German Ammunition Acquisition & Logistics 1919-1945

There are quite a few posts on the Forum, dealing with German ammunition from this period, and the questions are often, who made this? For who? Why?The foundation to answering all these questions seems to me to be in the organization(s) that established the requirements for items of ammunition; the ones who funded these requirements; the ones who took delivery of the products and who were the eventual users who consumed this ammunition in combat or training or just carried it around.

The German organizations in this process from 1919 to 1945, and the rules and leadership who shaped what they did changed significantly during this period, and appears to me to be poorly documented. This may be because I read no German, but even in conversation with expert collectors who speak German, this organizational structure is not clear to me. Probably a good deal of this is because of my personal shortcomings.

Still, I feel strongly that we would all benefit from a better (and a common) understanding of the German ammunition ordnance organizations and functions during this period. I have recently bought and dug through quite a few books over the last few years, and most ignore or skim over these areas.

Recently I found "Handbook on German Military Forces published in March 1945 by the US War Department. Both hard copies and ecopies are available on the internet. The most useful depiction is the following chart.

This is pretty top level is really just the late WWII period. Still it makes some very important points. There were three seperate sources of ammunition requirements and orders that seem to act, from other material I have read, pretty independently, and sometimes Himmler and the SS actually operated in some competition with the Army and Albert Speer who ran the Ministry for Armament ane War Production from early in the war. In addition some activities moved from the army to Speer’s office and late in the war some moved under Himmler and the SS High Command. The depots are an important element in all this process, though they are little discussed. I assume that the OKW Depots include those that supplied both the Air Force and the Navy but this may not be true. There are some boxes that identify depots that appear to exclusively support the Air Force.

First question is where we can find a reasonably complete list of the depots? Michael Heidler in his great book on German codes identifies the codes for these depots, but I can’t find a list of these depots by service, and the products they support.

Perhaps I am all wet and this information is well documented and I just don’t know where to look and in which language it resides. In that case, please help me look in the right places. If not, then perhaps we should take the initiative and begin documenting the structure and how it evolved over the years. For example, I wonder what this chart looks like if it were in 1921, 1935 and 1940 before the creation of the organization that Speer took over in 1942.

Interested in your opinions and inputs.

Cheers,
Lew

I agree that understanding German logistics of that era are confusing, and intentionally as well, certainly in the early years. Recently received copies of Heereswaffenamt documents and reports from 1941 to 1945 and they show the competition between the SS and the WaA. It seems that Speer, in order not to make too many enemies, allowed the SS to procure their own stuff as long as it did not intervene with WaA procurements. The WaA itself was responisble for distributing to Army, Navy and Airforce and even those had their own sources. The WaA records bear US property stamps which suggest they were held at the Pentagon. Should still be over there somewhere.

Vlim, Great insights. I am going to try, over time to make some notes on the structures and would like to send them to you for review.

I just dug out Johannes Preuss’ book on codes and he has some info on what I think are munitions depots with H.Ma. L.H.Ma.etc.

Cheers,
Lew

A small arms ammunition (only!) producer had basically three organizations to deal with.
Contracts were issued by Heereswaffenamt, which also acted as agent for Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe. Late in the war this branch of Heereswaffenamt was located at Magdeburg.

Within the company premises there was usually one Abnahmestelle (acceptance office). Depending on its size it was headed by an NCO or an officer, subordinate to the Acceptance organization of Heereswaffenamt. The number assigned to this person appears on acceptance stamps, e.g. WaA 359.

The accepted production lots were sent to an ammunition depot (Munitionsanstalt, old name Artilleriedepot), nearly always by rail.

Parts supplied by other manufacturers (primers, for example) were received through Abnahmestelle, not directly from the other manufacturer.

The above is what I gathered from sporadic documents I have seen over the years regarding SAA.

JPeelen,
Thanks, that is the Waffenamt process as I understood it.

What organization did this office report to? Was it someone in the Army or was it to Speer’s organization.

I assume that Heereswaffenamt received requirements from offices in the Army, Navy or Airforce. Is this correct? what were these offices named?

Did the Herereswaffenamt also and SS requirements and if so, who in the SS did they deal with?

Below is an extract (amplified) with the basic designation of the munitions activities listed by Preuss. Which ones are related to small arms? Corrections and amplifications appreciated.

Corrections or amplifications appreciated.

Cheers,
Lew

Munitions Depots

Designations:

H.Ma. Heeres Munitionsanstalt (Army Munitions Facility)

H.N.Ma. Heeres NebenMunitionsanstalt (Army Minor Munitions Facility)

L.H.Ma. Lufthauptmunitionsansanstalt (Air Main Munitions Depot)

L. Ma. Luft Munitionsanstalt (Air Munitions Depot)

Mar.Art.Dep. Marine Artillariedepot (WK I)( Navy Artillery Depot )

Mun.L. Munitionslager (Munitions Stock or Storage Facility))

Other Munitions Facilities

WUMBA Waffen- und Mununitions beschaffungsamt (Arms and ammunition procurement office)

Lew
Gook luck your are doing good so far. I tried back in the '80 to figure out the repair parts and the repair system from production to the end user but with little success. I see the word “muntions” in your list. Does the word mean only ammunition or does it include other items such as rifles, tanks and such. Hope this does not cause your study to any great depth.
Jim Alley

Lew, I can only answer a few of your questions.
Heereswaffenamt was, like Allgemeines Heeresamt (AHA; responsible for general matters) subordinate to “Chef der Heeresrüstung und Befehlshaber des Ersatzheeres” (loosely: head of army armament and commander in chief of the army reserve), which was Generaloberst Friedrich Fromm. This position was part of Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH).
Fromm and OKH were basically invovled in the sqabbling with Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine and SS regarding resources. This took place at the political level, where no fixed rules applied. Don’t be mislead by “Oberkommando der Wehrmacht”. It was neither really in command of Wehrmacht nor had it any serious influence in armament matters. The nickname for its “Chef” Feldmarschall Keitel was lackay Keitel not without reason.
As a side note, Fromm was in the thick of 20th July 1944, being arrested by Stauffenberg because of not cooperating as expected, because he knew Hitler had survived. Later that evening he arranged that Stauffenberg and others were immediately executed by a firing squad, preventing Gestapo from “interrogating” them. Some suspected he used this opportunity to hide his earlier role in the plot. He was removed from office (notable “industrial armament expert” Heinrich Himmler succeeded him) and was imprisoned. No hard evidence against him could be found and he was executed shortly before the end of the war.
While politics remains elusive, terminology is more factual:
“Zeugamt” is a depot for things which are not weapons or ammunition related (uniforms etc.).
“haupt” is literally “main” and identifies a depot with more responsilbilities than a normal depot.
“neben” is the opposite: a minor installation.
It is known that some depots specialized (in V1 flying bombs, for example) but I have not seen anything indicating specialization regarding small arms ammunition.
“Wumba” (at the time not written WUMBA) is indeed “Waffen- und Munitions-Beschaffungsamt”. It was created during the latter half of WW1 to reorganize the procurement process.
“Füllstelle/Füllanlage” was an installation where in particular bombs were filled with high explosives. The filling of shells happened in the artillery depots, as far as I know. I do not know if there is any difference between -stelle (facility) and -anlage (plant). I encountered mostly Füllstelle.

Thanks! I have edited the list of facilities above to those that are more relevant.

Does anyone know the designation used by the SS munition depots? Preuss lists eleven pages of military depots but none of them are shown as associated with the SS. Does anyone know of the location/name of a SS munitions depot?

Cheers,
Lew

Here is an example of a report what this factory made. A so called “Tätigkeitsbericht”.
This is from the first until the 10th of April 1940 from the 7,9 manufacturer; P491 / fer.
They had to make 5 Million rounds in this month. In these reported 10 days, 1 666 667 rounds, and they made only 585 000 round.

The reason they made less was a not usable iron delivery.

Lew, the interesting part is bottom left.
The address they must reported the amount of ammo they made.

Dutch,
Very interesting! sent to:
Army Major Overssteller
Wa F Rü 3, Group III

Clearly reporting to the Army Hq in the Chief of Ordnance office.

What have I missed???

Lew

Dutch,
thanks a lot for sharing this very interesting document.
Lew,
Fraktur letters are easy to confuse, even for Germans. It is:
Major Obersteller
Wa J Rü 3 [J Rü for Industrielle Rüstung (industrial amament) in the typical use of J for I].

Edit: On July 1st, 1941, the Heereswaffenamt had the following main directorates (Amtsgruppen):
Wa Z - Zentrale Amtsgruppe (central administration), including Wa F - Forschung (research)
Wa Prüf - Entwicklung und Prüfung (development and test)
Wa J Rü (WuG) - Industrielle Rüstung Waffen und Gerät (armament and equipment)
Wa J Rü (Mun) - ditto ammunition
Wa Abn - Abnahme (acceptance)
Wa Chef Ing - Chefingenieur (chief engineer) including Wa Ro - Rohstoffe (raw materials)

I knew it was somewhere.
This is the instruction from OKH how the reporting from ammunition must be done after October 1st 1939.

The instruction is that Berlin want to have each 10 day’s a report.
The 10th, 20th and the end of the month on 18.00 hour must be giving to the “Abnahmestelle”.
They will send it to Berlin immediately. The examples are two forms, for different orders, they made in the first “decade” (10 day’s) of January 1943.

Somewhere in 1942 they used a different form.
On the right side from the order number they make a note were the order came from.
In this case, top “heer” bottom “luft”.

Dutch,
again many thanks for sharing something that is very hard to come by.

All,
before someone gets over-enthusiastic I would like to point out that “SS” preceding the Auftrags-Nr (contract number) is the priority of that contract and has nothing to do with the SS. First priority S, then SS were introduced, later DE, due to the inflation of priority assignment.

Dutch,
Great stuff! Many thanks.

The key point for me is the top right block on the form that gives three choices for who the order came from, “heer”, “marine” and “luft”. This makes i very clear that Wa J Rü (Mun) 4 only dealt with ammunition for the three military services and indicating that OKH had nothing to do with ammunition ordered by other organizations, either the SS or any of its associated organizations.

It is not clear to me exactly who Wa J Rü (Mun) worked for. I believe they were part of OKH. Were they part of Raw Materials Branch and a Contracts and Cost Control Branch of the Economic Office? Both of these offices were transferred to the Ministry of Armament and War Production under Todt/Speer. Or were they under OKW and not under the direct control of the Ministry of Armament and War Production???

There is some very interesting information in the Ordnance Industry Report by the Strategic Bombing Survey, It is attached below. I have not had time to really study it in detail. A quick look didn’t find any reference to SS/NSDAP munitions activity.

Does any one have any insights into the SS/NSDAP acquisition of ammunition, particularly small arms ammunition, including the SS munition depots?

Thanks for the great help.

Cheers,
Lew

Lew, in the “Edit:” postscript to my message (#10) I had listed the 6 main directorates of Heereswaffenamt, Wa J Rü (Mun) among them. The hierarchy was:
Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) -> Chef H Rü und BdE (short BdE, Generaloberst Fromm) -> Heereswaffenamt (General Becker, succeeded by General Leeb) -> Wa J Rü (main directorate of Heereswaffenamt).
When a letterhead does use “Wa J Rü”, it is the official(!) abbreviation for Heereswaffenamt (Wa) followed by the originating main directorate (J Rü) within the Heereswaffenamt. This is an abbreviation no other Wehrmacht unit was authorized to use.
So the letterhead, via these officially assigned abbreviations, reflects the entire hierarchy and does in no way indicate that Wa J Rü would hold any special position outside orgaizational red tape as you seem to believe.

P.S. Do you know the German name of what you call “economic office”? Then we could try to find out which organization it belonged to.

Small edition to @JPeelen

About the cartridges with an SS head stamp.

These were not official cartridges from the “Wehrmacht”. It was a civil order from the SS but made to military Specs.
At this time they had to order and pay for there guns and ammunition.
If you order an amount of ammo, you can also decide what kind of head stamp comes on the cartridge.
In 1938 DWM made this cartridge with a head stamp; DWM 1938 SS and DWM 1938 SS-TV.
In 1939 an unknown manufacturer made a cartridge with a 1939 SS TV head stamp. Normally found as a blank 33. We think these were from a cancelled order because in 1939 the Germans occupied the Czech and Slovakian plants and the SS took what they need.
The “S” cartridge was perfectly for the VZ23 rifles they took from the depots.
They did not need the sS rounds anymore they had to buy.

About 10 years ago in Russia a couple of 1939 sS (Heavy ball) rounds were found in a MG belt.
This means, some of them must be send as ball ammo to the ordering organisation.

Rgds



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Thank you Dutch. One of your fellow countrymen offered me one when I visited the meeting at Hessisch-Oldendorf for the first time. I didn’t ask for the price.
The concentration camp guard units were later merged into Waffen-SS. This could in my view explain some old ammunition showng up in combat.

JPeelen,
Thanks for your input.

The two branches I mentioned were in OKW, no OKH. I have found the correct charts. They were
Raw Materials Branch (Rohstaffabteilung-RO) Contracts and Cost Control Branch (Vertrags-und Preipriilwesen-Preisprs). Both wereput under the control of Speer’s organization. I also found where Wa J Rü (Mun) fit in OKH.

Cheers,
Lew

I have started with the Army manual I mentioned above and pulled out the ammunition related information including a good deal of the backup to put the info into context. I have highlighted in yellow the parts most relevant to ammunition.

I also included a lot on the SS because I suspect most of us have a general idea of how the German army was organized since it was similar to all other armies. I included more detail on the SS since most of that is new to me and probably to a number of other members of the Forum.

Then I expanded it with bits of information from this topic as an example of how this can be expanded into much more detail. Another obvious expansion is the SS ammunition and boxes pictured above by mentioning it in the approprate place in document and adding these images and Dutch’s words into another Appendix.

Feel free to make recommendations, corrections and offer opinions. I would particularly like to see more on the SS munitions depots, etc.

Cheers,
Lew

German Munition Organization-28Sep19.pdf (3.2 MB)

Lew, I am impressed.
Many thanks!!!