Army General Staff were correct. Now, he believed, this malignant growth could be cut away; exposure showed that it had no deep roots and had not contaminated either the fighting troops or the rank and file of the German people.
Despite the heavy losses suffered by the Wehrmacht in the past five years, Hitler was certain that replacements could be found and new divisions created. His intuition told him that too many officers and men had gravitated into headquarters staffs, administrative and security services. He was enraged by the growing disparity in the troop lists between "ration strength" and "combat strength" and, as a military dictator, expected that the issuance of threatening orders and the appointment of the brutal Heinrich Himmler as chief of the Replacement Army would eventually reverse this trend. At the beginning of September Hitler was impatiently stamping the ground and waiting for the new battalions to spring forth. The months of July and August had produced eighteen new divisions, ten panzer brigades and nearly a hundred separate infantry battalions. Now twenty-five new divisions, about a thousand artillery pieces, and a score of general headquarters brigades of various types were demanded for delivery in October and November.
How had Germany solved the manpower problem? From a population of some eighty million, in the Greater Reich, the Wehrmacht carried a total of 10,165,303 officers and men on its rosters at the beginning of September 1944. What part of this total was paper strength is impossible to say; certainly the personnel systems in the German armed forces had not been able to keep an accurate accounting of the tremendous losses suffered in the summer of 1944. Nonetheless, this was the strength figuratively paraded before Hitler by his adjutants. The number of units in the Wehrmacht order of battle was impressive (despite such wholesale losses as the twenty-seven divisions engulfed during the Russian summer offensive against Army Group Center). The collective German ground forces at the beginning of September 1944 numbered 327 divisions and brigades, of which 31 divisions and 13 brigades were armored. Again it must be noted that many of these units no longer in truth had the combat strength of either division or brigade (some had only their headquarters staff), but again, in Hitler's eyes, this order of battle represented fighting units capable of employment. Such contradiction as came from the generals commanding the paper-thin formations, some of whom privately regarded the once formidable Wehrmacht as a "paper tiger," would be brushed angrily aside as evidence of incompetence, defeatism-or treason.
But the maintenance of this formidable array of divisions and brigades reflected the very real military potential of the Greater Reich, not yet fully exploited even at the end of five years of what had been called total war. As in 1915 the Germans had found that in a long conflict the hospitals provided a constant flow of replacements, and that this source could be utilized very effectively by the simple expedient of progressively lowering the physical standards required for front-line duty. In addition, each year brought a new class to the colors as German youth matured. This source could be further exploited by lowering the age limit at one end of the conscription spectrum while increasing it