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How we come to know what we know

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by JBark, Jul 25, 2010.

  1. JBark

    JBark Member

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  2. Wiley Hyena

    Wiley Hyena Member

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  3. Wiley Hyena

    Wiley Hyena Member

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    And by this post I am also responding to JBark's observation that there was no German Warplan.


    German Doctrine - defining the basis for the heavy tank concept

    German doctrine before WWII didn't clearly specify the parameters used to define a light, medium, or heavy tank. This lack of an exact definition of the role of each tank type was a result of the inherent qualities of the tank as a weapons system operating in a combined arms force, and as such, it's potential were not fully understood at the time. The same conceptual lack of a clear definition of the 3 generic tank types also existed in the U.S., the U.K., and the Soviet Union. What existed was a somewhat loose classification based on the weight of the tank and the doctrinal missions of each type.

    In face of that, what was generally accepted was that the light tank was to be employed in reconnaissence missions, that demanded great mobility but didn't require much armor protection nor great lethality. The medium tank were to be used in exploitation or pursuit missions, requiring a different mix of mobility, armor protection, and firepower. To fulfill those requirements, medium tanks had to be fast, and to have a greater level of mechanical reliability, since those tanks were to be able of conducting fast maneuvers necessary to exploitation or pursuit missions.

    Under this classification, heavy tanks were to act as support for the infantry and artillary, but the main purpose of the heavy tank was to penetrate the enemy's defenses, thus allowing the medium tanks to exploit the breakthrough. However, that classification also implied the assumption that the light and medium tanks could, to an extent, perform each other's missions. This was not possible for the heavy tanks, as they wouldn't have the same degree of speed and operational range of the other 2 types, because of the greater weight, consequences of the heavier weapons and high degree of armor protection required for these tanks.

    In 1937, Guderian described the operational principles and tactics that would shape German thinking on how to employ armored formations in a future war. The mission of the heavy tank within this concept was to effect a breakthrough, and it's first objective was to engage and destroy the enemy's anti tank guns in the defensive line. The next objective of the heavy tanks was to destroy the enemy artillary-but Guderian correctly anticipated that the penetration of the defensive lines would force the enemy to throw his armor reserves in a counter attack. About the importance of defeating this counter attack, Guderian emphasized that the greatest enemy of the tank is another tank, and that because of that, the armored forces had to be capable of defeating this counterattack, or the breakthrough would fail.

    The German doctrine of that time focused mainly on the offensive. Naturally, when the tide turned against Germany, the doctrinal recommendation was that the armor formations would be kept back, and ready to counterattack any breakthrough of the German defense lines. Consequently, the doctrinal mission of the Tiger was first and foremost, whether in the offense or the defense, to kill the enemy's tanks. Understanding this way of thinking is fundamental to comprehend why the Tiger was developed and employed the way it was.

    SOURCE: WILBECK, Christopher W., Sledgehammers: Strengths and Flaws of the Tiger Heavy Tank Battalions in World War II.
     
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  4. Wiley Hyena

    Wiley Hyena Member

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  5. JBark

    JBark Member

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    "And by this post I am also responding to JBark's observation that there was no German Warplan."

    I said "What warplan?" I did not say they did not have a warplan. There is a difference. There is also a difference between doctrine and a warplan.
     
  6. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I think this thread is wandering far afield of its intended purpose and needs to get refocused or ended.
     
  7. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    War Plans and War Production Plans,

    When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 he called together his senior military leaders and informed them that he intended to unite all 'germanic' peoples into the Reich and expand the Reich in the east. Some of these goals would come by negotiation, but at some point force would become unavoidable to achieve these goals.

    These officers did not debate the morality or legality of this plan, they saluted and said that the Heer would need until the spring/summer of 1941 to mobilize and equip an army with modern weapons and train them to fulfill Hitler's plan of conquest.

    As we know Hitler began his general war in the fall of 1939, nearly 2 years sooner than the Heer wanted to prepare. As a concequence of early start of the war the Panzerwaffe was still in a largely embryonic stage. German war production had not yet fully met its need for modern tanks as over half of its inventory was either light tanks or captured vehicles.

    Germany found itself in a position where its war production plans were out of balance with its execution of Hitler's war plan. For Germany the situation would only get worse.

    Germay would invade Poland, Denmark, Norway, the BeNeLux, France, Yugoslavia, Greece, North Africa and Russia but would continue limited Panzer production until 1942. German tank production during this period barely surpassed its loss rate during these campaigns.

    Germany's war production plan from 1939 to early 1942 left no margin for error.

    Germany abandoned its prewar production plan only after its armies were pushed back from the gates of Moscow, after Hitler declared war on a third superpower, and only after Fritz Todt died and Speer took over the operation of war production.

    Despite Speer's best efforts he operated a production plan that was less a organized system then a series of improvisations. That coupled with Hitler's insistance of having the final approval over Panzer design led to a disoranized and dysfunctional production system. Panzer design had to appeal as much to Hitler's ego as it did to any operational reality.

    From September 1939 till the final surrender in May 1945 the German Panzer force was a hodge podge collection of native built and captured tanks. This multiplicity of types, variants and nationality's was due to the failures and limits of the German war production plan. The plan was a faliure in a large part because Hitler himself and his unrealistic plans and demands.
     
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  8. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    On tank production the German problem is mostly one of simply scale. Their plants for production were small compared to other major combatants.

    For example the Henschel plant at Kessel producing Tiger I's was really very small. It had about 4000 workers employed per shift (12 hours apparently as there were but two shifts). It used nine workstations (called takte doing a variety of tasks at each one. Total production time was about 54 hours but realistically it was taking about 14 days to complete a tank start to finish.
    The production floor held just 18 to 22 tanks in various stages of production. Little thought appears to have been given to production line-type work. Instead each production station did a variety of tasks that were largely batch work and hand work. Many of the processes like boring the holes in the hull for the torsion bars was done at just one or two workstations by the one or two machines Henschel possessed for this purpose. Workers at each station performed a number of tasks rather than the more limited ones found in more typical production line work in the US, Britain or, Russia.

    The four Panther plants were, likewise somewhat similarly laid out. But, there was no standard layout or production line in any of the four. Instead, each like the Tiger plant described above had about 20 to 30 tanks in production through a number of stations were batch work by hand was performed on the vehicle. Jadgpanther and Panther production was also mixed on the same lines further complicating things. Making matters even more mixed a rebuild program was instituted that was mixing in damaged tanks returned from the front into the production mix. Some of these required extensive and non-standard production repairs like cutting hulls and inserting new sections, that sort of thing.

    This was also the norm in the German aircraft industry. Batch work, mixed production lines, inserting rebuilds into the mix, and frequent introduction of modifications. All this slowed production to a crawl. One can easily claim the low German production rates were due largely to an inefficent and poorly orgainzed industry that used out dated processes that were a hold over of a strong national union system that retained the meister or craftsman as the primary worker doing hand work rather than an assembly line worker who had limited skills suited to a few specific tasks that worked as part of a much larger and well orgainzed production effort.
     
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  9. JBark

    JBark Member

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    Agreed. Sorry gents.
     
  10. CrazyD

    CrazyD Ace

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    Indeed. Became a pointless, circular argument a while back. And with one of the main "arguers" presenting nothing other than hyperbole and anecdotes, it will continue as such without said refocus or shutdown.

    Superb info, as usual.

    Looking at German wartime production in general, this was a problem across the board. But to use that to suggest that a specific tank design was a "failure" repeats a mistake already made repeatedly in this thread. Using such a blanket statement essentially dismisses ALL of German wartime production as a whole.

    :cheers:
     
  11. Spartanroller

    Spartanroller Ace

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    Perhaps to get back on track, having read much of this thread I get the impression that opinion is divided on how the internet has affected the accuracy of information available to study. There is certainly a tendency for people to 'believe' and reproduce what they see online as gospel, but the reverse of the coin is that many more people than ever before see this information and are able to challenge it and provide alternative hypotheses or evidence.

    When you consider the 'bible' status achieved by many of the historical books available pre-internet due to a similar process of wanting to believe 'official' accounts and anything that has made it through the editing and publishing process (despite many of them proving to be equally as inaccurate as many internet sources), is it not fair to say that the information available online if read with a certain circumspection has a greater chance of at least tending towards the accurate?
     
  12. JBark

    JBark Member

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    Looking at German wartime production in general, this was a problem across the board. But to use that to suggest that a specific tank design was a "failure" repeats a mistake already made repeatedly in this thread. Using such a blanket statement essentially dismisses ALL of German wartime production as a whole.

    Yes, German industry was not unique in handling the Tiger but the man hours to make a Tiger were in a greater excess, I thought. That is why I amde the statement about design of the Tiger. Design plus industrial methods=excessive man hours.
     
  13. JBark

    JBark Member

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    I'm not entirely sure I understand your point so I will toss in some ideas. Please respond. I agree, many believe that if a book made it to print it must be well documented, information must be accurate. I think we all have had experiences that have taught us otherwise. I am now in the habit, when I can to read bibliographies before buying the book. I will have to write Amazon some day and ask them why they exclude the bibliography from their "Look Inside" feature.

    I look at anything on the internet as a beginning to further research. It would be very easy for someone to fill a website with info he got from badly written/documented books. If it were me and I had a pet interest in a specific topic like the Tiger I I would make sure I had real good stuff before I started my pet site. Does one run into copyright issues with such things? The example used by Wiley (not trying to pick on you dude), when I fially looked at it, is one that showed no methodolgy of how the information was obtained and numbers verified. As I looked around the site (which I can't get back on...IE?) I did not find any mention of sources. The benefits of the internet are, of course, speed and costs. I can see if a whole bunch of panzer websites agree with a statistic in a matter of minutes at no addtional cost to me. For this reason I think it will alwys be a preferred source, despite questions of accuracy.

    Persoanlly I would rather read/own a book any day.
     
  14. Spartanroller

    Spartanroller Ace

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    I think you got my point perfectly - and amazon adding bibliographies would be a great idea.

    However, even with an apparently good and extensive bibliography though, a book still has the potential to be equally as invalid as an internet source based on the concept that if everyone else says it, it must be true. The difference being that the internet gives thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to discuss and discredit information or otherwise, and i believe that with any subject matter eventually this leads to more accurate info being available online than in individual books. Because the information from books, good or bad is constantly percolating onto the net, eventually it should all become available to everyone who is discussing or researching a topic, making web sources better informed than any individual author or publisher.

    Of course that doesn't mean every bit of information online is good, but the cross-linking available makes it more likely for a person to arrive at a good conclusion.

    If you want to develop this line of thought then i propose that we all can get better information online than from books, although some skill is required at filtering what is available, and some unique research material is still not yet available in online form.

    As an aesthetic point, i also prefer to read a book.

    P.S. If i misunderstood what the thread should be about, then please stop me here :)
     
  15. Wiley Hyena

    Wiley Hyena Member

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    One point that can be made here, is the concept of best evidence. Naturally, as the time proximity lengthens from an event, it becomes more difficult to collect new and relevant first hand evidence. At some point, the event crystalizes into historical fact (not necessarily "actual facts"). In any event, this is what historians determine and which end up being taught as generally accepted history. At that point, deviations from the historical account, become designated as "counterfactual" or "historical revisionism." I would only observe that as to WWII, some aspects have yet to be determined for purposes of accepted history, because of the still near time proximity of the event.

    As to general publications on WWII in the public domain (including internet) most are secondary sources. One may find some continuity as to particular items of information, and in some cases only one isolated secondary source. When that happens, then the concept of best evidence should be applied until and unless that evidence is contradicted with a new and credible secondary or first hand source. Otherwise, one is put to the task of unearthing verified first hand documentation or accounts when asserting any historical argument because the secondary source information can always be challenged. In the end, the proposition tendered on such information can only be viewed as a "theory" until such time as it can be invalidated, or until because of time proximity it becomes accepted as "historical fact."

    For purposes of debate on this forum, in my opinion, all theories should be welcome (even if they are immediately discredited) because it stimulates thought and concentrates focus on what the facts may be (can be educational). Admittedly, some are better than others, and some require no thought at all in dismissing or accepting. Some are more complex though.

    Peace guys and a round to all.
     
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  16. Spartanroller

    Spartanroller Ace

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    Sums it up perfectly - we have to use whatever sources we can find/afford to stimulate great discussions and hope we get closer to an acceptable 'truth'
     
  17. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    A few days ago Opanapointer requested an order of battle on FUSAG in another thread. Not sure myself and having no books on it of my own I used the internet and came up with 3 different oob's. I think I would tend to trust a book source a little more than a web site at least until they proved me wrong.
     
  18. CrazyD

    CrazyD Ace

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    Seems both of these points are spot-on.

    We have what we have in terms of sources. At this point, not much "new" information about WW2 is coming up, at least in terms of primary sources.

    So an open-minded discussion and grounded debate is what we've got to compare notes, evaluate sources, and come to what we can best see as the "truth".

    But I'd think, and hope, that the enjoyment and interest is in the uncovering, discovering, and evaluation of that "truth", not dogmatic arguing about a single point.



    By the way, in case anyone was wondering- I'm right. And I taught TA everything he knows.

    True story.

    :insane:

    :rofl:
     
  19. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    There gentleman (and ladies) is a brave man, salute him before he is crushed by our god ...er Master Chief!
     
  20. CrazyD

    CrazyD Ace

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    Quick further point on this, to show the other side of the coin-
    The Tigers in Combat books (I and II) by Schneider are generally regarded as some of the better sources on the action histories of the various units that fought with the Tiger tank.

    And yet, in each volume, I've found numerous numerical errors. A unit with 38 tanks, total loss/destruction of 6 in an ambush, loses 2 more in action later in the week, and the week-end inventory is listed as...

    37.

    So are we to dismiss Schneider as a worthless source?

    Or do we accept those numerical errors, maybe try and rectify them ourselves, and continue using Schnieder as a valuable source, albiet with some human errors we're all capable of?

    I'd say the second.

    Further... some of the older vets around here will recall my "Tiger Production numbers" obsession. Some saw that as pointless digging in various sources, and simply took an accepted number.

    I saw it as an interesting and challenging look at sources with a hoped-for endgame of at least coming closer to the "truth".

    (Apologies for a second post, but I wanted to seperate this bit out, as it seems relevant.)

    :cheers:
     

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