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Was lend-lease essential in securing a Soviet victory?


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Apocal - sure, but the bomber force in England (and the MTO etc) required a million men on the ground and moving tons of bombs etc.  It is not like it took no logistically thruput itself.  It competed with all the rest of the build up, it ate up shipping space getting everything involved to the theater, etc.  The bombers themselves only did the "final flight", at a cost north of $1000 per bomb  - and more like 20-50 times that for every bomb that hit anything intended.

 

For the rest, um, the proposition we were asked to entertain - not by me, mind - was an entire new German heavy bomber force.  Which would not have been free, nor involved no change in other events or diversion of assets from other priorities.  My whole point was that would have been not an advantage but a huge waste of resources, and if we are going to shovel those kinds of resources, extra, into Luftwaffe items, heavy bombers would be last on the list - and jet fighters, radio control bombs, and lots more cheap multirole fighter bombers at the top of it.  If you instead start from the premise, "no one has any more resources for anything", naturally what actually happened, happens again.  Thanks for that brilliant insight, it wouldn't have occurred to us without you.  

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A relly interesting discussion. When it comes to 4-engine bombers being 'ineffective'--I think that is a very bold and unsupported claim. The strategic bombing of Germany basically shaped the war as a

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If the 262 had entered service earlier and in larger number, the Allies would just have accelerated their own jet program to counter the threat.

 

And/or they would have done earlier what they ended up doing in 1945: providing an even stronger escort force for the B-17s.

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A relly interesting discussion. When it comes to 4-engine bombers being 'ineffective'--I think that is a very bold and unsupported claim. The strategic bombing of Germany basically shaped the war as a whole in 1943 and 1944, even if it didnt have the desired impact on German production until the second half of 1944. Starting in 1943 it:

1) Led to the Luftwaffe basically being stripped from the battlefield--particularly of fighter cover--leading to the colossal losses of 1944

2) Led to the Germans investing huge resources into V-2 production--much more in fact than they spent of AFV production from 1943-1945

3) Destroyed more production (Luftwaffe fighters lost in combat and through factory dispersal) than land battles such as Kursk

 

IN 1944 it lead to massive redeployment of civilian workers to contend with bomb damage. Caused a huge diversion of resources into anti-aircraft production (for instance in 1944 the Germans were spending as much of their economy building anti aircraft weapons and supplying them with ammunition as they were building AFV), and eventually lead to a one third decline in German production from July to December 1944--a decline that had nothing to do with the land war as the germans had stockpiles of all raw materials needed to keep production rising until 1946.

 

Considering that the building and arming of 4-engine bombers took approximately 15-20% of American war production (and a little higher of the UKs) it was a sensible allocation of force.

 

The ME 262 is a really fascinating case. Partly I think Galland and the rest of the Luftwaffe like to blame Hitler for delaying the project, when actually getting the kinks out of all aircraft production actually took much longer than expected. The Germans, in fact, had a terrible time developing aircraft during the war--see not only the HE-177 but he ME-210 and many others. IN many ways the only aircraft that they developed efficiently during the war was the FW-190. Even had the ME 262 been introduced 6 months earlier, its hard to see exactly how it would have changed the air war materially. By 1944 the real problem the Germans had was that they were running out of fuel to train pilots (because of the pressure of the strategic air war). Its hard to see how they could have provided that many extra pilots for the ME 262. As it was, by 1944 poor German pilot training meant that 25% of German aircraft were actually lost simpy being flown to their deployment areas. Their pilots really were flawed. Such a loss percentage would have been even higher for the ME 262 as it was really tricky to fly.

 

That being said, more ME 262's would certainly have lead to an increase in Anglo-American strategic bomber losses, but its hard to say how big of an increase. I doubt that Allied jets would have made a big difference because the big problem with all early jets (which the Germans never really solved with the ME 262, was their incredibly short flying time. They could only fly for a short period of time because of fuel consumption. Allied jets could probably only have actually met ME 262s in combat had they been based in France.

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I read somewhere that pilots were being soloed in the BF109 after only 10 hours of flight time in 1944. I've found the majority of flight students are unable to solo a Cessna 172 until around 20 hours, sometimes more, sometimes never. The Luftwaffe which used to have some of the toughest training in the whole world back in 1938 had been reduced to this. By 1944 they were putting basically student pilots into an airplane with a 1500hp engine and a notorious tendency to ground loop and suffer catastrophic control loss on takeoff and landing. 

 

 Partly I think Galland and the rest of the Luftwaffe like to blame Hitler for delaying the project, when actually getting the kinks out of all aircraft production actually took much longer than expected.

 

That's nothing new. Though Napoleon he was not, post-war the "Honorable Prussian Officer Corp" scapegoated Hitler to no end. He was both an easy target for blame and a hate sink for them to play all their own moral dilemmas off of after the war. These same people who had every opportunity to derail the Nazi Party and end Hitler's ambitions at any point in the 1930s instead aided and supported the regime at every turn. Then acted post-war as if they had been the victims. Never sounded like the honorable and brave "Prussian Officers" to me. 

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The Luftwaffe had the best training program up to 1941, but they started to take shortcuts in 1942 when losses started outpacing supply. What helped them until early 1944 was the pool of "experten" pilots who accounted for most of the kills. However, most of those aces were gone by early 1944. By summer 1944 and after, the average German fighter pilot was a lot less experienced than the average USAAF/RAF fighter pilot.

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"that is a very bold and unsupported claim"

 

Bold yes, granted, intended even.  Unsupported I don't think so, I supported it.  You might call it debatable if you like, but not unsupported.

 

As for the effects you trace to bombing, 100,000+ single engine fighters won the air war over Germany, not the ~50,000 heavy bombers.  And no, the bombers didn't significantly reduce German fighter output.  They forced some dispersion but final assembly really didn't need special equipment and was readily dispersed.  The Germans ran out of pilots not airframes in any event.

 

On the decline in German war output in late 1944, it was caused less by bombing than by manpower - they only met the losses of the summer of 1944 by sweeping out the actual war economy of men, and that is the single biggest cause of the decline in production in late 1944.  The only bombing caused shortage was oil, which mattered certainly but didn't directly cause the output fall.  It mattered primarily by making the air victory permanent, secondarily by restricting the effectiveness of German armor late war.  But it was still pretty effective even on shoestring supplies.

 

Yes the Germans spent plenty on air defense.  But a heavy Flak gun cost 1/16th what a heavy bomber sets you back, and on average took out half a plane apiece.  The Germans were not going to go bankrupt at that rate of exchange.  The bomber only delivered maybe 10 bombs within a mile of the intended aim point over its whole operational life.

 

Also, your estimates of the cost of the bomber offensive to the US and the UK is low. "As much as 40 to 50 per cent of the British war effort went into the RAF and the USAAF consumed as much as 25-35 per cent of US industrial output. The USAAF grew to 2.4 million men in June 1944, or over a third the size of the US Army. The operational costs were steep. RAF Bomber Command lost 8,325 bombers and 64,000 casualties among their aircrew. The USAAF lost 8,237 bombers and 73,000 crew members which exceeded total USN and USMC casualties in the Pacific."  Another key finding of the post war survey was that the whole bombing campaign was much more "late-weighted" than popular histories let on, with most of the tonnage dropped after the full defeat of the Luftwaffe.  "“It is of vital significance that of all the tonnage of bombs dropped on Germany, only 17 percent fell prior to January 1, 1944 and only 28 percent prior to July 1, 1944”.  German military output was still rising throughout that period, and only peaked in the fall of 1944.

 

Early in the war, the British estimated that in night bombing operations, only one sortie in three got within 5 miles of its intended target, with a factor of 4 variation around that mean determined largely by visibility (moon or no, cloud cover or clear).  They were proud of the fact that they got that up to 60% during clear weather by mid 1944.  Of their own losses under the Blitz, the economic impact in the worst month was measured by British economists and came out as less than that caused by ordinary holidays shortening the work-week in certain months - it was within the calendar-scale variation, in other words.

 

It took an average of 5 sorties to *wound* one civilian on the ground, and 13 to kill a single German civilian.  The Allies were trading 1 Allied airman (and about $20,000 worth of airplane) for 2 German civilians killed and 5 wounded over the whole course of the bombing campaign.  That would only have been an effective exchange if the targets had all been military personnel.  Since they disproportionally were not and the Germans didn't draft a quarter of the whole population, they were actually losing military manpower on the exchange, net net.  It took tons of bombs dropped to wound a single civilian.  And that was for the large majority of the bombs which were missing their intended aimpoint by miles but still managing to hit entire cities.  The main economic effect was to destroy about 20% of the German housing stock - but with 15% of that only being leveled after mid 1944 (see above on the timing of the tonnage delivered).  The Germans simply didn't rebuild that housing.  This inflicted considerable hardship on German civilians in the last year of the war, on top of the civilian casualties it caused directly, but that was its primary destructive effect, and it "lands" quite late.

 

On the whole, the Allies would probably have been much better served by a tactical air force focused on both winning air superiority and supporting the armies in the operational battle area, using lots of fighters and fighter bombers along with medium bombers.  The long range of e.g. the B-24 was certainly useful for ASW, and some of the Allied medium types were inefficient in comparison.  (The B-26 was a dog, for example, about as expensive as a B-24 with less payload and much less range).  With less invested in that whole airforce and more of the logistics thus freed from bomb supply and the like, instead used to avoid the artillery ammo shortages of the second half of 1944, and generally increase the supply of 155mm shells fired at German military personnel, rather than 500 lb bombs dropped on German civilians.  A battalion of 12 such howitzers cost the same as 1 4 engine bomber, and lasted considerably longer than 25 missions.

 

This may seem a bold claim, but I think all the best post war operations research bears it out.  The strategic air role vastly overpromised and overclaimed during the war, with senior airmen ideologically focused on claims they could win the war on their own if only allowed to ignore all other missions.  They couldn't and they didn't, and if they had subordinated the air force to the army, it would have served their national militaries at least as well as it did, and could have done so, effectively, with only half or so of the resources actually lavished on the arm.  The four engine bomber was the poster boy of that allocation decision, and I regard it as pretty clearly a misallocation.  (In hindsight, obviously.  But objectively so). 

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Well, there is alot there to chew upon. I would say that the thousands of long range fighters in 1944 made the difference because they allowed the heavies to bomb properly--not sure I would separate them out--to me they are airpower. As for the reason they made the difference. 

 

My estimate about the cost of the air campaign is actually spot on, based on War production reports monthly averages (the best collection I have found of them are in the Hopkins Mss and the Roosevelt Mss in the FDR library in Hyde Park NY. in 1943 and 1944 the USA spent about 40 percent of its war output on air munitions. Numerically the heavy bombers were actually a relatively small percentage of this, (about 16.3k of overall production of 96k--these figures are off the top of my head, so might be slightly off). Of course the heavies were by far the most expensive element of aircraft production (particularly the B-29s--but of course they werent used against Germany). I think its safe to say that the B-17s and B-24s used against German in 1944 would have been in value terms about 30 percent of US aircraft output--that is why I used what I consider an overestimation of its cost of overall out put above 15-20%.

 

This investment also took a far larger percentage of the German war economy in 1944 than any other element. For the year over 45% of German war production was aircraft (not including the ammunition needed to arm them)--overwhelmingly single engine fighters. The Germans deployed about 80% (and that really is probably a low figure) of these to fight the air war in the west. 

 

I agree that tactical air power was very effective ( a friend of mine, the historian Graham Cross is working on a book about this which should be really interesting), however I think separating out different components partly distorts the picture. All airpower was mutually supporting in 1944--it was the sum total that ground the Germans down.

 

Now we can get into strategic airpower in 1943 if you want--thats a really interesting discussion...

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40% is not 15-20%.  Heavy bombers for the US are 35,000 units, 32000 of them the B-17 and B-24 types, mediums (B-25 and B-26, 2 engine) add 22,000 units more.  

The unit cost of them was north of $200,000 per plane ($300,000 before 1944), vs e.g. under $60,000 for a P-51.  

The bombers are a lot more than 17% of the input value for aircraft, and adding in the crew, fuel and especially the bombs makes them weigh even heavier in the totals.

The British also spent 40% plus of their output on the RAF.  Their portion raises the heavy bomber total to around my figure.

 

The US and UK between them also have about 4 times the production capacity of Germany.  Maybe only 3 times earlier in the war - the US grows.

Equal percentage of output shares thus means a huge actual input exchange ratio in favor of Germany, and an inefficient way of making economic weight "tell".

You only gain in attrition terms by beating the total output ratio not by matching it.  

Efficient attrition exchange should let superior overall weight "tell" by trading the richer's side's assets for the poorer side's at even rates.

The strategic bombing campaign didn't get anything like that economic exchange ratio.

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Theres alot going on here. Starting with strategic bombing. Certainly in 1943 it fails to meet the (ludicrously high) expectations put forward by commanders such as Harris or Eaker. However, at least imho) it plays a crucial role in determining the outcome of the landwar as the Germans are forced to strip the battlefield of fighter cover. 

 

Im struck by the larger question of German strategy, however. I wonder if actually we dont realize how potentially strong Germany could have been had it been able to relatively efficiently organize Europe's resources, without the threat of strategic bombing in 1943 and 1944. For instance, even though people throw around the idea that Germany had to beat the USSR in 1941 or 1942 because it couldnt fight a long war against the Russians, the opposite might actually have been true. If Germany fights just the Russians it would have been able to significantly and increasingly outproduce the USSR (take a look at how much more steel and bauxite the Germans were producing on an annual basis in 1943 than the Russians). Germany actually has far greater resources than Russia in everything but manpower, they just cant use them efficiently, which was one of the great benefits of the failed strategic bombing campaign of 1943--you are spot on about this Capt Hawkeye. The longer that Germany and the USSR have a war a deux, the more likely it becomes that the Germans would wear the Russians down.

Potentially Germany would have almost matched Russia in regards to manpower as well if they had utilized the resentment towards Stalin in the occupied territories

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Ya mean like they did in 1944? Whole SS Divisions were being comprised of Ukrainian and Polish volunteers. The fact was this "resentment" to Stalin never materialized in a way meaningful enough to affect the war's outcome. German planning hinged quite a bit on anti-Soviet flare ups, hence Hitler's belief they only needed to "kick in the door". Well they damn well blew the door off the hinges, and Stalin's house still stood strong. 

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Ya mean like they did in 1944? Whole SS Divisions were being comprised of Ukrainian and Polish volunteers. The fact was this "resentment" to Stalin never materialized in a way meaningful enough to affect the war's outcome. German planning hinged quite a bit on anti-Soviet flare ups, hence Hitler's belief they only needed to "kick in the door". Well they damn well blew the door off the hinges, and Stalin's house still stood strong. 

Just going from memory from ... I think he discussed it in "The Unknown Eastern Front" by Rolf - Dieter Muller, something like half the Axis soldiers on the Eastern Front throughout the war were non Germans.

 

I am of course including Romanians, Finns, Italians, Hungarians, etc. in all of that.  Many thousands of Ukrainians also filled out German supply and service functions in combat and non combat units which acted to free up more Germans to serve in combat roles.

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My perspective of all this is that of an ex-pat Brit who is now living and working in Russia.  As my Russian friends know, I am no fan of Joseph Stalin (to put it mildly) but with regard to the 2nd World/Great Patriotic War there is one thing he said that I agree with completely.  "The Russians provided the men, the Americans provided the material and the British provided the time."

 

Russian ignorance of the role of their allies in that war is still profound.  One of my upper-intermediate students recently asked for an English language documentary to watch to improve his listening skills.  I recommended Jeremy Isaacs' 1973 series 'The World At War' and sent him the link to download it.  When I saw him next, he had watched several episodes.  in shocked tones he said, "Richard, I had no idea that Britain was fighting the Nazis before we were and that London had been so heavily bombed."  I have had similar results with Robin Cross's book 'Kursk'  and Anthony Beevor's 'Stalingrad.' which I recommended to two military minded advanced students.

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FWIW, the average U-boat had a bit less than 3 'successes'. Success here counts both sunk or damaged, and includes ships as small as 30 tons, as well as warships. It also includes ships carried on other ships sunk. That is, landing craft carried aboard a merchantman. So, for example, of U-221s 22 successes, 10 of them were LCMs and an LCT being carried carried on the Southern Empress when that ship was sunk.

 

Most U-boats sank nothing and damaged nothing. The Allies allocated very modest resources to combating the U-boats, and apart from some alteration of shipbuilding priority for a short period, the U-boat campaign had no real effect on the development of Allied strategy and operations. The same cannot be said of the CBO.

 

There is a reasonably sound argument that the lack of strategic bombers played a significant factor in their failure during the Battle of Britain. Efficiency considerations should be pitched out the window when following that advice loses you the war.

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CaptHawkeye, on 19 Feb 2015 - 3:11 PM, said:snapback.png

Ya mean like they did in 1944? Whole SS Divisions were being comprised of Ukrainian and Polish volunteers. The fact was this "resentment" to Stalin never materialized in a way meaningful enough to affect the war's outcome. German planning hinged quite a bit on anti-Soviet flare ups, hence Hitler's belief they only needed to "kick in the door". Well they damn well blew the door off the hinges, and Stalin's house still stood strong. 

 

Just going from memory from ... I think he discussed it in "The Unknown Eastern Front" by Rolf - Dieter Muller, something like half the Axis soldiers on the Eastern Front throughout the war were non Germans.

 

I am of course including Romanians, Finns, Italians, Hungarians, etc. in all of that.  Many thousands of Ukrainians also filled out German supply and service functions in combat and non combat units which acted to free up more Germans to serve in combat roles.

 

I was answering the quote about 'potential' strength, not what actually happened - I believe people think Russia had like a 3-1, 4-1 manpower greatness throughout the war (mainly due to Russia's stronger mobilisation) - but after Germany capture much of Russia's west, thats a huge chunk of Russia's manpower gone.

IF Germany had utilised those resources properly, they would have almost, if not equal, Russia's manpower reserves - IMO :)

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JonS - divide merchant ships lost to U boats by U boats causing the losses and you get more like 3.7, not 2.  And that's just sunk, not damaged.  It was a great rate of exchange any way it was sliced.  By the summer of 1943 ASW had improved enough that the exchange rate was steeply negative instead, and the u boat campaign was suspended.  But while it ran, it was very efficient at destroying allied assets, for the cost spent on it.  And that's just the direct sinkings.  It also cost the allies the expense of that grand ASW system, the hundreds of escorts and their crews etc, that it took to defeat them - a cost that at least equaled what Germany spent on its u boats.

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Tripps is right.  If you add the population of the Axis minors to that of Germany, and if you subtract the population of the occupied parts of Russia after the first 6 months of the war - that didn't evacuated etc - then the ratio of manpower on the eastern front was only 3 to 2 in favor of the Russians.  They did still have a manpower edge.  But not a huge one, and certainly not a large enough one to accept 3 to 1 rates of attrition and just power through them.  (And through 1942, the actual rate of attrition was more like 5 to 1 against them - in 1942 mind, in 1941 is had run 10 to 1).

 

Russians still got a bigger numerical edge in military manpower than the ratio of controlled populations, because they mobilized a much higher portion of their available population than Germany did.  And Germany mobilized more of its population than the Axis minors did.  Of the military population Germany did mobilize, moreover, a significant fraction was only mobilized late in the war after it became clear they were losing.  The Russians mobilized to an extreme portion of their population by 1942, the Germans only by 1944.  

 

There was also a difference in the age structure of the two countries.  The largest cohorts in Russia came from the years of the New Economic Policy, following the end of the Russian civil war and the chaotic "war communism" period of economic (mis)management that immediately followed it.  As soon as that chaotic period of world war, civil war, and economic insanity ended and the Russian people were free to farm at least a bit, in something resembling peace - which didn't happen until the mid 1920s - they had their own "baby boom".  1922 had been a year of famine and the last year of the civil war. Farm output jumped 40% in 1923.

 

A child conceived in 1923 turned 17 in 1941.  The Russian military classes of 1941 through 1944 were up to 30% larger than the cohorts from the preceding, civil war and world war years.

 

So, different age structure, but above all the Russians simply tried much harder and did so much sooner.  The Germans in 1941 and 1942 were still expecting to win the war without pulling out all the stops, or disrupting civilian life too much.  By 1943 that changed, but most of their Axis minor armies had been destroyed.  By 1944 they really pulled out the manpower stops and mobilized everyone they could - but faced a second front by then.

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I was answering the quote about 'potential' strength, not what actually happened - I believe people think Russia had like a 3-1, 4-1 manpower greatness throughout the war (mainly due to Russia's stronger mobilisation) - but after Germany capture much of Russia's west, thats a huge chunk of Russia's manpower gone.

IF Germany had utilised those resources properly, they would have almost, if not equal, Russia's manpower reserves - IMO :)

 

What was the most surprising thing to me was the little chart at the end of 'Unknown Eastern Front' that listed the contributions of the various nations to the fighting on the Eastern Front.  Number 1 on the list?  Russia (for the Axis side!) :o

 

Here is the list of contributors, most of these figures are estimates of course

1 Russia  800,000

2 Hungary  800,000

3 Romania  500,000

4 Finland   500,000

5 Caucasus  280,000

6 Ukraine  250,000

7 Italy  250,000

8 Croatia  145,000

9 Latvia  100,000

10 Estonia 60,000

11 Spain  47,000

12 Byelorussia 47,000

13 Slovakia  45,000

14 Netherlands 40,000

15 Belgium  38,000

16 Lithuania  20,000

17 Poland  20,000

18 France  10,000

19 Norway 6,000

20 Denmark 4,000

 

He indicates that had the Germans chosen to support various independence movements Ukraine alone could possibly have supplied an army of around 1,000,000 men but by the time the Germans started to think in those terms most Ukrainians were done dealing with the Germans.  If the Germans got 800,000 Russians in spite of the way they were acting just think of how many they could have gotten with a little different attitude towards the occupied territories.  It is doubtful that things ever could have played out any differently with respect to the occupied territories, but it is still an interesting exercise in 'what if'.  These numbers include all the 'helpers', SS recruits, national battalions, and security battalions.  Most of these guys were probably assigned anti partisan duties and supply and logistics type activities.

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What was the most surprising thing to me was the little chart at the end of 'Unknown Eastern Front' that listed the contributions of the various nations to the fighting on the Eastern Front.  Number 1 on the list?  Russia (for the Axis side!) :o

 

 

Vlasov's Army. Too bad for the Germans they weren't really very effective in combat. Although to be fair they were never really given the chance. Stalin had the leaders shot after the war and the rest sent to the camps. Talk about making a bad bet. 

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divide merchant ships lost to U boats by U boats causing the losses and you get more like 3.7, not 2.

That is certainly an interesting approach - on the one hand count every American who ever saw a plane in the sky as part of the bomber offensive, while on the other only count the u-boats which got a score greater than zero. I can definitely see why, using that approach, you view the CBO as wildly extravagant and the u-boat campaign as an exemplar of Teutonic efficiency.

 

If we take an alternate approach, of comparing like with like, the losses of merchantmen per U-boat lost were actually somewhere between 2.1-to-2.2. In terms of tonnage, the Germans were only sank less than 8.8 tons of merchantman for each ton of u-boat lost, and over 2/3rds of all u-boats failed to sink more tonnage of merchantmen they they themselves weighed. And the Germans were also losing ~1:1 of their highly trained submariners for each merchant sailor drowned. Overall, it just doesn't seem to be a terribly great exchange.

 

 

while it ran

The u-boat campaign ran for the entire war.

 

 

 

It also cost the allies the expense of that grand ASW system, the hundreds of escorts and their crews etc, that it took to defeat them

It really wasn't that expensive. There were no capital ships allocated to the campaign, in fact nothing much bigger than a fleet destroyer and some jeep carriers. There were some planes - including LR and VLR heavy bomber-types - but as you've noted the numbers allocated and required were modest. The shore based C2 system wasn't particularly manpower intensive, and stuff like Bletchley Park was dual-purpose.

 

 

 

a cost that at least equaled what Germany spent on its u boats.

Perhaps, but it was nowhere near expensive enough to make any significant difference to the conduct of Allied strategy or operations. If I've got $100 and you've got $20 and we both spend $10 on some activity, I won't really care but you're probably going to be hungry by the end of the week. If the best this master stroke German attritional strategy could manage was forcing the Allies to match them dollar for dollar, they really were doing it wrong.

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Potentially Germany would have almost matched Russia in regards to manpower as well if they had utilized the resentment towards Stalin in the occupied territories

Thats a very good "if".

Unfortunately it ignores the racial fantasys underlying Nazi policy.

Potentialy Germany could have started the war in the east with twice as many army surgeons if they had not turned on some of their own religious minoritys.

 

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Thats a very good "if".

Unfortunately it ignores the racial fantasys underlying Nazi policy.

Potentialy Germany could have started the war in the east with twice as many army surgeons if they had not turned on some of their own religious minoritys.

 

 

There were unfortunately also some practical reasons why the Nazis were not "nicer" to, for instance, the Ukrainians. The Germans were just barely able to move enough supplies to the front to keep their armies functioning. And this was with a policy of harsh exploitation of captured people and territories. For instance, the vast army of horses that were required to move the bulk of the German army around consumed a vast amount of fodder, only some of which could be supplied from Germany proper. Captured land which was producing fodder for the horses was not producing food for the people, and of the food that was produced, the Germans helped themselves to a generous portion. This did not make them more popular with conquered peoples, but what other choices did the Germans have besides packing up and going home? "Sorry, we see it was all a big mistake; I guess the joke's on us"?

 

Michael

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JonS - I am dividing merchant ships lost by total U boats fielded.  I have the latter - my divisor - as 1156.  I have the former at around 4000 ships.

Other sources put the mechant ships lost at 3500 and u boats actually lost - rather than total fielded, and specific to the Atlantic theater - at 783.

 

Either puts the losses per u boat at 3.3 to 4.5, not at under 2.  I suspect your merchant ship lost total is not a full count.

 

I am certainly not reducing the divisor in any artificial manner.  

To substantiate the number sunk, I have seen individual year figures of 875 losses in 1941 and 1664 in 1942.

 

The reported escort losses are 175 vessels.  Canada provided several hundred escort vessels .The US built 440 DEs alone, some used in the Pacific of course.  Britain fielded around 300 escorts.  Add in US destroyers and there were approximately as many surface vessels as u boats.  Of course their losses were much lower than u boat losses, but they still had to be built and manned etc.

 

And the Germans were not forcing the allies to spend $1 for each $1 the Germans spent on u boats, but many times as much.  That is the point.  The allies had to spend about as much on escorts as the Germans spent on u boats, *plus* replacing all the sunk shipping, plus all the repairs to damaged shipping, plus the lost cargo sunk when the ships went down.  The biggest line item in that total is certainly the lost merchant ships.  But the rest of it rates, and raises the efficiency of the u boat expenditure by another 1-2 times.

 

Since only an above average weapon system ever costs the enemy unity, this kind of matters.

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losses to u-boats:

 

Ships sunk: 2690 (13,296,000 GRT)

Ships captured: 5 (11,000 GRT)

Ships a total loss: 74 (480,000 GRT) (for an example, think of the Ohio - it made it to Malta, but was scuttled immediately afterwards)

Ships damaged: 346 (2,428,000 GRT)

Auxillary warships sunk: 79 (310,000 GRT)

Aux warships total loss: 1 (4,000 GRT)

Aux warships damaged: 15 (127,000 GRT)

Warships sunk: 189 (332,000 GRT) (includes Barham, Eagle, Ark Royal, Royal Oak, etc)

Warships total loss: 29 (61,000 GRT)

Warships damaged: 41 (185,000 GRT)

 

If you add all of those categories together, you do get a total of 3,469 floaty things hit by u-boats. But it should be somewhat obvious that calling that 3,500 (or 4,000!) 'merchantmen' and 'sunk' isn't quite right.

Edited by JonS
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