Quotulatiousness

September 18, 2014

No women in the infantry, says female USMC officer

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:34

You have to admire the courage of Captain Lauren F. Serrano for publishing this opinion article in the Marine Corps Gazette. She clearly states why women do not belong in the infantry, and explains the few exceptions (Israel and the Kurds have female infantry troops). This may mark the moment at which she stopped progressing toward her next promotion, however, as what she says will be incredibly unpopular politically:

While reading the February issue of the Marine Corps Gazette, I skimmed past the “Be Bold” advertisement calling for readers to submit articles that challenge a Marine Corps policy or way of doing business. Immediately a current “hot topic” came to mind, but as usual I quickly discarded it because I have purposely avoided publicly disagreeing with the passionate opinions of many of my female peers and friends. After weeks of contemplation and debate, I am “being bold” and coming clean: I am a female Marine officer and I do not believe women should serve in the infantry. I recognize that this is a strong statement that will be vehemently challenged by many. I have not come to this opinion lightly and I do not take joy in taking a stance that does not support equal opportunity for all. I have spent countless hours discussing this topic with many civilians and Marines and have discovered that a large number of people agree with the arguments in this article but do not wish to get involved in the public discussion. Interestingly, most of the people who want to incorporate women into infantry are civilians or young, inexperienced Marines. Most of the more seasoned Marines with whom I have spoken tend to oppose the idea of women in infantry—perhaps this is failure to adapt or perhaps it is experienced-based reasoning. National Public Radio’s recent segment, “Looking for a Few Good (Combat-Ready) Women,” stated, “Col Weinberg admits there’s anecdotal evidence that female Marines, who make up 7 percent of the force, aren’t rushing to serve in ground combat.” If the infantry had opened to women while I was still a midshipman or second lieutenant I probably would have jumped at the opportunity because of the novelty, excitement, and challenge; but, to my own disappointment, my views have drastically changed with experience and knowledge. Acknowledging that women are different (not just physically) than men is a hard truth that plays an enormous role in this discussion. This article addresses many issues regarding incorporating women into the infantry that have yet to be discussed in much of the current discourse that has focused primarily on the physical standards.

Before you disagree, remember that war is not a fair business. Adversaries attempt to gain an advantage over their enemies by any means possible. Enemies do not necessarily abide by their adversary’s moral standards or rules of engagement. Although in today’s world many gory, violent war tactics are considered immoral, archaic, and banned by international law or the Geneva Conventions, adversaries still must give themselves the greatest advantage possible in order to ensure success. For the Marine Corps, this means ensuring that the infantry grunt (03XX) units are the strongest, most powerful, best trained, and most prepared physically and mentally to fight and win. Although perhaps advantageous to individuals and the national movement for complete gender equality, incorporating women into infantry units is not in the best interest of the Marine Corps or U.S. national security.

Update: Forgot to H/T The Armorer for the link.

September 3, 2014

Britain’s shrinking armed forces

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:30

The Secretary of State for Defence was asked in Parliament for a breakdown of the members of the British army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. The detailed reply shows some significant changes:

Royal Navy/Royal Marines

Year Total, all ranks
2010 38,730
2011 37,660
2012 35,540
2013 33,960
2014 33,330

Army

Year Total, all ranks
2010 108,920
2011 106,240
2012 104,250
2013 99,730
2014 91,070

Royal Air Force

Year Total, all ranks
2010 44,050
2011 42,460
2012 40,000
2013 37,030
2014 35,230

This may be the only part of British government spending that would actually meet the definition of “austerity”. For reference, the Canadian Armed Forces have about 43,500 regulars across the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, and Royal Canadian Air Force.

August 28, 2014

Feeding Tommy Atkins – WW1 food for British troops in the trenches

Filed under: Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:16

In the Express last week, Adrian Lee reports on a new exhibit at the Imperial War Museum in London:

They say an army marches on its stomach, so feeding the two million men who were in the trenches at the height of the First World War was some task. It was a great achievement that in the entire conflict not one British soldier starved to death.

Yet no one should think that the Tommies enjoyed the food that was served up by the military. According to the wags on the frontline, the biggest threat to life was not German bullets but the appalling rations.

Most despised was Maconochie, named after the company in Aberdeen that made this concoction of barely recognisable chunks of fatty meat and vegetables in thin gravy.

When served hot, as per the instructions on the tin, it was said to be barely edible. Eaten cold for days on end in the trenches, where a warm meal was usually no more than a fantasy, it was said to be disgusting.

It was the stated aim of the British Army that each soldier should consume 4,000 calories a day. At the frontline, where conditions were frequently appalling, daily rations comprised 9oz of tinned meat (today it would be known as corned beef but during the First World War it was called bully beef) or the hated Maconochie.

Additionally the men received biscuits (made from salt, flour and water and likened by the long-suffering troops to dog biscuits). They were produced under government contract by Huntley & Palmers, which in 1914 was the world’s largest biscuit manufacturer. The notoriously hard biscuits could crack teeth if they were not first soaked in tea or water.

None dare call it an invasion

Filed under: Europe, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:49

The battles between Ukraine forces and Russian-backed rebels were one thing: you could make a case for it being a “local” issue if you didn’t want to draw attention to it (for fear the Russians might cut off your natural gas supply). It’s quite a different thing when the Ukrainians are fighting Russian soldiers rather than irregulars and paramilitaries:

Russian forces in two armored columns captured a key southeastern coastal town near the Russian border Thursday after Ukrainian forces retreated in the face of superior firepower, a Ukrainian military spokesman said.

The two Russian columns, including tanks and armored fighting vehicles, entered the town of Novoazovsk on the Sea of Azov after a battle in which Ukrainian army positions came under fire from Grad rockets launched from Russian territory, according to the spokesman, Col. Andriy Lysenko.

“Our border servicemen and guardsmen retreated as they did not have heavy equipment,” Lysenko said in a statement.

Ukrainian authorities have denounced the latest fighting as a Russian invasion of their territory, intended to prop up pro-Moscow separatists who have been losing ground to Ukrainian forces and to open a new front in the southeastern corner of Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials said earlier that Ukrainian troops were battling combined Russian and separatist forces on the new southern front around Novoazovsk, about eight miles west of the Russian border. The Ukrainian military also said Russian troops were increasing surveillance from northern Crimea, the autonomous Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in March.

Among western countries, Canada (of all places) has become snarky about the situation:

August 23, 2014

Defining the “best tank of World War 2″

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:14

Nigel Davies revisits one of the perpetual debates among amateur WW2 historians:

Let us start with the issue of tanks from the perspective of propaganda. More rubbish has been written about who had the best tanks during the Second World War than about any other topic to do with that war. Again and again you get supposedly serious historians talking about how the Germans started the Second World War with overwhelming tank superiority; that the Allies were only brought back into the race by the arrival of the Sherman tank; and how German technology leapt ahead again at the end of the Second World War to give them unrivalled vehicles. All these statements are of course completely incorrect.

One of the problems of course, is ‘best tank when, and for what?’

Comparing what was available in 1939/40 to what was being produced in 1945 (say a Panzer III or Matilda II with a Centurion or Stalin), is worse than useless. There is no comparison. Only the Panzer IV was actually produced throughout the war: and the heavily armoured final version of the tank — with a long barrelled 75mm gun capable of taking on almost every tank yet operational in mid 1945 — bore only a passing resemblance to the lightly armoured tank with a short barrelled infantry support gun — of with minimal ability to do more than scratch the paint of a CharB in 1939/40.

SOMUA 35 tank at Bovington Tank Museum (via Wikipedia)

SOMUA 35 tank at Bovington Tank Museum (via Wikipedia)

It’s relatively easy to do a quick measurables test comparing one tank against another: thickness and location of the armour, size and muzzle velocity of the main gun, engine horsepower, road speed, etc., but the very best tank on all of those measurements could still be beaten by an enemy using better combat tactics: the French SOMUA 35 and the British Matilda II were the best tanks in the world in 1939 and 1940 respectively (according to Davies). In spite of the superior measurables, the SOMUA 35 was incredibly limited by having the tank commander also be the gunner and loader and it lacked a radio for communication (and even if they had been so equipped, the already overworked tank commander would have had to be the radio operator, too). The Matilda was designed as an infantry tank, so it was very heavily armoured, but relatively slow and somewhat undergunned (the 40mm main gun only had solid shot for anti-armour use: there was no high explosive round for softer targets).

Matilda II at Yad la-Shiryon Museum (via Wikipedia)

Matilda II at Yad la-Shiryon Museum (via Wikipedia)

The Matilda and its successor the Valentine would probably still the best Allied tanks in the world in early 1941, when they swept Italian forces before them, and several times fought the German African corps to a standstill. The German response to their shocking failures in 1940, had been to upgrade the Panzer III and IV with slightly improved armour, and the short barreled 50 mm gun. But they were still on a losing wicket engaging the British infantry tanks in any sort of close terrain, such as in the siege of Tobruk. Fortunately for Rommel, out in the open terrain of the desert he could deploy his tanks behind screens of high-powered anti-tank guns, which the British tanks lacked the long-range high explosive shells to engage effectively.

It also helped that too many British cavalry officers in the desert war still had a “tally ho!” attitude and were frequently drawn into unsupported tank charges against German or Italian tanks who were able to draw the fast but lightly armoured British cruisers into easy killing range of their anti-tank guns.

M4A1 Sherman tank at Canadian Forces Base Borden (via Wikipedia)

M4A1 Sherman tank at Canadian Forces Base Borden (via Wikipedia)

This is where the myth of the value of the Sherman tank comes from. The Sherman arrived at a time when it’s armour and weapon were on a par with the Panzer III and IV tanks that it was facing. Despite the fact that its 75 mm gun was greatly inferior as an anti-tank weapon to the new British six pounder guns that were starting to equip British tanks, the high explosive shell that the Sherman could fire was incredibly useful for engaging Rommel’s 88 mm guns at long-distance in the flat desert terrain.

For several months, it seemed as though the mechanically reliable Sherman would be a war winner, despite its notable tendency to explode in flames whenever it was hit. (Allied troops refer to it as a Ronson — “lights first time every time”. German troops just referred to it as a “Tommy Cooker”.) But this concept was fantasy, which could be easily demonstrated within a few months, though it took the US government another two years to admit it.

[...]

T-34/85 at musée des blindés de Saumur (via Wikipedia)

T-34/85 at musée des blindés de Saumur (via Wikipedia)

In all of this so far, I have barely mentioned the Russians at all. Their T34 tank was possibly the single most effective of the war, and was the breakthrough that forced everyone else to rethink their designs. So we can say without a shadow of a doubt that the T34 was the best tank of the war for almost two years — from the time of Barbarossa (June 22, 1941) until the appearance of the Panther at Kursk (July 5, 1943). It certainly held this title unchallenged by the Sherman and Churchill tanks that appeared during its reign, and probably by the Tiger as well.

The Tiger is a problem for this sort of discussion, because it re-introduces the concept of ‘what for’ into the debate. The Tiger was a far superior heavy infantry support or assault tank to the T34, but a far inferior battlefield manoeuvre or pursuit tank. In fact the Tiger was so slow and limited in cross country ability, that it was actually more effective as a defensive weapon once the Germans were thrown back on that approach, than it had been for re-igniting their Blitzkreig glory days.

He sums up the post with a league table of “best tanks” for given years and purposes:

Having noted the necessary division between medium cruisers and heavy assault/infantry support tanks however, we can still make a fair summary.

So, in contrast to what many history books and documentaries will tell you, the French had the best tanks in 1939, and the British had the best tanks of 1940 and 1945. Also in contrast to what many history books will tell you, the Shermans effective front-line role can best be defined as the few months between the battle of Alamein, and the arrival of Tiger tanks in Tunisia. All attempts to use it after that in Italy or northern France just demonstrated how pathetic it was in modern engagements. Even the British Firefly version with the 17 pounder, was extremely vulnerable to any German tank. In fact it is amusing to note, that they came into their own for the blitzkrieg across open country in pursuit of the defeated German armies across France; which has a direct parallel to the inferior German tanks pursuing the defeated French in 1940. (The equally inadequate British Cromwell tanks, being significantly faster, were actually still better at this pursuit than the Shermans.) The best tank of the Sherman’s period of functional use, of course being the T34.

So our list of ‘best tanks’ could go something like this.
1939 — Best cruiser – Somua 35, Best support – CharB.
1940 — Best support becomes Matilda II.
1941 — Best cruiser initially Panzer III/IV with short 50mm guns, becomes T34 when Russia enters the war.
1942 — Best support is Tiger.
1943 — Best cruiser is Panther.
1944 — Best support is Tiger II.
1945 — Best ‘all purpose’ is Centurion.

August 16, 2014

The downfalls of ceremonial guard duties

Filed under: Humour, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:02

Anyone who’s spent time in uniform can probably identify with the victims of gravity, equine misbehaviour, and cussed bad luck in this collection of military pratfalls during ceremonial duties.

H/T to Roger Henry for the link.

August 11, 2014

QotD: The decay of the profession of arms

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Military, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:02

We lecture the [West Point] cadets on professionalism but we practice bureaucracy. To summarize the difference, professional cultures debate, discuss, and continually innovate to stay effective in the changing world. Bureaucracies churn out ever-restrictive rules and seek to capture every eventuality in codified routines.

Consider this: From day one at the academy every possible situation that a cadet could conceivably encounter is accounted for by strict regulations. Not sure how many inches should be between your coat hangers, whether you can hold your girlfriend’s hand on campus, or how your socks should be marked? Consult the regulations. Moreover, all activity is subjected to the cadet performance system, which essentially assigns a grade to every measurable event in a cadet’s life (think shoe shines, pushups and pop quizzes) then ruthlessly ranks the entire class from first to last. Cadets at the top of the list get the jobs and postings they want after graduation. Those near the bottom end up driving trucks at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

The result is two-fold: First, cadets have very little experience adapting to unfamiliar environments. After all, what happens when the regulations don’t describe what’s going on around you? Second, cadets devote zero attention to activities that “don’t count.” If it’s not on the syllabus, and it’s not for a grade, the cadets aren’t learning it. Ask a cadet to spend a few minutes writing up a list of the skills, traits, and knowledge that he wishes he’d have when he finally takes over his first platoon in combat. Then compare this to his four-year curriculum and summer training plans. There will be surprisingly little overlap between the two lists, and the cadet has neither the time nor the incentive to learn what’s missing. In the end, we graduate far too many cadets that are more bureaucrat than professional, lacking the expert knowledge of their trade and the flexibility to be effective in the complex environments they’ll soon encounter.

Major Fernando Lujan, U.S. Army, quoted in “West Point faculty member worries it is failing to prepare tomorrow’s officers”, Foreign Policy, 2010-06-11

August 3, 2014

The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry at 100

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:47

The Ottawa Citizen notes the centennial of one of Canada’s three regular force infantry regiments, the PPCLI:

During four years of war, from August 1914 to November 1918, Canada contributed some 620,000 men to the fight against Germany. By war’s end, 61,000 — about 1o per cent — of those who served in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force had been killed. Another 172,000 had been wounded, gassed, crippled or psychologically damaged by the war. For a country of not yet eight million, it was an enormous undertaking, and an enormous sacrifice. The proportional loss for Canada a war today, with a population of about 34 million, would be more than 250,000 killed and 550,00 wounded.

The Canadian Corps acquired a reputation for battlefield prowess. British prime minister David Lloyd George referred to the C.E.F. as “the shock army of the British Empire.” This reputation was in some ways the making of the country, historians say. Canada’s contribution to the war effort — men, munitions and food supplies — fostered a deeper sense of national identity and led to greater political sovereignty. Canada went from being a subordinate member of the British Empire to a nation in its own right on the world stage.

[...]

When Britain declared war on Germany on Aug. 4, 1914, Canada, as a Dominion within the Empire, was automatically at war, too. Canadians, by and large, responded with enthusiastic support. Within days of the declaration of war the country was mobilizing. One Montreal businessman, Andrew Hamilton Gault offered $100,000 of his own money — about $2 million in today’s currency — to finance and equip a regiment.

Prime minister Robert Borden’s government was only too happy to accept the offer, having committed itself to raising an army division of 25,000 men as Canada’s initial contribution to the war. The Patricias received their official charter on Aug. 10. Gault, joined by Lt-Col. Francis Farquhar, a British Army veteran and military secretary to the governor-general, the Duke of Connaught, launched a cross-country recruitment campaign.

PPCLI cap badgeMore than 3,000 men responded to the call to arms, and headed for Ottawa. “Prospectors, trappers, guides, cow-punchers, prize-fighters, farmers, professional and businessmen, above all old soldiers, poured into Ottawa by every train,” writes regimental historian, Ralph Hodder-Williams. By Aug. 19, 1,098 men were chosen — the Originals, as they became known —- and Farquhar was named regimental commander.

The PPCLI officially formed up on Aug. 23 at Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park. Gault had asked the governor-general’s daughter, Princess Patricia, if he could name the regiment after her. She agreed and offered to design a regimental Colour. “I have great pleasure in presenting you with these colours, which I have worked myself. I hope they will be associated with what I believe will be a distinguished corps,” the princess told the assembled soldiers. “I shall follow the fortunes of you all with the deepest interest, and I heartily wish every man good luck and a safe return.”

It was a naive hope, as it turned out. The Patricias boarded the R.M.S. Royal George for England in late September 1914. On Dec. 20, after a few months training in Britain, they arrived in Le Havre. Two weeks later, on Jan. 6 and 7, 1915, the Patricias moved into the Ypres Salient, the first Canadian regiment to go into the field.

[...]

The Camp Colour presented by Princess Patricia in August of 1914 was consecrated in a religious ceremony in Belgium in late January 1919. A month later, the princess, who had returned to England in 1916, attached a commemorative silver gilt laurel wreath to the Colour’s staff in a ceremony before the regiment’s return to Canada. “My thoughts have been continually with you during the years of suffering and trial through which you have passed,” she told the assembled regiment, “and I think with mingled sorrow and pride of your many and gallant comrades who so willingly laid down their lives in the greatest of all causes.”

Such sentiments may sound alien to contemporary ears, but to dismiss them as deluded or naive is to presume that those who lived through the Great War couldn’t possibly have understood what they were doing as well as we can with our historical hindsight and sophisticated post-modern worldview.

But that is an arrogant and condescending assumption, as Philip Child, a Canadian army officer who served with a howitzer battery in the trenches, suggests in his 1937 novel, God’s Sparrow. Child tells the story of Daniel Thatcher, a veteran of the trenches. At one point, reflecting on the dead, Thatcher reaches this conclusion: “The thousands went into battle not ignobly, not as driven sheep or hired murderers … but as free men with a corporate if vague feeling of brotherhood because of a tradition they shared and an honest belief that they were doing their duty in a necessary task.”

H/T to Steve Paikin for the link.

July 27, 2014

QotD: Qui veut tout défendre ne sauve rien (Who defends everything defends nothing)

Filed under: Military, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

This is an elementary and self-evident Principle. Indeed, it is so axiomatic that few examples of it will be given in these pages. The only point to stress is that it is useless to hope to obtain complete security in passive defense. It is also unsound. “He who tries to defend everything saves nothing.” declared Marshal Foch, echoing Frederick the Great. It should be noted that the very act of assuming the offensive imparts a certain degree of security. Make as if to strike a man, and he instinctively assumes a defensive attitude. As General Rowan Robinson expresses it in his Imperial Defence, “The highest form of strategic security is that obtained through the imposition of our will upon the enemy, through seizing the initiative and maintaining it by offensive action.” There may sometimes be an element of risk in this, but, as we have seen, war in its nature involves risk.

Lt. Colonel Alfred H. Burne, The Art of War on Land, 1947.

July 24, 2014

The current organization of the Canadian Army

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:03

Canadian Army Land Force CommandI posted a link about a military exercise to be held next month in the Niagara Peninsula, and it mentioned the 31st Brigade, which reminded me I’d lost track of the current organization of the Canadian Army (which back in my day was still hiding under the name “Mobile Command”). In common with other allied armies, the units and organizations have changed significantly since the end of the Cold War — in the case of the Canadian Army, many of the changes were triggered earlier by unification in 1968. In the case of the regular infantry regiments, Wikipedia has this to say about the post-WW2 era:

(more…)

Niagara Peninsula to host brigade-level military exercise in August

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:02

A report in Niagara This Week by Paul Forsyth discusses a major Canadian military exercise to be held in the area next month:

Called Stalwart Guardian 14, the exercise is an annual one for troops across Ontario. But unlike many other training exercises that typically take place on military bases, this one will be much more visible to the public.

Col. Brock Millman, commander of the London, Ont.-based 31 Canadian Brigade Group, said in a letter to Thorold Mayor Ted Luciani earlier this year that the exercise will be “massive,” but will be conducted in a “safe, respectful and environmentally sound manner.”

At the July 15 meeting of Thorold city council, Millman and Maj. Paul Pickering — who is co-ordinating the exercise — said conducting the operation off-base makes it more realistic, because foreign bad guys are likely to hit infrastructure in populated areas.

“The terrain (on bases) is not complex, there are not big buildings, there are not roads, there is not a civilian population,” said Millman. “The training is not as effective as it can be.

“We’re coming here because it’s much more effective.”

Millman’s brigade, which is the reserve Canadian army in southwestern Ontario, is part of the 12,000-strong 4th Canadian division. He said more than 2,000 soldiers — a mix of reservists and veterans of missions in Afghanistan and Bosnia — will descend on Niagara for the exercise running from Aug. 16 to 24.

Back in my day, we’d have a camp established just outside Niagara-on-the-Lake and unless something went wrong, most of the civilian population in the area wouldn’t know we were there except for the unusually high number of short-haired guys in the bars after 6pm. In the mid-1970s, short hair was an unusual fashion statement…

While the soldiers take their soldiering seriously, Millman said there will be civil-military co-operation personnel to arrange interaction between soldiers and Niagara residents.

“Kids will get a chance to climb on their vehicles,” he said. “We’re not going to discourage (residents) from engaging with the soldiers” if it doesn’t conflict with the training, he said.

He told St. Catharines city council on Monday night that people simply find military vehicles fascinating

“There’s a five-year-old child in all of us who thinks…Thomas the Tank (Engine) is pretty cool,” he said. “Thomas the Coyote surveillance vehicle is super cool.”

Thorold city councillor Becky Lott said she hopes there is plenty of publicity about the exercise before soldiers arrive so people don’t fear the worst.

“I can see people calling and saying ‘why is there a tank rolling down my street?’” she said.

Coyotes? In my day we were just getting rid of the Korean War-vintage trucks and jeeps… get off my lawn, you kids!

Coyote Armoured Patrol Vehicle

July 23, 2014

Closing the Eastern Ukraine pocket

Filed under: Europe, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:28

CDR Salamander links to a recent Ukrainian report that seems to show how far the Ukraine forces have come since May in reclaiming territory from the “separatists”:

Click to see full-size image

Click to see full-size image

Look at what has happened in the last two months.

1. Ukraine secured its maritime territory.
2. Ukraine managed to re-establish control over most of its borders – though in a thin salient in some places. Not firm control as we know traffic is getting through, but at least partial control to the point they are willing to claim it.
3. They are pushing to widen the salient in the south while increasing its SE bulge, pushing north along the Russian border.
4. From the north, they are pushing south along the Russian border.
5. Yes kiddies, we have a classic pincer movement to envelope a pocket of the enemy, nee – a double envelopment at that. As a matter of fact, a secondary double envelopment is about to take place in that middle thumb centered on Lysychansk – or at least there is an opportunity for one.

Cut off the Lysychansk based separatists there while at the same time cutting off their unopposed access to the Russian border – and then you can destroy the pro-Russian separatists piecemeal at your leisure.

A quick Google search for “ATO progress map” also turned up this map posted to Twitter a couple of days ago by Viktor Kovalenko:

Click to see full size image

Click to see full size image

As the original CDR Salamander post points out, these are based on claims by one side so apply whatever filters you feel are needed to counteract any PR or propaganda bias.

July 21, 2014

The science of ballistics, the art of war, and the birth of the assault rifle

Filed under: History, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 15:47

Defence With A “C” summarizes the tale of how we got to the current suite of modern military small arms. It’s a long story, but if you’re interested in firearms, it’s a fascinating one.

To understand why we’ve arrived where we are now with the NATO standard 5.56mm calibre round you have to go all the way back to the war of 1939-1945. Much study of this conflict would later inform decision making surrounding the adoption of the 5.56, but for now there was one major change that took place which would set the course for the future.

The German Sturmgewehr 44 is widely accepted as the worlds first true assault rifle. Combining the ability to hit targets out to around 500 yards with individual shots in a semi-automatic mode, as well as the ability to fire rapidly in fully automatic mode (almost 600 rounds per minute) the StG 44 represented a bridge between short ranged sub-machine guns and longer ranged bolt action rifles.

[...]

After the second world war the US army began conducting research to help it learn the lessons of its previous campaigns, as well as preparing it for potential future threats. As part of this effort it began to contract the services of the Operations Research Office (ORO) of the John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, for help in conducting the scientific analysis of various aspects of ground warfare.

On October 1st, 1948, the ORO began Project ALCLAD, a study into the means of protecting soldiers from the “casualty producing hazards of warfare“. In order to determine how best to protect soldiers from harm, it was first necessary to investigate the major causes of casualties in war.

After studying large quantities of combat and casualty reports, ALCLAD concluded that first and foremost the main danger to combat soldiers was from high explosive weapons such as artillery shells, fragments from which accounted for the vast majority of combat casualties. It also determined that casualties inflicted by small arms fire were essentially random.

Allied troops in WW2 had been generally armed with full-sized bolt action rifles (while US troops were being issued the M1 Garand), optimized to be accurate out to 600 yards or more, yet most actual combat was at much shorter ranges than that. Accuracy is directly affected by the stress, tension, distraction, and all-around confusion of the battlefield: even at such short ranges, riflemen required many shots to be expended in hopes of inflicting a hit on an enemy. The ORO ran a series of tests to simulate battle conditions for both expert and ordinary riflemen and found some unexpected results:

A number of significant conclusions were thus drawn from these tests. Firstly, that accuracy — even for prone riflemen, some of them expert shots, shooting at large static targets — was poor beyond ranges of about 250 yards. Secondly, that under simulated conditions of combat shooting an expert level marksman was no more accurate than a regular shot. And finally that the capabilities of the individual shooters were far below the potential of the rifle itself.

This in turn — along with the analysis of missed shots caught by a screen behind the targets — led to three further conclusions.

First, that any effort to try and make the infantry’s general purpose weapon more accurate (such as expensive barrels) was largely a waste of time and money. The weapon was, and probably always would be, inherently capable of shooting much tighter groups than the human behind it.

Second, that there was a practical limit to the value of marksmanship training for regular infantry soldiers. Beyond a certain basic level of training any additional hours were of limited value*, and the number of hours required to achieve a high level of proficiency would be prohibitive. This was particularly of interest for planning in the event of another mass mobilisation for war.

July 18, 2014

QotD: The duty of the soldier

Filed under: History, Liberty, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Every young American today is subject to military service; most of them, as shown by the Mayer Report, et al., are not prepared for it, either emotionally or by formal schooling…

He doesn’t see why he should expose himself to death; nothing in his experience justifies it. The whole thing is wildly implausible and quite unfair — like going to sleep in your own bed and waking up in a locked ward of an insane asylum. It strikes him as rank injustice.

And it is … [sic] the rankest sort of injustice.

My basic purpose, then, was to promote in that prototype youth-in-a-foxhole a better understanding of the nature, purpose and function of the ridiculous and dangerous predicament he found himself in.

There were various ancillary purposes but this was the main one … I was forced to limit my scope to: “Why in hell should a young man in good health be willing to fight and perhaps die for his country?” …

I do not expect you to like the book, nor to speak approvingly of it, since you quite clearly do not like it and do not approve of it. But, in fairness, I ask that you, in published criticism of it, (a) read more carefully what I did say and not impute to it things which I did not say, and (b) judge it within its obvious limitations as a short first-person commercial novel and not expect it to unscrew the inscrutable with respect to every possible facet of an extremely complex philosophical question (i.e., don’t expect of me more than you require of yourself).

Robert A. Heinlein, letter to Theodore Cogswell 1959-12-04, quoted in William H. Patterson Jr., Robert A. Heinlein, In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better, 2014).

July 12, 2014

Canadians fighting in foreign wars – idealists, mercenaries … and jihadis

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

In the Globe and Mail, Jack Granatstein remembers many occasions where individual Canadians have chosen to get involved in other peoples’ wars:

Some historical perspective might suggest that Canadians serving in foreign armies is not new to our times. Many Canadians served in the U.S. Army during the Civil War, fighting for the Union and against slavery. Upward of 50,000 Canadians are estimated to have enlisted in the Union forces, and a few hundred wore Confederate grey. Union recruiters operated openly in the Canadas during the war, and many Canadians went south to join up. Even Calixa Lavallée, the composer of O Canada, served as a Union officer. No one objected strenuously.

A few years later, Bishop Ignace Bourget and the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec raised troops to help defend the Papal States against the forces seeking unification of Italy. More than 500 well-educated francophones enlisted in the Papal Zouaves, ready to sail to Italy to defend the Vatican’s territory. Not all the Zouaves made it to Rome by the time the struggle ended in 1870, but eight died. Once again there were few complaints, although Protestants were surely annoyed at this ultramontane Catholic fervour.

In the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War pitted General Francisco Franco’s Nationalists against the Republican government of Spain. Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy supported the Nationalists. The Soviet Union backed the Republicans; so did at least 1,300 Canadians who volunteered to fight against fascism and went to Spain to serve in what went on to become the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, while another 300 fought in the American Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

The worry about today’s Canadians-fighting-in-foreign-wars revolves primarily around young Muslim men going abroad to fight religious wars. Thus far, few of them have come back to Canada with an obvious intent to bring the war back with them:

None of those war veterans brought jihad home to Canada, a legitimate concern we live with today, although some communists who fought in Spain might have had attitudes inimical to the Canadian capitalist state. Most of the Islamist volunteers, if they survive to return to Canada, will likely settle down to a “normal” life. But so long as ideology, religion, adventurism and a soldier’s pay still matter, Canadians will likely continue going off to fight in other people’s wars.

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