Wednesday, October 03, 2007

WWII and Tactics

McQ at QandO has been watching Ken Burn's new series The War. He likes what he's been seeing.

Meanwhile Kim du Toit is dispelling some bigotry spouted by David Frum towards the American fighting man of WWII:
It’s all very well to say that Americans win because they have more equipment than anyone else. Here’s the newsflash: that’s how we fight.

We are a technology-based society, and we have a giant economy with which to back our troops up.

From Band of Brothers in the WWII era: “Horses? What were you thinking? Say hello to General Motors, and Ford, and Chrysler!”
In Stephen Ambrose's book Citizen Soldiers, there is a story about two generally equivalent infantry units fighting over a medieval fortification in France. The Germans take the old fort and barricade themselves into a great defensive position. The American infantry tries to take it, but meet murderous resistance and have to fall back. So the Americans wheel over a 155mm howitzer and blow the hell out of the place. When they storm it, they capture it easily. After the fight, the Germans accused the Americans of poor soldiering because under the same conditions the Germans would have had to make do with what they had. The Americans replied that what they had was a 155mm howitzer thank-you-very-much and enjoy your stay as a POW with Uncle Sam.

An often-overlooked aspect of the war is that after Normandy, the US Army was actually employing something like modern combined arms doctrine. Not only did we have more stuff, but all our "inferior" units could cooperate efficiently to form a superior whole. If American infantry units ran into trouble, their first resort was to liberally apply high explosives via air or artillery or armor support. Most of the other Armies just couldn't do this. What was unfair or poor soldiering according to those Germans was actually an artifact of American tactical and strategic superiority.

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