TM-E 30-451 Handbook on German Military Forces

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Technical Manual, TM-E 30-451: Handbook on German Military Forces published in March 1945. — Figures and illustrations are not reproduced, see source details. — As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. — Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



1. General

The supply system of the Field Army is simple and flexible. Its main objective during combat is to replace all supplies used during one day of combat by the beginning of the next day. Rules and regulations are not mandatory; much discretion therefore remains with the supply officers who are encouraged to move supplies as far forward as possible without reloading, to salvage all usable materiel, and to limit expenditure of supplies as far as possible.

2. Staff Control

a. SUPPLY DIRECTIVES. The commanders of Field Army units conduct supply within their commands in accordance with directives laid down by the Army High Command. For this purpose their general staffs are provided with staff officers, analogous to our G-4's, who are called Ib and who are responsible for all matters of transport and supply. When the Ib, acting in the name of his commander, issues supply directives, their execution usually falls to the following:

(1) Arms and Equipment Section (W and WuG).

(2) Intendance Section (IVa or Intendantur), dealing with rations, clothing, and pay.

(3) Medical Section (IVb).

(4) Veterinary Section (IVc).

(5) Motor Transport Section (V).

(6) Supply Troop Commander (Kommandeur der Nachschubtruppen), commanding the organic or attached supply troops.

b. STAFF OFFICERS AND DUTIES. The staff officers concerned with supply in the Field Army and their duties are as follows:

(1) At Field Army headquarters, the Chief of Field Army Supply and Administration (General Quartiermeister) is directly responsible to the Chief of Staff of the Field Army and constantly is kept informed of the supply situation of the various armies. One of his main functions is forwarding the requirements of the armies to the Chief of Army Equipment. He regulates the evacuation of prisoners and wounded, and the use of communications in the theater of operations. Large stocks of materials, including captured materials and mobile supply trains, are under his control. Important repair centers are also maintained under his control.

(2) At army group headquarters, the Army Group Ib intervenes only when a critical situation requires action, since army groups are not in the normal chain of supply. Normally his most important function is the supervision of security units which safeguard supplies in the communications zones. Units attached to an army group are supplied through the army in whose area they are located.

(3) At army headquarters, the Army Ib (Oberquartiermeister) administers the collection and forwarding of requisitions, the receipt of supplies from Zone of the Interior depots, the distribution of supplies to lower echelons, and the maintenance of important dumps and repair centers.

(4) At corps headquarters, the Corps Ib (Quartiermeister), who always has been a link in the chain of requisitioning, recently has been assigned a role in the chain of supply, although the larger proportion of supplies still pass direct from army dumps to divisions. In addition to handling the supply of organic corps troops, the Corps Ib supervises the distribution of supplies from corps dumps to lower echelons.

(5) At division headquarters, the Division Ib makes his requisition to the Corps Ib on the basis of requisitions and reports from the troop units. He controls the division services of supply and provides a systematic supply of reserves of all kinds for the troops. Like the Army Ib, he is in the normal chain of supply.

3. Requisitioning and Procurement

a. REQUISITIONING. (1) The normal channel of requisitioning is from troop units through regiment, division, and corps to army.

(2) An army generally sends requisitions for ammunition, fuel, motor transport, horses, weapons, spare parts, and most other types of equipment to the Field Army, while requisitions for rations, clothing, medical equipment, and veterinary equipment go direct to home depots assigned to the army. While these are the usual channels, many variations are known to occur. For instance, an army may send a requisition for certain special weapons and chemical warfare equipment directly to the Chief of Army Equipment, or an army may send a rations requisition to the Field Army in addition to forwarding the requisition to a home depot.

(3) Requisitions arriving at the Field Army usually are forwarded to the Chief of Army Equipment, who passes them down to a designated home depot. In some cases, however, the Field Army may send requisitions directly to a home depot without routing them through the Chief of Army Equipment.

(4) A requisition may be filled at any level by the echelon which has the necessary supplies available in its storage centers.

b. PROCUREMENT. Requisitioning is supplemented by two methods of field procurement: living off the land and the use of captured materiel.

(1) Living off the land may be accomplished either by local purchase or by outright confiscation of local supplies. Such procedure seldom is sufficient to supply all the requirements of units. In some areas, nevertheless, it has considerably lessened the German supply problem, as in Italy where much food, clothing, ammunition, and equipment is locally procured.

(2) The employment of captured materiel has always been a favored practice in the German Army. In the offensive beginning in December 1944, directed against the Americans holding the St. Vith-Bastogne area, the Germans apparently expected to keep their tanks operating by the seizure of American fuel dumps. The German soldiers frequently were clothed with American uniforms and operated with liberal amounts of captured Czech, British, French, and Russian, as well as American weapons and equipment.

4. Principal Installations

a. REARWARD OF RAILHEADS. (1) Collecting stations (Sammelbahnhöfe). Shipments of less than a rail carload are sent to these stations and combined into carloads and train shipments before being routed to the railhead.

(2) Forwarding stations (Weiterleitungstationen). Rail shipments that are not unit-loaded for one organization may be forwarded to the army through one of these stations.

(3) Distributing stations (Verteilerbahnhöfe). When a large number of units are dependent upon a single railroad for their supply, a distributing station may be set up to regulate the dispatch of supplies to the proper railhead or unloading point; apparently the combined functions of the collecting, forwarding, and distributing stations approach the functions of the U.S. regulating station.

(4) Supply collecting areas (Nachschubsammelgebiete). Reserves of ammunition, fuel, and rations are kept loaded in trains in these areas subject to disposition by the Chief of Field Army Administration and Supply.

(5) Field Army parks, bases, and depots (Heeres Parke, Stützpunkte, und Lager). Primarily concerned with the maintenance, repair, and forwarding of vehicles, including tanks and armored vehicles, these Field Army installations may be located well to the rear of the railheads.

(6) Army parks (Armee Parke). Some of the army equipment parks may be located to the rear of the army railheads.

b. RAILHEADS (Kopfbahnhöfe). Railheads are located as far forward as possible. While this generally results in army (Armee) railheads, each of which supplies a number of divisions or a corps (in the latter case the railhead may be called a corps railhead), a division railhead for each division is established whenever possible. On the Western Front, depending on the nature of the terrain and the effectiveness of Allied bombings, the railhead is found from 10 to 50 miles—usually about 25 miles—from the front. This is a great improvement over the conditions that existed in the early stages of the Russian campaign, when German railheads were on an average from 90 to 120 miles behind the front troops.

c. FORWARD OF RAILHEADS. (1) Army parks and dumps (Armee Parke und Lager). Army fuel, rations, and ammunition dumps are almost invariably forward of army railheads, while army equipment parks generally are in the vicinity of the railheads.

(2) Corps dumps (Korps Lager). If army installations are far to the rear, corps dumps may be set up between army and division; in such cases the corps dumps function as advanced army dumps distributing to divisions. (3) Division dumps ( Divisions Lager). The dump system may be pushed forward even into the division area, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

(4) Distributing points (Ausgabestellen). These are maintained by divisions and possibly other echelons in their areas for the distribution of rations, fuel, and ammunition. While stores are not generally retained at these points, small accumulations may occur.

(5) Collecting points (Sammelstellen). Although called collecting points, these centers, which are maintained by army and division; serve as supply points for new and repaired equipment as well as collecting points for damaged and captured equipment.

(6) Reloading points (Umschlagstellen). When long road movements are involved, reloading points may he set up by army or corps to facilitate supply movements.

(7) Supply points. Units lower than divisions have points analogous to collecting and distributing points.

5. Distribution of Supplies to Field Units

a. GENERAL SCHEME OF DISTRIBUTION. (1) Supplies are transported by rail from home depots to army railheads where they are picked up by army supply columns and transported to army dumps and parks. Division supply columns receive rations, fuel, and ammunition at army dumps, and equipment at army parks. They carry the rations, fuel, and ammunition to division distributing points, and the equipment to division collecting paints. At these points, supplies are transferred to battalion supply columns and carried to battalion or company supply points where the supplies are turned over to the troops.

(2) While this is the usual flow of supplies, it may be modified in a number of ways, most of which are shown in Figure 2. Operational conditions are the cause of most modifications of the usual system of distribution. Hence, if the army and divisions are short of trucks or gasoline, columns from units as low as companies may be forced to go as far as 20 miles to receive supplies from army railheads and dumps; if the lower echelons lack means of transportation, army supply columns may be used to bring supplies to the troops; if Allied strafing is expected, supply movements may be limited to the hours of darkness; if units are stationed in the near vicinity of army dumps, they may draw their supplies direct from the dumps.

b. DISTRIBUTION OF RATIONS. Normally home rations depots ship supplies direct to Army Rations Dumps (Armeeverpfdegungslager). A number of such dumps may be set up, each with stores of less than 100 tons. In some cases, these dumps have been known to store small amounts of clothing, individual equipment, and office equipment. As they are not permanent installations, they may move from time to time. Forward army dumps sometimes are controlled by corps and called Corps Rations Dumps (Korpsverpflegungslager); in such cases, the corps dumps supply the division and corps troops, while army dumps supply units and individual detachments attached to army headquarters, and form a permanent organization for the support of future military operations. Rations supply within the division is handled through a rations distributing point (Verpflegungsausgabestelle). Supplies are received at this point and are distributed to division units. Usually livestock is sent to field butchery platoons for dressing, and flour to field bakeries for bread production.

(1) A butchery platoon can process the following number of animals per day:

40 beef cattle   . . . . .   equal to 40,000 meat rations.
80 pigs   . . . . .   equal to 24,000 meat rations.
240 sheep   . . . . .   equal to 19,000 meat rations.

(2) A field bakery company can produce between 15,000 and 19,200 bread rations, according to the weather and the time of the year. After passing through the rations supply points of the division units, the supplies finally reach field kitchens and troops. Field kitchens of two types are found: large, with a capacity for supplying 125 to 225 men; and small, with a capacity for supplying 60 to 125 men.

c. DISTRIBUTION OF AMMUNITION. The home ammunition depots forward supplies to the Army Ammunition Dumps (Armeemunitionslager) which usually store from 3,000 to 6,000 tons. Any forward army dumps taken over by corps are called Corps Ammunition Dumps (Korpsmunitionslager). From these dumps, the ammunition is taken to Division Ammunition Distributing Points (Divisionsausgabestellen). One or more well camouflaged distributing points are established, located out of the effective range of Allied artillery and, if possible, on terrain protected from tank attacks. Ordinarily artillery ammunition and infantry ammunition are handled by different distributing points so as to facilitate the loading and unloading of supplies. In some cases Division Ammunition Dumps (Divisionsmunitionslager) are set up in the division area, especially if the front lines have been stabilized. From the divisions, ammunition is sent to infantry andi artillery ammunition supply points maintained by regiments, battalions, and companies. As German regulations permit the setting up of temporary ammunition dumps at these points, small reserves may be present only a few miles behind the front lines.

Unused ammunition, empty shell cases, packing cases, and faulty ammunition must be returned by the troops to army dumps from where they are sent to the home areas. The rapid return of this material is considered as important as ammunition supply.

d. DISTRIBUTION OF FUELS AND LUBRICANTS. Fuel from home fuel depots or from Field Army mobile reserves is directed to the railheads. Sometimes the fuel is kept loaded in tanker trains (Eisenbahntankstellen) near the railhead and transferred from these directly to fuel columns, but preferably it is laid down in 20- and 200-liter containers in Army Fuel Dumps (Armeebetriebesstofflager) forward of the railhead. From these dumps the fuel is taken forward to Division Fuel Distributing Points (Divisionsbetriebsstoffausgabestellen) or, in the case of some motorized and armored divisions, to Division Fuel Dumps (Divisionsbetriebsstofflager). Fuel is forwarded from the division area to lower echelon supply points and to fuel points that are set aside for the use of single vehicles (Tankstellen für Einzelkraftfahrzeuge). The latter may also be supplied from the army fuel stores.

e. DISTRIBUTION OF CLOTHING AND INDIVIDUAL EQUIPMENT. Stores are dispatched from the Zone of the Interior to the field rations dumps and to field equipment parks and collecting points, from which the stores are distributed to units.

f. DISTRIBUTION OF EQUIPMENT. (1) Equipment is handled by parks of two different categories: the Heeres, or Field Army type, and the Armee, or army type. Although performing functions analogous to those of the Zone of the Interior Home (Heimat) and Corps Area (Wehrkreis) Equipment Parks, the field parks have a number of distinct characteristics. They are concerned only with military vehicles. Furthermore, they are dependent upon Zone of the Interior depots, parks, and factories for fifth echelon maintenance. Lastly, the field parks are responsible for the storage of reserve equipment as well as the distribution of new and repaired equipment.

(2) The most numerous Heeres type park is the Field Army Motor Transport Park (Heereskraftfahrpark or HeKP). Unlike the Home Motor Transport Park, the HeKP normally does all repairs itself, without farming vehicles out to workshops, with the already existing repair facilities which it customarily takes over. Usually a number of HeKP are established in each army group area. Each HeKP may hold a reserve of about 200 new vehicles in addition to vehicles arriving from home equipment parks and depots, and damaged vehicles coming from Army Motor Transport Parks (Armeekraftfahrparke or AKP). In conjunction with army parks, the HeKP establish and maintain gasoline stations at certain selected points, usually along important roads. Not ascertained are the functions of reported Motor Transport Repair Parks (Kraftfahrinstandsetzungsparke) and Winterization Parks (Winterlager) which may be specialized HeKP or HeKP branches.

(3) Perhaps even more important than the Field Army Motor Transport Parks are the Field Army Tank Parks or Bases (Stützpunkte). These presumably are established on the basis of one per army group. Their importance is increased by the fact that armies do not ordinarily maintain fixed installations for the repair of tanks, although armies may have semi-permanent tank workshops. The tank bases are reception or control centers from which tanks are dispatched to workshops in the near vicinity for repairs, or returned to home depots and factories for fifth echelon maintenance.

(4) Also under Field Army control are Spare Parts Depots (Ersatzteillager), Tire Depots (Reifenlager), Track Depots (Gleiskettenlager), Tank Spare Parts Depots (Panzerersatzteillager), Armored Car Spare Parts Depots (Panzerspähwagenersatzsteillager), and Tractor Spare Parts Depots (Zugkraftwagenersatzteillager). The Depots furnish supplies to maintenance sections, workshop units, army parks, and Field Army parks.

(5) Army Parks (Armee Parke) are primarily for repairs but they also are supposed to maintain a reserve of between 5 and 10 per cent of the arms and equipment of the army, and to forward equipment either directly or through collecting points to units. An army has the following parks:

(a) Infantry Park, for infantry weapons and trucks.

(b) Artillery Park, for artillery weapons and trucks.

(c) Anti-gas Equipment Park, for gas masks, decontamination suits, anti-gas clothing, and smoke equipment.

(d) Engineer Stores Park, for engineer materials.

(e) Signal Park, for radio and telephone materials.

(f) Motor Transport Park, for vehicles and spare parts.

(g) Army Equipment Park, for harness, horse carts, cooks equipment, and general items.

(h) Medical Park, for medical equipment.

(i) Veterinary Park, for veterinary equipment.

(j) Horse Park, for riding and draft horses.

(6) When equipment is forwarded from army to division, it passes either directly from the army parks to Division Equipment Collecting Points (Divisionsgerätesammelstellen) or through an Army Equipment Collecting Point (Armeegerätesamanelstelle) to the division. In turn the division directs the equipment to the supply points maintained by its units. Equipment repaired by field maintenance sections and workshop units may be returned directly or through any of the collecting or supply points to the troops; because the procedure is greatly variant, Figure 6 pictures this latter flow as only direct to the troops.

6. Supply Movement

a. RAILROAD SUPPLY TRAINS. (1) Standard supply trains. German logistical manuals outline the use of standard rations, ammunition, and fuel supply trains with a maximum net load of 450 metric tons (or approximately 500 short tons) on a standard gauge (4 feet 8 1/2 inches) railway. The text-book theory has generally been followed out in practice, although in some cases two or more locomotives have been sighted pulling unusually long fuel trains, and in some areas standard rations trains seldom are used. Standard equipment supply trains, with great variations in net loading weights, also are employed. In most cases, however, equipment of all kinds is loaded on the same train.

(2) Rations supply trains (Verpflegungszüge), with an average of 40 cars per train may be composed as follows:

(a) Iron rations: 300,000 full and 300,000 half iron rations, totalling 442 metric tons.

(b) Full rations with fodder: 180,000 human and 40,000 animal rations, amounting to 454 metric tons. These may be loaded into three parts, each containing 3 days' supplies for 20,000 men and 4,000 animals.

(c) Full human rations with no bread but only baking materials: 300,000 rations, totaling 450 metric tons.

(d) Flour train (Mehlzug): 833,000 rations, amounting to 450 metric tons.

(e) Oat train (Haferzug): 90,000 rations, totaling 450 metric tons.

(f) Animal trains (Viehzüge): 360 cattle weighing 180 metric tons, 1200 pigs weighing 120 metric tons, or 1800 sheep weighing 72 metric tons.

(3) Ammunition supply trains (Munitionszüge), with an average of 30 cars per train, are of three types:

(a) Unit-loaded trains, loaded according to the proportion of different types of ammunition needed by a particular division.

(b) Caliber unit trains, in which each car is loaded with approximately 15 metric tons (16 1/2 short tons) of ammunition of a specific caliber.

(c) Single caliber unit trains, in which all cars are loaded with ammunition of the same caliber.

(4) Fuel supply trains (Betriebstoffzüge) of two types are used:

(a) 20 gasoline tank cars, holding between 340 cubic meters (around 89,800 gallons) and 440 cubic meters (around 116,200 gallons) of fuel.

(b) 25 cars, holding gasoline in 200-liter (53-gallon) and 20-liter (5-gallon) cans and carrying 400 cubic meters (105,600 gallons) of gasoline, and five cars with oil, engine oil, gear oil, paraffin, and (in winter) anti-freeze barrels and cans.

(5) Horse supply trains (Pferdersatzzüge) consist of 55 cars, each holding eight riding or light draft horses per car or 440 horses per train; six heavy draft horses per car or 330 horses per train; or four very heavy horses per car or 220 horses per train.

(6) Signals and engineer construction materials trains (Baustoffzüge) average 40 cars, of which 39 are open cars, with a net tonnage of about 820 metric tons (900 short tons).

(7) Tank trains carrying up to 25 medium tanks or up to 8 heavy tanks have also been reported. The average number of cars per tank train is about 33, with widely varying net loads.

(8) Mixed equipment trains are very frequent and may contain from 25 to 60 cars with a total net tonnage of up to 850 metric tons.

b. ROAD SUPPLY COLUMNS AND TRAINS. There are four types of road supply columns in the German Army:

(1) Motorized columns (Kraftwagenkolonnen) are, in general, employed on good roads. They can cover up to 125 miles per day. They are organized into very large, large, and small motor transport columns with a capacity of 120 metric tons, 60 tons, and 30 tons respectively for the transportation of supplies other than fuel. In addition, mountain divisions may have a special 10-ton capacity column. Fuel generally is trans-ported in motorized fuel columns of two types—heavy columns with a minimum load of 50 cubic meters of fuel, and light columns with a minimum of 25 cubic meters. Motor transport columns are designated with reference to their employment as Field Army, army, corps, or division motor truck columns.

(2) Animal-drawn columns (Fahrkolonnen) normally have capacities of 30 or 17 metric tons, and mountain animal-drawn columns 15 metric tons. In general, they are equipped with one-team wagons; in cavalry units two-team wagons are used. According to German training instructions, well cared for and trained horses can cover 12 to 15 miles per day and under favorable conditions up to 20 miles, with a clay of rest following. If oxen are employed, the rate of movement is slower. The Germans have been relying more and more upon animal-drawn columns for the movement of their supplies.

(3) Pack trains (Tragtierkolonnen), generally consisting of 40 mules or horses each, usually are employed in mountainous terrain. A pack train can carry up to 5 tons, but its capacity and speed are dependent on the trails and grade. Even in level country, pack trains usually march more slowly than foot troops.

(4) Mountain carrier units (Gebirgsträgereinheiten) consist of mountain carrier battalions and companies whose men are employed in terrain where not even pack animals can be used effectively. Each man can carry between 45 and 75 pounds of materiel on his back.

Very Large Motorized Column 120 132
Large Motorized Column6066
Small Motorized Column3033
Large Animal-Drawn Column3033
Small Animal-Drawn Column1718 1/2
Mountain Animal-Drawn Column1516 1/2
Mountain Motorized Column1011
Pack Train55 1/2
Large Motorized Fuel Column50 13,200   
Small Motorized Fuel Column25 6,600   

c. SUPPLY ROADS. Whenever possible a supply road is designated for each self-contained unit such as a division. In general, the main route of advance of the unit is designated as its supply road. This principal route may be called a Rollbahn, or rolling road, to distinguish it from any secondary supply roads. When the main supply route is used for troop movements as well as for supply purposes, it generally will be called a Durchgangsstrasse, or through road. Great importance is attached to the upkeep of these routes and the placing of gasoline stations (Tankstellen) at strategic points close by the routes.


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