Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

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Gilles de Rais
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Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by Gilles de Rais » 24 Sep 2018 16:12

It is a well known fact that German Army late in the war suffered from a chronic lack of infantry and that resulted in devastating defeats in which great number of soldiers were lost. Knowing that Ersatzheer had 2 572 000 available man in December of 1944, I wonder why this man were not sent to the front before the start of the great offensives like Bagration in June of 1944 and Vistula-Oder operation in January of 1945? If they were sent a few weeks before the start of the offensives, one or two million fresh troops might have stopped the Soviet attacks and that might have influenced the course of the war. Instead, the German High Command decided to keep them in training for a few more weeks and only send them to the front once German armies have been almost destroyed in a vain attempt to restore the frontline. Does this seem to anyone else as a strange decision? For instance, both the Soviets and the Allies had no problems sending hastily trained recruits to the front when the desperate situation demanded such action. Why didn't the Germans utilise the same approach as Soviets in 1941? Was it humanitarian concerns and unwillingness to send untrained soldiers that would suffer appaling casualties? Or was it lack of sufficient weapons and equipment for additional units? Any thoughts?

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Re: Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by Stugbit » 24 Sep 2018 17:29

Some people argue that it was the weapons and equipment shortage. That`s why the Germans were investing in their “Deus Ex Machines” like Tiger II tanks, Jadgtiger tank destroyers and such. They were trying to counter the Allied with quality superiority in armaments since they could not compete in terms of quantity.

But the main reason for the failures in 44, in my opinion, was the German Offensive against Kursk in 43. People often see Bagration isolated, but the Soviet offensives against Germany actually started in the fall of 43, against withdrawing forces of Citadel. By the winter of 43-44, they had already took many ground from the Germans.

Many people warned against an offensive in summer 43, they said it would be better to fall back the lines a little into easier to defend areas, like behind large rivers. The German high command ignored these and when the Soviet attacked, there was not a cohesive defensive line to counter their forces in many places.

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Re: Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by jesk » 24 Sep 2018 17:36

Gilles de Rais wrote:
24 Sep 2018 16:12
It is a well known fact that German Army late in the war suffered from a chronic lack of infantry and that resulted in devastating defeats in which great number of soldiers were lost. Knowing that Ersatzheer had 2 572 000 available man in December of 1944, I wonder why this man were not sent to the front before the start of the great offensives like Bagration in June of 1944 and Vistula-Oder operation in January of 1945? If they were sent a few weeks before the start of the offensives, one or two million fresh troops might have stopped the Soviet attacks and that might have influenced the course of the war. Instead, the German High Command decided to keep them in training for a few more weeks and only send them to the front once German armies have been almost destroyed in a vain attempt to restore the frontline. Does this seem to anyone else as a strange decision? For instance, both the Soviets and the Allies had no problems sending hastily trained recruits to the front when the desperate situation demanded such action. Why didn't the Germans utilise the same approach as Soviets in 1941? Was it humanitarian concerns and unwillingness to send untrained soldiers that would suffer appaling casualties? Or was it lack of sufficient weapons and equipment for additional units? Any thoughts?
These are original ways to save the situation. For example, it was suggested that more Russians be used in the fight against the Germans. Hitler's racism did not allow this. Wrote in other topics about the problems with the distribution of divisions by area. In 1945, apart from Hitler, there were no people wishing to defend Italy, Norway and Courland. Hitler had no arguments for keeping the Germans there. With his authority, he was able to rape the Germans until the end of the war.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by Sid Guttridge » 24 Sep 2018 17:43

Hi Gilles,

The fact that 2.5 million men were in Erstazheer depots in December 1944 does not mean they were fit for combat.

The role of the Ersatzheer (Replacement Army) was to turn out trained replacements for combat losses, not to send untrained cannon fodder to the front.

The role of its staff was to train them, not to fight themselves. In Iraq, one US commander commented that to send training cadres to the front was like "eating your own seed corn". The same applied to sending the Ersatzheer training staff to the front en masse. Once they were gone, there would be no expertise left to train more troops.

The Ersatzheer therefore necessarily contained millions of men giving training or being trained until near the very end of the war.

Early in the war low losses meant that the Field Army grew beyond the capacity of the Ersatzheer to replace losses in a more serious campaign, especially, as you note, amongst the infantry. This was exposed at the outbreak of the Eastern Front in mid-1944. General Fromm (head of the Ersatzheer) estimated that he had five months of trained replacements available, but it turned out that the Ostheer suffered such high losses that they were all allocated within two months! Thereafter the Ersatzheer had serious problems providing sufficient replacements. Fromm was so worried that as early as the winter of 1941/42 he suggested that a compromise peace be reached with the USSR!

Furthermore, the quality of the replacements fell because many older men who had missed conscription in the 1920s and early 1930s had to be called up and the Ersatzheer was expected from 1942 to provide Reserve Divisions for occupation duties in East and West, while still training their manpower. Counter-insurgency operations increasingly disrupted Reserve Division training to the point that the Ostheer had to set up its own field training divisions to complete the inadequate instruction provided by them before passing the men on to its own front line divisions.

After July 1944, Himmler replaced Fromm as head of the Ersatzheer and ever more demands were made for manpower. This probably accounts for the 2.5 million men in the Ersatzheer at the end of 1944.

In 1945 more and more desperate calls were made to send men with incomplete training to the front and in the last couple of months the entire Ersatzheer was dissolved in the "March of the East and West Goths". It is no accident that nearly half German combat losses in the war took place after Himmler took over the Ersatzheer, when the quality, duration and completeness of training plummeted.

Cheers,

Sid.

P.S. I don't know about Army Group Centre, but the German infantry divisions in Romania did receive significant reinforcement in the middle of 1944. However, at the same time most panzer and PzGr divisions were withdrawn. The result was a catastrophe. Simply sending infantry to the front in numbers was clearly not an adequate of itself in an age of mechanized warfare.

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Re: Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by Richard Anderson » 24 Sep 2018 18:23

The Ersatzheer breakdown as of 1 September 1944 was:

680,745 Wehrmacht and OT personnel in headquarters, administration, ordnance, veterinary, and medical organizations, cadre in replacement and training units, school personnel, and regional security units (237,886 alone)

452,467 were Wehrmacht replacements including convalescents not assigned to units
30,414 were OT replacements including convalescents not assigned to units

161,377 were Wehrmacht convalescents in units
17,079 were OT convalescents in units

657,910 were Wehrmacht in hospitals

27.304 were Wehrmacht on work leave (critical personnel released from front service)

110,677 were administrative overhead including officers, civilians, and technical specialists
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

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Re: Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by Richard Anderson » 24 Sep 2018 19:01

Sorry, I meant to add the Ersatzheer delivered 225,000 replacements in units or as individuals during September 1944, so about one third those in the replacement and convalescent pools as of 1 September.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Art
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Re: Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by Art » 24 Sep 2018 19:04

Richard Anderson wrote:
24 Sep 2018 18:23
452,467 were Wehrmacht replacements including convalescents not assigned to units
30,414 were OT replacements including convalescents not assigned to units
Rather 452 467 replacements at home and 30 414 outside Reich (Heimat and bes.Geb. in the original document)
110,677 were administrative overhead including officers, civilians, and technical specialists
Officers, officials and sonderfuhrers. Also 127 685 civil workers and employees.

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Re: Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by Art » 24 Sep 2018 19:14

For comparison on 11 February 1944 Ersatzheer reported 2.9 mln men on strength, including more than 150 000 civil workers and employees.
Of them:
342 962 in static units, services and HQs
306 701 in security troops in Germany
323 251 permanent personnel in training, replacement and school units
960 244 in reserve, including:
- 541 000 recruits and replacements
- 182 000 convalescents
- 129 000 hospitalized men fit for garrison duty
- 88 000 officer and NCO candidates in schools, men at training courses, in prisons etc.
- 20 000 recruits for the 21 Welle divisions
258 401 convalescents in convalescent units
628 211 wounded and sick in hospitals
85 822 medical personnel in hospitals

so only 650 000 were immediately available for assignment to the front. Others were hospitalized men of convalescents or permanent personnel of the EH.

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Re: Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by Richard Anderson » 24 Sep 2018 19:18

Art wrote:
24 Sep 2018 19:04
Richard Anderson wrote:
24 Sep 2018 18:23
452,467 were Wehrmacht replacements including convalescents not assigned to units
30,414 were OT replacements including convalescents not assigned to units
Rather 452 467 replacements at home and 30 414 outside Reich (Heimat and bes.Geb. in the original document)
110,677 were administrative overhead including officers, civilians, and technical specialists
Officers, officials and sonderfuhrers. Also 127 685 civil workers and employees.
Thanks Art, I wondered about that. I was going by the original HERO translation instead of trying to dig out a copy of the original. It makes more sense.

One thing that many miss is that for most of the war a large part of the Ersatzheer was occupied in a dual roll, training and replacement in the Grossreich, but also training and replacements in occupied territories. Until July 1944 IIRC, the Reserve-Divisionen in France and other areas were administratively part of the Ersatzheer...those in France only came under Feldheer control in all respects when the Allies invaded. So they made up a large part of the German occupation forces.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by Sid Guttridge » 24 Sep 2018 19:40

Many of the others were engaged in necessary military duties.

For example, the Danish Baltic islands, including Copenhagen, were largely garrisoned by Ersatzheer convalescent battalions (one from each territorial wehrkreis). Their men were in an advanced state of recovery and went from there back to the front.

The Ersatzheer also provided the guards for POW camps. These were mostly older men, who presumably comprised most of those down as "security troops in Germany".

The best Ersatzheer troops were the lehr (demonstration) units of each ground arm - infantry, panzer, artillery, engineers, signals, reconnaissance, etc., etc. Their role was to be the first recipients of new weaponry and to develop the tactics for their use. The officers were recent front line veterans. However, lehr units of various arms served in almost every campaign. For example, the lehr signals unit was deployed to Spain in the 1930s during its civil war, the lehr reconnaissance battalion was attached to Guderian's corps during the Polish Campaign and several lehr heavy artillery units were rushed to the Anzio bridgehead in early 1944. The Panzerlehr Division had similar origins and there are other examples besides.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by Sid Guttridge » 24 Sep 2018 19:50

Hi Richard,

I mentioned the Reserve divisions above. They served on dual occupation/training duties in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Northern Italy, the Balkans, Denmark, Poland and the USSR. However, their security duties were very disruptive of their training functions and they got involved in major operations up to near divisional level, such as during the occupation of Vichy France, and against partisans behind the Eastern Front and in Poland. As a result, the Ostheer set up Field Training Divisions to finish the instruction that the Reserve Divisions were distracted from due to their security duties.

Sid.

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Re: Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by jesk » 25 Sep 2018 05:32

The outcome of the war was decided in the selected area. There had to 70% of forces are concentrated. In reality, barely 30%. It to that, Kesselring and Dönitz have hurried with capitulation. Hitler has deceived them. Loss of the central regions of Germany didn't mean defeat in war. For May 1, 1945 still 7,59 million people were registered in armed forces of Germany. Very much there is a lot of for decision-making all of them to hand over it...

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Last edited by jesk on 25 Sep 2018 05:44, edited 1 time in total.

jesk
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Re: Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by jesk » 25 Sep 2018 05:42

Without Hitler, the occupation of Germany was not possible. Under normal conditions, Germany is completely immune from any external aggression.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by Sid Guttridge » 25 Sep 2018 13:37

Hi Jesk,

Did Gustavus Adolphus and Napoleon know that?

Sid.

Gilles de Rais
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Re: Ersatzheer and German peacemeal strategy

Post by Gilles de Rais » 25 Sep 2018 14:44

Sid Guttridge wrote:
24 Sep 2018 17:43
Hi Gilles,

The fact that 2.5 million men were in Erstazheer depots in December 1944 does not mean they were fit for combat.

The role of the Ersatzheer (Replacement Army) was to turn out trained replacements for combat losses, not to send untrained cannon fodder to the front.

The role of its staff was to train them, not to fight themselves. In Iraq, one US commander commented that to send training cadres to the front was like "eating your own seed corn". The same applied to sending the Ersatzheer training staff to the front en masse. Once they were gone, there would be no expertise left to train more troops.

The Ersatzheer therefore necessarily contained millions of men giving training or being trained until near the very end of the war.

Early in the war low losses meant that the Field Army grew beyond the capacity of the Ersatzheer to replace losses in a more serious campaign, especially, as you note, amongst the infantry. This was exposed at the outbreak of the Eastern Front in mid-1944. General Fromm (head of the Ersatzheer) estimated that he had five months of trained replacements available, but it turned out that the Ostheer suffered such high losses that they were all allocated within two months! Thereafter the Ersatzheer had serious problems providing sufficient replacements. Fromm was so worried that as early as the winter of 1941/42 he suggested that a compromise peace be reached with the USSR!

Furthermore, the quality of the replacements fell because many older men who had missed conscription in the 1920s and early 1930s had to be called up and the Ersatzheer was expected from 1942 to provide Reserve Divisions for occupation duties in East and West, while still training their manpower. Counter-insurgency operations increasingly disrupted Reserve Division training to the point that the Ostheer had to set up its own field training divisions to complete the inadequate instruction provided by them before passing the men on to its own front line divisions.

After July 1944, Himmler replaced Fromm as head of the Ersatzheer and ever more demands were made for manpower. This probably accounts for the 2.5 million men in the Ersatzheer at the end of 1944.

In 1945 more and more desperate calls were made to send men with incomplete training to the front and in the last couple of months the entire Ersatzheer was dissolved in the "March of the East and West Goths". It is no accident that nearly half German combat losses in the war took place after Himmler took over the Ersatzheer, when the quality, duration and completeness of training plummeted.

Cheers,

Sid.

P.S. I don't know about Army Group Centre, but the German infantry divisions in Romania did receive significant reinforcement in the middle of 1944. However, at the same time most panzer and PzGr divisions were withdrawn. The result was a catastrophe. Simply sending infantry to the front in numbers was clearly not an adequate of itself in an age of mechanized warfare.
Hi Sid

Thanks on detailed reply. I totally agree that Ersatzheer troops were not totally fit for combat, which I mentioned in my post, but you should also consider the fact that Germany was facing a totally desperate situation in January 1945. It was about to face the invasion of its core territories and it would lose half of its eastern provinces, with its Eastern population suffering murders, rapes, pillaging and expulsions for years. The Western part would be dismembered in four occupation zones and millions of German POW's would be shipped to camps in Soviet Union and France (where great part of them would be killed). I think such desperate situation justifies desperate measures (with or without Hitler and the Nazis, as the vast majority of German victims were common soldiers and civilians and many Nazis later led comfortable lives).

I was reading lately about the mass suicides in Germany in 1945 and I was wondering at the desperation and defeatism of the population of the Eastern Germany in particular. For instance, in Demmin, almost one thousand people prefered to commit suicide rather then offer resistance to the invading Red Army. Similar cases happened in smaller degree all over Germany. Wasn't it more logical for all those people and all those soldiers who surrendered to the Red Army (and who later died in SIberia) to fight against the invaders and at least give some meaning to their deaths by offering some resistance? Possibly millions of German soldiers and civilians (estimates are conflicting of course and I dont' claim they are totally true) died after the war ended and in January 1945 all those man might have been at the Vistula front defending their country against the Red Army. Soviets had 2 203 600 man in that offensive and I simply can't comprehend why more man were not available for combat in that offensive which practically decided the fate of Germany (after that line was breached any defence of Germany was impossible). Soviets were not unbeatable at the tactical level even late in the war (as battles like Lauban and Bautzen nicely demonstrate) and they faced their own shortages of manpower, so German High Command behaviour is simply incomprehensible.

Your comparision of the German situation with the American in Iraq is not really in place as the US in 2007 wasn't facing an invasion by the Iraqi Islamists and was leading an offensive war. If al-Qaida was to invade US and threaten NYC and Washington, I don't think US High Command would have doubts about sending untrained recruits to defend their country.

Also, the case of Romania is also not good example, as German Army was fighting in a foreign country and far away from its supply lines. In January of 1945 In East Prussia for example, Germans would be defending hundreds of small towns and villages which could be used as strong-points for resistance, even after the Soviet armored thrusts have pierced the main defensive line. Of course, presuming the defenders were supplied with sufficient ammunition to hold on to ther positions. Strong infantry forces armed with anti-tank weapons could deal a blow to the Soviets in such context even without Panzer divisions.

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