When the first plans were laid for the campaign against Russia, the problem of security for all the necessary supply routes through the vast areas of the future theater of operations played a significant part. In the light of historical experience, a considerably greater enemy effort against the German supply lines was to be expected than in previous campaigns with their relatively short lines of communications, or in any of the areas already occupied. But the main point in all deliberations and the primary factor in all phases of military preparation was the vast expanse of Russian territory. Obviously, all supply routes would have to be considerably longer than ever before and thus more susceptible to incursions of all kinds. This was true not only for all roads, rail lines, and waterways, but also for all points at which supplies were to be stored. Anyone aware of these facts could virtually anticipate the location and number of probable danger points and the strength of the forces required to eliminate these security threats.
Deliberations over the type and extent of essential security measures led to the conclusion that, in this field also, a new approach had to be found. No longer was the main danger focussed on the same areas as in previous campaigns, for the operations zone of an army now appeared to be much less exposed than the areas farther to the rear. Areas in close proximity to the front are always the scene of strong concentrations of forces which have firm control over the local rail and road net and are in a position to keep the local population under close surveillance. In such areas it was, therefore, possible to maintain constant supervision and a high degree of security without employing a large force exclusively for that purpose. Any special security forces that were saved in this manner could be used to better advantage in other areas where the danger was greater, while those remaining in the combat zone could now be assigned to more specific tasks.
An entirely different situation prevailed in the rear areas where the vastness of the country, sparsely covered by German troops, presented a constant problem. Here, in view of the over-all manpower situation, only a limited number of widely dispersed occupation units could be employed. The constant lengthening of communication lines because of the rapid progress of operations produced an increasing need for security forces, a need that was even greater in the rear than in the vicinity of the front lines. These considerations determined all
German plans for the protection of communication lines, a factor of vital importance to the outcome of the entire operation.
From the outset a distinction was made between active and passive security measures. For the purpose of active security, special units of various types and strength were created. At first they were organized in the form of separate battalions, and only in those instances where unusually extensive installations had to be protected were several battalions combined under the control of a security regiment headquarters. Most of their personnel was taken from older age groups and consisted largely of veterans of World War I or of men who had received a minimum of training in replacement units. They were led by older reserve officers or retired officers who had been recalled to active duty. These facts need to be emphasized for the better understanding of the difficulties which these units had to overcome later on in the performance of their tasks. Nevertheless, many of these security units gave an excellent account of themselves, particularly when the growing manpower shortage necessitated their employment as combat troops at the front.
They had a variety of weapons in altogether insufficient quantities. When the Replacement Army was no longer able to furnish an adequate supply of small arms, which were then more urgently needed at the front, the security units had to be equipped with captured Russian weapons. It is quite obvious that units outfitted in that manner and often inadequately acquainted with their new and unfamiliar weapons were extremely limited in their usefulness, except for areas where little or no trouble on the part of the populace was to be expected.
The unusual extent of all prospective operations in the East prompted the German High Command to lay plans for the establishment of a security organization that would be more or less independent of the armies operating in the forward areas. For this reason the area immediately to the rear of an army group operations zone was designated as an army group rear area (Rueckwaertiges Heeresgebiet). There, using his own forces, the army group rear area commander was to be responsible for all active security measures, for the pacification of enemy territory, and, consequently, for the protection of all lines of communication. Whereas in previous campaigns no more than weak security units had been organized and employed, the arrangement for the Russian campaign included ,the formation of entire security divisions, largely similar in composition and equipment to standard infantry divisions, but subject to certain variations depending on the availability of personnel and materiel. These units eventually proved capable of conducting an
active defense against enemy forces appearing in army group rear areas. The areas assigned to individual security divisions varied in size from 5,000 to 10,000 square miles.
The security and pacification of occupied enemy territory behind the army group rear areas was to be the responsibility of the military occupation authorities, an arrangement that had fully proved itself during other campaigns. Their administrative agencies were to cover the occupied territory in a network of Kommandanturen [Administrative area headquarters] of various levels, such as Oberfeldkommandanturen [divisional level], Feldkommandanturen [regimentaI level,] and Ortskommandanturen [company level]. Security forces of various strengths, as mentioned above, were to be assigned to these administrative units, depending on the size of the areas to be controlled. During the course of the Russian campaign, this organization made a substantial contribution toward the maintenance and security of German lines of communication from the homeland to the front.
Perhaps it should be emphasized at this point that to assure the security of future supply routes, active precautionary measures must be taken, even during the advance, to prevent the destruction of vulnerable objectives. This is especially true of the main supply carrier—the railroads.
On 22 June 1941, for instance, during the very first hour of the Russian campaign many road and railroad bridges were saved from destruction by the swift and surprising action of a few small combat patrols. Later these bridges were of invaluable importance to the entire German supply system in the East and in some instances actually provided the basis for further successful operations. During the course of the entire war, many objectives of vital importance to the transportation of supplies, such as bridges, underpasses, viaducts, railroad shops, and water supply installations were secured intact because of the energetic action of advance detachments. This was of particular significance in the case of railroad bridges which, if destroyed, would have required a long time to be restored to normal operation.
In the final analysis it was the master plan of the Chief of Supply and Administration which determined, more than anything else, the over-all structure of the security organization. Although recognized as a primary prerequisite, the immediate availability of the railroads as a carrier of supply could not be expected and, at first, was not taken into account. It was assumed that the roadbeds would be unusuable because of demolitions, that the Russians would remove all their rolling stock, that the difference in gauge would necessitate the re-laying
of tracks, and that partisan activity would be encountered. Therefore, all German plans for the movement of supplies were initially based on the use of the sparse road net that existed in Russian territory.
Armored spearheads were to be accompanied by heavy motor truck transportation units carrying supplies up to a distance of about 300 miles from the base. In this plan the supply of the more slowly advancing infantry divisions, which were equipped with horse-drawn vehicles, was also taken into consideration. The motor truck transportation units were to establish supply depots approximately 50-75 miles apart. These installations were to be set up in the immediate vicinity of large communities and preferably close to favorable railroad facilities. Particular emphasis was placed on the establishment of safe and adequate facilities for the storing of large quantities of supplies. As the combat elements continued to advance, a special security force was to be assigned to each of these supply depots to assure their undisturbed organization and improvement. The strength of these forces depended on the size of the installation, the area that had to be guarded, and the degree of danger from partisan activities. Generally, the plan called for a regimental headquarters with the usual number of security battalions in the case of a larger town, while a battalion headquarters with the corresponding number of smaller units was to be employed for the protection of smaller installations. As far as possible, front line troops were to be relieved of all such security assignments. As it turned out later, this policy could never be fully enforced.
The protection of these supply depots involved a variety of problems. Internal security consisted of guarding the supply dumps and adjacent buildings and facilities. Since these installations were to include warehouses for all classes of supply, as for instance rations, clothing, ammunition, fuel, medical and veterinary equipment, as well as motor vehicles and spare parts, the need for security forces grew considerably as operations progressed. This circumstance had to be taken into account in all planning and especially in organizing security units. Furthermore, all installations necessary for the maintenance and operation of the supply depots, such as power plants, railroad stations, and airfields, as well as the billets of the security troops themselves, required additional protective measures. The mere fact that some of the larger supply installations might well assume the proportions of a medium-sized city may offer an indication as to the number of security troops that would become necessary.
The supply plan called for each newly installed supply depot to organize a forward echelon which was to move up behind the combat
forces along the most suitable road. At these central supply depots, other smaller supply depots were to be organized and distributed laterally in both directions. In this manner the infantry divisions, regardless of their route of advance, could obtain their supplies without the necessity for long-distance hauls. A "block system" of successive guard posts was to be established to safeguard the flow of supply from one depot to the next.
In addition to the forces required for the above-mentioned tasks, security troops were to be furnished to the several armies to protect their base supply depots and installations and to relieve the combat forces as soon as possible of all security duties. Experience had taught that the actual combat elements were excessively burdened with such duties and thus often deprived of forces which were urgently needed at the front.
The initially established supply depots were to remain in operation until the Russian railroads could be converted to normal gauge and the supply bases advanced into the zone of operations. Then, as supply depots farther to the rear would be dissolved, their security forces could be made available for employment in forward installations. Another possibility for the release of security troops on an even larger scale would arise as soon as a previous zone of operations or an area under military control was taken over by a civilian administration. The police forces of this administration were then to assume the former duties of the security troops.
According to the original plan, the initial requirements of security forces were to be met by selecting combat units that had proved themselves during previous campaigns. Subsequent needs had to be covered by organizing new units. It was clear to all concerned that this plan would never produce a fully satisfactory result, partly because of the vastness of the prospective theater of operations and partly because of the limited replacement potential, which would certainly preclude the large-scale organization of units for purposes of security only. This view was later borne out in practice. To an ever increasing degree transportation and supply units of many types, and frequently even front line troops, had to be charged with the above-mentioned duties.
German plans for active security also called for an active air defense. Antiaircraft artillery units were to be provided for the protection of large or particularly important railroad stations, workshops, bridges, and similar installations. In each case the strength of these units depended on the availability of personnel and the importance of the installation. They were to be under the control of regional air force commanders.
Fuel trains and similar shipments, which at a later stage of the campaign became unusually valuable, were to be protected wherever possible by railroad antiaircraft batteries consisting of 20-mm. fourbarreled guns mounted on flatcars. These units were under the command of the army group rail transportation officer.
Since it was quite obvious that both manpower and materiel for security purposes would be limited, special consideration was given to the problem of passive defense. Thorough training of all agencies arid forces concerned with the moving and handling of supply was recognized as a primary prerequisite for passive security measures. The combat troops themselves can contribute in many ways to the security and preservation of scarce and valuable supplies, and thus increase their own readiness for action as well as their combat efficiency. Combat and service troops alike received continuous instruction by appropriate directives and orders and were further trained by means of demonstrations and field exercises.
Of the many passive means of protection, the following may be mentioned: Over poor roads, through endangered areas, or at night long supply columns were to move quickly and without interruption; single vehicles were to avoid passing through partisan-infested areas; full use was to be made of the block system of security established along the roads by driving in convoy from block to block; and unloaded supplies were to be dispersed for protection against destruction from the air.
Particularly after 1943, as a result of experiences gathered during enemy air raids, unloaded supplies of all classes were generally placed underground. Only in this manner was it possible to preserve large quantities of supplies, which up to that time had been prize targets for the Russian air force. Protection for ammunition of all types was assured not only by means of dispersal but also by storage in tunnels and bunkers. In the case of fires caused by bombing attacks this method of storing had the obvious advantage that the spreading blaze caused considerably less damage to ammunition dumps than on previous occasions.
The precious motor fuels were stored in trenches protected by banks of earth on both sides. Drainage ditches were dug which, in the event of a large fire, would allow the fuel to flow off quickly and thus diminish the danger of an expanding blaze. The storing of rations required a greater expenditure of material and labor, especially in the case of valuable food supplies which had to be protected against spoilage due to moisture.
The passive air defense of railroad lines, buildings, and other railroad installations was carried out at the request of, and in close co-
operation with, the regional transportation agencies. In army areas this was the responsibility of the local commanders, in army group rear areas that of the rear area commanders. Security forces of the type discussed in the earlier part of this study, particularly security divisions, were employed for this purpose. In areas where additional protection was required because of heavy partisan activities or the presence of important railroad lines, these security forces were at times supported by other German units that happened to be in the area, such as combat divisions which had been withdrawn from the front. As a last resort, the so-called emergency alert units were called upon which, though formed specifically for this purpose, were not too highly valued. In areas under the control of civilian occupation authorities, all security functions mentioned above were assigned to the regular police forces.
On many occasions, replacement transfer battalions and casual detachments en route had to be employed in the defense of endangered railroad lines. The trains themselves were protected by so-called transport security regiments. They were subordinate to the army group rail transportation officers and received their specific assignments from regional transportation headquarters. Troop transports and personnel on leave trains were responsible for their own security. For the protection of freight trains, cars were attached which offered observation and fields of fire over the entire length of the train.
Railroad lines and installations were protected by a system of block control points and by security patrols operating along the lines. In wooded areas both sides of the tracks were cleared to a width of 300 yards to prevent partisans from approaching without being discovered. Among the many protective measures developed during the course of the campaign the following might be mentioned at this point: One or more flatcars loaded with rocks were used in front of particularly important trains to provide protection against pressure and vibration-type mines. In some instances a whole train of empties was placed ahead of the train that was to be protected. Mobile conconstruction units were distributed along the railroad lines. Amply equipped with construction materials and interconnected by a telephone circuit, they could be immediately directed to any point where the railroad had been damaged by enemy interference. At a later stage, when telephone poles became a favorite object of destruction for the partisans, demolition charges were inserted which would detonate if an attempt was made to cut or fell the poles. An item of civilian railroad equipment—a special mine-clearance device without crew—was placed in front of the trains to set off enemy mines in the roadbed by subjecting the tracks to continuous vibrations.
In the operation of the railroads, various protective measures were
introduced. They included travel at low speed (at night not over 10 miles per hour); movement of several trains in convoy; rerouting of trains insofar as the lines permitted; and placing the locomotive in the center of the train in order to protect it from immediate destruction in case of mine explosions. Later on, when large numbers of Russian railroad personnel were employed, particular emphasis was placed on their closest surveillance.
Specific measures of passive air defense—a matter of paramount importance for railroad stations and junctions—comprised the transfer of all central switchboards from railroad stations to the outside, so as to create individual loop circuits. In the construction of new installations considerable intervals were maintained between buildings. As soon as they were occupied, all vital installations and all personnel quarters were immediately protected by every available means against the effect of bombs or fragments. Troops were frequently quartered in trains which were taken out onto open track at night.
In close cooperation with the supply agencies the unloading of all shipments was to be accomplished in the shortest possible time. As a standing operating procedure at night or during air raid alerts, all railroad stations were to be cleared of trains carrying ammunition and fuel. If supply trains could not be unloaded promptly, they were to be separated and their individual sections distributed as far as possible over all available spur tracks.
Tlle aircraft warning service of units in the area was hooked up with the railway signal communication system, so that all traffic control agencies could be alerted in time and with maximum speed. If the wire lines were destroyed, these warnings were to be transmitted by radio.
As the above-mentioned plans and precautions indicate, the German Army High Command was by no means caught unawares by the strong partisan activities encountered during the Russian campaign. It was known for some time that the Russians were determined to use organized partisan warfare in the defense of their country and that they had used propaganda to spread the idea among their population. Their future military leaders in partisan warfare had been carefully trained in the use of this combat method. Just before the start of the campaign—according to information received in Germany—the Russian War Academy conducted war games in an area where certain locations were designated as so-called partisan centers.
Similarly, the Russian High Command had recognized at an early stage that, in contrast to the dense railroad and highway networks
of the highly urbanized West with its ever-present possibilities for alternate routes, the very few serviceable supply routes through the vast expanse of the Russian area were of paramount strategic importance. Furthermore, in view of the great distances, the poor condition of the highways (which easily deteriorated under the influence of the weather), and the anticipated shortage of motor vehicles and fuel on the German side, the Russians realized that the main burden of supply would have to be carried by the railroads and that this would be equally true of all large-scale troop movements, furlough transportation, and evacuations. Clearly cognizant of this handicap, which would present itself in any military campaign against Russia, the enemy began early in the war to build up a "second front" behind the German lines.