Introduction – The following is a brief outline of some of the things that require consideration when mobilizing a nation for Total War.
The following is based in part on the actions taken by the Germans in their efforts to win the war as well as to later reverse the tide against them. Germany was used as the basis to the following because Germany was the only country in WW II to reach the point of total mobilization of its population.
The Allies in the West mobilized on the home front only in part and predominately on a voluntary basis or attracted female workers by paying jobs that men had left behind.
On the Eastern Front the Soviets did mobilize totally but only locally in such places as Stalingrad and Leningrad. Again women were used to replace men in the factories.
Japan was on the verge of total mobilization but it did not happen as the war came to an abrupt end because of the atomic bomb.
This left only Germany as the best example of total mobilization of the civilian population in WW II.
Note that important organizations formed prior to total mobilization in 1944 are also discussed lest they be forgotten.
Tac – In December, 1941compulsory military service for women from 18 to 40 x years old was ordered (Dienstverpflichtung). These women then were absorbed into the different Wehrmact, Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe women’s auxiliary organizations.
Note that this left many healthy bodied females to do other work such as in the German Military Industrial Complex (MIC) replacing men in factories and expanding the work force required by increased military production during war.
Tac – On 29 November, 1944 all female auxiliary organizations were combined into one new Corps of Army Female Auxiliaries (Wehrmacht Helferinnen).
Recommendation – Instead of wasting time with different organizations inside each service just have one central organization
Tac – The German military found that organizing Females into military style formations was best. It was common for the following organization to be followed:
There were 11 x auxiliaries plus 1 x leader (Also Female) in a Section.
2 to 5 x Sections equaled a Platoon
2 to 4 x Platoons equaled a Company
Tac – All females were subject to military law.
Tac – Auxiliaries were permitted to wear civilian clothes until uniforms could be issued. This was often because of shortages for additional uniforms.
Tac – Ranks were different for each Auxiliary organization in all three services but always equated to military rank of the service (Wehrmacht, Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe as well as SS)
Tac – Note that in theory Women could be used for artillery if they can be used for AAA.
Tac – Auxiliary forces in Germany represented 40% of the German Armed Forces. In 1944 Auxiliaries in the German military numbered 3.8 x million.
German Mobilization for War
Tac – The main final mobilization tool of Germany was the Deutscher Volksturm Battalion. On 25 July, 1944 Hitler decreed the formation of the Deutscher Volksturm (People’s Militia) in preparation for Total War.
The plan was to create a 6 x million man Militia organized in 10,180 x Battalions.
Each battalion would have a very limited staff, logistical tail and transport.
There would also be no weapon standardization in the battalions.
Mobilization ages were from 16 to 60 years old but more senior volunteers would also be accepted.
Germany was divided into 42 x military districts. This was how the Volksturm was also divided into “Volunteer Districts”. A District usually had 21 x counties. Each county had to raise 12 x battalions.
The missions of the Volksturm were as follows:
- Surround and contain large seaborne or airborne landings until assistance arrives
- Eliminate agents and small sabotage teams sent by the enemy
- Guard bridges and key buildings and facilities
- Crush uprisings
- Plug enemy breaches of German front lines
Each Volksturm battalion had 1 x medical officer and 1 x medical orderly.
There were also Volksturm Pioneer battalions who were considered to be specialists.
The final mobilization for Total War was to take shape in four phases or “Levies” of recruitment. The recruitment was to be controlled by the SA – Sturm Abteilung (Brown Shirts)
First Levy – Those 20 to 60 x years of age without Essential War Exemption were to be recruited. This amounted to 1.2 x million men in 1,850 x battalions. The First levy could be assigned anywhere required.
Second Levy – Those 20 to 60 x years of age with Essential War Exemption. Most of these were organized in their respective factories. The Second Levy was only liable for service in their county and only as the enemy approached nearer. The advantage was that they knew the terrain intimately but that they would be used in a piecemeal fashion of sorts. This Second Levy amounted to 2.8 x million men in 4,860 x battalions.
Third Levy – Hitler Jugend between 16 to 19 x years old. Volunteers at age 15 were accepted with parent’s permission or dependent on how close their 16th birthday was.
This amounted to 600,000 x boys in 1,040 x battalions to be used anywhere in the front line. For the most part no weapons were issued to the Third Levy except for Panzerfausts and some Panzerschrechts.
The HJ were expected to capture their weapons from the enemy.
Fourth Levy – Volunteers over 60 plus those unfit for military service and anyone not yet conscripted between 20 and 60 x years old. This amounted to 1.4 x million men in 2,430 x battalions. The Fourth Levy was meant to perform simple military functions such as standing guard and was not meant to fight in the front lines despite the fact that this did happen. These men were to relieve soldiers capable of fighting from rear area security in order to join their comrades in the front lines. The Fourth Levy was issued with hunting rifles and captured enemy weapons.
Those that did not receive weapons in the Third and Fourth Levies were issued with a trench spade which they were instructed to use as a close range weapon.
There are a few interesting points to be made here:
- There were barely enough weapons for the First and Second Levies but not the Third and Fourth. This meant that many in the Third and Fourth Levies went to war without weapons. This was also the reason why when the Hitler Jugend (HJ) were called up as part of the Third Levy were often issued with Panzerfaust Anti-Tank weapons and then formed the famous HJ tank hunting teams as part of the Volksturm battalions.
Each Volksturm battalion eventually had 3 x 5 x HJ tank hunting teams Each HJ was equipped with 2 x Panzerfaust.
- The last weapons issued to Volksturm battalions were on 23 March, 1945. This means that from that point on the Volksturm battalions were literally on their own in regards to military supply. The war ended on 8 May, 1945. Six weeks after the last weapons were handed out.
- After July, 1944 there were 8 x defensive lines built in the East. By January, 1945 these lines were manned by Volksturm.
- By the time the Allies arrived on German soil in the fall of 1944 the Volsturm had organized themselves into Divisions but still using the Battalion as the main building block.
- There were Volksturm Combat Engineer Demolition Companiesformed
- There were Volksturm Combat Engineer Barrier Companiesformed
- Fortress Battalions – This was the name given to those Volksturm battalions that occupied defensive lines.
- The Volksturm also were usually the main force left behind in regards to city defense. An example of this would be the Volkdturm division that had the responsibility of defending the surrounded German city of Aachen with only the 1 x Waffen SS Battalion and 1 x Luftwaffe Paratroop Company and a few tanks. The Volksturm provided city garrisons.
- The amount of training given to Volsturm soldiers was 48 x hours during which time they were expected to learn the following:
- Infantry Tactics
- Tank Hunting Tactics
- Rifle Shooting
- Grenade Launchers
- Hand Grenades
- Machine Pistol
- Land Mine placement and activation
- There were 11 x Volksturm Machine Gun Battalions formed using captured enemy machine guns.
- On 12 January, 1945, 156 x Soviet Divisions attacked on the Eastern Front and were only stopped on 24 February, 1945 on the Oder-Neisie River Defensive Line. This led to a mass exodus of German refugees and others from the Baltic States in an attempt to reach Germany and in some cases to reach Allied troops in the West. 3 x million refugees were escorted by Volksturm battalions as the columns were harassed by Polish AK – Armija Krajova – partisans. 750,000 x refugees died on this march.
In the meantime the western Allies had breached the West Wall on 8 February, 1945 and were fighting across Germany as the soviets advanced from the east.
- The final Soviet offensive came in 16 April, 1945. By 25 April, 1945 Berlin was surrounded by Soviet troops. There were only 41,000 x German troops of all different calibers protecting Berlin. This included Volksturm Battalions including mostly from the Second and Third Levies. Out of the 41,000 x soldiers defending Berlin 24,000 x soldiers were Volksturm.
(The surrounded garrison in Breslau had 45,000 x troops of which 25,000 x soldiers were Volksturm)
- There were insufficient uniforms for the Fourth Levy and therefore they wore civilian clothes and an arm band as per the Geneva Conventions.
- In the West Volksturm soldiers did not fight hard. But in the East against the soviets they were ferocious in order to give refugees time to get away.
- There were also volunteer female Volksturm close to the end of the war. Many German women believed it would be better to die fighting than fall into the hands of the Soviet Red Army. This is why they joined the Volksturm. Note that this was unexpected and therefore no prior preparations had been made for this eventuality.
Note – The Western Allies met the soviets on 7 May, 1945. The war in Europe ended on 8 May, 1945.
Appendix – Interesting Volunteer Organizations Prior to War – German
Tac – The Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD) (State Labor Service) was formed in April, 1925.
Conscription into RAD for a period of 6 x months prior to two years of military conscripted service became law in 1935.
RAD was organized into Divisions with their own HQ commanded by the equivalent of a Brigadier General. Each Division had 8 x battalions each with 1,200 to 1,800 x men. A battalion was commanded by a major of Lt. Col. A captain commanded a company of 4 x platoons of 69 x men each plus a HQ staff of six. Each platoon was divided into 3 x sections of 17 x men each.
They were issued with shovels and told to use them as weapons if required. Transport was by bicycle.
RAD built roads, bridges, railways, tunnels, fortifications such as the Ostwall and supported Organization Todt.
It was free labor for the State. The reason for RAD was cited as the preparation of youth for military service.
In 1939 there were 360,000 in 1,710 x companies in RAD.
Bu 1944 RAD youths were laying minefields and manning AAA which in those days meant direct fire against Allied tanks. Also in 1944 there was a limited issue of weapons and orders to guard certain rear lines of defense prior to their occupation.
By 1945 service time in RAD was reduced to only 6 x weeks prior to conscription.
In March, 1945 4 x RAD Divisions were formed plus 2 x Mountain Brigades. The latter did not see action but the same cannot be said for the divisions.
Tac – The NSKK (National Socialist Motor Transport Corps – Formerly SA Brown Shirts) controlled all motor transport. All trucks in the Reich were controlled by this organization.
During the war the NSKK instructed a five month driving and mechanics course for the military. 200,000 x soldiers passed through this course by the end of WW II.
A motor boat course was also taught for small lake and river craft. These went on to be part of the River Police Auxiliary patrolling rivers and lakes.
The NSKK was organized into Battalions, Regiments, Brigades and Divisions.
A Brigade had 6, 100 x men and 2,758 x vehicles (Approximately a two to one ratio is seen at all levels until 1943 representing Driver and Co-Driver and some Reserve Drivers)
Units could be found in North Africa, Finland, Norway, Yugoslavia in support of every German Service (Wehrmacht, Kriegsmarine und Luftwaffe) except the SS.
In 1942 the NSKK had 220,000 x personnel
There were also specialists in the NSKK such as engineers, medics, security and vehicle repair shops, etc. These were usually organized in regiments.
The NSKK had its own Traffic Control service – eventually absorbed as Auxiliary Police which also patrolled roads against partisans.
The NSKK not only supplied the military with its wheeled transport but also organizations such as Todt and Speer (Same organization but two entities)
As transport dwindled and the fuel shortage became acute and the Soviets closed in around Berlin NSKK units were transformed into Deutscher Volksturm battalions.
Tac –In May, 1938 Hitler ordered Fritz Todt to build 5,000 concrete block houses for the West Wall to be completed by October, 1938. This was to make sure there were defenses against the French in case the reacted militarily when Hitler was to take Czechoslovakia in October, 1938.
Organization Todt (OT) was created by mobilizing a thousand construction firms in the Reich and organizing them into 22 x Brigades.
There were 70,000 x Todt personnel but these controlled tens of thousands of slave labor and foreign contract workers.
To complete the assignment on the West wall Organization Todt deployed:
340,000 x OT personnel
90,000 German Army Engineers
300 x RAD Companies
96,000 x trucks of the NSKK
Even so the project was not completed in time. The project was halted only in June, 1940 when the French finally surrendered.
The OT then switched to repairing roads, bridges and airfields destroyed by the French in their retreat, etc.
OT could be found in North Africa as well as on the Eastern Front.
Todt died in a mysterious airplane crash on 8 February, 1942 and was replaced by Albert Speer.
In November, 1944 the OT had 1.36 x million men (165,000 x POWs) (140,000 x petty criminals)
In Italy the OT helped to build the Gothic Line. In the West the OT helped to build the Atlantic Wall.
In the withdrawal OT had two main responsibilities:
- Destroy installations so that nothing would be left for use by the enemy
- Build new defensive lines
This they continued to do to the best of their ability until the end of the war. Some OT higher commanders were brought to trial over the use of slave labor.
Tac – Merchant Marine – These are commercial ships that import and export goods during peace time which become an auxiliary force during wartime. All countries have this option.
Appendix – Interesting Volunteer Organizations Prior to War – United States
Tac – Boy Scout leaders were recruited by the US Army for its “Tactical Schools” to teach survival, camouflage, stalking and tracking.
Tac – One interesting organization in regards to US mobilization during World War II was the Maritime Services which were part of the US Army’s Army Transport Service (ATS). These were supply ships that belonged to the Army not the Navy or Merchant Marine. The sailors and officers on these ships were all civilian volunteers.
Tac – Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was a civilian organization that supported US Army Air Force activities at home. A good portion of those in CAP were civilian pilots and many had their own planes. Their volunteer duties included:
- Border Patrols
- Anti-Sabotage Patrols along the coast line and elsewhere
- Target towing for the USAAF
- SAR – search and Rescue
- By 29 April, 1944 there were over 75,000 x civilians in CAP
There was also a need for observers.
It must be remembered that additional maintenance personnel were required and a plane may spend 24 x hours in the air depending on crew/pilot and fuel availability.
Many of the volunteers for CAP were female pilots. It must be remembered that flying for women had just been encouraged prior to the war by the famous American female pilot Amelia Earhart.
4 x CAP members were KIA.
Note that there was a similar volunteer organization in Britain under the wing of the RAF.
Tac – Relief Air Service was also known as the Relief Wing. This civilian volunteer organization was formed to provide Air Ambulance services, fly in relief supplies and relief workers in emergencies in the Continental USA. It was a humanitarian air service complete with volunteer doctors and nurses. Again women volunteers were to play an important part in WW II.
Tac – The US Coast Guard becomes part of the US Navy in war time. It was no different in WW II. The US Coast Guard Auxiliary was formed initially from those who owned small craft such as motor boats and yachts. These volunteers would provide coastal patrols. Many of the volunteers were women who acted as crew and Captain.
Part of the Auxiliary was also the Coastal Home Guard that was land based and patrolled the beaches for spies and saboteurs. None of these positions were paid. All of the activities were voluntary although the Auxiliary were subject to military law and military discipline.
The Coastal Home Guard also provided Port Security details and patrols in 1942. The Coastal Home guard also provided a Coastal Watcher system using lookouts and other positions to watch for enemy naval activity.
There was even an authorized mounted unit for Beach Patrol on the East Coast.
By the end of the war the Coast Guard auxiliary had over 2,000 x women serving in its ranks.
However, it must be noted that there were 65, 533 x men that were serving in the US Coast Guard Auxiliary by the end of the war.
Note that the US Coast Guard Auxiliary proved their worth especially in 1942 and 1943 when U-boats were operating off the Atlantic coast saving many lives of sailors in the sea because of this U-Boast activity.
Note that this can easily be a Navy Auxiliary instead of a Coast Guard Auxiliary. Remember that the US Coast Guard is part of the UIS Navy in war time.
Appendix – Other Tactics
Tac – Taxis were used as rapid transport for mobilized troops to get them to the front in both WW I and WW II. Postal trucks can be used in emergency as can be city and inter-city buses, trains and boats such as hydrofoils on rivers, etc.
City maintenance personnel and vehicles come in handy for road repair, etc.
Ukrainian Women’s Guard