Monday, May 27, 2013

German vs Allied losses – Italian front

One of the books I reviewed recently was the single volume history of the Italian campaign ‘A Hard Way to Make a War: The Allied Campaign in Italy in the Second World War’. That book says in page 326 about casualties:

The casualty figures also are fairly balanced:
Allied killed, wounded, missing (September 1943 - May 1945) 312,000 (188,746 Fifth Army/ 123,254 approx in Eighth Army)

German killed, wounded, missing 434,646 (48,067 killed, 172,531 wounded, 214,048 missing)

That part has always bugged me! Wouldn’t the fact that the Germans were constantly on the defense be reflected in the loss ratios?  (that doesn’t necessarily mean that the attacking force will always incur higher losses than the defending force)
Luckily I found interesting data in ‘Waffen und Geheimwaffen des deutschen Heeres 1933-45’. There is a table in page 314 with the monthly losses for the Italian front (killed, missing, wounded) for the period November ’43-April ’45. The numbers come to 36,362 killed, 126,474 wounded, 87,883 missing for a total of 250,719. Losses for September-October ’43 need to be added but these could not have been substantial.

Apparently the figures used by the author include troops that surrendered at the end of the war. That’s not the way combat losses are compared. If we look at combat losses during the period of actual fighting it is obvious that the casualty figures were not fairly balanced but the Germans had a slight advantage.

8 comments:

  1. "German killed, wounded, missing 434,646 (48,067 killed, 172,531 wounded, 214,048 missing)’"

    As you imply, the MkI Eyeball Test flags that virtually 50% 'missing' is implausible.

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    1. Well it definitely doesn’t fit the pattern of fighting in Italy. The Western front did see such a lopsided ratio but there we had breakthroughs by mobile units etc

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  2. Same question that Joe Public: the missing number of German, 50% of his casualty, es excesive. But the number may be correct and another explication is posible.
    POW missings.
    In France, today is public that Eissenhower changed de caracteritics of POW to "desarmed forces". These type or situacion was no cover by International War Laws. Then, Red Cross can´t enter in camps.
    Over 900.000 german prisioners died by hungry, cold, and torture in French Camps.

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    1. I think that that the author’s source counted forces that surrendered at the end of the war as missing.

      Alternatively his source was simply wrong (if it was based only on Allied estimates and not actual German reports).

      Delete
  3. I think You are right :) According archives in BA-MA Freiburg, German Land forces losses in Italy in September-October 1943 were about 1100 killed, 3600 injured and 1900 missed. It doesn't include Luftwaffe (also Fallschirmjager) and Kriegsmarine, but their losses couldn't be much higher...

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  4. The numbers you first quote

    German killed, wounded, missing 434,646 (48,067 kia, 172,531 wia, 214,048 mia)
    match closely the figures here for sept 39-May 45.

    Feldheer Casualties 1 Sep 39-20 Apr 45 (Organizationabteilung d. Gen.Stb. d. Heer, 26 Apr 45, NARA T78, R414, F3189)
    Losses in the Heer, Waffen SS, and Luftwaffe Ground Troops
    OB Süd West...48,750 kia...174,734 wia ..215,525 mia...439,009 total

    Other numbers

    Heer Casualties 9 Sep 39 – 31 Jan 1945 (KTB d. OKW, Band IV, 1509-1511)
    Losses in the Heer and Waffen SS

    OB Süd-West ...50,481 kia. 163,602 wia...194,250 mia .408,333 total


    Feldheer Casualties 22 Jun 41-10 Jan 45 (Heeresartz i. OKH, Gen.Stb. d. Heer/Gen.Qu., NARA T78, R414, F3228-3229)
    Losses in the Heer, Waffen SS, and Luftwaffe Ground Troops

    OB Süd-West........ 44,433 kia 160,106 wia 204,854 mia. 409,393 total


    Feldheer Casualties 1 Jun 44-10 Jan 45 (Heeresartz i. OKH, Gen.Stb. d. Heer/Gen.Qu., NARA T78, R414, F3228-3229)
    Losses in the Heer, Waffen SS, and Luftwaffe Ground Troops

    OB Süd-West 19,066 kia 66,066 wia 59,889 mia 145,021 total

    Remember that German casualty returns were sometimes estimates and the conflicting numbers do not mean manipulation. It all depends on the date you pick and the types of troops you list. The mia totals do not include those who surendered and a good number of MIA would be KIA/WIA.
    The Germans losses do not include those who surrendered in May 1945. It will include those who surrendered before that date.

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    1. ‘Remember that German casualty returns were sometimes estimates and the conflicting numbers do not mean manipulation’

      That’s true assuming that the person who is using to these reports knows how to evaluate them properly (meaning of special German military terms etc).

      The numbers I quoted were for the period November ’43-April ’45 because the author gives Allied casualties for September 1943 - May 1945. You quoted documents that have statistics for period 1939-45 and 1941-45. Do these cover strictly the Italian campaign?

      Also if you respond stop using ‘anonymous’. You can use a nickname (or your actual name) without having to enter an email.

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  5. Please consider writing the author to advise this important and glaring error?

    ReplyDelete