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"Comparative Casualties in Late WWI" Topic


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World War One

603 hits since 15 Apr 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian15 Apr 2019 9:51 p.m. PST

According to historian Geoffrey Wawro, in the final campaign of WWI, the British and French were able to kill four to five Germans for every one of their own casualties. The Americans, on the other hand, had a ratio closer of 1 to 1.

What accounted for the Americans' higher cost of warfare?

Wherethestreetshavnoname15 Apr 2019 11:25 p.m. PST

The other allies probably had less blue on blue.

Colbourne6616 Apr 2019 1:48 a.m. PST

I had read – I can't remember where – that the US forces were still using outdated tactics that the other allies had been using during the early part of the war, and hadn't adapted the lessons learnt by the French/British.

As a result they were far more inexperienced, hence the higher casualty rate.

Wargamer Blue16 Apr 2019 2:39 a.m. PST

Inexperienced leaders.

Whirlwind16 Apr 2019 3:47 a.m. PST

According to historian Geoffrey Wawro, in the final campaign of WWI, the British and French were able to kill four to five Germans for every one of their own casualties. The Americans, on the other hand, had a ratio closer of 1 to 1.

Where did he write this (or where did you read it)?

Legion 416 Apr 2019 8:22 a.m. PST

Well along with some of the comments here. Possibly American "hubris", aggressiveness, etc. As they were the "greenest" troops deployed at that time. From the Officers on down generally.

Martin Rapier16 Apr 2019 9:31 a.m. PST

I'd like to see a source or reference before commenting on an assertion like that. Wavro is normally pretty reliable, but as the 100 Days cost the Allies a million casualties, I wasn't aware that the Germans lost five million men in the West in late 1918. Perhaps he is referring to a very specific situation?

JMcCarroll16 Apr 2019 10:30 a.m. PST

Perhaps German totals included surrendered troops as well?
Not to mention offensive operations after the east front troops arrived.

emckinney16 Apr 2019 10:44 a.m. PST

Killed, or all casualties? If it's just killed, better medical services may have made a huge difference. With the German army in retreat, I suspect that many wounded couldn't be gotten back to field hospitals, and others were simply left behind in retreats (accidentally or otherwise), and succumbed to blood loss or infection.

monk2002uk16 Apr 2019 11:28 a.m. PST

I agree with Martin. Leaving aside the Wawro's point, start with the artillery if you want to understand major difficulties or failures in any battle. It was the biggest killer and, if not neutralised on the enemy side, would cause horrendous levels of casualties. The first day of the Meuse-Argonne offensive got off to a good start because the artillery coverage was very good. As the battle ground on, logistics became a nightmare. Not only was it difficult to move guns forward to cover the further advances but resupply became more and more difficult. This meant that enemy MGs were not neutralised and counter-battery efforts were compromised. Plus the German artillery could enfilade the advance from the western side of the river bordering the American left flank.

Faced with these problems, no amount of tactical prowess or officer experience on the part of the infantry could make up for the lethal power of German artillery and unsuppressed MGs.

What the Allies did differently was to avoid pushing too far with an advance. The British, for example, used rolling offensives in different sectors to keep up pressure. This enabled a successful attack to be scaled back rather than persevere in the face of the problems that the Americans suffered. When another attack was launched elsewhere along the line then artillery could be moved forward, resupply carried out, and preparations put in place to resume the original attack. Even with these measures, however, the losses in the Last 100 Days were as high as the first months of the war.

Robert

Musketballs16 Apr 2019 11:39 a.m. PST

Seems a strange figure.

4 or 5 to 1 is about right for the 1st day of Amiens, but that was hardly the rule. Even at Amiens, the eventual casualty ratio dropped to around 2:1 for the whole battle. Allied casualties mounted quite significantly as German resistance stiffened after the first shock, and the Allies outran their artillery support.

Legion 416 Apr 2019 2:11 p.m. PST

I think we need more context on Wawro's comment ?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2019 5:06 p.m. PST

Considering his incredible mashup of his Austro-Prussian War book, I'd want to know where he got that statistic.

And in the last year of the war who were the combatants doing most of the offensive fighting? Germans and Americans.

Who were doing most of the defensive fighting? British and French.

Whirlwind19 Apr 2019 7:23 p.m. PST

And in the last year of the war who were the combatants doing most of the offensive fighting? Germans and Americans.

I think that would be a huge surprise to the British, Commonwealth, Imperial and French troops in the Hundred Days' Offensive.

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