The Germans increase Panzer production in the Summer of 1940

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Alk
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The Germans increase Panzer production in the Summer of 1940

Post by Alk » 12 Oct 2006 16:32

From Guderian's "Panzer Leader"

"On the basis of experience gained during the Western Campaign, Hitler ordered a tank production of 800 to 1,000 units per month. However the Army Ordinance office reckoned that the cost of this program would be about two billion marks, and that it would involved the employment of 100,000 skilled workers and specialists. In view of these heavy expenses, Hitler unfortunately agreed to abandon this plan for the time being."

Hitler, didn't even compromise at a lower figure. He basically did nothing.

This discussion took place in July 1940. It was classic Hitler. He still did not acknowledge that he was in a World War with many of his actions. He made a "Guns vs Butter" decision regarding armored production as he often did prior to 1943. He did not want his people to suffer virtually any of the sacrifices of war. At this time, the idea of German womanhood partaking in war industries was extremely distasteful to him and not considered. The idea of a "Rosie the Riveter" being idealized like she was in America, and thousands of Russian woman manning mortar batteries, anti-aircraft guns or being snipers, was abhorrent to Hitler.

Hitler anticipated a short war, did not hedge his bets by preparing for the contingency of a long war, and made the choice to not spend the money needed for a world-class panzer force from a size standpoint, although Germany was clearly capable of producing one as they proved under more difficult circumstances later in the war. It was at this same time, that he put all advanced aircraft and missle research programs on the backburner as well. As has often been stated, the civilian sector the German economy grew significantly in 1940 over 1939. Berlin was indeed a gay and festive capital in 1940, especially compared to London in this same time period and Moscow a year later, when every ounce of effort was going towards war production.

However, the potential was clearly there for a greatly expanded armored production. Even in 1941 only about 3,600 tanks were produced, of which about 30% were almost worthless Pz 38's and Pz II's. It was only after the shock in front of Moscow that Germany started to go on an enhanced war footing, which was then finally accellerated to a total war footing after Stalingrad, 3 1/2 years into the war. Just a short time later, in 1944, over 5 times (19,000) the 1941 number of tanks/assault guns were produced and most were of a much higher gross tonnage with a great deal more striking power. This does not include huge increases in half-track and self-propelled gun production. This was in spite of an intense and effective strategic bombing campaign against German factories and tranportation facilities which limited production about 30% according to most accepted estimates.

The question is, what would have happened if Hitler would have went with his orginal impulse, accepted a bit of hardship on his population (like every other country was putting up with in the spirit of patriotism) and put armored production in full gear?

This production would have meant a huge influx of tanks in 1941/1942/1943 before the allied bombing campaign could have interdicted. The 1941 level, instead of hovering around 3,600, woud have been closer to, although slightly lower than the 1943 level of 13,700. Certainly Guderian's 2nd panzer army would not have had a total of 50 available panzers for their final push on Moscow in December of 1941. Production by the summer of the 1943 would quite possibly have been around 2,000 units a month, which is what it was almost hitting in late 1944 in spite of huge losses in production due to allied bombing and loss of important raw material sources.
Even with demands of other fronts, when the kill ratio between German and Soviet tanks in between 1941 and early 1944 is taken into account, Germany probably would have been able to at least maintain numerical parity with the Russians during these years. This never came close to happening in reality.

With more powerfully equipped panzer divisions, and several times the numbers of heavy tank and assault gun battalions to support the hard-pressed infantry divisions in the East against Russian tank attacks, how would this have changed the equation in the East in particular, and the war in general?

Any thoughts?



..............By the way, I understand these tanks require fuel, but the German army, except in very remote logistical locations (like the Caucuses), always managed to have have the fuel required for their operations prior to late 1944 and the loss of their synthetic supplies and the bombing out and later capture of Ploesti. I am assuming there would be the fuel necessary to support this number of tanks, especially if they were not being used in far flung offensive operations, which I doubt would be the case after 1942.
Last edited by Alk on 12 Oct 2006 17:17, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Lkefct » 12 Oct 2006 17:16

Iagree with teh thesis on the long tem effects, but many of the short term effects, like the drive on Moscow, it might have had the opposite effect. The heavier German tanks do take a lower casualtiy rate incombat, but suffer from the longdistances and mechanical breakdowns just like any tank does. Given teh distances that where asked of the German 2nd Pz Group, I am not sure any tank is going to stand up to the distances envovled.

More Pz III are also not going to help that much. The shorter 50 mm guns that they where using at the time are not going to help agians teh heavier Russians tanks, and the old german tanks are sufficient for engaging the older Russian armor. Pz IV and StuG III are certainly of some use with the 75 mm L24 gun, but they won't really be ready for prime time unitl the long 75 are ready, and there is not a lot of push for that in 1940 (although a careful observer would have seen some of the signs).

Addinign additional armored support for the Pz divisions might have been as good a way to increase the firepower if not better. Adding more halftracks and SP guns would adda agreat deal more to the firepower. it dosn't increae the logistical strain to the units as much as adding new vehicles, since you are removing the towing vehicles and trucks from the equation as well (i realize there is a net increase, but it is not as large overall).

the biggest advantage is that the infrastructure to the German armamanets industry is in place much sooner. In 1942, I would assume that even if the battlefield siatution was not much worse there is the possibility that there are many more tanks availible much sooner to requip the panzer division, send tanks to africa (when historically there where very few sent), and possibly even PS guns added to infantry divisions to protect against tank attacks (similar in concept to Mansteins 3 batteries of StuG to each infantry division).

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Post by Alk » 12 Oct 2006 20:36

Agree completely with your points..as far as they go. Yes Guderian's original panzers were completely worn out after their detour to Kiev. However, with 3-4 times as many panzers being produced, then many more replacements would have been available for Guderian and Hoth, both of whom recieved almost no tanks in October/November/December. Hitler was hording the modest production of new tanks for new formations and also sent surprisingly sizeable numbers (given low German production figures) to North Africa throughout 1941 and early 1942. With several times the number of new tanks available, many of these could have been channeled to the Eastern Front. In November and December when moderate numbers of T-34's appeared in front of Moscow, there was almost no German armour available to deal with the threat, causing wide-spread panic in many places along the central front. Even L24 canon with hollow-charge shells and Long 50mm tank guns could have mitigated this circumstance, especially in the hands of experienced crews, which the Germans had in far greater numbers than they had panzers available (hundreds fought and died as infantry in the winter of 1941/42 when no replacement tanks were available, which was a tremendous waste of highly trained talent).

As far the 1941 tanks being undergunned, that was of course true, but with the chasis's available in quantity, they could be quickly converted to Stug III's, Hertzers, Pz IV's with L43/L48 guns and also a host of self propelled anti tank and artillery pieces. Hopefully Germany would have had the foresight to completely stop producing PZIII's after 1941. They proved to be more or less death traps when matched against T-34's. The 6th Panzer Division's effort to open a corridor to the 6th Army found this to be the case at the Aksai River, when they lost about 100 of these in a single day trying to slug it out with T-34's at long range.

Large quantities of tanks could have happened about 18 months sooner if Hitler would have went through with his original recommendation, and been available just when the German army seemingly had victory within sight. The consequences on the war in the East could have profound.

As far as additional half tracks and self-propelled guns. I especially think self propelled artillery was extremely valuable. The problem with Half tracks in the East was that anti-tank rifles were umbiquitous among Russian infantry. A single shot from one of these could pretty much put any half-track's engine out of business. Properly armored APC's are great, and German half-tracks served their purposes in many cases. However, like the Russian infantry riding atop of T-34's, German solders certainly would have done something similar (and in reality did) if they had far larger numbers of panzers available to them.

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Re: The Germans increase Panzer production in the Summer of

Post by Andreas » 12 Oct 2006 21:11

Alk wrote:..............By the way, I understand these tanks require fuel, but the German army, except in very remote logistical locations (like the Caucuses), always managed to have have the fuel required for their operations prior to late 1944 and the loss of their synthetic supplies and the bombing out and later capture of Ploesti. I am assuming there would be the fuel necessary to support this number of tanks, especially if they were not being used in far flung offensive operations, which I doubt would be the case after 1942.
Ignoring logistics is always a sure-fire way to screw up any what-if.

Sure they managed to have sufficient fuel to continue operations, but then again, they had fewer tanks than in your what-if, and in many cases this fuel had to be flown in. A wasteful situation, which would be aggravated with more tanks.

The attack on Moscow did not want for tanks, it lacked a proper logistical network behind Army Group Centre. More tanks would make this worse, not better.

All the best

Andreas

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Post by Tim Smith » 13 Oct 2006 00:08

Agree with Andreas.

50,000 Ford and Opel 'Maultiers' would have been worth more than 5,000 extra Panzer III's during the final stage of Barbarossa, as they could travel on very muddy dirt roads or go cross-country with ease, where normal wheeled trucks constantly bogged down during the autumn rainy season.

(A Maultier is a very cheap, unarmoured half-track, created by taking a standard truck and replacing the rear wheels with Panzer I or II style tracks and bogie wheels.)

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"The attack on Moscow did not lack for tanks"

Post by Alk » 13 Oct 2006 09:12

You are correct in that I may have been a bit cavalier in dismissing logistical problems the way I did. My main point was that on occasion there were logistical issues in getting fuel to the panzers in far-flung locations, but rarely, prior to mid 1944, were fuel supplies not available for general operations.

I'd love to see solid documentation supporting your statement [b]"The attack on Moscow did not lack for tanks[/b]" . There may indeed be some documentation, but in the dozens of books I have read that have touched on the battle of Moscow or dedicated themselves to it, I have not once read where the Germans felt they had plenty of tanks available for the final plunge.

Also with the flying weather as bad as it was, and virtually no forward airfields available, there was very little flying in of fuel to panzers, at least to my knowledge (possibly at Demyansk and in a few other isolate instances). I'd be interested in documentation regarding this as well from a curiosity standpont. If this was so, I would think that fuel for these vehicles would have been an excellent use of the air transport, as the tanks were virutally the only piece of equipment giving the army any mobility or any shot at destroying the t-34s that were starting to appear in numbers.

Until I see otherwise, I respectfully differ with you that the final plunge towards Moscow did not lack for tanks, unless you call Panzerarmee Guderian's grand total of 50 serviceable panzers a sufficient quantity for an entire panzer army. There were simply very few tanks available at that time anywhere in AGC. Many panzer divisions had below 10 in December 1941. I agree in general about the logistics problems in that portion of the war being paramount. However, they were not primarily due to endemic fuel shortages, but rather to the inability to get fuel to front lines due to railheads being several hundred kilometers behind the front lines and roads being almost all unsurfaced and almost impassible in the inclemet weather. With wheeled vehicles spinning their wheels in the mud, it can be argued that these additional tracked vehicles would have been much more fuel efficient in bringing actual striking power to the front than trucks spending 10 hours a day on the road and traveling 20KM at best while burning up large amounts of fuel.

I was just reading a first-hand account of the battle for Moscow today from a Stug gunner. He stated that adequate ammo and fuel were in fact getting through by late November. Unfortunately, winter uniforms were not.

In any event, Barbarossa started with over 600,000 motor vehicles. An additional 4,000 (well less than 1% of total vehicles) panzers would have made a minor to moderate difference in overall fuel consumption, but a major difference in the army's cross country mobility and striking power.

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Post by Andreas » 13 Oct 2006 10:15

I suggest starting with Ziemke, 'Moscow to Stalingrad', ISTR there is sufficient information about the logistical problem in there.

You are overly focussed on a tactical element, and much as I hate to repeat that tired old statement, it seems applicable in this case:

"Amateurs study tactics, while professionals study logistics."

Anything that increased the logistical burden on the advancing (or defending) formations in late 1941 would have been a net drain on their performance. More tanks = more fuel requirement, more need for spares in the logistics chain, etc. Tim is exactly right about the need for more logistical assets, especially those with cross-country performance. More fully cross-country capable prime movers for the artillery would also have helped, and been more valuable than more tanks.

As an aside, I am a bit stunned that you ask me for 'solid documentation', when all you seem to have by way of sources is 'Panzer Leader'. I am not going to do your research for you.

All the best

Andreas

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Post by Carl Schwamberger » 13 Oct 2006 14:07

"50,000 Ford and Opel 'Maultiers' would have been worth more than 5,000 extra Panzer III's during the final stage of Barbarossa, as they could travel on very muddy dirt roads or go cross-country with ease, where normal wheeled trucks constantly bogged down during the autumn rainy season.

(A Maultier is a very cheap, unarmoured half-track, created by taking a standard truck and replacing the rear wheels with Panzer I or II style tracks and bogie wheels.)"

I will vote for more trucks, and a increased railroad labor corps to restore that supply system, and for increased sea supply to the captured ports. Every German account I read complains of lack of supply after passing a zone drawn from Lituhania to Smolensk to the Crimea. a larger transport capability is hand in hand with planning for a sustained campaign, which was the real defect in Barbarosa.

Beyond that I'd argue for increased artillery & ammunition. I've come to suspect a deficiency in the heavy (15cm) class of German artillery. The corps & army artillery groups may have been entirely insuffcient for their task. Given the bad weather, and Soviet entrenchments another two heavy artillery battalions and sufficent ammunition may have made a bigger difference before Moscow than a simlar number of MkIII tanks.

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Post by Andreas » 13 Oct 2006 14:30

Carl Schwamberger wrote:Beyond that I'd argue for increased artillery & ammunition. I've come to suspect a deficiency in the heavy (15cm) class of German artillery. The corps & army artillery groups may have been entirely insuffcient for their task. Given the bad weather, and Soviet entrenchments another two heavy artillery battalions and sufficent ammunition may have made a bigger difference before Moscow than a simlar number of MkIII tanks.
Quite so - of course, the ability to bring forward the guns and (more importantly) their ammunition, is far more critical than the ability to produce another tank.

All the best

Andreas

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Post by Jon G. » 13 Oct 2006 14:47

I don't think that increasing tank production by a factor of 300% or thereabouts by 1941 would have been completely out of the question - but I doubt if the Germans would have had the time to raise new units, train new crews etc. in time for Barbarossa. With far more tanks being churned out in 1941, I think it is more likely that the Panzertruppen would have stayed with the 1939/1940 arrangement with two panzer regiments per panzer division. It could also be that there would have been enough tanks (and time to train the crews) to re-equip the 6th and 8th Panzer Divisions with Pz II/III/IVs instead of their inferior Czech models. That might have made a difference in the operations against Leningrad in 1941 - and in turn it might also have meant that Czech productive effort was spent on something different than tanks (more trucks?), so far fewer Marders and various SP artillery pieces further down the timeline, and probably no Hetzers either. This is what I surmise from a what-if situation in which the Germans have far more tanks than they have trained crews to operate them.

ISTR from Macksey that the primary complaint of the tank forces wasn't lack of tanks, but rather lack of spares - tank production was modest in 1941, but spares production had been cut back even more. Tanks sent back to the factories for repair were often empty hulls by the time they reached their destination - bypassing tank units ripped them of everything they could use for their own vehicles. That is something you need to address in your what-if: will spares production follow suit with greatly increased tank production?

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Post by Andreas » 13 Oct 2006 14:57

Sometime around Smolensk Guderian requested 400 extra tank engines, if memory does not deceive me, underlining Jon's post.

I do not think that re-equipping the 6th and 8th with more modern vehicles would have made much difference. The 6th seems to have done well, and the trouble the 8th got itself into was of an operational nature, better tanks would not have gotten out of it. If you look at e.g. de Beaulieu, you'll see that the advance rate of Panzergruppe 4 was very good in any case.

Also note that 1.PD was not helped at Siauliai by having German tanks, as opposed to Czech ones.

All the best

Andreas

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Post by Alk » 13 Oct 2006 15:28

Andreas....

I am not asking you to do my research for me. You made a statement about the Germans not having a shortage of panzers in the winter of 1941. I am simply asking what you are basing that on. You may not have this information at your fingertips as I thought you may.

As far as quoting Guderian at all, who you seem to distain, I was doing so because his statement about Hitler actually intially ordering a huge increase in production of panzers is an interesting one, and it's implications on WWII could have been profound if it was carried through.

Although I have a good deal more to say on the logistics (I think that a panzer division with a huge tail of vehicles but virtually no armor due to lack of available replacements is by and large a wasteful expediture of fuel), I will gladly back off my rather narrow logistics argument concerning Moscow in December 1941, if we can continue on subject regarding the long term consequences of a huge investment in panzer production beginning in the summer of 1940.

Just a couple of side notes. All panzer commanders did request a large number of new engines as dust and grime had destroyed most of theirs. The entire Eastern front eventually received a grand total of 300 engines.

As far as the 6th Panzer division. When it was sent back to France for reorganization, it had NO running tanks left in the entire division at the time it was sent back to the West.

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Post by Andreas » 13 Oct 2006 15:59

Alk wrote:Andreas....

I am not asking you to do my research for me. You made a statement about the Germans not having a shortage of panzers in the winter of 1941. I am simply asking what you are basing that on. You may not have this information at your fingertips as I thought you may.
I see that I may have expressed myself poorly. Yes, they could have done with more tanks - tactically more tanks are always nice. But not without more logistical support - because in that case they would be fairly useless. Also, as Carl points out, more heavy artillery may have been more decisive in any case. Finally, they managed to almost get into Moscow - do you think that they failed because they lacked another 500 tanks, or because they lacked supply for the forces (not just the lone Stug gunner you quote, but all of them) that they had (ignoring enemy opposition)?
Alk wrote:As far as the 6th Panzer division. When it was sent back to France for reorganization, it had NO running tanks left in the entire division at the time it was sent back to the West.
Is that because they were handed over, or because they were all destroyed? Czech tanks were running around the east until well after 6th Panzer had gone and returned, but these were of course not 35(t). In any case, Jon and I were referring to Leningrad - 6th Panzer did not leave until well after those battles.

All the best

Andreas

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Post by Jon G. » 13 Oct 2006 16:20

All other things being equal, it would have easened the strain on the German logistics apparatus if they had had fewer tank types in their inventory. I seem to recall an instance where von Rundstedt's army group was supplied with spares for tank types it did not possess - presumably Czech types. The problem in this scenario is that the Germans are still invading the USSR with thousands of requisitioned White trucks, Lorraine half-tracks, Citroen trucks etc. etc.

I am not sure how the serviceability of Czech t35/t38 types compared to Pz II/III/IV, but I presume the German models to be a bit more reliable and thus in less need of spares. I think the German types consumed more fuel but I would have to look that up. By the time Panzergruppe 4 was ready to attack Leningrad, Hoeppner initially suggested that he only had enough supplies to attack with a single corps - and later this figure was cut down to just a single division. Maybe - maybe - a better situation would have obtained if he had had only German tank types in his panzer group.

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Post by Alk » 13 Oct 2006 16:53

Andreas,

I am sure I expressed myself poorly in several occasions in this thread as well.

Your axiom of "Amateurs study tactics, while professionals study logistics." is one I have heard 100 times, and it stung a bit in the way you used it. I was not trying to sound like a wargamer. As someone who has been reading university reference sources on the Eastern Front since the early 1970's, I see the issue differently than you do. I acknowledge your points, and perhaps you are on balance right, but if we all agreed on everything, this would be a boring board..

A major contention of mine is that a Panzer Division with a 2000 vehicle tail and a 15 panzer armored fist is a shocking waste of resources. It is out of balance as a strking force and cannot achieve the objectives that are intended for it. Panzer replacements were not reaching the front in the late fall and winter of 1941/42. That is a simple fact. Between the raising of new formations (21st/22nd PZ) and a steady and moderate flow of Panzer III"s/IV's to North Africa, almost no new tanks were reaching the Eastern front.

In the meantime the highly trained panzer crews had by-and-large suffered only light casualties. They had no tanks to fight in however, and large numbers fought and died as infantrymen in the snow in their black uniforms.

Since the organzations within the Panzer divisions were in place to supply, maintain and support at least 100 panzers, it simply stands to reason that if numbers of replacements were available to keep these divisions at this level (I am talking about the dozen or so divisions that were attached to AGC at this time), it would have been a net positive and not a huge logistical drain on the two panzer armies whose organizations were set up to maintain this many panzers in the first place. With the a larger Panzer manufacturing program in place, these divisions could have been at least somewhat resupplied and retained their ability to function in their envisioned combined-arms capacity. It is an interesting note that there were not large scale counter attacks against the Russian winter offensive by German armored forces. They simply didn't exist in sufficient quantity to do so. Several large German supply dumps with large amounts of fuel and ammunition were captured during this stage of the war (I can dig up this information after work I suppose), which helped maintain the Russian momemtum. With adequate mobile forces to protect these supplies and utilize their fuel and ammunition, things could possibly have turned out differently.

The 6th Panzer Division left the Leningrad front in late September 1941 to support the assault on Moscow. At least from the reference I read, ALL it's tanks were no longer operational at the time it was finally sent west. I would not doubt some were in workshops, but there were no running tanks available to assign to other units when the division entrained to the West from the Rshev sector of the front in the late winter of 1942.

I cannot rememer if it was the 6th or 1st Panzer division, but there is a interesting story about their final 35(t). It was called "Karl the Last" I believe and was of major significance to the troops of the division, and it's survival somewhat of a running joke within the division before it was destroyed near Kalinin in December 1941. All the rest had lond since succumbed to either enemy action or wear and tear. Again like the Stug driver I referenced, it is a an isolated story, but shows the level the panzer arm had fallen to by the winter of 1941/42. This was due to a lack of manufacturing capacity to replace combat and mechanical losses. How things would have been different with double or triple the number of tanks being churned out of German factories is the question I am asking.

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