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  #1  
Old 27 Sep 17, 15:09
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Guderian requests an Operational Reserve, March 23, 1944

From Panzerwaffe vol.2, Anderson

Quote:

My Führer,

Today’s lecture has the objective to once again explain how to regain the
army’s ability to perform offensive operations.
This war can never be decided to our favour using a defensive strategy. We
have to regain the material means, and the will to attack the enemy… Only
then does the attack bear any chance of success, and only if powerful tank
forces are available in sufficient numbers.


Currently nearly all Panzer divisions have been destroyed in many disastrous
defensive operations. The situation resembles 1918, when the high command
ordered the cavalry to dismount in order to fight in the trenches.


Before the outbreak of the war you, my Führer, ordered the establishment of
great tank formations. These were the tools to win the coming war in the
way, you, my Führer, ordered:

Offensively, like a lightning flash, using surprise and thus saving lives.
In this tense situation, we must not deviate from these principles of warfare,
which you have deemed to be correct.

To resume our proven method of fighting I have repeatedly and insistently
requested the creation of operational reserves. So far this has failed to
materialize.


Fully aware of the present situation in regard to personnel and equipment,
I believe that it is still possible to establish these reserves… It is however
questionable, as to whether this will still be feasible in six months’ time.
At minimum we would require:

Eight Panzer and Panzergrenadier divisions
Six infantry divisions
Army troops, among them three s PzAbt (Tiger)
three s PzJgAbt
two Sturmpanzer Abt
One parachute corps
One cavalry unit
To be ready by 1 June.

This is an interesting request that makes sense to me. I had always wondered why the Germans never had an offensive army in reserve in the summer of 1944. Of course, Guderian never got his request- not enough forces available.
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  #2  
Old 27 Sep 17, 16:32
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I suspect that he was talking about reserves in the West (in France), not about a general reserve. Which is a thing known from Guderian's memoirs, and also from many writings on Guderian/Rommel controversy.
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Old 28 Sep 17, 09:42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cult Icon View Post
I had always wondered why the Germans never had an offensive army in reserve in the summer of 1944.
But they entirely did.
The OB West reserves, that could not be moved without OKW approval, included the 1. SS-Panzerkorps and the Panzer Lehr Division. Then there were reserves, including armored ones, directly under the control of von Rundstedt and Blaskowitz. Some of the armored divisions in these commands were refitting, and could field something like a Panzerabteilung, but still they existed.
The II. Fallschirmjägerkorps also was in reserve.
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Old 28 Sep 17, 11:37
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^^
I was thinking in terms of an entire army's worth of troops (like the 6th Army in 1942)
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Old 28 Sep 17, 15:16
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Hitler planned to create such a reserve (this is mentioned in Goebbels' diary ) ,but the moment one such a division was created ,it was needed by the front .

A general reserve was a luxury Germany could not afford : the OKW reserves were tied in the West .
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Old 28 Sep 17, 16:57
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By early 1944, it is pretty clear that as soon as any armoured formation, that is recently raised and trained, is usually going to be sent in an attempt to seal a breach in the lines the Soviets have just made. This is where the Panthers made their name. They would turn up by train near the problem spot, lose a few (up to a third) getting to the battlefield, and then engage the enemy head on without support at all. This includes recce, infantry or even artillery. However, it was often enough to stem the Soviet advance, and the Soviets did often lose huge numbers of afv's in these instances. It was where the Nazi propaganda did not lie quite as much. This was because that the Soviet units, at the local level, also did not often have recce or joint arms. Even their best tank units would consist of one standard type only, sub standard units could have a range of (totally) obsolete types.

W Ally units were different, with recce elements with every unit. Radio use was almost likely superior at a tactical level to anything the Soviets had as well. What this meant was that when the Nazi's used the same unsupported tank attacks against W Ally units, they suffered.

After the Normandy campaign and Bagration, the Nazi's were only really able to support two major thrusts, a (famous) Xmas one in the West and another in the East. Both included state of the art equipment, other available kit (sometimes obsolescent), and using generally raw recruits. Neither really dented their opposition in anything but the short term, and fortunately shortened the war.

Guderian's proposal would deny reinforcements where needed, and perhaps facilitate a quicker end to the war . OTOH, hoarding said reserves, would lead to initially losing terrain and a shortening of the Eastern Fronts line, perhaps leading to the Soviets to over extend their own front.

When the Germans were able to operate near railroads, they remained very capable in supporting any attack, and defeating equal sized Soviet forces at least. Despite the fact that W Allies had become very capable against the Nazi's, the Heer always remained tactically equal to the Soviets. If the Soviets over extended their front lines, the Nazi's may have delayed defeat by the East.

The problem lies with the West. Britain expected the war to end June 45, it is a matter of parliamentary record. Whatever the Germans did tactically, the West had a counter. Big Cat's - 17pdr apds or 90mm hvap, or Me 262 vs Meteors with decent engines and proper guns for dogfighting. Most importantly the USA was always going to win an economic war vs anyone.

Even if Guderian had his 1944 reserve, its impact would have been negligible. The W Allies had armies too joined up, and Stalin did not care too much about losses, as long as he won.
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Old 29 Sep 17, 06:28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michele View Post
But they entirely did.
Yup, in June 44 there were even more than "Eight Panzer and Panzergrenadier divisions" in France. All more or less full strength and battle-ready. Which were committed to battle by penny packets not as a one big chunk.
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Old 29 Sep 17, 06:34
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The plan was to throw Allies to the sea as soon as they land on the Western coast:
https://ww2db.com/doc.php?q=331
A central reserve somewhere in Germany was useless for such a plan, because it would inevitably come too late.
Proposals for "offensive strategy" were simply detached form reality. Strategic defense was the only realistic option in 1944.

Last edited by Artyom_A; 29 Sep 17 at 06:41..
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Old 29 Sep 17, 07:32
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On the Western Front, March-April 1944, the armored reserve issue was between General von Geyr's proposal (backed by Rundstedt) of forming the 10 panzer and panzer grenadiers into two groups held back as mobile reserves with one group north and one group south of Paris versus Rommel's plan to have the pz and pzg div's well for to stop the invasions at the beaches.

In April, Guderian, as recalled in memoirs, "paid another visit to France. The enemy air forces were becoming ever more active and were already beginning to attack operational targets."

Guderian, aware of the "negative results" of the two schools of thought, notes, "I was therefore not surprised by Rommel's highly tempermental and strongly expressed refusal when I suggest that our armour be withdrawn from the coastal areas. He turned down my suggestion at once, pointing out that as a man from the Eastern front I lacked his experience in Africa and Italy; that he knew, in fact, far more about the matter in hand than I did and that he was fully convinced that his system was right. [Rommel had a appreciation of the Western Allies' air power and use of that power] ... I therefore decided not to make any further attempts to alter his opinions and made up my mind once more to submit my contrary views to Rundstedt and to Hitler."
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Old 29 Sep 17, 07:41
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On the Eastern Front, IMO the Germans lost the war in large part because they did learn to fight at the operational level [German Army-Army Group; Soviet Front-Groups of Fronts]. While the Red Army from offensive experiences in 1943 and early 1944 in their offensive operations were learning how to put depth in their offensive formations to penetrate to the operational depth as well as managing the high density of weapons/forces in the main and supporting sectors, the Germans were not creating operational level reserves to counter the Red Army depth in the offensive forces and breakthroughs into the operational depth. Consequently, as illustrated by Belorussian and Lvov-Sandomir operations in the summer of 1944, the Germans continued to had little to no defensive forces in the operational depth.
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Old 29 Sep 17, 10:46
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The author that published this (Anderson) didn't consider the reserve to be the units that were deployed in normandy (or were formed there, like the 12.SS) or the units that were shipped into the region as replacements. In the book he states that Guderian sent requests for an operational reserve several times prior to this "submissive" plea to Hitler.

This is a 14 - division army plus FJ Korps with complementary forces- and the letter is referring to the 'offense'.

Maybe he's wrong - or he's onto something.
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Old 29 Sep 17, 13:10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cult Icon View Post
The author that published this (Anderson) didn't consider the reserve to be the units that were deployed in normandy (or were formed there, like the 12.SS) or the units that were shipped into the region as replacements. In the book he states that Guderian sent requests for an operational reserve several times prior to this "submissive" plea to Hitler.

This is a 14 - division army plus FJ Korps with complementary forces- and the letter is referring to the 'offense'.

Maybe he's wrong - or he's onto something.
Does the author cite a source? It did not jump out when I looked through Guderians memoirs. May not be the big deal made by Anderson?
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Old 29 Sep 17, 15:01
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How many Divisions did they throw at Anzio, over and above the two Infantry Divs they would have needed to just seal it off?

11th Panzer was stationed in the South of France to deal with a landing there, and way too close to the Spanish border. Norway could have spared a Div. or two.

I little restraint, and a little common sense, and something close to what you are talking about could have been created.

But even so, it would not have made all that much difference, IMHO. How do you get it across France w/o air-cover? How do you prevent the Destruction of Army Group Center if all the reserves are being massed in the wrong place?
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Old 30 Sep 17, 14:49
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Given Hitler's and apparently the OKW's penchant for creating lots of new divisions rather than building up the existing ones, it probably wouldn't have made a nickel's difference.

Let's start with German infantry divisions in the West. These were worthless except in fortified positions or garrison duties. They had ZERO offensive capability on their own against the Western Allies. This can be seen in their total ineffectiveness on the offensive historically.

Most should have been disbanded and the mobile equipment of several combined into one good motorized division with the remaining troops used to fill out panzer or panzergrenadier divisions. Even using their trucks and such to form third regiments in PzGr divisions would have been better. Take the STuG brigades and hand them over to PzGr divisions, both existing and new. Combine the infantry division's artillery into these new formations to give them sufficient tubes to be effective.

Straight infantry formations would be reduced to garrison and fortress duties where they at least have a use as occupation forces. They would also be a source of replacements for the mobile formations.

One thing I think the Germans should have done very early on is make a determined effort to collect all captured Soviet gear and send it to France to fill out divisions there. In armor alone, they could have easily built several panzer divisions using Russian tanks and equipment.
Look at 21st Panzer in France. That division built itself from French equipment that way.

The Germans captured thousands of Soviet tanks in the first year of the war in the East. These could have been hauled back to France and units there refurbished them and culled parts for spares. A panzer division or two in France using this gear simply trains replacements while maintaining a material level of readiness as a panzer division. By 1944 they could likely have had two divisions fitted with T34 and KV's modified for German use.



Add a cupola for the commander who loads instead of being the gunner.
Add a radio and intercom system.
Add extra external storage and skirts
Rearrange the ammo storage to increase efficiency
Refit the hull MG position so the operator has a decent view and sight for the MG.
Better? Yes. Perfect? No. But, a T34/76 would definitely be a viable battlefield tank even in 1944.

But, most of that gear stayed in the East and was used piecemeal by units there without a really coherent overall plan.

The big thing is in the West you have to rid yourself of infantry formations in favor of mobile ones. As it was only about 20% of the Wehrmacht was combat capable. The rest were cannon fodder and POW's for the Allies.
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Old 30 Sep 17, 16:35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
Given Hitler's and apparently the OKW's penchant for creating lots of new divisions rather than building up the existing ones, it probably wouldn't have made a nickel's difference.
Building up the existing ones can be good but in situations when many divisions were destroyed, create new ones in permanence was a necessity. The same goes for Soviets in 1941-1942.


Quote:
Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
Let's start with German infantry divisions in the West. These were worthless except in fortified positions or garrison duties. They had ZERO offensive capability on their own against the Western Allies. This can be seen in their total ineffectiveness on the offensive historically.
Considering the vastly superiority of Western Allies in men, tanks, guns and aerial support, there was little that Germans could do.

Quote:
Most should have been disbanded and the mobile equipment of several combined into one good motorized division with the remaining troops used to fill out panzer or panzergrenadier divisions. Even using their trucks and such to form third regiments in PzGr divisions would have been better. Take the STuG brigades and hand them over to PzGr divisions, both existing and new. Combine the infantry division's artillery into these new formations to give them sufficient tubes to be effective.
In order to cover a large territory, you need many units. A dozen motorized divisions for the whole French coast would be too low.

Quote:
One thing I think the Germans should have done very early on is make a determined effort to collect all captured Soviet gear and send it to France to fill out divisions there. In armor alone, they could have easily built several panzer divisions using Russian tanks and equipment.
Look at 21st Panzer in France. That division built itself from French equipment that way.
In the first place they would need to have the gear in question. The number of Soviet tanks used in the East was no more than several dozens pieces at one time. Then even if you have tanks, you need to have spare pieces. Given the quality of early Soviet tanks, many of them. And then you need the fuel for them. Which was a big problem by 1944.

Quote:
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The big thing is in the West you have to rid yourself of infantry formations in favor of mobile ones. As it was only about 20% of the Wehrmacht was combat capable. The rest were cannon fodder and POW's for the Allies.
Reality says otherwise. Mobility is of little importance given such disparity in numbers.
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