2010/04/24

A little bit German artillery and anti-tank defence history


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The German army had a serious anti-tank defence problem back in 1940-1945. It's today possible to guess the ideal mix of material and organisations* to cope with their anti-tank problem, but they didn't do a good job back then.


The problem surfaced during the short campaign in France 1940 for the first time. Both French Char B-1bis and British Mathilda tanks had thick enough armour plates to withstand the German standard AT guns (3,7 cm Pak 36; a commercially very successful and often-copied model that had nevertheless outlived its usefulness against heavy tanks even before the war. The gun was good in comparison to foreign counterparts, but not good enough by far).

The later camapaign in Russia confirmed the problem when the Russian T-34 and KV-1 tanks proved to be too well-protected as well. The German standard AT gun was performing well only against the huge inventory of old and new Russian light tanks (T-26, BT-5 & BT-7, T-60, T-70).

The roots of the problem date back by many years.

Tanks weren't "shell-proof", but only "bullet-proof" back in the 20's. New tank designs began to reach good speeds (30 km/h) only at around 1930. The increased speed meant that normal artillery (field howitzers with muzzle velocities of about 500 m/s) was increasingly reduced in its ability to hit those new tanks at long ranges (a flight time of about 2.2 sec was later considered to be OK for AT purposes by NATO).

The first shell-proof (at least against frontal hits) tanks appeared in the mid-1930's and shell-proof tank frontal armour wasn't standard until about 1942.

So the 30's were a phase of rapid technological and conceptual change. The German dedicated motorised anti-tank units (Panzerjäger) were planned to be equipped with 3.7 cm guns - and this plan was carried out with bureaucratic momentum despite the growing obsolescence of the gun.

Critics of the German anti-tank effort in WW2 usually point at this failure; the failure to replace the 3.7 cm gun early with a 5 or 7.5 cm AT gun. (This failure is actually explainable by the pursuit of squeeze-bore technology guns. This technology was unusable in wartime because of its consumption of rare tungsten.)

The anti-tank effort wasn't only an effort of the Panzerjäger, though. The Soviets used their artillery in concentrations to break German armour attacks and the French had similar, initially promising efforts in the later phase of the 1940 campaign.
Why wasn't this possible for the German army?

Anti-tank fires require a rather high muzzle velocity. This improves the hit chance against moving targets at long range and it also gives the shell more kinetic energy. Cannons (lower maximum elevation, higher muzzle velocity and smaller calibre for same gun weight than howitzers) were therefore better suited for anti-tank defence than howitzers. Gun-howitzers (a mixture of both categories) were satisfactory until about early 1943.


Germany's light field artillery began to move from cannons in the 7.5-8.8 cm range to 10.5 cm howitzers even before the First World War, a few years after the quick-firing gun revolution. This trend towards heavier shells and higher angle of fire (and thus shell descent) had intensified during the war. 7.5 cm light field cannons were still in use during the Weimar Republic's Reichswehr time, but they finally dropped out of favour during the army build-up of the 1930's and were considered to be obsolete (although they were kept in service due to a generally inadequate production output.

There were good reasons for this from the artillery branch's point of view:
* The higher maximum elevation made howitzers more useful in forest terrain.
* The higher angle of fire and thus shell descent created a superior fragmentation pattern of the shell.
* Light field cannons had only small explosive effect per shell.
* Howitzers were able to penetrate overhead cover of field fortifications in direct hits.
* Artillery had to use indirect fire (without line-of-sight) most often for its own survivability, and howitzers were more suitable to this in general.

The howitzers retained shields and were thus easily capable of disposing enemy tanks back in WWI and up to the mid-30's. It seemed as if dropping the 7.5 cm light field cannon out of production in favour of more 10.5 cm light field howitzers was a smart move.


So it happened - the newest 7.5 cm light field cannon design - 7.5 cm WFK L/42 with a long barrel (unusually high muzzle velocity of 701 m/s and thus a good range of 13.500 m), a good max. elevation of 42° and a barely tolerable weight of 1625 kg wasn't put into production.
The 10,5 cm leFH 18 became instead the standard ordnance of the light artillery detachments of German artillery regiments.


The Russians introduced an even better light field cannon (76,2 mm Pushka obr. 1936g) with 1.350 kg deployed weight, 706 m/s, 13.6 km and an incredible 75° max. elevation in 1936. (German artillery desigers had a reputation to be a bit on the heavy side while Russians had the reputation of being a bit on the light side.)
This 7.62 cm gun was later captured in1 941 in great quantities and adopted by the German army as Pak 36(r) because it was one of the greatest anti-tank guns of the war.


The Russians later introduced a lighter (1120 kg deployed) gun with less max. elevation (37°) - the ZiS-3 gun. The most incredibly fact about this gun was the insane production quantity. It was also very popular (once captured) in the German army and was adopted as Fk 288(r). It was lighter than the German 7.5 cm Pak 40 of the time and almost as easy to handle in the field as the German 5 cm Pak 38.

The British had also an anti-tank problem in WW2, but this was concealed until 1942 by its fine standard field artillery piece, the 25 pdr (8.76 cm) gun-howitzer. Its muzzle velocity of about 532 m/s wasn't good, but it was still capable of being used in an emergency anti-tank role until early 1943.

Well, what had happened? Much of the German anti-tank defence problem of WW2 has its roots reaching back to the 1900's, before the invention of tanks. The artillery branch had optimised itself for its core role of indirect fires and not paid attention to the emerging threat of shell-proof armour. The German artillery was therefore not as effective in the German anti-tank effort of WW2 as it would have been necessary. Attempts to correct this (such as the use of captured guns and 7.5 cm anti-tank guns in German artillery units and the creation of assault gun detachments as part of the artillery branch) were signficant, but obviously not enough.

The German artillery branch failed to meet wartime expectations (in WW2) because it wasn't versatile enough due to its pursuit of maximum effectiveness in its core mission.

This didn't influence the early Bundeswehr much. The early Bundeswehr had to use foreign Western ordnance and didn't pay much attention to an anti-tank role for the artillery until the 1970's with the rise of dual purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM) and after the war the "smart" SMArt155 guided AT munition for 155 mm howitzers.


Sven Ortmann

*: My take on this:
Panzerfaust for all troops, Panzerschreck at Platoon (or infantry in defence: Squad) level, enough AT bar mines, motorised 7.5cm AT guns in divisional Panzerjägerabteilung, one 7.5 cm field cannon leichte Abteilung in divisional artillery regiment, assault gun battalion (Sturmgeschützabteilung) with 7.5cm casemate gun AFVs (assault guns) for Army Corps and several of the same directly available to Army (2-4 Army Corps) Commander with a move from 7.5 to 8.8 cm calibre beginning in 1943.

edit 09/2012: More on the effectiveness of the 3,7 cm Pak: http://operationbarbarossa.net/Myth-Busters/Pak-36.html

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21 comments:

  1. A couple of comments:

    1) The Germans did make an attempt to replace the Pak 36 even before the war started and the result was the Pak 38. While the Pak 36 was adequate in Poland, the lessons from Fall Gelb should have made it very clear that the Pak 36 needed to be replaced as soon as possible. The Germans failed to introduce the Pak 38 in any significant numbers before Barbarossa and it only saw service in April 1941. The Pak 38 was able to defeat the T-34/76 and had a chance against the heavier KV-1 when using Panzergranate 40 APCR munitions. Arguably, a lot more emphasis should have gun into this very effective weapon eary on.

    2) While I completely agree that German anti-tank weaponry was deficient in 1940 and 1941, by early 1942 the Germans had an effective arsenal of anti-tank weapons and from 1943-1945 the Germans indeed had the best anti-tank weaponry of all the combatants in World War II. The Pak 43, Pak 44, Panzerfaust 60, panzershrek, Tellermine, magnetic grenade, and many other weapons provided the Germans with a truly fearsome anti-tank option by mid to late war.

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  2. The ability to penetrate frontal armour does not equate a solution to the anti-tank defence challenge.
    German General Staff officers and Generals acknowledged after the war that the problem had not been solved.

    Part of the problem was that the Panzerabwehr wasn't able to meet its mission of protecting the infantry against tank attack. It had to be deployed to block bottlenecks or to create AT Schwerpunkt (Pakfront). The infantry was therefore most often unprotected against tanks and the recoillless weapons of '44-'45 didn't help much more than to prevent that tanks overran positions.

    The Germans also had to make use of outdated AT guns until '44 simply because the necessary quantities of newand captured powerful AT guns were not available. The Volksgrenadier divisions of the late wartime had very few AT guns, they had to use outdated guns and Panzerschreck as substitutes.

    The German army was mostly unable to stop Soviet '44-'45 offensives reliably even though the Soviet towed artillery became a small factor after the initial breakthrough bombardments and the Soviet infantry wasn't able to carry on offensives without powerful tank support.

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  3. I think the conclusion that should be drawn is that the Germans by late war did not suffer from a lack of quality anti-tank weapons but rather from a question of quantity. However, this was the case in almost every facet of German equipment. It is my opinion that one thing the Germans could have done to greatly enhance their defensive positions is to use the 88mm Flak 18/36/37/43 guns on the frontline rather than as AA guns back on the home front. Even better, the Germans should have focused on producing the Pak 43 instead of the Flak 88 versions. By all acounts, these weapons cost far more than any pain they inflicted to the enemy bomber force.

    An additional comment: German infantry fared very well against Soviet armor in condensed geographical environments because at short range the panzerfausts and panzershreks were truly effective.

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  4. The heavy AA batteries at home were manned mostly with crippeld vets, schoolboys and POWs. It would have been possible to transfer the guns, but it would have been difficult to man the batteries and to provide enough motor vehicles to tow them (8.8cm Flak were too heavy for eight horses and even if theys weren't; quality horses were in short supply as well).

    I'd also like to note that the primary and secondary effects of heavy AA wasn't the physical damage:

    Their presence forced bomber fleets to fly higher in order to reduce the AAA's effectiveness - this impaired the accuracy even of daylight bombing.
    Their second most important effect was that bomber fleets didn't attempt a second bombing run over the target if the conditions for a hit were unsatisfactory in the first one. A sudden cloud over target could save the day because bomber crews feared the AAA too much for a second run.

    The ammunition cost per bomber kill was IIRC roughly 40,000 RM - quite much, but less than the cost of the aircraft.

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  5. Your points are duly noted, but it still remains that the resources that went into fielding the massive amounts of flak batteries and their logistical support could have been better spent in a more cost effective fashion. i.e. fighters and dedicated anti-tank weapons such as the Pak 43.

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  6. Maybe, let's take a look at the figures:
    Production of 1943 ('44/'45 was too late even if a coup d'etat government had asked for peace).

    8,739 7,5 cm Pak 40
    1,155 8,8cm Pak 43
    10,437 Pak <7.5 cm
    5,947 tanks with turret (all 7.5 or 8.8cm guns)
    3,411 assault guns and tank destroyers (all 7.5 or 8.8cm casemate guns)

    4,416 8.8 cm Flak
    1,220 10.5cm Flak
    298 12.8cm Flak

    A transfer of all the new 8.8cm Flak to the fronts would have added less than 15% new anti-tank capable barrels. That would have meant only about 10-20% more overall firepower (including pre-'43 and captured ordnance).

    A transfer in '42 would have been unacceptable because of the AAA's effect on Bomber Command.

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  7. Judging from your own figures (mine are slightly different), I think there is little question as to how effective such a tranfer would be, or better yet instead of producing 88 mm Flak a production of the Pak 43.

    4 times 88mm Flaks were produced than Pak 43s! Imagine the effect of having a ratio of 5 Pak 43 ATGs on the Eastern front instead of one. Furthermore, the 10.5cm and 12.8cm Flak batteries could again have not been produced (alongside Flak towers, etc.) and instead the resources could have gone into something more cost-effective. I am not saying that air defense of the homeland was not vital, but my figures indicate that in terms of sheer cost heavy Flak was not the way to go.

    As for the percentages of firepower, the transfer of the 88mm Flak guns/Pak 43s if they were produced instead would add 45% more firepower to German ATGs. (An 88mm ATG should not be counted the same as an under 75mm ATG surely....)

    Now what remains to be found out, to me at least, is the cost of an 88mm Flak versus the Pak 43. Do you by any chance have any information on this?

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  8. some points where you might have flexed the arc to wide to fit the narative:

    "Germany's light field artillery began to move from cannons in the 7.5-8.8 cm range to 10.5 cm howitzers even before the First World War"

    They supplemented their mostly 77 mm field arty for they knew since the russo-turkish war of 1877/8 that light fieldguns are unable to harm troops in even shallow dugouts. Saying that they replaced them amounts to the assumption, that Wehrmacht replaced 105 mm for 150 mm. 77/75 mm guns were not only persistent in the time up to 1935, they were the main gun of the artillery.


    "The German standard AT gun was performing well only against the huge inventory of old and new Russian light tanks"

    This means up to at least early 1942, when 80% of the soviet tank force consisted of light types, and propably up to early 1943 when still 45% were of light types (allthough T-70, against whom the 37 mm was only marginally effective), the 37 mm was a usefull gun.


    Im also slightly concerned about the underlying assumption, that tank attacks should be fend off at the HKL, with all the infantry and artillery he wants in favor of the attacker. And for AT in depth use pressed in arty? I dont think this is how it works.


    "German General Staff officers and Generals acknowledged after the war that the problem had not been solved."

    can you name your source(s) here, sounds quite interesting

    btw. I just read Wehrens "Gefechtsausbildung der Panzergrenadiere", as you addressed the problem of mounted combat some time ago. In this book at least, the panzergrenadiers (are trained to) employ their SPW for transport (obviously), for a dash to the next cover if fired upon mounted, to retreat mounted from an outpost under fire, to rush through a near ambush or as HMG support from hull down positions if fighting dismounted.

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  9. You might want to think this through from another perspective:

    Could the Wehrmacht afford loosing artillery tubes?

    The RKKA definitely could, the bottleneck to its artillery strenght was ammo supply. They had huge amounts of guns, that could only be feed in static breakthrough operations and became relatively useless after that, because they couldn't be supplied. AT-Guns use little ammo, but get lost in large numbers - so what, until the front stabilizes again factory output will have replaced them.

    On the other hand could the Wehrmacht afford loosing the firepower that glued together strongpoints or backed up their depleted infantry? All that lighter HV-guns might have accomplished under these circumstances would have been slightly stiffening the self-defence of artillery positions against tanks.

    There are some further ideas on this problems:

    1) the leFh 18 was by traverse and traverse speed build for secondary AT use anyway.

    2) a 75 mm gun might have sufficed for fire support in the defence against targets in the open, but for offensive use - i.e. till mid 1943 - it would have been inadequat.

    3) in 1943 on the other hand 75 mm was approaching obsolence in AT use at least at long range. Development of a faster 105 mm gun might have been the better option (see development of FH 42 and 43).

    4) 88 mm for a fieldgun might be a good choice in regard to balistics, but would have weighted 3+ t even if the barrel of the Flak 18 is used (see Pak 43/41 of 4.4 t). Way to much at least for a horse team. You could make it lighter, but only if you accept a crappy field gun.

    5) Employing field guns in AT role for more than self defence might not be what you want to do. First it gives a serious hit to your arty firepower when you need it the most, i.e. when the tanks push through, all your infantry is in duck and cover and you definitely have to stop those enemy infantry from following their tanks. Second it gives you a crappy field gun (instable because it has to be very light and fast, not enought elevation as it has to be low profile) or a crappy AT-gun (as it has to be high for elevation, heavy for stability and on top more complex and pricy). Third: you realy want to kill all those finely educated arty people in a pakfront? (even the RKKA had 76.2 arty btl and 76.2 AT btl). This isnt even a matter of economies of scale, as in WW2 you needed both types of guns in such amount that you can maximize it for the production of both types (at least with german economic structures).

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  10. "The RKKA definitely could, the bottleneck to its artillery strenght was ammo supply."

    The German artillery had a severe ammunition supply shortage as well.
    The lack of guns was usually only worse for decimated units after a withdrawal with high losses.

    "All that lighter HV-guns might have accomplished under these circumstances would have been slightly stiffening the self-defence of artillery positions against tanks."

    I disagree. Light field cannons were serious indirect fire artillery, especially on the defence against moving (thus not entrenched) enemies.

    to (1): The leFH18 was a broadside of a barn. It was easily spotted and very poor against tanks.

    to (2): The 88mm required motor vehicles for towing (a halftrack if possible), but increased troubles were the consequence of the offence-defence spiral everywhere.

    to (3): The late howitzer designs were great, but also expenive. And they were too high for effective camouflage againt tanks.
    75mm became mediocre when the IS-2 appeared, but it was still an effective gun in '45. The highly praised Hetzer tank destroyer was equipped with a 7.5cm L/48 and wasn't put into production before '44.

    to 4): It's about versatility. Artilelry couldn't do much more against an armour attack than to separate tanks and infantry. The divisions then lacked the guns to cover the whole front and often the AT gun mobility to react in time. 15 more AT-capable guns at the HKL would have made much sense.
    The AT units would still have done their job, but there would have been at least one Pakfront at/behind the HKL.

    I think you got wrong what I wrote about the German army and its emphasis on howitzers.

    "Im also slightly concerned about the underlying assumption, that tank attacks should be fend off at the HKL, with all the infantry and artillery he wants in favor of the attacker. And for AT in depth use pressed in arty? I dont think this is how it works."

    I don't think I get what you mean. A serious offensive was impossible to stop in front of the HKL. The positioning of Pak in front of the HKL required much agility because of the short reaction times. That was acceptable for the dedicated AT units (motorised), not so for artillery with secondary AT role.

    "can you name your source(s) here, sounds quite interesting"

    In addition to the usual suspects,: Middeldorff, "Taktik im Russlandfeldzug". That author was responsible for lessons learned in OKH late in the war.

    About IFV/Panzergrenadiere: I know. That's why I reminded people with my article that the original idea of an IFV has little similatrity with modern IFVs. Modern IFVs are therefore not as compellingly based on wartime experiences as others assert.

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  11. those wordy post all the time :/

    I understand the versatility-issue, but I dont think it s necessary nor advisable to make compromises in this regard. ATarty and field arty will fight their own battle and pressing field arty into AT role weakens the overall system more than it benefits.
    technically by employing inferior guns in one or both tasks
    personally because arty people need other skills than AT people and you waste one on the other
    tactical because you need all the arty support you can get


    To me it is looking clever to cover up a blunder
    to deliver enough AT-arty to the area under attack or failing to mass them
    to pile up enough arty ammo to support the defence
    as you need both and not one at a time.

    btw the other way around makes perfectly sense to me: making your AT-arty able to strenghten arty support if there is no tank threat. This is what the soviets took out of WW2, when they made 122 mm their main field arty caliber, but kept AT-guns with reasonable elevation (D-44, D-48). On the other hand, they produced single purpose AT-guns as early as 1943 (ZIS-2) and in the 60s made a single purpose weapon their main AT-gun (T-12).


    " .... Middeldorff"
    Thanks!
    skimmed his "Handbuch der Taktik" and had this one in my hands, but didnt read :(

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  12. "The German artillery had a severe ammunition supply shortage as well."

    But iirc overall had more ammo per barrel for most of the time, compared to RKKA. And with wide frontages coverage might have been an issue too. The soviets had simply too much guns to put to use for most of the time so loosing some didnt realy hurt them.


    "The lack of guns was usually only worse for decimated units after a withdrawal with high losses."

    ... and now imagine them habitually employed in pakfronts.


    "Light field cannons were serious indirect fire artillery, especially on the defence against moving (thus not entrenched) enemies."

    But still worse than 105 mm, especially in early war offensive operations, which was all I pointed out.

    (1) only pointed out, that leFH 18 was developed with secondary AT-use in mind. It was regarded an emergency way of using it, and rightly so IMO. More regard to this was given with subsequent german arty developement (le FH 42 and 43), but 105 mm was still seen as a necessity.

    (2) but the wehrmacht wasnt able to keep up truck-wise and fuel-wise, so keeping horse drawn arty might have been a good choice. Barrel and recoil mechanism of the 88 (short) alone weighted nearly as much as a leFH 42.

    (3) the leFH 42 doesnt seem expensive to me. It was lighter and lower than its predecessor, but offered little surplus for uses other than AT.

    (4) "The divisions then lacked the guns to cover the whole front and often the AT gun mobility to react in time."
    Can the field guns realy be relieved from duty and move into AT-ambush once the tanks break through? At this point only field arty fire held the line between scattered centers of resistance and the Division needed all guns it could get to stop the Infantry from following the tank attack.

    "15 more AT-capable guns at the HKL would have made much sense."
    Having the full odds of a coordinated tank-infantry attack and ample arty support against them, I doubt this. Capable AT-guns in 1943 dont switch from frontline to second line to evade arty-prep, they dont switch positions once the inital one has been detected. They might take one tank with them but so what, those infantry support btl wont be the one cutting your supply line anyway.

    All that a HKL against a competent enemy could achieve was separating tanks from infantry and keeping the break narrow (sometimes forcing an early comittment of the operational Tank-Group was achieved). Then, against a tank-only/heavy force, that managed to break through, AT-guns trade equal. In regard to AT in the frontline you need only as much, to help your infantry survive and hold - reverse slope and Panzerfausts might as much as AT-guns dotting the line. And where they cant hold or survive you need capable arty. Competent enemies attack in depth (at least they have done so in WW2), so the fight in and around the breakthrough area lasts and your arty is committed and desperately needed.

    "... That was acceptable for the dedicated AT units (motorised)"
    I'd say 'mechanized', as motorized arent under fire. But even those are better employed when enemy armor was weakest, i.e. after the breakthrough.

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  13. Little misunderstanding; I thought you meant the FH 43 with their 360° traverse carriage instead of the 'light for hauling by horses' FH18/42 design.

    "... because arty people need other skills than AT people and you waste one on the other
    tactical because you need all the arty support you can get..."

    Actually, not that much. Light field cannon employment wasn't that different from AT gunnery.
    The assault gun detachments were all artillery units (and an AT mainstay).
    Many successful assault gun detachment commanders used direct fire ambush tactics learned pre-war in light field cannon batteries for the AT fight.

    In the end, our differences are about different appraisals for AT & indirect fire requirements as well as specialisation vs. versatility advantages.

    Btw:
    http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2009/09/on-defensive-firepower-and-much-else.html

    I appraise artillery fires as backbone of a formation's tactical defence, but there's a limit for everything. The army missed 75mm high velocity guns more than it needed the indirect fire advantage of 105mm howitzers over 75mm field cannons in 1941-1943 (IMO).

    The latter's disadvantage isn't great on hard, flat soils and below 20° elevation anyway (Abprallerschießen/ricochet fire). And there's also a rate of fire advantage.

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  14. "The army missed 75mm high velocity guns more than it needed the indirect fire advantage of 105mm howitzers over 75mm field cannons in 1941-1943 (IMO)."

    They had over 15000 until 1943, compared to 7800 leFH produced in 1939-43. In 1942 nearly 9500 AT-guns of 50 to 75 mm had been produced. And there are 8000 88 mm AA-guns up to 1942 too.

    I dont see the direct fire problem you are assuming (at least in regard to weapons available), espacialy against a foe that still relied on T-60 as much as he did on T-34 (so 37 mm adds another 5000+ viable AT-pieces). Why decrease the number of field guns produced to add another 2000 hybrids, that arent optimal for AT-use and suck against fieldworks. For an army that planed to fight and mostly fought in the offensive.

    1941 and early 1942 was a timeframe, when the wehrmacht was in need of a heavier AT-gun. There where only slightly over 1000 50 mm guns in service when the aggression on the east front started. But soviet tank formations didnt do much harm up to late 1942 anyway. Overall less 105 mm wouldnt help much in increasing the number of 75 mm tubes up to 1944. In 1944 production of 105 mm increased much faster than 75 mm so the wehrmacht at least didnt think your way.


    But all this aside from the main question: Why should one have a hybrid that can do both?


    "I appraise artillery fires as backbone of a formation's tactical defence"

    Not only tactical. Stoping or depleting the enemy infantry amounts to operationally crippling the enemy. It is first priority. No trading against this tank btl those heros of leichte Artillerieabteilung could hope to destroy if lucky. Operation Mars is a good exampe of the endstate a defending division could hope to contribute. The soviet mobile groups pushed through, but the infantry couldnt break out of the tactical defensive zone. And so the armor didnt achieve anything.


    "below 20° elevation"

    angle of impact has to be below 20°. It depends on range, but soil condition and terrain angle are just as important. The soviets even advised the use of timed fuse, which has its own issues - accuracy an range related.

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  15. "They had over ..."
    Production isn't the same as inventory. A similar fallacy would be to read priorities straight out of relative production figures.

    The Afrika Korps experiments with infantry squads doubling as AT of gun-howitzer team. That was an appropriate setup for defence on open terrain. The Army Group South could have made good use of a dozen such 75/87.6mm centric infantry divisions (instead fo normal ones). Such an artillery strength was well-appreciated, but simply not available. More 75mm guns would have been welcome.

    The howitzer arty was permanently quite short of ammo. A reduction of 105mm arty in favour of relatively rarely firing 75mm arty wouldn't have reduced the amount of howitzer shells spent by as much as the # of 105mm howitzer barrels.

    "another 2000 hybrids, that arent optimal for AT-use and suck against fieldworks."

    The purpose of German field artillery in WW2 wasn't really the destruction of entrenched infantry. The arty's value was rather in their suppression during a ground attack - and 75mm is as good as if not better than heavier artillery for suppression.
    Besides; even 105mm didn't convince against entrenched troops.

    "For an army that planed to fight and mostly fought in the offensive."

    This is a misconception. The fast troops were meant to be mostly (or exclusively) offensive. The infantry divisions provided a stable line as starting point for operations and had to absorb/delay small enemy offensives in order to minimise the need for armour in the defence.
    The normal (non-mountain, non-para, non-motorised) infantry divisions had thus a mostly defensive purpose in German operations - even when they were marching forward (= moving the defensive line forward with tactical offence). They were the anvil for the armour hammer.
    An exception were focused fights for settlements, bridgeheads and other relatively small areas of special interest.

    There was little doubt that intact German infantry divisions were able to defend 1:3 (or better) against Soviet infantry-centric forces. The main defensive challenge was therefore how to stop tanks.

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  16. "The normal (non-mountain, non-para, non-motorised) infantry divisions had thus a mostly defensive purpose in German operations - even when they were marching forward (= moving the defensive line forward with tactical offence)."

    Then who cut those Kessels down. Did the reds wave their hands as soon as they where encircled?


    "There was little doubt that intact German infantry divisions were able to defend 1:3 (or better) against Soviet infantry-centric forces."

    . . . by virtue of effective arty support, not at least.
    In regard to tanks I agree, that the infantry should be able to survive against tanks in infantry support mission. If possible they should channel an operational tank force, by posing a thread to those forces if they approach in the 200 m kill-zone infantry can maintain. BUT an infantry division can not and should not be equipped to contain an operational tank force. Those tanks are weapons of main effort and so should the AT weapons fighting them. Having them spread out means not having enough where the enemy concentrates his forces. (Not saying, that your independent Pak regiment shouldnt be attached to an infantry division if it is employed as the blocking force, but that it should be independent.) You are not willing to make this decision, so you weasel arount to another trade off that IMO effects the system even worse.
    IIRC the wehrmacht had a massive tactical bias, seeing the achievement of a breakthrough by operational tank forces a blunder and defeat. This might have roots in WW1 and early WW2 but IMO didnt reflect on the realities of the war from late 1942 on. Tactical breakthrough simply couldnt be prevented against a competent and well equipped red army (and overextended own lines). The technical shortcomings of the main AT weapons add (i.e. you might put your frontline to good use as an operational antitank barrier when 37 mm was a potent AT-gun and again when guided AT-missiles appeared, but not with guns of 1-5 t in weight.)


    Regarding the difference in skill and tasks for arty and AT people. An arty btl doesnt consist of a whole lot of more people than an AT-btl for no reason. Furthermore there are skills (and equipment) refering especially to arty people (indirect laying, tactical employment, logistics, positioning ...) and to AT people (gunnery, range estimation, tactical employment ...). A hybrid leichte Artillerieabteilung would leave you with hundreds of soldiers in the combat zone, jobless, because their guns, gunners, loaders and drivers just got chopped in a pakfront.

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  17. "Production isn't the same as inventory. A similar fallacy would be to read priorities straight out of relative production figures."

    For this question it is, as 75 mm arty-AT-hybrids deplete just as fast as AT-guns.


    "The purpose of German field artillery in WW2 wasn't really the destruction of entrenched infantry. The arty's value was rather in their suppression during a ground attack - and 75mm is as good as if not better than heavier artillery for suppression."

    Arty produced most casualties in the wars at least since 1914, so I doubt it was all about suppression. Destruction is at least as important. Nearly every enemy captain knows how do organize a system of infantry fires, that wont allow your infantry to approach. Suppression by arty had to stop for the last 200 m run to the enemy positions. So you need arty to destroy some of the weapons that constitute the enemy systems of fire. This destruction is random so it poses the problem of finding these gaps, but those gaps are vital for the infantry assault to succeed. 75 mm gives you less chance to produce those gaps, i.e. more casualties and time spend to find them.

    105 mm isnt an optimal caliber for this. (122 mm seems the best you could get for a single-load horse drawn piece) But it was able to penetrage light dugouts, and those 4 m deep shellbunkers of WW1 vintage were not that omnipresent in WW2.


    "The Army Group South could have made good use of a dozen such 75/87.6mm centric infantry divisions (instead fo normal ones). Such an artillery strength was well-appreciated, but simply not available. More 75mm guns would have been welcome."

    I didnt doubt that. My point is, that they would have wanted more Pak40, not less leFh 18.

    tube strengh in the arty regiment is not needed for lobbing such and such numbers of shells over indefinite time. It is needed for lobbing them in half a minute to achieve maximum casualties before the enemy hits the deck. It is needed to cover frontage even when some batteries are displacing, destroyed or suppressed. Using arty at full range comes at a priece in wear, accuracy and effect. It is needed for barrage lenght (1 battery is only 100-150 m, so the whole arty of a division would be in need for just 2-3 company sectors).
    48 pieces, arent that much for the job to be done.

    Being short on ammo doesnt mean not beating the drum when the moment has come. It means cutting back on opportunity targets, counterbattery, etc. . Its a matter of timing: you will need arty and AT right in the same moment, so having specialized guns pays of, having deficient hybrids doesnt.

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  18. "For this question it is, as 75 mm arty-AT-hybrids deplete just as fast as AT-guns."
    Quite obviously not, or else they would be the same. You mixed in production figures of other calibres anyway, so that reply was simply not valid.

    "Arty produced most casualties in the wars at least since 1914, so I doubt it was all about suppression."
    And I didn't assert that anyway, why don't you read more carefully? It kills mostly non-entrenched troops, while its primary value on the offense was suppression.

    "Nearly every enemy captain knows how do organize a system of infantry fires, that wont allow your infantry to approach. Suppression by arty had to stop for the last 200 m run to the enemy positions. So you need arty to destroy some of the weapons that constitute the enemy systems of fire."
    Not necessarily with arty indirect HE fires, though.
    (1) reserves could plug the hole caused by preparatory bombardment, so the troops need to have alternatives. (2) Direct fire artillery (assault guns, infantry guns) was very important. (3) Smoke. (4) Most positions weren't taken, but bypassed with a breakthrough somewhere else (and the Eastern Front was thinly manned) - there was almost always enough concentration of capabilities possible to break through. Even the attack at Kursk broke through two resistance lines.
    (5) Night attack.
    The ammunition requirements for really taking out a large enough portion of entrenched infantry was rarely acceptable post-WW1. It was done at times, but it was rarely good practice.

    "It is needed for lobbing them in half a minute to achieve maximum casualties before the enemy hits the deck."

    Compare the shell weight of 30 seconds 7.62cm @ 25 rpm (83.2 kg) with 10.5cm @ 8 rpm (74.1 kg). There was no or no large advantage for the howitzer even if we take into account the difficult subject of multiple frag patterns at different ranges and conditions.

    "Then who cut those Kessels down. Did the reds wave their hands as soon as they where encircled?"

    The elimination of Soviet pockets was among the easiest offensive tasks in WW2. And yes, millions raised their hands when they were out of supplies. The capture of astonishing quantities of prisoners + captured guns, tanks and even ammunition is the evidence.

    About he AT Schwerpunkt; I don't "weasel around". There's a long-proved advantage in having a line of defence behind yourself (morale and risk mitigation). 15 AT-capable Fk's backing the HKL would have been a great relief for the AT Abteilung while it exploits its mobility for AT ambushes in the defensive zone in front of the HKL. The concentrated employment of the AT Abteilung was enough of a Schwerpunkt; the high mobility of the enemy tanks simply required that there were other AT asets in the division as well. Keep in mind that Schwerpunkt doesn't mean to concentrate everything; it means to concentrate as much as possible without catastrophic failure elsewhere.

    "IIRC the wehrmacht had a massive tactical bias, seeing the achievement of a breakthrough by operational tank forces a blunder and defeat."

    You seem to ignore 'Schlagen aus der Nachhand' entirely.

    The challenge was different anyway; (1) to deter weak offensives (2) to keep up the AT defence on the move (3) to weaken powerful offensives early on.


    And trust me, there's no soldier jobless when his division's defensive zone is being crashed by an enemy tank division.

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  19. "Not necessarily with arty indirect HE fires, though."
    But you acknowledge, that some (!) arty kills where necessary and that 105 mm was way better in achieving this? The soviets equate the neutralisation of defending troups with a casualty rate of 30% to personnel or equipment, no peanuts.
    pennypicking: direct fire has to be exposed to the enemy fire system, night attack works only for limited objectives, going around only shifts the problem of breakthrough to another location, 105 mm is more effective in smoke, reserves have to be neutralized by shifting fires and destroying communication trenches.


    "Compare the shell weight of 30 seconds 7.62cm @ 25 rpm (83.2 kg) with 10.5cm @ 8 rpm (74.1 kg)."
    OK, but you suggest taking that leichte Artillerieabteilung out of the artillery fight and move them in AT ambush. So it is not nearly equal, but minus 25%. 500 m worth of barrage fires, another company breaks and yet another and the enemy can send his truck mounted infantrymen to catch up with the tanks. What do you get? a lousy tank btl destroyed if you are lucky.


    "The elimination of Soviet pockets was among the easiest offensive tasks in WW2."
    Consistent losses of way over 40.000 KIA alone for operation Barbarossa say otherwise. the only difference from later war is, that they didnt lose the same amount in POW. I had it, this was a hard burden on the german infantry and less effective arty wouldnt have helped to avoid close combat with the soviets on par.

    "You seem to ignore 'Schlagen aus der Nachhand' entirely."

    I didnt mean what they did, but how they thought about the role of tactical defence of an infantry division against operational attack. Those backhand blows were quite improvised. Especially this famou charkow counter was only possible because Hausser withdrew against Mansteins orders.


    I think we have pushed this as far as it gets. Id like to hear your thoughts on the timing problem, that is the centerpiece of my argument, otherwise we may need to agree to disagree.

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  20. "Quite obviously not"

    OK, they dont, if they are not employed in AT role. They dont, if they arent in those most threatened sectors. But in none of those cases they have a positive effect on AT strengh. On the other hand they do have a negative impact on arty strengh overall if all of the armies after WW2 are correct in assuming, that 75-76 mm isnt ideal for an arty piece.

    for clarification: They had over 15000 (Pak 40 and Pak 97/38) until (end of)1943, compared to 7800 leFH produced in 1939-43 (plus another 4845 up to 1939). In 1942 nearly 9500 AT-guns of 50 to 75 mm (Pak 38, Pak 40 and Pak 97/38) had been produced. And there are 8000 88 mm AA-guns up to 1942 too.

    But lets put our argument back on what actually happened: When the war started, the wehrmacht had 11200 37 mm AT guns. Every infantry division had 72 of them, enough to form 2 btl worth of AT-infantry sections. 48 could be used to form the AT schwerpunkt of the division. The 37 mm was a usefull gun and became useless against all but support vehicles only somewhere in 1942. 37 mm needed supplementation, which should have been obvious by 1940. Suitable guns where in development since 1935 resp 1938. Mass production of 50 mm AT guns begann in 1940 and over 2000 were produced in 1941. To late, to few it is asumed. But what could have helped the wehrmacht to have more of them in 1940 or employing them better in 1941. light fieldguns were no option, as the trade offs are bad IMO, but a doctrine that mirrors the wehrmachts take on operational tank use could have helped. Heavier AT guns were not employed earlier - my suggestion - because they didnt "fit" the infantry division that was all the wehrmacht could muster in regard to AT, improvisations aside. An AT arm that didnt limit its thinking to tactical AT defence and immediate protection of the infantry might have seen the need for a heavier gun, even if 37 mm was still effective at short range. It might have also enforced to a more concentrated employment of available pieces.

    As far as I can see there were only 19 Heerestruppen Panzer-Abwehr-Abteilungen formed in August 1939 (those with numbers of 500 to 700), 15 of them lived through 1940 and only 4 of them got heavier guns by 1941, 3 of them 88s in 1940, one 76.2 in 1941. Later on the wehrmacht formed more. The wehrmacht simply had not enought AT reserves. Given that blunder would 12 additional AT guns per division realy save the day?

    But hey, all of this didnt realy made much of a dent anyway up to late 1942.

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  21. Actually, this comments section is almost unreadable. It's simply the wrong format.

    Feel free write a counterpioint text and send it to me at lastdingo@gmx.de.
    We can then discuss it a bit on e-mail before I'll copy it into a new blog post.

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