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
Member
Posts: 329
Joined: 04 Jul 2018 04:53
Location: Georgia, USA

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
Member
Posts: 2771
Joined: 01 Jan 2016 21:21
Location: Bremerton, Washington

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
Member
Posts: 2771
Joined: 01 Jan 2016 21:21
Location: Bremerton, Washington

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
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 7057
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

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.

User avatar
Sheldrake
Member
Posts: 2297
Joined: 28 Apr 2013 17:14
Location: London

Re: Combat Experience

Post by Sheldrake » 24 Oct 2019 12:26

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
10 Oct 2019 02:36
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.
Possibly an MA in exploring that topic.

Both the American and British thought there was merit in spreading experience from the MTO, and for the Americans from the PTO. Somew of that was realized by transferring commanders - not least Eisenhower and his team from the MTO. The US Brought in Collins and Corlett as Corps Commanders from the PTO.

The commanders and staff were aware that experienced soldiers are not the boldest, and that fresh troops could be relied on to take more risks that veterans might avoid. Both US and British thought assigned a mix of green and experienced troops to the D Day and follow up. Although there were several formations with MTO experience, (9th US 2nd Armd), only two 1st US and 50th British, were deployed for the seaborne assault itself. There has been an academic debate about the performance of 50th and 51st Div, which challenged the perception that these formations were tired and under performed.

There were problems with Green troops. This was not necessarily about the quality of the soldiers, but rather their officers. There was a difference between command in combat and any command in training. Exercises could weed out some, but not all who could not cope with command. (It took a mutiny to remove Captain Sobel of Easy Company 506th Parachute Infantry). Not all commanders were brave under fire. Plenty of officers were sacked. There were unfamiliar battle situations to read and not all read them well. Map reading on a battlefield wasn't easy and could catch out the unwary. Colonel Worthington lost his eponymous force on the first day of his first battle. How do you tell the difference between a battle going well and one going badly? When is it simply a matter of driving subordinates on, as opposed to rethinking the plan?

Its a complicated matter

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 7057
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Combat Experience

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 24 Oct 2019 15:20

Sheldrake wrote:
24 Oct 2019 12:26
Possibly an MA in exploring that topic. ... Its a complicated matter
Agree. Have hardly scratched the surface in six pages of discussion here. A couple paragraphs of analysis not even a introduction.
Sheldrake wrote:
24 Oct 2019 12:26
... 50th British, were deployed for the seaborne assault itself. There has been an academic debate about the performance of 50th and 51st Div, which challenged the perception that these formations were tired and under performed.
Years ago MBE Bailey published a brief article with a argument how hyper agresive infantry leaders/tactics ramped up leader losses to fast & created problems for the long haul. Short term improvement in tactical or operational success was offset in long strategy by a increasing portion of a army having mediocre or less leadership. That what could be described as "tired" for the 50th Div was actually experience avoiding stupidly aggressive tactics where they were unecessary.

Don't have time to write a essay this morning, so I'll leave it at that.

Tom from Cornwall
Member
Posts: 1885
Joined: 01 May 2006 19:52
Location: UK

Re: Combat Experience

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 01 Feb 2020 13:46

Hi,

I thought it might be of interest that the British circulated "American Lessons from the Tunisian Campaign" to some formations of 10th British Corps before the Salerno invasion. For example, the war diary of 56th (British) Infantry Division (WO169/8810) records on 11 August 1943:
1000 hrs [TOR] [10] Corps 156/7G – Forwarding 2 copies of “American lessons from the Tunisian Campaign”.
Although 2 copies doesn't seem many for an entire division, I assume that someone in Div HQ had responsibility for checking them against current training programmes to see if there were any new ideas that could be included. Having said that, by mid-August 1943, 56th Division was well into its amphibious training exercises so it may well be that there was little opportunity to pass on any particular gems from the American document.

If I find any more references to distribution within the division, I'll post them up here. Anyone out there know if that particular lessons document is on-line anywhere.

Regards

Tom

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 7057
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Combat Experience

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 01 Feb 2020 18:13

Circulation of such documents is a contrast to six months earlier when officers in Anderson's fist army disparaged US Army skill, it's claimed some refered to the Yanks as "Our Italians". I don't know what the truth is there, but several historians refer to a lack of respect & cooperation within the 2st Army. Perhaps Montgomery required a different attitude?

daveshoup2MD
Member
Posts: 82
Joined: 01 Feb 2020 18:10
Location: Coral and brass

Re: Combat Experience

Post by daveshoup2MD » 01 Feb 2020 20:15

Interesting bit of data regarding the 56th Division, which although it had mobilized in 1939-40 and was deployed from the UK to southwest Asia in 1942, it didn't see action until Tunisia in 1943, where it lost its commander (MG Eric Miles) WIA. The new CG, MG Douglas Graham, had been with the 51st Division in Egypt and Libya, and knew the division was slated for the Italian invasion under the US 5th Army, so reviewing what the Americans had gleaned from II Corps' campaign in Tunisia would have only made sense.

Tom from Cornwall
Member
Posts: 1885
Joined: 01 May 2006 19:52
Location: UK

Re: Combat Experience

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 01 Feb 2020 20:36

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
01 Feb 2020 18:13
Circulation of such documents is a contrast to six months earlier when officers in Anderson's fist army disparaged US Army skill, it's claimed some refered to the Yanks as "Our Italians"
Carl,

I think even the Americans realised that they had lessons to learn (just like the British did) when they first came up against the reality of combat with the German army; it would be interesting to know whether British lessons learned documentation was shared and disseminated within US formations before TORCH. To be fair to Anderson and 1st Army HQ, before this point, the US couldn't exactly offer combat lessons against a modern European enemy.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 Feb 2020 20:15
The new CG, MG Douglas Graham, had been with the 51st Division in Egypt and Libya, and knew the division was slated for the Italian invasion under the US 5th Army, so reviewing what the Americans had gleaned from II Corps' campaign in Tunisia would have only made sense.
Agreed. And also, perhaps, realisation that not all 8th Army lessons from desert fighting would be applicable in Europe. I'll have to re-read the Montgomery papers for this period to understand whether 8th Army thought their desert style would be sufficient in Sicily and Italy.

Regards

Tom

daveshoup2MD
Member
Posts: 82
Joined: 01 Feb 2020 18:10
Location: Coral and brass

Re: Combat Experience

Post by daveshoup2MD » 01 Feb 2020 20:46

Tom - Good point.. Certainly the terrain and climate in Tunisia is more comparable to southern Italy than western Egypt and Libya would have been. Denser civilian population and more towns, as well.

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 7057
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Combat Experience

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 02 Feb 2020 01:33

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
01 Feb 2020 20:36
... To be fair to Anderson and 1st Army HQ, before this point, the US couldn't exactly offer combat lessons against a modern European enemy. ...
I seriously doubt anyone in 1st Army was thinking about AAR from the US Army in November or December 1942, or even in early 1943. Theres some hints the PoV derived from the differences in staff procedures & related matters. But, the references to this in the books are all very brief and lack any useful detail.

It occurs to me anything passed on to the 56th Div would have had Bradleys influence. He had been affiliated with II Corps since March & commanding it from April.By May he was molding the staff to his views.

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 7057
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Combat Experience

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 02 Feb 2020 01:35

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
01 Feb 2020 20:36
... Agreed. And also, perhaps, realisation that not all 8th Army lessons from desert fighting would be applicable in Europe. I'll have to re-read the Montgomery papers for this period to understand whether 8th Army thought their desert style would be sufficient in Sicily and Italy.
8th Army had fought in Tunisia since January, so they probably were starting to see that after 4-5 months.

daveshoup2MD
Member
Posts: 82
Joined: 01 Feb 2020 18:10
Location: Coral and brass

Re: Combat Experience

Post by daveshoup2MD » 02 Feb 2020 02:13

A US branch it might be worth looking at would be armor, specifically the number of armored division commanders in 1944-45 who had experience in North Africa or Sicily-Italy, including with the 1st and 2nd armored divisions, in 1942-43. A very superficial review shows (at least) the following, that six of the 16 US army armored divisions that saw action in 1944-45 had at least one commanding generals who had served in North Africa and Sicily in 1942-43:

1st AD - Harmon served with 2nd AD in North Africa before he took command of the 1st;
2nd AD - Harmon, Gaffey (both has seen action in North Africa and Sicily)
3rd AD - Rose served with 2nd AD in the MTO
4th AD - Gaffey,
5th AD - Oliver (North African service, 1st AD)
20th AD - Ward (1st AD North Africa)

Return to “USA 1919-1945”