Motor transport in the German army

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Shortround6, Aug 16, 2011.

  1. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    A thread where we can discuss motor transport or lack of it in the German Army in WW II.

    Germany had little or no hope of a totally motorized army. Their motor industry was too small and the army too big. The only Armies that achieved full motorization or came close were the US and British commonwealth nations.

    Pre-war Germany, in spite of it's industry and economy, had a much lower per capita number of motor vehicles than England did and England was well behind the US. Not only does this mean fewer auto factories but it means a lower percentage of service men entering the service know how to drive or have rudimentary mechanical skills.
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    German GDP. Measured in millions of 1990 USA dollars.
    237,332 1913.
    234,778 1933.
    374,577 1939.

    As you can see, the new German Government elected during 1933 inherited a very sick economy. GDP was actually lower then it had been 20 years earlier! They had no border defenses and practically no military or military-industrial complex. That had all been destroyed during 1919. So Germany couldn't just start mass producing military equipment (including vehicles) during 1933. The new German Government required several years to fix the economy and build border defenses opposite France and Poland. Only then could Germany get serious about the mass production of expensive army hardware.
     
  3. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    This is no different to just about every other country in Europe. For the British nett national income relative to the 1913 levels had fallen by almost 25%. For the French vast amounts of the country had been lain waste by the invading Germans. For the fledgling Poles, they had virtually no cash reserves to speak of, had bee forced to fight a costly war in 1921 against the USSR. All the European nations suffered negative growth during the depresion, and most had seriously disarmed by the early 1920s, except for colonial police forces and naval assets. It was in fact Germany that led the charge to re-arm, and had in fact a number of advantages over their opponents. Despite the social dislocation caused by the war, actual damage to the country's infrastructure had been virtually nil. It was in fact the Germans that led the charge to rearmament, and apart from the disheartening leftovers from WWI, her neighbours were in no condition to militarily challenge them. Certainly the strength of the french army in the 1920s and 30s is grossly overrated.

    The Germans had a golden opportunity to reorganise their automotive industry in the lead up to war, much as the french and the british did (France however left their run too late), and basically squandered it. They never anticipated the numbers they would need, and because of the shortages in cash reserves in the country, only ever planned for a short war. British cash reserves were similarly stripped out after WWI, but in the lead up to war, they spent what meagre cash reserves they had more in expanding their industrial base and war production capability, rather than actually building the guns themselves. Germany took a fundamentally different view....they built the guns and failed to worry much about expanding the potential. There was never any reall comparative program to the shadow factory system ofr the rationalization programs that occurred in britain, evident in Germany
     
  4. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    #4 michaelmaltby, Aug 16, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2011
    I agree with Parsifal. Whatever the shortcomings of the German economy in 1933 - they were common to all WW1 participants and not exclusive to Germany. Whatever happened between 1933-1939 was entirely a reflection on Nazi economics - and I would argue (as would Adam Tooze [Economic History of the Third Reich] that Nazis priorities made things worse overall, not more prosperous.

    To these points I would add:

    The Germans made better use of railroads than anyone else because they had done so in the Franco Prussian War and WWI and the country (and western Europe) were well served by rails. Unfortunately - when they went east they ran into the problems of rail gauge incompatibility and the fact that their vast rear was insecure to partisans.

    Hitler was determined that his war was going to be short and sweet - no long war of attrition for him. In that view - the Heer marched from the invasion jump-off point, or the rail- head, whichever applied.

    The German army had a wide variety of excellent prime movers, and medium trucks like the Opel Blitz. But unlike the Americans, Brits and Commonwealth armies the Nazis didn't see the need to move foot soldiers by truck. Fast Blitzkreig columns were supported by half-tracks, scout cars, motorcycles etc. etc. - but the rank and file of the Heer moved by train and then by foot or horse-drawn.

    German war planning was not nearly up to the standards that post-WWII mythology has suggested. :) :)

    In passing: I am currently reading William Manchester's book "The Arms of Krupp" and it is very clear that - by and large - the Krupp industrial complex in Essen and the Ruhr was unscathed by the Versailles treaty and the rapacious French "occupiers". When Hitler started to rearm in 1933, the Krupps were ready, waiting and willing. They (Krupp engineering teams) had been building U-boats in Holland, and tanks elsewhere in Europe for some time and it was simply a matter of recalling the Krupp men home for the Fatherland. :)

    Finally - American, Canadian, British and Commonwealth agriculture was mechanized in a way that German agriculture was not. There was still quasi-feudal farming in eastern Germany (and the Nazis liked the image of that). Boys from the farms worked by hand or with horses, not with tractors and combines. The state of German food production in 1939 should have caused any clear thinking German leader of back off war planning, but not Mr. H. He thought he was going to "live off the spoils of the land".

    Guess what ..... :)

    MM
     
  5. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I disagree.

    France and the Soviet Union remained armed to the teeth throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Both nations were hostile to Germany. Hence the German situation was very different from most European nations.
     
  6. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    As Mr. Maltby says, a lot of this is ongoing history and economics. Part of the motor vehicle useage and development was also related to tax structures and benefits and subsidies that were paid. Many European nations taxed vehicles on the engine size (actually the size of the cylinder bores, stroke was not counted) This kept many car and small truck engines down to much smaller sizes than the US used. When production was adopted for war use many European manufacturers had no (or few) suitable designs to adapt. While the US may have needed new chassis and all wheel drive systems the engines and transmissions had been in production for years. Ford, Chevrolet, and Plymouth all had engines of just around 3.5-3.9 liters being made by the tens of thousands while engines of such size were luxury car engines in Europe. American truck production was much larger in numbers than European truck production during the war. Many places in America were not as well served by railroads. With greater distances to travel and no taxes on the engine size the American trucking industry was a large customer that could support a number of specialty engine makers, not just Mack, but White, IHC and Auto car made their own engines (or had them built) Continental supplied over 30 different car and truck manufactures at one point. Lycoming got their start making engines for Cord and Auburn automobiles and companies such as Hercules and Waukasha had engines from 5 to 10 liters in production for a number of years before the war started along with suitable transmissions, transfer cases, auxiliary gear boxes and axles. many of these big engines were low rpm engines that showed only modest hp improvements over the smaller engines but offered twice the torque (or more) and with the low gearing use could snap light axle shafts.
    The US designed very few new engines (if any) for trucks or tractors during the war. They may have standardized on one or two types of engine for a single type of of truck but with the variety of trucks used there was room for quite an assortment. Non standard trucks tended to get assigned to lend lease.
     
  7. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    The Russians did NOT remain armed to the teeth. They built a new army practically from scratch. While they had left over rifles and Maxim guns and some odds and sods of horse drawn artillery left over from the czarist days the rest of the Army and Air force was built during the 20's and 30's. While attempting to build the infrastructure at the same time. Russia in the 20s and 30s was trying to build up an economy from the Pre-WW I base.
    Granted the Russians spent a lot of money during those two decades on their military but they had a much smaller industrial base to work with.

    Total economy figures in dollars don't actually give you much to compare. Russia had a large population and and agricultural economy. you can't make tanks out of wheat. Russian Pre- WW I steel production was 1/4-1/5 what Germany's was. few countries had their industries wrecked in WW I they way they were in WW II. Most countries ended WW I in pretty much the same shape, Industry wise as they started. Some were better.
     
  8. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    #8 pinsog, Aug 16, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2011
    "The German army had a wide variety of excellent prime movers, and medium trucks like the Opel Blitz. "

    I would have to disagree with calling the Opel Blitz an excellent military truck. It was 2 wheel drive. It might have been ok as an extreme rear echelon vehicle, confined to paved roads during good weather, but it had no business anywhere there wasn't pavement. It had the same mobility as a standard Ryder rental truck in America, which means it would get stuck in my front yard if the ground was wet. I'm not sure I've ever even seen a pic of one with snow tires, all the pics I ever saw had them wearing street slicks with maybe a set of chains on them.

    Contrast that with America, the only non-all-wheel-drive truck I can think of that was used by the US for front line service was the M20, Diamond T 980 tank transporter, and it was considered "limited standard" while the US tried to get a 6x6 tank transporter fielded to replace it, the M26 Dragon Wagon.

    edit: After further study, I see that the Opel Blitz referred to just about anything made by Opel, including some 4x4's. But, in my defense, when you think "Opel Blitz" the 3 ton 2wd is the model that comes to mind.

    Ford built a very simular vehicle(2wd only), and both the Ford and the Opel were dependable vehicles, but without all-wheel-drive I wouldn't consider them fit for combat service.
     
  9. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    The M20 wasn't really a "front line" truck. At least in the sense of being a "tactical mobile" truck. It could haul tanks from storage areas, docks, work shops to forward deployment areas and bring back broken down ( or battle damaged) tanks from forward areas to rear area maintenance shops.
    It was never intended to haul tanks cross country in poor conditions.

    The US tended to over spec things in some cases. Just because you "CAN" build an armor plated tank recovery truck with all wheel drive doesn't mean you "SHOULD".
     
  10. psteel

    psteel Member

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    If you read translated german histories of the rearmament period, as opposed to western versions of this period, the image is quite different. Germany got the armed forces that Hitler wanted them to have, not the one they had planned to build before Hitler got into power.
     
  11. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    Well, if you don't consider the M20 Diamond T a forward tactical vehicle, then the US had 0 forward tactical vehicles that weren't all-wheel-drive.


    The US over spec-ing a truck in WW2 by adding armor plate(I don't consider all-wheel-drive to be over spec-ing on a tank transporter) is like Bill Gates building another 100 room house: Just because he CAN, doesn't mean he SHOULD, but MONEY and MATERIAL mean nothing, so WHY NOT? The only real downside of the armor plated M26 was, as I understand, it led to some front axle issues. But on the other hand, it weighed enough that it could flat tow a Panther tank without a trailer, so it wasn't all bad either.
     
  12. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    ".... Germany got the armed forces that Hitler wanted them to have, not the one they had planned to build before Hitler got into power."

    Bazinga ...... :)

    MM
     
  13. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    #13 michaelmaltby, Aug 16, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2011
    @ PINSOG:

    "... The Diamond T Tank Transporter was a heavy tank transporter, used in World War II and the following years.
    Designed as a heavy prime mover for tank transporting, the Diamond T 980 was the product of the Diamond T Company in Chicago. In 1940 the British Purchasing Commission, looking to equip the British Army with a vehicle capable of transporting larger and heavier tanks, approached a number of American truck manufacturers to assess their models. The Diamond T Company had a long history of building rugged, military vehicles for the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps and had recently produced a prototype heavy vehicle for the US Army which, with a few slight modifications met British requirements and an initial order for 200 was very quickly filled.
    The result was the Diamond T 980, a 12-ton hard-cab 6x4[1] vehicle which proved to be one of the most successful and memorable in its class.[citation needed] Powered by an 895 cu in (14.7 l) Hercules DXFE OHV inline six diesel engine[2] developing 185 bhp (138 kW),[2] or the 1,090 cu in (17.9 l) Hall-Scott 440 OHV inline-six gasoline engine (the largest gasoline engine in any WW2 military truck)[2] of 240 bhp (180 kW),[2] and geared very low, it could pull a trailer load of up to 120,000 lb (54,000 kg),[3] and proved capable of the task of moving the heaviest tanks then in service. It had a four-speed manual constant-mesh transmission plus a similar three-speed auxiliary gearbox, for a total of twelve forward and three reverse speeds, and airbrakes.[2] The electrics were 24-volt.[2] Top speed was 23 mph (37 km/h), and with 150 US gal (120 imp gal; 570 l) fuel, maximum range was 300 mi (480 km).[2] Wheelbase was 179 in (4,500 mm), length 280 in (7,100 mm), track 74 in (1,900 mm), and height 100 in (2,500 mm).[2] Steering was manual, with no power assist.[2]
    A winch of 40,000 lb (18,000 kg) capacity, chain driven off the auxiliary transmission and intended mainly for hauling damaged tanks aboard trailerswas mounted behind the cab" * [Wikipedia]

    Growing up in the early '50's I saw Diamond T's a lot as used by construction companies as a float tractor - with 5th wheel.
    Later in the '60's working on construction we had 2 on site - a water truck and a re-fueler for the Cats. I had never realized that it was only
    rear-axle drive until you noted that just now. I got to drive one (water truck) and they were brutes. May not have been a Dragon Wagon but the
    Diamond T prime mover was much more widely used than the DW. That tells me it wasn't too flawed. :)

    MM
     
  14. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    #14 pinsog, Aug 16, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2011
    The M20 Diamond T 980 was a very good design, and only had 2 real flaws: 1. It should have had a powered front axle 2. they should have put a 5th wheel on it and pulled the trailer used by the Dragon Wagon, which would have made flaw #1 not nearly as serious a flaw. As it was used, as a ballast tractor, it had to haul around 12 tons or so of ballast in the body just to get enough traction to pull the full trailer(wagon) with a load. 12 tons is ALOT of extra wieght for a diesel engine putting out 178 hp and 685 foot pound of torque governed at 1600 rpm. The Hall-Scott 440 gas motor was never used in this truck during WW2 by the military, it may have been available in a civilian truck. The Hall-Scott 440 was used only in the M26 Dragon Wagon and rated at 230 hp and 810 foot pounds of torque governed at 2100 rpm.
     
  15. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    Fair points all, pinsog. :) The ones I encountered were gas powered.

    MM
     
  16. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    Diamond T.jpg @pinsog:

    In hindsight, the Diamond T's I encountered in the 50's and 60's were not the prime mover version, but the wrecker (6x6 drive) seen here:

    Interesting link to Diamond T, Reo and Federal prime movers (the latter using 5th wheel) supplied to the Soviets, here:

    Engines of the Red Army in WW2 - Diamond-T 980

    MM
     
  17. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    A friend of mine who is 85 now, saw a gas powered M20 back in the late 40's or early 50's pulling a rock crushing unit out of a dam construction site. He said the driver would pull the hand throttle wide open on the hills, get out of the truck and walk along beside it to stretch his legs and smoke a cigarette, reaching up now and then to turn the wheel. After a cigarette, he would get back in the truck and ride for a while.

    Armored recovery crews tested the M26 Dragon Wagon, the M20 with the "wagon" type trailer, and the M20 with a fifth wheel pulling the Dragon Wagon's trailer and they preferred the M20 with the 5th wheel over both of the others.

    Personally, I think a Mack NO with a 5th wheel, pulling the Dragon Wagons trailer, would have been hard to beat for moving tanks.
     
  18. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Without somebody who had experience with both it may be hard to tell how much of an improvement the M26 was.

    The M20 weighed 26,950lb empty vs the 48,985lbs of the M26. The M20 could be loaded with about 18,000lbs in the ballast box for traction. the M26 may have needed 6 wheel drive considering that the front axle load was 22,950lbs. The M20s unpowered front axle was carrying 11,30lbs loaded. on it's 12.00 X 20 tires. The M25 used 14.00 X 24s. Rear axle loading on the M20 could go to 16,500lbs with the ballast box loaded. it used a full trailer with a front axle. the M-26 could go to 85,985lbs on the rear boogie or 42,992lbs per axle.

    The max towed load of the M20 was 115,000lbs. the max towed load of the M26 was 117,500lbs. Max grade in low gear with towed load was supposed to be 27% for the M20 vs 30% for the M26max speed for the M20 (governed) was 23mph vs the 28mph of the M26. The M20 was supposed to get 2 miles to the gallon, the M26 got 1 mile to the gallon.

    In combination with the 45ton trailer M9 the M20 was rated for transporting 90,000lb loads. The M26 in combination with the 40ton trailer M15 was rated for transporting 80,000lb loads.

    Figures are from Dept of the Army technical manual TM 9-2800-1 Feb 1953.

    The M20 had only one 20 ton winch and carried (as standard) little or no tools/recovery gear like oxy-acetylene equipment.

    The M26 may have been a bit faster, 2-5mph, and perhaps the powered front axle made up for the much higher ground loading but as haulers there doesn't seem to that much to chose between them. The 3 winches on the M-26 and the gear make it a better recovery vehicle though.

    The Mack NO, good as it was was a whole class below. It had a recommended Max towed load of 50,000lbs, under 1/2 the tank transporters, and that was on highways. It was recommended that if towing the max load that the payload in the bed be restricted to 10,350lbs instead of the normal 20,897lbs. The M26 could take 60,000lbs on the 5th wheel.
     
  19. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    You are half correct.

    Civilian versions of Opel Blitz trucks produced between 1930 and 1975 were mostly 2 wheel drive.

    The military version of the Opel Blitz 3 ton truck which entered mass production during 1940 was 4 wheel drive. This was Germany's equivalent to the U.S. Army 2 1/2 ton truck.
     
  20. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    Tow ratings on vehicles, especially this size, really dont mean much. If they need to move something, they loaded it on there and moved it, it weighed what it weighed. The grade difference of 3% is a bit of a joke. The M20 had a low gear of 128-1, less hp and less torque, the M26 had low gear of 320-1, more hp and more torque, plus 6x6 drive. Essentially, when the M20 choked down until the motor quit, the M26 could hook up to it and it's load and drive off with it. The M26 with a powered front axle and pulling a trailer that puts 50% of the towed load over the rear drivers would be light years ahead of a ballast tractor pulling a wagon in any situation. I've seen ballasted trucks spin out on hills wet pavement, not snow, wet pavement. The M26 could flat tow a Sherman tank across a wet muddy field, of course a tracked vehicle SHOULD be used for that, but the M26 could do it. There is NO comparison in any way, shape, form, or fashion between the M20 and M26 in real world performance, the M26 would crush the M20. If they had used the M20 as a semi tractor, pulling the M26's trailer, it would have performed MUCH better. The Mack NO and the M20 were much closer in performance than stats give them credit for, the M20 having a slight edge in hp and torque,(not as much as the M26 had over it) but low gear on the Mack was 181-1 and it was a 6x6. I assure you, a Mack NO would have handled a semitrailer fine with a Sherman tank on it. If you have any doubt, check out the crap that the British army used to move their tanks
     
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