Army without Baggage

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

The Russians were, from a German perspective, an army without baggage:

It is characteristic of the Russians that even their armored divisions have far fewer vehicles than those of Western Powers. It would be wrong to attribute this to lack of productivity in the Russian motor industry, for even infantry division with horse-drawn transport have a low complement of animals and wagons. Moreover, the strength returns of any Russian regiment or division are much lower than those of Western armies. But in any Russian formation the strength returns of the actual fighting troops are relatively the same as in the West, for they have far fewer men in their supply columns and administrative units.
Similarly the supply columns of the Red Army do not have to worry about clothing, thents, blankets and many other itesm regarded as essential in the WEst; during an advacne they can afford to forget about rations, for the troops “live on the country.” the chief task of teh supply columns is the movement of gasoline and ammunition, and even these items are frequently packed on what a Western army calls “fighting vehicles.” In a Russian motorized division, the soldier has no luggage apart from what he carries on his person. Somehow or other he squeezes on to a vehicle packed with gasoline or ammunition.

The scarcity of vehicles has a dual effect, tactical, and psychological. Because the number of vehicles in a motorized division is much lower than in the West, the division is far more mobile; it is easier to handle, to camouflage, or to move by rail. the psychological aspect is also interesting. Every Western soldier is linked somehow or other with his rearward services; they bring him the sustenance and comforts which make his hard life bearable. When a unit is “rubbed out” in battle, the survivors usually cluster around the field kitchen or baggage train to seek refuge and solace. Even the shirker or the shell-shocked usually reappears at this focus on one pretext or another. There is nothing like that for a Russian. He has only his weapons, and there are no attractions for him in the rear. There is no field kitchen and no baggage train; his refuge is his gun, his tank, or his machine gun. If he loses them he has lost his home; if he wanders into the rear he will be rounded up sooner or later by the patrols of the MVD.

(From Panzer Battles.)

Leave a Reply