You often hear the point that today’s infantry fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq have seen more infantry combat than most infantry during WW II in NW Europe, while serving multiple tours of duty. While that may be strictly true in terms of the total time in combat, it is misleading in the sense that the reason for such relatively short tours in WW II was owing to the 8 months from D-Day untill VE-Day and the fact that units in combat had such extraordinarily high turnover in personnel owing to the staggering casualty rate. There is no way that so many of today’s warfighters would have survived to complete so many tours of duty were our enemies in the Middle East able to project the same relative combat power and skill of the German enemy.
This is not meant to detract from the enormous sacrifice, diffuculties experienced and bravery of our contemporary warfighters in their struggles against a ruthless enemy. I just think it helps to place it all in historical context.
Finally as we cosider placing women into combat, let us not refight the last war. The next one may be a contest similar to WWII, if not in style than in the casualty rates. As the article shows, EVERYONE in the Army is ultimately an infantryman if needed. Just ask the men of the Word War II Army Specialized Training Program who had been trained in relatively rear area jobs such as radar technicians, aircrew, anti-aircraft artillery, engineering, dentistry, medicine and the like. Most of them were transferred to combat units has infantry to replace the unbelievable losses in the line infantry and armor units and in preperation for the invasion of Japan.
This possibility does NOT bode well for large percentages of women in the Army.
You do some fine writing, do you ever submit articles, or seek to write guest opinion pieces?
World War II was a meatgrinder that consumed huge numbers of troops. The difference with World War I is that the combat was more fluid instead of static. But the casualties were even higher. As bad as the casualty rates were for American divisions fighting in the west, they pale in comparison to the casualties of the brutal war in the East between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
In the Battle of the Bulge, the United States Army suffered about 75,000-80,000 casualties, of which about 19,000 were killed. It is considered the largest single land battle fought by the US Army. On the Eastern Front, that was small change. During the “Right Bank Ukraine” Operation from December 1943 to April 1944, the Soviets suffered 1,100,000 casualties, of which 270,000 were KIA. While that was a gigantic offensive, it gives an idea of the sacrifices they demanded to win.
There’s a daily post here posted by FReeper Homer_J_Simpson of the New York Times from 70 years ago. Each day you can read the progress of the global war. In the Russian press releases, they always talk about how many “inhabited places” they have retaken from the Germans. There was a reason for that. Those villages and “inhabited locations” provided the fresh cannon fodder to replace their staggering losses. When the Red Army entered a village, every male between the ages of 16 and 45 was given a scrap of uniform, a weapon, a few hours of training and a vodka ration. Then they were let loose to take their revenge on the Germans. Poorly trained, they suffered horrible losses. But as the Red Army marched forward, it continuously regenerated itself, which was something the Germans could not do.
That’s what war requires. And women have no place in the front lines of this sort of endeavor.
There were a lot of “Rules of Thumb” developed from experience in WW2. One of them was the idea of “Wastage”. That a division operating “on the line” could expect a certain percentage of casualties PER DAY regardless of the level of combat. Those casualties came from routine patrolling activities and the minor skirmishes associated with enemy probing. If the division went into an offensive, or had to repel a major assault, then those daily casualty figures would of course rise.
Of course all those “wastage” casualties were pretty much infantry or soldiers attached to infantry units.