The Logistics of Alexander the Great

Script & Notes

Intro – Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great started in 334 BC his series of conquests that would last for ten years. He successfully invaded and conquered the First Persian Empire. In 326 BC he invaded India, but eventually had to stop the campaign, because his troops wouldn’t carry on. In 323 BC he died in Babylon at the age of 33.

As you can clearly see the territory covered is even quite extensive for any modern army. The question arises how even a small army could be properly supplied in such a vast area. Which brings us to the question of military logistics.

[Sadly, the sources on this topic are sparse. They usually focus on less mundane aspects like feeding the troops and requisition of supplies within the Empire.]

Definition of (Military) Logistics

Now, logistics is a modern term, but many logistical operations were also performed in Alexander’s time. Let’s take a look at a simple and a bit modified definition of military logistics.
Military logistics is the provision of all means to perform military operations.

To put it simply, logistics concerns everything from the fuel for your tank, to the food for your stomach and the guy, who cleans the shitter.

Or in a more sophisticated way: Military logistics deals with the determination of demand, requisition and distribution, of men, material, facilities and services.

Main Areas of Military Logistics

Hence, the main areas of military logistics are

  • Recruitment and Reinforcements
  • provision and acquisition of materiel
  • Acquisition and construction of facilities
  • services

Note that the common definitions of modern military logistics (usually) wouldn’t include recruitment. But due to Alexanders extensive campaigns and different organizational structure, recruitment is included in our definition.

Recruitment

Initially Alexander fielded around 30000 infantry and 5000 cavalry. These troops consisted mainly of Macedonians and allies. Yet, around 5000 men were mercenaries.
To reinforce his army Alexander had three possibilities:

  1. Recruitment in Macedon
  2. Hiring Mercenaries in Greece and in the Balkans
  3. Recruitment in conquered territories

Recruitment in Macedon was limited, there are only two accounts of it. One about 3000 infantry and another one about 6000 infantry and 500 cavalry. This recruitment was problematic, because it is known that the recruitment unit had to use force in order to complete their operations.

The main source for reinforcements were Mercenaries. Although the initial financial situation only allowed a minimum amount of mercenaries. After capturing the Persian camp and baggage-wagons at Issus, Alexander had a large quantity of gold and silver at his disposal.

To recruit mercenaries’ special recruitment officers were used at known assembly areas. Whereas in an early battle Alexander killed and enslaved a large amount of captured Greek mercenaries who fought on the Persian side, he later recruited such units into his own army. In total it is estimated that around 60 to 100 thousands mercenaries served in Alexander’s army during his campaigns. (Bosworth p. 60, Wirth p. 100)

There is only limited information available about the recruitment in the conquered Persian territories. One account describes a force of around 30.000 men that were trained and equipped similar to the Macedonians. These troops weren’t ready until Alexanders return from India, thus they never saw any combat.

Transportation of reinforcements

In the first years of his campaign Alexander had to transfer reinforcements on the land route, because he disbanded his fleet due to financial problems. This changed in 332 after large parts of the Persian fleet joined Alexander. In general, the reinforcements were transported by sea and marched to the destination on the Persian Royal Roads. Alexander also took over the Persian communication network to coordinate the reinforcements with his main army. There is only one known account when the reinforcements arrived earlier than the main force.
Overall, Alexander’s reinforcements had to cover vast distances to reach his army. The longest distance covered was by a Thracian unit that transferred from the Balkans to India. It should be noted that these long marches had several benefits. The served as a show of force in the newly conquered regions and also provided security operations along the way.
Now every army needs to be supplied with materiel.

Provision and Acquisition of Materiel

This part is limited in comparison to modern times. It is important to note that the Macedonian soldiers, the allied soldiers and the mercenaries had to bring their own weapons and armor. But due to the extensive distances and duration of Alexander’s campaign this wasn’t always feasible. There is an account of the delivery of around 25 000 pieces of armor to India.
The three main areas for Provision and Acquisition in ancient times were:

  • The provision of siege equipment
  • The construction and transport of ships
  • The transportation of loot

The Provision of siege equipment

Was performed by a distinct unit in Alexander’s army. We know it had its own commander, Diades of Pella, but we have no information about its size. Diades was in charge of the construction and improvement of siege towers, battering rams and scaling equipment. If possible the equipment was transported on ships. Some equipment that would have been impractical to transport was constructed at a location close to the siege itself. For example…

We know from the siege of Tyros that some craftsmen were ordered from Cyprus and Phoenicia. The lumber was from Mount Lebanon and delivered to Sidon where the construction took place. Finally, the equipment was transported with ships to Tyros.

Which brings us to the next part the construction and transportation of ships.

Construction and transportation of ships and bridges

Ships and pontoon bridges were used to traverse large rivers and streams. It was important that those ships could be disassembled into smaller parts in order to transport them to the next river. For instance after crossing the Indus, the ships were disassembled into several parts and then transported to the River Hydaspes.
Now, comes the part that most of us have at least virtual experience with, the transportation of loot.

Transportation of Loot

Loot and its transportation was important for several reasons. Now, Soldiers had to take care of their own loot, which could result in over-encumbrance. So, basically Alexander’s soldiers faced the same problem modern gamers face in Skyrim or Fallout. According to the ancient Greek historian Plutarch when Alexander reached the mountains of India, he realized his army was too slow. Thus, Alexander burned his baggage-wagons, those of his companions to set an example and finally gave orders to burn those of his soldiers too, which resulted not solved the problem of over-encumbrance but also raised the morale of most soldiers.
Yet, the more important part is about the major spoils of war. Large amounts of silver and gold had to be transported to mints in order to finance Alexander’s campaign and his Empire. In order to properly haul these precious metals, a large amount of mules and camels was necessary, according to some sources around 10.000 mules and 5000 camels for the larger convoys. Additionally, several thousand troops were used to provide sufficient security.
Early on those transports were sent back to Macedon, but Alexander established several mints along his conquest.

Acquisition and Construction of Facilities

Most facilities Alexander took over from the Persian Empire, mainly the bureaucracy, the excellent Royal Road system, the good courier service and a network of signal beacons. These facilities were crucial in Alexander’s campaign, because they allowed him to efficiently coordinate reinforcements, loot and his Empire. Alexander also established new facilities, mainly the founding of new cities and the construction of mints.

The first and most notable city founded was Alexandria. Many more cities followed, especially in the eastern regions. These founding’s may appear as basic efforts of colonization with economic and cultural motivations, but their main aim was to ensure the military dominance in the regions. Furthermore, they were used to settle wounded and incapacitated soldiers. Additionally, fortresses and other fortifications were built.

Alexander also established several mints in the conquered territories, e.g., in Asia Minor, Cyprus, Phoenicia, Alexandria and Babylon.

Services

The three main services were the provisioning of food, medical service and recreation.
The primary concern was of course the provisioning of food. Alexander was well aware of this fact, and probably for this reason he chose his routes mainly along food sources. Sometimes this lead to some extensive detours, e.g., when crossing through Mesopotamia. Also Alexander put his most able commanders in charge of foraging operations. If possible he organized the construction of supply depots along his marches. Nevertheless, sometimes a lack of supplies couldn’t be avoided.

Little is known about the medical services in Alexander’s army. We can assume that there was something like a medical corps due to the sources mentioning the transport of medicine to India. Another indication is that ancient historians made a clear distinction between dead and wounded soldiers in their records.

Recreation was done mostly in the form of festivals with contests in athletics and horse racing accompanied with music and other forms of entertainment.

Conclusion

Alexander the Great is well known for his tactics, but we can assume that his capabilities concerning military logistics were also fundamental for his success on the battlefield.

Sources & Recommendations

Books

In this case my sources were mostly German, but from what I have seen these books are also about this topic, although I didn’t use the English book.

amazon.com amazon.de
Amazon Associates Program (amazon.com)

“Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.”

Amazon Partner (amazon.de)

“Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu Amazon.de Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden kann.”

Online Resources

http://www.livius.org/aj-al/alexander/alexander_t38.html

http://www.ancient.eu/Battle_of_Issus/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wars_of_Alexander_the_Great

http://www.ancient.eu/Alexander_the_Great/

http://www.pothos.org/content/index.php?page=army

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_logistics

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander’s_Balkan_campaign

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Granicus

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_campaign_of_Alexander_the_Great

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Issus

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diades_of_Pella

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Hydaspes

http://www.ancient.eu/article/676/

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Alexander*/8.html

Additional Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Lebanon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontoon_bridge

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Matapan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Road

Stalingrad & Romania – Germany’s blamed Ally

Note this is a script for the video, this is not intended as an article, but it contains also a few more information and references.

Intro

One common theme in Germany and Austria was and sadly still often is to blame the Romanians and Italians for various German defeats in World War 2.Probably the most common is to blame the Romanians for the disaster in Stalingrad, because their Armies were defending both flanks of the German 6th Army.

Yet, at a closer look at the situation surrounding the Stalingrad disaster clearly shows that the defeat of the Romanian troops wasn’t their fault. This might not be a popular topic, but it is something very important to address, because I think that soldiers of all nations did their best and deserve our respect even if they held views that are not in alignment with our own.

Background

So let’s start at the beginning, during Operation Barbarossa in 1941 Hitler was quite reluctant about Expeditionary Forces, especially the Italians ones, but after suffering heavy losses throughout the offensive and during the defensive in the Winter of 1941 the German forces were severely depleted.

Hence, for the summer offensive in 1942 Germany needed troops from its Allies, notably Romania, Italy and Hungary. The initial plan was based on the assumption to use 750 000 non-German troops.
But there were major problems with these troops:

  1. The training and experience of these troops was not on par with that of the German Army.
  2. They were lacking equipment, most importantly tanks, artillery and anti-tank guns.
  3. These troops also needed to be supplied, which put further strain on the German supply lines.
  4. There were several internal rivalries, most notably Hungary and Romania, who had land disputes and held back troops in case a war would break out between them.

These were well known problems that the German High Command was aware off. Another major shortcoming on the German side was that those troops should have been equipped with German equipment this was in some cases promised. But the Non-German troops only received very few if any of that equipment, thus their ability to fight against the Soviet Army was severely limited especially against Russian tanks like the T-34.

The Prelude

This situation was problematic enough, but it got worse throughout the Operation “Fall Blau” or Case Blue. The initial plan was to destroy large parts of the Red Army between Donez and Don. Afterwards the German Pincers should meet at Stalingrad. Note that this plan didn’t include the capture of Stalingrad itself. Furthermore, only after the success of the previous operation the Caucasus should be attacked.

The non-German Armies were considered less effective in terms of combat effectiveness, thus they were assigned for defensive operations most notably holding the 600 km long front between Voronezh and Stalingrad. Only a few German divisions were available to provide support in case of a Russian attack.

The initial plan was already very optimistic, but Hitler changed it during the operation, especially the fact that in July he ordered to split the Army Group South and lead the troops against Stalingrad and the Caucasus simultaneously in July. (23rd of July 1942; S. 134) Furthermore, he ordered that the city should be captured. This meant urban warfare and urban warfare is mostly a war of attrition, something the German army wasn’t suited for, because it lacked already manpower, quite in contrast to the Soviet Union, which was very well suited for a war of attrition.
The whole situation was obviously dangerous, the Chief of the General Staff of the Army noted in September (24th) that only after the capture of Stalingrad a sufficient number of German troops would be available to stabilize the Romanian parts of the front. Now, while the German Sixth Army was fighting in Stalingrad the Romanian armies secured its Northern and Southern flank. (S. 128)

To summarize:

  • the German Army had no reserves left,
  • it was involved in heavy fighting in Stalingrad,
  • the Romanian armies were severely under-equipped
  • and securing both flanks of the 6th German Army.

The Soviet Attack

Meanwhile the German military intelligence, which was probably the weakest link in the whole German military establishment, didn’t notice the massive buildup of Soviet forces on the Northern and Southern Flank. Only in November 1942 the Germans suspected an attack on the Northern Flank, but were still unaware about the upcoming attack on the Southern flank. Finally, when the Soviets attacked the focused on the center of the Romanian armies, where no German units were present. (S. 136)

Due to the lack of tanks and anti-tank guns most Romanian troops were routed, yet the remains of the 3rd Romanian Army now under command of General Lascar were surrounded early on and fought well for 4 days. Even Hitler himself noted the bravery of these troops. (S. 138)

The main problem is they never should have been there (and they should have been better equipped in the first place). Thus, blaming the Romanians nowadays is just short sighted or outright stupid.
Of course most of the German soldiers on the Eastern Front didn’t know better and they lost their comrades in Stalingrad, thus they were quite understandably bitter about the fast Romanian defeat. And clearly after the war, they brought this memory back with them. But for all of us, who never fought on the Eastern Front, I think it is time that we acknowledge that the fault was with Hitler and the German Army High Command and not with the Romanians, who also bleed and died in Russia like everyone else.

Sources

Books

Amazon.de (affiliate Link): Vogel, Thomas: Ein Obstmesser zum Holzhacken. Die Schlacht um Stalingrad und das Scheitern der deutschen Verbündeten an Don und Wolga 1942/43. S. 128- in Stalingrad Militärhistorisches Museum.

Online Resources

Third Army (Romania) – World War 2

US Army Infantry Battalion Structure & Attack Tactics World War 2 (1944)

This is the script for the video, not an article.

US Army Infantry Battalion Numbers

In 1944 an US Army infantry battalion roughly consisted of 900 men.
These were divided up in the HQ Company with 120 men.
Three rifle companies with 190 men each.
A weapons company with 160 men and
a medical detachment with 30 men.

The HQ Company was equipped with

  • 8 bazookas
  • 3 57mm anti-tank guns
  • 2 .50 cal and
  • 6 .30 cal machine guns.

Each rifle company had

The weapons company had

  • 6 bazookas
  • 8 81mm mortars
  • One .50 cal and
  • 8 water cooled .30 cals for supporting the other companies

And finally the medical detachment had bandages, probably.

Tactics: Attack against an organized position

Before we take a closer look at how an infantry battalion attacks an organized position, Some basics: artillery and smoke were used to support the attack. The Field Manual states that “in the presence of the enemy, fire must be used to protect all movements not masked by cover, or by fog, smoke, or other conditions of reduced visibility.”
The attack against the enemy position would consist of a main and secondary attack. Depending on the situation, each of those would be performed by a different set of units. The battalion consisted of 3 rifle companies, let’s call them Able, Bravo and Charlie. In this case Able company carries out the main attack, Bravo company performs the secondary attack and Charlie company is kept as reserve to exploit any breakthrough or to fight off counter-attacks. Finally, the weapons company would support the main attack.

The main attack was usually directed against the weakest point of the enemy defense. In order to increase power of the main attack, it was conducted on a narrower zone than the secondary attack.
The main purpose of the secondary attack is to prevent the enemy from providing a concentrated defensive effort. This could be done in two ways, either by advancing or by simply providing fire support. In this video we only look at the advancing version.

Secondary attack with advance

Here is the situation, the German positions are at the top. The main attack is directed against a position on the left side performed by Able Company, which will be supported by the weapons company with its mortars and machine guns.

Ideally the secondary attack should mislead the enemy, into committing reserves away from the main attack. Thus Bravo Company is assigned a terrain objective which it should attack with full force. Finally, Charlie Company is staying in cover ready to exploit any breakthroughs.
We can assume that the company commanders usually weren’t informed on what kind of attack they were performing, because the Field Manual states: “In attack orders, however, the battalion commander does not distinguish between nor use the terms “main attack” and “secondary attack.” Although, practice and field manuals usually deviate from each other.

The main and secondary attack are performed in conjunction, thus the enemy can’t focus his defense on one point. The narrower attack space of the main attack and the support from the weapons company allow for a breakthrough in the enemy line.

Able Company now attacks the flanks of the enemy line, while Charlie Company is brought through the gap in the line to exploit the situation. Meanwhile the weapons company moves up to continue its support of the attacking units, if necessary. Depending on the situation and objectives the companies would continue to attack the flanks or break into the rear areas.

Sources

Books

Amazon.com (affiliate link): Stephen Bull: World War II Infantry Tactics: Company and Battalion
Amazon.de (affiliate link): Stephen Bull: World War II Infantry Tactics: Company and Battalion

amazon.com amazon.de

Websites & Online materials

Authorized Organization – 1944 Infantry Division – Infantry Battalion (niehorster.org)

Field Manual 7-20 Infantry Battalion 1944

**Disclaimer**
*Amazon Associates Program*
“Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.”

Amazon Partner (amazon.de)
“Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu Amazon.de Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden kann.”

How does a Mortar work?

The text below is the basic script of the video.

Intro

A modern mortar is a weapon that provides short-range indirect fire at high angles, usually between 45 and 80 degree. The first modern mortar was the so called Stokes Mortar, it was developed during the First World War unlike traditional mortars it was relatively small and mobile, which made it well-suited for trench warfare, because unlike unwieldy artillery it could be used directly by the infantry units at the front line.

Of course mortars design evolved since the Stokes mortar, but the basic principles are still the same, so how does a modern mortar work?

How does a mortar work?

A Mortar is basically just a huge tube, which is closed on the bottom side and mounted on a base plate that allows for some adjustment. At the bottom of the barrel there is a fixed firing pin. If a mortar shell is dropped into the barrel and hits the pin, the propelling charge is ignited.
Then the explosion of the propelling charge creates gas that pushes the mortar shell (or bomb) out of the tube.

Mortar Components and Shell Components

The Mortar Shell is sometimes also called bomb. It’s main components are the impact fuze at the top, which triggers the Exploder. Followed by the high explosive filler in the body, the primary charge in the tail section and usually augmenting charges on the tail.

As you can see the propelling charge is made up of two components the primary charge and the augmenting charge. The first is inside the mortar round, whereas the augmenting charges are usually outside of the mortar shell and can be added and removed in order to reduce the power and thus speed and range of the shell.

Range variation due to augmenting charges

The addition and removal of augmenting charges increases the flexibility in terms of range, since a mortar usually operates at angles of 45 to 80 degree. (p.126 for ranges) To give you some reference, for the British 81mm L16 mortar introduced in the mid sixties, the max range of just the primary charge is 520 meters, whereas with 6 augmentation charges a max range of 4680 m can be achieved. Yet, the minimum range with all charges is 1700 m, whereas with just the primary charge it can be used as close as 180 m.

The Tail Fins

One interesting aspect about a mortal shell are it’s tail fins. Originally they were cheap and added to provide some stability, but during the Second World War it became obvious that these fins had a major influence on both accuracy and range. Thus, emphasis was given to create efficient and well-produced fins. The tail fins need to be placed at some distance to the body, due to the low pressure inhibiting their effect. In theory, the fins should be of a greater diameter than the body, but the cost were usually not worth the benefits of complicate designs.

Basic Advantages and Characteristics of Modern Mortars

Since you have an idea how a mortar works, now a short overview on the basic advantages and characteristics of a modern mortar: It is a cheap and easily to produce weapon that provides infantry a weapon for quick and immediate indirect fire, unlike artillery which needs to called in from behind. Furthermore, due to the weight and size light and medium mortars are portable. Thus they are usually part of the infantry and not the artillery units, as you can clearly see in my video about the organization of an US Army Battalion.

EXTRO – HANG IT

Finally, the command to prepare a mortar round for firing is not load but HANG IT! So, hang in there, thank you for watching. 

Sources

Books

Amazon.com (affiliate link): Hogg, Ian V.: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ammunition
Amazon.de (affiliate link): Hogg, Ian V.: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ammunition

amazon.com amazon.de
Amazon Associates Program (amazon.com)

“Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.”

Amazon Partner (amazon.de)

“Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu Amazon.de Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden kann.”

Websites & Further information

CHAPTER 2 – FUNDAMENTALS OF MORTAR GUNNERY

Great video that shows the removal of several augmenting charges around 3:00

Credits & Special Thanks

The Counter-Design is heavily inspired by Black ICE Mod for the game Hearts of Iron 3 by Paradox Interactive

Notes on Accuracy & “Methodology”

Due to several reasons the mortar shell and mortar are not of the same type (and diameter in real life), but the functionality is similar.

  1. The depicted Mortar Shell is a 8cm Wgr 38 for a German World War 2 Mortar.
  2. The depicted detailed Mortar is roughly a Esperanza 60mm Model ‘L’ Mortar.
  3. The depicted Mortars in the beginning are US M2 60mm mortars.
  4. At supersonic speed everything is probably a bit different: “Ideally the fins should be greater in diameter than the body of the bomb, in order to get the operating surface of the fins out into undisturbed air where they will have the greatest effect, though this is only really necessary at supersonic velocities.” (Hogg, Ian V.: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ammunition, p. 104; see sources)

Why the Luftwaffe Failed in World War 2 – Failures, Shortcomings and Blunders

Video

Note the following is the script for the video NOT an article, furthermore it might be a bit different to due last minute changes. There is usually also a bit more detail in the script. Continue reading “Why the Luftwaffe Failed in World War 2 – Failures, Shortcomings and Blunders” »

Falklands War – Argentine Perspective – An Inevitable Defeat?

Note the following text is the script, not an article.

Intro

In the Falklands War in 1982 Argentina suffered a disastrous defeat, thus many believe that Argentina never stood a chance. Yet, taking a closer look at the Argentine side reveals that the conflict wasn’t a forgone conclusion at all.
During and prior to the conflict the Argentine leadership committed many blunders. Note that at that time the Argentina was led by a military junta consisting of the commanders in chief of the army, navy and air force.So let’s take a look at the various factors that were crucial for the outcome of the war.

Timing

The first major problem was the timing. The original Argentine invasion of the Falkland Island or Islas Malvinas as they are called Argentina was scheduled for the 15th of May or later, which would have made British operations more difficult due to the changing weather. After all the Falkland Islands are located in a rather cold area of the Atlantic.

Yet, the occupation began on the 2nd of April, basically the Argentine Navy and Army performed the “landing at a time that now looks almost if it had been picked by Britain” Robert L. Scheina (Naval Historian; quoted after Pedraja, p. 239). It should also be noted that the Argentine Forces were due to receive new equipment, whereas the British Forces were experiencing major cutbacks.
Furthermore, the invasion itself was performed with an unnecessary show of force. The Islands were defended by a British garrison of around 100 men, yet the Argentine Navy showed up with almost all of its warships including it’s aircraft carrier. Due to this major mobilization the British were notified a week prior to the actual occupation of the islands.This commitment to use the whole Argentine navy was a clear contrast the following lack of commitment that happened after the occupation.

Rivalry

The next major problem was the rivalry within the Argentine Armed Forces. The whole invasion was planned by the Army and Navy alone, only in January 1982 they informed the Air Force, but since the Air Force wasn’t part of the operation, it couldn’t oppose the operation. Since there was no certain date and the Air Force wasn’t allowed to perform maritime operations anyway, it didn’t prepare until late March 1982.

Also the rivalry didn’t change significantly even after the bullets started flying. The conflicted was started by the Navy and Army, yet both largely dropped out of the war rather soon leaving the heavy lifting to the Air Force, which was basically dragged into the conflict shortly after the occupation of the islands. Nevertheless, the commander of the Air Force and his men were eager to show of what they were capable off. So let’s take a look at the air force.

The Ugly Duckling – State of the Air Forces

The Argentine Air Force was the ugly duckling of the Armed Forces, although it was military the best trained, it was politically the weakest, especially in the junta during the Falkland War. Army bases were located near air force bases officially for protection, yet this was mostly to keep pressure on the air force.
One aspect that severely inhibited the air force in the Falkland War was the fact that the in 1969 the Navy received the exclusive jurisdiction to defend Argentina from a sea attack, thus equipment, training and doctrine was completely oriented towards ground attack.

Nevertheless the Air Force could field an impressive number of around 200 combat planes. Yet, most of these couldn’t be used to their full performance above the Falklands, due to their limits in range. They main land air bases were located at ranges from 750 km to 690 km away from the Falkland Islands. “Partly for reasons of dispersal, and partly because of the inability to handle more flights, the air force scattered its planes among the three air strips rather than concentrating them at Río Grande, the base nearest to the combat theater.” (p. 242)
Another major problem was the lack of navigation equipment, especially for maritime operations, but some planes lacked even a simple navigational radar. To deal with this situation better equipped planes were used as guide and also civilian Learjets.

Lack of Equipment – Radar at Port Stanley

Furthermore, due to the navigational deficiencies” the radar on the Falkland Islands assumed an importance out of proportion of tis traditional role” (p. 247). It became probably the single most important equipment for the entire Argentine war effort. It provided navigational coordinates for the planes, warned them of nearby harriers and also detected many ships. A second radar would have been crucial as a backup and also due the “radar shadow” that was created by the mountains on the island, but none was deployed. This radar shadow allowed the British to remain undetected when they moved in for their landing troops.

The State of the Navy & Army

Although the overall state of the Argentine Navy and Army was probably not the best, their performance was definitely abysmal or even counter-productive. The main contributions of the the Navy came from one battalion of marines on the Falklands and their fleet air arm that operated from land bases, because after the loss of the cruiser Belgrano the commander-in-chief recalled all ships into the ports, thus the troops on the Falklands could only be supplied by the Air Force.

The Army should have defended the Falkland Islands against a British invasion, but it mostly sent conscripts that were ill-equipped. Also the leadership of the garrison openly told them that the whole occupation was just a mock theater to reach a peaceful solution, thus while air force troops prepared air raid shelters they army didn’t fortify their positions properly. Nor did the army ship heavy artillery to the island.

Probably one of the dumbest decisions was to reinforce the garrison on the freezing island with a brigade of conscripts from a subtropical region, while the best troops were kept in Argentina in case Chile would declare war. The fear of an attack from Chile and the fear of British submarines was constant, yet no action was taken to prepare the defense of the island in case of a British naval blockade. As mentioned before the Argentine Navy showed up with nearly all warships during the initial occupation. But these ships didn’t bring along heavy equipment to dig in nor a vast amount of supplies. This is probably one of the few examples in Naval History, when a cargo ship full of supplies would have better suited than an aircraft carrier. This lack of proper preparations was also – yet to a smaller degree – a problem with the air force.

Lack of improving the air fields

The general lack of the Army and Air Force to build fortifications and improve existing facilities was striking. On the mainland most of the improvement of existing air fields was done by local citizens, without them not much happened. Also the air force didn’t try to create new air strips closer to the islands. But most notable was the failure to improve the existing runway on the Falkland Island. Just adding access lanes or parking spaces could have improved the capacity of the air strip for cargo planes. (Limited to 6 planes simultaneously.) A certain amount of these shortcomings can of course be tracked back directly to the Argentine leadership.

Misjudgement of British Willigness to fight and International Support

It completely misjudged the international relations. First they assumed that the United States would prevent a war between Argentina and the United Kingdom, after all both were Allies of the States. Furthermore, they assumed that they accumulated enough favors, yet this completely wrong assumption should have been abandoned when the United States tried to convince Argentina to accept the British demands.

Another major misconception was the underestimation of the British to fight instead of seeking a diplomatic solution. This view was even prevalent at the lower ranks in the armies. The strong British determination was in complete contrast the Argentine unwillingness to commit after their initial steps. Basically, Argentine leadership kicked a British bulldog then turned around and thought everything would work out fine.

The Three Fatal Flaws of the Air Force

Basically the only service that prepared itself at least properly was the air force and it also did very well. Yet, there were three major flaws that significantly lowered its overall effectiveness.

  1. The pilots focused their attacks mainly on warships, although the initial plan considered landing craft and troop ships as high priority targets. Although those ships were also attacked. Generally, air force pilots preferred war ships, but sinking those ships wouldn’t prevent the British troops from landing. These made the British merchant ships the weakest link in their plan. Something the air force failed to exploit.
  2. The air force used mainly small formations to attack British warships although evidence suggest that larger formations had a higher success rate.
  3. Probably the biggest problem was that a 60 % of all bombs dropped on ships failed to detonate. This was of course the result due to the focused on ground support, but the Naval Air Arm didn’t face this problem. Yet, due to the rivalry between the air force and navy, the navy didn’t provided any support on this matter nor did air force ask for assistance.

Conclusion

Despite all of these shortcomings and the almost complete absence of the army and navy, the Argentine Air Forces still achieved several successes. Together the planes of the air force and navy destroyed 2 destroyers, 2 frigates and 3 support ships.
The Falkland War could have a very different outcome if the Argentine forces would have fortified their positions properly and used their best troops instead of conscripts to defend the island. Furthermore, the construction and improvement of air fields on the island and on the mainland would have increased the air forces capabilities. The Navy originally planned an sortie after the British landing began, combined with an attack from the army against the invasion force this could have been enough pressure to defeat or at least stall the British invasion considerably. Only one of these aspects would have prolonged the conflict and due to the overstretched British supply lines, the changing weather and new aircrafts for the Argentine Air Force time wasn’t favoring the Royal Navy.

Bonus – Argentine Air Force Numbers

The Argentine Air Force had around 200 combat planes:

Bonus – Ranges

Rio Gallegos 750 km ( 496 miles)
San Julián: 700 (438 miles)
Río Grande at Tierra del Fuego 690 (431 miles).

René De La Pedraja: The Argentine Air Force versus Britain in the Falkland Islands, In: Higham & Harris: Why Air Forces Fail: The Anatomy of Defeat

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German Tank Division (1939) – Organization and Structure – Visualization

Video

Below is the Script to video, note that this is not an article and is probably not really meaningful without the video.

Intro – Distribution of Men

A German Tank division in 1939 consisted of about 12000 men. 3000 of them were assigned to the Tank Brigade, 3200 to the motorized infantry brigade and 1200 to the artillery regiment.
The remaining 5600 were assigned to supply, recon, engineering, anti-tank, signaling and staff units.

Tank Brigade – Intended Composition

Now let’s take a look at the composition of the tank brigade. It consisted of 90 Panzer II, 162 Panzer III, 60 Panzer IV and 12 Panzerbefehlswagen – a command tank. Hence, a total number of 324 tanks. But this was the intended composition. So let’s take a look at actual composition.

Tank Brigade – Historical Composition for the 1st Tank Division – “1. Panzer Division”

These are the numbers for the “Erste Panzer Division” the First tank division. It had 93 Panzer I, a tank never intended for combat and only armed with machine guns. 122 Panzer II, a mere 26 Panzer III, 56 Panzer IV and 12 Panzerbefehlswagen. Thus, giving a total of 309 tanks, slightly below the intended size, but numbers without context are like most politicians, quite useless and untrustworthy.

Comparison Intended vs. Historical Setup

On the left side the intended setup, with a lot of Panzer III, which was back in 1939 the main battle tank of the German Army. Yet on the others side we have a lot of Panzer I, a tank never intended to see combat. But the Panzer I needed to fill most the ranks of the missing Panzer III. Also the Panzer II was no proper substitute for the Panzer III or Panzer IV in terms of combat performance.

Now, a closer look on the planned organization and structure of the Panzer formations.

Structure of the Tank Brigade – Panzer Brigade

The Tank brigade consisted of 2 regiments with 2 battalions each and each of these battalions consisted of a staff company, two light companies and a medium company.
The “Stabskompanie” or Staff Company, consisted of a Signaling Platoon with two Panzerbefehlswagen and a Panzer III. Note that the Panzerbefehlswagen looks like a Panzer III, but it only had a fake gun and turret was welded to the hull. Yet, it was crucial to the performance of the German Panzer units, because it provided important command & control facilities.
Furthermore, the company had one platoon of light tanks consisting of 5 Panzer II.

Light Tank Company – “Leichte Panzerkompanie”

So let’s take a look at the two light tank Companies or “Leichte Panzerkompanie”.
They consisted of a Company Section with two Panzer III. A Light platoon with 5 Panzer II and three platoons of 5 Panzer III each.

Medium Tank Company – “Mittlere Panzerkompanie”

Finally, the Medium Tank Company or “Mittlere Panzerkompanie”.
The Company section with two Panzer IV and the light platoon with Panzer IIs are almost identical to the light companies. But the three platoons all consist of 4 tanks each instead of 5 tanks.
Time to take a look at the big picture again.

Brigade and Battalion View

These companies made up one battalion with 71 tanks. Thus with 4 battalions for the Brigade there is a total of 284 tanks for frontline duty, since some tanks were kept for reserve and command duties.
Now, again this was the intended setup, the number of available Panzer III was very low, thus their roles needed to be filled by other tanks like the Panzer I and Panzer II.

Complete View

So far for the tank brigade, time to take a look at the division as a whole again. Since the tank brigade was supported by an infantry brigade,
90 armored cars, 48 anti-tank guns, 12 anti-air guns and 24 pieces of artillery. Which was a quite considerable amount of equipment

Notes & References

References:
(1) The number of tanks for 1939 in the 1. Panzer Division is from Jentz p. 90 (see sources).
(2) The Numbers of men is according to Müller-Hillebrand S. 163 (see sources) and Niehorster (see sources).

Notes on accuracies:
(1) This is the „ideal/planned“ layout of German Panzer Division in World War 2 as orderd for the 1. Panzer Division. With the Kriegsstärkenachweisungen (K. St. N.) 1103 (Sd), 1194 (Sd), 1168 (Sd), 1107 (Sd), 1171 (Sd), 1175 (Sd), 1178 (Sd) from the 1st September 1939, due to the war and a general lack of tanks on the German side the division probably never reached this setup, especially since the Panzer Division got restructured again and again. From 1939 to 1941 the number of tanks in a Panzer Division decreased by almost 50 %.
(2) Furthermore, the types of armored cars represented in the video is simplified. I know there were around 90 armored cars (Niehorster link) in the division, but I could only determine the exact types and numbers for 56 of those 90. They were Sdkfz 221, Sdkfz 222, Sdkfz 223, Sdkfz 231, Sdkfz 232, Sdkfz 274, Sdkfz 260, Sdkfz 261, Sdkfz 263.

Sources

Books

Müller-Hillebrand, Burkhart: Das Heer – Band 1 – 1933-1939 (S. 163: IV. Panzerdivision)

Jentz, Thomas: Panzertruppen – The Complete Guide to the Creation & Combat Employment of Germanys Tank Force 1933-1942
Jentz, Thomas: Die deutsche Panzertruppe, Bd.1, 1933-1942

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-Disclaimer-
Amazon Associates Program: “Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.”

Amazon Partner (amazon.de): “Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu Amazon.de Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden kann.”

Websites

1st Panzer Division In accordance with the 1939/40 Mobilization Plan

This homepage is from the author of this book (series):
Mechanized Army Division and Waffen SS Units – 1st September 1939 (German World War II Organizational Series)

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The First German Tank – The A7V Sturmpanzerwagen

Crew Layout of the Sturmpanzerwagen A7V the first German Tank
Crew Layout of the Sturmpanzerwagen A7V the first German Tank – 1,920px × 1,176px

Introduction

The A7V or “Sturmpanzerwagen A7V” was the first German Tank and saw action in the later stages of the First World War. The rather unusual name of the tank was directly derived from a transport department in the war ministry, notably the department 7. (Abteilung 7 Verkehrswesen) (S. 54/2). The A7V was not only the first German tank, it was also the first fully-tracked built vehicle in Germany itself.

In total only 23 were built, 2 of them prototypes, one with a wooden superstructure and one with armor plates. 1 radio variant (S. 76) and 2 production runs with 10 tanks each. Now these low numbers are important to consider if someone makes any assessment about it, because the tank gained a very bad reputation that doesn’t seem to be justified, but more on that later.

Tanks in World War I

Tanks in World War I were quite primitive and a completely new technology. A tank was basically a slowly moving pillbox with guns due to the limits in mobility, reliability, range, doctrine and command capabilities. Tanks were first and foremost an infantry support weapon and even after various technological improvements and years later this was still a common view until the successes of German Panzer Forces in early stages of World War II.

Development

The development of the A7V involved 13 companies and the production 20 due to the complexity of a tank compared to other weapon systems.(S. 14 / 2) The rather fast development of 11 months could only be achieved due to the fact that a large amount of components were already available in the various industries.(S. 15 / 1) The weapons were standard equipment, the armor plates were similar to those used on warships. Yet, the available engines weren’t sufficient in terms of horse power, thus a twin engine plant of production-ready engines was used.

Production

Although the tank was developed quite fast, the overall process of development and production was not straightforward at all. After the initial appearance of Allied tanks on the Battlefield in 1916 the German High Command was convinced of the tank as an important weapon. Yet, this view changed, after the following limited success of the Allied tanks. This restricted the development and production of German tanks and the allocation of resources. Especially since the highest priority was given to submarine warfare. Yet, after the success of British tanks at the Battle of Cambrai in 1917, the German High Command (in end of 1917 (November)) pushed again for the introduction of German tanks. Yet, instead of pouring all resources in the A7V project, many new projects were started that didn’t reach a sufficient production readiness before the end of the war. The change in requirements, resource shortages, changing priorities, shifting interests and the usual bureaucracy delayed ultimately the production of the A7V in significant numbers. (S. 60 & 61) Although it should be noted that even a larger number of these wouldn’t made a difference in the outcome of the war due to the lack of fuel and other crucial resources.

Technical Specifications

Now let’s take a look at some technical specifications:
In this case, I had a great and detailed source co-written by German historians and engineers, which you can clearly see, because the provided the values in millimeters, because everyone knows centimeters or even meters aren’t precise enough when you are German and dealing with the measurements of a 30 ton tank.
The length was 7.35 m (7350 mm) with a width of 3.06 m (3060mm) and height of3.35m (3350 mm). The ground clearance was 0.2 m (200 mm) and a track width of 2.115 m (2115mm). This is especially interesting or crazy, because the tanks were not of identical construction.
It could traverse trenches up to 2 m in width, cross water at a depth of 0.8 m. Climb a vertical obstacle of up to 0.4 m and a climb a slope at 25 degree.
The maximum achieved speed was 16 km / h.
With two fuel tanks each with 250 liters, it had a range of about 30 to 35 km cross country and 60 to 70 km on roads.

Weight of the vehicle with fuel was 16 tons
The weight of the armor was 8.5 tons.
The weapons with ammo made up 3.5 tons.
And the crew with equipment another 2 tons, thus a total weight of 30 tons.
You probably gonna wonder, why you need about 2 tons for the crew and their equipment. Well, that is because the A7V had a crew of just about 16 to 26 men. In comparison a British Mark V tank had about 8 men.

Weapons & Armor

In terms of protection it had a frontal armor of 30 mm, at the side and rear the armor plates had a thickness of 15mm. The top plates were 6mm thick. In comparison the British Mark V had a maximum frontal armor of 16 mm.
The armament consisted of a 57mm Maxim-Nordenfelt gun which was mounted in the front and two 08/15 machine guns for each side and the rear. A large amount of amount of ammo was carried, initially 180 rounds for the 57mm gun, this value was later increased to around 300. The number of MG rounds was about 18 000. Take these values as broad guide lines, because there was a certain lack of standardization, which will be even more apparent when looking at the crew layout. Also note, that the seats are marked read here, because the ammo was stored in those seats.

Crew Layout

According to Uwe Böhm the primary sources provide different values for the total number of crew members ranging from 16 to 26 men. He provides the following base layout:

  • 1 Commander
  • 1 Assistant (Gefechtsordonnanz)
  • 1 Driver
  • 1 Mechanic/technician – trained as a driver (reserve)
  • 1 Mechanic
  • 1 Gun Commander (Geschützführer)
  • 1 Gunner
  • 1 Loader
  • 12 MG Gunners
  • 1-2 Runners
  • 1 Blinker / Signaler
  • 1 Homing Pigeon Handler

Imagine that beast in War Thunder with the Last Man Standing option, it would be almost unkillable if you don’t load any ammo.

Success or Failure – Bad Reputation

The A7V has a very bad reputation, the question is if this reputation is justified at all. Now, it had many problems and was quite unreliable, but to make a reasonable evaluation of it’s quality we need to take into account several factors.

1) The A7V was the first tank and also the first fully-tracked vehicle that Germany ever produced.
2) The development process was performed in 11 months. (S. 144)
3) At the start of the development there were no captured enemy tanks available.
4) The production environment in Germany at the end of the war was everything but suitable to manufacture a complex and new design, due to a lack of qualified labor and resource shortages.
5) There was a total of 23 A7Vs including prototypes, in comparison both the French and British built more than 1000 tanks each.

Calling the A7V a failure is as justified as calling the Tiger I a great tank in both instances only a few factors are considered. When it comes to the Tiger a lot of people completely ignore the reliability issues, yet it was designed and produced under better circumstances and far greater numbers than the A7V. The design flaws of the Tiger are hard to justify, because it was far from being the first German tank and many of the flaws weren’t addressed successfully in its considerable longer operational history than that of the A7V.
Thus, my conclusion is that the A7V wasn’t a bad tank design as many people claim.

Yet, it’s suitability for the realities of the Western Front and how it performed on the battlefield will be part of a future video, which will allow a more holistic assessment of its overall effectiveness as a military vehicle.

Sources

Books

Sturmpanzerwagen A7V – Vom Urpanzer zum Kampfpanzer Leopard 2 – Ein Beitrag zur Militär- und Technikgeschichte

amazon.de (affiliate link)

amazon.com (affiliate link)

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-Disclaimer-
Amazon Associates Program: “Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.”

Amazon Partner (amazon.de): “Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu Amazon.de Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden kann.”

Websites

Tank Museum Video on the A7V

Beware of Wikipedia articles, I corrected some values already, but I guess there may still some errors left:
Wikipedia article on the A7V (beware of errors)

Tanks Encyclopedia – Mark V

Notes on Accuracy & “Methodology”

I used the tank encylclopdia articles for references values on the Mark V tanks armour. Due to several errors in the Wikipedia articles of the A7V, encountered and corrected several errors on the A7V values.