ALLIED BOMBING OF GERMAN CITIES IN WW2, WAS IT WORTH THE MORAL FAILURE?
As I was watching a well done doc on 1940 I heard Winston in his Voice for democracies, version against German air terror in 1940. I kept thinking:" Man why did not you stay on course?" It reminded me of this article in Armchair general and my itch to answer to it.
This article is biased in several ways and true in many others. Biased because by being so general that the answer cannot be but yes, of course allied air power was decisive just as allied infantry was or navy or capacity to give hot meals to the soldiers. By putting all aspects of air power into the same basket it does little credit to the very controversial aspects of air war Europe. The main and most important issue is the mass bombing of German cities.
1) Main point morally impossible to justify: the slaughter of civilians, in full knowledge, for no palatable strategic results but some form of "reaped what they sawed" revenge, unworthy of the reasons for this fight.
2) Purely military use: soundness, options and waste of manpower and industrial power.
THE MORAL ISSUE
Don't tell me this was war and this has nothing to do with it, collateral damages et all. This war was first of all a war about and for ideas, democracies against Nazis. That is why so many fought, those who thought about it at least. Refer to those movie theater programs: "why we fight"and policy statements by Roosevelt, Churchill and the creation of the United Nations, the universal human rights etc.
They had already said these things:
"PROTECTION OF CIVILIAN POPULATIONS AGAINST BOMBING FROM THE AIR IN CASE OF WAR
Unanimous resolution of the League of Nations Assembly, September 30, 1938.
Considering that on numerous occasions public opinion has expressed through the most authoritative channels its horror of the bombing of civilian populations;
Considering that this practice, for which there is no military necessity and which, as experience shows, only causes needless suffering, is condemned under the recognised principles of international law;
Considering further that, though this principle ought to be respected by all States and does not require further reaffirmation, it urgently needs to be made the subject of regulations specially adapted to air warfare and taking account of the lessons of experience;
Considering that the solution of this problem, which is of concern to all States, whether Members of the League of Nations or not, calls for technical investigation and thorough consideration;
Considering that the Bureau of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments is to meet in the near future and that it is for the Bureau to consider practical means of undertaking the necessary work under conditions most likely to lead to as general an agreement as possible:
I. Recognizes the following principles as a necessary basis for any subsequent regulations:
1) The intentional bombing of civilian populations is illegal;
2) Objectives aimed at from the air must be legitimate military objectives and must be identifiable;
3) Any attack on legitimate military objectives must be carried out in such a way that civilian populations in the neighbourhood are not bombed through negligence;
II. Also takes the opportunity to reaffirm that the use of chemical or bacterial methods in the conduct of war is contrary to international law, as recalled more particularly in the resolution of the General Commission of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments of July 23rd 1932, and the resolution of the Council of May 14th, 1938."
"Appeal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Aerial Bombardment of Civilian Populations, September 1, 1939
The President of the United States to the Governments of France, Germany, Italy, Poland and His Britannic Majesty, September 1, 1939
The ruthless bombing from the air of civilians in unfortified centers of population during the course of the hostilities which have raged in various quarters of the earth during the past few years, which has resulted in the maiming and in the death of thousands of defenseless men, women, and children, has sickened the hearts of every civilized man and woman, and has profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity.
If resort is had to this form of inhuman barbarism during the period of the tragic conflagration with which the world is now confronted, hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings who have no responsibility for, and who are not even remotely participating in, the hostilities which have now broken out, will lose their lives. I am therefore addressing this urgent appeal to every government which may be engaged in hostilities publicly to affirm its determination that its armed forces shall in no event, and under no circumstances, undertake the bombardment from the air of civilian populations or of unfortified cities, upon the understanding that these same rules of warfare will be scrupulously observed by all of their opponents. I request an immediate reply."
Then in 1940 the Germans bombed Rotterdam, Warsaw, later Coventry, London. Yes Hitler could and would have done worse, he was limited…by his war machine. Get in your mind Picasso's Guernica. Retaliations? To me, this kind of policy was against the war aims. Acting like those, barbarians you mean to fight (and this is valid today too) is debasing yourself to their level.
Please don't bring me the relative statistics of death. Yes overall the allies did inflict, less pain than the others did, and yes they did fight for the right reasons. But there is only one ball game of senseless horror and dancing in it even with another tune is still in the same room. Don't give medals of horror, having less than the other side is then so much better.
Did they, please act as said? No.
Now read that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Hamburg_in_World_War_II interesting tactics! (when you read firefighters, just add ambulances to have the right picture).
Between 300000 and 600000 German civilians were killed (add occupied countries to it); maybe those were the lucky ones; think about the hundred thousands of maimed, in their mind and limbs, for life. Let us not fight about statistics: a great humanist, Mussolini had something like this about statistics: kill one, it is murder, kill ten this is a massacre, seven thousands is statistics.
Be imaginative, think of a 4 year's old little girl with dimples and blonde hair in a pony tail, with a huge smile and… Now face half burned, one leg less and what 70 more years to live, live?
Yes war is horrible, yes casualties are not avoidable, yes this unlucky girl could have been caught in a village held by the remnants of a SS company in February 1945 (3 months to go!) under a US army artillery barrage. Tough luck. What about the systematic killing of 80000 German children by terror bombing? Maybe some of them were Hitlerjungend like Gunter Grass had to be. To be cynical for half of them, well, it could have been unavoidable as the instruments of war, these bombers were so inaccurate. Yes the allies had to bomb German infrastructure, industry etc. and then yes, civilians would get killed. Yes the allies did inflict damage, far less than they thought, yes they had too.
Think that the greatest slaughter began when the war was close to an end, there was no doubt about the issue, whatever remnants of German power that was, did not matter that much.
On 14 February, 1942, Directive No. 22 was issued to Bomber Command. Bombing was to be "focused on the morale of the enemy civil population and in particular of the industrial workers." Translate: kill civilians in great enough numbers that fear of death by bombs will overcome fear of death from "defeatism" by the SS. Why? Because they knew their attacks on the industry was not doing it.
Dresden, (air raid by UK & US: 13-14 Feb. 1945): 35 000 to 50000 dead
Berlin, (air raid by US: 3 Feb. 1945): 25 000.
Think about Clauzewitz , as this war as politics (democracy, freedom, human rights?) by other means. Any dead that is useless, any large amount of dead that have no military means in war is a war crime. Sometimes the limits are blurred sometimes not.
3) Ok, was it worth it? Was it sound tactics?
If you read the (often partial, dimmed) analysis after the war and what few internal reports from the top brass during the war: the answer is NO!
Why? Because on a purely cynical, practical, military, strategic analysis, the results have to be balanced with the means used for them, the alternate use that could have been.
Airmen losses 160000 (US+UK) or equivalent of almost half total US war death? For what?
Allied personnel needed for that: 1.3 millions!!!!! Dozens of thousands of planes, and mostly 4 engine big ones, those that needed the most material to build.
How many tactical planes they could have instead, together with let's say a dozen more armoured divisions. Imagine ten more armoured divisions around Caen in 44, at Bastogne?
Read (on the net for free please do it) ^ Crook, Paul (2003.). "Chapter 10 "The case against Area Bombing"". in Peter Hore. Patrick Blackett: Sailor, Scientist, and Socialist. Routledge. p. 176.
(Ok I know many of you will freak out because in the title it says "socialists" but even these cannot always be wrong especially when not really talking about economy, even with that kind of author's name…remember the US cavalry in 1876, then it will help.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Bombing_Survey_Europe
Instead of senseless, costly raids in Germany in 1942 many more long range bombers could have been transferred to Coastal Command. Only by late 42 did they do it against the will of the bomber leaders.
By 43 these had already won the battle of the Atlantic. They could have done it six months earlier, saving thousands of merchant mariners. When I say that, think, we talk about a few dozen planes!
Carpet bombing: Cobra? Why not several others? And Italy and bases? And…. German training areas, deployment zones in France to force utter dispersal and great use of fuel for training. What about the Liri valley and elsewhere. Why the Luftwaffe systematic attack of RAF bases was a sound tactic in 1940 and the Allied air power not be the same in 43-44?
Mining the long Hamburg's exit to the sea and keeping doing it, attacking those flimsy minesweepers, would have rendered the port, the Uboot pens etc. just as useless or even more. The intense air interdiction (the most efficient use of air power in WW2) of post Normandy landings might have been sustained with say a couple thousand more long range fighter bombers instead of a thousand B24. I like the B24 (a nice plane btw), Liberator? When bombing civilians it sound a bit like a Catholic priest in South America in the 16th century liberating Indians from their sins.
Only by 1943 did the German industry go to full war production (crazy Adolf did not war to alienate the workers by forcing them to work on 3 shifts! You know the socialist part of national socialist…) in 44 despite the allied effort they produced more of everything than before.Ok if you read about it, with an open mind you'll see.
On a half lighter side, think of all the cultural places that were destroyed, as I am a wargamer too, I would have liked the info on 1815 Hanoverian flags and 1866-70 Saxon flags that was lost in fire raids. (wargamers/historian article hey?)
I will honour Patton and the dead and survivors of Bedford VA, for example but not so Bomber Harris, Carl Spaatz or the 1943 version of Churchill.
DON’T TELL ME ABOUT THE END OF THE WORLD
We, miniature gamers all know that the end of the world exists, commonly otherwise known as the table edge.
This most unfortunate feature even calls for special rules, brings in players gamey behaviour. Everyone is aware this straight daunting line can trap units, others vanish by being forced to jump in that void, and at times it acts as a saving deep fog allowing escapes. The trouble is, the fog stops at the table edge.
In many ways for battles, prior to the last century, when they were fought on a limited sized sort of field our tables are Ok as long as one has the needed space fitting with the fight, or more often the fight fitting in the space.
This is actually problem #1
When say after the middle of the 19th century as these fields became huge, or certainly with WW1 and 2, there is no more rectangular battlefield but a huge continual even possibly fluid battle over hundreds or thousands of men and hundreds of km of front. Ok skirmish or nearly so engagements can still be raids, patrols, or the like that are fought in a sort of void on a limited space be it between the lines, behind etc. or very limited in time fights in closed up areas.
Simply put your average ww2 fight whether it is a company against another (say IABSM ; bolt action Pzer grenadier etc.) or battalions (Command decision, Spearhead…) should be part of a bigger operation.
The sides of this fight you play, unless very special cases, well, are connected to other units. In other words there are no safe sides to your table. I am talking here mostly of the lateral sides, assuming at least a quasi linear sort of field not to complicate one life.
This is actually problem #2
On this sketch Blue is attacking red positions. If you are not using my ideas, well red is pretty screwed up as there are two massively covered approaches for blue on either outer sides of the woods. Yet if you look at historical actual fights, you get plenty of that.
In real life those sectors should be covered at least quite some, by other positions out there. Otherwise we have an isolated box… they would probably have chosen another place.
CREATING AND INSTALLING GZATSK 1813
And no you have never heard of this battle...
4000 figurines; THE huge what if 1812-13 battle; 190000 men for Napoleon vs 160000 for Kutusov. Part of my "what if he waited to reorganize and took care of his rear areas in late August 1812..."
Why this place? In his analysis of 1812 Clauzewitz states that the position behind this town of Gzatsk (today Gagarin in Smolensk oblast) was one of the best they could have taken, chosen by Barclay just before he was removed from overall command. We can understand it was abandoned after works had started as too wide to fight the better manoeuvring French (wargaming hint to those who think all commands in all armies are equals) and the available numbers; understatement also means if victorious it would have been too much of a Barclay victory;)
In my what if the French obviously would be better off than at Borodino but so would the Russians, which means they'd have enough troops, probably. And I believe Carl von....
The main problem: I had to find the proper map. I asked and we found Russian sources on line. I did not go to the central library to ferret into the map room and maybe find period sketches and maps, maybe even the report on installing this battlefield! Though whenever I go again I might look.
Using this site I had a map of the place with everything you want from 1871. Other older maps lacking details would be only checked for the villages and extend of the town, just in case it would have changed significantly. Then it has maps from post WW1 and especially a very detailed topographical map from 1941 . Another site which I forgot to bookmark (!) some nowadays flood map that has heights shown in coloured contrasted clear layouts was quite useful to figure out faster the main heights. It also had the feature of measuring things and having local heights with passing the mouse over. And if I want to use it again, for the third time I will have to search for it. Yes.
Even if I started full of elan, I soon realized that the place was complicated and short of doing a huge job of surveying and detailed special 3D full set of polystyrene tiles which I hardly can store (I have a 3x 4.5m surface tables) the main useful features will have to be enough. I am no Bruce Weigl;). Hours of trial and errors using as a bottom layer the 1871 map (after starting with the 1941- but will say further why) I ended up with a not so nice project (as the stuff was after all taken from the internet low rez) but good enough. The choice of the rectangle that would be the battlefield was also a subject of errors and multiple re doing. Studying the stuff as to how would they set up , and how to attack was very important, for all my space I cannot screw up too much. And actually I did, allowing a bit not enough space for the French, which I realized typically once every single tree and Russian was installed! obviously I did not redo it. But if and when I play that again, ho I'd wish, with 3 other guys! I would do it right. The game will say it it was a real problem other that aesthetical (not able to put down all the French-some off table!).
I was very careful about the orientation, not to use a simple North East South as on the internet maps. The Russian defenses as described by Carl Von would mainly follow the crests along the main river and the map showed it makes sense. The French need enough to deploy, the Russians too plus recoiling without falling into that ridiculous end of the world, and the flanks put where they make more sense, keeping in mind it had to fit in 18km by 11.5.
There was one striking difference between the 1871 map(s) and the 1941 map. In 1941 the woods seemed bigger, and there was a lot of water, what looed like ponds, marshes etc . along the river. I guess having been along The Volga, the Don, the Dniepr and many smaller ones (notable at Maloyaroslavets) one bank would higher than the other, and a more or less wide expense of low ground would flat and able to be flooded in spring on both sides. Villages and cultures be on the starting elevation and up. The soviets in their 1920s mess and their innate socialist belief that even Nature (not just human nature) will bend to their will, probably messed up the 1000 years proven local ways. So the floods that were contained or kept harmless would have destroyed newly forced upon agriculture, the collectivisation and industries nearby made these quite numerous villages caring no more about the land around them (I was surprised at the number of villages on this map as one striking Russian feature is- emptiness- in France and Germany you easily have a village every 2km- hence the range of the Milan ATGM-) in European Russia you can go 20 km without one. Maybe more nowadays than then, surely but still... and had a bad feeling about "shall I not have enough "eastern houses" (prompting Timecast and Kerr and King orders!). They also had a railway and a motorway built in 1941, the soviet way, not necessarily caring about water extraction-a standard feature of Moscow streets with heavy rain;).
While doing the order of battle of the 1812 in 1813, more funny things in, as French guards of 1813, the Russian volunteer cavalry from the nobles, who never had time to be fully raised (I have a full division of them with funny dresses, most accurate) could be put in play. And then I discovered I need more Russian generals, and Prussian batteries...
One of the things that would be of importance, most but not all the eastern bank of the river is higher than the "French" bank, This one often not significant for the game. I decided the higher bank would be 2 levels high, the higher steep (a common feature of Russian rivers) one marked with "crests". some of the highest places were put as hills as featured on the modern height map. Most of the rest of the banks as crests, being level 1;
one inch from the river is level -1 in case. Some level 3 crop up south mostly and I curtailed the woods that otherwise bisect too much the Russian position. Clauzewitz says they were on the rear nicely covering the path of retreat. the bigger forested area maybe modern (even 19th century modern) effect of better agriculture and less cultivated land further from villages. Russian woods normally are high trees with not so much brush underneath, only at the edges. So dark and relatively easy to move in, but still surely not in close order formations.
Now ready to install it!
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OF RESEARCHING AND WIKIPEDIA AND THIRD HAND ACCOUNTS
While translating and reading a Russian book on Cossacks, there was this story of the brave Cossacks defeating 2000 dragons near Mühlberg 18th of September 1813. The way it was described and the fact that dragons in 1813 would most likely be the most veteran cavalry around bar of the guard, I sort of smelled a rat. Let’s check it. You know the famous very fashionable fact checkers… except that no big company is paying me, for a specific slant. A notable event (Benevent?) in there was the French commander being captured, the nephew of Talleyrand. Wikipedia in its great wisdom and knowledge, told me that this fight (found because of col. Talleyrand otherwise nada) was between 3 rgt. Of chasseurs, not dragons (8e+9e+?) argh. Then they spoiled it by pretending the boss was general Von Dolschütz, Aie because this one I know was a Prussian… And then there was 2 pulk (bn/ rgt) of Cossacks and 3 sqn of Prussians. Who to believe?
In the Russian book there is a vague allusion to the source which ended up being “A History of Cavalry from the Earliest Times” by GEORGES T. DENISON published around 1900+ which once loaded (Murdoch inquest as finally found it via Haiti trust, thanks to my VPN which pretends I am in Florida,-warmed in winter) was hey! Using Captain Nolan’s “Cavalry its history and tactics “1860 (yes the falling screaming one) .well, guess what I searched for it and loaded it. Ha, this one did not interrogate an 80 years old veteran, he used an obscure book of memoirs (yes could not find it even in German) of a Prussian captain who was there (?) That fellow obviously needed glasses or was not so close to see the chasseurs he took for dragons, or he did not know! Besides he states they fired their carbines at the halt, not sure dragons mousketons can be really fired mounted. There is no doubt they were chasseurs as there is no doubt their famous named colonel was captured there! It is the same as with the “news”, the devil is in the details; when part of the thread is wrong, we have no clue how far it will unroll. In a German bit about this Von Dolschütz, it says not much of a fight, a surprise. A bit of a downgrade for the Cossacks. So the “multiple” sources on internet who copied Wiki (or wiki copied from one of them) the standard too often found on internet, screwed up the names putting the victorious Prussian in command of the defeated French…In the end I think about 7-900 French chasseurs of the new breed of 1813 were mauled/ flanked by some 400 Prussians (33% Black hussars, rest Landwehr) and 5-700 Cossacks. Even Illowaski their chief was badly spelled the same way…everywhere. The Russian author nicely omitted the Prussians and the commander. Well, all is fine. page up
RUSSIAN OFFICER’S CODE OF HONOUR 1804
Кодекс чести русского офицера. Составлен в 1804 году, актуален навсегда.
1. Не обещай, если ты не уверен, что исполнишь обещание.
2. Держи себя просто, с достоинством, без фатовства.
3. Необходимо помнить ту границу, где кончается полная достоинства вежливость и начинается низкопоклонство.
4. Не пиши необдуманных писем и рапортов сгоряча.
5. Меньше откровенничай — пожалеешь. Помни: язык мой — враг мой.
6. Не кути — лихость не докажешь, а себя скомпрометируешь.
7. Не спеши сходиться на короткую ногу с человеком, которого недостаточно узнал.
8. Избегай денежных счетов с товарищами. Деньги всегда портят отношения.
9. Не принимай на свой счет обидных замечаний, острот, насмешек, сказанных вслед. Что часто бывает на улицах и в общественных местах.
10. Если о ком-то не можешь сказать ничего хорошего, то воздержись говорить и плохое...
11. Ни чьим советом не пренебрегай — выслушай. Право же, последовать ему или нет, остается за тобой.
12. Сила офицера не в порывах, а в нерушимом спокойствии.
13. Береги репутацию доверившейся тебе женщины, кто бы она ни была.
14. В жизни бывают положения, когда надо заставить молчать свое сердце и жить рассудком.
15. Тайна, сообщенная тобой хотя бы одному человеку, перестает быть тайной.
16. Будь всегда начеку и не распускайся.
17. На публичных маскарадах офицерам не принято танцевать.
18. Старайся, чтобы в споре слова твои были мягки, а аргументы тверды.
19. Разговаривая, избегай жестикуляции и не повышай голос.
20. Если вошел в общество, в среде которого находится человек, с которым ты в ссоре, то здороваясь со всеми, принято подать руку и ему, конечно, в том случае, если этого нельзя избежать. Не обратив внимания присутствующих или хозяев. Подача руки не подает повода к излишним разговорам, а тебя ни к чему не обязывает.
21. Ничто так не научает, как осознание своей ошибки. Это одно из главных средств самовоспитания.
22. Когда два человека ссорятся, всегда оба виноваты.
23. Авторитет приобретается знанием дела и службы. Важно, чтобы подчиненные не боялись тебя, а уважали.
24. Нет ничего хуже нерешительности. Лучше худшее решение, чем колебание или бездействие.
25. Тот, кто ничего не боится, более могуществен, чем тот, кого боятся все.
26. Душа — Богу, сердце — женщине, долг — Отечеству, честь — никому!
1. Don't promise if you're not sure you'll keep your promise.
2. Keep yourself simple, with dignity, without fatuity. -foppery
3. It is necessary to remember the boundary where politeness, full of dignity, ends and low obsequiousness begins.
4. Do not write rash letters and reports in a hurry.
5. Be less frank – you will regret it. Remember: my tongue is my enemy.
6. Do Not go on a ender; you will not prove mettle, but compromise yourself.
7. Do not rush to converge on a close relation with a person who is not sufficiently recognized.
8. Avoid cash accounts with comrades. Money always spoils relationships.
9. Do not take into account the offensive remarks, witticisms, ridicule said afterwards. That often happens on the streets and in public places.
10. If you can't say anything good about someone, then refrain from saying bad things...
11. Do not neglect anyone's advice – listen. The right, whether to follow it or not, is yours.
12. The strength of an officer is not in impulses, but in unbreakable tranquility.
13. Cherish the reputation of a woman who trusts you, whoever she may be.
14. There are times in life when one must silence one's heart and live one's mind.
15. A secret communicated by you to at least one person ceases to be a mystery.
16. Be always on the alert and do not relax.
17. It is not customary for officers to dance in public masquerades.
18. Try that in an argument your words are soft and your arguments are firm.
19. When talking, avoid gesticulation and do not raise your voice.
20. If you have entered a society in the environment of which there is a person with whom you are at odds, then when greeting everyone, it is customary to give a hand to him, of course, if this cannot be avoided. Without paying attention to those present or the hosts. Giving a hand does not give rise to unnecessary conversations, and you are not obliged to anything.
21. Nothing teaches you more than the realization of your mistake. This is one of the main means of self-education.
22. When two people quarrel, both are always to blame.
23. Authority is acquired by knowledge of business and service. It is important that subordinates do not fear you but respect you.
24. There is nothing worse than indecision. Better a worse decision than hesitation or inaction.
25. He who fears nothing is more powerful than he who is feared by all.
26. Soul to God, heart to woman, duty to the Fatherland, honor to no one else!
UKRAINE MARCH 2022
They don't call it a war anymore, but a "special operation", part of that denaturing of language I suppose, but this time at least it fools no one.
Not so often (fortunately) that a veteran wargamer and military history buff has a real conventional war developing in front of his eyes. Despite having "the news" and a bit more, thanks to internet, from both sides, I assume my info is somewhat distant from the truth. How far I don't know, I might know in months, more likely years. So here comes my analysis from it so far, my bet possibly.
I think the Russians are losing, not like 1941 but as they boasted initially (a risky thing to do, useless too) they would unseat the government, "dinazify", secure the two main russophone provinces, maybe swallow the whole thing, fat chances it seems. At best they will secure somewhat Donestsk and Lugansk.
They were given as the dangerous bear, sure to win with his material superiority? I am old enough to remember the media and "experts" in 1990 with their Iraqi army , the 5th of the world and a bloody WW1 prospect...well well... What went wrong? (on the Ru point of view;)
1 Intel said they were very strong, the enemy weak, more importantly the other side (including the say 20% russophones still under Ukrainian rule) will fold fast under pressure.
2 The extended manoeuver plan over a wide front, by passing cities, via 100+ semi disconnected fast mechanized thrusts (their Battalion task forces which worked in 2014) coupled with a few surgical decapitation strikes by SF will do the job. fast, brutal and hop.
It looks it went passably wrong.
The Ukr fought, held and did not play into the plan. They had at least an equal number of smaller infantry mostly, aggressive, trained properly (?) by Nato and armed with numerous anti armour missiles and manpads plus a few mech brigades. This with a semi hidden mobility (see later why) together with efficient intel given by Nato and a net efficiently exploited of infos via telephone, internet, from locals watching and reporting. Their intel loop and knowledge was better than the Russians.
This combo allowed a multi angle attrition ambushes, attacks and fluid resistance. It looks like the logistical train was a priority target. It slowed if not in places collapsed some columns, forced the Russians to dissipate plenty of infantry or light units (chechens, mercs, Vdv?) - bit like the US in Irak with paras and 101 had to be tasked with securing the MSR. These guys would be sorely missing as the most competent to attack towns, as it after all, could not be avoided everywhere. The special ops raids did not do, could have been destroyed, some.
My Russian sources seem to insist, and I have a tendency to believe them (despite "our" news) that they avoided killing too many (hoping for surrenders/ collapse) and -at least the first 20+ days- using artillery masses against build up areas. they were deemed to come to free the locals from western poisoning, not to destroy them. In Mariopol at least, it did not end up so well. The tactics, based a lot on urban areas from the Ukr side made this a problem. Attacking in a wide 1000+ km arc which was supposed to create some "Kessel" ended up a trap: hard to reposition sideways, no "front" so the whole thing is totally porous. The Ukrainians could use guys in civilian cars, anything, to move groups of spacial forces, "national guard" semi regulars, in front, on the sides and behind. It seems that air superiority never went far either. No shutting of internet, no free shooting on moving vehicles, no "indian territory" with pushing the civies away, and so everywhere they had this hundreds of small groups harassing them. I don't think it was guerrilla in that these did not so much go hiding in civilian clothes like vietcongs. they just vanish in the boonies once the hit is done.
It might be at times that the ground was making them road bound in a few Market Garden silly approaches. If so, unless they were very stupid, this might be a proof of the Russian claim this is a spoiling attack, the Ukrainians supposedly were to attack the separatists a few days after the start. One day I will know.
So stalled, too many casualties, losing (not yet at home) the public opinion, no prospects of real winning, with the forces at hand: negotiations.
Well that's my take as of March 29 2022.
Of Pips, command and games.
Yesterday I significantly changed things in my Napoleonic rules. Sort of half departing with the decades old regimental/brigade units towards more flexible (and more fiddly?) 1000 infantry and 4-600 cavalry “units”, mashed up into brigades (with small, average, big sized ones for accuracy). A sort of “sub accounting” of brigades. It would allow flank guards, garrisons, independent cavalry brigades on two waves. It would give cavalry their flexibility. I remember a cavalry division neatly going around the enemy and not doing much damage as it could only crush two batteries per half an hour, from its two brigades’ components, clearly silly. Not battalions, as I still don’t want too many and besides, they will be too small to look good, of infinite sizes variations (to remember!) which means often never right in representations anyway. This prompted a big brainstorming about command and control.
I have a system of orders, with delays and mishaps which, I think, gives a decent rendering of the command problems at higher echelons (army-corps). Parallel to that, in last few weeks I was toying with the need (need?) to play something like Bataille Empire with battalions, to finally be able to use the scenario books of Michael Hopper. This means more painting! I played twice his big Eckmühl scenario, it was fine but the big chunky units were not flexible enough to do it justice. The Austrians should have been able to spread more. Hence the idea that after all, why not use smaller components of my manoeuvre elements (yes I kept it, in honour of my 20 years of Empire playing)?
So I went on changing things, new QRs and so on. Then doubts hit. Will this be too fiddly?
There were 2 basic premises in my game scale choices long ago:
1 lower number of “things” to handle= more troops possible per player. Brigades.
2 The nice-looking big units. More figures per unit.I will now have potentially 12 semi-independent “units” in my Austrian divisions, instead of 4. Sure they can now have only one in square to secure a flank, make refuse flanks in echelons and more. But even if the system promotes grouping for movements and attacks, players being like lawyers, will still sneak into the limit edges of the system.
I was then thinking of re-establishing (it was jettisoned decades ago) a system of control inside the divisions. You know the pips or something similar. Players think it a command system.
1 You must make choices. Good game wise. Does a division general in 1809 have to make choices if he can “move” 4 or 8 of his 12 battalions? I think not. He might want to, say assault a hill. He wants it coordinated. It comes down to how many sub commanders he must explain that to disseminate the manoeuvre to all the units. In the case of this Austrian, two brigadiers and 4 colonels or just the brigadiers who will in turn do it. The difference between Erz. Ludwig and Friant, one relatively inept young, there because of family, and one with 15 campaigns and a position because of his obvious abilities? Not hat Ludwig will move 5 and Friant 9, but that Friant might have it ready in 20 minutes when the other one will take an hour.
2 The limit on units going all over the place. Right. But why should they do that? We have a forever contradiction: Some claim we have too much control over the troops, but in the end we, the players move them, turn left or right, no matter what pips or not we have, we just can do it less. More important I think is the orders/ the intend/ the attitude these troops have. If they are ordered to assault that hill, in most cases, once orders are received, they will go and try. There can be bad coordination, delays, lack of enthusiasm, but overall, they will go unless some more pressing threat arises. The threat thing is often under evaluated in games. We the player also overrule it. We might carry on things the real ones would be reluctant to attempt, because we see and know more than they do. The famous helicopter general. Pips limit your freedom of pushing everything, but you entirely chose what to push. If coupled with orders (as in Bataille Empire) you get a bit of both command and control. But…
I remember an officer telling me, loosing control of the troops (that was about urban fights, groups you can’t see, without comms etc.) is not like in games that they do nothing, that would be easy. It is that they do things, you don’t know where and what. I tried to get a bit with this, having a system for uncontrolled units, doings things linked to the situation and their orders. My take is that in the game control is a fast intervention of the leader, things under his eyes, in the end often via the famous directing unit. Many other things would be reactions to threats, not easy as you the gamer do it in the end, not the troops.
My main pet against pips came from old DBm games. You have this big cavalry wing you sent on a wide outflanking move., you just had a 5 for them. Then they slow down as you have only 2s fine, they got cautious, found obstacles, missed alignments, you name it. But...
Then the enemy who often interferes with your best plans, gets something on the opposite wing that gets nasty. It literally swallows your pips into a fight. Your flanking wing who in real life you told to go an hour ago, suddenly, slows down or halts, the pips being used elsewhere. They still have their orders, they have possibly no clue of what is happening on the other wing. To change their orders would take a big delay in real life. Perhaps your general got all his attention into this new fight, his aides there too. In that case the flanking wing would even more do what it was sent for, not stopped.
I have this with orders, distances, and delays. Most of my orders, you will be happy to know consist of a simple marker under the commander, arrow and code attitude. Nothing is perfect. We still don’t have to be lazy. The occasional slow down and stops of Fire And Fury systems are better for control than pips. They and their occurrence don’t depend much on you. Events cards played with a chance to work can do that too. The problems of command:
Delays, distances, misunderstandings, coordination, cretins, smoke, terrain,sheer bad luck and more.
If the game turn or decision segment, is long enough it can “swallow” many of these.
I don’t want an excellent commander with 15 bn (Davout’s corps divisions in 1809) be in trouble because too many, and a smashed-up Austrian with only 6 left, happy with life as clearly we don’t read of Gudin, Friant, Morand etc. having terrible problems with my list above.
So, I will resist the pips. Also fighting anything that adds plenty of dice rolling, storing etc. So far, I am very satisfied with my orders system (command quality and use of time) and my uncontrolled random reactions. To represent a bit of misgivings into my now more numerous units inside a division, comes a die roll part of movement. Yes more rolls? Well, it is a saintly habit of Fat Lardies games and it has numerous merits. I also have event cards.
1 it takes some dose of trouble out of your hands.
2 it neatly pushes players to use groups and directing units to move. Well a bit like the real ones.
If you don’t, you might be punished by the enemy pouncing on troops disconnected to their supports ahead of the rest. Obviously, we will have gamers pushing those 12 units in all directions individually. I think it will pass. Still afraid this might slow don the game. Testing never ends.
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