Combat Experience

Discussions on all aspects of the United States of America during the Inter-War era and Second World War. Hosted by Carl Schwamberger.
Volyn
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Re: Combat Experience

Post by Volyn » 05 Oct 2019 16:18

Sheldrake wrote:
05 Oct 2019 13:04
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
05 Oct 2019 03:11
Volyn wrote:
04 Oct 2019 23:04
...

This was a great article to read, why is the topic of combat stress (PTSD) not brought up in other militaries? Are there any documents like this for the Soviets, Germans, Japanese, etc. or how did they address this problem with their soldiers?
In the Great War the French called it cowardice & shot some of them as a example.
/... as did the British., Over 3000 death sentences and around 275 executed for military offences. (But out of an army of some 2.5 million who served on the Western Front)

It is complicated. The Allies were more understanding in WW2. About 1/4-1/3 of casualties in Normandy were psychiatric cases.

The Germans and Soviets regarded their soldiers as representatives of a regime and any weakness as cowardice. The Germans were said to allow men who wavered in battle to be shot without any process. (Though this is from western rather than German sources. Dire threats from above to shoot waverers may not have translated into action until 1945 when draconioan measures resulted in some 12-15,000 executions.) The Red army did have blocking detachments and did execute lots. John Erickson said around 15,000 in the defence of Stalingrad alone.

German and Soviet loss rates may have meant that few soldiers ever experienced a long enough front line service for combat stress to be a factor.
I understand that many soldiers were shot as a result of battle fatigue in WW1 and WW2, however, I also know that other soldiers were placed in hospitals and treated/studied.

Each episode of PTSD would be unique, but the underlying causes have to do with a combination of emotional trauma and physical proximity to violence; both affect the central nervous system negatively. So it is more likely for soldiers sitting in a bunker, enduring hours of artillery fire directly on their positions, to end up suffering from PTSD as compared to soldiers who spent a long time in the field, but only encountered intermittent combat.

German soldiers assigned to Army Group Center would have participated in a tremendous amount of violence over a long period of time during the following campaigns - Operation Barbarossa, Operation Typhoon, the Battles of Rzhev and Operation Büffel. Effectively from 22 JUN 1941 – 22 MAR 1943 those units were exposed to 638 days of combat with very few breaks. How were those soldiers handling the psychology of it?

One can only imagine what the Soviet soldiers were thinking on the opposite side knowing that they were going to be sent, sometimes without weapons, across an open field to “attack” the enemy. Consider how many of their comrades they witnessed get killed in the “Rzhev Meat Grinder” following incompetent leaders, it would be very depressing and would likely foster PTSD in the soldiers who survived. Somehow, they persisted and fulfilled their duties, but do we know what happened to their psychology?

The Japanese have an even more unique outlook, they had suicide squads, pilots, submariners, etc. Their soldiers toiled away under absurd conditions, and from 1943 on they were fighting to the death, with very few POWs taken relative to the numbers fought against. I suppose summary executions were very likely for someone who started “complaining” about the amount of combat they were exposed to.

As authoritarian as the Nazis, Soviets or Imperialists were, there would still be an interest concerning the effects of combat on a soldier’s state of mind. If there are other studies for these nations like one posted by Carl it would be fascinating to read, but I have not yet found one.

Richard Anderson
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Re: Combat Experience

Post by Richard Anderson » 05 Oct 2019 16:25

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
05 Oct 2019 04:35
Picking back through the paragraphs I see it was not 10% of battalion personnel, but 20%. Events ran:

On 31 August the battalion commander informed the officers the artillery battalions was departing the next day, and 20% of the enlisted, one officer from each cannon battery, and one other officer would remain behind to join a freshly mobilized artillery battalion.

The designated personnel were separated during the evening.

The departing battalion was entrained and gone the next morning 1 September

Reservists assigned to the mobilizing battalion arrived 1 & 2 September.

At the initial battalion command meeting the commander informed the staff & battery leaders the battalion would be departing for the western front 4 September.

2 & 3 September the battalion equipment was taken from storage & positioned for loading, horses requisitioned from local farmers arrived.

On 4 Sept the battalion entrained & departed between 07:00 & 9:00 on four trains.

Knappe was originally assigned to the 24th artillery regiment, was transferred to the 87th Inf Div, 187th Artillery regiment.
Okay. Art-Regt 24 was organized 15 October 1935. Upon mobilization, its 10. Batterie personnel went to an unnamed 4. Welle division, while the 11. and 12. Batterie went to Art.-Regt. 256 of the 4. Welle 256. ID.

Art-Regt 187. was organized at Mühlhausen on 26 August for the 2. Welle 87. ID., which in turn was created from Infanterie-Kommandeur 24, which consisted of a single infantry regiment, Inf-Regt 185. The division was cobbled together from odds and sods, including personnel drafts from other units. For example, Inf-Regt 173 drew personnel from Inf-Regt 53 and Pi-Btl 187. drew from personnel of Pi-Btl 14., both of 14. ID.
Knappe does not indicate if the battalion from the 24th Regiment went to war 20% short men, or if that were made up from some other source, or if the battalion had been over strength. Neither does Knappe indicate if the transfer was to make up a large shortage in the 187th Regiment, or if the men were swapped with the 24th Regiment.
Actually, you say he does, "Reservists assigned to the mobilizing battalion arrived 1 & 2 September." The transfer was not made to make up a "large shortage in the 187th Regiment", it was made to create Art-Regt 187. On mobilization, the regiment consisted of only two battalions. They and the Regimentsstab were created from drafts from other organizations...probably at least ten other regiments.

However, as in your experience with the Corps, this was not something done while in engaged in combat, but was part of the planned mobilization of the Heer.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Richard Anderson
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Re: Combat Experience

Post by Richard Anderson » 05 Oct 2019 16:31

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
05 Oct 2019 03:43
That label kind of distorts it.
Not at all.
The divisions did not fight independently, but usually as part of a 'amphibious force' with naval guns and air support closely integrated. Along with tanks, LVT, engineers, TD, & other non divisional units mixed in as combined arms task forces. I remember circa 1983 trying to explain to some Japanese Ground Self Defense officers how they had to stop thinking of a amphibious force interns of a regiment, brigade, or division. Those were components subsumed in a larger integrated tactical formation that often included ships, and aircraft units.
Sure, but where did I say they did not? All of the divisions were "combined arms" forces.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Combat Experience

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 10 Oct 2019 02:36

Richard Anderson wrote:
05 Oct 2019 16:25
...
However, as in your experience with the Corps, this was not something done while in engaged in combat, but was part of the planned mobilization of the Heer.
Technically no, they did not do this in the combat zone, tho the distinction seems rather fine for Knappes former battery of the 24th Regiment going into combat a couple days after losing 20% of its team.

The distinction also seems a bit loose for the US 1st ID Sept 1943 through May 1944. Technically it was in a war theatre but it was not exactly under fire in those months.

In any case we pick at details here. Whatever the reasons why its looking like the US army went into France in 1944 with a lot less benefit from the 'experience' of the MTO or PTO that is often claimed as essential for the success in France. I had long operated under the impression that argument was based on something substantial, but its looking really thin here. Theres no contact or influence of any depth between combat veterans of the MTO & the units destined for the ETO. The four 'veteran' divisions identified represent 10% of those eventually fighting in 12 & 6 Army Groups. The scattering of General officers and some staff officers don't look very substantial either.

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