World War II German Military Weaknesses: Logistics

Figure 1.--This unidentified photogtaph shows a pulverized Panzerkampfwagen MKIV--the mainstay of the German Panzer forces during World War II (albeit with many upgrades). The level of destruction suggests it was hit by a high-velocity gun or another tank. One moment it was a Panzer MkIV and the next a huge pile of scrap iron. That is what a tank can look like after getting a direct hit by a large anti-tank round and having it's ammo and fuel blow up at same time. We can assure you with a blast like that the crew were vaporized. We are not sure about the car, perhaps a reader can identify it and/or the truck in the background. We believe that the photograph was taken during Barbarossa, perhaps July or August 1941. Perhaps readers will have some thoughts. But what is especially interesting here is the German supply train following in the wake of the Panzers. Notice the slow moving horses. This is the German Army's logistical train that tried to follow the Panzer's first to Moscow (1941) and then to the Volga (1942). It worked in the West, but not in the East and was a major factor in the failure of both Barbarossa and Fall Blau (Case Blue). Image courtesy of: Military History Of the 20th Century website.

Perhaps the most serious German military weakness was the lack of attention and inability to adequately address logistics. German officers did not want to be in quatermaster service. That was not where careers and professional prestige were established. As a result, the supply sections tended to atract a poorer quality of officers. This is perhaps true in other armies as well, but it was especially true in the German Army. And this was a traditional German tendency. Germany's limited industrial base was a factor in its weak logistical system. As a result, Hitler launched the War before the Whrmact was fully mobilized. The Heer still relived heavily on draft animals, both for supplies and artillery. There were in particular, not enough trucks. This was only partially resolved by seizing trucks in France and the other occupied countries. For a military committed to Blitzkrieg mean mobility and speed this was a very serious weakness. It mean that supplied coulkd not keep up with the advansing Panzers. It was an area of lesser importance to an army designed to win a war in a brief period, but was of vital importance to an army involved in a protacted war. [Citino, p. xiv.] The Wehrmacht over came this weakness in the short campaigns on relatively small battlefields in Poland and the West. The emense battlefield presented by the Soviet Union was a very different matter. Aeak logistical system proved to be a critical weakness on the Eastern Front where the Wehrmacht had to contend with huge distances, hostile weather, and a primitive transportation network. And the planning for Barbarossa did not address this potential problem. Hitler demanded an aggresive invasion plan and planners who raised possible problems were often criticized or removed. The Allies after landing in Normandy had logistical problems. The Wehrmacht struggling to supply armie as far east as the Volga had insurmountable logistical problems. It is not true as often claimed that the Wehrmacht did not have winter uniforms. Warm clothing wasstocked at wearhouses in the Reich. What Germany did not have was a logistical train that to could get the warm clothing in the troops. The logigistical system was strained getting fuel, amunitiuoin, and other supplies to the troops and thus winter clothing was given low priority in a campaign that was suposed to be completed in a short summer campaign. The Red Army facd some of the same logistical problemsxthe Wehrmacht fcd, but the Sovier not only had the outputvfrom their own factories ti support them, but huge numbers of American trucks deliverd through Lend Lease.


Citino, Robert M. The German Way of War: From the Thirty Year's War to the Third Reich (University Press of Kansas: Lawrence, 2005), 428p.


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Created: 6:49 PM 4/4/2012
Last updated: 6:49 PM 4/4/2012