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Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/17/2010 6:31:24 PM   
Q-Ball


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I am reading John Mosier's "Cross of Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German War Machine". Have others read this book, and what do you think of it?

One of his main points was the complete failure of German Tank Production. Among other things:

1. Germans kept obviously obsolete models in production (MkI,MkII,38(t)) WAY too long.
2. Many models were completely over-engineered and overly expensive relative to their combat power. MkI, II, and III all fall into the category. The only saving grace is that the MkIII chassis was so over-engineered, it was later able to carry bigger guns.
3. Prior to 1942, production emphasized tank QUANTITY, not QUALITY; this despite the opportunity to learn from the Spanish Civil War encounters with the T-26 (a superior tank to anything the Germans made before the Pz IV), and encounters with better French Tanks. Lessons from the French campaign were lost among the fact that the French employed them so poorly, and much of the French tank stock was older (F-17s and H-35s); but the top French tanks (Chars, Somuas), were way better than what the Wehrmacht had. They failed to learn from that.

It was only the Eastern Front that finally shook the Germans out of their tank production torpor. Even then, the Germans continued to produce overly-expensive super tanks like the TIGER series; a senseless diversion of resources from better programs.

Not sure how much I go along with all this, the Germans did get their stuff together later with economical designs like the HETZER and STUGIII, and quality MBTs like the upgraded Pz IV and, of course, the Panther.

Even so, the Germans produced several different chassis (Mk III, IV, 38(t),V, Tiger,) instead of standardizing on one or two. The US, while producing pretty mediocre tanks, DID stanardize on only 2 chassis (M3 and M4, and mostly the M4), which simplified production, maintenence, and allowed the US Army to be more fully mechanized.

Not sure why the Germans couldn't standardize on 2 chassis earlier (PzIV and V would have been best choice). Converting lines isn't easy, but neither is maintaining all those chassis designs.

< Message edited by Q-Ball -- 12/17/2010 6:35:14 PM >


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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/17/2010 6:37:12 PM   
blastpop


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I think the items mentioned are fairly well documented. The Germans really didn't have a war economy until at least late '41 early '42. They were producing private automobiles until then. If the Germans turned the facilities to tanks earlier, I am sure they would have had an impact.

German Quality over quantity- Was as much a cultural thing and to a certain extent something the Germans didn't want to contemplate or so it seems...

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/17/2010 6:44:00 PM   
raizer

 

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over complicated, hard to maintain, hard to recover, non slopped armor, non overlapping road wheels, narrow tracks-despite all these shortcomings the german tanks got the job done because of their doctrine, until that fateful day in July of 1941, when all the german tanks became obsolete in one day.  Then they chased their grail of which you speak

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/17/2010 6:53:20 PM   
LiquidSky


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This you may find interesting:

http://www.operationbarbarossa.net/Myth-Busters/MythBusters2.html

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/17/2010 7:00:33 PM   
vinnie71

 

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Also keep in mind that until the advent of Speer, German industry moved at its own pace. Industrial rivalries remained like in the case of Me - He - FW or tank producers. Also a large effort was put in developing new supertanks. Keep in mind that there were also competing jurisdictions and seperate supply chains for the different services with each one of them trying to get an even greater share of the pie...

As to the Tiger programme, keep in mind that it was started before the campaign in Russia - it was only the T34 shock that made them hurry up the programme. To call it a failure is really taking it too far. I think that everyone here knows the American assessment of how many Shermans would be needed to knock out 1 Tiger and we all know how at Pokharovka (?) the Russians just kamikazed them.

As to tank production, the Czech models, especially the T38 were still good tanks in the middle of the war. Keep in mind that the bulk of Russian tanks were not T34s or KVs but crappy BT and whatnot. Even a Pz III with a 50mm long gun was more than a match for such tanks. And frankly a Pz IV with a long 75mm was just as good if not superior to a T34 thanks to integral radio and optics.

The greatest failure of the Wehrmacht in reality was its inability to settle on what tactics or type of war it was going to fight from 1943 onwards. Though it was agreed that time for blitzkrieg was past, they failed to adopt proper weaponry until Guderian kind of took over and systemized the Reich's priorities. It was only under his guidance that a semblance of sense was made of the armoured corps, but it was given no respite by the Russians and the Western Allies.

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/17/2010 7:17:20 PM   
raizer

 

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Taylor and Bean are two small voices dismissing the t34-but they make no mention of the wide tracks and overlapping road wheels- tactically they sucked sure, they had no radios, crappy loading system, no optics-if it was such a crappy tank, the germans were sure fooled by it when they overturned/overhauled their tank design the week after they encountered it in July 1941.  They knew it was a good tank. 
BTW The panther was the German response to the T 34 not the tiger-wide tracks, overlapping wheels and slopped armor-tiger was still no sloped

< Message edited by raizer -- 12/17/2010 7:18:36 PM >

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/17/2010 7:36:07 PM   
vinnie71

 

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The T34 was a decent tank, built for the theatre of operations. But it had many shortcomings that people overlook. Mobility was excellent and its ruggedness was good. But its gun was not the best, optics were crappy, radios non existent. And that is not taking into account the fact that it was mostly piloted by illiterate peasants (with all due respect) and tactically employed badly till '43.

The Tiger I was the development of Pz IV but its development was accelerated because of the increased numbers of T34s and KV found in Soviet armies from '42 onwards. The Tiger from its inception was intended to be a tank killer created to dominate the battlefield, which it did most of the time. In open field engagements in the East, it established a fearsome reputation since basically its 88mm coupled with excellent optics meant that even a small number of Tigers could rip apart a force double its strength. In static defensive positions, it was even more fearsome since it was an excellent gun platform. Also note that Tiger crews were usually the elite of Wehrmacht/SS, innured in war, mostly tank aces and who recieved special training in offensive and defensive tactics. While in the west, the Tigers became primary targets for airpower, in the east, the Russians just mobbed them with greater number of tanks or massed anti-tank fire.

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/17/2010 8:54:19 PM   
amatteucci

 

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The shortcomings of the T-34 were well known to its designers and users. In fact, even before Barbarossa, there was a modified version in the works, the T-34M, whose developement was stopped in 1941. Why? Because the Soviets clearly saw that they could easily be wiped out before assembling a single actual super tank. So they decided to ditch the T-34M and KV-3/KV-220 designs and stick to existing models, that were, perhaps, not the best possible ones, but, for sure, were good enough. At least before taking the strategical initiative and completing the relocation of western factories.

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/17/2010 9:58:41 PM   
SqzMyLemon


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quote:

ORIGINAL: raizer

Taylor and Bean are two small voices dismissing the t34-but they make no mention of the wide tracks and overlapping road wheels- tactically they sucked sure, they had no radios, crappy loading system, no optics-if it was such a crappy tank, the germans were sure fooled by it when they overturned/overhauled their tank design the week after they encountered it in July 1941.  They knew it was a good tank. 
BTW The panther was the German response to the T 34 not the tiger-wide tracks, overlapping wheels and slopped armor-tiger was still no sloped


It's not relative to the discussion at hand, but just want to point out the T-34 never had overlapping road wheels, nor did any Russian tank to my knowledge.

< Message edited by SqzMyLemon -- 12/17/2010 10:02:10 PM >

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/17/2010 10:14:46 PM   
Steelers708

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Offworlder
I think that everyone here knows the American assessment of how many Shermans would be needed to knock out 1 Tiger and we all know how at Pokharovka (?) the Russians just kamikazed them.



I honestly thought that these two myths(AKA complete garbage) had been put to bed in recent years considering all the new research that has been done, especially concerning Prokhorovka.

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/18/2010 5:51:06 AM   
CarnageINC


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Yeah, politics played a huge roll in all those models.  The Germans also reused older models for different roles, like the anti tank Marder series.  At least they were trying to use what was available but that proabably cost them a lot of time and resources and men lost to these stop gap programs.  I'll check out the book Q-ball, sounds like a good one. 

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/18/2010 11:16:07 AM   
ComradeP

 

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As you can see in the game, the Soviets are still using large quantities of obsolete or light tanks in 1941 and partially in 1942. The T-34 might've been a very nasty surprise for the Germans, but it was not a very common surprise in 1941. A Panzer III G or H was quite sufficient to handle the majority of the Soviet tanks in 1941. By the time T-34's started to appear in larger numbers in Tank corps halfway through 1942, the Germans had tanks with long barreled 5cm and 7.5cm guns.

The over-engineering had as an advantage that the production quality of the tanks was often quite good as time was spend/wasted on tiny details. T-34 production quality could vary significantly between factories, not to mention that it was a fairly crude design to begin with.

German tank production was of course in many ways much too low to meet demand, but it was not completely flawed.

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/18/2010 1:24:09 PM   
MechFO

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Q-Ball

I am reading John Mosier's "Cross of Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German War Machine". Have others read this book, and what do you think of it?



If the synopsis you posted is accurate, the book is best used for kindling.

It sounds like the recycling of the old myths and preconceptions that became established in Anglo-US historiography in the post WWII era.

For an alternative view, get Spielberger and Jentz, who represent the current standard on the topic of German AFV's in WWII.


< Message edited by MechFO -- 12/18/2010 1:25:53 PM >

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/18/2010 1:34:20 PM   
CarnageINC


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On the plus side, there was nothing to compare to the German fire control systems and gun optics.  A bonus for all the tinkering they did with their machines

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/18/2010 1:51:06 PM   
WilliePete

 

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The more I read and learn about WW2, the more things don't make sense. Sure production hurt their war effort, but I feel that came from their mind set that they didn't need quantity. Goebbels gave his "Total War" speech February 18, 1943. I think that came a little too late in the game. When all of Germany's enemies were cranking up their production, Germany was still puttering along almost at a peace time rate. I think if the Germans had the Total War attitude two years earlier things would have been very different.

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/18/2010 2:13:18 PM   
MechFO

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: WilliePete

The more I read and learn about WW2, the more things don't make sense. Sure production hurt their war effort, but I feel that came from their mind set that they didn't need quantity. Goebbels gave his "Total War" speech February 18, 1943. I think that came a little too late in the game. When all of Germany's enemies were cranking up their production, Germany was still puttering along almost at a peace time rate. I think if the Germans had the Total War attitude two years earlier things would have been very different.


They started expanding capacity already at the beginning of the war, bit capacity expansion takes a long time. The German economy didn't didn't have any excess capacity. Also for political reasons, the civilian economy had be kept going.

The big production increases that were seen in 43-44 was due to the plant that was being built in previous years started to come online.

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/18/2010 3:17:10 PM   
WilliePete

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: MechFO


quote:

ORIGINAL: WilliePete

The more I read and learn about WW2, the more things don't make sense. Sure production hurt their war effort, but I feel that came from their mind set that they didn't need quantity. Goebbels gave his "Total War" speech February 18, 1943. I think that came a little too late in the game. When all of Germany's enemies were cranking up their production, Germany was still puttering along almost at a peace time rate. I think if the Germans had the Total War attitude two years earlier things would have been very different.


They started expanding capacity already at the beginning of the war, bit capacity expansion takes a long time. The German economy didn't didn't have any excess capacity. Also for political reasons, the civilian economy had be kept going.

The big production increases that were seen in 43-44 was due to the plant that was being built in previous years started to come online.




you are right, but the fact still remains that it was late in the war before Germany took to a "Total War" mentality, and they suffered accordingly. Production aside, even troops levels greatly increased in 43/44. Germany tried to avoid a war of attrition and Blitzkrieg was designed for that very reason. It wasn't until the end of 41 at the gates of Moscow and the first few months of 42 before they fully realized the war against the Soviet Union was going to drag on. Up until that point they crushed their victims in few short months and didn't need to be on a Total War economy and have a high production level.


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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/18/2010 3:53:37 PM   
Joe D.


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IMO, the Tiger was a great tank, but it was expensive and complicated to build, esp. when slave labor was used.

Also, I recall reading somewhere that German armor engineers were reluctant to incorporate simple Soviet designs into their tanks as they considered Russian tanks to be the product of udder-mensch.

< Message edited by Joe D. -- 12/18/2010 3:54:30 PM >


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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/18/2010 4:39:41 PM   
MechFO

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: WilliePete


quote:

ORIGINAL: MechFO


quote:

ORIGINAL: WilliePete

The more I read and learn about WW2, the more things don't make sense. Sure production hurt their war effort, but I feel that came from their mind set that they didn't need quantity. Goebbels gave his "Total War" speech February 18, 1943. I think that came a little too late in the game. When all of Germany's enemies were cranking up their production, Germany was still puttering along almost at a peace time rate. I think if the Germans had the Total War attitude two years earlier things would have been very different.


They started expanding capacity already at the beginning of the war, bit capacity expansion takes a long time. The German economy didn't didn't have any excess capacity. Also for political reasons, the civilian economy had be kept going.

The big production increases that were seen in 43-44 was due to the plant that was being built in previous years started to come online.




you are right, but the fact still remains that it was late in the war before Germany took to a "Total War" mentality, and they suffered accordingly. Production aside, even troops levels greatly increased in 43/44. Germany tried to avoid a war of attrition and Blitzkrieg was designed for that very reason. It wasn't until the end of 41 at the gates of Moscow and the first few months of 42 before they fully realized the war against the Soviet Union was going to drag on. Up until that point they crushed their victims in few short months and didn't need to be on a Total War economy and have a high production level.



German Human/Resource/Industrial Capacities were all very limited. There was no slack. Increasing troop levels means that skilled workers had to be called in from Industry and Resource production. They tried to compensate for this by the use of foreign and slave labour which increased markedly from late 43 onwards. However, the productivity of this type of labour was much lower, in addition to issues showing up like f.e. extremely declining build quality (evident everywhere in 44vs43), Sabotage, etc..

In essence, they were robbing Peter to pay Paul from the get go. Of course their war economy was inefficient, with frequent priority changes etc., not helping, but the fundamental problem was the necessary Resources/capacity for a Total War economy didn't exist in the first place.


< Message edited by MechFO -- 12/18/2010 4:41:22 PM >

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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/19/2010 12:01:41 AM   
aspqrz02

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: MechFO


quote:

ORIGINAL: WilliePete

The more I read and learn about WW2, the more things don't make sense. Sure production hurt their war effort, but I feel that came from their mind set that they didn't need quantity. Goebbels gave his "Total War" speech February 18, 1943. I think that came a little too late in the game. When all of Germany's enemies were cranking up their production, Germany was still puttering along almost at a peace time rate. I think if the Germans had the Total War attitude two years earlier things would have been very different.


They started expanding capacity already at the beginning of the war, bit capacity expansion takes a long time. The German economy didn't didn't have any excess capacity. Also for political reasons, the civilian economy had be kept going.

The big production increases that were seen in 43-44 was due to the plant that was being built in previous years started to come online.


Try reading Tooze's "Wages of Destruction" ...

"(A) masterful economic history of the Third Reich. (...) His painstakingly researched, astonishingly erudite study not only uncovers new explanatory strands for the events that led to and ended the war, but smashes a gallery of preconceptions on the way." - Bertrand Benoit, Financial Times"

It is regarded quite highly because it not only debunks many of the zombie myths about the German War Economy it explains, in some detail, what the limiting problems were for the economy as a whole were, and how they affected the entire conduct of the war, at an economic level.

Along with Glantz's eastern front works, required reading for a real understanding of just what in the hell was going on and why.

Or read this review ...

http://www.nysun.com/arts/on-the-eve-of-destruction/51029/

... basically, a lot of what has been said on this thread so far is based on these persistent zombie myths

Phil

< Message edited by aspqrz -- 12/19/2010 12:07:13 AM >


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RE: Paper Tigers: The failure of German tank production - 12/19/2010 11:28:10 AM   
AlesMrak

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: LiquidSky



This you may find interesting:

http://www.operationbarbarossa.net/Myth-Busters/MythBusters2.html



Reason why T34 was declared the best ww2 tank, is because it was. It entered in war theatre in 41 in mass numbers way before anybody else could deploy their's with similar tech. specifications , Panther saw action in the east in some numbers only in 43. So T34 had atleast 2 years start. German designers after the introduction of the T34 heavily copied the T34 designs. It negative attributes were ofcourse the bad optics, no radio in the beggining and no trained tank crew, they just shepperded some peasants into the tank, literaly. The true value of the performance of the T34 was seen on the last military campaing in ww2, manchuria, when they just drove over the Jappanese.


And finaly why its was the best medium tank of the ww2 . In 1997 i volunteered to be drafted into the army (infantry), and we were in the field training infantry assault tactics, were told to go into ditch in the middle of the muddy road , where in the front of the ditch had a big pool of mud (relevence will be shortly observed). We were then ordered to crouch and wait for the tank (which was T34 in very good working order) to drive over us (I was in the middle). When the 26 ton monster speeded at full speed over us, suddenly the wall of the mudy sludge of the pool was splashing over me, and it was splashing endlessly - at least from my observation, thought the mud was going to drown me . Needles to say i have really fond memory of the T34

br.
Dr.Jones

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