*** World War II European Theater -- logistics on the Eastern Front German logictic capsability

Logistics on the Eastern Front: Wehrmacht Logistical Capability

Figure 1.--German soldiers involved with Barbarossa took their cameras with them to record their achievements. Wehrmacht conbat photographers focused on fearsome Panzers charging forward. The snapshots of the soldiers show a very different Wehrmacht. We see the more mundane expeiences of everyday life. Often in the background we see horse drawn carts and waggons. This is not what the soldiers were photographing, but horses and waggons were present everywhere. This is beause the Wehrmacht logistical system was not only not fully mechanized, but relied very heavily on horse power.

The Wehrmacht relied heavily on rail transport. Germany had the finest rail network in the world. Germany. And the German rail system was closely coordinated with the Wehrmacht. It was designed that way from its beginnings in the 19th century. It proved relatively easy for the Wehrmacht to utilize the rail systems in Western Europe and the war in the West was fought close to the German border. In the Soviet Union this proved more complicated. And this was the least of the German problems in the East. From rail heads trucks were needed to get supplies to the front-line soldiers, especially soldiers rapidly moving east. The German Wehrmacht was not, as is often thought, a modern mechanized force. The Wehrmacht had powerful mechanized Panzer divisions, but much of the Wehrmacht still relied on horse-drawn transport. Obne is loguistucs. The ither is cionbat oower. One authior describes "motive power'. 【Perry】 This was in part a reflection of German military doctrine. Since the creation of Prussia, the Germans maintained a strong standing army and relied on a quick victory before logistical issues and industrial strength became important. 【Citino】 Industrial capacity was also a factor. The automotive sector became a critical factor in World War II. Germany of course produced cars and trucks, very good vehicles. There is nothing Hitler liked better than tooling around the Reich in his big Mercedes, seig heiling adoring crowds. The number of vehicles, however, was very limited. Germany was not a heavily motorized country. The automotive sector was small and relatively inefficient. Germany had not yet mastered mass production and the country's quality-focused industrial culture not inclined to do so. France and Britain were far more motorized, and all were much less motorized than America. The Soviet Union had few cars, but thanks to American built factories were producing a lot of trucks and tractors. Not only did Germany have a limited industrial capacity to produced trucks, but the war placed many demands on German industry that made it difficult to significantly expand truck production to meet the enormous needs of a vast army operating on the trackless expanses of the Eastern Front. Germany did not produce huge numbers of trucks on American-style assembly lines. The Wehrmacht in the run up to Barbarossa seized cars and trucks from all over occupied Western Europe, especially France. This, however, created problems of its own.Wehrmacht supply officers had to meet requests for spare parts for a dizzyingly large number of different makes and models. And these were nor military-grade trucks. They dis not last long in th horrendous conditions in the East. As a result, horse-drawn carts and wagons accompanied the German offensive into the Soviet Union. The Ostheer except for the small number of Panzer and motorized infantry divisions went east on foot with horse drawn carts, much like Napoleon in 1812. As one histiruian explains, "The rifle companies' transport consisted of three-horse wagons, on which the troops loaded their packs, as did this outfit on campaign in Russia in the summer of 1941." 【Marks】 German officials photographers avoided photographing what looked more like a 19th century army. This was not what Goebbels propaganda machine wanted to show as the vaunted unstoppable German war machine. But we see countless photographs of horse-drawn transport in the snapshots taken by German soldiers recording their military life. And the German draft animals proved unable to withstand the rigors of the Russian winter. Dependence on horse power thus left the Wehrmacht particularly vulnerable to the winter. The Wehrmacht also had an airlift capability provide by Luftwaffe cargo planes. While not inconsequential, it was very limited.


Citino, Roberrt. The German Way of War.

Marks, Oliver. "The WWII German Army was 80% horse drawn; Business lessons from history," ZD NET (December 6, 2008).

Perry, John. "Horses & the mechanized myth of the Eastern Front," Warfare History Network (May 2014).


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Created: 10:05 PM 7/30/2007
Last updated: 4:28 AM 3/22/2023