Could the Luftwaffe have done a better job supplying the 6th army at Stallingrad

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by rank amateur, Jan 2, 2012.

  1. rank amateur

    rank amateur Member

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    #1 rank amateur, Jan 2, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
    I have been reading Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad and I can't help wondering if the luftwaffe did put enough effort in supplying general Paulus trapped 6th Army at Stalingrad. I don't have the figures at hand but I recollect that the Luftwaffe never ever managed to deliver even a third of the necessairy daily tonnage. Was that really the best they could considering the circumstances or could they've done better by drawing transport airplanes (or any other) from other fronts?

    I hope some one can enlighten me.

    Chrzzzzz

    Peter
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    The Luftwaffe was attempting to supply Rommel's trapped Afrika Korps at the same time. If not for the Africa Korps supply effort 6th Army would almost certainly have received more aerial supply tonnage.

    However this evades the real problem. General von Paulus should have evacuated Stalingrad to concentrate on holding Rostov, which was strategically of far greater importance.
     
  3. rank amateur

    rank amateur Member

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    #3 rank amateur, Jan 2, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
    That would only have been possible if Paulus would have acted against Hitler's expressed wishes. Which was not very likely at that given time. Hitler never really wanted to give up Stalingrad.
    I also recall that Rommel never got the quantities he had asked for. Wasn't the Afrikakorps at that time a much smaller force? The 6th army was something like 280.000 men.
     
  4. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    One of the reasons that the Germans starved at Stalingrad is that over a hundred JU-52s were written off during the Invasion of Crete:

    Shore, Cull, and Malizia,Air War for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete, P.403:
     
  5. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Heer army commanders had great latitude in the execution of orders. A tradition going back well before 1900. Good German army commanders such as Rommel, Manstein and Hausser did as they thought best no matter what Hitler said. Unfortunately (for Germany) von Paulus wasn't the brightest egg in the carton.
     
  6. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    I agree that certain commanders were adept at sidestepping hitlers sometimes insane edicts. However, none of them could ever evade a direct order. And Von Paulus was given a direct order not to evacuate. None of the Generals could have done anything different under those circumstances.

    It is intersting to note that Manstein, often toted as the best Army Commander in the German Army supported Hitlers stand fast order at Stalingrad. He understood that any breakout from the pocket would only come at ruinous losses to 6th Army. By the time of the encirclement, 6th Army had a fraction of its required transport. It was understrength in both MT and horsedrawn transport. Most of its units were carrying casualty rates of above 40%, which would have been abandoned in an emergency breakout. If a breakout had been attempted, and had been successful (neither assumption can be assumed as possible), perhaps 30-60000 of the original strength of 250000 might have gotten out. None of the heavy artillery or supporting equipment could have been saved. This was a major consideration for both Hitler and Manstein.

    Manstein believed he could break into the encirclement with a moderate committment of forces. He grossly under-estimated the new abilities of the red army, and over-estimated the abilities of the heer to alter the situation. Perhaps if the DAK had been abandoned to its fait and all resources concentrated on the Stalingrad sector things may have turned out differently, but i doubt it. Stalingrad represents the point where all of Germany's chickens were starting to come back to haunt them. it was the point in the war that the strategic initiative was lost, and never regained....
     
  7. Siegfried

    Siegfried Banned

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    #7 Siegfried, Jan 2, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
    The simple explanation is that Generaloberst Hans Jeschonnek, chief of the Luftwaffe General Staff had said airlift supply was possible and Hitler was inclined to uncritically accept him because he had made a public speach saying there would be no retreat. In likelihood Hitler would have authorised retreat or some other action had he not been offered false hope. Many people such as von Richthoffen and General leutnant Martin Fiebig, in charge of the air corps given the task of keeping Sixth Army alive, repeatedly in sisted it was an impossible mission. His views were ignored.

    Jeschonnek tried to correct his mistake, saying he had assumed incorrectly that a SB500 prachute resupply canister could hold 500kg when the the number only refered to the bomb schackle size. However Goering forbad him to do so fearing loss of face before Hitler.

    The Ju 52 was not really the the right aircraft for the job due to too short a range and in anycase their engines were worn out which prevented max takeoff power and a full cargo. The Luftwaffe had been trying to replace the aircraft but resource and priority issues had always pevented this.

    Losses of Ju 52 at Crete had been very severe since enigma decrypts had disclosed the EXACT parachute drop points and flight paths and these zones had been heavily reinforced. Previous losses in Holland, Demyansk Pocket had also depleted the transport aircraft and their pilots. These factors combined to weaken the fleet far too much.

    I would suggest that: Stalingrad An Examination of Hitler's Decision to Airlift JOEL S. A. HAYWARD is a good read; widely available as .pdf download

    I am however thinking that had the Heinkel He 177 succeded then the FW 200 could have been reliaved of its maritime reconaisance duties provided resupply even if a more advanced and faster transport such as the Ju 252 weren't available. A STOL aircraft such as the Ar 232 would also have helped as it also have extremely good rough field performance. Both the Ju 252 and Ar 232 had rear loading ramps to provide for fast turnaround times.

    A Ju 252 could have flown several tons of cargo, direct from Berlin, left it at Stalingrad, taken off without refueling and flown back to Berlin with a small number of evacuees. If it were possible to release it from maritime reconaisance duties the FW 200 surely was a better choice than the Ju 52 for some of the llonger airfields the transport units had to fly into.

    Flying cargo from forward airflieds only 150 miles away creates a ground handling mess and leaves airfields vulnerable.

    The 6th army did almost break out comming within 14 miles of a relief column, however it had been left too late and they ran out of fuel. They could have succeded!
     
  8. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    14 miles between forward units is not very close at all, a well defended corridor would have had to be secured and held for some time to allow an army to pull out. Its probably lucky for the Germans that the relief force didnt get through as the Soviets would quite possibly have snapped up two armies for the price of one.
     
  9. Siegfried

    Siegfried Banned

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    #9 Siegfried, Jan 3, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
    If a breakout had of been attempted, even with 50% losses the result would have been much better than it was, which was effectively the death in captivity of all who surrendered or were captured. I can see your suspicion that the relieving army would itself be encircled.

    Operation Wintergewitter faltered because by the time the 6th Army was told to link up (really a breakout) it had been to weakened and was too short of supplies. Better aerial resupply or an earlier automomous breakout attempt would have been better.
     
  10. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #10 stona, Jan 3, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
    No,The Luftwaffe could never have supplied the 6th Army in Stalingrad. With the resources available it did as good a job as it could have done. I don't believe it could have done any better.
    Disastrous planning and over optimistic strategy meant that at the time of the Stalingrad crisis the Luftwaffe actually had less transport aircraft in its total establishment than it had at the time of the battle of France. They were now spread over several fronts.
    The operation began around 23 November and it became apparent to the man in charge,Wolfram von Richtofen, a very competent officer that in IDEAL circumstances the Luftwaffe might deliver 350 tonnes a day. The 6th army minimum estimated requirement was 650 tonnes.
    Aircraft were stripped from other units to increase the lifting capacity. Training units,particularly for multi-engined aircraft and instrument flying were effectively shut down and their instructors started feryying aircraft East. Many training units never operated again after the loss of these experienced men and this would have disastrous consequences for the Luftwaffe later in the war.
    By December 8th there were nominally 300 aircraft available to Richthofen. Operational ready rates rarely exceeded 50% and were normally closer to 30%. In bad weather they could fall to nearer 10%. Officers in Berlin simply didn't grasp this and a frustrated Ricthofen wrote that he was "little more than a highly paid non commisioned officer". He also wrote "I no longer telephone Jeschonnek ,since all my recommendations are rejected...........recently I [have] received only crticism rather than directives.Probably the staff in Berlin were themselves without an idea of what to do." Things were obviously not going well!
    On December 26th the Soviets got within 6 Km of the main air base at Morozovskaya. Goering's interference and minimisation of the threat drove both Mannstein and Richthofen to despair. Richthofen actually suggested,sarcastically,that Hitler should give control of Luftflotte 4 and Army Group Don to the Reichmarshall.Things were not improving!
    In the first week of January the Germans lost Morozovskaya and were forced to operate the airlift,now an air drop, from Novocherkassk,350 Km from Stalingrad.
    On January 18th the maintenance situation for the aircraft flying the operation had become hopeless. Remember that it is 2,225 Km from Berlin to Stalingrad. Percentage ready rates were very low. 7% Ju52s,33% He111s,35% He177s and perhaps unsurprisingly 0% of the Fw200s. Milch arrived around this time and did actually improve these rates marginally but it was too little too late.
    By the time of the surrender on February 2nd Luftwaffe losses were enormous. They had tried a hopeless task and been utterly defeated. They lost 269 Ju52s,169He111s,9 Fw200s,1 Ju290,5 He177s and 42 Ju86s. This is equivalent to the establishment of an entire Fliegerkorps.

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  11. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    It could actually be worse for the Germans. There was a point during the Soviet counteroffensive when Manstein relaized that the entire southern front was in danger of collapsing. 1st Pz, elements of 4th Pz were still retreating out of the kaukasus and needed time to get past the Rostov constriction. That time was bought by 6th Army standing where it was and dying a heroic death. If it had attempted a move, it would have lost all of its heavy equipment and most of its personnel. instead of the 28 Soviet Armies needed to contain the hedgehogged 6th Army, they might need 2 or 3 Armies to keep it contained. 25 additional Soviet Armies on the Southern Front would almost certainly have cause the complete collapse of Army Group South and the recapture of territory far to the west than actually happened. This was a far worse outcome than sacrificing the entire 6th Army.


    That terrible winter, the Germans faced some very hard choices. Losing 6th Army was better than losing the entire southern front......
     
  12. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Allied historians like to treat Stalingrad as if it happened in isolation. A clear cut Soviet victory vs Germany. In reality there were multiple operations in progress during the fall of 1942 and Stalingrad wasn't the largest one. Consequently Germany could devote only a small portion of their military resources at Stalingrad.

    Afrika Korps at El Alamein and follow-on battles until May 1943.

    Soviet Mars Offensive (Rzhev salient). Began Nov 25, 1942.
    .....Six Soviet armies with a total of about 667,000 men.
    .....German commanders recorded the destruction of at least 1,500 Soviet tanks.
    .....Germans estimated total Soviet casualties close to a quarter million men.

    Soviet Uranus Offensive (i.e. Stalingrad). Began Nov 19, 1942.
    .....20 German and 2 Romanian divisions trapped in the pocket.
    .....Reducing the German pocket tied down the bulk of six Soviet armies for 2 1/2 months.
    .....90 to 91,000 German POWs. 3,000 Romanian POWs. about 25% of authorized strength for 22 divisions. Which suggests quite a few 6th Army soldiers were evacuated by air.

    German Army Group A attack into and retreat from the Caucasus.
    Soviet Saturn Offensive. Goal was to seize Rostov which would trap German Army Group A in the Caucasus.
    .....Elements of 9 Soviet armies were involved.
    .....von Manstein's primary task was to prevent Army Group A from being cut off. Breaking the Soviet seige of Stalingrad was a secondary objective.

    Fighting continued non-stop after von Paulus surrendered Feb 3, 1943. Once German Army Group A was safe the Soviets were allowed to take Kharkov. von Manstein landed a very successful riposte during March 1943 which regained Kharkov and mauled the Soviet forces. Official Soviet records admit the loss of over 1,000 tanks and 100,000 dead.

    A bit of trivia.
    In terms of casualties, January 1943 was the worst month of the entire war for the Wehrmacht.
    164,596 dead and missing. Includes most of the German POWs who surrendered at Stalingrad.
     
  13. DonL

    DonL Banned

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    #13 DonL, Jan 3, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
    Simply no!
    Yes the local LW commanders did their best to do the job!
    The average ts were 104ts from 25. November till 11 Januar. At 3 times to my sources 7. December and 19,20 December they reached 290ts
    It was the totaly wrong estimation from Göring and Jeschonnek, both promised something that nobody can do with the given strenght's

    Operation was beginning at 25 November and the minimum estimated requirement was 300ts and the preferable estimated requirement was 600ts, from original sources of the 6th Army.

    Wrong! Rommel did ignore the order at El Alamein and Hauser ignored the order at Charkow!

    To which timeline you refering here?
    At the timeline between 21 November and 25 November the whole quote is absolutely wrong, every sentence!
    At the timeline between 19 December and 22 December the Manstein claim is wrong the rest debatable!

    At 20 November the fresh and 100% full strenght 29 ID mot. had taken the 57th. soviet army ( inner gripper arm of the south)very hard and forced the 57th to retreat. At 21 November General Hoth wanted to order the 29 ID mot and parts of the IV. Armeekorps to attack the flank of the 51th soviet Army (outer gripper arm of the south). This was denied from Heeresgruppe B (General Weichs). Both the 29 ID mot and the IV Armeekorps take stand at the south between Wolga and Don.
    At 22 November Paulus radioed food ,fuel and munition for six days and demanded of getting free hand of action. Free hand was denied from Hitler!
    At 23 November after consultation all his commanders he radioed again with demand of Free Hand and the suggestion to break out south west, between Wolga and Don but on the eastside of the Don. All his commanders were supporting him! The XIV and XI Armeekorps were ordered to get back from the Don and get acces with the Nordwestfront. At the Nordwestfront were standing the 14.,16. and 24.Pz. Divisions. The whole 6th. Army had 10000 casualties at 23 November. Free Hand was denied from Hitler.
    Both Hauser and Rommel needed one day to come to grips and ignore Hitler's orders.
    If Paulus had ordered at 23 November to make all preparations to break out at 25 November his whole Army all casualties and most of the heavy material/weapons had a more then good chances to get save at the southwest.
    He had a very good stroke formation at the south with the 29 ID mot. and the IV. Armeekorps and his three Panzerdivisions could cover the breakout from Northwest.
    The soviet Army's at the south weren't in best conditions, because they had much problems with the icing of the Wolga and their supply!
    That are the military facts between 20-25 November!

    Manstein:
    Both your claims are wrong.

    Manstein wasn't involved between 20-25 Nevomber at Stalingrad, he took command of the Heeresgruppe Don at 26 November.
    His first radio to Paulus was: We will come to get get you out, make praparation that the Army can stroke south!
    After that he criticised General Weichs hard for his orders (see above) to the 29 ID mot. at the 21 November!

    At 19 December Manstein had done the very specific order to Paulus to make preparation that Wintergewitter (shake hands with Hoth) and Donnerschlag (break out of the 6th Army) can go hand in hand. He couldn't order Donnerschlag without Hitler but his plan was that Hitler would be overtaken by events.
    At 19 December General Schulz Ia Heeresgruppe Don radioed again to General Schmidt Ia 6th Army to force Wintergewitter as soon as possible (without waiting of Hoth to reach the Businowka) with the preparation that Donneschlag can go hand in hand with Wintergewitter!
    That was all what Manstein could do with his power, without to make a kind of suicide! He wanted absolutley the break out of the 6th Army!

    What is a correct claim, that Manstein wanted at January 1943 that the 6th Army was fighting as long as possible to bind several soviet army's, but he wanted always the brake out of the 6th Army as long as it was possible (till 21-22 December)!

    Very wrong! That was alone Hitler's decission. Manstein wanted as much units as possible! Hitler denied more units from France, only the 6th Pz. Division and only Manstein personal intervention was helpfull to get the 17.Pz Div. later, after Hitler had denied this unit for days!

    Edit: The whole 6th. Army had 10000 casualties at 23 November
    That means the 6th army hat 10000 casualties to transport at a break out!
     
  14. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The 6th Army started the ball rolling on 21 November. On that day Richthofen warned Paulus and his staff that the Luftwaffe did not have the transport capacity for such an operation. He had lost a lot of aircraft to other theatres in the autumn,and yet more following the collapse in North Africa and " Gymnast/Torch". The warning was repeated by other Luftwaffe commanders on the southern front the next day. Jeschonnek and the general staff agreed to an airlift on the 23rd despite this and that's the date I gave,assuming my notes are correct! ( "Luftflotte 4 vor Stalingrad: unter Gen Oberst Frhr. v. Richthofen).
    I assume that as you have a tonnage for the 25th the first flights in were on that date.

    My tonnages are from Williamson Murray and I will make a note of your figures from a better source,thanks.

    There was never a snowball's chance in hell of the Luftwaffe supplying the 6th Army and the Luftwaffe officers at the front knew it.They did their best.

    We will never know why Goering thought that the Luftwaffe could do the job. Maybe he was hoping for a repeat of the successes of Demyansk and Kholm from the previous winter though they are barely comparable with Stalingrad. Even the army's Chief of Staff (Zeitzler) didn't think it was possible.

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  15. jim

    jim Banned

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    Excellent rsponse Mr DonL
    Hausser s actions in Kharkov , set the ideal example of the true Officer-Leader-Commander-Man. Personaly brave,excellent out manouvering the enemy , masterly controlling his men ( some fanatical SS units wanted to frontally attack the city to presented to Hitler for his birthday!), and above all did not avoid his responsibilities when faced the high command ( as the vast majority of German officers did. And after the war they put all the blame to Hitler)
     
  16. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    What else could they do?

    von Paulus declined the opportunity to retreat from Stalingrad. So the Luftwaffe had to support him as best they could.
     
  17. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Paulus should have withdrawn on the 19th. The Romanians on his Northern flank had been overwhelmed and with in 24 hours both flanks would have dissolved,completely unhinging his position. Did he decline to do so? Did he really have a chance to do so bearing in mind the desperate transport situation of the 6th army? The then Generaloberst Friederich Paulus was not likely to be a man to take that initiative himself.Hitler ordered him to stay put on the 21st,but he wobbled until the 23rd when he ordered Paulus to hold Stalingrad and told him that he would be supplied by air.

    The OKH was arguing for Stalingrad to be abandoned. If Hitler had ordered Paulus out he would have gone,no matter what he had to leave behind. Jeschonnek's stance meant there had no support from the air staff in this argument despite the fact that the officers on the ground,including the commander of Luftflotte 4 were saying that the supply of the 6th army by air was an impossible task. Goering (according to Zeitzler in a 1955 letter to Professor Suchenwirth,author of the handily entitled "Historical Turning Points in the German Air Force War Effort") reckoned he knew the 6th army's needs and the Luftwaffe's capabilities better and must shoulder much of the blame for leading Hitler to believe that air supply was possible.

    Richthofen's diary notes discussions as late as the 24th in which he,Zeitzler and von Weichs (Army Group B) were urging an immediate break out by the 6th army.

    Ultimately,once the decision was taken on the 23rd to attempt the air supply you are entirely correct. The Luftwaffe had to do what it could. As Richthofen wrote ruefully in his diary,with some resignation, on the 25th,"an order was an order".

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  18. DonL

    DonL Banned

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    #18 DonL, Jan 3, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
    Very good statement stona!

    And that's the whole issue!
    Graf von Sponeck, Rommel, Hausser, Bittrich, Bayerlein, Guderian all this Generals had ignored direct orders from high command or Hitler, because they thought they knew better, because of their local station or/and of responsibility to their mens/soldiers.
    As a Colonel General with the responsibility of 230000 soldiers you should have the nuts to make proper decision!
     
  19. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Units in Stalingrad pocket.
    13 x infantry divisions.
    1 x Jaeger divsion.
    3 motorized divisions.
    3 panzer divisions.
    .....Plus.
    1 Luftwaffe flak regiment.
    1 Romanian cavalry division.
    1 Romanian infantry division.
    1 Croatian infantry regiment.
    JG3 detachment (30 ground personnel remained in the pocket to refuel JG3 fighter aircraft).

    Everyone knew 6th Army's supply needs as that information was hardly secret. Like everyone else, the Heer calculated logistical requirements for various unit types and published that information in army field manuals. Pull out the field manual and it's simple math to calculate daily supply tonnage requirements for units in the Stalingrad pocket. Hitler's 22 year old secretary (Traudl Junge) could easily have made the calculations if given a copy of the logistical field manual. She could also easily calculate how many Ju-52 transport aircraft were required.
     
  20. rank amateur

    rank amateur Member

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    Not obeying direct orders was only 'permitted' if the endresult was an undeniable victory. I guess Paulus had the odds stacked agains him.
     
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