Wars Are Won By Replacing Lost Equipment.

by Daniel Russ on November 1, 2011

Germans Invade Russia With More Horses Than Any Army In History.


By April of 1942 the Germans had lost so much equipment and personnel that truly they never recovered. Of the 3.2 million Germans who marched into Russia, and the 1.4 million Axis allies, over one third of this force was a casualty. That was more casualties in less than a year than Napoleon had suffered all of his command. German tank production couldn’t possibly keep up either. It’s not that the Germans were really losing tank battles, because at this point they were overwhelming other armored columns. The fact is many other factors were grinding down German armor. The weather for one thing. When Winter turned to Spring on the Russian steppes west of Moscow, the steppes turned into mud traps. Germans had to push their own vehicles out of ditches or out of the line of fire with trucks, horses, and other pack animals. Then there was mechanical failure. German equipment tended to be more complicated and more complicated means more maintenance. When it wasn’t raining torrents, it was hot and dry and dusty, and dust is just as deleterious to machinery as is mud or rain. Gerrie-rigged Maintenance on the Russian steppes is no simple task. It was arctic cold, or oppressively hot. Spare parts had to be placed on trains and sent 1000 miles to the front. Then at the front, often bloody and confusing places, the part had to be sorted out and delivered to the exact vehicle, all of this no simple task on a battlefield. That said, 80% of the armored vehicles they started with were either destroyed or needed lots of maintenance. Given these statistics, it’s no wonder that Germans were stealing Russian PPSh-41 machine guns and using them, or using captured Russian artillery on the Soviet forces. The Germans had lost so much equipment, that in the battlefields around Moscow the Russian weapons you heard were just as likely to be fired at Russians by Germans.


Forty percent of the German anti tank-guns were lost. Half their horses had died by this time and frankly the rest were on their way. Once the horses were lost, they were consumed. By this time much of the German army was getting hungry and having a hard time reinforcing troops with the most basic stuff, like food and ammunition, and keeping supply lines open.



Horses In Russia With Wehrmacht Forces

German infantry and armor doctrine called for a defense in depth. This was a way to allow an army to absorb counterattacks without cracking. Hitler was a successful armchair general, but an armchair general never the less. It was the blinding loyalty and charismatic trance he had the country in that gave him purview over all things. It was this amateur who had so hypnotized the country that its greatest generals would do his bidding when their deepest instincts ran quite the contrary. So often Hitler refused to allow generals to retreat. He did more to destroy his own army this way than he knew. An army that can retreat can regroup and win another day. Hitler orders not to give an inch are like telling a boxer that once his punch is thrown he can’t rare back to throw a second punch because raring back would be a retreat.



That which cannot bend  breaks. The German Army starting failing first in North Africa at the end of 1942 at El Alamein and then in the Spring of 1943 in Stalingrad. The problem was not the fact that the Germans might have been an inferior fighting force. The Wehrmacht was probably the single best army of the 20th century. The problem originated in the supply line. If you can’t replace your losses, you lose. This was the salient difference between the Germans and the Russians on the Eastern front.



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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Louis September 6, 2017 at 2:32 pm

General Paulus, the one that surrendered at Stalingrad, had run a wargame at the OKW before the invasion. He noticed that, no matter what way they went about it, the army would be out of supply after 4 months.
This was known to Hitler, but then, he was sure the Soviets would have been defeated by then.

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