In his memoirs (text in Russian), Marshal Aleksandr Vasilevsky claims the following (emphasis added by me):

I will note in passing that in terms of munitions consumption the East Prussian operation had no equal in the history of wars. The two fronts received 13.3 million shells, 620 million bullets and 2.2 million hand-grenades. During the 13-14 of January alone, the troops of the 3rd Belorussian front consumed over 1000 railcars of munitions, while 2nd Belorussian used 950 cars on the 14th. Altogether, both fronts received 15,000 railcars of munitions. For their transfer from the railcars to the troops (via 2.5 tonne road vehicles), approximately 100,000 automobiles were required.

Is it possible to substantiate this claim? Of course, the quote does not precisely define what length of time is meant by the "operation", nor the exact tonnage (it is unclear what is meant by the 100k trucks) or caliber of the shells.

My immediate thoughts would be to compare this with the great barrages of WWI, when according to Wikipedia for example, 2 million shells were used in about a week by each side at Verdun and similar numbers at the Somme. In WWII, El Alamein seems too small to compare and I can't find aggregate numbers for total tank/shore bombardment/close air support during Overlord. Presumably Vasilevsky was able to discount other Soviet operations in Eastern/Northern Europe, Manchuria and possibly also those of Tsarist Russia as surpassing East Prussia.

edit: I had initially neglected, and a commenter pointed out, that Operation Rolling Thunder (complete by the time Vasilevsky wrote his memoirs in 1978) would almost certainly have exceeded the total tonnage. This also raises the question of whether the Marshal meant sum or the rate of consumption.

  • 2
    The claim of 100,000 automobiles seems ridiculously high, by 1 or even 1.5 order of magnitude. Given 2 or 3 round trips per day from rail head to troops, it clearly does not require 100 vehicles per full railcar. When one number is so badly off, one immediately suspects that the author has either miscalculated, or misunderstood an upstream source. Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 0:27
  • Well 4 million in a week at Verdun is more than 13.3 million over 3 months? Interesting question, and hard to find useful data quickly. If you count aircraft bombs also then I would have thought Vietnam would be in the top.
    – Tomas By
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 0:29
  • @Pieter: it's 6.7 automobile loads per railway car load, which does not seem unreasonable.
    – Tomas By
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 0:33
  • @PieterGeerkens As pointed out, the language is not clear: could the automobiles have been "reused", i.e. it means automobile trips. I think the "automobile" in particular is the Studebaker 2.5 ton (the memoirs, however, are almost certainly assumed to be metric) Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 0:37
  • 1
    Yeah, according to wiki the Soviets had 1.7 million troops...one truck for every 17 men seems really high. As for the munitions, honestly it doesn't sound unreasonable. Note that the Normandy Invasions were an order of magnitude smaller...only 150,000 or so Allied forces were part of the initial invasion. So while the fighting was utterly brutal, ammunition expended would have been much less. The other candidates would have been Kursk or Stalingrad, and Vasilevsky likely knew something about those battles.
    – user15620
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 3:58


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.