I have been reading some very interesting books about soldiers and warfare. I alluded to one of them in the post linked belowviewtopic.php?p=1106919#p1106919
For those interested, the Amazon links to those books are belowActs of War: Behavior of Men in BattleMen Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command
Marshall (SLA Marshall mentioned in the post linked above above) makes some interesting points about what happens in the mind of the soldier right up there in front - in the line of fire. What keeps him going and what scares him and makes him run. It is impossible for me to summarize both books here except to say that such studies seem to be guiding the development and effectiveness of Western armies - esp USA. This, it would seem to me is the future of the fighting man. Let me explain.
We have some threads about ancient battles and other threads about history. We hear of 50,000 man armies and even 300,000 man armies. In retrospect it seems to me that what Marshall says about soldiers hold true for all ages. He does quote liberally from the past as well - from general and leaders who have been in the thick of battle. It seems to me that battles in those bygone days must have been as inefficient as Marshal found them to be in WW2. Only one in 5 men firing/fighting. Poor communication leading to loss of initiative or even panic retreat for no reason. The same men fighting effectively time and time again. Leadership failures. Communication failures.
The overall message that comes through is that in a large number of battles where a number of men went to the frontline - the actual battle could have been won, or defeat avoided by just half or less than half the men provided the right actions and training were imparted.
Battles are won and lost on the basis of men firing and communicating with each other, both verbally and via technology. Communication has to be lateral - is with the flanks as well as in depth - ie towards the interior - away from the front line. And appropriate training has to be given for every man to fire his weapon, as well as leaders (officers) who urge their men to do so. Another important point is that hile overall morale may be the confidence that the soldier has in his country and his people - when it comes to the crunch - when the man has to charge into a hail of bullets it is not patriotism that keeps a man going but discipline+loyalty to his mates. Not just discipline alone. The man will kill to save his mates. Not his country or his political system. He will run abreast of his mates, his "paltan
" because when faced with the terror of death the most precious thing available, what the man values most is those mates. I quote from Marshall's book:
In battle the most valued thing at hand is the one that is most stoutly defended
But on the other hand in battle a man may lose track of his mates and no one may know the tactical situation leading to either needlessly cowering alone under cover or ineffective or disastrous action.
Clearly there appears to be a possibility of introducing technology to change this situation. First and foremost is communication. Since communication, man to man, platoon to platoon, frontline to back has been shown to be decisive in so may battles - there is a need for equipping every single soldier with communication devices.
Marshall makes the point that verbal communication - just plain shouting is important. But he does point out that in the noise of battle, orders and communications may be misheard or misinterpreted. He make two interesting example of how bad communication led to a panic retreat. In one instance two platoons were abreast of each other and they were asked to move back a few yards and take cover behind a hedgerow. One platoon got the order and the other did not hear it. The one that got the order started moving back under fire. The other platoon thought that an order had come for retreat and they ran like hell to the back and out of the frontline.
In another instance a group of men who were actually in a situation where they were dominating the enemy dropped everything and ran when they saw one of their officers running back. It turned out that the man had been hit on an artery and he was just running back to the medic for some first aid.
So the electronic revolution must be utilized to put every man in touch with others - with a personal set of headphones and a mike. Moving map displays must be available to leaders in battle and seamless communication with UAVs, AWACS and helos. These are force mulitpliers. Gone are the days of sending in 1000 men in a mad charge where only 200 actually fight and many are uselessly killed or injured. Sending in 200 well armed, well equipped, well trained and well supported men will do the job just as well and possibly with fewer casualties. It is that advantage that makes war politically acceptable and that is where we need to get to deal with future challenges.