Copyright © 2007 by Hugo S. Cunningham
The German army did not suffer serious casualties until December 1941, when they were mauled by the Red Army before Moscow. From June 1941 to June 1944, the Red Army fought almost alone against the German Army. Only three years of German losses on the Eastern front (and the continued deployment of most German forces on the Eastern front) ensured that the June 1944 Normandy landing had a happier outcome than the 1942 Dieppe landing.
I extract more specific figures from
Martin K. Sorge, The Other Price of Hitler's War: German Military and Civilian Losses Resulting from World War II, (Contributions in Military Studies, Number 55) Greenwood Press, New York, 1986; cloth, 175 pp.
Quoted material copyright © 1986 by Martin K. Sorge
p. 62: Table 5
Total Wehrmacht losses, September 1 1939 to 31 Jan 1945: killed or died of wounds.
Army Eastern Front 1,105,987 Scandinavia 16,639 Southwest 50,481 (Africa, Italy) Southeast 19,235 (Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece) West 107,042 (France, Belgium, Holland) died of wounds 295,659 [table 10, p. 65] --------- total 1,622,561 1,622,561Note: the 295,649 "died of wounds" should presumably be allocated among all the fronts in proportion to the numbers listed as killed, ie most to the Eastern front.
Navy 48,904 Air Force 138,596 --------- total Wehrmacht 1,820,061Note: Navy losses and most of the Air Force losses would have been against the West, eg Anglo-American strategic bombing. At least some Air Force losses, however, would have occurred on the Eastern Front, both in air combat and in ground combat support.
In West 6 Jun 44 to 31 Jan 45 Army 66,321 Air Force 11,066 misc: illness, accident, suicide, execution (rest) ------ total 191,338 191,338 -------- 2,001,399 p. 63 Table 6 Missing German Military Personnel, 1 Sep 39 to 31 Jan 45 Army Eastern front 1,018,365 Scandinavia 5,157 Southwest 194,250 Southeast 14,805 West 409,715 -------- Replacement Army 1,337 Navy 100,256 Air Force 156,132 -------- total 1,902,704Of interest also is
Hastings sets out in great detail that even after the Western allies had liberated France and deployed along the German frontier, the Germans still suffered their heaviest casualties in the East. Soviet tactics were reckless with the lives of Soviet soldiers, but they also bludgeoned the Germans.
When Anglo-American tank units met resistance, they tended to wait for the infantry to clear it out; similarly, their infantry tended to wait on the tanks. In contrast, the Soviets had infantry machine-gunners riding on their tanks. They suffered heavy casualties, but the tanks broke through much more quickly. Western units waited on artillery and air strikes.
The German and Soviet Armies routinely shot shirkers and deserters, or sent them to punishment units which often amounted to the same thing. In contrast, the Americans shot only one deserter, and the British did not shoot any.
Hastings goes out of his way to suggest that the weaker Western effort was not necessarily wrong. It is doubtful whether the repressive apparatus necessary to enforce 100% effort in Soviet and Nazi terms could have been switched off once peace returned.
Hastings questioned the hoarding of elite Western fighters in airborne units. As the fiasco of Arnhem ("Market Garden") showed, light-armed airborne units could not defend themselves against armor. The paratroopers, self-selected for aggressive fighting spirit, might well have been more valuable "salting" ordinary infantry and armored units.
In a separate book on the 1944 Normandy Invasion Overlord, Hastings denounced the low quality of Western weapons design for land combat. German machine guns were better; no Western anti-tank gun compared with the German 88-mm, and Western tanks were totally ineffective against German Tigers and Panthers. Western command of the air (and the diversion of 2/3 of German forces to the Russian front) was essential to Western victory in 1944-45.