounded gun mantlet (the tanks were still operational, while usually having lost either driver or the radio operator), tanks underwent repairs in local/regional field shops, first, usually. The tanks received welded fixes, which were just supposed to seal the hole in the hull roof, and which were sometimes even considered to be permanent fixes. Some were then still sent back to a major repair shop or even to the factory if the unit could afford to send it back. Since it didn't affect the effectiveness of the frontal armor, I am guessing that tanks with such temp fixes (on the hull's roof) were not sent back to Germany for quite a while, in many instances. The second version/revision of the Panther corrected the problem, the mantlet's curve was reduced. But even tanks with side armor penetrations (left in, right out, without further damages) often just received temp fixes and kept up front duty after such repair, for a while.
The Germans were able to retrieve and repair 7 out of 10 damaged/knocked out tanks, on average, in some instances they managed a ratio of 9 out of 10, until the fuel situation became desperate in very late 1944, so that less retrievers could be employed. Since the German tank output was rather low, if compared to Russian and US outputs, they had to establish a strong "recycle"/repair system. Dedicated tank retrievers (usually tanks without gun, and equipped with cranes to lift/exchange the engine) enabled the Germans to retrieve damaged/broken down or knocked out tanks under fire and to conduct a wide range of repairs in the field, if the immediate perimeter was secured. In France and Russia, engineer crews of such retrievers even performed repairs in the vicinity of Allied troops, who held the other part of the town, just a few streets away, occasionally, for instance. There are plenty of veteran accounts that describe that Supply elements refueled tanks or fed tank crews in Africa and other theaters even under artillery or small arms fire. More often than not, the Germans were quite eager to retrieve/care for their precious armor, and the repair system was very well organized.
If the Germans, as you claim/suspect, would have had to send back tanks to the factory for all major repairs, then the constant stream of German armor flowing back to the factories would have clogged the transport system. That wasn't the case, of course.
That's a generalization I wouldn't second. As outlined above, the Germans had extended repair capabilities in quite a few occupied territories, and - next to local repair capabilties- various regional and theater facilities.
While the Allies - just like the Germans - used motorized/tracked equipment for initial/immediate recovery, they also depended - unlike the Germans - on motor transports for long-distance transports, using low-bed trucks for the shipment to facilities with extended repair capabilities in France, or even on ships to get them back to factories in England.
While maintenance and repair of Sherman tanks or open-top TDs was rather easy (generally), complicated cases had to be diverted to factory-level facilities or even factories in England. While the US managed to solve the supply problems to some extent (eventually) by stripping 3 Infantry divisions of their trucks and by ordering the advancing divisions of the 12th Army Group to leave all their heavy and half of their medium artillery west of the Seine, and by borrowing 4 truck coys from the Brits, in order to be able to establish the "Red Ball express", and while they could afford to use this large pool of trucks and the fuel for such a system, the low-bed truck pool was relatively small, if compared to the regular truck pool, afaik. If my info is correct, then the US were restricted to theater repairs in repair shops and ordnance depots - to quite some extent.
I suspect that the US rather counted on replacement deliveries from England so that they rather wrote off heavily damaged tanks or tanks that needed very complex repairs, and that they preferred to cannibalize tanks, instead of sending them back to England.
I do know cases, where tanks with burned-out engine compartments or partially burned-out crew compartments were restored in England and even in the US, though, but such repairs could definetly not be carried out in ordnance depots/HQ/Corps shops (in France), and not within 2 weeks either.
In contrast, upgrades - eg. the replacement of gun sights (telescopes and periscopes) or guns could be applied in any ordnance depot and within a relativ. short time frame, and most general battle damages could be repaired in shops or at Corps HQs, as the general repair system was well-organized, indeed.
Until September 14, the Germans had retreated so far, that the route Cherbourg - Liège (which would have been the rear area ordnance hub for the Ardennes theater prior to the Battle of the Bulge, imho) already amounted to 600 km (most likely more, since I used a number of modern roads to measure the distance), which was quite a trip for a low-bed truck that delivered a heavily damaged tank on numerous bad roads and partially unpaved roads to the only available port (Cherbourg), such trip may have taken ~2 days, easily. Even if we'd assume that the trucks could go 50-60 km/hour all the way, with a tank on the trailer and partly on bad roads, such trip would have taken 18-20 hrs (with stops to refuel, but without breaks for the drivers) on a centralized road network that was rather designed to lead to Paris and other major hubs, but not to Cherbourg. Le Havre became available in early October, but was primarily used to rush in supplies afaik, and Antwerp could not be used until November 29 (2 US cargo vessels with men of the 268th Port Coy and their EQ had reached Antwerp on Nov. 28, according to Max Hastings in "Armageddon: The Battle for Germany"), as the Scheldt estuary could not be cleared earlier, because Market Garden was given priority.
The port of Amsterdam remained in German hands until the end of the war.
I doubt that badly damaged equipment was sent back to England in quantities, before the deepwater port at Antwerp was secured.
In Russia, the Germans could use the railroad networks right behind the fronts for shipments, (literally) all the way back to the factory doors.
The network in West Poland was particularly dense. Basically, there were stations in every town, and almost every city served as railway junction. Other areas, which are part of Western Ukraine and Belarus nowadays, but which formed vital parts of Poland - namely Central Poland and Eastern Poland - back then, were partly confined to just a few railroad lines, or even 0 railroad lines. While the South of Poland (Galicia, Western Ukraine today) was less developed, at least the networks in and around Lwow and Krakow were pretty dense and connected to the route Poland - Germany, so that they could serve as hubs for transports to and from the front in the Southeast, via Tarnopol, for instance.
Distance from say Donezk to the repair hub in Lwow: ~1,100 kilometers, travel time: 16-20 hrs.(There were regional hubs that were closer to the front, but I am not sure where they were located, possibly in Odessa, or in Northern or Central Ukraine, which would have reduced the travel time significantly)
Distance and travel time to say the Henschel factory in Kassel: ~2,000 km, ~ 3 days.
For Comparison: The giant freight trains (on the "New Silk Road") going from Chonqing (China) to Duisburg (West Germany) 3 times a week nowadays, require 14 days for the Southern route (10,800 km), with a calculated average speed of ~ 32 km/hour.
Top speed of the German BR 52 (1942) locomotive: 80 km/h.
The BR 52 (and similar freight locomotives) could pull a train with a total weight of 1,200 tons at a speed of 65 km/h. If there would have been a straight rail line, the 2,000 km trip from the Donezk region to the factory in Kassel (Henschel) would have taken 30 hrs only, without resupply stops (water + coal). The German trains that transported tanks back to factories or factory-level repair facilities were significantly shorter than supply trains, thus lighter and somewhat faster.
Steam trains needed stops to replenish water and coal supplies, of course, but they could operate 24/7, as they employed 2-3 drivers and as those could be relieved at virtually every station.
That is partly correct (the lagging part), but the situation was so complex, and the reasons so diverse, that the part about capacities and overload of particular industrial sites rather appears to be incomplete.
Germany's industry production went through several diff. phases, where I would specify at least 3 phases (to simplify the description):
1) The initial half-assed wartime production with slowly increasing draft of civilians (with the majority being women) especially in ammo production and railway services in 1942/1943, but with continued production of luxury goods for civilian use.
Important detail: Prior to the start of Operation Barbarossa, the planners in the Wehrmacht stressed that ammo stocks and certain supply stocks would only support 6 months of combat in the USSR and advised to postpone the offensive, to increase stock levels. The High Command ignored these warnings. After several months, and after Barbarossa had begun, the Germans hastily organized the increase of the ammo-production output which then enabled the Germans to continue the offensive even though the stocks had been used up. The production failed to match the demand for quite a while.
2) The switch to full-fledged wartime production, with an increase of deportations of foreign civilians (which actually started to increase in 1942 esp. with deportations in France, Russia and Poland) to Germany (farm labor, factory labor, mining) and with increased deployment of Jewish slave workers from almost all occup. countries, (until 1943 not from Vichy-France, and until 1944 not from Italy and Hungary; Rumania never handed over Jews to Germany, but deported them to Transnistria, Eastern Romania, instead) and POWs from Poland, Russia, France and possibly Yugoslavia and Greece, and which contributed to the wartime (industrial) output peak in 1944.
3) The final phase, where the industrial output started to go downhill in autumn and late 1944, due to the crippling transport system, the loss of territory (thus resources) and the increasing lack of specialists (and partial lack of workers), as even more engineers/specialists/workers were drafted. For instance, there were sectors south of the Ardennes front in Nov. + December 1944, where arty units were not allowed to fire more than 7 artillery shells per day, because their stocks were too low (as stocks had been reserved for units supporting/participating in the Ardennes offensive).
The German spare part situation was a pretty mixed bag.
Availability/production numbers varied, depending on purpose + type of material.
While the Buna production could never meet the demand, the Germans managed to meet the pre-war production levels (of 1938, using natural rubber) in 1943, at least, by operating 3 Buna plants eventually.
That output was not sufficient to meet the demands of a wartime military, so the resulting tyre production output led to a situation, where the Wehrmacht ordnance either had to distribute rubber tyres on a first come, first serve basis or attempt to distribute the limited quantities evenly. I tend to think that the latter method was used, where I wouldn't rule out that the EF may have received preferential treatment, punctually.
The plants' capacities were a limit. factor here, so the assessment holds true for the Buna (thus the spare tyres) situation.
Germany had plenty of the resources needed to produce Buna, coal and lime, but the limiting factor on the resources side was that coal was also needed to run the railway networks and coal was also the prime energy source for heating, cooking, power generation and steel production, so the civilians had to be supplied with coal as well. Technically, the industry, power plants, the railway and civilians had to be supplied first, before the Buna plants could be supplied. The power plants were especially important in that supply chain, as the Buna production consumed vast amounts of electricity. No power, no Buna. While Germany had plenty of coal resources, the correct/timely distribution could be tricky. Delays in the supply chain (Allied raids on railroad hubs, train accidents, sabotage, blunders) could severely mess up the Buna production.
A 4th plant was built in Auschwitz, where then slave workers would have been forced to produce Buna, on the Auschwitz compound. With the 4th plant, the Germans would have been able to increase the Buna output in 1944 to a level that would have met ALL military demands. The factory never picked up production.
If the Germans had invested the money they had put in the Buna production (and in the aqcuisition of the smaller amounts of natural rubber that were still needed to produce Buna, and which had to be smuggled from Japan to Germany by blockade runners, during the war) in more fleshed out pre-war preparations, they could have bought/built sufficient natural rubber stocks before the war, which then would have supported the complete military demand throughout the war, according to the calculations performed by German historians.
The Buna project was rather a political project that was meant to reduce the dependance on raw-material imports.
Buna was needed for tyres ofc, but was also needed to create damper rings on tank wheels (eg. Tiger I) and a myriad of appliances, like tubes in engine cooling systems, seals and anti-sonar/-radar measures in/on submarines, seals in submersible tanks and amphibious vehicles, goggles, oxygen masks for high alt. planes, life vests, "Tauchretter" (the closed Draeger systems that used soda lime cartridges that absorbed CO2) that were connected to inflatable life vests to form a closed breathing system + which were issued to all submariners, firefighters on ships + ashore, + to the Navy's frogmen), etc., so the limited Buna output affected the production of a lot of products + appliances.
Virtually every factory in Germany could produce simple metal spare parts, say for engines, vehicle frames and the like, but the production of certain parts required precise tools + machinery, and/or even specialists (eg. engines or frames in aviaton) or strategic materials (which were in short supply in Germany). In the main, more + more civilian companies joined the pool of companies producing military equipment or parts, this could range from helmets + mess kits/steel cookware to shell cartridges, vehicle spare parts or even complete vehicle frames.
EDIT: This also triggered a run for Wehrmacht contracts, as the production of milit. equipment + accessories was a reason to get exempt from milit. service, where then many Coys produced a higher no. of access. + parts, but where some Coys' output was either insuff. or the output quality low (lack of experience), which led to the Wehrmacht rejecting whole batches at times. The increasing necessity to employ slave workers led to an incr. no. of sabotage cases, too.
Spare parts distribution in remote theaters:
In North Africa, the contested shipping lanes for the convoys posed a limiting factor for supplying units in the NA theater. Despite the comparatively low amount of troops (if compared to the number of divisions on the East Front), spare parts and supply were often in short supply, due to the time-consuming shipping routes (Germany -> Austria -> Italy ->Mediterranean -> NA), and because the NA theater was somewhat neglected. The "Giant" glider planes flew in desperately needed parts, troops and even vehicles to NA, at some stages of the NA campaign.
Tank production lines:
The completion of tanks was regularly hampered, because ext. suppliers didn't get their intermediate products, because some transp. networks + hubs were overloaded at times - so that parts or devices got stuck at hubs, or because the stations + hubs were targeted by Allied bombers (increasingly ~ 1943), causing holdups or the destruction of parts. Some of those suppliers, that had been identified by the Allies, were even targeted themselves (eg. US attacks on the ball bearing plants in Schweinfurt, 1943 + onwards).
The problem here wasn't manpower, but "holdups" created by the lagging of some raw materials (eg. Manganese from Ukraine) or part deliveries, which then affected some production lines. Such holdups could also be caused by partisan activities (eg. railroad sabotage in Ukraine), by lone Allied submarines (shipping lanes Norway/Sweden), or by US bombing efforts, which increasingly dealt damage to the railway system in 1943 + the follow. years. While say destroyed (bombed or sabotaged) tracks could be repaired within hrs, + wrecks (train cars/locomotives) removed within 6 - 24 hrs, such events created vital holdups within the supply system. Speer's diversification could partly counter this, as then more factories produced (the same) spare parts.
But the main problem was the tank manufacturing process itself (caused by the design + design philosophy/doctrine):
The assembly of PzIV + Tiger tanks required a shyteload of manhours + a rather high amount of manual work (eg. welding of appliances like handles, hinges, tank interiors, radio racks, engine mounts, wiring, etc.), which signific. reduced output numbers. It took too much time to complete the tanks, because they did not have the same simplified/effective layouts as the Sherman or T-34 tanks, that were designed with mass production in mind, already.
While the tank production lines in Germany looked like US lines at first glance, assembly (espec. Pz.IV) took considerably more time, + this could not be compensated by employing add. engineers or by extending the works + employing a myriad of slave workers, means by upping the capacity alone, because the steel mills + casting plants had a certain output only + because raw materials were mined or shipped in at certain speeds/in certain intervals, only.
The Pz.IV output tripled in 1943 (1942: roughly 1,000 units) + peaked in 1944 (~3,450), as the number of appliances (handles + other "convenience" parts) had been reduced, escape hatches removed, processes streamlined + details simplified, but even with a number of addit. smaller satellite plants the Germans wouldn't have been able to double that output, as the raw material supply chain + the design (amount of manual work) kept being the limiting factors.
Another vital factor in the decision to up the numbers (1942/43) of Pz.IV tanks was the change of doctrine + the developing shift of role tow. having an early form of MBT that was able to fight enemy tanks.
Originally, the Pz. IV was developed to support inf units with its short 75-mm gun (just like the Sherman w/ its 1st gun), so that each tank coy only receiv. a low amount of PzIV, as the Pz.III was meant to be the actual workhorse (+ deal w/ enemy tanks). As the Germans needed to counter the T-34, the Germans started the production of the 75-mm PaK (deliv. in Febr. 1942), upped the Pz.IV output numbers + worked on solutions to equip it w/ a long-barrelled gun. Before the Germans encountered the T-34, they didn't deem it necessary to have a larger pool of Pz.IVs.
EDIT: Hitler ordered to cease Pz. III prod. in March '42 (to free factory space for the upc. Panther production), but the order was reversed + changed to an output increase in May '42, instead, as Germany needed to replace tank losses on the EF.
Result: 2,600+ Pz. III produced in 1942 (1941: ~1,700). A total of 16,000 Pz. III chassis had been produc. betw. 1936 + 1944.
Krupp, Hanomag, Auto Union, NSU, Fross-Büssing, the Kolín works of Tatra + Framo had joined the pool of Pz.III factories in '41, already.
Instead of focusing on the production of the Pz.IV, the Germans kept produc. a tank that wasn't competitive anymore + that had reached the end of its extendability with the ordered performance upgrades (which were significant but still insufficient improvements). But even the final assembly of the small Pz.III still took 1,800 hrs.
EDIT: The new Tiger tank weighed so much, that a lot of smaller bridges on the EF wouldn't support its weight, so the first 495 Tigers had received a myriad of Buna rubber seals to make them submersible (~ 4 1/2 meters, using a 3 meter snorkel "tower"); the installation of those seals was very time-consuming + eating up precious Buna resources, so it was dropped, eventually.
On top of that - with increasing size and armor thicknesses - the sheer size of the new German tanks increasingly ate up steel resources, which kept flowing steadily but weren't exactly in unlimited supply.
The large amounts of steel needed for the heavy tanks (and the 2 Maus hulls) could have been put to better use if the Germans had mass produced a simple Sherman-like mass production model, instead.
While individual King Tigers in Poland destroyed up to 40 Russian T-34 before running out of ammo/fuel or taking damage themselves, when one or another group of KTs had pushed East (40 km) into Poland in January 1945, the Germans didn't have any troops left to secure such a huge strip of recaptured territory, and - obviously - the KT production numbers + the fuel production outputs were too low to be able to stop the "neverending" waves of Russian tanks in the long run.
And the tank design was a direct result of the product doctrine, ofc: Hitler wanted superior tanks (starting with the Tiger I) eventually, instead of average/simple tanks that could be mass produced easily.
German + Russian AT guns (75 mm) + self-propelled German AT guns were pretty successful but could be knocked out by tanks easily, if not concealed sufficiently.
In 1944, the StuG III + IV pool had become Germany's most successful AT element - the StuG branch reached 20,000 vehicle kills (since 1939, all types of vehicles, including tanks) that year - a role it had officially assumed ~ 1943, when long-barrelled StuGs were ordered to perform AT escort duties for the deployed Pz.IV tanks during the pincer attacks on the Kursk salient (the Panzers were tasked to screen the sides for enemy infantry, and the StuGs were kept in the middle to counter/block enemy tank raids, while the leading heavy tanks were supposed to force the breathroughs, IIRC), after being employed in a number of tests before the operation, where the Germans tested how pure/large StuG groups would perform in the AT role.
Large scale production of StuGs and Hetzer tanks could have been more useful than following the heavy tank path.
When Speer became Minister of Armament and Ammunition, he demanded more streamlined tank designs (which were partially implemented in the Panther and King Tiger designs, and extensively implemented in the "Hetzer" design).
While he could not change/ship around Hitler's decision to introduce giant tanks like the KT and its variant the Jagdtiger, he managed to implement some level of interchangeability at least (clutches, gearboxes, gears, drive shafts, engines, some spare parts).
He also improved spare part production and distribution/availability.
Speer also moved the production of inf/field guns (eg. the "le.IG.18") from Rheinmetall to other manufacturers, as Rheinmetall's "side" capacities were needed to bolster the production of more important/modern armament, for example.
It took 1,200 hours to produce the relatively small "le.IG 18", a prime example for an unfavorable design that tied workers and made production expensive and time-consuming. Such designs also had potential to limit output numbers, even though it seems like Rheinmetall could actually meet the demand in this case, and even though the gun was considered to be obsolete by late 1943 (but the Germans still loved it).
Just like in the example above, he also freed up factory space and workforces in other branches/regions, to diversify + increase armament and spare parts production. With such measures, slave labor became an even more important factor.
Between 1942 and 1944 the employment of slave workers was increased dramatically, millions of workers produced aircraft parts, certain tank parts, general spare parts, ammunition, worked in mines, and dug tunnel systems for underground facilities etc.
The number of employed slave workers rose from 1.2 million in 1941 to 7.8 million in 1944.
During the same time frame, more and more German civilians (men unfit for service; women and German men who had one Jewish parent and who were not allowed to serve) had to work for the armament industry or for the railway branch, until the Germans massively scoured factories and civilian branches for potential recruits around autumn 1944.
Due to Speer's (partly ruthless) efforts (slave labor) and streamlining of production, Germany's industrial output reached its all-time high in 1944.
While the Germans had to administer numerous recurring delays throughout the war, or even the constant lack of something in their production and supply production channels, some fields (certain spare parts, also certain gun barrels) worked well/smoothly, because the supply lines were (almost ridiculously) short in some branches (eg. ore mines in the Ruhrgebiet and Bavaria -> steel mills -> steel casting -> tank production), as the bulk of facilities was in the same region, or even in the same city (some parts of such chains even next door).
Until Speer assumed his position, his predecessor had kept the German industry production (for most of his term) in a state, where the industry was still allowed (and partly encouraged) to produce quite an amount of luxury goods and products for civil use and non-military industrial use.
That derived from the Nazis' fear, that a full-fledged wartime production and a resulting lack of luxury goods would create discontent or even unrest. The Nazis even allowed civilians to obtain fuel rations for quite a while (until around 1942, iirc), before banning civil fuel consumption and ordering (or encouraging) the use of wood carburetors in civilian cars.
Another important detail was the fact that some major productions (say a partic. tank) were rather centralized, means performed in say 1 or 2 companies only (not necessar. one compound only, tho) for a long time.
Speer dumped vital parts of that policy, convinced Hitler to perform the radical switch to full wartime production and ordered additional factories to establish duplicates of existing production lines. If the "substitute" factory was not able to switch to the production of a particular part, say because their tools and equipment pool did not support a full-fledged production, such factory was ordered to produce intermediate products or appliances.
Between mid-43 and early '44, the spare part situation had partly improved, afaik. Steel was available almost throughout the war ('til March '45?), just the last phase of the KT and JT production (say December - April '45) overstrained the steel suppliers, as Allied Air Force units fired at pretty much everything that moved, from supply trains to road transports and even at civilian farmers on the fields.
Despite having to change the composition (some raw materials could not be obtained anymore, or only in reduced numbers) the quality of the steel did not suffer/change in the last stage of the war, despite the appearing tendency to create splinters inside the tanks when enemy tank shells hit but failed to penetrate, in some (very) late production models (very late 1944/early 1945?). This did not affect the armor plates' protection levels/capabilities.
The production of engines for aviation remained to be riddled with delays/problems. While the output numbers of engines for the Me 109, the FW 190 and engines for tanks (the production of engines for the Pz IV, Panther, KT and JT was kept up until the last day of the war) were pretty solid, engines for high alt interceptors and jet engines for the Me 262 and the Arado bombers were in short supply, due to the strategic materials shortages. Also, only a few companies could actually produce them (ie. BMW, Junkers) because they were complex high-tech products.
Tank and halftrack engines were primarily produced by Maybach, who were then supported by the car manufacterer Auto-Union, when Auto-Union picked up tank engine production in Winter 1943, to meet the increasing demand.
The Germans mastered the art of repair, means they managed to get refineries, steel plants, spare part factories and ammunition factories back to work within days, quite often, unless tools and machines or processing installations were completely destroyed.
A lot of production facilities, like steel plants, Buna facilities and spare part factories got back to levels near the old production levels within days or weeks, usually.
In the main, the Allied bombing campaign was way less successful than the Allies thought, but the downtimes created significant delays.
Only after the 1944 bombing campaign went to a whole new level by targeting refineries in Germany (here: the hydrogenation plants that liquified coal to produce motor engine fuel) and oil fields and processing plants in Hungary and Romania, where then a vital number of facilities could only operate at levels of 30-70%, where none of them got back to full production levels again, repairs increasingly failed to restore the production outputs.
While the Germans had managed to apply repairs and restore some output after the first strikes (the plant south of Cologne had moved a part of the installations to underground sections right near or below the actual plant, which enabled the plant to keep a certain minimum output, but most other plants were totally unprotected), subsequent (and even more hefty) bombing raids on these hydrogenation plants (15 in Germany) caused the synthetic fuel production to cripple gradually with each knocked out or heavily damaged plant (production collapsed somewhere between late Oct. and Nov. 1944, iirc).
In March 1945, the production had dropped to 3% of 1943's peak output.
A sample unit report detailing the spare part situation:
On September 1, 1943, the CO of the 26th Panzer-Div., Lüttwitz, sent his monthly report, but also included - next to the usual numbers detailing the unit's actual strength - a more detailed description of the spare-part situation.
Some COs used that monthly opportunity to let superiors know what was needed the most, or which capabilities were limited, in addition to/or instead of sending a sep. formal complaint or report.
The unit was established in France (Sept. 1942) + kept in France for almost 1 year after it had gone through training and was then attached to 15th Army (Northern France and Belgium), where it was tasked with guarding the channel coast, most likely. The unit was then sent to Italy in July 1943, where it was ordered to join the attacks on the Allied bridgehead at Salerno on 9th of Sept, eventually, after guarding the Gulf of Taranto for almost 2 months.
The CO mentioned the unit's spare part situation in a sep. section called "Particular difficulties":
"Difficulties to obtain spare parts for wheeled motor vehicles, mainly Renault spare parts."
German units could confiscate larger quantities of civilian cars in France and could also obtain cars from French factories that were forced to produce cars for the Wehrmacht. The Germans also used quite a few captured French scout tanks (Panard) and military passenger cars. So the unit's passenger car pool was very well equipped, the unit actually had 194 cars (req.: 123), where 23 were under short-term repairs.
Looking at the CO's complaint, it's pretty obvious that the Germans had not yet managed to get French spare parts to Italy's southern tip.
The Gentleman might have been somewhat spoiled during his time in France, where he had almost direct access to French spare parts (more or less).
The unit had three Pz III and a pool of 268 armored vehicles, consisting of halftracks + a number of armored recon cars/tanks, and 18 self-propelled AT guns. The required strength for the halftracks and scout cars was 444 vehicles, so that was way understrength. The unit had an unusual high amount of regular trucks (req.: 639, actual: 702), a full complement of (55) light/medium tracked tow vehicles (1 - 5 t) and only 50% of the req. tracked heavy 6 - 18t tow vehicles, and like 60% RSOs.
Only 6 halftracks or scout cars were under short-term repair.
"Difficulties to obtain tank spare parts."
The unit also had new Pz.IV (long barrel) tanks that had been issued to the Div.'s Panzer-Regiment 26. They were combined to a single tank group (Tank Group Graf), but the commander reported ZERO Pz.IV tanks, simply because the new tanks suffered of a design flaw that rendered the tanks - according to him - "unusable", so he declared the tanks to be absent until the nec. replacement spare parts would reach the unit. That a whole batch of tanks with a design flaw ended up in one unit and that the tanks then appeared to be "unusable" was rather odd/rare, so this can't be seen as exemplary situation. Whatever the design flaw was, it rather looks like a complaint about the particular type of replacement needed for his botched tanks, than a general complaint about missing spare parts deliveries (since he didn't complain about difficulties to get halfrack parts, which had pretty much the same or similar engines from the very same manufacturer, btw.).
"The spare tyre situation is very bad. The last allocation of tyres enabled us to get a part of our jacked-up vehicles roadworthy again, but 15% of the vehicles are only partly ready for action."
EDIT: This means that they are halfway usable but that they should be handled with care, or that they can't be used off-road/on bad roads. It's not clear why, it's possible that they needed additional parts, but could be put on the road with the latest spare tyre allocation, but it's also possible that the other tyres of these vehicles had to be fixed with repair kits that were not meant for this theater (see below), so they were prone to running flat again, or that the vehicles were equipped with a higher amount of run-flat tyres, already. It is also obvious, that a number of vehicles were still jacked-up and waiting for the next allocation of tyres.
"There ist a general lack of heat resistant tyre repair kits."
That's an interesting detail, because the hot weather in Italy required repair tools and (some) spare parts that were designed for hot environments. Such tools were sent to the Africa Korps, but with the new/upped presence in Italy, they had to be (produced again? ... and) shipped to Italy, now.
The number of all-terrain trucks was particularly low, req. strength: 451 all-terrain (4x4) trucks, but the unit had only 17.
The unit had 702 regular (non-4x4) trucks (req.: 639), 52 of them were under short-term repairs. The all-terrain car pool was way under the required strength: 248 (of 444). Such vehicles were subject to preferential shipments to the Eastern front, quite often, afaik.
"Level of mobility: cross-country capabilities are limited, due to the lack of all-terrain cars and trucks.
Offensive capabilities: the units under my command are able to perform every offensive operation. The combat value of the division is substantially reduced, due to the split-off of the division's Panzer-regiment 26, of one Panzergrenadier Bn, one artillery Bn and one AT-Abteilung."
The term split-off is confusing, I would need exact deployment/relocation sheets to verify. The term could refer to the lack of vehicles and to the fact that the tank regiment's Pz.IV's were not usable, but may also indicate that the mentioned elements were understrength or split-up and employed separately/elsewhere.
Aside from the complaint about the particular spares for his tanks and the lack of spare tyres, the CO's brief overview of the spare part situation did not complain about a general lack of parts for cars, trucks or halftracks of German make, even though quite some of them were under short-term repair.
I do factor in that the unit had not been in combat (maybe aside from anti-partisan activities in France), but the unit was tasked with defending and patroling the coast line at the Gulf of Taranto (before it went to combat 8 days after filing the report) for 2 months in unfavorable terrain and hot weather, with the supply detachments performing steady supply runs, so the equipment experienced extensive wear & tear.
While this is not a representative report (at all), and while it has to be stressed that combat units needed way more parts, where sample reports indicate up to 300% (eg. with the unit's reported low number of 23 passenger cars under short-term repairs, combat units often reported 60-70 cars under repairs) more vehicles under short-term repairs, the report indicates that German spare parts were even available in that remote location in Italy, generally, and it also verifies that Germany's inability to meet the Buna demands affected each and every motorized unit, even in calm areas.
Since you are such a resource, would you mind elaborating on the FErs System? I'd be curious to hear how that worked and what the processes looked like.
the "Feldersatz"-System I mentioned in the other thread? That's kind of on-topic here, as it addresses the German troop supply system, so here we go (lengthy pamphlet approaching) :
Part 1 (of 4)
2 Types of field replacement Bns:
1) the regular FE Bns (official part of each and every Division, in theory). The system was in place when the war began.
They were created as inherent parts of the divisions (usually behind the front, or - if say on occupation duty - somewhat near the destination/parent division), and were meant to collect those replacements from the homeland that had received boot camp training in the "Ersatz"-Bn of the respective military district in the homeland. This also means that a particular homeland military district "fed" a certain number of replacement Bns, where then each FE Bn had to replenish its "sister" (or parent, if you will) Bn on the front.
The 1st Infantry Division's replacement element was the Infanterie-Ersatz-Battailon 22. Such Ersatz-Bn was formally subordinated to an administrative Division HQ, which administered a number of replacement regiments and the Ersatz Bns, ofc. These divisional "hulls" were also named/used as "shadow divisions", which were filled and then used to establish entirely new divisions, for instance.
The Inf replacement Bn 22 was subordinated to the 151. Division, which was renamed + re-organized into the "151. Reserve-Division" somewhere in 1944. I am sure there was a particular layout for such division in the required strength plans (KStN), so the change may have been substantial, not just formal.
The staff of such shadow divisions (ie. their skeletons) also served as replacement for HQs that got destroyed, captured, or taken away when the Germans wanted to rebuild a destroyed unit.
In 1944, the body of the 151. Reserve-Division as a whole (whatever was in there) was deployed in Belarus and used to replenish the 214th Inf Division, while the complete HQ staff was used to establish the 59th Inf Div (established in late June 1944 on the military training compound Groß Born, Germany, Poland nowadays).
Such Divs had Rgts (formally), with the subordin. Ersatz Bns.
These Reserve Div HQs were shuffled around sometimes, the 151. Div was sent to Czech in 1940. It's possible that the staff and/or the actual personnel of the Bns were needed for occupational/administrative duties. The Division returned to Germany on July 19, 1941.
Each repl. Bn was usually attached to a replacem. Rgt. This was an administrative attachm. afaik, as 1 repl. regiment could also hold Ersatz Bns that were tied to diff. divisions in the field.
The fact that the Ersatz-Bns were based in partic. Germ. military Districts (say milit. district 3 - Berlin area, with the sub districts Berlin, Potsdam + Frankfurt/Oder) + that they were also tasked to repl. partic. frontline units did not necess. mean that a given frontl. unit would receive recruits from 1 regional area or city only.
In fact, the Germans often tried to mix FL units, so that the units wouldn't consist of pure batches say from the Rheinland or Berlin area. Afaik, the Nazis had some level of mistrust reg. regional predominances, so even tho there were some pure Austrian units (for inst.) + even though they saw the Austrians as Germans (after the incorporation of Austria), they usually spread the Austrians across units with German recruits, generally. A volunteer from South Germany who volunteered for the U-boat branch could still be assigned to a navy unit at the coast, + a N. German recruit asking to be assigned to the mountain inf could then be sent to an alpine training + Ersatz compound in South Germany, ofc.
I am not sure what particular rules were in place, though.
Example for the usual process:
Infantry (1942: Grenadier) Ersatz-Rgt. 11 (subordinated to the 151. Division) was the replacement element of the 11. Inf Division (frontline unit).
In 1939 the Infanterie-Ersatz-Bn 2, 23 and 44 were attached to Ersatz-Rgt 11. All these Bns were exclusively tasked with replenishing the 11th. Inf Division.
Once a batch of new recruits was trained, it was sent to the 11th Inf Div's FE element, the field replacement Bn in the Division's rear.(afaik)
While normal grunts were just sent to the FE Bns after boot camp, specialists needed further training, (1 - 4 weeks, afaik) after boot camp.
This could involve mortar training, AT gun handling + training, driver school for cars, trucks and armored vehicles, sniper training, radio operators, special technicians, etc., so that in my books regular inf/non-specialists were rather sent to the FEs in batches, and specialists sent in smaller groups or even sometimes just individually, as they finished their training.
In addition to the Inf-replacement Bn, the Germans employed additional Rgts, and kind of replicated the structure of a regular Infantry Division.
The OOB of the 151. (Reserve-)Division:
As you can see, each divisional branch was covered. Fahr-Abteilung (fahr = drive) may refer to a general driving school, while "Kraftfahr" translates to "motorized" or "motor transport" Abteilung. The AT branch, the Artillery and the engineer branch had its own boot camp training units. For instance, a recruit (inf) was trained in a Ersatz Bn and after receiving the basic boot camp training, then sent to another branch, if he was ordered to become a specialist. In some instances, this could mean that the trained recruit would have to move to a diff. training location (and maybe even diff. Ersatz unit), if the particular boot camp didn't offer such training, to receive the specialist training.
Sometimes, say one of the firefighter units (eg. tank units, grenadier units) had been depleted several times in a row, then even 2 (or more?) Ersatz-Bn could be assigned to replenish such division. I am not sure what rules there were in place and to what extent such "double" or "tripple" sourcing had been used.
Whatsoever, the FE bns were also meant and maintained to provide additional (called "frontnah" = "near the front") training. This also provided the division with its own reserve/replacement pool, to immediately compensate losses/casualties in a fast and simple process, with troops that were experienced in gun handling and unit coordination. This was a vital advantage, if compared to the Russian system, for instance. The FE-Bns were official part of the Div's OOB and trained behind the front on a regular basis.
Neat side-effect: They could be (and were) used to secure the rear area of the front. This could range from policing duties to anti-partisan missions, if they had sufficient equipment - where I could imagine that the heavy equipment was usually used by the frontline parent unit. There were complaints in 1942/1943 and late 1943 in monthly unit reports from Russia, that FE units (that had been thrown to the frontline as a whole) lacked heavy equipment (HMGs, LMGs, mortars, etc.).
Anti-partisan missions were usually carried out by dedicated 2nd- or 3rd-grade units (more than often with older soldiers, or soldiers deemed unfit for frontline service, eg. like one unit in Yugoslavia, that comprised of Austrians, quite some of them rather unfit or older - they were badly trained and not well equipped, IIRC), and often by understrength SS units (especially units with foreign volunteers), but also by police units.
In Italy, with the rather fixed fronts at the several German defensive lines, recon Bns were occasionally used to fight partisans, eg. the recon Bn of the 26th Panzer Division, which was employed in that role in 1944 in Italy, and which was the Div's only subunit that committed a warcrime (when it surrounded a partisan unit in an Italian swamp, but where it didn't care about the fact that a group of civilians had joined the partisans, and where it then mowed down civilians, including women and children, next to the actual partisans). I am guessing that the high mobility of such units contributed to such deployment decisions.
2) the second type were pure march-Bns, which were supposed to relocate in 3 diff. ways:
a) A High Command order from January 9, 1942, ordered that the first way was to create FE's in (!) Germany, ferry them (by train) to the railway endpoints and then have them march the (usually short) last leg to the destination unit, where they were then supposed to immediately replenish the destination unit (resulting in the immediate deletion on the OOBs/unit lists). With that order, it seems like the HC tried to stress that the last leg was supp. to be kept short, in order to ensure that the troops reached their dest. units in "fresh" condition and in a timely manner.
I am not sure where and how the Germans scraped these Bns together, I wouldn't rule out that they sifted through several military districts to get a sufficient troop size, and that they even took away subunits from divisions in occupied countries, but the first source of (troop) supply was the frontline unit's dedicated Ersatz (replacement) unit (or units, if double or triple sourcing coccured) which was based in a particular German military district.
Each of these march bns were supposed to hold 1,000 men !
b) The same order had also ordered that 8 of these new FE Bns should be transported with trucks, exclusively. I am not sure if that was a permanent setup and if the corresponding trucks were reserved permanently or if it was just a stop-gap measure. Keeping in mind that the Russian counter-offensive near Moscow was still raging, I could imagine that the High Command tried to speed up the replacement process or make it more flexible, to compensate for the high losses during that specific Russian offensive.
It appears rather odd to send trucks from Germany to Russia to say the Rzevh sector, instead of using the dense railroad network in Poland + network in the Baltics. I can't imagine that they were sent to other theaters, the Africa Corps had not been established yet, the Greek campaign was over + the West front was quiet (no pun intended) until Dieppe in mid-1942.
Maybe HC wanted flexibility + the ability to cover sectors with few/zero railroad lines.
Same order here, 1,000 men per Bn (afaik).
c) The real march Bns, which were not addressed in that order, afaik. These were supposed to get off the trains at the Reich's borders and to march to their destination units. Such March Bns were used during the Battle of the Bulge (where one or another even managed to acquire bikes to get to their destination units) and also in France, afaik. I am not sure if and how often they were used before 1944, as the transport network was in a halfway usable condition until say September or October 1944, and as a number of trucks used to be available for transport until spring or summer 1944, usually.
troop size: possibly varied with each and every march bn, as each Bn's troop size was ordered individually.
None of the temp. FE Bns were part of particular frontline divisions, but each temp FE BN carried the number of the destination unit and the designation OR the amount of incorporated Bns in its own designation, which was an easy way for high echelons (say on a HQ or Supreme HQ situation map) to figure how many or which replacement units were en route to replenish a battered frontline unit. Designation here means it indicated which Bn was transf. (eg. 2nd Bn), but i am not sure if and how often the amount of Bns (en route) was indicated.
Feldersatz-Bataillon 20/2 indicated that the 2nd Bn for the 20th Inf Division was established or en route to replenish the Division's 2nd Bn. The destination units received messages telling them that the units were created and when they were projected/expected to be ready for transfer.
I have seen instances where such temp march bns even carried more numbers, I am not sure what they referred to, they would look like "FEB II/25/75" (Feld-Ersatz-Bn). The 2nd Bn, and then what? Percentages, means contingent sizes? Not sure here, I can't figure/verify the meaning atm.
Messages (receiv. +) noted in the AOK or destination unit would then indicate the ETA in the unit's army command sector (AOK).
Such message would read:
"OKH announced transfer of FE x/y to Tank AOK 4. Arrival expected around 20th of April", or "replacement Bns currently being established in the homeland for the Panzer AOK 4 will be ready to use on 15th of April", for example.
Some messages also included the transfer method ("Feldersatz-Battailon 23/1 through Minsk, E-Transport Northern Route", E-Transport referred to railroad transport) or even the detailed route ("Additional FE's are being moved in via Vilnius – Dünaburg – Polozk – Witebsk").
Usually, these types of FE Bns only existed for short periods, say 1 - 4 days, until the point where they reached and replenished their destination units.
The Wehrmacht information office for the notification of relatives of soldiers killed in action (which resumed service under a slightly different name after the war, until 2018 actually), which was the central point where relatives and descendants could try to obtain infos about KIA and MIA soldiers, used to send a set of infos to relatives (see below), during and after the war (with my explanation in brackets). The office held assignment sheets, and could also sift through re-deployment orders, so that the last assignment could be backtraced, at least.
It got harder after the war, as a lot of documents were lost.
Soldier X, Start of deployment (in the army) 09/23/1943
March Coy (from) Grenadier-Ersatz-Bataillon 222
garrison: Seestadt WISMAR
Arrival (registered as arrived at): Landesschützenbataillon 263
Departure: Assigned to march bataillon II/75/25
Since there is no further entry, it looks like the person went KIA or MIA even before reaching the destination unit, or that the destination unit could not register (and confirm the) the arrival (as it was in combat, in transit or captured/wiped out). Since red cross POW registration cards were sent to Germany months later, usually, the office would be able to tell relatives if/that the soldier survived, and also notify relatives/wives, if the POW died in captivity, for instance. German relatives/wives often did not know that their relatives/husbands had survived and gotten in Russian captivity, btw, as the USSR did not (or just rarely) work with the Red Cross during the war. Some of them got to know that their husbands had survived as late as several years after the war, thinking they had gone MIA, for all those years. There were cases where women had found new bf's/hubbies, just to get to know yrs later that their first bf's/hubbies had survived the war in a camp in the USSR. Since the very last batch of German POWs (several thousand POWs, IIRC) was released by Russia as late as 1955, their relatives and wifes had not seen them for 10 (or more) years. Since some couples had just met/married during the war, + since they were restricted to short get-togethers during R&R's, the returning soldiers were (almost) complete strangers to their wives, and sometimes even had not known that they had gotten kids that were born months after they had been captured by the Russians. Way off-topic, but i felt like adding this anecdote.
It should be mentioned that some of these Bns ended up as part of a Kampfgruppe, and that some of these March Bns carried names, usually the names of their commanders.
The layout of the "real" March Bns, the unit type listed under "c)" in the previous post, was even outlined in the KStN, so it wasn't just a random pool of men thrown to the fronts.
The KStN layout of a March-Bn (1944) for "Infantry" and "Panzertroops":
The contingent ratios were fixed, but only indicated using percentages, which then had to be met, but the total troop size was still subject to the individual (march/establisment) order:
Infantry, Jäger or Mountain Division:
92% infantry men:
55% LMG gunners, 12 % HMG crews, 6% Großer Werfer (mortar) crews, 3% Pak crews, 3% IG crews, 4% engineers, 4% radio and telephone operators, 1% drivers for Krad, passenger cars and trucks, 1% horsemen or mule guides (don't know how to translate that position, lol), 3% coach/carriage drivers (horse-drawn vehicles), the rest (9% ?) riflemen.
8% artillery men:
1.5% light artillery gunners, 1% heavy artillery gunners, 2.5% radio and tel. operators, 1.5% carriage drivers, 0.5% drivers (cars or trucks), 1% AVT men and calculators.
(not sure what AVT means, and if "calculators" refers to an electromechanic calculator, a slipstick or to the actual person responsible for computing artillery trajectories, distances + creating artillery target grids).
As you can see, the German tendency to determine/specify each and everything even materialized here, as they indicated fixed percentage guidance levels.
In practice, the actual strength and the actual number of Coys of a such March Bn was subject to a specific order, in each case (for each individual Bn). For the actual march, the troops of each service branch were supposed to be combined in their own Coys or platoons (depending on percentage and branch), means all artillery men were combined (platoons), all AT guys formed their own unit (platoons probably) and the regular Inf troops were combined to company-sized units. The branches with smaller percentages, engineers and signal guys formed their respective platoons, too.
Back to the original fixed FE bns that were tied to their parent Divisions in the field:
The arrival of recruits in these FE's must have been a pretty fluid process, as well as the actual replenishment of their parent Divisions.
Over the years, various researchers (eg. in the Forum of the Wehrmacht, but also other places), who own copies of the original film rolls from the NARA with subordination/attachment orders and field post numbers, managed to track the composition and whereabouts of those FE's, to some extent.
The analysis of the field post (military postal services) numbers (kinda like ZIP codes) helped to track some of those infos, as a lot of the actual assignment orders/papers are lost, so the field post numbers provide an idea about the extensive shuffling and also rough hints about a replacement rgt's or Bn's layout, where docs are missing.
FE Bn 60 (later renamed to FE bn 102) was part of field repl. Bn 9, which was the replacement unit of the 9th Panzer-Division in 1940/1941. In 1942, all field post ZIP entries for its individual FE Coys were deleted, except for one. So, in theory, all the other FE coys were either used up to replenish the 9th Pz.Div, or they were borrowed by other Divisions (rather the former, imho). The same year its 1st Coy (the remaining one?) was renamed to "Fahrkolonne" (hm... "driving column"?) "of the divisional supply train 60".
It looks like that FE coy was repurposed to bolster the divisional supply train and that a higher number of men were trained to drive vehicles. If so, then that's not surprising, as the 9th PzDiv participated in the Operation "Wirbelwind" (Aug. 1942), where it suffered heavy losses, so it def. lacked personnel.
In 1943 the 2nd and 3rd coy ZIPs were deleted, but the ZIPs for the FE staff and the 1st FE Coy were still listed. In 1944 a full FE Bn was listed, with ZIPs for 5 coys, 1 HQ and one supply coy.
I wonder how the US Army rated this regime. I am convinced that the overview in the German military district/the frontline unit was easy (to maintain), but it must have created a lot of admin. work at the OKH level (to track troop levels).
Jim's statement way above appears to be partly incorrect, to be honest:
In general, an FE unit could very well replenish a given Division's unit or even an entire Bn on-the-fly, after major losses had been suffered. Such replacements could be inserted into the frontline as a whole or used to replenish the ranks of the subunits of the diff. regiments (attached to the division). Afaik, the division's CO could then either opt for bolstering/replacing particular (depleted) units, say the 1st Rgt's 1st Bn, or order to spread the men evenly. I am not sure if and what particular rules existed.
Since the FE's resided in the rear area of the front, even entire contingents (depending on amount of men held in the FE's) could be either inserted or used as replenishment within hrs, probably 6-24 hrs, depending on distance, transport situation, security etc.
"Inserted" has 2 meanings here:
a) they were thrown to the front as a whole and used like regular units, which means that they then kept their "Feld-Ersatz" designation and were newly attached to the Div. or Rgt. in charge of the frontline sector, or
b) they completely replaced depleted/destroyed platoons/coys/bns in the organic parent division.
Additionally, they also kept the regular (slow/steady) stream of replacements to the parent division going which Jim was referring to, means 5 men here, and 7 men there, a mortar crew or a radio operator there, ofc, when the sector was calm.
That part is incorrect.
Example 1: everything regarding FE's I typed above, and ...
The Russian replacement regime in Stalingrad + other places.
In Stalingrad, prior to the encirclement of the German 6th Army in Stalingrad, they rushed in all kind of troops to throw them across the river. The battles were so fierce, especially around a particular small hill where the German attack waves (up to Bn size, afaik) were often completely wiped out (they kinda wiped out themselves, by carrying out mindless onsloughts), while on the Russian side - in the fox holes and trenches on the hill - often just 1 (!) or another Russian soldier was left to occupy the hill at the end of the day, according to German + Russian vets, + this looped for days (weeks?). While the Germans used up their FE's + had to bring in add. units from other sectors, the Russians had to scrape together units from other fronts, put them on trains and try to rush them to the Eastern bank of the river. That was quite a task, since the Russians suffered of a serious lack of motor transport at the time (I think the US trucks were delivered in late 1942/early 1943).
In short: replacements for these Russian Bns - holding out on the Western bank - arrived daily ! (usually at night)
If I am not mistaken, the Russians had to lay a dedicated (new) railroad line to some area behind the right river bank, in order to meet the replacement demands.
German historians stressed that the Germans neglected the Recon in that area. They did not send recon planes to areas east of Stalingrad, so they had no clue how the Russians managed to get the replacements to Stalingrad, + they never discovered (accord. to German historians) the scope of the Russian railroad project + conseq. build-up of forces (for the pincer operation). Had they reconnoitered the Hinterland of the right bank, their bombers could have severely screwed up the replacem. efforts.
1 reason could have been the fact that the Russians put up strong AA screens on the right bank, eventually, but I fail to comprehend this omission. The Germans never performed serious attempts to screen the Hinterland, many CO's thought the Russians were done in that sector.
With each day, the Russians pumped more troops into Stalingrad. Losses mounted + hit levels that were almost 4 x higher than the total German casualties (wounded/KIA). Eventually, the Russians resorted to pumping a high number of raw recruits into the Westbank on a daily basis, in order to keep that bridgehead and to obscure the preparation for the offensive. The Russians maintained such a (kind of ruthless) regime in other theaters, where they brought up reserves from the rear. Sometimes Army commanders used up all their reserves (reg. units), where then recruits had to be brought in immediately. Not after a battle was over + not to replace 5 guys here, and 10 guys there, as Jim suggests, and already after the very first few days of a battle.
Only in 1945, dur. the Oder offensive, the central Russian Front (tasked with crossing the Oder), had run out of reserves, after heavy losses (trying to seize the Seelow heights). Rear area units had to be scraped together to maintain the offensive.
During 1942-1944, the Germans had to insert regul. (borrowed) units increasingly, as well, and - with the Russian attack waves in 1942 + 1943 - the Germans could often hold say a certain perimeter that was held by a Bn, but needed to replace that entire Bn at the end of the day, as each of its Coys had just a few men left.
That's where the FE's kicked in (+ borrowed units, ofc).
Significance for historical wargames:
While say in 1943 the Allies probably had a number of reserve units parked in North Africa during the short campaign on Sicily, and parked way behind the front during the following Italian campaign, they still had to move general reinforcements from England (and/or North Africa) to the theater (correct me if I am wrong, pls).
If I am not mistaken, the US moved recruits to boot camp, then relocated them to their destination units inside the US, in England or in Italy, or even kept them together from boot camp to say the deployment in England, as many of the units were newly established units (eg. the airborne units), where they then received further training + where they conducted military exercises ("field days"). With mounting losses (eg. during the Hurtgenwald battles, or during the German Ardennes offensive, or during the Monte Cassino battles) replacements had to be brought up from England/the US, after the reserves had been spent/committed. Prior to the BFTB and after the offensive, getting sufficient replacements had become a serious problem, as more troops had to be brought up, first.
While in Autumn (prior to and right after Market Garden), the Allies could afford to send some units back to France to give the units time to rest and replenish, the Allies had to wait for replacements from England (and the US) in November and December, if I am not mistaken. So I am not sure if the Allies actually had a system that was even remotely comparable to the German system or the (possibly rather simple, I don't know details) Russian system. How many reserve units did the Allies have during the several stages of the European campaign? When the Allies pulled battered units from the front, how long did it take to refill them?
The US 28th Inf Div was badly mauled during the Huertgen battles, it sustained heavy casualties, but had "accomplished little" - according to the official divisional history.
That is understandable, as the environment was especially nasty, the Germans placed millions of mines, thousands of wood/glass mines that could be hardly detected by metal detectors and even thousands of make-shift "body" mines (attached to trees - with the shrapnel blast center at stomach level), etc.
Therefor the 28th US Inf Div was removed from the Huertgen sector and inserted at the supposedly "calm" Ardennes front, prior to the offensive. While it performed brilliant delaying actions that threw off the German timetable during the German offensive, it was still pulled from the front on December 22 already, due to the reduction of its combat value, for reorganization, but it had not received significant reinforcements (afaik) and was put back to action for the Colmar campaign in January again, but then rated as "capable of only limited offensive action" by superior echelons, due to the greatly reduced personnel pool.
During that time, the Germans couldn't run the reinforcement regime from earlier stages of the war, ofc, instead of reinforcing existing inf units they rather preferred to establish the new Volksgrenadier units with their stripped down structures (and total strengths) but somewhat better small arms loadouts, scraped together personnel from coastal batteries, fortress garrisons etc. and even cooks and butchers to replenish or support those units that occupied the bunkers of the Siegfried line.
But for the depiction of earlier stages of the war (say up to early or mid-1944), the Ersatz system should be rendered, imho.
With the system in place (and still functional), the Germans could re-establish a certain personnel level during a battle/offensive (that lasted say 1-10 days).
My personal guess: They could replenish a given unit several times (note: that does not mean full replenishment ofc ! units received full contingents - if at all - during R&R phases between battles) if there were fair/moderate losses, and only replenish once if there were heavy or even catastrophic losses. The exact numbers would be subject to individual battle research.
I could imagine that some Field Ersatz-Bns had near sufficient troop sizes to completely replace a destroyed Bn or at least a number of its Coys.
Göring's hobbyhorse, the Fallschirm-Panzer-Division was known for participating in some of the hardest fights, but also for being spoiled and even held back on other occasions, so I could imagine that this unit's Feld-Ersatz-Bn was loaded with troops, occasionally, there might have been one or another Wehrmacht or SS unit that could have received similar pref. treatment, as well.
But again, subject to research.
The Russians, with their seemingly "unlimited" personnel pool, could pump in several hundred thousand troops during the course of long battles (that lasted months) and thousands of troops during battles with the scope of Command Ops battles. In 1941 and 1942 the Russians literally spent (wasted) several Bns in attacks against German defensive positions in just one day, yet they managed to bring up reserves and even replacements for the next series of attacks the next day.
In Stalingrad, they had at least 1.1 million casualties (with ~ 500,000 of them killed). A vital share were raw recruits pumped into skeleton units holding out inside Stalingrad, and pumped in for days - if not weeks, for instance ..... basically replenishing these units on a daily basis. They duplicated that system in other sectors, when they really wanted to crack a German sector or when they put up all available human resources to defend perimeters (eg. Sevastopol, shipping in reinforcements), just on way smaller scales, imho.
Attached FE bns:
Since the number of available Coys/men could vary quite a bit, the exact sizes/compositions and ad-hoc replacement possibilites would have to be researched for each individual historical battle, if you aim to correctly depict FE usage within a particular time frame and the general FE regime.
IIRC, there is one or another march bn in BFTB (in HTTR too?), for instance, so I wonder if the researchers were able to pin-point where these units ended up or if they were really used as line units (as they appear in the game). With the usual procedure described above, these units were meant to move to a particular Division and replace/replenish a particular subunit on arrival (well if they managed to get there) and were neither meant nor equipped to act as independent units.
I wouldn't rule out that the situation in some instances demanded to dump the policy, at this stage of the war. So I wonder how detailed the available infos were regarding the respective march bns depicted in the game.
That's all I can think of .... I hope the stuff above makes sense, I didn't have much time for proofreading, I just edited some confusing parts + elimated a number of typos.
PS: I'd appreciate some feedback/insights regarding the US/Allied reinforcement system.
PS 2: FE's are not my hobbyhorse, so I can't rule out that there are erroneous parts, but this here is a halfway usable general layout of the German system, imho.
Unfortunately, I do not have any info about the average amount of personnel kept in those FE's, and I do not know what level was targeted/required. It is obvious, that the system must have started to deteriorate in autumn or late 1943.