** German Industrial Effort: Concentration on the War in the West

German Industrial Effort: Concentration on the War in the West

Figure 1.--This image of the German Ostheer could not be more telling. Study the image. There are bikes and horses, but not a motor vehicle in site. Now American and British infantry were on foot at the front, but these solders are not at the front, but moving toward the front. Look at the horizon to assess the distances they are moving on foot. The idea of invading the Soviet Union on foot is ludicrous, but it is exactly what the Germans did. This is not unlike how Napoleon's Grand Armee invaded Russia in 1812, albit the Germans at least had bicycles. It is true that the Germans had poweful, well equipped Panzer divisions, but what you see here is what the great bulk of the Deutsche Ostheer looked like and moved. (Notice how different it is from the Newsreels Goebbels showed to the German perople.) And while Hitler committed the vast majority of German soldiers to the East, he devoted German indudustry primarily to the West, leaving the Ostheer poorly supplied and vulnerable in the decisive engagement of World War II. Just look at this group and ask yourself, how much industry was required to equip them. And rememnber taht what you see here is waht constituted the graet bulk of the Ostheer.

Germany was a major industrial country, but not the world's dominant or even largest industrial power. Thus German industrial allocations had to be carefully calculated if they were to win the War. Fortunately for mankind, they were not. And this was especially true of the war in the East with the Soviet Union--the Ostkrieg. The Ostkrieg was certainly the decisive engagement of World War II. Whoever prevailed there was going to win the War. The Allied Strategic Bombing Campaign did far more than damage German war industry, it forced the NAZIs to devote the majority of Germany's potent, but limited industrial power on the war in the West instead of where it was most needed--the Ostheer. Contrary to popular conceptions, the German economy was not effectively harnessed for war. Civilian consumption was not drastically curtailed as was the case in Britain. Women were not further mobilized for war work, especially married women. Industrial production was not totally directed at the War effort. Only when the War began to go against Germany and Albert Speer was appointed Armaments Minister (1942) did German industry begin to take needed steps to maximize production and reach some of its potential. [Speer] The Germans, as a result, despite the bombing were able to expand war production. This was the case through 1943. Only in late 1944 and the full force of the strategic bombing force was released from D-Day support did the German economy begin to collapse under the weight of Allied bombing. Some have used this to charge that the Allied bombing campaign was ineffective and a misallocations of resources. This is not the case. Without the bombing, the Germans could have substantially increased war production in 1942 and 43. Some time ago I notice a comment in an important book on World War II. The author states that the German war economy was oriented to the war in the West, and not the Ostkrieg. [Weinberg] That rather surprised us at the time, but we have since come to conclusion that he was absolutely correct. It took a huge industrial effort to support operations in the West (the West Wall the Air War, the Battle of the Atlantic, the Atlantic Wall, the V-Weapons, etc.). In contrast the Ostheer was mostly unmotorized infantry using horse-drawn carts. We are always amazed that when authors describe the Ostkrieg, they almost always phrase the importance in terms of manpower (German deployment and casualties), never in terms of industrial power. Manpower is important, but as any military historian knows, it is only one factor in warfare, and not always the most important. Our contention is that the War in the West forced Hitler to send the Ostheer into the Soviet Union largely on foot and once there without the industrial support needed for the decisive engagement of the War.

Industrial Mobilization (1943)

Hitler and others in the NAZI Party and Wehrmacht hierarchy believed that Germany had lost Wold War I because of a collapse of the home front. There was widespread belief that the 'November Criminals' had betrayed Germany--a total fabrication. The collapse of civilian morale, largely because of privations, was however, very real. Hitler thus was unwilling to order total mobilization of the German War economy because of concern about civilian morale. The early victories came so easily (1939-40), that he actually partially demobilization and suspended some military projects. Hitler was convinced after the fall of France (June 1940), that Germany had won the War. Only after the shocking defeats in 1942, did the NAZIs turn to total mobilization overseen after the death of Fritz Todt by Albert Speer. Some authors think Speer's role is overstated, but there is no denying that total war mobilization as proclaimed by Propaganda Minister Goebbels was the goal. and this was going to impact the Home Front. Even so, the German population fared fairly well until they were driven out of the occupied countries that they were exploiting.


The German Army was committed to Poland and the Western Offensive leading to the fall of France. (1939-40). Afdter a short Balkans campaign, the bulk of the German Army was committed on the Eastern Front for the Ostkrieg or Great Patriotic War as the Soviets called it. The Germans launched 150 divisions and some 30 allied divisions into the Soviet Union as part of Operation Barbarossa. German manpower in the east varied from 2.5-3.4 million (1941-44). Only in 1945 did it fall below 2.0 million. It was the decisive theater of the War and more forces were committed there than in any other theater of World WAR II--actually any other military campaign in history. Even after the Allies landed in Normandy (June 1944), the Ostheer was the primary German force. And it is absolutely true that in terms of manpower, it was the Soviet Red Army that cut the heart out of the German Wehrmacht. Some 70–85 million people perished during World War II, around 30 million of that number are believed to have been killed occurred on the Eastern Front, including 9 million children. [Krivosheev] The Red Army was responsible for killing some 4.5 million German soldiers while the Western Allies accounted for only about 0.5 million German military deaths. The POW numbers taken are closer, but most of POWs taken by the Western Allies were taken in the final months of the War, especially after the Allies crossed the Rhine (March 1945). Notice that when the Soviet role in the War is presented, it almost always is exclusively or primarily focused on the German casualties, especially the deaths. These figures vary somewhat, depending on the source, but all of the reasonably dependable source show that it was the Red Army that cut the heart out of the Wehrmacht. There is no denying this.


Manpower is a vital component of combat power. But it is not the only component. If it was, China would have won World War II. Yet we have historian after historian, highly competent academic declaring that the Red Army was the major factor in the defeat of NAZI Germany. And to prove this they use the same statistics, basically about 75-80 percent of the casualties sustained by the Germans were lost in the Ostkrieg. A respected military historian states flat out that 8 of every 11 German casualties were sustained in the East and "that should tell you roughly the proportion of their contribution to victory." [House] The first part of this statement is the casualty statistic which is absolutely correct. The proportionality to victory, however, is absurd and it is difficult to understand why a competent historian would make such a claim. Manpower is only one element of combat power. Economics, industry, technology, raw material, and other factors are also important. And the Red Army victory is in large measure because Germany did not support the Ostheer adequately with its sizeable industrial sector. The Soviet economy was comparable to the German economy, but not as heavily industrialized. And a substantial part of industry and resources was lost as a result of Barbarossa. So why was the Ostheer so poorly equipped. The same historian who claims that manpower was key admits that Hitler sent an army mostly composed of ummotorized infantry east largely on foot. [House] So why were the Germans unable to adequately equip the Ostheer? There are two primary reasons for this. First, the Soviets had adopted American-style mass production techniques and the Germans had not. Second, the Germans were forced to devote most of their industry to waging the war in the West. It does not take much industry to build the horse carts that went east with the Ostheer. It does take a lot of industry to wage the naval conflict in the North Atlantic and the air war over the Reich.

The Deutsche Ostheer

The Germany invaded the Soviet Union as part of Operation Barbarossa (June 1941). Until that the German Army was mostly deployed in the Erst. With Barbarossa The German Army was primarily committed to the East. The Ostkrieg became the decisive campaign of the War. The German Army is often represented as a thoroughly mechanized, modern force. Nothing could be further from the actual situation. They certainly had some powerful Panzer divisions with motorized infantry. As the war progressed, the tank compliment of the divisions steadily declined. These modern, mechanized units, however, were a small part of the Ostheer. This would be about 20-25 percent of the Ostheer. The rest, the great bulk of the Ostheer, was unmotorized infantry which moved east with horse-drawn carts carrying their supplies as well as moving artillery. This is why that 0.6 million horses were part of the Barbarossa force. This also mean that German logistics had to include using valuable supply shipment for the huge quantity of fodder needed for those horses. Notice that German war films give little attention to the unmotorized infantry and horses. Rather the official photographers focused on the Panzers and Luftwaffe. Not doubt they had orders to do this. It was not the image that Goebbels wanted to depict in thee weekly newsreels--'Die Deutsche Wochenschau'. But it means that existing footage gives the wrong impression. Rarely pictured was the great mass of the Ostheer moving east on foot. And it dies not taken much industry to build horse carts. A major reason for this was that most of German industrial production supported the War in the West. [Weinberg] This left Ostheer poorly equipped and supplied. And it meant that they were vulnerable as the Red Army recovered from the Barbarossa disasters and began to become increasingly well armed and led.

Red Army Success

We do not wish to diminish in any way the bravery and determination of the Red Army. While we are critical of the brutal Soviet leadership, the Red Army soldiers and Soviet civilians paid a terrible price for their victory. And it was they who stopped the German Ostheer and defeated it. We all owe a great deal to these courageous men and women. Nothing can take away from this historic accomplishment. But we do object to Soviet and modern Russian authors who seek to dismiss the Western contribution. Any competent military historian knows that manpower is only one element in military power. A very important element to be sure, but only one. Other vital inter-related factors include economics (industry and agriculture), geography, ideology, technology, weaponry, and other elements. And when these factors are considered, the Western contribution to the War, even the fighting in the East can be seen as vital. Not only did American and British Lend Lease shipments play an important role in equipping and feeding the Red Army, but the war in the West while not involving the manpower of Ostkrieg, forced the Germans to commit most of their industrial output to fight the Western Allies. As a result, the Ostheer was poorly supplied and equipped. Only about 20-25 percent of the German Ostheer and virtually none of their allied forces (Croatian, Finn, Hungary Italian, Romanian, and Spanish) was motorized or well equipped. The great bulk of the Ostheer was unmotorized infantry which moved east on foot. If Germany industry was not delivered to the West, the Ostheer would have been much better equipped significantly enhancing its combat power. Just look at the German unit here moving east on foot and assess its combat power. Notice the lack of heavy weaponry. Their supplies were moved with horse-drawn carts.

German Industry: Military Output

It is absolutely correct that that the bulk of German military manpower was committed in the East beginning with the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). It should not be assumed that because 75-80 percent of German manpower was deployed in the Ostkrieg that this automatically meant that 75-80 percent of German industrial output was devoted to the Ostkrieg. This is an assumption that many authors make. And it is incorrect. Something like 75 percent of the Ostheer was unmotorized infantry moving East on foot with supplies moving up with horse-drawn carts. Much of their artillery was also moved by horses. Now industry was needed to equip the Panzer Divisions and motorized infantry that accompanied the Panzers--but this was a small part of the Ostkrieg. And it takes very little industry to produce horse carts and shoe leather. In sharp contrast it took a great deal of industry to produce the planes and ships which were primarily used to fight the war in the West. Even ordinance did not equate with troop disposition. Enormous quantities of ammunition were expended by the anti-aircraft batteries that defended German cities. Something like 3,300 shells were fired for every bomber brought down. This was an enormous price for the ammunition expenditure and the valuable 88 mm guns that were diverted from the Ostkrieg where the war was being decided. In fact the two largest industrial expenditures for the Germans were aircraft and and ships (including U-boats). And most of the German planes and virtually all ships were committed to the war in the West. Aircraft alone accounted for something like half of German industrial production for the military.

Major Industrial Commitment

We notice one historian after another making the point that the war in the East (Ostkrieg) dwarfed the war in the west. And the data they present ton prove their contention is almost always manpower: 1) the size of the Red Army, Wehrmacht deployment, and casualties both Axis and Soviet. This is absolutely true. The forces deployed were immense as were the losses. The Red Army essentially tore the heart out of the German Heer in the savage fighting on the Eastern Front. But as any military historian should know, manpower is not the sole factor in generating combat power. World War II more than any war in history was an industrial struggle. And the deployment of manpower does not mean that the commitment of industrial power is comparable. In fact there were gross disparities between German industrial support for the Ostheer and its western forces. As a result, the vast majority of the Ostheer was unmotirized infantry on foot using horses and bicycles as we see here (figure 1). And there is very little industrial output required to equip these divisions with horse-drawn carts and bicycles. The Germans has powerful motorized Panzer divisions. The problem for the Germans was that the motorized divisions were a small fraction of the Ostheer. The reason for this was the war in the West. Unlike the Ostkrieg, this required the substantial commitment of the bulk of German industry output. This meant that the Ostheer fighting the decisive battle of the War was poorly supported--a major cause of their failure.

Synthetic Oil/Kohleverflüssigung (1933)

Hitler was thinking about another war from the moment he was appointed Chancellor (January 1933). He had given considerable thought to why Germany lost World War I. And high on the list was the British naval blockade which had cut Germany off from imports of food, raw materils, and oil. He realized that pol would be more important in the war he was planning than had been the case in World War I. He introduced a policy of autarky which included domestic oil production. And because Germany did not have an oil resource, this meant the development of a synthetic fuel industry, producing oil from coal. At the time of World War II, synfuel plans were providing nearly half of Germany's peacetime oil needs. The War would greatly increase Germany's oil requirements. The synfuel process was both complicated and expensive. The massive plants required huge quantities of steel and other scarce raw materials. This was all necessary because the coming war in the West. It was not the Soviet Union that would block Germany's ability to import oil, it would be the Western Allies. In fact the Soviet Union would supply the NAZI war machine vast quantities of oil (1939-41). Even as German Panzers crossed the Soviet frontier moving (June 22, 1941), Soviet tanker rail cars were crossing the frontier moving West, delivering oil to the Germans. The whole synfuel was the first of many efforts which entailed orienting German industry to the war in the West. Also important, it raised the cost of fuel. It would provide fuel for the NAZI war effort, but at a far greater cost than the fuel available to other World War II combatants.

West Wall/Westwall (1938-39)

The West Wall was the largest construction project in German history. It is one of the many examples of industrial and material resources being used to fight the war in the West and not the East, in this case preparations for the War. The Allies called in the Siegfried Line. It was a German defensive line built opposite the French Maginot Line. It was not as elaborate as the Maginot Line, but and featured more than 18,000 bunkers, tunnels, and tank traps. Unlike the Maginot Line, it did not end at the Belgian border, but continued along the Dutch border to Kleve where the West Wall joins up with the Rhine River. Most of the West Wall and the most elaborate fortifications were built west of the Rhine. The Wall stretched more than 630 km (390 mi) from Kleve south to Weil am Rhein on the border with Switzerland. Very little work to militarize Germany's western border was done until Hitler made the commitment to war. His first targets was Czechoslovakia and Poland in the East. He realized that if he was to commit the Wehrmacht in the East that western Germany would be vulnerable. So he launched a crash program to build the West Wall before launching the War. It proved to be a massive effort. e are not sure yet how it compared to the Atlantic Wall built during the War. It did not involve slave labor like the Atlantic Wall, but did involve conscript German labor. It was a crash program completed in a little over a year just before the War. Working conditions were poor and very little heavy equipment was available. Enormous quantities of concrete, timber, and steel were used to build the West Wall. The French after Hitler and Stalin launched the War by invading Poland did not attack the West Wall (1939-40). As a result, when the Germans began building the Atlantic Wall, they moved much of the artillery (1942-44). After D-Day and the collapse of German forces in France, Hitler ordered another crash effort to reactivate and rearm the West Wall (August 24, 1944). [McNab] Some 20,000 forced laborers and members of the Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reich Labour Service), largely 14-16-year-old boys, did their best to re-equip the West Wall to prepare for the massive Allied armies headed toward western borders of the Reich. Nothing like this existed in the East. Local civilians were conscripted to dig anti-tank ditches. Unlike the 1939-40 period, there was intense fighting along the West Wall as mostly American armies began approaching the borders of the Reich (September 1944). The Allies finally began breaking through these defenses in force and moving toward the Rhine (January-February 1945).

Z-Plan (1939)

The Z-Plan was the Kriegsmarine plan to reach parity with the British Royal Navy. It was drawn up by Admiral Raeder and his staff. It was prepared after the Munich war scare (1938). Hitler who knew nothing of naval warfare simply accepted it, partly because in 1938-39 it was the British that were his main obstacle. The competition date was set at 1946-48. And to achieve even this, Hitler gave the Kriegsmarine priority to scarce resources like steel and copper (January 1939). The Heer commanders were furious. And in the lead up to the War, tank and other armament production was affected. The Kriegsmarine was the junior service, but resources devoted to it were substantial even before the Z-Plan was adopted. Just calculate the number of tanks that could have been built with the material that went into Bismarck, the massive battleship that the Germans constructing in 1936. Or the carrier Graf Zepplin. But for a time before the War, the Kriegsmaine had priority. Hitler was sure that his invasion of Poland would not result in a major War in 1939. He was positive and Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop, assured him that Britain and France would not declare war. They of course did and with genearl mobilization, the Z-Plan was suspended. Hitler became disenchanted with big surface ships early in the War beginning with the Graf Spee incident (December 1939). After Bismarck was sunk, he wanted nothing to do with them (March 1941). But for a short time the Kriegsamrine had a priority. And again later in the War, U-boat construction was given a high priority for material.


The first tanks appeared in World War II and made an important contribution to the Allied victory. Tanks came to the forefront in World War II. German Panzers played a major role in the success of Blitzkrieg victories (1939-41). At first they faced Poland which did not have a significant tank force. The British and French had tanks, in some cases better tanks, but they lacked an effective tactical doctrine (1940). The first real opposition was in the Soviet Union (June 1941). The Soviets had huge numbers of tanks, some 10,000 (mostly light BT series tanks or obsolete T-26 models), but the Germs were using many tanks like the Czech tanks which were not much better. Stalin had, however, arrested and murdered most of the officers associated with Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, the innovative Soviet commander. Most Soviet tanks were poorly designed, but the real problem was tactics. Endorsing Tukhachevsky Deep Battle tactics could get you shot. The highly effective T-34s were just beginning to appear. A critical question that has to be asked is why did the Soviets out produce the Germans in tanks when the Germans has a larger steel industry and the Germans overran the Western Soviet Union where much of Soviet heavy industry was located. Some plants were shipped East, but masny were not. It is important to note that even after launching the War that Hitler did not fully mobilize the Germany economy. And after the spectacular early victories believed that what he had was more than adequate to wage the short summer campaign that he thought would destroy the Red Army. In the month that Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht in to the Soviet Union, German factories only produced 250 tanks. That was not sufficient to even replace tanks lost from normal wear and tear, let alone combat losses. The Germans did increase tank production, but no where near the level of Soviet expansion. The Battle of Kursk (July 1943) was the greatest tank battle of the War and will surely never be equaled. there was nothing like it in the West. This might suggest that the bulk of German industry was committed to the Ostkrieg and building the tanks, trucks, and other equipment they needed. But in fact this was not occurring. The German and Soviets had roughly comparable economies in GDP terms. (This is admittedly difficult to measure.) While the overall GDP was comparable. the Germans had a much larger heavy industrial sector. This can be seen in steel production. Which should have meant that the Germans would out produce the Soviets in tanks. Just the opposite, however, is the case. The Soviets massively outproduced the Germans. Soviet tank production was pheromone. Why was this? There seem to be two major reasons. First, German industrial policy. Second, the Germans had to use their steel in other areas, primarily areas to fight the war in the West--meaning the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe as well as artillery to protect German cities from Allied bombers. While the Soviets, fighting on only one front, were able to concentrate their industrial effort on tank production.


The Kriegsmarine was the junior German service in World War II. It involved a small fraction of German manpower. Unlike Ostheer, however, building the KM's ships required an enormous industrail effort. And these ships, both surface vessels and U-boats required huge quantities of steel and other critical materials, especially copper. And virtually all of this effort was devoted to the war in the West. Take just the battleship Bismarck. While Bismarck was one of the largest of the German surface ships, there were other battleships, battle cruisers, and heavy cruisers. And the German surface and U-Boat fleets required a major industrial commitment. They were competing against the British Royal Navy and the United States Navy--with far greater resources for the vital struggle for control of the North Atlantic sea lanes. Bismarck had a displacement of 50,000 tons. The mainstay of the German armored force were the Mark IIIs and IVs which weighed about 25 tons. The Bismarck alone was enough steel and other critical materials to build 2,000 Panzer Mark IIIs. The Germans built less than 6,000 during the War. The Mark IV was only slightly heavier and produced in slightly larger numbers--about 8,500. An amateur historian points out, "In 1942, the Soviets built 15 warships- submarines and destroyers and torpedo boats. Germans built nine destroyers and torpedo boats, and 222 submarines. That many submarines is worth more than 800 million Reichsmarks of industrial effort, as much money as another 8,000 Panzer IIIs." [Arslan] And 1942 is the year that the War was decided on the Eastern front. Of course the primary naval vessel built by the Germans during the War was the U-boat. There were several types of U-boats, but an average tonnage would be about 900 tons and the Germans built round 1, 150 U-boats. That would mean over 40,000 Mark III and IV tanks. That is very close to the 47,000 tanks the Germans built during the War. The point being that while relatively small in manpower terms, the Germans had to devote huge resources to the Kriregsmarine, almost exclusively to fight the war in the West. Without the naval war in the West, the Germans could have easily doubled their tank production. approaching the level of Soviet tank production..


In addition to the Panzers, the Luftwaffe was the other critical component of Blitzkrieg. The Luftwaffe is particularly important because a huge portion of German industrial war production went toward producing aircraft. Data available for the early years of the Wars suggest that about half of industrial output of weaponry went for aircraft. Thus the disposition of the air units significantly affected the industrial support provided to the Eastern and Eastern fronts. The Luftwaffe was different than the Heer and Kriegsmarine. It was significantly deployed in both the West and the East, but it was primarily deployed in the West. For nearly the first 2 years of the War (September 1939-May 1941), it was exclusively used in the West. And during this time there were two major developments. First Soviet deliveries of oil strategic materials played a major role in both the construction of aircraft and the conduct of the Western Offensive (May-June 1940) and (July 1940 -March 1941). Second, the British RAF during the Battle of Britain significantly damaged the Luftwaffe, affecting German air support during Barbarossa. Beginning with Barbarossa (June 1941), the Luftwaffe was primarily, but not exclusively deployed in the East. The Luftwaffe destroyed the large Red Air Force largely on the Ground, meaning however that most of the pilots survived (June 1941). But what the Luftwaffe could not do was provide the same level of support to the ground forces that they had in the West. This dominant deployment in the East lasted only a little over a year. RAF Bomber Command began receiving the Iconic Lancaster long range heavy bomber (February 1942). This was the beginning of the significant phase of the Allied Strategic Bombing Campaign. And then the American Eighth Air Force which and been building up in Britain joined in and the Around the Clock bombing of occupied Europe and the Reich began (August 1942). It was subsequently announced by Churchill and Roosevelt at the Casablanca Conference. This is significant because as a result, the Luftwaffe began pulling its forces back from the East to defend German cities. As a result the bulk of the Luftwaffe was in the East for only about a year and a half (June 1941-December 1942). We can see this in operational losses. It is in the West that the Luftwaffe was destroyed in air battles over German cities (early-1944). This of course means that the vast resources (technological effort, steel, aluminum, copper, and other strategic materials) lavished on Göring's Luftwaffe were primarily used to fight the war in the West. (And remember that Göring as head of the Four Year Plan had a great deal to say about the allocation of resources.)


Artillery is a difficult issue to assess. For much of the first 2 years of the War, the bulk of German artillery was deployed in the West. With the Barbarossa invasion (June 1941), German artillery was mostly in the East, but as a result of the Red Army Winter Offensive (December 1941), a substantial part of German artillery was captured or destroyed by the Soviets. German artillery was not very mobile and much of it was moved by horse-drawn units. Thus a great deal of it had to be abandoned when the Red Army struck. Some of this had been replaced for the 1942 Spring offensive, but again huge quantities were again lost with the another Red Army winter offensive (November 1942). Thus by 1943 Germany artillery had been substantially reduced. At the same time because of the expanding Allied Strategic Bombing Campaign, huge quantities of artillery was not being supplied to the Ostheer, but rather used to amass extensive anti-aircraft defenses around German cities. We have not yet found any detailed assessment of the number of artillery tubes available to the Germans month by month and on what front. Soviet sources report that the Soviet Union substantially out produced the Germans in artillery. [Kurtukov] This is a remarkable achievement given the German occupation of so many industrial cities in the Western Soviet Union (1941). Even so the Germans apparently fired more shells. (We are not sure it this refers to the Eastern front are the huge number of shells fired by German AA-gunners around German cities.) This is all complicated by the number of different artillery pieces. The high-velocity German 88 is perhaps the best known artillery pieces of the War. It was used by the Germans throughout the War. It was designed as a anti-aircraft gun, but soon found it to be a remarkably effective anti-tank gun. The Germans built over 22,000 of these impressuve remarkable guns. But most were shifted to defending defending German cities as anti-aircraft guns as the Allied strategic bombing campaign expanded (mid-June 1942). This started when RAF Bomber Command began receiving the Avro Lancaster. Soon the American joined in the campaign, first with the 8th Air Force (1943). The Americans had two heavy bombers, the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-24 Liberator. Thus most German 88s by the end of 1942 were-not stopping Soviet tanks in the East. [Westermann] The vast majority of the Reich's FLAK defenses were these 88 mm guns. Throughout the entire war, most the German 88 were used in their original anti-aircraft role, most within the Reich in vast AA-gun oarks around German's industrial cities. [Westermsn] The financial costs associated with the AA FLAK effort was huge. And actual hits compared to ammunition expended was much slower than with fighter aircraft. Germany has data on military expenditures, month by month. This data shows the relative importance of the various fronts. And it shows that a time when Germany was desperately fighting to regain the strategic initiative in the East it had to face an increasing bombing campaign in the West. Remarkably – expenditures for anti-aircraft defenses were 39 million Reichsmarks in one representative month, some 40 percent of all the remaining weapons and munitions production of 93 million (February 1943). This includes the 20 million of the navy budget and only 9 million of the aircraft-related budget. [Westerman] There was a contentious debate about the use if resources, given apparent ineffectiveness of anti-aircraft defenses. Some wanted the guns and ordinance transferred from air defense FLAK units in the Reich to anti-tank defenses in the East. Given the increasing toll of the Allied bombing on German cities, however, this move was never made.


The German 88 was arguably the most effective artillery piece of the War, but it was very expensive to produce and operate--the greatest expense being ordnance. Manpower was not a problem because the Germans manned much of the fearsome FLAK defenses with Hitler Youth boys. While the FLAK gunners brought down many Allied planes, it was at enormous cost. And by cost we are referring to industrial effort. This meant that a great deal of German industry was being to defend German cities rather than fighting the Red Army in the East. The 88s were effective a great deal of ordinance had to be expended to bring down a single plane, even after radar aiming systems were developed. Luftwaffe fighter aircraft were much more cost effective. One resource reports that in one month alone (January 1943), expenditures on anti-aircraft defenses were 39 million Reichsmarks, whereas all the remaining weapons and munitions production amounted to 93 million (including 20 million of the navy budget and only nine million of the aircraft-related budget). [Westermann] And that was at a time when the Allied strategic bombing campaign was just beginning.

Atlantic Wall

The Atlantic Wall was largest construction project of World War II. Hitler's Atlantic Wall is perhaps the most massive fortified position in history, far more extensive even than France's Maginot Line. It extended from Norway to the Bay of Biscay. It was a formidable obstacle that Allied planners had to confront. The Germans poured 17 million cubic meters of concrete, strengthened with 1.5 million tons of steel. Steel was a critical war material. The use of such a large quantity mean that steel was not available for other purposes. Much of the construction was done by French workers conscripted from local towns and villages. The concrete went into massive bunkers of up tp 3.5 feet thick which could with stand direct hits. There were also many smaller bunkers and pillboxes of varying size. Construction was ordered by Hitler in Führer Directive No. 40. German newsreels in 1943 show Albert Speer inspecting Atlantic Wall building sites. Building supplies were unloaded as the construction of heavy-gun emplacements is continued. It cost the 3.7 billion Deutschmarks in France alone. Had the Organization Todt paid a real wage to the workers, the cost would have been even greater. The Wall was, however, built with slave and forced labor. Given that the Bay of Biscay slowed the Allies down about 6 hours, it has to be the most colossal waste of money in World War II history. And it was also German industrial output that was all directed to the war in the West.


Germany made huge investments in new weaponry. This is why so many innovative weapons were developed by the Germans. The two most important were the V-1 and V-2. And the cost was huge. Again the cost is important because it is a measure of the industrial effort committed to the projects. The V-1 ram jet missile was a relatively low-cost weapon. A ram jet was ingeniously simple, low-cost weapon. It cost a lot less to build than a complicated piston engine, but the research effort and the cost of building a huge number of launch sites was sizeable. Those sites were a major construction effort and dead giveaway and easy to find and target because the Allies had gained air superiority over France. Only when the Allies began destroying the launch sites (December 1943) did the Germans developed modified launch sites that were quicker to put up. The V-1s caused roughly the same amount of damage as the Blitz. The V-2 ballistic missile was different. It caused much less damage at a much greater cost. Most of the deaths were due the brutal German treatment of the slave labor forced to build the missiles. SS General Hans Kammler, an engineer who oversaw the construction of several concentration camps, including Auschwitz, had a reputation for brutality. He suggested the use of concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers in V-missile program. The cost these two program was enormous as a result if massive industrial resources required. The two German V-weapons (V-1 and V-2) cost an estimated US$40 billion (2015 dollars). This was incredibly some 50 percent more than the American Manhattan Project that produced the atomic bomb. [Ordway and Sharpe] And because the Germans used slave labor which was free, the raw industrial input was substantially larger that the Manhattan Project. (Manhattan Project costs included labor which was a substantial cost.) The Germans built 6,048 V-2s were built, at a cost of approximately 100,000 Reichsmark each. Only 3,225 were actually. One contemporary observer writes, "... those of us who were seriously engaged in the war were very grateful to Wernher von Braun. We knew that each V-2 cost as much to produce as a high-performance fighter airplane. We knew that German forces on the fighting fronts were in desperate need of airplanes, and that the V-2 rockets were doing us no military damage. From our point of view, the V-2 program was almost as good as if Hitler had adopted a policy of unilateral disarmament." [Freeman, p. 108.] The costs in non-monetary measures were huge. The V-2 consumed a third of Germany's fuel alcohol production and major portions of other critical raw material because of the steel alloys needed. In practical terms, to distill the fuel alcohol for one V-2 launch required 30 tons of potatoes. And by this time, food was becoming scarce in a collapsing Germany. Whatever the cost, the purpose of the V-weapons was almost entirely to wage the war in the West--specifically Hitler's demented desire to destroy London. [Irons]

Disrupting NAZI War Production

The War in the West not only forced the Germans to direct most of their industrial output to the West, but it also weakened the German war economy in two important ways. First the Strategic Bombing Campaign not only damaged industrial plants, but forced the Germans to adjust production by diversifying manufacture and going underground. both of which adversely affected production. Second, the British and than the Anglo-American blockade made it impossible for the Germans to import need raw materials, except from neutral countries that were in danger of NAZI invasion. Germany lacked almost all raw materials, especially oil. And the blockade prevented major imports except from Axis ally Romania and the Soviet Union -- while the NAZI-Soviet alliance lasted (1939-41).


We do not meamn to denigrate the monumental achievement of the Red rmy and Soviet people. It was the Red Army that tore the heart out of the Osther which was the dominant German military formation. The point we are trying to make is the War in the West forced the Germnans to devote much of their war economy to fighting the Western Allies rather than giving the Ostheer the material support it needed to destroy the Red Army. This means that the destruction of NAZI Germany was truky a joint effort o=f the Grand Allianmce with bith the Soviets and Western Allies mnaking very real contributiions. Our issue uis with Soviets and now Riussians whjo insist that they sungle-handedly defeated NAZI Germany and that the War in the West was a mere side show. This argument has been picked up by Marrxist university prpfessors who look for arguments to denegrate the West inckluding the Western war effort.

Historical Reassment

Now we think it is absolutely true that the Soviet Red Army played a central role in the War and that the Soviet role was often overstated in the West. There are two reasons for this. First, every country is primarily interested in the performance of their own fiughting men. For this reason Hollywood and Britush bstydios have mostly made films about the War on the West. And American and Broitiush studios for the same reason have mostly wrote about the war in the West. Jtst as Soviet historians have mostky wrote about the Osrkrieg. Second, the Soviet Unioin and now Russian has be mostly closed Soviet archives to Western historians. This has mean that Western historians unterested in the Ostkrieg have been unable to research it. It is a little dusengernious to complin that your country's achievement are poorly recognized and at the same time prevent scholars from studying those achievements.

New Work

After the War, Western historians focused almost exclusively on the War in the West. Then there was a period when many Wester histirians looking primarily at the huge domensions of the Ostkrieg, especially the manpoower commitments began to downplay the war in the West. Increasingly today there is a geater appreciation of the War in the West. World War II has come to be see as a titanic land battle, decided by mass armies, most importantly those on the Eastern Front. One hustiruan shows us the war in a completely different light. In this compelling new history of the Allied path to victory, he argues that in terms of production, technology and economic power, the war was far more a contest of air and sea than of land supremacy. He shows how the Allies developed a predominance of air and sea power which put unbearable pressure on Germany and Japan's entire war-fighting machine from Europe and the Mediterranean to the Pacific. Air and sea power dramatically expanded the area of battle and allowed the Allies to destroy over half of the Axis' equipment before it had even reached the traditional 'battlefield'. Battles such as El Alamein, Stalingrad and Kursk did not win World War II; air and sea power did. [O'Brien] We tend to bsee the Ostkrieg as somewhat more impoerabt than O'Brien, but his book provides an accurate assessment iof the vital omprtanbce of the War in the West.


Arslan, Cem. Internet post (Septenber 13, 2020).

Dyson, Freeman (1979). Disturbing the Universe (Harper & Row: 1979).

House, Jonathn M. "Why Germany lost: The three alibis," World War II History Roundtable (January 11, 2014).

Irons, Roy. Hitler's Terror Weapons: The Price of Vengeance (Harper: United Kingdom, 2002).

Krivosheev, G.I. Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses. (Greenhill: 1997).

Kuehn, John. "War on the Atlantic, Not Battle of: Misconceptions & Clarifications" Dole Institute talk (2014).

Kurtukov, Igor, "Профессионалы изучают логистику"

McNab, Chris. (20 March 2014). Hitler’s Fortresses: German Fortifications and Defences 1939–45 (Bloomsbury Publishing: 2014).

O'Brien, Phillips Payson. How the War Was Won: Air-Sea Power and Allied Victory in World War II (Cambridge Military Histories: 2015).

Ordway, Frederick I, and Mitchell R. Sharpe. (2003). Ed. Robert Godwin. The Rocket Team Space Series No. 36 (Apogee Books: 2003)

Speer, Albert. Richard and Clara Winston, trans. Inside the Third Reich (Avon Books: New York, 1970), 734p.

Weinberg, Gerhard L. A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II (Cambrige Universit Press: New York, 2005), 1178p.

Westermann, Edward B. Flak: German Anti-aircraft Defenses 1914–1945 . Modern War Studies. (University Press of Kansas: 2001).


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Last updated: 4:33 PM 5/4/2021