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What did the SS think about the American Jeep in WW2?

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Wars are won by logistics https://logisticsinwar.com/




The entire German war-fighting edifice — the Waffen-SS, the Wehrmacht, and the National Socialist militia (Volksturm) — loved and coveted the jeep because they all were chronically short of motorized transport. Even SS panzer divisions, which were generally better equipped than their Heer counterparts, had fewer vehicles than a typical American infantry division. Whenever the opportunity to capture an intact jeep presented itself, it was taken. Occasionally, the newly acquired Beutefahrzeug (loot vehicle) would be pressed into immediate service by the capturing unit, sometimes with a splash of paint to show its new loyalty,

but more often it would be sent to the rear for Waffenamt (the Wehrmacht ordnance branch) evaluation and issuance.

In one case this German reuse of captured jeeps was considered vital to the final victory over the Allies in the West. In December 1944 the 6th SS-Panzer Army had under its order of battle a unit known as Panzer Brigade 150. Its name was a deception as its purpose was not armored combat. Panzer Brigade 150, though under the command of SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny,

was not a strictly SS formation. It contained personnel from many branches of the German military, including former merchant seamen serving in the Kriegsmarine. Their most important military skill was knowledge of American English. The brigade was tasked with the penetration of American frontlines in the Losheim Gap area on the German-Belgian border, which was to be accomplished by stealth and not by force of arms using captured American uniforms, equipment, and vehicles worn and used by English-speaking Germans to buff their way past American roadblocks and checkpoints. Once past the American front lines Panzer Brigade 150 was to capture and hold bridges needed by Army Group B to cross the River Meuse and proceed to its strategic objective, Antwerp.

The excellent mobility of the American jeep, as well as its ubiquity in the rear areas of any Allied army group, was crucial to Skorzeny’s mission. His command included tanks, American M4s and a few German tanks roughly disguised as American, but he could not count on them. His Sherman tanks were in poor repair and his disguised Panthers and Stugs were unlikely to fool anyone other than the greenest GI who saw them “from a distance at night”. Getting his men to their objectives would be a task for his jeeps.

Unfortunately for Unternehmen Greif, the codename for Panzer Brigade 150’s mission, Skorzeny was a much better commando than an expert in American military procedures. The German equivalent of the jeep seated four and was normally manned by four. The jeep had four seats as well, consequently, Skorzeny assumed four men should ride in each of his jeeps. However, normal American practice was to assign two to a jeep or occasionally three. Four was abnormal, and once alerted to the deception the Americans opened fire on any jeep carrying four. Unternehmen Greif was a complete failure in that none of its objective bridges were even reached, let alone captured and held, and Otto Skorzeny’s misapplication of the jeep contributed to that failure.

Like the Heer, the Waffen-SS had their own vehicle that filled the role of the jeep (formally the Truck, 1⁄4-ton, 4×4, Command Reconnaissance) in the Allied forces known as the Kübelwagen.

The Kübelwagen was a good vehicle. It was very useful for reconnaissance and liaison work and was surefooted and easy to service. It was certainly superior to any comparable motor vehicle in Allied service in 1939–1940. However, the Kübelwagen was inferior in most respects to the American jeep. The jeep, which was essentially a light truck designed specifically for its military role, had double the load and towing capacity of the German vehicle, which was essentially a car derived from a civilian passenger vehicle, the Porsche W30 prototype for the Volkswagen Auto für Jedermann. The jeep could do more things valuable to an army than could the German “bucket-seat car”. Every jeep came from the factory with mounts for a radio, whereas the radio-equipped Kübelwagen was a special subtype. Every jeep could serve as a field ambulance, whereas the Kübelwagen field ambulance was a subtype. Every jeep came equipped with a pintel mount for a .30-caliber or .50-caliber MG. Again, the MG-equipped Kübelwagen was a subtype. In a pinch, the jeep could pull a 155mm howitzer into combat. A Kübelwagen might do the same service for a light anti-tank gun. On top of all those comparative shortcomings, the Kübelwagen had one absolute shortcoming — scarcity. 50,435 is the official number. America produced 647,925 jeeps.



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