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In the search for facts and numbers

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Ive decided that the best place to start expanding my knowledge of the conflict this game of ours is based on, would be to find out some solid facts and numbers. Things like

How many military casualties did Germany suffer during the war? How many civilian casualties?

How were these casualties spread out over the different fronts it fought on?

What was the number of divisions employed over the course of the fighting on the Ostrfront?

What was the number for fighting on other fronts?

How many military and civilians casualties did the Soviets suffer (Im getting different answers for this, whereever I ask)?

What were the casualties for the other Allies?

What were the initial populations of Germany and the Soviet Union? How many German men went to fight against the Soviets?

I think thats it for now, but I know I have some more floating around inside my head. As you can see, all of these questions would probably be spread out over a wide array of books on the subject.

It would be nice if any of you knew some fact-ladden books on the various fronts. About the Eastern Front, preferably have the books post cold war (and using formerly closed Soviet archives)

Any answers and book references would be appreciated.

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Hi Commisar,

I am not here to answer your questions, but what I want to know is this. How is it that if Germany lost 4milion+ casulties through the whole war (read it somewhere maybe not accurate) and their populations was something like 80milion, how come they were always so short on men?

I know it's a percentage but 4 milion out of 80milion isn't that much, it's like 2% or something. Why didn't the germans draft soldiers like the russians, after conquering each town.

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<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Rommel22:

Hi Commisar,

I am not here to answer your questions, but what I want to know is this. How is it that if Germany lost 4milion+ casulties through the whole war (read it somewhere maybe not accurate) and their populations was something like 80milion, how come they were always so short on men?

I know it's a percentage but 4 milion out of 80milion isn't that much, it's like 2% or something. Why didn't the germans draft soldiers like the russians, after conquering each town.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Because I am bored at work, I thought I would point out a couple of facts. Be aware that I am making some broad assumptions but think about these numbers:

Initial population: 80,000,000

Men in population: 40,000,000

Men aged 17-40 ~31% of total men: 12,266,667

Men in Industry - 50% of above: 6,133,333

Men aged 17-40 avail. for service: 6,133,333

Now granted, many of the 4 million figure you quoted are civilian casualties, and granted, men above the age of 40 and under 17 served both in the military and industry. But you can see how quickly the available numbers drop and why 4,000,000 is a very significant number and why "shortages" were probably very common.


[ 08-09-2001: Message edited by: Speedbump ]

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Im not 100% positive on this, but I believe that the Germans only put everything they had into their industry (employing women as workers, which was done I believe in all the Allied countries) when Germany's defeat was unavoidable. I think this was one of the critical factors on why they were defeated in the first place. They thought they could do it without putting everything they had into the fight, as did the Allies.

Still, my questions go unasnwered. Can anyone tell me where they got the 80 mill figure for the German population? Are there books or records somewhere of all the countries populations throughout the years?

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<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by The Commissar:


Im not 100% positive on this, but I believe that the Germans only put everything they had into their industry (employing women as workers, which was done I believe in all the Allied countries) when Germany's defeat was unavoidable. I think this was one of the critical factors on why they were defeated in the first place. They thought they could do it without putting everything they had into the fight, as did the Allies.

Still, my questions go unasnwered. Can anyone tell me where they got the 80 mill figure for the German population? Are there books or records somewhere of all the countries populations throughout the years?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

80 million sounds about right for pre-war population, give or take. There were fewer people then, but the country was much bigger. Today it is 82 million and it has been fairly statice since the late 1960s (except for when re-unification happened). Austria is a small, not very populated country, so that did not matter as much. There were head-counts before the war, as there are today, so that's where the figure came from.

German women were never in industry to the same degree as they were in the US, did not agree with the Nazi ideology. Women had to stay at home or work in the fields. There was a lot of slave labour, but again a lot of that was agricultural - if you capture a Russian farmer turned soldier, the fact that he is a POW does not suddenly qualify him for industrial work. Western POWs (except for the French) were not used in slave-labour, AFAIK.

The wave of Volksgrenadierdivisionen raised in Summer 1944 (them with them SMGs smile.gif) consisted mostly of previously reserved qualified industrial workers. They were good material as soldiers, but wasted because they were committed with too little training.

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<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Germanboy:

German women were never in industry to the same degree as they were in the US, did not agree with the Nazi ideology. Women had to stay at home or work in the fields. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Did the Nazis make any difference between proper German women and those women from the annexed countries, i.e. Austria and Checkoslovakia? The reason I am asking is that, as I have probably told you, my Austrian grandmother was a Luftwaffe airmechanic on the eastern front. What I always took for granted is that she was drafted very late in the war when there was no other choice than to use women. But to my surprise she told my family right before she passed away, that she had been on the eastern front for almost 3 years. That means that she had been in service since sometime in 1942. In addition to this there seemed to have been a lot of female airmechanics, in her unit at least, when she briefly talked about her experiences she mentioned several other women who she had worked with. My guess is that she worked on forward airbases close to the front, as she was mainly an JU-87 mechanic, a plane not known for its enourmous actionradius. If this guess is correct, it just makes the whole thing more puzzling. I would not have guessed on the precense of female airmechanics in the Luftwaffe, that early during the war, that close to the front.


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Feldgrau gives some decent figures on German losses, though a bit on the low side perhaps, and in some cases the figures are only through November of 1944. The main uncertainty in them concerns the high number of MIA they record. Thus, out of 5.1 million KIA + MIA they give for the whole military over the whole war, 56% of them are MIAs.

Now, a large number of those were really KIA but recorded MIA initially e.g. 100K range MIA figures for the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine, who are obviously crews of planes and subs gone missing. Some portion of the MIAs are late war PWs in the west, some are PWs in the east that were captured rather than killed, but never returned to Germany - even if they survived the war. Etc.

But the basic picture presented by the Feldgrau numbers is believable enough. Out of a population of a bit over 80m, Germany had around 25m men between the ages of 15 and 65. 18m of them served in the armed forces at one time or another, up to 9m of them at a time. 5.1m were killed or went missing, of whom probably around a million were released unharmed after the war, and another 5.2m were wounded in action.

Undoubtedly there were additional non-battle casualties above those numbers, still in the military - frostbite cases and disease, etc. Some of the non-battle casualties were invalided home, more were probably returned to duty; the wounded would likewise break into those two categories, but probably in a different proportion. A reasonable overall conclusion would be about 1 man in 4 among those who served died, another 1 in 4 was probably invalided home, another 1 in 4 was probably sick or wounded at some point but fit by the end of the war. Of course at the end everyone gave up at some point.

As for additional sources of labor, (source for some of the following data is Alan S. Milward's "War Economy and Society 1939-1945") the Germans moved only about 600K women into the labor force, net, during the war, far less than any other combatant. But they employed around 7.1m foreign workers in Germany, including large numbers of Polish, French, and Russian PWs, additional civilians from the west and Italy, etc. Up to 1/5th of the labor force were foreigners by the end of the war. That was one source of production, inside Germany - another ~7% of overall German war production came from outside Germany before occupied areas were lost again.

After September 1944, however, domestic production fell in part because of labor shortages. The recovery from the losses of France and western Russian in the summer of '44 were made good by combing out rear areas and relaxing war work exemptions from service. Volksturm duty became mandatory at the same time for men up to age 65 (and in some cases beyond it), and the draft age was dropped, to 15 by the end of the war. These measures produce the manpower to hold at the frontiers of Germany, but GDP was declining because of the diversion of manpower, in consequence.

Before that crisis, foreign workers and productivity improvements kept output high despite the number of men away at the front. Overall, Germany mobilized a higher portion of her men in the military age group than any other combatant, with the possible exception of the USSR (where the figures are much less clear, in part because of territory and population changing hands).

In addition to the military losses, Germany suffered considerable civilian KIA, from two different sources. The strategic bombing campaign, and the entry of Russian forces to eastern Germany and east Prussia toward the end of the war. Figures for German civilian losses are all over the map, from 780K to 3 million. Part of the confusion definitional. Who is a German, and what is a war related loss?

Around 1.2 million "volksdeutch" - German speakers living outside Germany proper - fled back into German territory at the end of the war. They were not German citizens before the war. Large numbers of Czechs and Polish ethnics, and a modest number of Ukrainians, lived in territory of greater Germany - and thus were legally German citizens, though sometimes second class ones or worse - but not in the territory of east or west Germany after the territorial changes wrought by the war. Austria was independent, then part of Germany, then independent again; most but not all of its population were German-speaking. Births and migrations were taking place in all categories, as well as ordinary deaths not caused by the war. So an accurate accounting based on simple before and after numbers, is impossible.

There are other pitfalls in comparisons of German losses to Allied ones. Germany was not alone in the war. KIA and MIAs of Axis minors amounted to 1.7 million, including large numbers of Rumanians and Hungarians, and smaller numbers of Finns, Bulgarians, Italians, and Slovaks lost fighting the Russians. Small numbers of Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Dutch, Swiss, and French also died in German service, in special SS formations recruited abroad. The US and to a lesser degree the UK, and still less the Russians in the last days, also had casualties against Japan. Italy lost heavily to the UK and later some to the US, before leaving the war.

Less well known, around 500K Russians and Poles died serving the Germans as Hiwis, some practically as slaves and some as eager volunteers. When casualties occurred in German occupied Russia, the usual accounting (and true for the majority, certainly) is as Russian civilian losses to German action. But some were Russian soldiers fighting as partisans, not civilians; some were civilians killed by partisans; some were Hiwis fighting for the Germans and killed by partisans; some died for lack of food without regard to political affiliations, etc.

Russian loss figures are available but uncertain. One site on the web that gives figures on the high side of those reported is www.skalman.nu/soviet/ww2-losses.htm It is noticeable that this set gives higher figures for Russian military losses than most sources, but lower civilian ones. Figures for Russian military KIA vary from as low as 3m to as high as 12m, with most sources giving around 6m. Part of the range width is again definitional - some include military and civilian, some include MIAs as well as KIAs, or those MIAs that died, some include non-battle "irreplaceable losses" as well as battle ones, and that category includes wounded invalided home as well as KIA. Civilian death figures for the Russians vary from 7m at the low end to 20m at the high end, with around 11m typical. Another wrinkle is that nearly 1m Russian MIAs returned to Russia during the war in one manner or another - but that figure probably includes desertions from Hiwi units, stragglers or deserters recovered in Russian territory, partisans operating in areas recaptured, etc. Every sort of category has some people in it to muck up neat distinctions.

Milward gives 6m military deaths (3m direct KIA and 3m PW then died) and 2m additional PWs that didn't die in captivity, plus 11m civilian deaths, 8m of them in occupied Russia and the rest in unoccupied. Krivoshev gives 11.3m irreplaceable military losses but only 7m civilian deaths. An encyclopedia gives 5.2m KIA plus 1.1m invalided out by wounds, plus 3.6m missing that did not return to the army, for a total of 9.8m irreplaceables. I think the most likely real answer is on the order of 10m military losses not recovered. Wounded in action is probably between 10-15m.

All of that is out of a pre-war population of around 150m, or a bit less than double the German population base. But not all of that pop was available during the decisive battles of 1942-3. The Ukraine and White Russia were occupied, and may have included 1/4 of the Russian population. So the "manpower odds" were only around 3:2 in the critical period, even discounting all the Axis minor powers. Including them, the manpower odds would be more like equal. Since they didn't fight very effectively (a few cases and campaigns excepted e.g. Finns, or Rumanians in the first year), somewhere in between is probably the right way to think about it.

What you can be certain of is that the Russians did not have 5 or 10 to 1 manpower odds. And could not afford to lose men in such ratios, and at high rates, and still prevail. Nearly half the Russian losses seem to have occurred in what was to them the defensive period of the war, down to November 1942. That is roughly 1/3rd of the time. The other half were incurred in the remaining 2/3rds, so their loss rate fell about by half as the tide shifted. Many of the excess losses in the initial period were PWs captured in the great pockets of 1941. The German loss rate moved the other way, from low in the first 1/3rd (though they still had taken 1m casualties, including WIA, by the end of the Battle for Moscow in the first winter), to much higher from the rest of the war, but still below the Russian loss rate.

So are the stories of 10:1 Russian odds by late in the war myth? No. But the Russians did not achieve their odds toward the end by mobilization or production, alone. They achieved them by attrition, through the effect subtraction has on ratios. 200 vs. 100 after production is only 2:1 odds. But then trade 100 of the former for 80 of the latter - a higher absolute loss rate but proportionally less than the production ratio - and the ratio of remaining forces move to 100 to 20 or 5:1.

The high local odds the Russians managed by late in the war were the result of such attrition processes working on the German army. Supplimented, especially in the decisive mid-war period, by maneuver effects. As in, 100 vs. 20 in one particular area, then repeated 3 times in succession with the same "100" and a different "20" each time.

The Russians did not reach parity in total forces (after the early 41 debacles) until late in 1942. They took the initiative when the overall total forces were roughly equal. Production increased the ratio into 1943, as the Germans only went to a full war economy footing after losing at Stalingrad. Russian production had basically plateaued by early 1943, while German continued to increase until mid 44. The Russians mobilized both sooner and faster; the overall gain in total armaments output was comparable for each country. As was the industrial potential of each before the war began.

German loss rates for equipment, notably tanks, ramped along with their production, with the result that their fielded force never increased appreciably in size, despite mobilization. Whereas Russian AFVs in operation tripled in 1942, the Germans basically only replaced losses in 1943 and 44. The result was that the numerical superiority in fielded forces the Russians achieve by early 43 was not reversed by German production increases. Meanwhile, losses in the field did work the subtraction effect.

An interesting relationship provides something of a cross check on loss claims, and especially claims about loss ratios. Overall production and manpower available was only on the order of 2x as high for the Russians, before the second front was opened in the west. Periods of lull should therefore see the Russian relative strength building up, but never beyond the 2:1 level from that cause alone. Now, consider the different effects of periods of high losses on this picture, depending on whether the loss rate for that period was above or below 2:1.

If the loss ratio in periods of intense action / high losses was well above 2:1 in favor of the Germans, then this "lull" odds ratio (from production alone) should *decline* in periods of intense fighting, towards unity, where presumably further attacks without more build up time would prove impossible. But if the loss ratio in an intense period was less than 2:1 in favor of the Germans, even if it was in favor of the Germans in absolute terms, then the odds ratio would *increase* during the period of intense combat. And the higher the absolute losses on both sides, the larger this increase in relative odds would be. As the 200-100 / 100-20 example shows, the smaller the remaining force of the smaller side, the higher the relative odds ratio goes, in that case. So qualitatively different predictions are made by differing estimates of overall loss ratios.

To me the fighting from Stalingrad to the end of Bagration in the summer of 44 clearly favors the second of those predictions. From the Kharkov counterattack until Kursk was a lull, and during it the German relative position was stable. But if you look at the Stalingrad period itself, the Kursk fight through to the Dnepr bend battles, and Bagration itself, all saw periods of intense combat and high overall loss rates, with definite and perceptible declines in German relative strength as a result. Attacking with 2:1 from production only, you don't get the relative odds ratio to move your way from intense combat, unless the loss rates (in whatever relevant category - not just men, but formations, tanks, whatever) are below 2:1.

This sort of cross check is needed, because claims of enemy losses are famously inflated in wartime. Often with complete sincerity. E.g. every enemy tank penetrated by a friendly weapon is counted as "KOed". But on the friendly side, every AFV that can be repaired in merely moved to "short term repair"; only "total losses" or overrun wrecks are counted as "KOed" by the enemy.

You can also see this sort of effect in action if you add up claims for ratios over an entire relevant class. E.g. it is often claimed that Panthers and Tigers (and other heavy types) easily accounted for 10 tanks apiece, while even plain jane German AFVs are often claimed to have KOed 3-5 apiece. If the subject is anti-tank guns and heavy Flak, they are typically said to have accounted for multiple AFVs as well. The airforce got some, so did millions of AT mines, and infantry AT weapons got some others.

But the Russians only made 102K AFVs (and imported ~8K more lendlease), and ended the war with more tanks than they started it with. Ergo, they only lost around 100K AFVs of all types. If you subtract out weapons sent to the west in the late war (much shorter) you get something like the following accounting -

5-6K Tigers and Panthers etc @ 10 - 50-60K

25-30K other AFV @ 3-5 - 75K-150K

30-35K Pak&heavy Flak @ 2-3 - 60-70

Infantry AT - 10K

Air and mines - 5-10K

= 200-300K

Or every dead Russian AFV "claimed" three times over.

A more likely reality would be 3-5 for the heavies, and 1 @ for the other AFVs and Pak (a little above that for the Pz IVs and StuG IIIs perhaps, a little below it for 75mm Pak, etc) - implies 85-115K, centered around the number we know the Russians lost, ~100K.

Similarly, every WIA or straggler or frostbite case can look like a "destroyed division" at the time of its occurance, while only half that number are KIA or invalided home. The other half are back to fight another day, and the result is an inflated loss claim about enemy forces.

As for the losses of the western Allies, they were an order of magnitude smaller. The US lost 292K KIA and 672K WIA in the whole war, both theaters and all branches of service. The UK lost about 1/3rd more KIA, though less from Britain proper than the Americans lost; the remainder came from the Dominions and India (90K and 170K KIA and WIA between them). Britain also lost about 100K KIA to German bombing, both in the "Blitz" in 1940, and from the late-war V-1s and V-2s. For comparison, about the same number of Russian civilians died in the seige of Leningrad alone as all US and UK military deaths combined (650K in each case).

Japan lost about 3m military KIA; the number of Japanese civilians lost to bombing is unknown. The Japanese statistics office that tried to keep data on the subject was destroyed in an air raid, if that says anything.

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Thanks all, for answering many questions.


Thanks for the link to Feldrgu. Somehow, I never noticed the casualty stats (only been on the site once). Too bad they are missing all the numbers from '45, but I suppose its a work in progress, right?


Thanks for that link, very interesting! I wish I knew which years most of the authors published their books and what were the subsequent nationalities of the authors. Years of course in relation to their opinions on Soviet losses, which would be more clear after the Cold War.

Nationality because of bias. The one author out of those whose work I read (Keegan) presents this quite clearly. Notice how his opinions on losses for all none-English speaking countries (Allied or Axis) are some of the highest we see on the list, but when it comes the the US and UK, his opinions on losses are some of the lowest. Not a bad author at all, but the bias shows through quite clearly.


Thanks for the link - I include you in the EDIT, so I didnt get a chance to explore it yet.


I knew you were out there somewhere, lol ;)

Thanks for all that info. I have a few questions though.

1) When you went into depth about the mechanics and statistics for losses on the Ostfront, did you get this knowledge from simple logic, written material, or combination of both? In any case, if there is some written material on this subject (discussing the mechanics and statistics behind the losses, other fronts as well as the Ostrfront preferably), could you tell me where I can find it? Would be nice to read up on this myself.

2) You said (not a direct quote) "...the Germans already lost over a million by the early stage of the war..."

The Feldgrau site (I am using this because the other link with numbers has opinions bny a whole lot of various people) has a figure of about 3,500,000 not including '45

By your estimation, what are the total German casualties for the Eastern front, 45 included (and thus the battle for Berlin and beyond)?

Once again, thanks for the wealth of information!

[ 08-10-2001: Message edited by: The Commissar ]

[ 08-10-2001: Message edited by: The Commissar ]

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Lewis's site with all the different sources, showing the range, is vey interesting. It would be fun to investigate the definitions used for all the different numbers - battle / non battle, yada yada. The range is impressive in some cases, and probably would remain nearly as wide for some countries even if the definitions behind the categories could be sorted out.

On Lewis' disbelief about 100K+ US losses from non-battle causes, that is perfectly believeable to me. The US had up to 10m men mobilized at the peak, and several years a bit below that. So that non-battle loss rate is a fraction of 1% per year.

What causes are included in that total? Lewis guessed traffic accidents, and training. But it also includes disease, including malaria and yellow fever from the south Pacific to the Philipines. I know anecdotally that only about 1/3rd of the personnel that served on Quadalcanal escaped incapacitation by disease over the ~6 months of that battle, and far more fell there through disease than through Japanese military action. The figure probably also include deaths of US PWs held by the Japanese, up to 2/3rds of whom died (vs. only about 1% in German captivity).

Then there are ships lost at sea in storms, or in collisions (there were a few), or men overboard; plane crashes among hundreds of thousands of planes flying daily for years; disease and exposure in European winter in the open, complications of frostbite and trenchfoot like gangrene; Lewis' training accidents, certainly his traffic, ammo handling incidents, etc. In addition, some portion of the men in service, even after selection for fitness, undoubtedly died from natural causes while in service - heart disease, cancer, etc. Also some suicides and murders.

I decided to get a little perspective on the rates of such things, so I looked up the following stat at the CDC, which keeps numbers on leading causes of death in the US. I asked for data for a 4 year period, using 1981-1984 because it was the start of their detailed series, for men age 18 to 45. The 10 leading causes accounted for 460K deaths in that period - but of course, that is out of the whole US male population that age. The causes were accidents 137K, heart disease 53K, murder 48K, suicide 48K, cancer 42K, then smaller numbers for liver disease, stroke, flu and pneumonia, diabetes and birth defects. The big 5 were 9/10ths of the total.

Now, the US population was around 230m in those years, vs. 135m in WWII. In those years you'd expect about 57.5m males in the age group describe (about 1/4 of the population). 460K out of 57m is 0.8%, over four years, or 1/500 chance per person per year.

If you apply the same rate to peak US military personnel you'd expect 80K deaths. Mobilized manpower wasn't always at the peak, though. Overall, the death rate from non-battle causes might have been twice the later peace-time level. A smaller portion would have come from murder, and some causes would have been filtered out by medical screening. But tropical diseases and captivity would account for some, and then the accident rate would have to be higher for men flying planes, sailing ships, and driving vehicles all over creation continually.

I'll address the other fellow's questions in another post.

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"mechanics and statistics for losses on the Ostfront, did you get this knowledge from simple logic, written material, or combination of both?"

The quick answer is mostly my own reasoning, with input information from a wide variety of sources. More detail below.

"You said (not a direct quote) "...the Germans already lost over a million by the early stage of the war..."

Well, the figure is 1m total causalties in the east, including WIA. That landmark was passed during the Battle of Moscow, by January 42, and is commonly cited by historians. We can use the ratio of KIAs to WIAs in the data available on the web, to cross-check this commonly cited factoid.

If you look at the Feldgrau figures for the first 6 months, you will find 360K KIA and MIA in that period, 323K for the KIA alone (virtually all of them in the east, for this period). For the much longer period to November '44, they have the WIA running at 1.45x the KIA+WIA, in the east, which would suggest 520K WIA by the same time. The ratio of WIA to KIA+MIA must have been higher in the successful, offensive portion of the war - with MIAs in particular, lower. The overall rate of WIA to KIA was 2.46x, which would suggest up to 800K WIA for the first six months.

The true figure for WIA is probably somewhere in between, around 650,000 (averaging the two figures, or about 2 WIA per KIA). That agrees with the commonly cited historical factoid, of the Germans hitting the 1m casualty mark in the Battle for Moscow. About 1/3rd of them KIA, the rest WIA, with only around 35K MIA by then, most of them in the last two months, after the first winter counterattacks in front of Moscow.

"The Feldgrau site has a figure of about 3,500,000 not including '45"

Well, not quite. They give 3.5m WIA in the east through the end of November, 1944. They give 1.42m KIA and another 1m MIA, many of whom were undoubtedly KIA without it being confirmed. The total KIA+MIA is thus 2.42m - but that leaves out the last six months. So, how much was suffered in the east in the last six months? We can make a decent guess from the figures they do have, extrapolating.

In 1943 and early 1944, before the second front opens in France, the Germans are losing around 60-65K per month in KIA+MIA. The losses then spike upward in July and August, including huge numbers of MIA. That is Bagration and Cobra. In the remaining months of the year listed (not counted December), the KIA rate more or less stabilizes at around 45K per month, while the MIA figure remains substantially higher, around 70K per month compared to ~25K before the second front in France. We can estimate the east front losses by speculating about the causes of these changes in loss rates.

If you assume the eastern losses remained the same as before, and the western ones were just added on top, you'd be led to conclude the losses in the west were on the order of ~8K KIA per month, but a much higher 45K MIA/PWs. If, on the other hand, you assume the higher MIA rate after August was due to lower quality manpower being shoved to the fronts, because of the rear area comb-outs used to replace the losses of Bagration and Cobra, then you might conclude the MIA rate rose on both fronts. A low-ball figure for the eastern losses in the latter case would be about half the total losses. The first assumption points to a continued loss rate in the east - KIA+MIA - of around 65K, while the second would suggest more like 55K.

They aren't far apart anyway; split the difference at 60K per month, and the error involved will be small. That loss rate then continues for 5 more months, plus a little change at the end for a few days in May. That will give you a KIA+MIA figure for the east of 2.75m, up from the 2.42m Feldgrau gives for the period ending in November. The WIAs will also go up. There is no reason to assume any large change in the ratio of WIAs to KIA+MIAs in that period, so you'd expect 2.75/2.42 times 3.5m equals about 4m WIA. Thus, my estimate of overall German losses in the east for the whole war, would be 2.75m KIA+MIA, 4m WIA. Will that be exact, with such rough extrapolation? No, but it will not be seriously misleading. There are probably some large surrenders tacked on at the end, but they hardly count.

The overall manpower loss ratios for the east front campaign will then probably come to between 2 and 4 to 1, depending on the Russian loss figures accepted. I would then divide this between the German offensive, and the Russian offensive, portions of the war, counting the first as lasting through October 1942, with the latter starting in November 1942 with the Uranus and Mars counterattacks. The Russians took half their losses in the defensive portion of the war. Taking a range of 6-10m for their KIA and 10-14m for their WIA, that would then mean they lost 3-5m/5-7m in each of the two periods (with the second twice the length, time-wise). The Germans lost roughly 360K+650K through January 42, as we already went through above. German losses in 42, in their offensive period, are about the same again - Feldgrau gives 368K KIA+MIA for that period (Feb-Oct '42). So the Germans presumably lost around 750K KIA+WIA, and 1.3m WIA, in the period of their offensive. Leaving losses of 2m and 2.7m respectively, for the remaining, defensive period.

The loss ratio for the German attack period in KIA+MIA would then be 4-6.7 times, WIA 3.8-5.4 times, or total casualties 4-6 times. The variation comes from uncertainty in total Russian losses. If you split the difference to try to minimize the inevitable error, you'd assume around 5 times the Russian losses as Germans, in the period of the German attack. In 1941 the ratio would be even higher, in 1942 somewhat lower, than that average. Moving to the second portion, though, the Russian losses are the same in the longer period of their offensive, but the German losses are considerable higher, by a bit more than the length difference. 8-12m total Russian losses against 4.7m total German ones, thus about a 2:1 ratio of total casualties (with 1.7-2.6 as a range).

As for my analysis of attrition on the eastern front, it is not based on one text or someone else's published analysis. I've studied the subject for decades and read many histories, and modeled many aspects of the campaign in this or that wargame of course. The reasoning is my own. War economy and production figures come from Milward (already cited), and front stats off the web, often for particular weapon systems, that have to be put together.

The rough picture that emerges is thus a continually falling Russian loss ratio, as high as 10 times in the initial offensive, falling to 5 times and then below in the first winter and the '42 campaign, and eventually reaching the rate of their production and mobilization edge. Then they have the initiative, and the loss rate for the whole period of their initiative was around 2:1. In the early period of their initiative, it was probably still higher than that, while in later periods it probably fell below it. Say, 2.5-3 times in the winter of 42, near 2 times at Kursk, below 2 times thereafter. Whether their loss rate ever got below the German one is doubtful, but they probably got it under 2 times, and that would prove quite sufficient. The ratio-boosting effects of attrition ("subtraction") could do the rest.

As to the mystery of how they ever got to parity with such a high early loss ratio, that is simple enough to understand. They needed to get the overall loss *rate* down, compared to the rate of production/mobilization. The loss *ratio* can be 20:1, if the absolute losses (the *rate*) are only 40 guys vs 2, in the time 4000 more mobilize - then the ratio / subtraction won't make any serious difference. When the ratio was against them, the trick was to lower the loss rate. If the loss rate were zero, the front line strength would tend toward the production ratio. When the loss rate is low but non-zero, this tendency is retarded by a sort of "drag", to be sure - but it still moves in that direction.

They did not accomplish this is 1941, and their relative power declined as a result. They replaced their enourmous losses, but their army did not grow, nor the German one weaken. But in 1942, they *did* manage to lower their loss rate, and keep the mobilization and production rate high. There were no giant pockets in the 1942 campaign, as defenders wisely retreated out of them. The Russian high command kept reserves out of the battle until they had a chance to build up. With the loss rate lower in absolute terms, the loss ratio effect was dominated by the production ratio effect, and the strength of the two sides tended toward the ratio of their production and mobilization. Held back to some degree, certainly, by a loss ratio above 2:1 against the Russians. As an example of this process, the Russian tank fleet rebounded in 1942 to around the pre-war size (~20,000, most of which needed minor repairs at the time of the invasion, incidentally), from a low only ~1/3rd as large at the begining of the year (~7000).

In short, the Russian *defensive* success was based on production and mobilization, while the Russian *offensive* success was based on attrition. The former required not only total war economy measures, but also a reduction in the overall loss *rate* (while comparatively indifferent to the loss *ratio*), to avoid the Germans winning through attrition via their initially higher kill rates. The production was there early, by early 1942. The lower loss rate was only achieved in the fall of 1942. Together, the two produced the build up that allowed the counterattacks in the winter of 1942.

For the offensive, attrition success in the second half of the war, another factor was also necessary. The Russians had to get the relative loss rate down below around 2:1. This required learning the methods of armored warfare and combined arms. They didn't have to be better at those things, but they did need to be "good enough", or they never could have won through attrition processes. They did not outproduce the Germans 5 or 10 to 1, and thus could not afford to lose men and tanks at the rate they did in 1941 and 1942, and still expect to win through numbers.

There is evidence they succeeded in this by 1943. For instance, if you look at tank wastage rates (% loss of AFVs per existing AFV in the fleet), the lifetime of a Russian AFV in combat was within .8 of the German figure in 1943, and reached parity in 1944. The Russians still lost more tanks, but they had more tanks. They lost them only in the same ratio as the size of their fleet, while practically destroying AG South twice and AG Center once in return.

This illustrates the next point. Once the Russians got the loss ratio low enough, they then had to drive the absolute loss *rate* for both sides as high as possible. They did this by favoring "fighting" generals, by aggressive doctrine, etc. When they failed temporarily or locally in ratio terms, they had to pause (lower the loss *rate*) to let greater production "catch them up". When they succeeded in ratio terms, the relative power of the Germans declined through attrition, without any realistic means of recovery. And the higher the loss rate in such fighting, the bigger that effect. At the Dnepr bend and in Bagration, they did so on a scale sufficient to destroy half the German army.

In my opinion, this whole dynamic was critically related to the single biggest mistake the Germans made, which was not going to full economic mobilization until 18 months after the invasion began, after the defeat at Stalingrad. It was a mistake fundamentally caused by hubris. A higher loss ratio inflicted could prove decisive in a war of attrition, if and only if the production-mobilization rate was driven close to unity, and then the loss rate were driven as high as possible. The Germans did not even try to drive the production ratio to unity until after Stalingrad. And they did not succeed in keeping the loss rate high enough throughout 1942 to prevent a Russian buildup out of their superior, mobilized production. Without those additional requirements, a higher loss ratio itself could not prove decisive in a war of attrition.

That the Germans were technically capable of matching the Russians in these respects, had they seriously tried and had political motivations not dictated otherwise, I consider proven by the production they did eventually achieve by mid 1944, despite serious interference by Allied bombing. And by the mobilization of manpower they achieved late in the war, as well as the evidence of unused and misused manpower potential. E.g. the foolishness of not using women in the labor force, by the idle myriads of Italians and Axis minors not recruited or not used in the decisive theater, and poorly equipped and led when they were, by political motivated and crazy alienation of the population of captured areas, diversion of effort to senseless crimes, hording of manpower and material by minor princelings, etc. Since those considerations involve a certain level of political realism, pragmatism, not to mention decency, they probably reduce to "any German government sane enough to win the war would not have launched it."

In addition, though, I believe the level of thinking about large scale attrition processes and their relation to war economy strategies, was not impressive on the German side. The German high command thought in terms of battlefield superiority, gains of territory and higher losses inflicted than received, above all on operational "virtuosity". They mistakenly believed those things would be sufficient to win against an opponent following a total mobilization and attrition strategy. They did not think in terms of achieveable production ratios compared to achievable battlefield loss ratios, or deliberately manipulating the loss rate by standing on the defensive for certain periods, etc. They tended to think of war as an attempted coup de main on a grand scale, if not as a proof of manhood - not as a numerically governed, industrial process. They were wrong about that, and it showed.

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Thanks for the quick responce, Jason. I suppose my best bet on having a definitive source on all of this info in one place, would be to bookmark this very thread :D

Right, thanks again.

Oh, and what about division strenght throughout the war? Must be some books on that, at least? I think I read somewhere the Germans lost 128 divisions on the East Front, out of a total unknown number (to me, that is) deployed. How would this compare with other fronts?

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There is an excellent chart on mobile division deployments throughout the war at Panzerdiesel, at this URL -


Of course, that won't tell you how strong a given formation was at a given date - only detailed campaign histories will tell you that. But you can track the number of mobile divisions and where they were, by date, which is useful.

There is less detail readily available on infantry formations. The problem is that it is something of an organizational furball. It is easy enough to find out that the Germans fielded slightly over 300 Heer infantry divisions all told (all fronts, not just Russia), and a little over 50 infantry type divisions of other types (Luftwaffe field divisions, paratroop, mountain, and SS infantry divisions). The thing is, some of these were rebuilt several times, others were disbanded after being wrecked once, some "graduated" to mobile division types, sometimes without further use of the division number, sometimes with a new infantry division retaining the number, etc. It is all over the map.

The number of divisions fielded increased over time, while their average size declined. There were two causes of that, one by TOE changes and one by understrength formations left in the field. The TOE changed the division structure from 9 line infantry battalions to 6 late in the war. In practice, many formations were fighting as kamfgruppen with only ~1/3rd of TOE strength remaining, particularly in periods well into a major Russian offensive. Nominally, the division strength on the eastern front started at 120 at the time of the invasion, and typically ran around 200 divisions later on. It would be much harder to say how many were "destroyed" (a nebulous concept anyway, blurred by varying levels of destruction, rebuild, reorganization, etc).

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Simply stupendous graph, Jason! Its unfortunate that the infantry information is hard to come by, and that the distinguishing between the various levels of "destruction" of a division is so difficult for historians.

Still, if the allocation of Panzers and Panzergrenadiers to the various fronts at all matched the number of infantry divisions supporting them, one can still get a relatively clear picture of how forces were overall allocated. There seems to be, at all times, at least twice the number of divisions fighting the Soviets then all the other fronts combined. Scary.

Right, thanks again Jason. Ill keep bumping this for other people who have an interest in these matters.

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When people merrily discount minor Axis powers, they forget two things:

Minor Axis powers were not that poor or that minor. Finns in Karelia and Romanians at Crimea come to mind.

USSR had its own version of "minor powers" in the form of rural population of Central Asian republics. Say, Russia, Ukraine and Belarussia (about 2/3rds of total populatiuon) were agricultural suddenly turned industrial 10 years before the war (although still the bulk of the people were from rural background, and 10 classes secondary education was rarer than MSc level education is today). Central Asia was still almost purely rural.

An anecdote of that time goes like this: 1942, refreshments from one such place arrive at the front somewhere around Stalingrad. They can barely understand a dozen russian words and dont speak any at all. Neveremind read or write. Company commander sends two of these young fighters to rear area to get company's rations. Two days later they arrive dressed smartly in beautiful officer uniforms, laden with sausages, chocolate, shnaps and hot soup. And carry signs: "Dear Mr. Stalin, these people are worthless as soldiers for you and equally worthless as POWs for us. Please send them home."

Question is: for comparison sake should we discount them, too, or (my suggestion) let's rather not discount anyone?

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