Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Sustainability of the German armoured division

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Sustainability of the German armoured division

    This is a spin-off from the "Blow and Counterblow: Kiev, Nov-Dec 1943" in the main WW2 forum.

    Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
    This is something I often see but don't fully understand. When a panzer division is fought down to its core (literally one battalion of combat elements with half a battalion of tanks ) many of such weakness are still viable and used in operations. The fall from full strength drops quite fast but then the Pz Division becomes this pseudo mech. battalion that doesn't seem to get destroyed or disbanded. Due to the strategic crisis situation, they rarely get pulled off the front line. They get a small trickle of manpower replacement/material replacement but somehow this is enough..quite odd to see this work. The combat power is low but these small units seem to punch well above their weight The only thing that has some resemblance to full strength are their mot. artillery regiments.
    Just an idea, but perhaps it has to do with the capacity of the equipment and personell replacement system. I.e. at this point in the war, the available replacements were only capable of supporting these small battlegroups. So once a division was built up to strength, the replacement system was still only supplying replacements equivalent to a reinforced battalion. The strength of the division would erode quickly until it reached the sustainable level.

    Once that level was reached, the battalion-sized formation could be sustained and was perhaps quite well served in terms of supporting elements, both combat and supply. As a mechanized formation, it could still do valuable service in counterattacks and defense in support of non-mechanized formations and hence remained a valuable asset for commanders.

    IIRC the manpower replacments sent to Normandy in 1944 during the fighting there was about 10% of losses. With regards to equipment replacements, it seems to have been even less.

    Another thing is, that it was always assumed that Panzerdivisions would loose strength rapidly once employed. Hence the massive number of tanks in early war armoured divisions (300-400 tanks in 1939). With this set-up, the division would cannibalize itself during combat, so to speak, but could still operate as a division. This organisation was based on the WWI experience of allied tank formations, which would also enter combat at peak strength and then be reduced dramatically during the first days of combat.

    But once the size of the German armoured division was reduced to about 200 tanks, a steady flow of replacements was needed to keep the division functioning as such. As there was no such flow, the division would simply be reduced in size to the sustainable level.

    Given that the Germans would never be able to sustain their armoured divisions in prolonged operations, they just might have been better off – at least later in the war – to concentrate their mechanized assets in the Heeres-truppen like they did with StuGs. For example in brigade-size units like the ill-fated brigades of 1944 or as pure armoured brigades like they did experiment with in 1937-38.
    The former organisation would - theoretically - retain the combat capabilities of a combined arms mechanized formation while the latter would tie the armour to the speed of the infantry and artillery it would be supporting and be supported by.

  • #2
    From what I've heard mechanical losses were also a significant factor in eroding German armored strength. In some cases (such as in Poland) certain formations lost a third or more of their panzers to breakdowns and other failures rather than actual combat.
    Divine Mercy Sunday: 4/21/2020 (https://www.thedivinemercy.org/message) The Miracle of Lanciano: Jesus' Real Presence (https://web.archive.org/web/20060831...fcontents.html)

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by BobTheBarbarian View Post
      From what I've heard mechanical losses were also a significant factor in eroding German armored strength. In some cases (such as in Poland) certain formations lost a third or more of their panzers to breakdowns and other failures rather than actual combat.
      Indeed - in France at least one Panzerdivision lost half its armour strength between the Meuse River and the Channel. About half the losses (IIRC) could be regained with a few days of rest, suggesting that they were lost to minor mechanical issues or light combat damage.

      And to follow the reasoning about sustainability in the first post - if the flow of spare parts was not up to the expenditure of parts in the field, then the availability of tanks and other equipment would drop down to the sustainable level. That level might depend on cannibalization of parts from other vehicles, further eroding the amount of available equipment.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by BobTheBarbarian View Post
        From what I've heard mechanical losses were also a significant factor in eroding German armored strength. In some cases (such as in Poland) certain formations lost a third or more of their panzers to breakdowns and other failures rather than actual combat.
        The problems facing the German Panzerwaffe in the Polish and French campaigns did not effectively alter the outcome because of the relatively short distances they had to travel.

        In the Russian campaign the German high command ignored the problems they had in Poland and France instead of learning from them and haphazardly drove their 3 army groups with 4 panzer groups along a 1200 kilometer front which funneled out to the north and south the further you went stretching the front even wider.Despite this the Germans made deep penetrations in the opening weeks.Now the primary flaws of the doctrine for the Panzerwaffe was exacerbated.

        First,the Germans could not logistically sustain a series of panzer encirclement's indefinitely. Eventually fuel shortages and mechanical defects would bring the advance to a halt and give the enemy a chance to recover.Second, the doctrine was developed at a time when anti-tank defenses were relatively weak,which enabled the panzer divisions to run roughshod over most infantry divisions caught in the open terrain.Yet as the Soviet anti-tank defenses steadily improved in 1942-43, German panzer leaders continued to believe that enemy infantry could not stop an envelopment from occurring.

        Regards,Kurt
        Theo mir ist die munition ausgegangen ich werde diesen ramman auf wiedersehen uns in walhalla

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by BobTheBarbarian View Post
          From what I've heard mechanical losses were also a significant factor in eroding German armored strength. In some cases (such as in Poland) certain formations lost a third or more of their panzers to breakdowns and other failures rather than actual combat.
          A key issue is that the workshops have to be immobile to conduct repairs. So they set up, repair tanks and other vehicles, and then have to spend days catching up, set up, begin repairs again...it wasn't until the 50s that most modern militaries realized that the support for armor had to be able to keep pace with armor for the system to work.
          Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

          Comment


          • #6
            bump

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
              A key issue is that the workshops have to be immobile to conduct repairs. So they set up, repair tanks and other vehicles, and then have to spend days catching up, set up, begin repairs again...it wasn't until the 50s that most modern militaries realized that the support for armor had to be able to keep pace with armor for the system to work.
              True, this is key information required to understand the levels of maintenance employed by the Germans. The usual misnomer is that German tanks had to be evacuated back to the factory for repairs. The fact is that a quick triage of a tank's issues would reveal the quickest way to get it back into the fight. A forward maintenance company has no business rebuilding engines, transmissions, replacing multiple major components or conducting overhauls. In fact, no army did that then or does it now. Field maintenance is limited due to the required footprint for the capability to do major repairs, overhauls, etc. A field maintenance platoon or company has the capability to service vehicles, affect minor repairs or replace components if supplies permit. In order to be able to conduct full spectrum maintenance operations, a maintenance unit needs substantial support in the form of permanent structures, infrastructure (roads, rail, power, living arrangements, etc.) and a very secure environment due to having a large footprint and being immobile once operations start. Even a major operation like that can not do what a factory is capable of in regard to overhaul or rebuild.
              The German model for sustaining their tanks in the field is pretty much the same one the Allies used, just with less capability. Many people out there attribute German readiness rates to poor designed tanks when in reality much of the blame for poor readiness falls on over stretched logistics.
              "Amateurs study tactics; professionals study logistics"
              -Omar Bradley
              "Not everyone who studies logistics is a professional logistician, and there is no way to understand when you don't know what you don't know."
              -Anonymous US Army logistician

              Comment


              • #8
                One factor is whether or not the Germans kept ahold of the battlefield. You could then recover tanks and repair them. The crews often survived their tank going down.

                In Normandy the Germans just did not have enough good Infantry to pull the Armor Divisions off the line. The Commander of the Reserve Army was hoarding replacements and equipment so he could use them in the Assassination Plot.

                A number of times the Motor Infantry and Tanks were left at the front while the rest of the division was pulled back for rebuilding. That is one reason the SS Divisions were at Arnhem. Their vehicles were supposed to be "broken". When one division was alerted that they were pulling out to go back to Germany and that they would have to leave behind all operable vehicles, a surprizing number had a coax MG removed or a Main Gun sight. usually noting that could be replaced quickly.

                Pruitt
                Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

                Comment


                • #9
                  another aspect is the tendency for Panzer divisions to have very small numbers of operational tanks (1943-1945) for most of their combat history.

                  Literally 10-40 tanks for the most part. This means that the support services, which are designed to support ~100, 150, or 200 tanks are busy repairing. However, their staffs have the option of concentrating a lot of effort on each operational tank.

                  How does this effect the situation?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    At the start of the Ardennes Offensive, many of the German Panzer Divisions had been brought up to TO&E strength. That being said, not all were given tanks. Some divisions like Panzer Lehr were given Stugs or Jadgpanzers of some sort. Having Panthers did not help some of the Panzer Divisions cross bridges in this offense either. Mark IV's could pass over many bridges that a Panther could not. Many bridges had weight limits. I have often see signs driving through the less traveled roads of Louisiana and Texas announcing the weight limit to cross a bridge.

                    Another factor is not all divisions in the Ardennes had well trained replacements. The Infantry divisions were short on medium level officers and experienced NCO's. The Panzers had the same problems. The SS Panzers had problems especially. The Fallschirmjaeger battalions were described as moving around in masses like herds of cows. They did not know how to disperse and advance.

                    Pruitt
                    Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                    Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                    by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      There is considerable supposition that the main fighting strength of a PzD was its tanks. Not so, as it had a considerable amount of motorised artillery and SPGs attached (both operating AA and AT artillery andl field guns), as well as the recce brigade/company in light and heavy armoured cars. Factor in the troops being transported by APCs (with their attached weaponry) and it becomes apparent why a tankless PzD punches harder than an ID.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The linking of tank maintenance with sustainability was key. While researching the Red Army's disastrous airborne drop in the Bukrin Bend (Kanev) which mainly fell in the 19th PzD's area of operation, I read an entry in the PzD's daily war journal in which the div cdr committed rear service troops to fighting the scattered packets of Soviet paratroopers and the journal writer had noted the "extraordinary" measure of also committing the panzer mechanics. I learned in follow up research how prized good mechanics were in the panzer units for how many damaged tanks could be put back together during the night for the next day's fight. Holding the battlefield long enough to recover damaged tanks is a key dimension as noted previously.

                        The Soviets also prized the turn around of tanks in the offensive for sustainability. In a Soviet General Staff study, it noted that there were some tanks turned around 5 or 6 times in the 3rd Gds Tank Army during the Vistula-Oder Operation (an operation that the Soviet Army studied and used as a model for conventional warfare in the 1980's). The Red Army would pull a tank army out of the line for reconstitution when it was very low 25-30% or below. Rybalko (cdr, 3rd GTA) once complained that once a tank dropped much lower it was lose irreplaceable skills in technical officers (and probably mechanics).

                        I used this tidbit to argue in war councils during the 1980's that the US Army's operational coding of unit readiness Green, Amber, Red was wrong to code a unit Red at 70% strength--it would be self defeating. If you are at 30% and the only unit there, you have to fight. Kind of like the Sgt Major's line at Rorke's Drift in the movie, Zulu, when he was asked "Why us?", and the SGM replied, "Because we are here."
                        Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
                          another aspect is the tendency for Panzer divisions to have very small numbers of operational tanks (1943-1945) for most of their combat history.

                          Literally 10-40 tanks for the most part. This means that the support services, which are designed to support ~100, 150, or 200 tanks are busy repairing. However, their staffs have the option of concentrating a lot of effort on each operational tank.

                          How does this effect the situation?
                          More like the opposite. The support staff are capable of maintaining 10 to 40 tanks in service when they should be enlarged to handle 100+ When a tank needed serious repairs it was supposed to be shipped back to Germany but divisional troops knew they'd never see it again and it wasn't even likely it'd be replaced anytime soon. So, they kept these machines and did what they could to keep them running.
                          Better to cannibalize a few to keep the rest going then send one stripped of parts back than work with the intended system.

                          There were never enough recovery vehicles and those available were often incapable of dealing with newer tanks like the Panther or Tiger. Shop equipment was often limited to hand tools. Sure, there were Beaman (civilian technicians) who had shop gear in the field, but they were in the rear somewhere often not to be easily found...

                          It didn't help that the panzers themselves were poorly designed for ease of maintenance. A single engine or transmission change in the field took as much as a week to accomplish with as many as 7 to 10 men working on the vehicle at times.

                          The problem wasn't too many tanks. It was too few maintenance workers and lack of equipment to let them do the job.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                            It didn't help that the panzers themselves were poorly designed for ease of maintenance. A single engine or transmission change in the field took as much as a week to accomplish with as many as 7 to 10 men working on the vehicle at times.
                            Not to mention the variety of armored vehicles and range of parts--no way to organize a scheduled replenishment of parts per unit. The prized mechanic was probably the one who improvised and kept the vehicles running in spite the system.

                            From experience, I commanded a Combat Electronic Warfare Intelligence Battalion, 1st Cav Div (in the First Persian Gulf War) with unique EW & Intel systems. We eventually had to use "controlled substitution" (read cannibalize one down system to keep the others up). I had a super Maint Tech, and, of all the divisional CEWI Bns in theater, we had the best operational readiness level.
                            Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 18 Aug 16, 15:33.
                            Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              General Hermann Balck's Experience

                              On a couple of occasions General Balck in interviews and a conference talked to less tanks in a panzer division.

                              He was asked, “ Did you have a chance to try out large divisions alongside small ones to see what their relative effectiveness was?

                              Balck’s answered, “That experiment arranged itself, frequently. As corps commander, you got both small and large divisions.

                              Actually, Guderian was a strong advocate of the big division, surprisingly enough. He liked divisions like the Gross Deutschland Division, which I commanded for a while. That division was so big and fat that you could split it in two, and you would have two divisions, each of which would be gat enough by itself.

                              Now a man like Guderian could lead such a large division. But the average division commander from across the street has to be able to command the organization –that’s the real problem. Then clearly the small divisions were superior in maneuverability and speed.”
                              Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                              Comment

                              Latest Topics

                              Collapse

                              Working...
                              X