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Were rear guard "snipers" all that common in WWII Europe?

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You see them in movies all the time. There were at least 2 I can remember in Band of Brothers and then there's that famous scene in Full Metal Jacket (yeah I know not WWII). They're not true snipers in that they're not skilled marksmen and rather use ambush, at least again, as portrayed in films. I'm sure there were some but they seem to be a Hollywood trope. How often did they occur historically given that it was almost a suicide mission? Note I specified Europe as I know about spider holes and almost suicide missions wouldn't be a problem for the Japanese I would think.

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One thing I've picked up reading first hand solider accounts (particularly from the western Allies perspective) is that every sudden rifle shot firing from an ambush seems to be a sniper. There's no mention in these accounts if these soldiers followed up and found the 'sniper' and scoped rifle or even confirming the bullet impact was exerienced before hearing the shot signifying very long range.

Many of the nations also didn't really have unique and dedicated sniper rifles like modern militaries. The Germans with their scoped K98's, the Commonwealth with their scoped Lee Enfields. More a designated marksman.

In terms of an infantry only affair, it would be a good investigation for some historian to look into claims of coming under fire from a sniper rather than some regular rifleman waiting in ambush. When you're on the receiving it's really not the front of your mind when the bullet zips over your head. :) It's sort of like every rifle shot must be a 'sniper' like every German tank was a 'Tiger.'

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I guess it would depend on whose home turf your on. If its the sniper/sharpshooter's own neighborhood and he shooting invaders he's likely to not be ratted out. If he's a German sniper in a French town every citizen of the village will be pointing out the sniper's location to the liberators. Snipers in CM are often misused. If they stay in place firing away after their position's been spotted (as happens so often in CM) then of course they're going to die. But if you just take occasional pot shots they're very hard to spot. Snipers were so vexing to infantry that often soldiers would institute an unofficial 'shoot-on-sight' rule. No taking snipers captive for them to sit out the war in a cushy POW camp.

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"Those tactics were also a consequence of changes in German enlistment. After several years of war and heavy losses on the Eastern Front, the German army was forced to rely more heavily on enlisting teenage soldiers. Due to lack of training in more complex group tactics, and thanks to rifle training provided by the Hitlerjugend, those soldiers were often used as autonomous left-behind snipers. While an experienced sniper would take a few lethal shots and retreat to a safer position, those young boys, due both to a disregard for their own safety and to lack of tactical experience would frequently remain in a concealed position and fight until they ran out of ammunition or were killed or wounded. While this tactic generally ended in the demise of the sniper, giving rise to the nickname "Suicide Boys" that was given to those soldiers, this irrational behavior proved quite disruptive to the Allied forces' progress."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sniper

 

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As has been posted before, most of what gets called "snipers" in narratives of the war are not specially trained technicians of death, but just average soldiers with possibly—but not necessarily—better than average marksmanship, who are taking the opportunity to take a potshot at an unwary enemy. There were snipers in the more formal sense, even schools to train them, but they were few and far between. They tended to be assassins tasked to take out high value targets like battalion or regimental commanders or anyone else who might have occupied a critical position in the organization of the enemy's chain of command.

Michael

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Posted (edited)

In Danish, the literal translations of our terms for sniper are either "fine-shooter" or "sneak-shooter".

So, what's the difference?

It's whether he is on our side or not...

Edited by Bulletpoint

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Posted (edited)

To follow up on the CM marksmen fighting too long.  Another thing CM doesn't cover as well is how an entire platoon would come to a halt, sometimes for a considerable period, when fired upon by a single marksmen.  This would be in a case where the marksman was doing rear guard to hold up the enemy advance so not applicable to most CM scenarios.

Edited by Dynaman216

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1 hour ago, Dynaman216 said:

CM doesn't cover as well is how an entire platoon would come to a halt,

In CM, the entire advancing force quite realistically does tend to halt when under any fire.  The difference from RL is that next turn we are able to order our pixeltroops to continue as if nothing happened.  

As with so many other examples, we human players are fighting using tactics that work vs the game system/AI just as much as we attempt to use RL tactics.

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3 hours ago, Dynaman216 said:

To follow up on the CM marksmen fighting too long.  Another thing CM doesn't cover as well is how an entire platoon would come to a halt, sometimes for a considerable period, when fired upon by a single marksmen.  This would be in a case where the marksman was doing rear guard to hold up the enemy advance so not applicable to most CM scenarios.

Yes, this is one of the reasons our games move along at a quicker pace.

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3 hours ago, Erwin said:

In CM, the entire advancing force quite realistically does tend to halt when under any fire.  The difference from RL is that next turn we are able to order our pixeltroops to continue as if nothing happened.  

As with so many other examples, we human players are fighting using tactics that work vs the game system/AI just as much as we attempt to use RL tactics.

True, for a minute they would halt but then the advance would resume.  The accounts I've read usually say something like the advance stopped cold for an hour or so from a single sniper "sniper" shot.  By the time the advance resumes the sniper is a mile down the road and it starts all over again.  This is even with highly motivated troops - of course it was usually near the end of the war when nobody wanted to be the last casualty.

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17 hours ago, Michael Emrys said:

As has been posted before, most of what gets called "snipers" in narratives of the war are not specially trained technicians of death, but just average soldiers with possibly—but not necessarily—better than average marksmanship, who are taking the opportunity to take a potshot at an unwary enemy. There were snipers in the more formal sense, even schools to train them, but they were few and far between. They tended to be assassins tasked to take out high value targets like battalion or regimental commanders or anyone else who might have occupied a critical position in the organization of the enemy's chain of command.

Please. Have you done any reading on the Soviet sniper doctrine during the war? They were doing a hell of a lot more than just being assassins. 

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