Fighting power of the Wehrmacht, Part II. Training of soldiers, casualties, awards and death sentences of German and US Army during the Second World War.
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Training of soldiers
The duration of basic training in the Wehrmacht was different. In 1938, it took’s 16 weeks for infantrymen, 1940 only eight weeks, 16 weeks in 1943, and in 1944 from 12 to 14 weeks.
For the armored troops the basic training lasted 21 weeks during the entire war, although it occurred since 1944 that recruits had to be participated in combat units after 16 weeks if necessary.
For comparison, the basic training in the U.S. Army until 1943 was at just 13 weeks. This was later increased to 17 weeks, but by pressure for the preparations for the invasion in the Normandy again had to be reduced to 13 weeks.
Tank crews received a training from 17 weeks, but in January 1945 this had to be shortened to 15 weeks.
The average loss rate of a U.S. infantry regiment in World War II was 100 percent after three months of uninterrupted combat missions.
A more important difference is that German divisions were formed with personnel from the same part of the country (all replacements were provided by a certain military district) and replacements were sent by march battalions from already together trained recruits.
With the U.S. Army there were usually no ‘regional’ divisions and all recruits were individually spread over various combat troops and not together with the comrades with whom they had made the training. In many cases the GI’s didn’t know the other men in their unit – with whom they have to fight and probably to die – not even by name.
In the Wehrmacht there was always the most qualified personnel (both physically and mentally) – especially for the officers – with the fighting forces.
With the U.S. Army – including officers – it was the other way around: the best men were with the so-called ‘support troops’ (supply, administration, etc.). This was due to the fact that the training in America was already led by the ‘support troops’, which picked out the best personnel for them self – and these men in turn were mostly happy not to be burned with the front-line troops.
German divisions or elements of them were mostly regularly removed from the front for resting, refreshment and refitting.
With the US Army every soldier in Europe had to fight on until he was either dead, injured, sick or a ‘psychiatric case’. For this reason – and because of the laxer punishment – the number of ‘psychiatric cases’ and the unauthorized removal of soldiers or numbers of desertions was a much huger problem in the U.S. Army than in the Wehrmacht. This problem resulted from the limited shipping space, the months-long journey times because of the vast distances to America and the ever-acute lack of ‘battle-worthy front soldiers’ in the US Army in Europe.
In the French campaign of 1940 were 21.9 percent of the casualties were kills. This figure rose to 22.9 percent during the Russian campaign. Out of 100 wounded in the campaign in France 85 (83 in the summer of 1941, 77 in the winter of 1941) could be expected to return to service.
Between 7.9 percent (France 1940) and 12.2 percent (Russia in January 1942) of the wounded died.
With the U.S. Army this proportion was only 4.5 percent and 64 percent of the wounded returned to any type of service.
|Period||Total||Officers (average share in the army was 2.5 percent)|
|to December 1944||167,335||3.2 %|
|Total 1939-1944||1,776,889||4.0 %|
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|Award||Number of awards|
|Iron Cross 2nd class||2,300,000|
|Iron Cross 1st class||300,000|
|Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross||5,070|
|Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves||569|
|Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves with Swords||87|
|Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves with Swords and Diamonds||13|
|Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross of the Golden Oak Leaves with Swords and Diamonds||1 (Stuka pilot Colonel Rudel)|
45 percent of all awards in the U.S. Army were issued only to officers and were often awarded for achievements outside the battlefield – opposite to the practice in the Wehrmacht.
|Period||death sentence for desertion, etc||Number of executions for all other offenses (civil offenses such as murder, rape, robbery, etc.)|
|January-September 1944||c. 1,605||3,829|
|for comparison: US Army in Europe 1942-1945||1 (of 188 sentences)||69 (of 253 sentences)|
CONTINUE HERE TO PART III: German Military Performance
see also: German Fighting Power in World War One