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Questions on some aspects of military logistics

Discussion in 'World History' started by innonimatu, Nov 27, 2019.

  1. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    I've been reading some papers on military logistics and wondering how important are some of the limitations mentioned.

    On railways: was it common for steam engine locomotives to require protection overnight and very frequent maintenance? And to be tied to specific stretches of railway? OR was this a feature of some climates or some regions?

    On road transport: rather small limits to the amount of cargo that could be moved long distances even with trucks. Are these reasonable? And what are the present day limits of road transport on hostile (or deserted) territory?

    On pre-modern and early modern armies: living off the land was common. Still, provisions get spent on any given region if an army remains there too long, and there is such a thing as a scorched earth strategy. Was it common for cavalry to be regarded as a hindrance due to its supply requirements and armies that could posses cavalry to deliberately operate without horses? Or even for cavalry soldiers to campaign dismounted, as foot soldiers?
     
  2. r16

    r16 not deity

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    very limited actual knowledge , but ı can try a bit . ı would take steam to be less maintenance intensive , but depends on the makers . Americans were renowned for rugged models in the 19th , while the French opted for engineering efficiency and their drivers would be like college grads when compared to "illiterate" Anglosaxons . For steam , you can always collect firewood , the early models specifically used that , but you need water and a lot of it . That killed Steam in the US when diesels appeared , as Americans had really big and efficient steam engines to compete with the best , but hidden effects of maintaining water and stuff was seen as a money saving thing . During the American Civil War , Northern Command had to take specific measures against the hygine of troops , because when they bathed with soap in natural sources of waters , like lakes and creeks that would cause maintenance troubles in the engines . The famous American trucks of the WW II were called 2.5 tonners and that would be the load they could be trusted to carry in the fields (ı think) and it could easily be double on paved roads (again ı think) . Cavalry always trouble , a horse could (ı think) be eating ten times the weight of what a man consumes , but ı would say it could earn its pay . Cavalry would dismount always if it had any commanders with brains , but the history shows that was really rare , and for using them as ordinary infantry intentionally , one could perhaps re-organize them as such , from the start . Theirs tend to smaller than similar level of infantry formations .
     
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  3. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    Thanks! It is a good point that in some climates the water was a problem also, for steam engines. And there were some countries where coal, fuel, was not a problem initially because they ran their locomotives on wood. But that was a thing on some american countries only? Perhaps the northern european ones, Scandinavia or Russia with ample wood, did it also?
     
  4. r16

    r16 not deity

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    my pleasure . My real life reading is limited but ı imagine the wood burning engines , those iconic ones in every Western one , were perfect for the expanding America as coal needs its own infrastructure and that can be massive but you could have mule teams and the like to bring in the wood from the ample forests that would be cleared for farms and the like anyhow . Can's say anything for Scandinavia , but Russians are probably the first to try oil burning , maybe 1880ish , maybe earlier . It all depends on availability .

    and my thanks , because ı wasn't careful enough last week that there would be links to the site which seems really interesting and stuff ...
     
  5. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    Protection overnight - I dunno, presumably it would depend on how close to the front they were. In general, steam locomotives would be returned to a station/shed after a set period of time for basic maintenance/ cleaning. I don't know how well Russian railways were equipped, but in central Germany, France, and the UK, railways were fully capable of night running with no need to trains to stop for the night.
    Very frequent maintenance - very much so. Steam engines are a mechanics nightmare for maintenance. A bajillion heavy external moving parts needing constant lubrication and being subjected to hammer forces means repairmen are kept very busy. The British and Germans tried to address this with their Austerity / kriegslok steam engines, but even in the best case scenarios, heavy and frequent maintenance was needed. In wartime locomotives were subjected to heavier work and less repair time, while also having inferior coal and water quality.
    As far as being tied to specific stretches of railway, it depends. Despite attempts at standardization, steam locomotives were essentially custom-designed for specific regions. A steam engine designed for hauling coal drags through the Rhineland would not be well suited to a fast troop train steaming across the fields of Poland. (Of course, given wartime demands, needs must.) The UK generally kept their Austerity models region-locked, but Germany attempted mass standardization with the kriegslok. It was actually pretty impressive for the time, ensuring not just that parts were spread throughout the railway system for an engine, but that different engines were able to use the same parts. However, Germany's railway system was already overstressed and outdated before the war started so that program had the end result of just adding to complexity a la XKCD:

    Further, the German railways used a different gauge than Russian railways. Although nowadays it is possible to change the gauge of railcars, I'm not sure it was possible then, let alone regauging engines. German railways in Russia was a half-baked mess of regauged railways and scavenged Russian equipment pressed into service.

    I know some Finnish/Nordic railways ran some smaller steam engines on wood for quite a white, but my understanding is that by WWI, definitely by WWII, everyone had converted their steam engines to run on coal. Wood is not a very good fuel for steam engines as it places severe constraints on the design of the firebox, generates a lot more ash than coal (which affects the strength of the fire), and does not generate as much heat as coal. Switching from wood to coal burning is a pretty substantial change, especially as European steam engines tended to very tight design parameters to maximize efficiency.
     
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  6. r16

    r16 not deity

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    thanks for the corrections . ı would then change maintenance intensive to diesels being new , while steam was around more than a century , meaning the Germans should have dieselized like hell , but well , they went to war for resources in the final analysis . In a time of war context , perhaps it would be wrong to travel in the dark , with Partizans in the East numbering hundreds of thousands .

    ı have muddled through the links and ı would say the 80 kilometers spacing of the Russian railroads would make sense . They lack signals so if their drivers were to be assigned to specific locations they would know the bends and the curves and would slow down for safety and accelarate for delivery efficiency on their own . ı am some Mediterrenean type of guy and every place up North of us is cold in winter and ı have always trouble in accepting Russia could be far colder than Germany . As such the author practically maintains destruction of those sheds so that "weaker" German engines would have burst pipes in the morning as a war winning move .
     
  7. r16

    r16 not deity

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  8. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    Thanks, that seems an interesting read! I do like the point the make at the start about the usefulness of (steam-engine) rail because cola was more plentiful than oil. Now I'm also wondering whether the endurance of steam trains in many countries well into the diesel and electric engines era had to do with strategic considerations more than simply the cost of replacing all the engines.
     
  9. r16

    r16 not deity

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    ah yes , lost my post just before posting ! A good thing too , because it allows me correct my mistakes .

    it is this offtopic thread on why America is so powerful and whatnot . As when the non-steam locomotives matured it was only America that could decide to replace Steam totally . Which it "didn't" , some railroads were building their own , trains aka mass transit are/is a Commie thing against this "car culture" and it could resonably be expected that trucks would eventually would replace the fixed route railways with the flexibility of the door to door deliveries . All other countries were either poor or too much hurt in the Great War . ln the American experience the leading diesel manufacturer was naturally a car company , making money until the last trains , while the top Steam manufacturer trialled one diesel electric and returned to old ways ; makes one imagine of the subtle influencing things . That railroads survived in the US is a function of electric production which replaced expensive and quality coal from deep mines with surface mining in central US or whatever . Less quality but much cheaper . Also needs rail . Wikipedia page on steam locomotives surprised me a bit . Last Chinese production was in 1999 though that is like for tourist operations or something . Apparently Russians would keep Steam but in 1956 the guy responsible disappeared , no doubt for being a Stalinist and they apparently still keep a thousand for emergency use . Or used to , until 1994 .
     
  10. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    These things are going to depend on a lot of factors, and will be different from situation to situation. Having to guard your transport machines will be dependent on whether the enemy has forces, or partisans, with some ability to attack your units. But even in the most remote places you'd need some security, because the enemy might try to attack you with a long range patrol.

    I don't know schedule for maintenance on a locomotive. But as with any machine, when worked hard, or when worked in difficult conditions, it will need maintenance more often. And the older and more worn the machines, the more that that will be true. The Germans were badly overextended in their rail capacity. That leads to far more intensive use for the machines, which in turn means more repairs.

    As to trucks, how good are the roads? I only read the introduction there, but it's not just fuel and cargo. The further you go, the more supplies for the men and machines of all types. Tires of the day weren't that durable. All parts of the machines would suffer regular breakdowns. The convoy would have to have the capacity to work on all of these things all the time. It adds up. And the more it adds up, the harder it is to keep moving the cargo.
     
  11. Yeekim

    Yeekim Deity

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    Sounds counter-intuitive, where did you get this?
     
  12. r16

    r16 not deity

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    western warhorse intented to carry the heavy knight and becoming a tradition of sorts , eats only certain sorts of food or feed which you have to carry around . Eastern archer's horse , small , so small that your feet will almost touch the ground while riding , eats anything and if it dies everybody brings a spare or two anyhow ...
     
  13. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    Several books with calculations about the amounts of feed required for horses. If they can't live off the land then even with wagons there comes a point where the feed carried by a supply train cannot even sustain the supply train itself. I just don't know how common it was for an army to push against these limits.
    @r16 makes a good point about some horses from the steppes being better able to live from the land: it'll depend on the kind of hose an army used. The byzantines and some of the iranian empires used heavy cavalry in large horses, I suppose?

    Cavalry soldiers fighting dismounted could be a matter of tactics also. Did the english choose to meet the french as infantry in some of the hundred years war battles?
     
  14. Yeekim

    Yeekim Deity

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    But under such difficult conditions, how does infantry sustain itself? I'd expect cavalry to be markedly more efficient in looting/procuring food... both for people and for horses. And when that gamble fails, people can still eat horses. Leaving them behind from the outset (but still going ahead with only infantry, rather than postponing the entire campaign) might only make sense in some very rare/specific scenario.
     
  15. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    The idea, I think, is that you need x wagons of food in your supply train to feed an infantry army, but x+y wagons to feed the men and the horses. Or, if you were marching into a region and planning on living from captured or bought supplies, there might be food enough there to feed 10000 soldiers, but not 10000 soldiers and 10000 horses?
     
  16. EnglishEdward

    EnglishEdward Deity

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    I read the first paper.

    The author(s) seems to have assumed that the use of the captured eastern european railways would have worked
    better if only the German civilian railway, rather than the military, authority had been put in charge from the outset.
    There may be some truth in that, but it seems to reflect the sources of the information so it is certainly not unbiased.
    The reputational rubbishing of the Russian railways was a convenient excuse for their failures to maintain what they captured.

    Obviously the locomotives in occupied Eastern Europe would require protection overnight to stop them being
    sabotaged from partisan attacks or just ad hoc acts of local resistance. Steam engine locomotives were tied to
    specific stretches of tracks. The most important restriction was that imposed by the gauges of the track.
    There were two gauges, rail separation and overhead gauges. The rail gauge was more critical as a locomotive
    could only run on tracks with the same separation as the locomotive wheels, whereas a smaller German train
    could fit through a tunnel designed for a larger Soviet train. There were probably other considerations such as
    specialised maintenance equipment, supply of spare parts and engineers and workers familiar with maintaining
    particular types, but a skilled workforce would have been able to maintain foreign engines albeit just not so easily.
    The destruction of bridges also had the effect of partitioning a countries captured rail capability into segments.

    What is not mentioned is the human factor. On the Soviet side the majority of the workers were not oppressed
    prisoners, but civilians motivated by (a) top down Bolshevik rhetoric no doubt promulgated by a commissioner
    (b) bottom up worker soviets where those with relevant expertise could contribute and (c) genuine annoyance at the
    invasion of their country. Such a labour force could organically work together and intelligently address challenges.

    Whereas in the occupied territories it was a hodge podge mix of forced labour speaking various languages
    working only to avoid starvation, being shot or the execution of hostages. That sort of workforce would no doubt
    try to do what it was told by the Wehrmacht/SS soldier, but it was hardly likely to seek out and volunteer the best ideas.

    One can compare this with factory production: UK, US and USSR factories staffed by women
    frequently outperformed German factories staffed with a few engineers but mainly forced labour.


    Road transport requires fuel. The further one is from a refuel point, the more full one must carry with you.
    Either as petrol cans in the lorry itself or by being accompanied by tankers. Remember the old jokes.
    What is the difference between a fanatical Nazi and an ordinary Nazi or a fanatical tank and an ordinary tank.
    The fanatical Nazi has not yet run out of ammunition, and the fanatical tank has not yet run out of petrol.
    One of the reasons the US switched to gas turbine tanks is that the turbine was more efficient than the
    intenal combustion engine both in terms of top speed and range. Conditon of terrain matters.
    If it is rugged or swampy, the only route for non tracked vehicles may be rather convoluted with the
    distance travelled in practice being very much more than the separation between start and target end points.

    Horses could live off the land quite comfortably where there was grass or even better tasty crops planted.
    Where horse were a hindrance was where there was no such food, snow (Napoleon and Moscow)
    or desert (camels can be better) or mountains with very steep slopes and less forage.

    Therefore cavalry were impacted by climate and season, far more than rail or road vehicles.

    I was told that:

    (a) Grunts do what they are told
    (b) NCOs and junior officers study tactics
    (c) Seniors officers study strategy
    (d) Generals and commanders in chief study logistics.
     
  17. r16

    r16 not deity

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    gas turbine on the M-1 to provide faster tactical accelaration and perhaps maintain a "combat speed" of 20 miles per hour . They have tried a couple of times to get back to diesels , because the latter are far economical . And this is not trivial , not in terms of the dollar cost of the fuel , but the amount you have move forward in a combat zone .
     
  18. EnglishEdward

    EnglishEdward Deity

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    My understanding is that the reason the USA would like to be able to use diesel engines in its
    Abrams MBT family is so that they do not have to deploy a full separate supply chain in the field for
    them, whenever they might wish to quickly deploy them in small numbers to support other units.
    It is not just the expense, there is a fuel supply vulnerability issue that has minimum costs to address.
     
  19. r16

    r16 not deity

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    just had to check wikipedia to see the M-1 has indeed this "multifuel" engine and 1500 hp diesels will certainly need their own spares requirements .
     
  20. EnglishEdward

    EnglishEdward Deity

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    Thank you. I have reread the wiki article. I had overlooked that diesel could indeed be
    one of the multi-fuels and was thinking in terms of a diesel internal combustion engine.
     

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