Studies on the use of railways for military operations started almost immediately after the end of the war by organizations such as the United States Foreign Military Studies program, which conducted interviews with former German military transportation officers such as Bork1 and Teske and supply officers such as Toppe,2 but these concentrated both on the German viewpoint and that of military officers, not railwaymen. On the transport side, the railwaymen’s story was told by railway officials such as Kreidler,3 Pottsgeisser,4 and Hahn and post-war historians such as Gottwaldt,6 and Mierzejewski,7 which by and large told a story of a struggle to overcome technical difficulties posed by a ramshackle, old-fashioned, and low-capacity Soviet railway network. This lead has been followed by modern historians such as van Creveld,8 Schuler,9 Addington,10 and the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt11 in the very few studies that have been conducted into German logistics during the Russian war.
Yet this picture sits at variance both with the extensive Soviet literature on logistics by authors such as Kumenev,12 Kovalev13 and Antipenko,14 and Western studies of the Soviet transportation network by economists such as Holland Hunter15 and Mark Harrison16 and students of the Soviet railways such as the former British Army officers Westwood17 and Garbutt.18. Both sets of sources tell the story of a highly successful railway system that before the war carried almost as much freight traffic as the United States and accomplished this using a rolling stock fleet and length of track only a little larger than that of the pre-war Reichsbahn.
The aim of this article is to reconcile these opposing views, explaining how railways played a major role in the Russo-German War and how the Soviets gained an advantage over the Germans in transport capacity.
The military has used railways in three distinct ways — firstly to achieve rapid mobilization of their armies by moving them and their supplies from depots in the interior to the border; secondly to move units at the operational and strategic levels; and lastly to provide a direct link between the field armies and the home country to provide supplies, replacements, and leave trains. Railways were capable of moving vast amounts of soldiers and materiel over long distances and speedily at a low operating cost. However, they were a unique form of transportation because the track imposed tight constraints on its operation, as the vehicles were forced to remain on it at all times. Unlike all other forms of transport, railways had to build their infrastructure in advance to meet their operational and capacity needs. While this may seem obvious, this simple fact seems to have escaped the notice of many military commanders down through history, and the successful operation of military railway networks was usually accomplished when railwaymen were left to run the railways free from military interference. Military abuses included abandoning schedules, forwarding supplies before they were needed, failing to unload trains upon arrival, using rolling stock and sidings as mobile warehouses and offices (so reducing capacity and blocking tracks), and commandeering trains. This was demonstrated during the first railway war, the American Civil War, when after a year of war service under military control, the Union railways were in crisis and were taken in hand by a civil engineer called Hermann Haupt. He restored discipline to their operation by the imposition of some basic operating rules.
No officer, no surgeon or assistant, no paymaster, quartermaster or commissary, no person civil or military, whatever his rank or position, shall have the right to detain a train or order it to run in advance of the scheduled time. If cars are not unloaded or trains made up when the hour of starting arrives, engines must proceed with parts of trains or without trains and all the facts in detail must be reported in writing by the conductor to be laid before the chief of transportation or the commanding general of the department. (Hermann Haupt, June 1862)19
This basic lesson would have to be re-learned time and again, as the British discovered to their cost in 1916 when military transport was restored by another railwayman, Sir Eric Geddes, who went from the rank of railway manager to Major-General of Military Railways in the space of just three days.20
Gauge, loading gauge, and track strength
There were two types of gauge — ‘track gauge’, which was the width between the tracks, and the ‘loading gauge’, which was the volume occupied by the rolling stock and determined the size of tunnels, station overhangs, and how close other equipment could be placed to the track. At the start of the railway age, a wide variety of gauges were used — for instance, in Russia the first track laid between St. Petersburg and Tsarskoye Selo in 1834 by Austrian engineers used a 6-foot gauge; the second between St. Petersburg and Moscow in 1843 by US Major J. Whistler, who chose a 5-foot gauge, and the third, which connected Warsaw with Vienna in 1845, used Standard gauge of 4 feet 8¾ inches so that the trains could run on the Austrian network. Contrary to popular myth, the Russian 5-foot gauge was chosen simply because it was fashionable at that particular time and was the same gauge used across most of the Southern States in America. As a flat country with few tunnels, Russia was unique in having a generous loading gauge, but this meant that even when re-gauged, Soviet wagons would not fit onto German railways, and loads had to be trans-shipped at the Polish border. The standardization across Europe on 4’8 3/4” gauge only occurred once networks started to link up, and during this process there have been a number of instances when a gauge was altered to match that of a neighbor. In 1886, the 18,500-km 5’ network of the Southern States was altered to 4’9” in just 36 hours with much of the rolling stock converted at the same time. Similarly, in 1915 following the capture of Poland, German railway engineers altered 6,000 km of 5’ gauge over to the European standard in a matter of months.
Steam engines required facilities called locomotive sheds or depots (Bahnbetriebswerk or Bw or локомотивное депо) to maintain them in regular operation. These covered facilities provided supplies of coal, water, sand, grease, maintenance and washing facilities, and a turntable or ‘Wye’ track to turn locomotives round, with only a quarter of the locomotives left out on open track overnight. Locomotives would operate between their home depot and the next depot 80 km down the line, refilling with water before returning home. The important fact to note is that while the ‘train’ moved continuously down the line, steam locomotives stayed in their particular section of track, and the capacity of the line was determined by the number of locomotives at each depot. To raise the overall capacity of a line, a new locomotive needed to be deployed at each depot along the line, and the facilities at the depot were an important determiner of capacity.
A train comprised a number of passenger carriages, goods wagons or specialist wagons, and a brake van, and during a day’s travel it would have a number of different engines. Soviet trains were 120 axles long, which gave a gross weight of 1,200 tonnes for the rolling stock and cargo or a net weight of 650 tonnes of cargo. Typically this was 60 two-axle goods wagons, each carrying 10–15 tonnes of cargo, 40 men or eight horses. German military trains were smaller at 90 axles long with a gross weight of 850 tonnes and a net cargo load of 450 tonnes in a series of standardized military trains (I Type: 26 flatcars, 28 goods vans, one brake van carrying 350 men, 20 vehicles, and 70 horses) so that an Infanterie Division could be carried by 70 trains or a Panzer Division in 90.
The capacity of a particular line was the number of trains that could run down its length both up and down, usually given as 12 pairs of trains a day for single lines or 24 pairs of trains for double track lines for restored military railways. However, double-track lines run by the Reichsbahn in Germany might achieve 72 or 144 train pairs a day; the difference was due to the number of sidings that allowed trains to pass one another and the complexity of the signaling equipment. Each length of track was divided up into ‘blocks’ of varying lengths, which had a signal post at either end and a siding to allow trains to pass each other. The rule was that only one train was allowed into each block at a time, and at a rate of 12 pairs a day, this represented a train passing a block once every hour. For higher-capacity lines, the sidings and blocks were more numerous, but a key element of capacity was the running speed of trains. An express train traveling at high speed down a length of track would need to pass slower passenger trains and the even slower freight trains, each of which would need to move into a siding before the express entered the block. While some effort was made to separate traffic during the course of the day, so that most freight ran at night and passenger services ran during the day, this was not always possible, and a key determiner of capacity was the difference in speeds between the services. The Reichsbahn ran trains at a wide variety of speeds, with its freight trains traveling at 50 km/hour, but this required complex signaling and track architecture, and it also needed strong track to withstand the buffeting from trains, as wear and tear increased exponentially, the faster the speed of the trains. The NKPS avoided these issues because it ran almost all its trains at a uniform speed, typically 25 km/hour.
Reichsverkehrsministerium in the Russian campaign
The Reichsverkehrsministerium (Ministry of Transport, or RVM) under Julius Dorpmüller was largely concerned with the railway lines that were run in Germany by the Reichsbahn and in occupied countries by a variety of military organizations and independent companies such as the Generaldirektion der Ostbahn (Gedob) in the Government General in Poland. Following the French Campaign, there was friction between the RVM and the Chef des Transportwesens (Head of OKW Transport), which prompted changes for the forthcoming Russian campaign, as Major General Gercke formed his own railway operating units, Feldeisenbahn-Direktion (Field Railway Direction, or FED), one for each Heeresgruppe, from drafted railwaymen under military officers — the Graueisenbahner. For this campaign, the rear area of the armies was to be kept very narrow, as little as 200 km behind the front line, with Reichskommissariats set up to administer and exploit the captured territories, and in this area the RVM was to set up new operating companies or Haupteisenbahndirektion (Main Railway Direction, or HBD) using Reichsbahn staff. The FED were formed in March 1941 and the HBD in July 1941, but this rapid deployment meant that both were short of staff, lacking equipment, and totally without experience. HBD Mitte set up in Brest with only 60 men, a shortage of qualified officials, and no equipment, including the vital telephones needed to run the railway. There were no route maps, timetables, or station information so that locomotives had to be sent out for several days in each direction to explore the network. In September the SS shot the entire printing staff of the HBD as part of a Jewish progrom.21
Narodnyi Kommissariat Putei Soobshchenia (Narkomput or NKPS)
In 1913 the Tsarist railway network spanned 71,000 km (excluding Finland), but the loss of territory during the war reduced the Soviet railways to just 58,000 km in 1921, with worn-out tracks and rolling stock or damage from the war, revolution, and civil war. Restoration of the network proceeded from 1923 under the Narodnyi Kommissariat Putei Soobshchenia (NKPS; People’s Commissariat of Means of Communication), which was responsible for the railways, roads, and waterways. Nonetheless, by 1926, the railways had recovered sufficiently to carry traffic to pre-war levels, and by 1928 the network had expanded to 76,900 km; the rolling stock fleet and level of investment were both back to the 1913 level (which was 18 percent to 20 percent of the total economic investment), but the accident rate had doubled.22 All this had been accomplished by a management with a high proportion of technical specialists from the old Tsarist regime, such as the deputy Narkom I. N. Borisov, former Deputy Minister of Transport under Tsar Nicholas. By 1927, they were advocating a complete reconstruction and modernization of the technically backward railways in line with the latest European and American thinking.
1928 saw the start of the First Five-Year Plan, which had at its heart a huge expansion of railway traffic to meet the burgeoning demands of the new heavy industries, without any additional investment and instead utilizing ‘hidden reserves’ and ‘socialist methods of working’ to achieve the increases. The resulting conflict saw the technical specialists purged between 1928 and 1931 and repression imposed on the railway workers, and as the accident rate soared, this was inevitably blamed on ‘wreckers’, resulting in the NKPS being increasingly militarized from 1927 along lines similar to the Red Army. Yet despite all this, freight traffic doubled during the Five-Year Plan from 81,650 x 106 ton km in 1927 to 169,270 x 106 ton km in 1932.23 Toward the end of the Plan period, the railways were clearly in crisis, and some level of additional capital investment was required, which was provided between 1934 and 1936 but never as much as was promised or required. Instead Lazar Kaganovich was appointed as Narkom in 1935, and although he fought hard to gain further investment in the teeth of opposition from GOSPLAN, he instigated widespread efficiency reforms and encouraged the rise of the Stakhanovite-Krivonosite Movement. Given the political climate in 1937, there were widespread purges throughout the railways,24 starting with the technical specialists or ‘Limiters’ but spreading to include the entire workforce, from 13 deputy Narkoms and 64 line directors to tens of thousands of ordinary workers. Its scope was as wide as that in the Red Army; every one of the 39 lines had its director arrested, some as many as four times in 18 months.25 The engine driver Krivonos from the Donetsk Line ended up as a line director in two years and an important wartime leader.26 Nonetheless, freight traffic grew to 370,500 x 106 ton km by 1938 — a fourfold increase in just 10 years — while investment as a proportion of the whole economy fell from 19 percent to 13 percent.27
It is important to understand how the NKPS produced these results, as they used the same methods during the war. Hunter27 postulates that the increase in traffic between 1928 and 1940 was 140 percent, of which only 10 percent can be assigned to the increase in network size, 15 percent from a larger, more powerful engine fleet and 42 percent from an increased number of freight cars, while the remaining 73 percent is assigned to increased worker productivity through the Stakonovite movement with higher utilization of rolling stock, reduced unloading times, shorter periods in sorting yards, and customers returning rolling stock promptly. The network increase was small, with the main addition being the 17,000 km added after 1939 from territorial acquisitions, while the main effort was on improving existing lines. These improvements were spread across a small number of lines principally linking the USSR’s four main regions of economic activity, the Donets Basin, Moscow, Leningrad, and the Urals-Kuznetsh Kombinat with Über-magistrale(super trunk lines), which carried one-third of the traffic on just 10 percent of the network. Soviet magistrales had stronger track and used the new FD and IS locomotives, hauling heavy-unit trains with a gross weight of 3,000 tonnes with a single type of cargo, directly from the source to the destination, such as the coal trains running from Donets Basin to Moscow/Leningrad.
Despite the uneven development of the network, the USSR had some of the most intensively used track in the world: In 1930 it had 1,738,000 ton-km per km compared to 1,608,000 for the United States. This was achieved by running the railway at a low uniform speed (29 km/hour in 1934), which eliminated delays from trains overtaking one another, reduced track wear, and allowed large numbers of trains to be run on the same stretch of track with primitive signaling. The low axle loading of engines (Э class 17 tonnes 28) and wagons (1934 — 15-tonne load for a two-axle wagon) allowed them to travel around most of the network, and their low load carrying was mitigated by using longer trains. All of these characteristics were ideal for operating railways in areas of military operations.
European knowledge of the Soviet railway network
Given that the Soviet railways were not of a standard European type by 1941, a knowledge of their characteristics would be essential for any force operating over them. Fortunately, railways were chosen as an exemplar of the achievements of socialism, so knowledge about them was widespread. The July 1938 issue of СССР на стройке [USSR in Construction]29 was devoted to NKPS and was published in English, German, French, and Spanish. In 1932 the Soviet railway economist K. N. Tverskoi wrote a detailed account (The Unified Transport System of the USSR30), again published in both Great Britain and the United States. Since railways were an international business, there were regular exchanges of information in journals such as the prestigious Archiv für Eisenbahnwesens, which featured regular articles on the USSR and included authors such as Dr. Otto Wehde-Textor, who lived in Minsk and regularly drew on Soviet publications. It is noticeable that the flow of information reduced with the growth of repression; nonetheless, Wehde-Textor was able to write about the 1937/1938 traffic results31 from Soviet sources, and in 1940 he accurately described the condition of the Polish occupied railways32 and those of the Baltic States.
There were other sources of information available: In 1922 the NKPS placed orders for 700 E Class engines with 22 German manufacturers and 500 with a Swedish one, so the German industry was well aware of the characteristics of Soviet engines, since the E Class remained the USSR’s main freight engine well into the 1950s. German geographers such as Col. Prof. Ritter Oskar von Niedermayer traveled extensively throughout the southern regions of the USSR and wrote extensively between the wars33, 34 on a wide range of geopolitical matters, including railways.
However the evidence across Europe is that the experts underestimated the NKPS, as illustrated by Paul Wohl writing in 1946, ‘The poor condition of the Soviet railroads, Berlin then thought, would make it impossible for the Red Army to manoeuvre and to receive reinforcements and supplies’,35 and this would contribute to the collapse of the Soviet state. The Polish author A. Piotrowski from the Eastern European Institute in October 193936 fully expected the over-stretched railways to collapse on the outbreak of war as they had no reserves.
Even though railway economists had a partial picture of Soviet railways, this information did not filter through to the military. In 1940 the Heer (German Army) planners asked the Reichsbahn liaison for information on Russian railways and was told that it did not possess such information, as they had never been told that the Soviet Union was a target, so local information had to be gathered by the FED in Poland, and there was a total lack of knowledge of the network, even which stations existed and none about operating procedures, facilities, or timetables.37
Poland is central to our understanding of the railway situation during the Russo-German War, as up to June 1941, Prussia/Germany had always fought her wars against enemies who were contiguous with her own frontiers, such as France and Austria. When Poland was broken up in late 1939, the Reich remained separated from the original 1921 border of the Soviet Union by a patchwork of different capacity railways over a distance of 750 km. East Prussia, as part of the Reich, was serviced by the Reichsbahn with a largely agricultural traffic, while the area of Congress Poland became the Government General with its own small railway company, Generaldirektion der Ostbahn (Gedob) to provide Hans Frank’s state with an income. To the east was an area between the Curzon Line and the 1921 border, known by the Polish word Kresy [borderland], a poor agricultural region with undeveloped railways, which the Poles had seen as a defensive bulwark against Soviet aggression by tearing up the Tsarist double-tracked lines running to Moscow and St. Petersburg for a distance of 70 km behind the border. Under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, this area and the Baltic States were placed in the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union, together with the old Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia including the city of Lemberg (L’vov), which retained its excellent railways.
On the German side of the new border (the Curzon Line with alterations), the railways running eastwards across the Vistula were quite limited, from north to south:
Four tracks led across the Danzig corridor into East Prussia, three with 36 and one with 12 train pairs a day; from Warsaw, the Bialystok track carried 24 and the Minsk track 18 train pairs a day; the Radom to Brest line ran 12 trains and the Kattowitz to Lemberg line 24, giving a total capacity of 198 train pairs a day..38 This did not meet the mobilization needs for Operation Barbarossa, so in April 1940 the Reichsbahn started the Otto Program to upgrade the tracks using 30,000 workers and 300,000 tonnes of steel from the Heer allocation.39
This produced eight trunk lines from north to south: VII Berlin–Danzig–Lublin–Rowne–Kiev: 24 train pairs a day; II Berlin–Konigsberg 72; IV Berlin–Insterburg: 72 trains; VIII Stettin–Vitebsk: 24 trains; III Warsaw–Bialystok: 48 trains; V Warsaw–Lida: 48 trains; I Prague–Deblin–Brest: 36 trains; VI Cracow–Lemburg–Tarnopol: 72 trains — a total of 396 on the border and 468 on the Vistula.
Heeresgruppe Nord was supported by lines II, IV, and VIII passing through Reichsbahndirektion Königsberg (168 trains), while Heeresgruppe Mitte and Sud were supported by the remaining lines (228 trains), which were operated by Gedob.40 However, this assumed that Gedob could handle such a volume of traffic, as in January 1941 the Heer requested 130 trains daily, but only 80 actually ran.41
The Red Army occupied the Kresy on 17 September 1939 in a poorly executed operation and immediately started to move forward the military installations from the Military Districts into this zone; at the same time as the NKVD started to deport the local population from the new border into the interior of the USSR. One of the tasks of the NKPS was to alter the 4,900 km of single and 1,800 km of double track from Polish Standard to Soviet Union gauge; however, the capture of 2,000 working locomotives and 120,000 wagons allowed the NKPS to run a standard gauge service using the existing border trans-shipment points. This task was complicated by further annexations in the Baltics, Finland, and Bessarabia, which resulted in the size of the NKPS network rising from 84,950 in 1938 to 106,102 km by the end of 1940.
Traffic densities were low, 2 million ton-km/km, the track and rolling stock old and worn — except for the network around L’vov (Lemberg), which carried 5 million ton-km/km.42 Coupled with the demands of the German-Soviet Commercial Agreements that saw deliveries of 1,558,000 tonnes of freight during 1940,43 this combination of factors delayed conversion of the Polish network. In July 1940 the Chief of Military Communications of the Red Army (VOSO) drew up a schedule for military trains for 1941 44 of 310 trains a day (5–6 Rifle Divisions), while he believed that Germany, Hungary, and Romania had a capacity of 650 trains (9–11 Infantry Divisions). This schedule used Leningrad (ЛВО), Baltic (ПРИБОВО), Western Special (ЗОВО), Kovel (КОВО), and Odessa (ОДВО) railways, and the Minsk to Brest line was rated for 72 train pairs a day (36 operational, six mobilization, six supply, and 24 economic). But in February 1941, the Central Committee was still planning to start rail construction throughout the region to upgrade track and junctions involving 128,000 workers and spending 230 million rubles,45 and it is clear that much of the capacity assumed in 1940 still did not exist. The main Minsk line was only 30 trains a day, being raised to 48 by 1942. Similarly the Kowel railway was performing poorly in the summer of 1941 because three sections of track remained in Standard gauge.46 It is clear that a mirror image of the Otto Program had not happened on the Soviet side of the border and that capacity was around half that on the German side with the ‘Polish Gap’ of low railway capacity stretching from Brest to Minsk.
Military fundamentals: The importance of railways to military operations
German supply and transportation
At the heart of German military philosophy was the idea of an encirclement battle of annihilation or Kesselschlacht. In the period from 1866 to 1914, the way in which this was achieved was by rapid mobilization to the border utilizing railways, followed by a march of up to 500 km outflanking the enemy army. Maximizing the amount carried on the soldiers by using food concentrates such as Erbswurst and biscuits, carrying extra supplies on train wagons as a rolling magazine, and requisitioning from local towns allowed an unsupported advance for a period of over three weeks.47 Behind the army, the supply train would set up a line of depots or Kreigs-Etappenwesen 48 to deliver supplies to the army from the border and administer the local area so that further supplies could be drawn from enemy territory. In reality the advance was so fast that it rapidly outdistanced the supply trains, which would only catch up after the decisive battle; however, they would be able to supply the army for the pursuit phase of the war and bring it to its conclusion.49
From August 1939 supply of the armies onwards from the railheads was assigned to OKH department of the Generalquartiermeister under Major General Eduard Wagner, while railway transport for all the armed services was assigned to the OKW department of the Chef des Transportwesens under Major General Rudolf Gercke. This was a relatively small organization with a staff in Germany, Generals des Transportwesens (Commander of Transport Services), with the field armies and small posts at railways stations, junctions, and railheads, while the Eisenbahnpioniere (Railway Engineers) were a branch of the Pioneers. This structure provided little connection between the field armies and the railway network during the period of active campaigning, so during the French campaign the railways had the role of delivering the army to its mobilization areas and thereafter Wagner supplied the army from forward depots on the border using motor transport. In order to support the Panzer Divisions in particular, Wagner had the Grosstransportraum of long-distance, heavy lorries to bridge the gap before the railways were restored to working order by the Eisenbahnpioniere. This restoration took longer than the active campaign, and there were conflicts and long delays in handing over the railways from Eisenbahnpioniere to the Reichsbahn during the Polish and French campaigns. In essence, despite the advent of motor transport, German military thought still assigned a low priority to logistics and concentrated on the operational factors needed in order to win the decisive battle quickly and so obviate the need for an extensive supply service.
Development of Russian logistics
Russian interest in logistics started after the disastrous Crimean War 1854, when it proved difficult to project military force outside of the central Imperial heartland. The experience of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 at Kars and Plevna and of the long series of colonial campaigns in the Caucasus and Central Asia50 showed that the Russian military had learned how to conduct operations well beyond their borders. In 1878, the Russian army had to march through the undeveloped southwestern Ukraine and through Romania, both of which only had low-grade, single-track lines of different gauges, and the railway troops had to upgrade these lines and add a second Union gauge track to the Romanian lines to allow through traffic. To shorten the supply lines, they built a 285-km new line from Bucharest in 100 days using 15,000 laborers, and several other smaller lines, a feat that exceeded the Prussian failed attempt build a railway line to circumvent the fortress of Metz in 1871.51 Likewise the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 may have ended in defeat, but the fact remains that a substantial military effort was achieved at a great distance from the Russian heartland.
Glavnogo upravleniia tyla Krasnoi Armii (The Main Directorate of the Rear of the Red Army)
The Soviet concept of the tyl (the Rear) was of a nation in arms, where every sector of society, agriculture, and industry was harnessed for the supply of the front. However, the Purges and the experience of Khalkhin Gol, the occupation of Poland, and the Winter War had demonstrated the major weakness in logistics support of the Red Army and left it split among four commands. With the supply and transport services overwhelmed by the German attack in June 1941, on 28 July the Chief Intendant A. V. Khrulev went to put a proposal to Comrade Stalin.
Since November 1939 he had been in discussion with a Red Professor, Head of Red Army Supply in the 1920s and former Chief Quartermaster to the Imperial Army Major General K.E. Goretskii,52 who drew up a scheme for a centralized logistics structure for the Red Army using as evidence the 1914 Imperial Army’s Regulations for Supply. Despite the fact that the proposal came from a former Technical Specialist and harked back to Tsarist days, Stalin approved it against the advice of the Chief of the General Staff, General G. K. Zhukov, who would be shortly removed from his post.
No doubt Khrulev’s background as a Bolshevik factory organizer in St. Petersburg, where he met Voroshilov, his Civil War service as a political commissar in the 1st Cavalry Army, and his long service in the Intendant’s service counted despite being purged in 1937. So on 1 August 1941 GKO Secret Order No.0257 formed the Main Directorate of the Rear of the Red Army and ‘Headquarters of the Rear’ at Fronts and Armies, which provided for a small central staff to coordinate the activities of seven existing, independent directorates concerned with supply, transport, and medical care. The success of the Rear came from its monopoly of transport through центральное управление военных сообщений ВОСО КА (Central Directorate of Military Communications Red Army VOSO) so that even organizations outside of its control, such as the Main Artillery Directorate GAU, had to operate through it. The effectiveness of this approach was enhanced on 25 March 1942 when Khrulev replaced Kaganovich as Narkom of the NKPS, and at that point in German terms, Khrulev combined the roles of Gercke, Wagner, Dorpmüller, and aspects of Speer’s economic brief.
The Red Army now had a fully integrated modern logistical organization, while the German one was fractured into individual services with little coordination between them. Just as importantly, the Soviet concept of supply was radically different from the German/European model of ‘demand from below’, where Divisional staffs sent requisitions up to Army supply officers to refill to standard levels, which resulted in all divisions being supplied more or less equally, while in the Red Army that only applied to the supply of rations and fodder. All combat supplies used a ‘central dispatch’ model that allowed them to be sent to active Fronts and to starve inactive ones, while within the Front the same process saw active Armies supplied first and within the Army directed to units that were successful in combat. The effect of this policy was to concentrate limited supplies at the point of decision and for the Center to determine where its greatest effort would be made. Much of the seeming Soviet superiority of materiel came from better concentration; while the Germans made efforts from 1943 to direct the flows of supplies through Supply Officers at Heeresgruppe level, they never matched Soviet effectiveness.