Monday, December 29, 2014

Firing at the enemy

Remember that statistic that only 15-25% of the soldiers in WWII fired at the enemy? Seems to be garbage. Funny, because the Army seemed to believe it, and that sort of question is the sort of life-or-death question they're supposed to try to get right. Supposed to, anyway.

The summary is that Marshall seems to have made up the statistics about the Malkin Island fight: he didn't have time to do the number of interviews he claimed, soldiers had to be told to hold their fire when they were blazing away at enemies that weren't there (rumor), and it isn't clear if he drew any distinction between soldiers in reserve and those at the point. It took delving into archives and a number of interviews to find this out--not the sort of thing an armchair analyst can take on.

What's really annoying is to find out that he'd been known to be full of it since 1989! But the numbers still circulate. I suppose that's nothing new for made-up numbers, but usually those keep zombie-ing around because somebody has a political agenda or iron rice bowl they need to protect.

Grossman relied on Marshall's numbers, but tried to supplement them with other estimates, so I'm not sure his conclusions are seriously undercut, such as "It is a lot easier to kill a fleeing enemy." Hat tip to West Hunter


Assistant Village Idiot said...

It always sounded suspicious, and I thought if it were true it would have to be recent. Killing used to take place at much closer range, right in front of your officers. Not much opportunity for faking there.

james said...

Quite true--I could imagine not wanting to stick my head up to aim, but I couldn't imagine not being willing to shoot if I thought my life was in danger. And according to Grossman the numbers who fired were measured much higher in more recent wars. On the other hand, while civil wars can be pretty vicious, ours had a few people (McClellan comes to mind) who didn't seem to be very eager to fight.