Battle Of Britain – Setting and the British Defense Organization

Men & Equipment

Probably one of the most iconic references to the Battle of Britain is the quote ”Never was so much owed by so many to so few”, hence let’s start with the numbers of men and equipment:
During the height of the battle in August 1940 the Fighter Command had around 1380 and the Luftwaffe 870 fighter pilots.
In terms of planes the British had 1000 fighters, which is around the same number as the Luftwaffe.
Yet, only 700 of the British fighters were operational, whereas 800 of the Germans.

The main part of the Fighter Command planes were Hurricanes with about 55 % of the operational fighter aircraft whereas the Spitfire only reached around 30 %.
The German Luftwaffe used only one Single Engine Fighter the Bf109 (of the E-Series/Variant.)

Organization

The Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe were organized differently. The RAF used a functional approach having a command for bombers, coastal aircraft, reserves, training and fighters. Furthermore, Fighter Command had operational direction over the Anti-Aircraft Command, which was part of the British Army.

The Luftwaffe was organized in so called “Luftflotten” literally meaning “Air Fleets” that used a mix of fighter, bomber and other aircraft.

Yet, the organization wasn’t a major problem for the Luftwaffe. In Poland and the Battle of France the Luftwaffe achieved air superiority in a short amount of time. Thus, it had little experience in escorting and especially defending large formations of bombers. Furthermore, the Luftwaffe was first and foremost a tactical-oriented air force for providing close support to the army, but it was not suited for strategic operations. Thus the Luftwaffe went into a battle it was neither experienced, trained nor built for against the RAF, which also had a well-organized defense system. (So let’s take a look at it.)

British Command and Control System

Fighter Command was divided into 4 Groups and these were divided into individual Sectors with their sector station, whereas sector station is a fancy name for airfield. This hierarchy also reflected how information was transferred.

When enemy aircraft were detected by radar the Fighter Command headquarters was informed. This information was relayed to the Group HQs and individual sector stations. The Group HQs decided which sectors were activated, whereas the sector commanders decided on which squadron would be sent into combat.

Since radar stations could only provide information on planes flying over the sea, once planes were flying inland further information was provided by trained volunteers to the Observer Corps, which relayed it directly to the sector stations, who reported to the Group HQ.

Radar

A central part of this system was the so-called Radar, which is an acronym for “Radio Detection and Ranging”.

The Chain Home System had 21 radar stations that could detect the range and altitude of planes up to a 200 mile or 320 km radius, but the average was only 80 miles or 130 km. Aircraft flying below 1000 feet or 300m could not be detected by this system. To detect low flying planes the Chain Home low station system was used which had only a range of about 30 miles or 50 km.
Although this system seems flawless in theory in practice there were many problems, e.g., radar stations being out of order due to upgrades and inaccurate data from the Observer Corps.

Also relaying the radar information to the squadrons took at least 4 minutes, whereas a German squadron could cross the Channel in about 6 minutes.

Another source of viable information was signal interception. Decrypted enigma traffic usually couldn’t be provided fast enough to help intercept raids, but due a weak low-level-radio discipline on the German side there was usually a steady information about destination and origin of enemy squadrons.
This system allowed Fighter Command to choose when and where to attack. Something the Luftwaffe Command never faced before and even more important probably never fully realized throughout the whole Battle.

Notes on Accuracy

The numbers are mostly from Overy (see sources). Often those numbers are at the beginning or end of the month, but usually for different dates for the German and British forces. For simplicity I only state the month. This video is intended to give a clear and short overview, hence certain details can’t be included.

Sources

Books

Overy, Richard: The Battle of Britain – The Myth and the Reality (amazon.com affiliate link)

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Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.

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

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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 können.

Online Resources

The RAF Fighter Control System

RAF Museum – Background Battle of Britain

Never was so much owed by so many to so few

Barbarossa would an earlier date made a difference?

Intro

There are many comments and remarks that state that if the Operation Barbarossa would have started about a month earlier, it would have been successful or at least that Moscow could have been taken. This is a common belief and in the past I also thought it was true, but life is about learning. So let’s take a closer look.

The argument that an earlier attack date would have allowed a successful outcome rests mainly on one assumption, namely that the Russian Winter stopped the Wehrmacht. This assumption also indirectly implies that the German Army only suffered minor losses.

Manpower, Tanks & Combat Effectiveness

On June 22 the German Army attacked with about 3,1 Mio men.

At the same time the German army had about 400k trained reserves, 80k of those were directly attached to the fighting units as field replacement battalions. After just 4 weeks, these battalions were used up. German reserves soon dried up and by the End of November 1941, the German Army had a lack of 340k men. (End of November 1941: 340k Missing Men “Fehlstellen” (S. 19 Hillebrand, Heer (amazon.de affiliate link)))

At first this doesn’t seem too much, but the Army used many local volunteers in non-combat roles, to fill up the ranks. And even more importantly, the highest losses were sustained by combat units and at least 400k men were already replaced from reserves, hence the combat units took substantial losses, decreasing the combat effectiveness.

Let’s take at figures for tanks. In total there were about 3400 tanks, in beginning of September 1941 700 of those were total losses, 560 were either total losses or not-operational and 540 were being repaired. Leaving about 1600 operational tanks.

In early November 1941 the organization department of the General staff assessed the combat effectiveness of the infantry and tank divisions. The conclusion determined the combat effectiveness of the infantry at 65 % and that of the tanks at 35 % of their original values.

This clearly shows that the Barbarossa wasn’t a walk in the park for the German Army.

Logistics

Another aspect are of course logistics. The German Army had to cover huge distances of up to 700 miles or 1200 km to deliver supplies. There was a lack of trains and the German Army was under-motorized. The vast distances, the speed of the advance and the poor infrastructure wore down the existing vehicles rapidly. Germany had about 500k motor vehicles on the Eastern front ranging from motorcycles to trucks. About 20 % (106k) were lost by the end of 1941. A number that couldn’t be properly replaced and the situation with horses wasn’t any better.
This resulted not only in major logistical problems, but also decreased the mobility of combat units.

Exhaustion

The significant losses in men and equipment, the limited amount of supply and the continuous fighting left the German Army exhausted. There was no quick victory in sight and the front commanders were aware of this situation, unlike the High Command. This is reflected by the results of a meeting in mid of November, where the High Command wanted to conduct further offensive operations, whereas the front line commanders opposed them.

Conclusion

Hence, when General Winter finally arrived the German Army was already in a critical situation. If Barbarossa had started a month or even two months earlier the losses, the overstretched supply lines and the exhaustion would have been pretty much the same, thus a different starting date wouldn’t have made only a minor or no difference at all.
Hitler and the German High Command lead Operation Barbarossa to its grave (their army to a grave), which was dug out by the Soviet Army, General Winter merely helped filling it up.

Winter

Of course the winter was also a factor, but it is the only one these factors that should affect both sides about equally. It didn’t because due to the logistical situation the German Army was ill-prepared for winter combat.

Winter worked as a multiplier not a reason itself.

So the Winter was more like a few nails in the coffin for Barbarossa, but definitely not the coffin itself.

Sources

Books

David M. Glantz, Jonathan M. House: When Titans Clashed – How the Red Army stopped Hitler (amazon.com affiliate link)

Rolf D. Müller, Gerd R. Ueberschär: Hitlers Krieg im Osten (amazon.de affiliate link)

Müller-Hillebrand, Burkhart: Das Heer – Band 3 – 1941-1945 (amazon.de affiliate link)

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Disclaimer 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.

Disclaimer amazon.co.uk

Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.

Disclaimer amazon.ca

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

Disclaimer 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 können.

Online Resource

Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht

Glantz: The Soviet-German War 1941-1945: Myths and Realities: A Survey Essay

Soviet Air Force 1941/1942 – Defeat & Recovery

The Soviet Air Force in World War 2 got a very rude awakening, it endured one of the most devastating defeats in aviation history. At the time of the German attack the force consisted of about 400 000 personnel, and 10 000 to 15 000 aircraft, of which 7 500 were deployed in the Soviet’s Western theatre. Whereas the German Air Force had around 2800 aircraft deployed for Operation Barbarossa. The Germans achieved total surprised and launched an attack with about 1000 bombers against 66 airfields in the Russian border districts. (p. 272)

Aircraft Losses during Operation Barbarossa

The reported losses on these initial attacks vary, but the 1970s Soviet official history states the loss of 800 aircraft destroyed on the ground and a total loss of 1200 aircraft. This basically crippled the Soviet air force stationed near the front lines. These attacks also inflicted significant damage and chaos on the logistical side. Thus, by day three of operation Barbarossa the Luftwaffe was free to focus mainly on supporting the ground troops, who captured the Russian airfields.(p. 273)

In Mid July 1941 the Soviets admitted to the destruction of almost 4000 (3985) aircraft, whereas the German air force claimed around 6900 (6857) planes destroyed. The kill claims were probably a bit higher than the real ones, but the official war time number probably lower. Yet, most importantly both numbers are substantial.

These losses were during the initial phase of operation Barbarossa and are based on war time claims by both side. Now according to post-war Soviet and German records between the beginning of the operation and the end of the year 1941 ( 22nd of June 1941 and the 31st of December 1941), the losses were approximately as follows:
A total of 21 200 aircraft were lost on the Soviet side. With 17 900 combat aircraft and the loss of 3300 support aircraft. (Greenwood: p. 67/ p.88) Yet, only 50 % of these losses were combat losses. The German side lost a total of 2500 (2505) combat aircraft and 1900 (1895) damaged. (Greenwood: p. 67)

Note: That these numbers may be quite off and shouldn’t be compared 1:1, because both sides counted losses differently, the problem is I haven’t found a proper article on this topic yet. Although a knowledgeable user indicated that German losses were usually total losses, whereas Russian losses seemed to include damaged vehicles.

Reasons for the Disaster

The reasons for the disaster are many, some of them were the result of ongoing processes, some were structural shortcomings and others were definitive failures in leadership. In any way Stalin played a major role in most of these factors.

Although the Soviet Air Force was successful in the Far East in 1938 and 1939. During the Spanish Civil War the German Bf 109 outclassed the Russian planes like the I-15. The performance of the Red Air Force in the Winter War against Finland was a disaster, thus a major reorganization was started in February 1941 which would at least take until Mid-1942, thus it wasn’t finished when the Germans attacked and made the force even more vulnerable. (p. 274)

Additionally, the Soviet expansion into Eastern Poland and the Baltic States required many resources that would have been needed elsewhere, about two thirds of built or renovated air fields were located in these regions. (p. 275) Thus, many units were still located on unsuited air fields, which were too small or unfinished, which also made camouflage and dispersal more difficult. Unlike the British the Soviets lacked a proper early warning system, which resulted in a total surprise combined with Stalin’s reluctance to prepare properly to the upcoming German attack. (p. 275)

Purges

Another major structural problem was created by Stalin purges. In 1937 the Air Force had 13000 officers, of those 4700 (4724) were arrested. Followed by another 5600 (5616) in 1940. (75 % of the most senior and experienced commanders were among those.) Although some of the arrested officers were later released it were only around 15 % (about 900 (892) or 16 percent of those in 1940). This of course had a severe impact on morale and effectiveness, because the Air force consisted of to a large degree of purge survivors, promoted inexperienced young officers and fresh recruits. (p. 276)

The purges also affected the design bureaus for weapons and aircraft. Some were dismissed, some were arrested, which often lead to the execution and some were put in special prison bureaus like Andrei (Nikolayevich)Tupolev.(p. 277-278)

Furthermore the drastic measures and understandable fear surrounding the purges also inflicted the production of aircraft, because changing the production line from one aircraft to another can be quite complicated and usually includes a severe reduction in efficiency for adapting machinery and processes, this “loss” or better investment of time could be easily seen as sabotage. So most factories were reluctant in switching over to new models.(p. 278)

This meant that in 1940 7300 (7267 old fighters and bombers) old designs were produced whereas only around 200 of newer models.(186 new fighters and ground attack “machines” (p. 277))
The numbers especially for newer models increased in 1941, yet the training on the new aircraft was kept to a minimum due to fear of losses caused by accidents, which could also lead to “sabotage” or other charges. I guess Stalin would have been a huge Beastie Boys fan or maybe the other way round, that would at least explain all those moustaches… Oh, well I digress.

Recovery Summer 1941 to Winter 1942

Let’s take a look at the recovery of the Soviet Air force, although the German losses were way lower than the Soviet ones, the Luftwaffe also had far fewer aircraft available in the beginning. Furthermore, the logistical system of the Luftwaffe was unsuited for a long war in Russia, something I discussed already in one of my previous videos. Already in October and November the Russians ordered attacks against Luftwaffe airfields. Additionally, since the Japanese were no longer a threat, more than 1000 aircraft from the Far East arrived, all this helped to slowly tip the balance.
Whereas in end of September (30th) 1941, the Russians could oppose the 1000 Luftwaffe air planes with only 550 (545) of their own. In mid-November the situation was quite different with 670 Luftwaffe planes versus 1140 (1138) Russian planes. (p. 279) Yet, the numbers alone didn’t win the battle for the Red Air Force, but the balance was slowly changing and in fall 1942 the Luftwaffe got seriously challenged. (p. 279)

After Hitler denied the 6th Army to break out of Stalingrad it was supplied only by the Luftwaffe, the Soviet established a so called “aerial blockage” and after two months of intensive fighting the Luftwaffe’s air superiority was finally lost. (the Germans could only field 350 fighters vs. 510 (509) Russian fighters in November 1942 (19th))

Important Factors in the Recovery

Let’s take a look at the major factors that contributed to the resurrection of the Soviet Air Force. One aspect was the mostly successful evacuation of the air craft industry and the lack of German attacks on this industry. Furthermore, the successful creation of a talented command staff and successful reorganization, which was supported by Stalin. (p. 280) The restructuring efforts included the transformation into air divisions, whereas each division consisted of one type of aircraft, which improved the logistics and command efficiency.(p. 281)
Additionally, the use of on-board radios grew, which allowed better coordination with ground stations for warning and command-and-control. (p. 281) There were also tactical changes like the creation of special ace units and the use of free hunts with experienced pilots. The Soviet Air doctrine focused strongly on fighters in order to achieve air superiority, thus a considerable effort was spent to develop the fighter arm into an elite force. (p. 75 Greenwood)

All these changes and the continuous Luftwaffe losses, allowed the Soviet Air Force to break the air superiority of the Luftwaffe and subsequently force it into the defensive role. Thus, within a mere 18 months the Soviet Air Force was able to recover and deal a severe blow against its enemy.

Additionally, the Soviet Air Force was starting to receive more and more planes, due to the lend-lease program which supplied around 18000 (18303; p. 280) planes during the whole war.

Sources

Books

Amazon.com (affiliate link): Jones, David R.: From Disaster to Recovery: Russia’s Air Forces in the Two World Wars. In: Higham & Harris: Why Air Forces Fail
Amazon.de (affiliate link): Jones, David R.: From Disaster to Recovery: Russia’s Air Forces in the Two World Wars. In: Higham & Harris: Why Air Forces Fail

Amazon.com (affiliate link): Greenwood, John T.: Soviet Frontal Aviation during the Great Patriotic War, 1941-45. In: Russian Aviation and Air Power in the Twentieth Century
Amazon.de (affiliate link): Greenwood, John T.: Soviet Frontal Aviation during the Great Patriotic War, 1941-45. In: Russian Aviation and Air Power in the Twentieth Century

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Online Resources

CHAPTER V -ATTRITION ON THE PERIPHERY: NOVEMBER 1942-AUGUST 1943

Axis and Soviet air operations during Operation Barbarossa

Pop-culture Beastie Boys Reference – Sabotage

Logistics of the Luftwaffe in World War 2

for a more thorough look check my video on why the Luftwaffe Failed in World War 2.

Intro

In order to understand the logistics of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) in World War 2, we must take a look at the rearmament process, the military control of the industry, the attitude towards logistics and the dominance of the operational-tactical approach.

The Type/Sub-type Madness

The German re-armament focused on a fast build-up of arms and equipment. To achieve this many different models were produced by a wide range of companies. Yet, such an approach increases the cost of maintenance and supply due to the wide range of different vehicles and weapons.

This problem becomes apparent, if you look at the numbers in 1943: the US Army Air Force has 18 types of aircraft, whereas Germany had 50. This problem was prevalent in other areas too, like the armament of planes.

Take the B-17, it had one type of defensive gun, the 0.50 cal machine gun, whereas the He-111-H6 had three different types [SHOW 7.92 mm, 13mm and 20mm]. Nearly every German plane usually had a combination of at least two different types of guns throughout the war, whereas the US Forces usually used only one type of gun at all.

Luftwaffe in charge of its own industry

This problem was to a certain degree due to the control of the arms industry by the Luftwaffe. Until 1944 as the only branch of the German Armed Forces, it controlled its own industry. Which was in contrast to the United States, where the industry delivered the units most suited for mass production to the military.

Now, these circumstances were already problematic, but although German engineering is usually highly regarded throughout the world. The relationship of the military and engineering was “complicated” at best.

Disdain for Engineering

Many officers had a lack of technical understanding and were fine with it, some were even blatantly ignorant. Technology for them and thus the engineers were basically “meager”/mere servants.

This is divide between military and engineering is well illustrated by the debate about special insignias for technical officers. It was assumed that a technical officer would be perceived as less valuable by normal officers.

The attitude of the military towards technological and logistical matters manifested itself in the overall doctrine and principles.

Primacy of the operational-tactical approach vs. logistics

For instance, the primacy of the operational-tactical thinking was codified in the directive for the quartermaster. It clearly states that the supply chain management acts as a servant to the operational and tactical command.

“Alle im Versorgungsdienst tätigen Offiziere und Fachbearbeiter müssen sich bewußt sein, daß die Versorgung stets Dienerin der operativen und taktischen Führung ist und niemals zu deren Hemmschuh werden darf.” (Horst Boog, S. 242-243; referring to Quartiermeister-Vorschrift, Berlin 1936)

“All officers and clerks working in the supply services must be aware that the supply chain management is always servant of operational and tactical leadership and must never become the stumbling block.”

This is again in contrast to the Allies, in the RAF War Manual on operations, it is stated that every operational commander had to be aware of the supply/logistical situation. Yet, there is nothing similar in the German directive.

The Result

To conclude, the German Air Force was well suited for small and short wars with its operational (and military) focus, but the fast buildup and military dominance in industrial matters lead to a logistical nightmare as the war prolonged and turned into a war of attrition. Whereas other air forces usually adapted their logistical approach, the German Air Force command was reluctant due to disregard for anything outside of the operational and tactical realm. Thus, to a certain degree the Luftwaffe resembled very well the so called “Knights of the Skies”, yet in a time when the outcome of a war was mostly determined by “mere servants”.

Sources

Books

Boog, Horst: Luftwaffe und Logistik im Zweiten Weltkrieg; in: Vorträge zur Militärgeschichte 7: Die Bedeutung der Logistik für die militärische Führung von der Antike bis in die neueste Zeit.

Further Reading and Recommendation

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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.”

Online Resources

Heinkel He 177

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.”

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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” »

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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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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