Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
ASL Veteran

Attrition vs Maneuver .. secrets revealed!! (long)

Recommended Posts

Continuous movement can help on an approach march or if you are concealed (as in woods). I'd save smoke missions for rushes across open ground, though. I don't think trading your rounds and some of your men for just his rounds, is a good trade in the long run. Keep your own "losses" down, yes. But losing shells as well as men is not necessarily losing less.

The main thing, though, is a willingness to delay the attack, pull back, and give the men time to rally after a barrage. Don't just ride them out in place - that much you have right. But you needn't keep moving forward, either. Running to the rear can get you clear of danger a lot more reliably than crawling forward. It puts the enemy barrage between you and his maneuver elements, too, which protects your men while they are still suppressed.

You needn't hurry, and you needn't focus on ground. As long as he only hurts platoons with his artillery modules, leaving remnants that can be patched together and continue to fight (even if "ugly"), you will do OK in the end. He will run out of HE before you run out of rallying half-platoons. What you have to avoid is a single battery of his support outright killing several whole platoons. Which means it is the heaviest artillery that is most dangerous, and you can't bunch up too tightly (until late, anyway).

It also helps to work your higher HQs, keeping them staggered between and behind the first wave platoons, commanding little ad hoc platoons of their own. They can help rally stragglers, make something out of squads that lose their HQ, and provide groups large enough to fight enemy platoons. Using them as extra mini-platoons from the start also has the side effect of making it easier to stay spread out, because it means more platoons with 2 squads plus support teams instead of big ones with 3 and extras. Fewer men under each barrage footprint, and more targets.

Defending heavy artillery is always going to hurt something - firepower does kill, defending or attacking. There is nothing you can do to prevent that completely. What you have to do is keep the level of damage proportionate to the investment he has made in artillery, and try to see to it only the smaller lasting damage of outright causalties matters, not the much higher but temporary damage of suppression and breaking. Which means not pushing too hard until he has blown his HE supply (since suppression is much more dangerous when in immediate contact).

Consider the CM defender's situation with artillery, how much he needs to get out of it. He faces 3:2 point odds. Suppose he takes a US 105mm module and two TRPs - that is 234 points of defense. To be running even on the attrition front in the long run, he needs his 6 minutes of fire to inflict 350 points of loss on the attackers. For the Germans, that is a small company.

It is quite possible to *break* and disorganize a small company with 6 minutes of 105mm HE. But to actually *kill* it, beyond hope of rally, all gone? That is a much taller order, and is not going to happen to you, unless you either bunch up way too much, or let his maneuver elements wade into cowering men e.g. by running out the forward side of a falling barrage instead of the back, breaking anyway, and finding yourself right next to his infantry firepower.

The cheaper light artillery modules only have to "get" platoons - but actually only suppress them. Five minutes after a barrage lifts, the level of damage remaining is generally more than proportionate to the caliber of the artillery used, and quite small for the lighter modules.

Now, the loss of coordination involved in suppression right where the defense wants it, when it needs it, can be critical to maneuver schemes that turn on having some schwerpunk force at a supposedly decisive point, often at a time coordinated with other bits of the plan. But in a broad firepower based attack, intent on just outshooting the defenders until there aren't enough left to resist, it doesn't matter so much. You aren't trying to tackle only a portion of the defenders by isolating an engagement area in space and time. Disarticulation and delay therefore aren't as damaging to the strategy.

So you suffer temporary delay from suppression, withdrawl, and rally time. He has spent a portion of his force in achieving that. If you haven't lost a higher portion of your force, that won't save him. A firepower based attack ebbs and flows (the "waves", actual movements over ground), but in the long term should be relentless (the "tide" - a changing relative strength ratio remaining - including less artillery left to the defender).

As for the other fellow's comments about not "eschewing" fire, he says himself the role of fire in maneuver strategy is to suppress to allow movement, not to kill. Maneuver strategy uses fire of course, and no one has ever said otherwise. But it seeks decision by getting bits of the maneuver force to definite places. It does not seek decision by fire.

As for Kuwait, the only "gaps" the Marines worried about were gaps in the minefields, because mines were the only thing left behind them not already KOed or surrendered. The droves of prisoners were not the result of bypassing anything, they came down the roads right at the advance. Because the Marines were firing dozens of ATGMs at individual 2-man fighting holes, at kilometer ranges. Did they worry about "economy of force", or making sure they got behind such 2-man fighting holes first, as the manuals urge? They did not. They just blew the crap out of them beyond range of effective reply, and the sane Iraqis who wanted to live gave up. The (overdetermined) decision was achieved by fire. Which made the razzle dazzle theorizing irrelevant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I once ran some arty tests of various modules moving over a not too tightly packaged security company (127 man with mortars and MGs) in woods, not moving.

The most cost-effective modules can expect to kill 45 men for 100 points arty cost, and only for some modules and if directed very skillfully and with a bit of luck. A squadmember cost about 2.5 points, a crewman or HQ member 6 points. So in the best circumstances you will inflict about (+ (* 30 2.5) (* 15 6)) => 165 points for 100 points investment. [*] Typical modules will be from 20-30 casualities. This means that you will get the normal CMBO attacker/defender rate only with luck and other favourable circumstances. This will not pay off in practice this way, by counting casualities.

Still, I think few of us will defend without arty, and that is because there is more to artillery than killing men. Supression, delay and the hope to kill something very valuable and/or preventing the attacker from using something very valuable in an exposed way.

I figure all of you can now apply this sentense to the thread's subject :)

P.S. Jason, I think you might have misunderstood the question. It was not about shooting up the attacking force. It was about the very specific situation where the attacker's plan requires that the defender starts shooting with units you can fire back at (the defender is not forced to move or shoot by attacker's movement around his flanks). You said the infantry slowly moving up to the defenders foxholes would cause the neccessary dilemma for him to open fire on the infantry. The question is, can the defender prevent the attacking infantry from creeking up by indirect fire, thereby keeping his head down and not presenting direct-fire targets?

[*] this is one of several occasions where I noticed that BTS's system to come up with the prices for units is sometimes very good. Fighter-bombers are another one.

[ 12-19-2001: Message edited by: redwolf ]</p>

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of arty's subtle advantages, though, in cost terms is that it can inflict damage without costing you much in point terms if it's killed. A killed tank that costs 115-200+ points is going to cost you that many points when victory totals are tabulated. But a killed FO, even if his arty costs 200 points, will only be assessed as 30 points against you. FOs are highly killable if seen, BUT they can frequently inflict their damage with minimal risk, whereas a tank or infantry unit generally can't inflict damage without commensurate risk.

So if you kill 100 pts worth of infantry but lose 70 points yourself, you're a little ahead. But if you kill that same 100 points of infantry with an FO that's never discovered you're WAY ahead, and even if it is eventually killed, you're still ahead 100-30.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

<blockquote>quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by CombinedArms:

One of arty's subtle advantages, though, in cost terms is that it can inflict damage without costing you much in point terms if it's killed.

<hr></blockquote>

That is true, but it doesn't solve the other half of the cost problem, that of units you could not buy and will miss on the battlefield.

And in the event that your FO team do get killed, you loose all the costly ammo with them - short of expensive tanks there are few ways to spend 200 points in so vulnerable form. Also, the artillery module is quite useless after it fired its ammo and it is very likely to have fired all by some point. Scouting with a 30 points team is risky business.

Maybe I am biased because almost all of my later games against experienced opponents saw killed FO members. I shot Hummels at obvious patches of woods (and hitting a FO), I had a FO in the second story of a building when a VT shell exploded right in front of it, I hunted FOs down with infantry, I had lucky 105mm shells exploding right besides spotters and I got a team spotted and killed when I rotated it. Houses are deathtraps anyway, and so it becomes a serious problem to find a good position for your FO.

I like robust and especially victory-point robust units very much but so far I cannot count CMBO artillery modules amoung them.

BTW, what do people think about the idea of taking artillery ammunition not spent into the victory calculation?

[ 12-19-2001: Message edited by: redwolf hates artillery ]</p>

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

<blockquote>quote:</font><hr>

The most cost-effective modules can expect to kill 45 men for 100 points arty cost, and only for some modules

<hr></blockquote>

How did you determine cost effectiveness? Is there a thread where you reported the results?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I see what you are asking now, Redwolf. The answer is generally no, the defender can't stay hidden and just use indirect fire to halt the attackers, because he will run out of HE trying to do so. He can delay that way, however, which might let him move a reserve or otherwise shift positions, etc. That can be useful.

The reason it isn't a real solution is the attackers rapidly recover from the suppression inflicted by arty alone, when nothing else is firing. You are left with limited shells, which are a limited portion of your force to begin with, which is smaller than the attackers. They can't possible carry the load alone for long. One point platoon blown up to create a 3-5 minute delay, it can work fine.

Another defender's expedient is to have a portion of the force designated to cover open ground areas - MG teams, a few rifle squads, some light arty and a towed gun or three - while trying to keep the bulk of his force hidden until closer contact.

That works well against a maneuver attack preceded by recon, that just feels out the defense and then commits to a rush somewhere that looks weak. But it has a problem against a firepower attack. The odds weren't good to begin with, and only 1/3rd of the defenders deployed forward means a quite lopsided firefight. They may well blow up the scouting platoon, but they are likely to get dusted afterward by a firepower attacker's heavy overwatch.

You can try breaking contact after hitting the scouts, but it isn't easy with the best ranged fire assets (towed guns, infantry heavy weapons like MGs and mortars). Mortars actually can be good at it with an HQ spotting for them, in terms of delivering their fire and living. But they tend to suppress more than they kill, so much of their fire effect is muted if not much else is shooting at the same time (or soon after).

A more usual way to try to "attrite" attackers is to use weapons that have the potential to inflict disportionate losses even if quickly KOed in return, because what they can kill is far more valuable then they are - if the shot is right. AT teams, snipers, hidden PAK, some light guns (e.g. hard to spot light flak) - can give this effect sometimes. Even KOed in sequence by the whole attacker's overwatch, they may kill more than 1.5 times their value with their first shot advantage or their stealth, before they are spotted and KOed in reply.

All of those are half measures against overwatch firepower. The more complete solution is the reverse slope idea - just don't give him LOS until he is on top of you, to seperate his overwatch from his "point", front to back. Reverse slope is very much meant to counter a firepower based attritionist attack, far more than a maneuver one. Since after all, it basically conceeds much of the open ground, and thus lets a maneuverist maneuver to his heart's content - at least part way. Firepower dominance at the crestline is supposed to prevent the establishment of the attacker firebases a firepower attack needs to work.

I hope that helps.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

<blockquote>quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by JasonC:

I hope that helps.<hr></blockquote>

Well, I have to say that I'm really a bit lost about the way people fight over terms here and I'm glad we moved to more concrete examples.

Regarding the defender's artillery, of course it is not a complete solution.

But what can the defender do against a defender who relies on static heavy weapons and has to trigger your units to expose themself? The attacker relies on infantry to creep up (as you say). Obviously, indirect fire is a nice way to frustrate this attacker's plan. This is what Grisha was asking about, if I understood him correctly.

In a fight with proper time limits this creates a nice dilemma for the attacker and he might be forced to move his firewpoer units. Which in turn may expose them in a way that your direct-fire weapons are worth committing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fine, the primary point is granted and it only remains to reason from it as a premise. I restate the point I think the fellow has agreed to, in order to use it in my subsequent argument.

If your enemy has significantly greater overall forces - perhaps 3:2, perhaps 2:1, perhaps 3:1 is necessary, whatever the level is - and in addition understands defense in depth and reserve principles, has enough forces for a continuous front, isn't completely brain-dead in terms of combined arms doctrine - then large countervailing multipliers from offensive maneuver are not going to be available. You are better off standing on the defensive.

I consider this to have been granted by at least one honest and analytical responder. Now I will use it in a chain of reasoning.

First, switch hats. If it is true that such an odds ratio in fielded forces, combined with some well known military principles, can remove the danger of successful enemy offensive maneuver, then achieving those things will protect me from any attempt at them on his part. The mobile defense and reserve doctrine needs only to be known, and in the case of reserves requires a certain level of husbandry or caution in operations. That is not hard. To trump the danger of offensive maneuver against me, what I need is the fielded odds ratio. That is the hard part, and if I can get it then the rest can be implimented easily enough.

The ability to defeat any ambitious offensive scheme of the enemy, to my mind confers on me the initiative, in the following sense. If he attacks me, he loses. If I attack him, we shall see. I needn't, but I may attempt it. He is punished if he attempts it. I call that the strategic initiative. Now, reason just like scholastic philosophers. Therefore, achieving a sufficient odds ratio in fielded forces will confer upon me the strategic initiative. Full defensive success, and the initiative, and (I add) an edge in anything else I attempt, will result almost automatically from having superior overall odds (above some threshold level, as mentioned long ago) in effective, fielded forces.

Keep the same side's hat on, and continue reasoning. Therefore, if I can manipulate any strategic levers to achieve such a fielded odds ratio, it is a very good idea to do so. It may well prove decisive in itself, but at the very least it confers defensive success, possession of the initiative, and safety from all ambitious enemy offensive maneuver schemes.

How do I go about achieving these desireable things? By watching and manipulating the fielded forces odds ratio. Which I can do by - production and mobilization, interference with the enemy's versions of those things, destruction of enemy fielded forces, preservation of friendly fielded forces, or any exchange of his fielded forces for mine below the level of the existing fielded forces ratio (e.g. if I have 2:1 now, then trading 3 of mine for 2 of his will move the fielded forces ratio in my favor).

Which is simply attrition strategy thought. If in fact a sufficient odds ratio can trump offensive maneuver, then dreaming of successful offensive maneuver is not the one thing needful. At the very least, maneuverism requires at least enough attention to attrition logic as to keep the odds ratio within tolerable limits. And in addition, any entirely alternate strategy is open and must be recognized even by maneuverists (if they have only granted the original premise way at the top of this post) to be capable of defeating offensive maneuverist plans. To focus on the fielded forces ratio instead, and act so as to move into the "green zone", above which the enemy's dreams of offensive maneuver are fruitless and impractical. And to plan on success or failure at that accomplishment proving decisive. Which is attrition strategy.

Attrition strategy therefore cannot be equated with stupidity, absence of thought, failure to learn, squandering combat power, or any of the other slurs earlier cast on it, in the prehistory of this thread. Not by anyone who, like the rational and analytic responder, admits that sometimes you just don't have enough to work with, to make it work as advertised. Because as soon as that is admitted, keeping you from having enough to work with is an obviously rational, viable counter-strategy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jason and Mr X,

I think what needs to be remembered here is that these are people who do the fighting. And these people will be highly trained and disciplined to react under fire at all levels and do what they are told.

There is a human and cultural factor which few seem to understand.

When we make someone highly disciplined we often remove their identity and replace it with a "group identity". The problem is we often remove their ability for original thought. In fact we demand it from jr officers. We severely punish initiative to the point that nobody wants to take risks. We cram doctrine down throats like it is gospel and actuallly fail individuals who do not follow the "staff solution".

So my point is that if you espouse either school of thought too much and make it "Holy" you are screwing the organization. If we focus on Attrition, when an opportunity for manouevre presents itself we will not take it because we, being simple animals, have a mind set which is very difficult to break out of. Same for Manouevre. What I am talking about lies at the fundemental heart of the matter. We must teach and nuture a military culture which supports both modes and trains our troops to switch between the two, as thought they are bi-lingual.

OK another point on Arty. I don't think anybody mentioned the intangibles of this weapon. Jason, I think you are very smart, yet you seem to focus on the numbers game too much and often leave out the human element(not a flame but constructive comment). Arty is extremely flexible, the most flexible weapon on the field. You can drop it anywhere and anytime. This more than makes up for poundage kill rates versus cost. If used well it can cause your opponent immense grief and rattle him/her to the point of inaction. Remember, you don't beat the troops on the field, you beat the person commanding them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Capt in his last post, addressed to me and X - "We must teach and nuture a military culture which supports both modes and trains our troops to switch between the two, as thought they are bi-lingual."

Me last week - "a commander that does not perfectly understand both systems, able to apply either as wrench or hammer as the case before him dictates (enemy strengths, deployments, intel, etc), is like a one armed boxer."

Me way back in February - "these sorts of alternate options, with a full understanding of them as move and counter, their effectiveness not set in concrete but related to the enemy's choice out of the same set, should be taught to all field grade officers."

As for the point about the flexibility of arty, am I a bit confused about where it came from. I thought Capt's comments true, but I wonder who he thinks needs to learn it. Of course half the point of my pounding on the case for attrition strategy, as really being a type of strategy, is the importance of the firepower arms - meaning artillery and air. Artillery is my own (past) branch of service. I see in the emphasis on maneuver strategy in current doctrine a predominance of armor branch officers (including mech inf as nearly the same by now), expecting their branch to have the decisive role, with the others merely ministerial to it. Which can, but need not be the case, depending on the strategy used.

But Capt's comments end with the idea of "rattling" an enemy commander to the point of inaction, as something to be achieved by artillery - evidently meant to support the idea of using artillery in the maneuverist manner. Um, artillery can also be used to reduce the commander to a commander of his immediate entourage and a few service troops, by blowing his front line schwerpunk forces to kingdom come. The decision does not have to be achieved by maneuver elements striking baffled enemy manuever elements listening to static on the command net. It can also be achieved by fire, directly, by having the fire branches destroy the enemy maneuver elements.

The maneuver theory thinks the firepower branches are particularly suited to hitting the enemy HQs, supplies, and service troops because the maneuver element commanders see in the firepower arms a length of reach they do not themselves possess. And as their own planning is geared toward breaking into the enemy rear in order to overrun such elements, expecting to disarticulate the enemy force by doing so, it seems obvious to them that the proper use of such reach is to start achieving that object before any breakthrough has been accomplished. Thus they want the firepower arms to "go deep". It is their reach that is desired.

But from the perspective of the firepower arms, the rear area target set is a particularly dispersed target set. It has many elements, each with very limited functions, often capable of extreme redundancy by simply parallel functions, physically seperated. Each item needs to be painstakingly located and targeted by high precision weapons, and each target set must then be updated continually as the enemy shifts and adapts to damage to his rear area systems with alternates, substitutes, repairs, and work-arounds. While some systems are truly critical and thus worth degrading, the number of items that can be targeted an retargeted is endless, and many of them are "poo-dunk" targets of quite low importance or decisiveness. "You have KOed two hootchs, a bicycle, and a water buffalo - congratulations".

By contrast, the enemy front line must always be thickly populated with excellent area targets, in the form of enemy maneuver elements deployed densely enough to stop friendly ground action. The target density is very high. Tactical intel is excellent, being called in from hundreds of mark I eyeballs, up to laser designators, with continual targeting adjustments, GPS coordinates, etc. It is obvious to firepower arms people that dropping shells and bombs where there are tons of well identified targets is going to hit lots of enemy stuff. "Enemy in the open" is the call the firepower arms want to hear.

Which is proving decisive in Afghanistan? Yes, they began with a program of rear area and C3I targets, as well as the always necessary preliminary, air defenses. Whether maneuverists realize it or not, though, much of that necessary preliminary looks like a "frontal engagement" with the enemy air force, targeting every runway and plane before it is through. And afterwards, the firepower arms cannot promise a decision simply by continuing to hit C3I. On the contrary. Afghan losses in the rear area bombing were running only about 1/4th the rate at which young Afghans were reaching military age - which occurs in thousands per week. The same shows why Serbia was harder - no ground threat, let their maneuever elements disperse and use camo.

What the firepower branches need is a ground threat forcing the enemy to maintain a front line position. Which is therefore dense enough and localized enough that firepower can be *massed* on it, instead of dissipated over the whole enemy rear. When the B-52s and the daisy cutters were turned loose on the front line positions, they were rapidly decisive. Why? Because if the Afghans manned a line, the massed firepower directed at a small area would drive their loss rates through the roof, far more than they could replace, as well as shattering morale - since a front line position becomes a death sentence, without accomplishing anything. So the Afghans denuded the line to avoid being annihilated by firepower, and disperse through a wider rear area behind the front. Which let even the relatively small alliance ground forces walk right over them. Firepower kills. To avoid it, the enemy must give way. Then maneuver forces can walk right in.

But this effect is achieved by *massing* fire on a *small, well identified* target - the enemy front line. In the case of artillery dealing with an attempted enemy breakthrough, the same logic dictates targeting the enemy spearhead directly. It is the most tightly deployed target and the enemy plans depend on its combat power. But it is not invunerable to massed firepower (unlike pure tanks in an era of relatively limited indirect firepower, as in early WW II). Mass firepower on it, instead of dispersing it over the whole enemy rear - that is what the firepower branches see as the obvious way of maximizing their own effectiveness. Because it is not reach that they specialize at, in their own view. It is area fire effects - the multiplier of a dense target.

When the decision is to be reached by the positioning of maneuver elements, paralyzing HQs may seem sensible and it can certainly help. But when the decision is going to be reached by massed fires, this is a dissipation of effort, and the proper target is the densest enemy positions. Which friendly maneuver forces *create*, by the threat of frontal ground attack, if the enemy does not maintain a densely manned front. Cooperation between the branches is required in either case, of course. Combined arms effects and multiple threats are involved in either case. But which branch is "driving" makes a very real difference in how they cooperate.

I hope this clarifies my comments on artillery roles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Duh.

This whole topic of which is better is faulty. You need both. You've got to manuver into a good spot and then attrit your enemy. Preferable like the Russians at Kursk. A tactical defense in depth is the modern day equivilent of the shaltrop. Letting the enemy impale himself on your spears.

But to get there you need to manuver into a spot where your enemy feels threatned and HAS to attack you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stop trusting that things that are not remotely conceeded are. I will try to do likewise, if you wish to retract your previous statements about Kursk or something. I will now deal with your erroneous ideas about German strategic possibilities in 1943 Russia. The basic point is that higher levels (strategic vs. operational, etc) trump lower ones, and the principle of reserves fully counters the (largely mythical) idea that local concentration is always available.

To begin with, the initial premise of your alternative southern op is that German strategic mobility and supply systems were superior to the Russian ones. Which is not remotely the case. The German supply system was notoriously poor throughout the entire war and on all front. But in addition, the German rail net far inside Russia was systematically disrupted by large scale partisan warfare, and the Russian rail system was not. Also, you yourself admit the intelligence differential then existing - which was only partially due to partisans of course, since there was also the tiny insignificant item of Ultra. Strategic switches would therefore neither proceed unknown nor proceed more rapidly for the Germans than for the Russians.

That is a minor point about the particular example you chose. A more basic objection is based on the point about larger scales trumping smaller ones. The Russian odds edge does not disappear because all the Panzers go to the Donets basin. On the contrary, it grows right around Kursk, to offensive proportions. They can easily attack from the south face of the salient and around Kharkov, striking toward the Black Sea west of the whole Donets basin. In fact, any German large scale offensive in the south would be far more vunerable to such a counterattack, than the Russians were to the German one in February 1943 - as vunerable as the Stalingrad relief attempt was to a push toward Rostov from the northeast. Not only this, but they could do so while sending about two armies from the north side of the Kursk area to the southeast, along the line of the Don or Volga as the fate of the German suicide offensive in the south happened to require.

You see, it was not mere caprice or the accident of a bend in the lines that attracted the reserves of both sides to the Kursk area in mid 1943. It is not the case that any part of the line would serve just as well, even a thin and tiny slice, or one on the extreme flanks. Any more than the center 16 squares of a chessboard are just like any other. The principle of central positioning was involved, and the logistic reach of possible offensives, and speeds of deployment and redeployment.

The reserves behind Kursk could be employed offensively or defensively along the whole front from about Tula, to the Black sea. About the only portion of the front for which they would be out of position for a riposte, offensively or defensively, would be the portion between Moscow and Leningrad in the north. Which was logistically forbidding as an area for a major offensive, lacking in rail lines, and difficult, heavily forested lake country.

You can also see the indecisive results of finding a thin portion of the front when the enemy possesses significant reserves and an overall odds edge, in the fate of the Bulge attempt. There a truly thin portion of the front was found, and the concentration opposite it was kept secret enough to achieve operational surprise. But with what result?

For area reserves way back in France to reach Bastogne through friendly territory took only 3 days. For an entire army on one flank of the attack to change direction and wheel north took less than a week. Within a week of the attack the overall odds in theater were no better than even - despite the attack being launched on a section of front held about as thinly as any of operational length in the whole war (only the rival outpost lines of the southern Caucasus in the fall of 1942 are thinner). Defender's time to front was not long enough to let a local odds edge achieve more than moving the lines a bit. The effective operational depth was not limited to the last line the enemy was originally deployed along.

Without the enemy possessing mobile armies, echeloned reserves, above all armor held intact, ready, and concentrated, able to shift to a point of attack or to riposte offensively, it is certainly possible to achieve local breakthrough odds at little risk to the attacker by simply selecting a point along the front. This happened in early WW II, certainly. But these are readily corrected doctrinal weaknesses, not eternal military opportunities. They depended far more on the defenders not knowing how to defend, and especially not knowing how to defend with armor (or having a combined arms doctrine), than they did on the attackers knowing how to attack or to concentrate. The freedom to concentrate is not decisive in itself, if the other fellow also avails himself of it, in the form of a mobile reserve.

It is not at all necessary to outnumber the enemy 4:1 along the entire length of the front. It would only be necessary to do so, if one sides forces lacked all mobility and all had to be deployed in "all up" linear defenses. They do not have to be. Defensive in depth, the principle of reserves, are directed to this problem and well adapted to solve it. The forces off the front in a given sector are available not just to backstop that sector, but any adjoining one.

And when the reserves proceed all the way up to a reserve army group ("front"), the level of flexibility this creates is enourmous indeed. Because, again, higher echelon factors tend to swamp smaller ones. An attack by a panzer army that sees the intervention of an entire enemy army group on the flank of the attack is not likely to prove decisive. Even the intervention of an army or two usually suffices - see the Bulge.

The desired local odds ratio cannot be extended through time, in the face of a mobile defense in depth. The entire enemy army will not oblige by staying out of position indefinitely. The overall theater odds will "out", if the defender has deployed much of his force off the immediate front lines and thus possesses operational flexibility. Mobile defense in depth, including concentrated armor in large scale combined arms formations held off the line (as "linebackers" rather than "linemen"), is a higher card in the same suit as offensive concentration opposite a hoped-for breakthrough sector.

As for your paragraph about the enemy "shooting himself in the foot" if he possesses the strategic initiative, this amounts to saying there are times when your best bet is to stand on the defensive. Which is exactly the point you seemed to continue to dispute above. Of course anyone with the initiative or without it can make mistakes and screw up whatever he has going for him. The strategic initiative is like any other advantage in that respect. But it is not a weakness, it is an advantage and a very large one.

The real reason to stand on the defensive when offensive maneuver is not available due to odds and enemy reserves, are two. One, trying to concentrate into an offensive schwerpunk instead will fail, and will squander your own reserves, and thus leave you open to enemy operational successes. Two, the mobile defense when conducted intelligently promises defender's edge multipliers. Due to things like the enemy being well located inside your own defended zone instead of the reverse.

Which admittedly can be modest or temporary if much is not made of them. Notice, however, that admitting the availability of defense dominance multipliers to a mobile defender, necessarily implies that simply being the attacker does *not* confer such multipliers. Which is directly contrary to the thesis you tried to maintain with the "just concentrate somewhere thin" argument discussed above.

Then at one point you say that you doubt the Russians every achieved 3:1 odds over the entire eastern front. The statement is ambiguous. They did achieve that on average, because they had e.g. 15-20,000 AFV vs. 5-7000 at various times. Does this mean that there was not section of the front where the odds were not 3:1 or better in their favor. No, of course not. In any place where the Germans had a StuG company, the Russians did not always have a tank regiment.

But it is not the case that they only achieved 3:1 odds at a few points along the line, through greater concentration of their overall force edge in that area rather than another. On the contrary, they rapidly built up an overall odds edge of 3:1, allowing them to achieve even higher ratios at some points while still being stronger in absolute terms in the remaining places. The Russians had about 3:2 overall odds by the time of Stalingrad, nearly 2:1 overall by the time of Kursk, and more like 3:1 by the time of Bagration. Not in selected sectors only. They got these overall odds ratios by outproducing the Germans 2:1 (primarly due to faster economic mobilization, not capacity - the Germans caught them in calendar 1944), and then attriting downward the German forces in the field.

The ability to create such odds is not at all "vanishingly rare". The western Allies did it in Normandy by attrition processes, after sending only 2:1 to the theater. Attrition is about the effect subtraction has on ratios. 200 vs. 100 gives 2:1 starting. Then let each side lose 50 in attrition fighting. 150 remains against 50 and the overall odds are then 3:1. Repeat with losses of 25 more on each side, and the remaining odds are 5:1 (125 vs. 25).

As long as the loss ratio is less than the fielded forces ratio, the higher the absolute loss rate is driven, the higher the odds ratio of the remaining forces on each side will go. El Alamein began with 1.8 to 1 odds in fielded AFVs, and ended with 8:1, while the Brits lost slightly more tanks than the Axis. Normandy began with armor odds around 2:1, and ended with armor odds of 10:1, with roughly equal armor losses. When most of the smaller side's assets have been eliminated in attrition fighting, the side with greater numbers or a higher replacement rate will have not local, but absolute, odds ratios that are very high. In chess, a side up one piece can win easily if he can exchange off everything but a few pawns on both sides. Without leaving anything weak.

It is not remotely the case that the overall forces ratio is always nearly even, and only deployment densities here or there provide a merely local odds edge. Nor is it remotely the case that even odds ratios that start in such zones stay there, when the attrition logic of subtraction is applied. What is truly rare is a case where the loss ratio runs exactly the same as the fielded forces ratio (e.g. 2:1 overall odds, and the larger side taking larger losses in the same proportion indefinitely).

And the only thing that can maintain that sort of case for long, is defense dominance (as was present, within some limits, in WW I fighting). Wherever the more numerous side can manage to lose only modestly more than the less numerous, attrition logic alone will swing the fielded force ratio decisively. Military odds ratios are dynamically unstable, like a coin balancing on its edge. Defense dominance can act as a restoring force, holding the ratio more or less upright, more or less close to equality.

Without defense dominance, it will always "fall over", as any significant odds edge achieved "snowballs" through attrition. The larger the fielded odds ratio, generally the lower the losses on the more numerous side, because he has more combat power to apply against the enemy. Which is a strong destabilizing force. Once someone has 3:1 overall, he is very unlikely to continue to lose three times as much as he kills. Making it just a matter of time before continued subtraction from the smaller "1", pushes the remaining odds ratio to decisive, breakthrough levels.

Attritionist grand strategy achieved through operations - some of them maneuver ones, some of them frankly attritionist ones - is my diagnosis of what actually occurred. And worked. And I think that strategic framework is essentially correct (still). To me, the decisiveness of a sufficiently high odds ratio makes it the proximate goal of strategy. Get that, and you will get whatever else. In getting there, maneuver multipliers can be quite useful, by helping one destroy more of the enemy than you lose yourself, thus moving the odds ratio (if you are also doing your job on the production side, yada yada). The proper target for operational maneuver is therefore the fielded forces of the enemy, attempting to destroy them efficiently by disarticulating (or surrounding, or hitting in sequence in seperate engagements at high odds, yada yada) them first.

Thus, for example, the decision to close the Kiev pocket rather than racing for Moscow was correct, and not an error. The decision not to mobilize the economy for total attrition warfare before the invasion (or at the latest, at the same time to avoid losing surprise), was a critical error. Because believing that maneuver could prove decisive in itself was too sanguine, and departed from the overarching attritionist logic of achieving a decisive fielded forces ratio. And since as you agree, even the most maneuverist strategy still requires "sufficient attention to overall odds to keep the odds ratio within tolerable limits", the decision not to mobilize the economy for total attrition warfare, was in fact the decisive error of the war.

And yes, the alternate strategy of attrition is indeed available, and at the strategic scale, and it was achieved by the Russians during WW II. It is not remotely the case that the Russians never achieved a decisive overall odds ratio for the whole front, not just by local concentration. They most certainly did - by the end of the late 1943 offensives, in fact, and certainly by Bagration. And this was then overachieved by the western Allies when they piled on the second front as well.

The westerners also managed to keep their losses about even with the ones they inflicted. Which along with the added numbers they brought meant the Germans were even more doomed, due to attrition logic. Alone, because maneuver multipliers large enough to swamp the existing fielded forces ratio were obviously completely unavailable by the last year. I maintain they were gone by Kursk, but that is debatable, and what we are debating. But that they were gone by the last year is not debatable at all. After the summer 44 fighting, the fielded forces ratio was unstoppable by any degree of razzling and dazzling you care to imagine.

As for my previous response to you months ago, if indeed it was to you, it was not what you last said. It was "who the heck is this person and why is he involved in this anyway?" Because I still consider it highly irregular, not to say paranoid schizophrenia, that Pillar seems to be your front man without you ever appearing yourself even in private email. Pleading access to the forum is reasonable enough, but inability or unwillingness to send or sign mail is beyond weird.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

<blockquote>quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by JasonC:

It is not remotely the case that the overall forces ratio is always nearly even, and only deployment densities here or there provide a merely local odds edge. Nor is it remotely the case that even odds ratios that start in such zones stay there, when the attrition logic of subtraction is applied. What is truly rare is a case where the loss ratio runs exactly the same as the fielded forces ratio (e.g. 2:1 overall odds, and the larger side taking larger losses in the same proportion indefinitely).<hr></blockquote>

Funny you should mention the loss ratio. I just happen to have a table of KIAs for the Western Front in WW1 (tables are difficult to put on this BBS but I will give it a shot)

1914 German KIA: 85,021

1914 Allied KIA: 329,497

1915 German KIA: 113,438

1915 Allied KIA: 280,290

1916 German KIA: 142,823

1916 Allied KIA: 447,571

1917 German KIA: 121,622

1917 Allied KIA: 398,294

1918 German KIA: 206,359

1918 Allied KIA: 467,075

Allies include Belgium, France, Britain, and US.

It would appear that Allied KIAs are running an average of three times that of the Germans. In case you are wondering, the totals including wounded and missing are even more in Germany's favor. Before anyone says it - The Germans were not standing entirely on the defensive throughout those years, but were inflicting that loss ratio on the Allies while conducting offensive operations during every one of those years (Marne, Ypres, Argonne, Verdun, Ludendorff offensive, etc). Perhaps it isn't so rare to achieve those loss ratios after all - and while on the offensive to boot?

<blockquote>quote:</font><hr> And the only thing that can maintain that sort of case for long, is defense dominance (as was present, within some limits, in WW I fighting). Wherever the more numerous side can manage to lose only modestly more than the less numerous, attrition logic alone will swing the fielded force ratio decisively. Military odds ratios are dynamically unstable, like a coin balancing on its edge. Defense dominance can act as a restoring force, holding the ratio more or less upright, more or less close to equality.

Without defense dominance, it will always "fall over", as any significant odds edge achieved "snowballs" through attrition. The larger the fielded odds ratio, generally the lower the losses on the more numerous side, because he has more combat power to apply against the enemy. Which is a strong destabilizing force. Once someone has 3:1 overall, he is very unlikely to continue to lose three times as much as he kills. Making it just a matter of time before continued subtraction from the smaller "1", pushes the remaining odds ratio to decisive, breakthrough levels.

<hr></blockquote>

German ration strength on the Western Front increased by nearly 40 percent from August to September 1914. March 1915 German ration strength was greater than 2 million and in May of 1915 it was 2.1 million. French forces totaled 2,132,000 men at that time (basically one to one odds not including British and Belgian troops). German forces in the east increased to a larger degree than in the West. In other words, the German army was getting bigger as the war progressed!! This would seem to indicate that Germany was not defeated in WW1 through attrition logic since Germany was 'winning' the war of attrition - and by an odds ratio that you would deem favorable to the German forces in the field. This would seem to run counter to your whole premise.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ASL Vet and all,

I think it is important to realize that "attrition" means more than body count. Germany lost a phsycological war of attrition along with other resources.

It is possible to attrit, cbt supplies, war industry, morale, pulic opinion and time. We need to broaden our view of warfare to encompass Total War before we can properly look at the two schools of thought.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Of course the Germans were winning WW I for much of its length, that is why it lasted as long as it did. They knocked Russia out of the war, as well as Serbia (their allies), Romania, Italy for most purposes, and nearly knocked out France (not just in 1914, but again via the Verdun attrition strategy). (On the other side, both Austria and Turkey became ineffective over the course of the war, too). But they lost the war through attrition just the same.

A fielded forces ratio is not your forces in December divided by your forces in August, it is your forces at each time divided by those of your enemies. And Germany had lots of enemies. Who outproduced them (in shells, the relevant pure production item in WW I) and fielded larger armies (population supplying it).

The armies of all combatants increased dramatically over the early part of the war, with Britain going from a tiny expeditionary force of a few divisions to a full sized army of scores of divisions. Germany was the first to utilize her reserves, including them in the initial attack on France, while the others took longer to get them into action. And of course the Americans eventually showed up too, by 1918 in strength, and it was their numbers that the Germans had no serious prospect of outlasting (the previous amounts having push the limit already, the American numbers made the cup overflow).

3:1 losses inflicted will defeat 2:1 numbers fielded against you, but it won't defeat 5:1 numbers fielded against you. It will just make breaking you more expensive and more prolonged.

The German army came apart in the field after it had sustained enough losses - from August of 1918 onward it was ineffective and the deterioration was accelerating. Most countries saw a marked decrease in army effectiveness after KIAs reached the level of front-line rifle strength.

Germany was taking losses in the east as well as in the west, and after Russia dropped out the US was in. While the losses of the Allies in the west were divided between France and England, especially from 1916 onward. Germany lost more men overall than the western powers taken singly - only Russian lost more, Austria a comparable amount - and eventually that added up. 65% of the men Germany mobilized all told were killed, wounded, or missing.

They knew enough to sue for peace as soon as it became apparent they could no longer hold off the numbers arrayed against them. In fact, they knew they were gambling when they went to unrestricted submarine warfare, which they hoped would knock Britain out of the war. Even though they knew it would bring the US in, they took that risk.

If you are at all interested in the subject, especially from the standpoint of the actual strategic thinking of the actors in the various countries at the time, I recommend a relatively recent political science monograph called "war and punishment" by a fellow named Goemans. He knows more about what the various leaderships were really thinking than anyone else I know of. These days he teaches at Duke.

[ 12-22-2001: Message edited by: JasonC ]</p>

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

<blockquote>quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by JasonC:

Germany was the first to utilize her reserves, including them in the initial attack on France, while the others took longer to get them into action.<hr></blockquote>

This statement is misleading for the following reason: The French had run nearly 85 percent of their manpower pool through some sort of military service, but less than 50 percent of all eligible German males had actually been conscripted (and only about a fifth of Austro Hungarian males for the curious) so the Germans had an enormous manpower pool from which to draw. So, when comparing the reserve forces you are comparing 85 percent of the French population to only 50 percent of the German population.

<blockquote>quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by JasonC:

3:1 losses inflicted will defeat 2:1 numbers fielded against you, but it won't defeat 5:1 numbers fielded against you.<hr></blockquote>

So you are stating on this BBS that the field strength of the Western Allied armies in WW1 was larger than the German army by a factor of 5 to 1? I think it should be apparent without a great deal of research that this sort of an odds ratio was never acheived, and in 1915 it was approximately 3 to 2 (using the combined total of all western allies). In 1914 the Germans were probably slightly outnumbered in the west - or the odds were close to 1 to 1. Your statement is false on its face.

Now, you include the Eastern Front in your response. Unfortunately I never produced casualty statistics for the Eastern Front in WW1. You assume a similar loss ratio between German forces on the Eastern Front and the Western Front - but I think there is a strong possibility that the German loss ratio on the Eastern Front was even more favorable than their loss ratio on the Western Front. Wouldn't you agree? Especially since you state further down that Russia lost more troops on the East Front than Germany did on all fronts (and you probably include German losses in 1918 as well).

<blockquote>quote:</font><hr>Germany lost more men overall than the western powers taken singly <hr></blockquote>

Pray tell, what relevance does this have? You are stating that Germany lost more men in total than the total troops lost by France, England, US, or Belgium individually? Not only is it irrelevant since we are comparing the combined total troop strength of the Western Allies to the total troop strength of Germany on the West Front, but it is a false statement as well when comparing casualties on the West Front only.

Total French KIA: 1,189,963

Total German KIA (WF): 669,263

<blockquote>quote:</font><hr> only Russian lost more <hr></blockquote>

A false statement unless taken in totality. The French lost more KIA than Germany on the Western Front. Once you start comparing individual nations to each other, you should be comparing the losses on the fronts that are relevant. You can't take the losses suffered by Germany in all theaters of war and compare them to the losses suffered by France on the West Front and expect that comparison to be meaningful in any fashion. A more valid comparison would be to take the allied losses in totality and compare them to the German losses in totality - and even then you would have to factor out all Austrians, Turks, and Bulgarians to have a meaningful comparison of how Germany alone is doing relative to the Allies in terms of loss ratios. In other words, the farther you cast your net, the more unreliable your conclusions will be.

I don't want to sound disparaging, but war is just a numbers game for you isn't it Jason?

[ 12-22-2001: Message edited by: ASL Veteran ]</p>

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't need you to cite anything to know WW I loss figures (and I'm am not at all sure they are even accurate - I'd have to see your complete accounting not just a partial one). The central powers lost about 2 to 3 vs. the Entente powers, including the minors. AH lost about as much as Germany, Turkey much less and Bulgaria little, so Germany losses were around 40% of the central powers total. Germany lost 1.77 million KIA, another 1.15 million MIA or PW, and around 4.3 million WIA. Out of mobilized manpower of 11 million - 64% of the total.

Germany was fighting on multiple fronts and the strain on her manpower reserves came from all of her enemies, not just one. In the east, she rapidly had to support the Austrians, who were increasingly ineffective from mid 1916 onward. But by 1917 two thirds of the German effort was in the west, and in 1918 virtually the whole of it was.

Whereas the French - besides minor supporting efforts in Italy, and even smaller ones in the east - was basically fighting just Germany. Britain's commitments in the east were slightly larger, by still small compared to the main effort on the western front. The US forces, only arriving in 1918, were of course in the same theater.

France lost the most heavily of the Entente powers in the west, of course. Because she was in action with full forces from the begining, while Britain was only involve on a large scale from 1916, and the US was only getting involved in 1918. All categories, she lost about 6.2 million men. Britain lost about 3.4 million all types, the US only about .4 million. Belgian losses were a rounding error on these totals (even the US losses are nearly so).

The populations of France, Britain, and the US vastly exceeded that of Germany, and so did their industrial capacity for shell production and the like. Russian also had far larger manpower reserves, but a relative inability to equip them, partially mitigated by economic aid from the west.

What all of the foregoing meant for attrition results by the begining of 1918 is that the Germans, despite their superior field performance to date, had a slight numbers edge in fielded forces - about 220 divisions to 170 Allied or 1.3 to 1 - with the Americans just begining to arrive. This was sufficient to launch the 1918 offensives but not sufficient to outweigh the level of defense dominance prevailing throughout the war - even with the newer infantry tactics used.

When those offensives failed, with the newly arrived Americans entering combat seriously to check them, victory became impossible for Germany. In was clear that they would face millions of fresh troops in 1919, while they could no longer replace their own losses. AH was disintegrating as well.

Starting in August, desertions in the field became very serious and the front in the west was everywhere pushed back. The German high command told the government that peace must be made immediately on any available terms, because the army was collapsing. Just like the Russian, Italian, and AH armies before it, and as had nearly happened to the French army in the mutinees of 1917, it had reached its limit.

The reason it is obviously relevant to compare the total losses sustained by each belligerent is that is the relevant item for the ability to withstand or replace the losses. Men lost in the east did not resurrect themselves to fight in the west. The whole grand strategy of the war, for every power, was based on alliance action, and indeed if only country pairings had mattered the whole war never would have been fought in the first place.

When enough losses had been piled on the manpower reserves of a given power, its army lost effectiveness and if not supported by allies and restricted to defensive action, it came apart. There was nothing "indecisive" about attrition - that is the point. It destroyed the four massive empires of central and eastern europe, and if that isn't "decision" nothing is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

<blockquote>quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by JasonC:

When enough losses had been piled on the manpower reserves of a given power, its army lost effectiveness and if not supported by allies and restricted to defensive action, it came apart. There was nothing "indecisive" about attrition - that is the point. It destroyed the four massive empires of central and eastern europe, and if that isn't "decision" nothing is.<hr></blockquote>

I will agree, Jason, that the losses of WW1 caused a "shakeup" of the imperialist power balance which stood priorhand. But otherwise, this paragraph has potential fallacies to it.

First off, the "attrition" that you are citing as breaking down the European empires was more of an end result, rather than a predetermined strategy envisioned by any of the protagonists in 1914. No one, and I mean NO ONE, anticipated for that war to go on as long as it did.

Further, if the Germans of 1914 had guided to a genuine full-up attritional strategy at war´s start, then why did it hazard the kind of odds as it did against the Russians at that very time? The attritional formula as defined only on odds would say, "The Russians march into Berlin, game over." Instead, at Tannenburg........

Favorable odds by themselves, and guiding a war strategy only on maintaining favorable odds, does not equate to "decision." Rather, favorable odds used in a PRACTICAL manner as to force the outnumbered opponent to fight a "long-term" war will give a better chance for attrition to be decisive. But still no guarantees.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...