Causes of battle casualties

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Jon G.
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Causes of battle casualties

Post by Jon G. » 31 Mar 2004 08:29

I have done a search for this subject and came up alternately with 3400+ hits and nothing at all. I therefore trust it is a safe question to pose.

What were the causes of battle casualties in various campaigns in WWII? I can remember reading (but alas I forget where) that 50% of German casualties (WIA, KIA) on the Eastern Front were caused by artillery; whereas no less than 80% of German casualties in NWE were caused by enemy artillery. Both these figures seem rather high to me.

But maybe somebody with access to Ellis: Brute Force (a book that costs the same as a colour tv, so I don't have it yet) could relate some numbers, not just for losses due to artillery, but an all-round breakdown of causes of losses?

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Christoph Awender
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Post by Christoph Awender » 31 Mar 2004 08:46

Hello!

Well in some reports from medical authorities and units the percentage of artillery casualties is even higher than you state above.
Artillery (including mortars) was the most casualty inflicting factor in WW2. Casualties by small arms fire seems neglectible low compared to artillery.

\Christoph

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Post by daveh » 31 Mar 2004 10:00

The cause of wounds suffered by soldiers varied widely depending on specific circumstances. A British Corps reported 42.8% wounds caused by bullets during the El Alamein offensive. However the percentage of battle wounds to british soldiers by weapon 1939-45 overall was:

Mortar, grenade, bomb, shell ...........75%
Bullet, AT mine................................10%
mine & booby trap...........................10%
Blast and crush.................................2%
Chemical..........................................2%
other................................................1%

from J Ellis WWII Databook table 57 p257

No details are given as to what blast, crush or chemical "attacks" caused casualties.

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Paul Timms
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Casaulties

Post by Paul Timms » 01 Apr 2004 20:33

I've heard it said by various Vets that small arms are just to pin the enemy down until you can kill him with artillery. I imagine that the % killed (as opposed to wounded) by artillery would be higher. Add to this the often claimed figures (up to 50%) of men who did not fire their weapons in a given action and you see the picture.
I can even cite the example of a shame faced mate in a paintball fire fight who admitted in the excitement,fear and confusion he did not fire a shot.

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Oleg Grigoryev
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Post by Oleg Grigoryev » 01 Apr 2004 20:43

Makes one wonder if the analysis that atempt to prove which soldiers were better by using casualty ratios are realy sound. After all it is not like you can outrun 6inch projectile.

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Conacher1941
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Re: Casaulties

Post by Conacher1941 » 02 Apr 2004 16:16

Paul Timms wrote:I've heard it said by various Vets that small arms are just to pin the enemy down until you can kill him with artillery. I imagine that the % killed (as opposed to wounded) by artillery would be higher. Add to this the often claimed figures (up to 50%) of men who did not fire their weapons in a given action and you see the picture.
I can even cite the example of a shame faced mate in a paintball fire fight who admitted in the excitement,fear and confusion he did not fire a shot.



Wow, 50% of soldiers engaged in any given battle wouldn't discharge their weapons, or 50% of soldiers engaged in any given conflict?
The difference as I see it is that half of the soldiers who fought at Stalingrad, a battle, would not have fired, whereas half of the soldiers who attacked the Red Oktober factory on Nov 10th (Randon Date) would not have fired. Do you see the difference in the two?


...Conacher

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Re: Casaulties

Post by Darrin » 02 Apr 2004 16:36

Paul Timms wrote:I've heard it said by various Vets that small arms are just to pin the enemy down until you can kill him with artillery. I imagine that the % killed (as opposed to wounded) by artillery would be higher. Add to this the often claimed figures (up to 50%) of men who did not fire their weapons in a given action and you see the picture.
I can even cite the example of a shame faced mate in a paintball fire fight who admitted in the excitement,fear and confusion he did not fire a shot.



I've also heard that the early studies pointing this out were flawed.

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Post by Jon G. » 03 Apr 2004 00:59

Thank you for the numbers provided, daveh. Maybe one can draw further conclusions from the percentages given? For example, nearly 50% bullet/AT mine (I wonder why they are in the same category?) casualties compared to 10% overall could imply that Rommel's Panzerarmée still found itself in a precarious supply situation also in October - i. e. not that many shells to fire at the enemy.

Also, perhaps an attacking army suffers comparatively more losses to small arms fire than it does to artillery fire?

I've also heard of the study saying that many soldiers don't fire their weapons at the enemy at all. I offer no opinion on that, but it's heavily disputed.

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Juha Hujanen
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Post by Juha Hujanen » 03 Apr 2004 11:56

In Ambrose Citizen Soldiers is a line that 3/4 of US casualties in Normandy were caused by mortars (just started to read that book)

/Juha

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Post by Darrin » 03 Apr 2004 12:04

Shrek wrote:Thank you for the numbers provided, daveh. Maybe one can draw further conclusions from the percentages given? For example, nearly 50% bullet/AT mine (I wonder why they are in the same category?) casualties compared to 10% overall could imply that Rommel's Panzerarmée still found itself in a precarious supply situation also in October - i. e. not that many shells to fire at the enemy.

Also, perhaps an attacking army suffers comparatively more losses to small arms fire than it does to artillery fire?

I've also heard of the study saying that many soldiers don't fire their weapons at the enemy at all. I offer no opinion on that, but it's heavily disputed.




Maybe this corps primarially attacked Italians who had even less arty supply then germans in general. They also lagged behind the other western nations in the abilty of thier arty to cause cas.


The orginally study I heard quoted around was that only 10% of soilders cause 90% of the enemy cas. Wile this one might be an accurte descrition of reality it may be more a result of different weapons then not firning in general. For example maye 10% of the soilders in the front use MGs, artys, tanks etc... and these weapons certainly could cause a vast majority of enemy cas.

Maybe the the guns or weapons were fired but were poorly aimed during the stress of combat in general. Perhaps the reloading and unjaming of weapons were poorly conducted in stress of combat and even dirt of the front line. Esp with older weapons and ammo both produced TO max quanity over quality. Perhaps a small % of the front line soilders were able to keep thier cool easier and were able to continue to fire, etc... efffectivly. It seems to me unlikely that even 50% of the soilders actually in combat did not fire at all.

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Post by Darrin » 03 Apr 2004 12:21

Juha Hujanen wrote:In Ambrose Citizen Soldiers is a line that 3/4 of US casualties in Normandy were caused by mortars (just started to read that book)

/Juha



The motors constiued 20% of all HE shells made for non AAA guns by the germans. It seems highly unliky that such high numbers 75% of cas were caused by just 20% of the all arty shells.

In truth how could the actual medical reports deferentiate bettween mortar shell fragments and any other arty shell fragment? It seems likly this must be baesed on some other approx. Some CW units in normandy reported the same thing. Apparently the CW used people to sit and count shell numbers and size of shells and complie these into shellrep or reports. Obvoiusly this is just a really big guess that don't reallly match either actual enemy shell usage or even medical reports of your side.

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Post by Darrin » 03 Apr 2004 12:35

Some of the cas difference might also be due to difference in reports for example the overall numbers and trends undoubtly include all soiders. At the lower levels of medical reports perhaps it might get just a small subsection of lighter wounded. For example one bullet wound would proably not be evacuated to hospital in the rear and could be treated by fwd units. Were as injuries from arty rounds would likly be more serious requiring evac to rear.

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Post by Darrin » 03 Apr 2004 13:09

Another reason why only 10% of the solders caused 90% of the cas may have more to do with where they where. On the 1st of june 44 on the east there were 2.6 mil men offically in the ger army actual str. This includes half a mil men in GHQ non combat units and in reserve OKH units that were not directly subordinated to any army gropus and were not on the front line. Of the actual 2.6 mil men near the front only 750,000 were actually offically in the front str. Only rifle, arty, tank etc soilders actually on the line or just 30% of the overall number. Plus when you start adding in all the german tropps who were not anywhere near any frontline. The % of troops actually on the front str drops even less.

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Post by Jon G. » 03 Apr 2004 16:58

Darrin wrote:
Juha Hujanen wrote:In Ambrose Citizen Soldiers is a line that 3/4 of US casualties in Normandy were caused by mortars (just started to read that book)

/Juha



The motors constiued 20% of all HE shells made for non AAA guns by the germans. It seems highly unliky that such high numbers 75% of cas were caused by just 20% of the all arty shells.


For the entire war, yes, but the percentage stated could easily hold true for a single battle. And if 75% (seems very high to me) of casualties were caused by mortars, we could maybe ascribe this to most German artillery being knocked out by shore bombardment and air strikes even before the Americans landed?

In truth how could the actual medical reports deferentiate bettween mortar shell fragments and any other arty shell fragment? It seems likly this must be baesed on some other approx. Some CW units in normandy reported the same thing. Apparently the CW used people to sit and count shell numbers and size of shells and complie these into shellrep or reports. Obvoiusly this is just a really big guess that don't reallly match either actual enemy shell usage or even medical reports of your side.


Well, for medical reports, some of the casualties would still be talking as it were. And they would generally - if not always - have a good idea of what caused their wounds.

I think most armies take an active interest in the causes of their casualties, partly because they don't want to just tell the dead soldier's relatives 'he died', and partly because they want to learn for future encounters. Keeping tabs on casualties and their causes is part of the CO's job.

But there must still be a good deal of guesswork involved in estimating causes of casualties.

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Post by Darrin » 03 Apr 2004 19:38

Shrek wrote:
Darrin wrote:
Juha Hujanen wrote:In Ambrose Citizen Soldiers is a line that 3/4 of US casualties in Normandy were caused by mortars (just started to read that book)

/Juha



The motors constiued 20% of all HE shells made for non AAA guns by the germans. It seems highly unliky that such high numbers 75% of cas were caused by just 20% of the all arty shells.


For the entire war, yes, but the percentage stated could easily hold true for a single battle. And if 75% (seems very high to me) of casualties were caused by mortars, we could maybe ascribe this to most German artillery being knocked out by shore bombardment and air strikes even before the Americans landed?




Well again the ger 7th army at the begining of jun had over a 1000 arty guns. Even during july the ger sent an avg of 500 tons of ammo a day of all types not just arty to uniits in normandy. As an example the US army used 2000 tons of arty ammo a day on avg in july. It seems the ger arty guns and ammo were prob not ineffective until augost. Even then they seemed to recovover in sep till the near the end of the war.

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