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"The Secret Of The Soldiers Who Didn’t Shoot" Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP21 Dec 2018 8:48 p.m. PST

"When Col. Samuel Lyman Marshall came home in 1945, he was one of millions of Americans who had served in the Second World War. Perhaps a third of them had seen combat, and Marshall, as the European theater's deputy historian, had talked to an unprecedentedly large number of them. In a few months he began the little book that was to make him S. L. A. Marshall, a respected and highly influential military historian. In the 211 pages of Men Against Fire, Marshall made an astonishing assertion: In any given body of American infantry in combat, no more than one-fifth, and generally as few as 15 percent, had ever fired their weapons at an enemy, indeed ever fired their weapons at all.

From that day to this, S. L. A. Marshall is famous as a man who penetrated a great and terrible mystery. His writing on the refusal to fire—what Marshall called the ratio of fire—was the keystone of his achievement. While a fair number of people had always had an impressionistic sense of the phenomenon, Marshall had replaced anecdotal evidence with hard numbers.

Marshall, in the eyes of his many admirers, had shifted the history of war on its axis, turning it away from the annals of generalship toward the discovery of what men actully did and thought and felt on a battlefield. The admiration Marshall's discovery inspired is caught in the words of John Keegan, the dean of the school of military history that is deeply indebted to the tradition that Marshall dominates: Marshall "was touched by genius," Keegan wrote, a man who had brilliantly democratized the study of war…."
Main page
link

Amicalement
Armand

goragrad22 Dec 2018 12:09 a.m. PST

And there have been a number of critiques of Marshall's work – particularly on his data collection and lack of documentation of much of it.

His conclusion in this instance has also been found faulty by subsequent researchers.

UshCha22 Dec 2018 2:09 a.m. PST

As a broad statement it lacks clarity. I would expect possibly 2/3 to have had little or no combat experience. Bless them cooks, lorry drivers, Quater masters, pay clerks etc. all have a vital job, without which an army cannot fight. Many will have seen little combat. You don't want your cook killed especially if he (or now perhaps she) is good at their job. Most of the army does not fight directly the logistics trail is always bigger than the actual combat role.

Skarper22 Dec 2018 3:43 a.m. PST

Marshal seems to have faked his results. Something like he never had the time to conduct the number of interviews he claimed.

Also – in Hackworth's book 'About Face' Marshall is harshly criticized.

That said, I think the broad conclusions of his work have some merit. It just seems to make sense.

An issue is if troops in the front line did all shoot to kill then casualties would be far more than they actually were.

It's still no excuse for shoddy research.

donlowry22 Dec 2018 8:34 a.m. PST

I suspect, reading between the lines of some accounts, that the average rifleman did not shoot to kill (aim at individual enemies), but just blazed away in the general direction of the enemy -- if he ever fired at all.

Lee49422 Dec 2018 8:56 a.m. PST

As I've said before here, I never was in combat but did live fire and simulated fire (blanks) exercises during the Nam War with Marine Reaerves and Navy Midshipman, including Marine Option OCS. One flat refused to fire his weapon. BLANKS! Many fired only sporadically. Those of us that liked making noise bummed their blanks so we could shoot more. Platoon I was in had 30+ Marines and OCS. After first day exactly TWO of our M14s worked, mine was one.

So for whatever reason, I can believe few fire "to kill" in a real battle. Now you can say "yeah but real bullets whizzing by would be a motivator" … perhaps but just as likely to be a motivator to hunker down in your foxhole. I'm not sure this would hold when being overrun, but for most "distance" firefights I think its spot on

Cheers!

David Brown22 Dec 2018 9:27 a.m. PST

S,

Re:

An issue is if troops in the front line did all shoot to kill then casualties would be far more than they actually were.

I don't think its as simple as that, the other posts have touched on it.

When the rounds are flying in I can think of at least three reasons why fire isn't effective:

a) Your ability to aim effectively is hindered due to the adrenaline fuelled/pant peeing nature of the environment.

b) To fire effectively you have to expose your body, at least in part, to potential incoming enemy fire. But any part of you getting hit could well be end-ex for you. Thus it's very hard to overcome the urge not to stick your head up.

c) All soldiers shoot to hit – the kill bit is irrelevant. I'm not convinced they deliberately miss if they can see a clear target – because if they do the enemy is likely to kill them with his return fire. It's more probably the aiming bit that goes awry – as Lee says it's blazing away in the rough direction probably because you can't even see the enemy combined with b) – sticking your head up long enough to take a good aim could result in a 7.62mm round meeting with your forehead.

DB

Legion 422 Dec 2018 10:10 a.m. PST

See LTC Grossman's book, On Killing … link

analysis of the physiological processes involved with killing another human being. In it, he reveals evidence that most people have a phobia-level response to violence, and that soldiers need to be specifically trained to kill. In addition, he details the physical effects that violent stresses produce on humans, ranging from tunnel vision, changes in sonic perception, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

goragrad22 Dec 2018 10:14 a.m. PST

There was a review of Grossman's 'On Killing…' on the Canadian Military Journal -

link

In it the author takes Grossman and Marshall presents the case that both are in error. He used post action reports by Canadian officers from WWII in oart as the basis for his conclusion.

Ammunition expenditure by units in action was one of his points – unless the troops were just throwing it away the bulk of them had to be shooting.

Legion 422 Dec 2018 10:27 a.m. PST

I think both Grossman and Marshal plus the Canadian Military Journal all bring up valid points, etc. I have a tendency to generally go with Grossman's assessment. But also take the other two into consideration as well. The topic is a pretty "complex" one. So I try to keep an open mind …

Old Wolfman22 Dec 2018 10:38 a.m. PST

And the medics/corpsmen too.

catavar22 Dec 2018 10:44 a.m. PST

I buy into most of this theory. Among people with the same training, same hardware, and in the same situation I think folks would be surprised with how many hold back.

14Bore22 Dec 2018 11:46 a.m. PST

One of the arguments ( and I am a believer) in it takes a mans weight of ammo to kill him is wasted or unaimed fire as well as artillery that hits nothing. The majority of even combat unit personal do not kill a enemy though some kill 2 or many. So this actually fall into my belief in unaimed fire.

Skarper22 Dec 2018 1:22 p.m. PST

I think a lot of fire is ineffective and a lot of troops do not fire when they have the opportunity.

If directed to fire by someone in authority [an NCO, Officer or just a more experienced comrade] then they expend ammo, thought not necessarily to maximum effect. Ammo is also redistributed, so a lot my be fired by the same 2-3 men in a squad of 8-10.

The thesis that only a small % are truly effective is not proven by Marshall's work but neither is it disproved because Marshall's data was faked.

I think we all have the experience of working with colleagues who are lazy and don't contribute to the team. In combat there has to be a lot of reasons not to fire when doing so puts your own life at risk.

I tend to believe in this and write it into my own rules. I don't think it can be proved now. Training has changed and modern wars are very different to WW2 combat.

Anyway – very interesting topic that seems to come up every year or two.

Fred Cartwright22 Dec 2018 2:28 p.m. PST

Training has changed and modern wars are very different to WW2 combat.

David Rowlands has done a lot of research on this and detailed historical analysis. This suggests not much has changed. Despite improving training and increases in participation rates effectiveness of fire has not increased. The truth is fire in combat is bad, very bad. Worse than the worst peace time firing results or range data. The stress of combat degrades performance to such a degree. The Stress of Battle is a fascinating read if you are at all interested in the topic.

Blutarski22 Dec 2018 2:46 p.m. PST

[ 1 ] This "failure to participate" phenomenon described by Marshall has parallels going much further back in history. Read, for example, DuPicq's account of McDonald's great column attack at Wagram. In the ACW, numerous accounts of unwillingness/failure to engage the enemy can be found – from entire units simply going to ground behind a swell in the ground, as at Fredericksburg, to the common complaints of officers that every wounded soldier seemed to helped to the rear by two or three healthy comrades unless the strictest countermeasures were undertaken.

[ 2 ] Given the fact that: (a) every squad contained a crew-served automatic weapon; (b) said automatic weapon, with only the most minor exception (SMG), fired the same ammunition as the infantrymen's weapons; (c) that said automatic weapon was estimated was equivalent to the fire of 40-60 individual riflemen; (d) crew-served weapons are known to be far more likely to participate in firing ….. there is IMO danger in drawing too strong conclusions about the degree of participation of the riflemen members of a squad or platoon or company simply from ammunition consumption figures. I would think that a great deal of additional supporting evidence/testimony would be desired.

[ 3 ] It is easy to question or criticize. In fairness, critics should be held to exactly the same rigorous standards as those they demand from their targets.

Strictly my opinion, of course.

B

Blutarski22 Dec 2018 3:09 p.m. PST

"Men Against Fire" is Marshall's best known work. However, I'd suggest also reading "Island Victory", which reflected his very first experience in post-combat interview (with 7th Division combat survivors of the Kwajelein landing). This book provides a different perspective from Marshall's later works, in the sense that he took pains to explain how the interview process evolved and operated.

An enterprising wargamer will be able to extract some interesting skirmish scenarios for tabletop play as well – an added bonus.

Best wishes for a Merry Xmas and to those folks celebrating any other holidays at this time of year. May we all also be blessed with a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2019.

B

Wolfhag22 Dec 2018 7:34 p.m. PST

Lee494,
Were you at Camp Barrett in Quantico with the OCS candidates?

I was there in 1973 as part of the Aggressor Force playing war games in the woods with the Basic School 2nd LT's. We had M-14's also. I was one of those guys that liked to bang away. The ones reluctant to shoot used the excuse they didn't want to clean their weapons when they got back. Yes, it was a pain after being out there for 3 days.

I can clearly remember on a hot summer day at Camp Lejeune when we were doing a big tactical (game) operation. Our squad had to relocate and run about 100 meters and then lay down suppressive fire (blanks). When ordered, I hit the deck and my backpack slid up pushing my helmet over my eyes. My chest was burning, I was totally out of breath and I had dust and sweat burning my eyes. After taking a few moments to recover the "enemy" was less than 50m to our front in a wooded area. I attempted to look through my M16 peep sight but very quickly I realized I was not going to get a sight picture on a moving target through the dust and burning eyes. I ended up just double tapping/snap shooting at targets as they appeared. I couldn't believe how difficult it was and how much worse it would have been if it was the real thing.

I also experienced the complete opposite of that. On a number of occasions, I triggered an ambush patiently waiting for them to get within 10-15 feet away before I opened up. When you have the initiative and the enemy is more concerned with self-preservation than fighting it's a completely different story.

There is a British War Office report that estimates a section of rifleman with a Bren Gun would deliver about 1% causalities per minute against an enemy dug in at about 200m. Could you imagine the complaints from players if you simulated that!

Regarding shooting back. I would imagine if you were taking a lot of enemy fire you'd spend more time ducking and less time shooting. If the enemy was not returning there would be no reason not to shoot.

Wolfhag

Dn Jackson22 Dec 2018 8:49 p.m. PST

I can speak a little bit about shooting under pressure. While I am a combat vet, I was in the artillery and did not fire my rifle in combat.

However, I have 15 years of law enforcement and in the last few years my department bought, and we've been using a full size simulator. It simulates very nicely shooting under pressure, without hearing the snap of enemy fire. I have a tendency to 'point shoot', trying to put the muzzle of my pistol on the center mass of the bad guy without using sights. I usually get a hit within 3-5 rounds, but there have been times I've emptied a 17 round magazine and got only 1-2 hits. Usually if the scenario lasts more than a few seconds I start to aim and use sights. Newer officers tend to spray and pray and get much fewer hits.

Skarper22 Dec 2018 10:52 p.m. PST

Wolfhag said – "If the enemy was not returning there would be no reason not to shoot."

In addition to being under fire and suppressed there is the issue of not wanting to draw fire.

I think this is the point that is hardest to fathom. But I gather people who have been in combat are familiar with it.

There is the natural inhibition to kill someone who is not threatening you. More veteran troops would have lost this and would take advantage of any opportunity to kill the enemy before they get a chance to kill you…but new guys? Most would not.

There is also diffusion of responsibility. Somebody else might take the risk or guilt if I just wait a moment.

On the ineffectiveness of fire post WW2. There has been a shift away from larger calibres and trying to hit a target to lower calibres and trying to suppress the target.

This is in part due to research and a realisation of what actually works…

goragrad22 Dec 2018 10:54 p.m. PST

As to the point that ammunition consumption by a unit may reflect redistribution from inactive to active participants, it was also noted in the CMJ review article that the officers of the units whose reports were analyzed expressed no dissatisfaction with the conduct of any of their troops in that regard.

Somewhat of a negative, but if significant numbers of the soldiers in a small unit action were not firing is would logically be a matter that would be brought to the attention of higher authority.

Back to the topic of a disinclination to kill, it has been noted that the military prefers recruits who have hunted. presumably due to the fact that in addition to having prior experience with firearms, that those recruits have been in a situation where they felt that there was a good and sufficient reason to kill.

Fred Cartwright23 Dec 2018 3:43 a.m. PST

In it the author takes Grossman and Marshall presents the case that both are in error. He used post action reports by Canadian officers from WWII in oart as the basis for his conclusion.

Finally got around to reading it and wasn't impressed with his arguments. His anthropological arguments aren't convincing. He scrapes together a few examples of within species killing, but fails to appreciate that within the vast majority of species it doesn't exist. If there were an evolutionary advantage as he claims it would be more widespread. He also quotes the Milgram experiments as evidence that people will inflict serious suffering if ordered to do so. There are 2 problems with Milgram and modern combat. First unlike modern combat the experimenter is constantly with the subject and was instructed to continue multiple times if necessary and also assured no harm would come to the person receiving the "shocks". Second Milgram's work is itself under scrutiny with claims that he fudged the results and up to half the test subjects knew the shocks weren't real.
His Canadian data is also problematic, lacking direct observation of the men's behaviour. A general satisfaction with the level of fire is quite different from a concerted effort on the part of the men to kill enemy soldiers.

Andy ONeill23 Dec 2018 6:08 a.m. PST

You go ask an officer whether he's happy with his men's conduct.
What do you really expect him to say about his command?

Wigram's report quite clearly describes reluctance to fire.
I would hope that volunteer professionals would be more enthusiastic participants than conscripts who mostly had rather poor training.
As a result I would expect a modern force to have more men who did not require leaders ordering them to fire before they did.

I think though, that this is only part of the story.
Decisive firefights take place at under 50 yards.
Stress of combat is probably a larger factor for highly trained highly motivated professionals.
For whatever reason, militaries rely primarily on suppression effects at greater range.

Wolfhag23 Dec 2018 6:11 a.m. PST

Skarper,
You bring up an excellent point that I'm surprised no one else mentioned.

In addition to being under fire and suppressed there is the issue of not wanting to draw fire.

I chose the path of Recon/Scout-Sniper because I felt I'd get shot at less than being a member of a regular grunt unit making noise walking through the jungle just waiting to be ambushed. I thought it was smarter to safely sit back with a radio and call in arty and air strikes rather than play Rambo. We had a very high % of Mental Category 4's (IQ 70-75) who I called "Ambush Initiating Devices" who I did not want to be around.

This is something mostly overlooked in games. In many cases, players will attempt to take any shot at any time no matter what the odds. I'm attempting to rectify that in my rules by allowing units to work more closely with mortars. Use a small infantry unit to draw fire and then Hunker Down and wait for the mortar barrage.

On the ineffectiveness of fire post WW2. There has been a shift away from larger calibres and trying to hit a target to lower calibres and trying to suppress the target.

This is in part due to research and a realisation of what actually works…

Yes, the info I've read about suppression is the "experts" that have researched and studied it came to the conclusion it's the number and frequency of "bangs" that forces you to keep your head down.

Wolfhag

Legion 423 Dec 2018 7:14 a.m. PST

In addition to being under fire and suppressed there is the issue of not wanting to draw fire.
We used to say, Heavy Weapons draw heavy fire. So you had to sometimes wait to engage with, e.g. MGs, like designating an FPL, etc.

Of course in an ambush you initiate the engagement with a heavy weapon(s), e.g. MGs. As to kill off the enemy in the Kill Zone quickly, and get little to not return fire. And of course once the MGs fire very shortly afterwards the rest of the ambush opens fires. And generally everyone in the Kill Zone are KIA'd/WIA'd.

More veteran troops would have lost this and would take advantage of any opportunity to kill the enemy before they get a chance to kill you…
That is what makes well trained units with a lot of experienced troops so much more effective than "green" troops. In most situations. And in some cases, if a unit takes some losses due to enemy fire, IEDs, etc. Those who have seen their buddies killed or wounded by the enemy may be less reluctant to aggressively kill the enemy as payback.

A general satisfaction with the level of fire is quite different from a concerted effort on the part of the men to kill enemy soldiers.

And as many leaders down to the lowest ranking troops know or may figure out. The fastest way home is to kill as many of the enemy as often as possible. To save not only yourself, but the lives of your comrades. Brings to mind e.g.:
"Remember the Alamo", or the Maine, or Pearl Harbor and more frequently 9/11.


In some reports, from actions in Iraq and A'stan that when US troops, etc., get into action with the enemy. Not a lot of "quarter" would be given. And I'm sure some of the locals in those regions whose family and friends had died at the hands of ISIS, the Taliban, etc. E.g. the Kurds may not have been that "magnanimous" when dealing with ISIS in many situations. I was a bit surprised the Kurds in Syria hold over 3000s ISIS as prisoners. I don't doubt many ISIS were shot/killed outright and never get to become a prisoner.

I don't think you can discount one sides hatred, etc. for the other side. For a number of reasons. E.g. US troops vs. IJFs in the PTO, etc.

Fred Cartwright23 Dec 2018 8:24 a.m. PST

The context of SLAM's work was WW2 a war fought largely between conscript armies so inevitably their will be some differences with modern, all volunteer forces.

That is what makes well trained units with a lot of experienced troops so much more effective than "green" troops.

Or alternatively could make them excessively cautious as was said about some of the desert veterans in Normandy, who felt they had done their bit and it was time for someone else to take the risks.

Wolfhag23 Dec 2018 9:02 a.m. PST

Legion,
We always made the smallest guy in the platoon the machine gunner because he'd be shot at the most. "Sucks to be you" we used to say.

Wolfhag

Legion 423 Dec 2018 10:02 a.m. PST

WW2 a war fought largely between conscript armies so inevitably their will be some differences with modern, all volunteer forces.
Yes, that is true, and that is another reason I don't like the idea of a Draft, like we saw during Vietnam. I.e. we saw, IMO the Draft created as many problems that is solved. Even though many of the Draftees fought well and did their duty.

Or alternatively could make them excessively cautious as was said about some of the desert veterans in Normandy, who felt they had done their bit and it was time for someone else to take the risks.
Very true … that plays into that experienced troops can make better on the spot "tactical" decisions generally having "Been there, done that!"… Maybe taking less risks, and even avoiding contact at least until the "odds may be more in their favor". If ever .. E.g. remember in SPR, albeit just a movie, when the Ranger patrol, most being veteran troops, came across that German MG nest. Next to the damaged radar site. Many of the troops thought going around it and ignoring it was the better choice. Why take the risk ? It had nothing to do with the mission, at that time. At least in their minds. Plus some troops believe(d) that at any time your "luck" could run out. And as history shows sometimes in did.

And throughout history we saw sometimes Green troops held their ground and fought well. Where at times Veteran troops ran away … Albeit there were many factors that played into both those events, etc.


We always made the smallest guy in the platoon the machine gunner because he'd be shot at the most. "Sucks to be you" we used to say.
LOL !!!! Yeah a small guy is a smaller target ! evil grin

UshCha23 Dec 2018 10:23 a.m. PST

Certainly the UK had a deliberate policy of mainly using Green troops in taking the Normandy beaches and it was considered a successful policy.

Legion 423 Dec 2018 10:45 a.m. PST

WWII was again, fought mostly by conscripts … A nation had no choice when the war required very large amounts of troops/bodies.

Martin Rapier23 Dec 2018 11:21 a.m. PST

Fred has already mentioned Rowlands research above. One interesting aspect which came out was that AFV crews also seem to suffer from similar behaviours which Wigram noted among infantry in Sicily albeit in more extreme form. In any given squadron, one or two crews will account for the vast majority of kills, some of the crews will participate reasonable effectively (but nothing like as good as the killers) and the rest just trundle around the battlefield providing targets for the enemy but otherwise making no useful contribution. The same thing happens in air-air combat.

Lee49423 Dec 2018 12:46 p.m. PST

The 80/20 rule applies to most endeavors in life. Why not Combat as well??? Cheers!

Legion 423 Dec 2018 2:35 p.m. PST

During WWII, etc., IIRC Grossman points out that even in a pitched battle only about 15% even fired their weapons. And in turn it would seem the "kills" would go to that "group". But after training soldiers to shot at the outline of humans instead of round targets as in previous wars. In Vietnam the reported number engaging targets was up in the 90% or so.

When I was on active duty, '79-'90, after zeroing our weapons. We would fire on the Qual Rg at pop-up targets of human outlines, not roundels. Seems there was like a stimulus-response happening. I.e. "Human" target pops up … you aim and fire.

Blutarski23 Dec 2018 2:48 p.m. PST

"The 80/20 rule applies to most endeavors in life."

+1 Lee494. True Words.

BTW, operational analysis by the USAAC (und der Luftwaffe) confirmed that the same 80/20 rule generally applied to aerial kills by fighter pilots.

B

goragrad23 Dec 2018 9:53 p.m. PST

So Canadian officers in WWII were unlikely to make negative comments about troops under their commands' performance in action for apparently obvious reasons.

But post-Marshall with new training the reports show a 5 fold rate of increase in performance.

As to the relative effectiveness of members of a unit, much of that would seem to be predicated more on variations in situational awareness and reflexes and other physical abilities than on an overwhelming reluctance to cause physical harm to another human being.

As to intra-species killing, my reading does not paint it as being that uncommon.

Fred Cartwright24 Dec 2018 2:06 a.m. PST

As to the relative effectiveness of members of a unit, much of that would seem to be predicated more on variations in situational awareness and reflexes and other physical abilities than on an overwhelming reluctance to cause physical harm to another human being.

And your evidence for that is what? Because guys like Rowlands who have done the research would suggest otherwise.

David Brown24 Dec 2018 3:41 a.m. PST

As to the relative effectiveness of members of a unit, much of that would seem to be predicated more on variations in situational awareness and reflexes and other physical abilities than on an overwhelming reluctance to cause physical harm to another human being.

Mankind has never had a reluctance to cause harm to another human being. If anything it's the opposite.

DB

Andy ONeill24 Dec 2018 4:27 a.m. PST

One of the supporting cases for the effectiveness of modern training comes from a perhaps surprising source.
As training methods improved there has been an increase in PTSD.
The theory goes that as more soldiers kill then more soldiers are traumatised.
The basic assumption is that most people do not want to kill.
These studies have led to some more conditioning in training. The idea is to change the way soldiers think about their enemy. IIRC it's too early to see whether this will help.

I'm not so sure about pointing to animal behaviour to support reluctance to kill. People are at once more complicated and yet simpler.

Personally I would point to alcohol related violence.
Alcohol consumption reduces inhibitions. Get on the tube and jostle someone during the day. It's highly unlikely they'll do more than say "Hey". Go into a crowded pub near closing time and do the same. It's a lot more likely you'll be attacked. If you're fine hurting people then you could have hours of fun doing so whilst sober. You could easy find opponents.
Does that sound like a great plan?
No?

Of course not.

Unless you're a sociopath then hurting people for no particular reason is not so much fun.

Legion 424 Dec 2018 6:08 a.m. PST

As to intra-species killing, my reading does not paint it as being that uncommon.

Mankind has never had a reluctance to cause harm to another human being. If anything it's the opposite.
For better or worse the historical record makes that very clear.

Unless you're a sociopath then hurting people for no particular reason is not so much fun.
Only a very few would think it was "fun" and yet there were and are those very "Sick" individual/minorities out there. E.g. some of the crimes of ISIS, e.g. torture, rape, etc. It's hard to believe some of those may not have been considered "fun", etc., by those extremely "warped" types.

As training methods improved there has been an increase in PTSD.
The theory goes that as more soldiers kill then more soldiers are traumatised.
The basic assumption is that most people do not want to kill.
These studies have led to some more conditioning in training.

But generally killing in combat or even in law enforcement is a matter of survival.

And again, as I mentioned if ones' comrades are killed by an enemy. Some combatants may want "payback" … Which probably while not "fun" per se. But seems to be a strong "motivator", etc.

As well those in the military that have been trained to set up ambushes, etc., e.g. the very deadly "L-Shaped" Ambush. The enemy in the Kill Zone will have little to no chance of surviving. I don't think many would think that is fun … but very effective if executed properly.


And yes, the "newer" TTP, were and are designed to make soldiers hunters, predators, etc., of other humans. Who at that time are considered the enemy. Those TTP are meant to not only kill as many of the enemy as possible to end the war more quickly, at least in theory. But also help the soldier to survive the on the battlefield. By again kill the enemy before they can kill you and your comrades. Seems the math is simple, at least in theory.


From a personal standpoint, if I was still a soldier e.g. during what is sometimes called the Blackhawk Down incident. Or even after 9/11. I think I would have been very "motivated" to be a "hunter/predator" as I was trained and had trained my troops. And use TTP against those that have killed other US troops and US civilians.

Note no where do I mention violating the Geneva Conventions, etc. As e.g. an L-Shaped Ambush is not a "war crime", etc., … just a very efficient, effective and some would say a "ruthless" way to kill your enemies …

Blutarski24 Dec 2018 6:22 a.m. PST

It is worth pointing out that the majority of casualties in modern wars are inflicted by parties who never actually witness the results of their handiwork – indirect artillery and mortar fire, aerial bombardment, mines, booby-traps. Leaving aside those bred from birth in a warrior culture, it must (I would imagine) be a powerfully conflicting emotional experience to be face-to-face with another human while holding the potential means of his extinction in your hands.

B

Legion 424 Dec 2018 6:38 a.m. PST

Of course as I have said in the past. The most powerful weapon a combat leader has is his radio(s). Which can call in very large amounts of indirect fire assets. E.g. Mortars, FA, CAS, Naval supporting fires, etc. From at times many miles away. Or a tank crew generally shots at another AFV. It sees another AFV. Not a human(s), basically.

But in many cases the Infantrymen go into the assault to "finish" the job the supporting fires' "work" has done. So to speak. And at times close combat occurs and the face of the enemy is seen close up. And if done properly, shortly before the enemy is eliminated/dies.

He[or she] dies and you live is the bottom line of that equation.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP24 Dec 2018 6:57 a.m. PST

As training methods improved there has been an increase in PTSD.

Not sure that is the case, What has changed has been the recognition of PTSD. More training in recognizing the symptoms surely. More resources in dealing with PTSD. More acceptance of PTSD leading to more folks seeking help with it. Less soldiers suffering in silence where past generations chalked it up to "battle fatigue" or "shell shock" and thought of it as a transient problem.

Legion 424 Dec 2018 7:15 a.m. PST

Again, it generally is a matter of survival, IMO …

If it is us or them … it's going to be them …

Simple … basic .. primal … for better or worse …

I want to take all my troops back home alive. As far as the enemy … not so much … They can go home in a body bag, or the equivalent …

Fred Cartwright24 Dec 2018 8:37 a.m. PST

But also help the soldier to survive the on the battlefield. By again kill the enemy before they can kill you and your comrades. Seems the math is simple, at least in theory.

And yet as Wigram's work identified there was a significant proportion of the platoon that weren't prepared to do that, survival imperative not withstanding. They might participate if well lead, but when the lead started flying they were content to hit the dirt and do nothing until they were ordered to. Again this applies to WW2 conscript soldiers not the modern, extensively trained, professional forces.
The kill them before they get the chance to kill you, at least in WW2, seemed to apply only if directly threatened and troops were quite happy to sit and do nothing while enemy passed by. That suggests there is nothing primal about it at all.

Wolfhag24 Dec 2018 8:46 a.m. PST

Unless you're a sociopath then hurting people for no particular reason is not so much fun.

I think that makes Rugby players sociopaths.

Wolfhag

Andy ONeill24 Dec 2018 9:24 a.m. PST

Ha. Well in theory the idea is to win the game of rugby.
But that's an interesting thing itself.
Social norms alter behaviour inhibitors.
If you're born a spartan or something then the warrior society teaches you killing is good.

But as someone said.
I've been told killing someone up close and personal is a ghastly experience. Quite likely to be an event that plays on a veterans mind.

Murvihill24 Dec 2018 4:49 p.m. PST

I think the increase of PTSD is related to the fall of racism. It was easier to justify killing if the enemy was a lesser being. Now the soldiers have to face the fact that their enemy pets their dogs too. The moral cover has been stripped away.

catavar24 Dec 2018 8:08 p.m. PST

Man's inhumanity to man (or woman) is well documented but I think anyone who even remotely values human life and thinks it's easy to do, what's being discussed here, face to face is fooling himself. Training and simple necessity could force your hand but it isn't something you want to do (at least I hope not) in my opinion.

Putting an opponent in a position where surrender is inevitable is proffered by most I believe. Of course this doesn't take into account every situation. In the heat of the moment, when things go bad, I can understand the urge to want to make someone pay.

Back in the day I doubt mental side effects from traumatic experience were properly recognized or acknowledged. In my experience it just wasn't talked about.

Skarper25 Dec 2018 1:16 a.m. PST

I strongly suspect PTSD has been a result of combat for ever. The issue is in modern society it is harder to hide the sufferers away and deny it's a problem.

It is really hard to hit or injure another human being who is no direct threat to yourself. Some people can do this. But not many. Most can 'learn' to do it if they survive long enough. A few will never be able to do this.

I wonder if it's an evolutionary thing? A group of early humans would have needed a few killers who could take on the killers in a rival group. But if everybody is like that then the group will destroy itself.

The large conscript armies of WW2 would have only had a small percentage of natural born killers. They did not screen for this and there was no self selection.

Those who wanted to kill the enemy probably volunteered for commando or special forces, or tried to get into the paratroop units who where going to be in close quarter and no quarter combat. A reason these units were proportionally more effective perhaps?

The vast majority of troops might have been willing to do their bit – but not much more.

Legion 425 Dec 2018 10:20 a.m. PST

Again this applies to WW2 conscript soldiers not the modern, extensively trained, professional forces.
That is true. But we see a similar thing during Vietnam with the US Draft. However, I think that US Draftee in Vietnam was better trained, equipped, etc. than his WWII or even Korean War counterpart generally.
The kill them before they get the chance to kill you, at least in WW2, seemed to apply only if directly threatened and troops were quite happy to sit and do nothing while enemy passed by.
Most likely yes, but again that is where better training and leadership, etc., comes into play. And again, more reasons why conscripts are not as effective as volunteers/"professionals". But in many cases if very large number were needed to defeat the enemy. A Draft is the way to fill those ranks among the professionals.
That suggests there is nothing primal about it at all.
I think survival is a primal instinct …

I've been told killing someone up close and personal is a ghastly experience. Quite likely to be an event that plays on a veterans mind.
I don't doubt it. But it is probably situational in some cases. Again, he's trying to kill you … so your only option is to kill him[or her] before he kills you. Primal survival instinct ? Yes, I'd think. Or the enemy has just killed your comrade next to you. So in turn you kill him out of not only survival instinct but anger … and yes, vengeance (?).

Man's inhumanity to man (or woman) is well documented but I think anyone who even remotely values human life and thinks it's easy to do, what's being discussed here, face to face is fooling himself. Training and simple necessity could force your hand but it isn't something you want to do (at least I hope not) in my opinion.
Generally I can agree with that. But yet, many who were good at killing so to speak, the enemy, like e.g., Spec Ops, Snipers, etc. It's not a question of wanting to do it, but knowing it is your duty, the reason why you are there, and will save the lives of your comrades, etc..

Of course this doesn't take into account every situation. In the heat of the moment, when things go bad, I can understand the urge to want to make someone pay.
Very much so. I don't think we should discount the comradeship, bonding, etc., within a unit.

Regardless some always will be reluctant to kill and survival/saving their own skin ight/will prevail. Again survival may very well be a primal instinct. And as has been said many times in the past, Courage is not the absence of Fear … but the conquest of it. Hence being "fearless" generally many not an accurate assessment ? At least in many cases.
As well it has been said there is[may?] be a thin line between bravery and foolishness (?).
Of course we saw during WWII thru to today some will make suicidal attacks, e.g. the Japanese Banzai charge or Kamikazis. Or more recently suicide bombers of various sects/beliefs, etc.

I strongly suspect PTSD has been a result of combat for ever. The issue is in modern society it is harder to hide the sufferers away and deny it's a problem.
If I understand the more recent reports as of late. Only @ 10% of those in the military who suffer from PTSD actually saw combat. I've even heard of cases of drone pilots suffering from it. And I don't doubt that.

Plus even civilians who never been subject to war or conflict can suffer from PTSD. E.g. rape, assault, abuse, kidnapping, etc., victims.

Those who wanted to kill the enemy probably volunteered for commando or special forces, or tried to get into the paratroop units who where going to be in close quarter and no quarter combat. A reason these units were proportionally more effective perhaps?
Based on my study and even experience, that would generally hold true. Those type units are much more likely to engage the enemy in a firefights, in close assaults/close combat, CQB, etc.

Now in my experience of volunteering for the 101, 82d, etc. as a young Infantry LT … I think it had more to do with I felt that is what an Infantry Officer should do. Again, that is why you were in the Infantry. Yes … ? To kill the enemy …

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