Just a follow-up quote on Men Against Fire:
I was wondering about that claim, too. If no one was shooting at each other, how did so many millions die?
In fairness to Marshall,
1. You actually can explain that; most soldiers in the World Wars killed in action were killed by bombardment. Movies show small arms fire a lot, but it’s artillery that kills men. Artillery is the red god of war. It makes for bad movies but it’s how modern wars are fought. What killed most German soldiers as the Allies and Soviets ground them down was the incredible superiority of Allied and Soviet artillery. If you read accounts of the Battle of the Falaise Gap, the carnage wrought by artillery and aerial bombardment is stomach-churning.
2. It is almost certainly the case that many men did not fire their weapons or, if they did, made little effort to hit anyone. It just wasn’t as high as Marshall claimed.
Marshall’s methods were extraordinarily unscientific and his story and numbers were suspiciously prone to change, and his findings so contrary to common sense that, really, he is making an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence, and he doesn’t have it.
Another facctor in the popularity of Marshall’s findings, I suspect, is the eternal frustration generals have always had in their ability to kill the enemy despite using massive volumes of ammunition. In World War I the artillery used was of a volume orders of magnitude greater than any war and it SEEMED like it should have broken any line, but it just didn’t. In World War II they threw even more at each other and the other side kept refusing to die. If you’re the general who knows the Third Army consumed 7.9 billion rounds of ammo, it’s kind of hard to emotionally understand how there are still Germans to kill.
But in practice, your men can be blasting away as best they can, and they’re just going to miss. Men under fire become very good at taking cover, and find it awfully hard to aim carefully while taking cover. It takes a tremendous volume of fire to have any sort of measurable effect.
- I admit, I understand where that general is coming from wondering where that 7.9 billion round of ammo went…
- If artillery is terrifying, and air strikes bedwetting, I dread to see the orbital strikes of the future!
- In a low-tech scenario like the (Imperial) Six Subsectors of the Empty Quarter, even a handful of dead starships – excluding their antigrav, to provide mobility – can be a huge game-changer on the battlefield.
“Flatten them, and put some 88s on them!”
“No no no! What you want is hovering rocket artillery platforms…”
“But they were made for bombing!”
“Parachute jumps. We need more parachute jumps.”