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Volksgrenadiers


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I was reading the following info about Volksgrenadiers from Wickipedia today:

"Many prior infantry divisions that had been mauled or destroyed in combat were rebuilt to the new Volksgrenadier standard, and new divisions were raised as well. They were formed out of anything the Replacement Army could get its hands on: boys and elderly men, men previously rejected as physically unfit for service, wounded soldiers returning from hospitals, and transfers from the "jobless" personel of the quickly shrinking Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe, usually organized around small cadres of hardened veterans."

Has the reality of this been factored in to CMBB? It appears not by looking at the stats. For example, it is possible to buy "crack" volksgrenadiers for QBs the first month they come out in August of '44. Shouldn't it be only possible to get them as conscripts?

Just wondering if anyone has found their actual game performance is somehow lower since they carry all the same weapons and fitness appears the same as the regular army in the purchase area.

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I suspect it would be difficult to limit any particular troops to certain experience levels.

It is up to the scenario designer to purchase them as Conscript or Green, at less than full strength, and weakened or unfit, depending on the circumstances, thus simulating historical performance expectations.

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Originally posted by Der Kuenstler:

It appears not by looking at the stats. For example, it is possible to buy "crack" volksgrenadiers for QBs the first month they come out in August of '44. Shouldn't it be only possible to get them as conscripts?

Not always. Note the last sentence in the Wiki quote:

...usually organized around small cadres of hardened veterans."
It certainly is possible that those hardened veterans would have had 4+ years of war under their belt by the fall of '44. Granted, the likelihood of seeing a full battalion of crack volksgrenadier is very slim, and chances are these would have been parceled out to the newer formations to serve as 'backbone', it isn't entirely out of the question.

Just prior to the launching of the Ardennes offensive Field Marshal Manteuffel ordered the creation of special inflitration units composed of the best men from each of the divisions assigned to the opening assault. These men were all handpicked, and would have easily fallen in the 'veteran or better' category.

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No, it should not only be possible to get them as conscripts. Their skill levels and combat performance varied enourmously. Yes, a green VG formation should be a common force type in the fall and winter, but there were veterans too. Arguably there was even a formation that rated elite, that was designated VG slightly later. Details below.

First to explain the waves of units that were designated VG. 18 infantry divisions ordered formed in July, and actually available by September 1, were designated VG at the start of September. Another 25 new divisions were ordered formed at the start of September, to appear between October 1 and December. There were also a few redesignations (often during a rebuild, but not always), and later units still (e.g. for the Bulge period), so the VG wave was over 50 divisions, appearing in the last third of 1944. Just knowing that much, you know they aren't all going to be "conscript" quality, but varied.

What were the manpower sources? They varied from unit to unit, but the common expedients being applied at the time were generically "comb outs" of rear area formations, plus acceleration of the following year's recruitment class. The other arms were cannabilized, and civilian economic deferrals canceled.

The Luftwaffe had 1.9 million men on its rolls at the end of the summer, but was beaten in the air. It still maintained a huge Flak park in Germany, over 10,000 heavy guns. But a significant portion of this force was Goering empire building and superfluous once the air war was lost. A portion were formed into FJ divisions, but after the failure of the LW field divisions in 1942-3, the Heer was able to get most of the men designated for ground use from this source formally transfered to the army instead.

The navy had 700,000 men on strength at the end of the summer. The western allies had just isolated or captured many of the u-boat bases in France, and there was of course never any prospect of the surface navy mattering. So large numbers of personnel were transfered from this source, too.

Note that the above comb outs brought in large numbers of perfectly high quality manpower, from the prime age classes, with as good morale and motivation as any other earlier army inductee, etc. They lacked infantry training, and the training time VG divisions got was sometimes as short as 4 or 6 weeks, as units. But these were men who had already all been through the equivalent of "basic" and were used to military routine and subordination etc.

Another important source was the replacement army, the Ersatzheer. Hard as it may be to believe, the replacement army had 2.4 million men at the end of the summer, a quarter of the Wehrmacht's total strength. The reason was the training pipeline. The war was fought with an ongoing flow of troops from induction to front. By shortening the average training period, a portion of the existing manpower strength was effectively squeezed out of the tube into front line strength - at some cost in tactical ability, of course.

Another importance manpower source was returning wounded. Large numbers of Germans had been WIA earlier in the war, and many of these, not actually disabled, were on convolescent leave. They were called back to active service or their recovery periods shortened. The 257 VG division got 40% of its manpower from this source, for example. These men were all veterans, though in some cases physically or psychologically "worn".

Another major source was the young. The next year's induction class, age 17, were conscripted early. This went even deeper in the late fall and winter, with boys of 16 forming significant portions of the VG ranks by the end of the year. Motivation and fitness were actually quite high with these, but they were of course entirely green and their tactical skills were poor. They performed better on defense than when called to attack, since the latter often resulted in rapid pointless loss through excesses of dumb bravery. Green with 25% fanaticism is a better ranking of these, in CM terms, than "conscript".

Comb outs proper meant rear area and service personnel already on strength, sent to the front. These were generally more suited to roles like the artillery or pioneers, but the need for manpower sent many to the infantry as well. Frequently these had morale problems, seeing the change as an undeserved form of punishment, as well as a sign the war was hopeless.

There were also civilian comb outs, created by ending civilian draft exemptions for economically vital personnel. Germany did not draft miners or metal workers for example. As more of these were tapped, the economy topped out, and the peak of German output actually coincides with the decision to mobilize this class. But it was another source of prime age manpower.

It is untrue that the VG were mostly filled out with the old. VS formations did draft the old. Men in their 40s were drafted but mostly into security formations or special fortress battalions - static and expected to face less physical extertion and exposure to the elements than the infantry. Artillery and services also used older age classes. Some did end up in the VG, but most used were not headed there, and the bulk of the VG was not drawn from them. Moreover, as a class these included numerous WW I veterans who were not so low in quality as one might expect.

Cadres also varied. Sometimes a unit had all officers and NCOs consisting of Russian front veterans, who knew each other from service in an old division being rebuilt. Sometimes a VG division was only half strength in NCOs and the lower officers were green.

How did they actually perform? They were generally tough on defense, and maybe one in four gave an excellent account of itself even in offensive roles. Some of the others were green enough that they lost heavily when told to attack. Some examples, which will include my claim above about a unit designated VG that may deserve the "elite" rank.

In Lorraine, Nancy was defended by the 553 VG division. It was isolated in the city by US armor attacks on the flanks, but withdrew across one of those penetrations successfully. In then fought quite well in wooded terrain outside the city.

The 559 VG has more eastern vets than usual in the VG, but its early fights on the approaches to Metz were fiascos. Poor command rather than individual morale was the problem, with subunits frequently bypassed and cut off. This led to some medium sized surrenders (200-500 at a time). Later the division was sent to Nancy to participate in counterattacks in wooded terrain. It was much more successful there, and it took greatly superior force to bleed them to ineffectiveness.

The 19th VG fought for Metz, arguably harder than any other formation but 17th SS. They defended in forts tenaciously, and they used local counterattacks with SP support and a "schnell" panzerjaeger battalion, very effectively.

Another division defending Metz was the 462. It was an ad hoc formation formed to defend the city, that was formally designated VG during the fight. Part of it was composed of static fortress units (a security regiment, a fortress MG battalion) of older men.

But it also had a regiment composed of the students at the army wide NCO school located in Metz. These were picked veterans who were being promoted to sergeant from across the entire army, and the men who trained them were the best instructors in the Heer. They were arguably crack at the start of the battle. They used German doctrine literally, with continual very aggressive local counterattacks, expertly delivered.

Later on most of these men were "graduated" and sent to other units, but the 462 VG's Fusilier battalion kept many of them, including the training cadre. It was at least crack and perhaps elite, by the later portions of the battle for Metz. They were very inventive in mine warfare, very effective in counterattacks, and held the last fort to fall, clear into mid December.

If you examine VG performance in the Bulge, the 18th and 26th VG divisions turned in outstanding performances. The former was mostly drawn from Luftwaffe ground personnel and the latter from navy transfers. Both used clever infiltration tactics to excellent effect.

Another 4 divisions can be found that break in successfully enough but then flounder, using overly expensive tactics and hitting strength rather than weakness - 12VG up north for example, and the whole southern wing (212, 276, and 352). And a third just blunder in poorly delivered frontal attacks and take heavy losses without accomplishing much of anything (326, admittedly trying to attack superior enemy armor, 277, and 62).

This is not a picture consistent with uniform "conscript" ratings. The weakest cases might include small portions that deserve "conscript", but for the most part they are green with or without fanaticism, to regular with some vet for the best cases. There are identifiable outliers that deserve crack as early as September, of regiment size, and that probably deserve elite by November, of battalion size.

FWIW...

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Yes, because CM does not add 'under the hood' modifiers for specific formations or time periods. A regular VG platoon in May '45 will perform the same as a PzGr platoon of June '44. Assuming the same bonuses from HQs and/or terrain, the two will only differ in the firepower rating, and that is due only to the different TO&E.

As Vergeltungswaffe pointed out, it is up to the scenario designer to simulate the historical modifiers.

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