Evaluation of the Performance of the U.S. Army

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JonS
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Post by JonS » 06 Dec 2005 00:47

The same thing, BTW, applies to the deaded and wounded cas at - for example - Falaise.

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Michael Emrys
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Post by Michael Emrys » 06 Dec 2005 06:18

JonS wrote:...Tripoli in May '43.

[snip]

...the mass surrenders in Tripoli...
Could you have meant Tunis instead of Tripoli here? Otherwise, I confess to my own confusion.

:wink:

JonS
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Post by JonS » 06 Dec 2005 08:12

Quite right :oops: Editted for the correction, thanks Grease.

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 06 Dec 2005 10:21

Hello jon
Well, yes, but its full effects tend to be a bit delayed. For instance, some of the effects of suppression at ElAl2 in Oct/Nov '42 were realised as 'casualties' (POWs) at Tunis in May '43. Similarly, some of the suppression 'casualties' from Normandy in Jun/Jul/Aug '44 weren't realised until the Ruhr Pocket in 45, etc.
This is not the point I endeavored to make. The point is that if suppression affects the functionality of defending units in the engagement adversely, they will be less capable of inflicting losses on the attacker during that engagement, which will also in turn enhance the the attackers ability to advance and allow him to to inflict losses more effectively on the defender. In short - anything that affects the ability of one of the sides to engage in combat, or the terms on which it is done, also has an impact on the losses - even if that factor does not in itself cause any losses directly. In even shorter - the effect of suppression is lower attackers losses, and hence a better loss ratio. In shortest- losses reflect the effects of suppression. See also at least two passages to the same general effect in my previous post.


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JonS
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Post by JonS » 07 Dec 2005 02:25

But your model only counts immediate cas. If you are only counting success by the number of cas, but then not counting a portion of the cas inflicted, you are skewing your own results. The Germans will do well in your model, because their doctrine (since many many decades previously) concentrated on destruction in the short term. Other nations will do less well in your model because their doctrine doesn't, or not to the same extent, or the realisation of cas are delayed. This is where the 'not applying German doctrine as well as the Germans' comment comes from.

Hypothetically, in your model if a US bn lost 100 men maneauvering a German bn off a piece of key terrain, but inflicted absolutely no cas on the Germans, that would count as a stunning defeat for the US. That the loss of the key terrain made their position untenable, and caused the entire German force to surrender the next day is irrelevant to your model. A mass surrender isn't a discrete tactical engagement, so it wouldn't be considered.

Looking at North Africa specifically, what does the ~250,000 free* cas suffered by the Axis in May '43, when pro-rated out over the engagements engagements since Oct 42, do to the relative 'effectiveness' of each side?

Another example for looking at the limitations of your model in the US involvement in Vietnam (not a WWII conflict, yes, thank you I know that). In terms of your raw body count model the US was clearly the 'better' army at any level, and in almost any engagement. But if we look at objectives, or $s/cas, or any of a range of alternate measures, I suspect the the US would come off looking not so flash.

* Free in the sense that the Allies incurred no additional cas to inflict that number on the Axis.

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 07 Dec 2005 08:34

But your model only counts immediate cas. If you are only counting success by the number of cas, but then not counting a portion of the cas inflicted, you are skewing your own results. The Germans will do well in your model, because their doctrine (since many many decades previously) concentrated on destruction in the short term. Other nations will do less well in your model because their doctrine doesn't, or not to the same extent, or the realisation of cas are delayed. This is where the 'not applying German doctrine as well as the Germans' comment comes from.
Firstly, there are many models that seek to quantify performance on the basis of data on losses and strength, and none of them are mine. They differ in several respects, what I have offered is some more general comments to that approach to performance in general.

Secondly - are you arguing that any model based on losses is inherently skewed in the German direction because all other armies tried to achieve their goals in some way other than inflicting direct damage on the enemy's forces on the battlefield?
Hypothetically, in your model if a US bn lost 100 men maneauvering a German bn off a piece of key terrain, but inflicted absolutely no cas on the Germans, that would count as a stunning defeat for the US. That the loss of the key terrain made their position untenable, and caused the entire German force to surrender the next day is irrelevant to your model. A mass surrender isn't a discrete tactical engagement, so it wouldn't be considered.
No, you just need to define the time-frame of the engagement to include that following day when all the Germans surrendered. Even if you didn't, where's the basis for assuming that things like this systematically favored one particular side?
Looking at North Africa specifically, what does the ~250,000 free* cas suffered by the Axis in May '43, when pro-rated out over the engagements engagements since Oct 42, do to the relative 'effectiveness' of each side?
Whyever would anyone pro-rate the personnel that surrendered in May out over previous engagements? What has that got to do with how units of either side performed in those previous actions? The fact that 250,000 axis personnell surrendered in Tunisia in May 1943 is not a direct function of how British and American units performed in previous tactical engagements, though that performance is one of the factors that contributed to it. As said, this type of analysis can only directly say something meaningful on the engagement level, and is as far as I know usually only applied there. It can say something of more general validity on the basis of a large number of individual cases. It isn't one big calculation that you can put everything into, it would not work as that and it has never been intended as that either.
Another example for looking at the limitations of your model in the US involvement in Vietnam (not a WWII conflict, yes, thank you I know that). In terms of your raw body count model the US was clearly the 'better' army at any level, and in almost any engagement. But if we look at objectives, or $s/cas, or any of a range of alternate measures, I suspect the the US would come off looking not so flash.
I'm sure we could, and why not? Three main points here. Firstly, no model of this type is a "raw body count" model. On the contrary, the real challenge is apparently how to model the host of other factors that impact on the "net" force ratio the losses are measured against. Secondly, if such a model gave such a result (which is far from certain, even if the NVA/VC absolute losses were considerably higher, see previous point), this would in fact probably say something meaningful and true about superior American battlefield performance. Thirdly, of course, you can use a range of alternate measures for any number of reasons, but they would not speak about the same thing. For instance, $s/cas might say something about how effectively a given commitment of economic resources achieved battlefield results, but this is not the same thing as the efficiency with which US forces did so.

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JonS
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Post by JonS » 07 Dec 2005 19:15

Qvist wrote:
Hypothetically, in your model if a US bn lost 100 men maneauvering a German bn off a piece of key terrain, but inflicted absolutely no cas on the Germans, that would count as a stunning defeat for the US. That the loss of the key terrain made their position untenable, and caused the entire German force to surrender the next day is irrelevant to your model. A mass surrender isn't a discrete tactical engagement, so it wouldn't be considered.
No, you just need to define the time-frame of the engagement to include that following day when all the Germans surrendered.
What if they surrendered 2 days later? 3? 4? ...?

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 07 Dec 2005 20:25

Seriously Jon, do you need me to answer that? Engagements can be delineated in many ways, and in the case of four-day continuous engagement ending in a mass surrender on one side, it would appear fairly arbitrary to define it as encompassing the first two or three. The length of an engagement is variable - f.e., according to the TDI Capture Rate Study that you quoted previously, in the Ardennes database engagements varied between 1 and 6 days duration.

And in any case, how likely do you think cases like these are to be a problem of such generality that it affects the viability this type of analysis?

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JonS
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Post by JonS » 07 Dec 2005 20:39

You do need to answer it, because you dismissed it previously, now you are saying it does count. Which is it? [Edit] Actually, you don't need to do anything. Answer it or not as you wish. Personally I get a bit pissed when people tell me I "must" do something or other, and I assume you expect the same courtesy.[/Edit]

BTW, the hypothetical wasn't a continuous engagement. As for applicability that depends on frequency and scale; many small such events, or a few very large ones will affect the viability.

From earlier:
Whyever would anyone pro-rate the personnel that surrendered in May out over previous engagements? What has that got to do with how units of either side performed in those previous actions?
Because, clearly, the surrender is the cumulative result of those previous engagements. The POW cas are a consequence. If you dismiss them, you are saying something along the lines of 'On a body-count basis the Germans won every engagement between El Al and Tunis, then to keep the figures looking good they up and surrendered one day for no very good reason.'
are you arguing that any model based on losses is inherently skewed in the German direction because all other armies tried to achieve their goals in some way other than inflicting direct damage on the enemy's forces on the battlefield?
No. You seem to have forgotten this already:
Well, arguably the losses inflicted would be both a simpler, more useful and more relevant measure of the effectiveness of the fires?
Except that it completely misses the point of suppression.
I'm saying that your model is skewed towards immediate cas, overlooks different doctrine as a way of acheiving objectives, and ignores attainment of objective - other than positive body counts - altogether. Which armies will be favoured or disadvantaged by the model at various times is left as an exercise for the reader.

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 08 Dec 2005 09:18

You do need to answer it, because you dismissed it previously, now you are saying it does count. Which is it? [Edit] Actually, you don't need to do anything. Answer it or not as you wish. Personally I get a bit pissed when people tell me I "must" do something or other, and I assume you expect the same courtesy.
No,I don't - when I write something, I consider myself obliged to back it up or withdraw it if is challenged. I rather thought I had, but OK, here's another go: If an engagement lasts for four days, there's no good reason why anyone should define it as a two- or three-day engagement. And why would anyone be required to?
BTW, the hypothetical wasn't a continuous engagement. As for applicability that depends on frequency and scale; many small such events, or a few very large ones will affect the viability.
Exactly, it depends on frequency and scale. This is one hypothetical engagement that you have thought up. You can then hypothetically assume that this engagement can be modelled in a way that fails to capture the full extent of losses, and in a way that distorts the picture. So, perhaps you need to show that this is not just hypothetically conceivable, but also that it is not only actual, bit also on a scale and frequency that would qualify it as a relevant point to bring up?
Because, clearly, the surrender is the cumulative result of those previous engagements. The POW cas are a consequence. If you dismiss them, you are saying something along the lines of 'On a body-count basis the Germans won every engagement between El Al and Tunis, then to keep the figures looking good they up and surrendered one day for no very good reason.'
Sorry, but this fundamentally misunderstands the nature of what this type of analysis says - and tries to say - something about. The outcome of the African campaign is not a function of the two sides' performance in the preceding individual engagements, but of a large number of factors of whom tactical performance is merely one, and the eventual surrender is not a cumulative result of the previous engagements.
I'm saying that your model is skewed towards immediate cas, overlooks different doctrine as a way of acheiving objectives, and ignores attainment of objective - other than positive body counts - altogether. Which armies will be favoured or disadvantaged by the model at various times is left as an exercise for the reader.
There is no "my model". I have offered some remarks as to what I believe are the analytical advantages of a casualties-based analysis of efficiency in general, and some reflections on its limitations.

I refer you back to my previous lengthy post, which did contain lines of argument that addresses this. See especially:
True, but the point isn't if casualties are the point of warfare. Rather, the question is if they are a measure of performance, which is not neccessarily the same thing
An underlying assumption, and in my opinion a reasonable one, is that all aspects of the fighting organisations’ efficiency –including such things as intelligence, f.e. – in the end manifest themselves as a factor on the battlefield, even if the characteristic is not in itself directly combat related. Hence, they also impact on (and are reflected by) the distribution of losses
.
I do not see that the fact that most military operations aim at something more than merely inflicting losses is neccessarily an objection to using losses as the basis for evaluations of performance. No matter which type of objective is pursued, pursuing it consists in engaging the enemy's forces and attempting to defeat them, and the measurable outcome of this activity is losses.
It is - if only barely - conceivable that some armies systematically pursue tactics that eschew activity that leads to the the infliction of casualties on the opposing side, in favor of some other means of gaining tactical results. If this is so, then it does indeed touch one of the central assumptions of casualty-based models. This however needs to be shown, rather than just assumed.

Ignores attainment of objective: I have already raised several problems connected to integrating attainment of objectives in a judgment of efficiency. Perhaps you would like to address them, if you think they are not valid?

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Last edited by Qvist on 11 Dec 2005 14:36, edited 2 times in total.

Michate
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Post by Michate » 08 Dec 2005 09:55

Because, clearly, the surrender is the cumulative result of those previous engagements. The POW cas are a consequence. If you dismiss them, you are saying something along the lines of 'On a body-count basis the Germans won every engagement between El Al and Tunis, then to keep the figures looking good they up and surrendered one day for no very good reason.'
I think this shows a misundrestanding as to what such combat models are meant to evaluate and to what they are not meant to evaluate.

Basically such engagement models do measure tactical performance of the actual troops in the actual engagements they are describing (or modelling). For this question of tactical performance questions of campaign outcome are not factored in, because these are influenced by many other factors than just performance of the troops in the modelled engagements, nor are they ONLY a result of the succession of the tactical engagements (this is only one of many factors).

For the North African example factors as command of the sea and the air (especially the air over the sea), possession of harbours, availability of ship tonnage and fuel etc. come to my mind, because in this campaign naturally logistic factors were of paramount importance, as is only natural for a campaign in an oversea bridgehead. These factors however belong to the realm of theater strategy (maybe also to “operational art” as fuzzy as this term IMHO is), not to tactics.

So, for an engagement model measuring essentially tactical performance of ground troops it is only natural not to include these other factors. The effect of course is, that such a model (or set of models) is unsufficient to explain campaign outcome nor is it possible to judge from such a model on the relative effectivity of one nation’s armed forces in their total capabilities or efforts in making war, because, as already mentioned, tactical performance is only one of many factors influencing that.

Now I would say it is also possible to build a new model (or expand existing) to measure not tactical but strategic performance, where of course the final outcome of a campaign is measured against the total input, not only tactical forces (meaning number of combat soldiers and weapons) but the whole resources of the respective parties devoted to the modelled theater of war. For the Northern African example the final campaign outcome probably would shift the relative effectivity of the parties much into the favour of the Allies.

Whether such an “all inclusive” model exists I do not know. If it does, I for one would be interested to learn something about it. That however does not mean that models measuring tactical engagements do not have their place, too, or that they are “systematically” biased to make the Germans come out better. One just has to bear in mind what is their purpose and what are their limitations or IOW what they are meant (and what they are not meant) to measure.

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Post by Andreas » 08 Dec 2005 11:26

Michate wrote: That however does not mean that models measuring tactical engagements do not have their place, too, or that they are “systematically” biased to make the Germans come out better. One just has to bear in mind what is their purpose and what are their limitations or IOW what they are meant (and what they are not meant) to measure.
I think this point bears repeating. Unfortunately a lot of times these models are trotted out as evidence that the Germans were simply better than their adversaries at conducting combat. The counter-argument is usually that this is not so, as is shown by the fact that they lost the war. Bingo, a lovely conflation of units of analysis, and everyone can have at it, depending on their personal preference. Not very productive, but it keeps threads going forever (which is not always a bad thing, as this one shows).

If the model of a limited engagement shows that one party was more effective at inflicting casualties than the other, and if this result is consistent over a range of engagements put into the model, than instead of asking what this proves, I think the more productive question is why that is the case, and it is certainly the question that needs to be asked first. At least that is my rudimentary memory of stats.

So, if someone comes up and says that these models 'prove' that the Germans were the more effective force, I'd point them to Michate's post, and then continue to wonder what the explanatory factors are, since most of the time the person who is using it to prove something won't be able and/or interested in giving me an answer that is either relevant or interesting.

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Post by Qvist » 08 Dec 2005 11:47

I'd say that it is also a question of obvious validity to ask "what this shows", if not "proves", but apart from that I agree entirely.


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Post by Andreas » 08 Dec 2005 12:40

Qvist wrote:I'd say that it is also a question of obvious validity to ask "what this shows", if not "proves", but apart from that I agree entirely.


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But that is the problem - it does not show a lot, without understanding the 'why'. I think it is now a generally accepted statement that on the tactical level, the Germans fairly consistently managed to achieve a positive casualty ratio across the length of the war, while on the operational level this changed quite drastically during the war, and the same on the strategic level. But without asking the 'why' first, you can not answer the question of 'what'. In my view.

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 08 Dec 2005 12:53

Michate;

Excellent post, just a few comments.
So, for an engagement model measuring essentially tactical performance of ground troops it is only natural not to include these other factors. The effect of course is, that such a model (or set of models) is unsufficient to explain campaign outcome nor is it possible to judge from such a model on the relative effectivity of one nation’s armed forces in their total capabilities or efforts in making war, because, as already mentioned, tactical performance is only one of many factors influencing that.
More generally, I would also say that no concept of performance or efficiency, no matter how broadly defined, is ever sufficient to explain outcome, as some important factors fundamentally don't reflect performance or efficiency in any sense of the word.
Now I would say it is also possible to build a new model (or expand existing) to measure not tactical but strategic performance, where of course the final outcome of a campaign is measured against the total input, not only tactical forces (meaning number of combat soldiers and weapons) but the whole resources of the respective parties devoted to the modelled theater of war. For the Northern African example the final campaign outcome probably would shift the relative effectivity of the parties much into the favour of the Allies.

Whether such an “all inclusive” model exists I do not know. If it does, I for one would be interested to learn something about it. That however does not mean that models measuring tactical engagements do not have their place, too, or that they are “systematically” biased to make the Germans come out better. One just has to bear in mind what is their purpose and what are their limitations or IOW what they are meant (and what they are not meant) to measure.
It is an interesting question, but I am fundamentally skeptical towards the possibility of such models. The main reason is that it would inevitably mix together widely disparate issues, whose combination into a single model would tend to obscure rather than illuminate. Also, it is not easy to see even theoretically how they could possibly be related to each other in a menaningful way within a quantified model. Several aspects are also governed by fundamentally different logics, some of whom resist any quantification. I would much rather have a series of different types of analysis dealing with different aspects. In the main, I think it is an advantage rather than a drawback with quantified tactical models that what they say something about is really quite limited.

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