Blogs by Edeltraud F. Fellendorf
WWII -- THE HORSE'S ROLE IN HITLER'S THIRD REICH
1/16/2010 4:07:11 PM
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When you think of Hitler invading countries like Poland, Russia and France, don’t you picture a great modern mechanized army with tanks and artillery rolling through? Well, it looks like Germany not only rolled through these countries; it did a lot of two and four-legged stomping as well. In fact, more stomping took place than rolling, according to the numbers (Intelligence Bulletin, 1946).
As Mom writes, I often research any supporting facts that will clarify her experiences for readers. One of the things I’ve been trying to track down is the unit to which my Grandfather was attached. I know he was an officer in the Calvary. According to Mom, the unit dissolved and he became a regular infantry unit. Almost all of the family’s documents were buried before the Russians took Berlin so there are no papers I can look at pertaining to my Grandfather’s role in the Army. I do, however, know where everything’s located and hope to return to Germany one day and get permission to unbury them.
Germany began the war with only one cavalry unit, the First Cavalry Division, which my Grandfather must have been a part of since he was drafted in 1949 as a cavalry officer. The First Cavalry Division later became the 24th Panzer Division. The infantry part doesn’t make sense, but it could explain Mom’s comment about her Father. In my research, I also discovered some interesting facts about the Third Reich’s cavalry that I’d like to share with you.
The restrictions placed on Germany’s military forces under the Treaty of Versailles prevented it from developing a more powerful mechanized force. Calvary units were not regulated by the treaty so no restrictions were placed upon them; therefore, the First Cavalry Division was able to expand uninhibited.
Germany did not start to rearm until Hitler was firmly in power in the mid 1930s. It wasn’t until then that it started shifting industry to produce armament. It is surprising how many tanks, artillery, and aircraft were added to the order of battle in such a short period of time. Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough so the cavalry was used quite extensively as mounted infantry units.
Other interesting facts I discovered (Wordpress, 2008):
- In 1941, Germany invaded Russia with over 750,000 horse-drawn artillery and other types of fighting equipment. It only mustered 600,000 motorized vehicles for the fight.
- The role of the cavalry grew due to the invasion of Russia. Russia’s unique environment was not conducive to motorized vehicles. This prompted Germany to create more cavalry units to get around things such as thick forests. By the end of the war, Germany had amassed seven cavalry units.
- Considering the advancements made in technology, you’ll be surprised to know that more horses were used in WWII than WWI.
- An estimated 2.1 million horses died during the war. That’s almost twice as many that were lost in WWI. This number includes horses that were slaughtered to feed starving German troops.
- Other sad stats include the following:
“And since horses and mules are not as sturdy as cars and trucks, during the war on the Eastern front the German Army lost an average of 1,000 horses a day. About 75 percent of these losses were due to combat, 17 percent to heart failure brought on by overwork, and the balance, 8 percent, to diseases, exposure, and starvation” (Wordpress, 2008).
Does anyone else have research or information they’d like to pass on? If so, please email me at prg8681.aol.com.
Intelligence Bulletin. (1946, March). German Horse Cavalry and Transport. In Lone Sentry. Retrieved from http://www.lonesentry.com/articles/germanhorse/index.html
Wordpress. (2008, February 26). The Horse in the German Army in WWII. Retrieved from http://warandgame.wordpress.com/2008/02/26/the-horse-in-the-german-army-in-wwii/
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