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"New German Methods Against Russian Winter Conditions" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on Wehrmacht methods for coping with the Russian winter during WWII was published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 12, November 19, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


No Russian campaign could safely be undertaken without taking into account the challenge to an invading army's staying power to meet the hardships and danger imposed by "General Winter."

It is reported that the German Wehrmacht intends to make large-scale use this winter of diesel oil as a radiator fluid for motorized equipment in Russia, to protect motors both against low temperature and penetrating winds. Diesel oil will be used in normal motors which require draining during long stops and require the heating of oil before motors can be restarted, and also used in those few motors now being equipped with built-in warming apparatus. The use of oil was determined after experiments revealed that it has a freezing point below -40 degrees Centigrade, a boiling point higher than water, does not corrode motors or radiators, leaves no residue, and is more readily available and transportable on the Eastern Front than other chemical cooling fluids.

Since no advance preparations had been made last year to meet such weather conditions, German equipment became unusable, or usable only with great difficulty in many sectors. This experience, plus study and improvement of Russian methods and apparatus, have enabled German engineers to make the following adjustments:

(a) German batteries are too small for eastern winter conditions, and in fact electric starting becomes impossible at -30 degrees Centigrade. Since it is impossible to replace batteries, the use of other starting equipment has become necessary. Heating devices for batteries for ordinary operation have been installed in the form of small benzine lamps in closed battery compartments.

(b) Heavy motors, chilled by cold and steady penetrating wind, are impossible to start without preheating the cooling fluid and oil. This was done last winter by hot-air heating devices improvised on the spot, as well as by draining and warming the cooling fluid. On the other hand, many Soviet heavy motors were equipped with built-in auxiliary starting motors, which, after running about 30 minutes and heating the cooling fluid were able to start the main motor. Germany has adopted an improved version of this Soviet development for use on new equipment.

(c) Germany's main desire was to develop a method whereby heavy motors could be started almost immediately. This requires heating of both cooling fluid and oil before starting. The Russian auxiliary motor has been refined and improved by the addition of an oil-line break-valve to the water line, which enables the heating of both oil and fluid within a very few minutes operation, and thus the main motor can be started in but a fraction of the time required by the original Russian equipment. This improvement is stated to operate most satisfactorily.

(d) With special fuel, the Otto motored equipment can still make use of electric starting apparatus.

(e) Diesel oil makes most satisfactory cooling fluid for winter use in all motorized equipment including that started mechanically or by hand.


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