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Subject: Were Americans pound for pound the best troops in WW2? rss

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J.L. Robert
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EDIT: With the OP--and his account--now deleted, I guess the issue of the thread's topic has been put to bed. Let's resolve the various tangents, and move forward.

Uh...what?! surprise

The best? Debatable. The best-equipped? Absolutely.

Throughout the war, the U.S. was not embargoed, never had any significant shortage of supplies, did not need to develep synthetic products like oil or rubber, and never had to worry about combat on their homeland.

The Germans never had sufficient fuel to feed its machinery.

The Soviet industry was still experiencing growing pains, and was on the verge of collapse at the end of the war.

The British never had a large population, and their manpower was at the breaking point for much of the war.

The Italians entered the war with much bravado, but not much else.

The Chinese were just entering the Industrial Age.

By the time the Japanese were defending islands, their resources were already reaching critical points. Many of the troops who died defending various islands died of malnourishment and disease. And in those conditions, their fighting abilities would be compromised.

The Americans? They only had to experience a steep learning curve. Which, admittedly, they did admirably.

To say the U.S. were "pound for pound the best troops" is just insulting to every other nation who participated in World War II. The fact is that the Yanks had far less to overcome to acheive what they did.
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"The Germans are always considered really good, but in the 3 big encounters against American troops (North Africa, Normandy and the Bulge) they are seriously defeated and still lost more Germans than Americans. Even their elite Fallschirmjagers were decimated during Crete and took more losses than their American counterparts in later battles in Normandy against the 101st."

It just might have had something to do with there air power?
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Leo Zappa
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Quote:
In almost every other pacific battle, the disparity was even greater with sometimes only 1 American lost for every 5-8 Japanese dead. This obviously shows the American solider to be far superior in many ways.


I don't know if I agree with this (and this, even though my dad was one of those American soldiers). I do think it means that American forces deployed overwhelming firepower, from their organic small unit firepower (American small arms were superior to Japanese), to their artillery and tanks (again, American tanks were far better than their Japanese counterparts), and finally their naval and air support. The Japanese could not match this volume and quality of firepower.

The quoted loss ratio is also indicative of the different fighting styles of the two armies - the American force fought to inflict maximum casualties on the enemy while minimizing its own losses (again, deploying that previously mentioned firepower to neutralize enemy positions), while the Japanese fought without regard to personal safety, looking to engage in close combat with the Americans and inflict maximum casualties without suffering the dishonor of surrender. Keep in mind that many of the Japanese losses were suffered near the end of campaigns when the remaining defenders would make suicidal Banzai charges in order to go out in a blaze of glory while taking as many Americans with them as they could.

In summary, despite the statistics quoted in the OP, I don't think a blanket statement that the American soldier (and Marines, let's not forget about them) was superior to the Japanese soldier in a one-on-one comparison is valid (though my dad was pretty tough!).
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Ugggh -this is bound to head south.

First, the Japanese did not really have Marine divisions - their SNLF was not on par with a USMC unit.

The disparity in combat casualties fighting the USMC on islands was fairly one of differing logistics anf firepower, as well as doctrine.

The Japanese were willing to sacrifice lives for the Emperor and the cause, believing in a spiritual component to war. They were exceptionally brave, but ill served by th leadership and logistics.

On the island assaults, especially in the Central Pacific drive, the Japanese were cut off - they almost never got reinforced or resupplied.

The Americans tended to approach war as a business - minimize risk as much as possible with massive logistics and firepower.

Early in the the war, this was not always possible - read up on the assault of Operation Watchtower - the assault on Tulagi was a bloody mess for both sides - the Japanese were tenacious and determined.

The Japanese soldier was expected to fight to the death - and being cut off with nowhere to go, that is what happened.

The American rarely was that bad off for support - though brave and still at high risk to life and limb, they did get the benefit of lots of firepower, and an abundance of naval and air support with a logistical tail the envy of the world to back them up.

Both sides were incredibly brave - no soldier in that theater was 'better' - different, yes, but not better.

--------------

And that is just a simple explanation..real simple. Tons of literature exist to explore this topic.






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Bill Eldard
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LetFreeMarketsReign wrote:
. . . Could it be that Americans were the best soliders of any nation in WW2? No other country pound for pound could match us.


Your analysis is overly simplified and too subjective to be useful. Your comparison of the Market-Garden plights of the British 1st Airborne Division to the US 101st Airborne Division ignores the disparate tactical situations and German reaction.

As a further example, your assessment of the quality of Japanese soldiers would've come as a shock to the US and British comanders who surrendered to them in the Philippines and Malaya, respectively.

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Colin Hunter
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LetFreeMarketsReign wrote:
It's arguable the British and the Free French were just as well equipped as the Americans and yet they still didn't preform as well. The British were the only fully mechanized army from the very beginning of the war.
The british and commonwealth units generally had a very high reputation, with perhaps the exception of the South Africans and they were reluctant fighters anyway. The British certainly had problems in normandy, but this are very difficult and multifaceted problems, I don't tend to think it was a problem with the soldiers.
Quote:


The Royal Navy also had the most experienced sailors and very good ships but they still preformed sub-par against the U-boats until Americans destroyers helped out and the Japanese blew their battleships out of the water. I do credit them for obliterating the Italian fleet though.
US destroyers, crewed by british crews.
Quote:

Also while the Japanese might have been cut off from supplies, they were an elite marine unit defending in heavily fortifed trenches, bunkers, costal batteries, and had tanks. I think that should more than off-set the lack of food.
The problem is the japanese kept fighting when others would have surrendered, this over inflates the casualty counts significantly, normally far more troops are captured than are killed, but this simply wasn't the case with the japanese. Furthermore I think we can all acknowledge that the US marines were very good fighting unit. The US army sadly didn't have as good a reputation.
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LetFreeMarketsReign wrote:
The newly released game from MMP ASL Bloody Reef Tarawa got me interested in the battle.


I still can't get past the first sentence.

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Eric Williams
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LetFreeMarketsReign wrote:

The British might come close but comparing the British 1st Airborne to the American 101st we know from Band of Brothers, they were completely destroyed and defeated at Arnhem and it was British troops that led to the only allied defeat on the Western Front during Market Garden while our boys from The Screaming Eagles were never defeated and won battle after battle even at Bostogne while inflicting more causalities on the Germans. They also lost earlier in the war in France 1940,against Rommel in North Africa at Gazala and in Greece. They were also completely routed by the Japanese at Signapore and Hong Kong when they had every advantage.


Whilst I suspect this post as a troll, the above was perhaps the most outrageous to me.

Whilst the 101st job in Market Garden was no picnic, I think it is ridiculous to compare being dropped "within hours" of allied tank support next to or on their objectives with 1st AB being dropped nowhere near their objectives and "no support ever got there." Even the quality of opposition holds no comparison. The 101st in the main faced line troops. 1 AB took the brunt of 3 German Divisions including an entire SS Panzer Corps.

The other defeats mentioned took place while the Americans "pound for pound" watched and remained neutral. If memory serves, the US got arse kicked too by the Japansese surprise attacks...and if my history serves me Australian reservists did pretty well in New Guinea while the Americans were still getting their $hit together.

My "troll" back would be, if it wasn't for the Brit's and Commonwealth fighting alone for years in BOTH World Wars there wouldn't have been much democracy left for the US to "save".
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Bill Eldard
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LetFreeMarketsReign wrote:
The Royal Navy also had the most experienced sailors and very good ships but they still preformed sub-par against the U-boats until Americans destroyers helped out and the Japanese blew their battleships out of the water.


Where do you get your data from? If you want to get an idea how poorly the USN perfomred against U-Boats early in the war, I recommend you read Michael Gannon's Operation Drumbeat. ADM King ignored advice from the RN regarding convoys and ASW, and the results were embarassing.

LetFreeMarketsReign wrote:
I do credit them for obliterating the Italian fleet though.


That's nice of you.

LetFreeMarketsReign wrote:
Also while the Japanese might have been cut off from supplies, they were an elite marine unit defending in heavily fortifed trenches, bunkers, costal batteries, and had tanks. I think that should more than off-set the lack of food.


As was pointed out previously, the SNLF were not an elite marine unit. They were ordered to fight to the death, and for the most part, they did. Their obsolete tanks were ineffective. The US Marines suffered higher casualties than they had expected, partly due to bad estimations on the effect of air and naval preparatory bombardment of the island, and the failure to plan for the reef, forcing many Marines to wade through about 400 yards of lagoon under heavy fire. But from the get-go, the Japanese were doomed.

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Worst.
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I started to write a reply, but I just can't bring myself to believe this isn't a blatant trolling attempt.
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Quote:
The problem is the japanese kept fighting when others would have surrendered, this over inflates the casualty counts significantly, normally far more troops are captured than are killed, but this simply wasn't the case with the japanese. Furthermore I think we can all acknowledge that the US marines were very good fighting unit. The US army sadly didn't have as good a reputation.


Well, in part, to defend my dad's honor , but also to make an important historical point here, I'd like to mention that the US Army was a much larger organization than the US Marines in the Pacific, and maintaining a uniformly high level of quality becomes more difficult as the size of the organization grows. While I'd agree that most Marine outfits were top shelf, I'd also argue that many Army units were as well, but in an organization as large as the Army (as compared to the Marine Corps), you are going to get some average and, yes, below average units (for the exact comparison, the US Army deployed 21 divisions to the Pacific - 1 cavalry (dismounted), 19 infantry, 1 airborne, versus only 6 Marine divisions). I would argue that the best outfits in the Army could stand toe-to-toe with the best that the Marine Corps had to offer.

I'd also point out that the Marines had a much better PR effort in the Pacific than the Army did! My dad, a vet of the 27th infantry (Wolfhounds) of the 25th division (Tropic Lightning), always told me that the most dangerous thing you could do in the Pacific was to step in between a Marine and a camera!


*in the interest of full disclosure, I should also point out that I served 12 years in the US Army Reserves, so I also take Army v. Marines debates a bit personally for that reason as well! cool *
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Bill Eldard
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LetFreeMarketsReign wrote:
Does anyone know if the US troops fighting alongside Brits in North Africa, Italy and Normandy generally had a high opinion of their quality?

I know Patton didn't have the highest opinion of Montgomery and his army but I have no idea what the average US solider thought of their allies.


Read Rick Atkinson's An Army at Dawn.
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I'll say what the commander in Bastogne allegedly said, "Nuts." (at least, that's what he said in the movies, huh?)

You're trying to pick a fight, dude. You're assuming that everyone was evenly-matched, evenly-equipped, evenly-trained and fighting in a homogeneous environment where all things are equal. And you're begging for someone to disagree with you.

Let's put it this way:

Pound for pound, has any nation been more capable of exploiting every political, economic and military advantage to maximize it's imperialist agenda than the United States?

No argument.





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Eric Phillips
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Others have already made the more pertinent observations I was going to mention (and gone well beyond what I could have). This leaves me one thing left to point out:

Soldier is a noun that means "a person engaged in military service."

Solider is a comparative adjective that means "more solid than ___."

This is a fairly frequent typo, and I don't normally bring it up, but you made this mistake both times you used the word.

Edit: All three times now.

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LetFreeMarketsReign wrote:
Does anyone know if the US troops fighting alongside Brits in North Africa, Italy and Normandy generally had a high opinion of their quality?

I know Patton didn't have the highest opinion of Montgomery and his army but I have no idea what the average US solider thought of their allies.


I don't know what the US troops thought of the CW troops they fought beside, but I do recall reading that after the Americans were defeated at Kasserine, a captured British general in casual conversation with his German captor lamented that the Americans were "our Italians" - comparing the GI's to the Germans' mediocre allies in terms of fighting ability. Obviously an unfair, and in the end, utterly inaccurate comparison, but there you have it.
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jay white
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Pound-for-pound, American troops have the best post-war media mechanism working for them.

When it comes down to reality, it seems that, pound-for-pound, every soldier is just a human. Some men do well in a fight, some cower. Over time, a fighting unit seems to coalesce into a tougher, more experienced, effective fighting force. The cowards are weeded out, the bad leadership is removed, etc.

Every country had (and still has) their elite fighting units which are heavily trained and perform well on the battlefield (given proper leadership, intel, supply, etc).

I don't especially like the idea of comparing one country's soldiers against another. It implies that one nationality is innately better than the other, and from what I've read, it's just not the case.

Each nation's fighting force had (and still has) its own advantages and disadvantages. Some battles worked in favour of different units' advantages - some had great leaders who knew how to exploit their opponents' disadvantages. I can think of examples that showed the superiority and inferiority of each nations' armies in WWII.

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LetFreeMarketsReign wrote:
Does anyone know if the US troops fighting alongside Brits in North Africa, Italy and Normandy generally had a high opinion of their quality?

I know Patton didn't have the highest opinion of Montgomery and his army but I have no idea what the average US solider thought of their allies.
Everything I have ever read has suggested that the British soldiers were good fighters, Obviously the 8th army, as veterans of North Africa, fared better than the 1st Army, at least initially. Some of the Commonwealth forces, the Indians and Australians (no matter how much I hate admit it ) in particular were regarded as exceptionally good soldiers. From everything I've read, particularly in north Africa, before the US troops became experienced, they had severe problems initially, it is understandable of course, but the US army troops hardly had a good reputation, initially.
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Wilhammer wrote:

The American rarely was that bad off for support - though brave and still at high risk to life and limb, they did get the benefit of lots of firepower, and an abundance of naval and air support with a logistical tail the envy of the world to back them up.


And when they didn't have all those advantages, as in the Phillipines, what did they do?

They surrendered like sheep.


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American troops are regarded to have been not as committed to battle as most other nations. That's mainly because they had less to fight for, being on someone else's land at all times. It was the near limitless resources that compensated for the lack of elan.

Consider it this way...the bravest soldier in history, armed with a knife, is still no match against a coward with a machine gun if the battleground is an open football field.
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ftarzanin wrote:
LetFreeMarketsReign wrote:
That's really not my intention. I'm just interested in a honest discussion about this topic.

If I felt the British were better I would just say it. This is just a question that just hit me and I'm honestly wondering what people's opinions are about.


If I where going to compare national combat ability I woudn't focus on the troops but instead I'd focus on the military systems that created the troops.
I completely agree and it is a very good point.
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Wow, that helps. I hope you're proud of yourself. If I'm convinced wrong, then I'll admit. Thanks for a great constructive post mate.


Sorry, you're right...not helpful. I was left otherwise speechless by your broad and speculative comments further upthread.
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Peso Pete wrote:
The best troops in World War II were the Finns.


My buddy Jarvinen would drink to that.

This is pound for pound the dumbest thread topic I've seen lately, and that's running against a strong field.
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That's actually pretty debatable in regards to the Pacific. The reasons typically that the Japanese suffered such atrocious casualty rates had to do with the Japanese mindset, and the last tenth of the battle.

The Japanese were unfamiliar with the concept of surrender, thinking only cowards would surrender and this was a dishonorable thing to do. Better to die rather than surrender. However, when attacked by the Americans, they would frequently keep firing and firing, and firing...which meant Americans would have an atrocious death rate approaching the beaches and getting on the island, but then once there...something interesting happened.

The Japanese ran out of bullets...LITERALLY. They had NO MORE ammunition.

Now, most US troops would probably surrender there, as was seen at Batan. At that the Japanese had NO idea what to do with all these people who had surrendered, and treated them like they would a dishonorable person who would rather surrender than die for their emperor or nation...which is to say equivalent of what we'd probably call the Japanese acted like war criminals.

The Japanese had a very LOW opinion of surrender. So instead of surrendering once they were out of ammunition, fuel, food, and whatever, they'd get knives and attack machine gun nests with KNIVES.

That doesn't tend to work very well. It's amazing that the death rates weren't more akin to 100 to 1 when one regards those types of odds.

When fully equipped it actually was quite difficult for the Americans...lucky for them that the Japanese frequently didn't have enough supplies to keep on going.

More interesting is that the Japanese typically were outnumbered overall against the American forces, sometimes at ratios of hundreds to one (of course the hard part with the Americans were actually LANDING those forces to have that ratio in a fighting footing on the actual island itself).

Statistically however, since the Americans didn't throw their lives away needlessly in foolish exercises of getting oneself killed for the sake of honor instead of any real strategic or tactical gain, perhaps Americans pound for pound were the MOST EFFECTIVE in the Pacific in ratio to each individual soldier.

I'd say it get's equally hard to say in Europe. In the first portions of the Normandy invasion, Americans had terrible death tolls in relation to the enemy, but we see as the enemy gets more desperate, the Enemy suddenly has the situation reversed and terrible death tolls for the Germans.

I'd say Americans were overall pretty effective in Europe too...so hard to say.

I'd say OP isn't trolling at all, it's an interesting subject to look into and discuss.
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LetFreeMarketsReign wrote:
Looking at pictures from MMP's ASL Bloody Reef Tarawa game got me interested in the battle. Reading about it, an elite Japanese marine divison defended the island with costal guns, bunkers, and light tanks and dispite the relatively high causalities they inflicted on the American troops they still had a lost rate of 4:1...In almost every other pacific battle, the disparity was even greater with sometimes only 1 American lost for every 5-8 Japanese dead. This obviously shows the American solider to be far superior in every way.


Nothing obvious at all. You are attempting to correlate loss ratios with a highly subjective value judgment; it just doesn't work that way. What makes you think that casualty levels have anything to do with quality soldiering? "Pound for pound" mean "man to man," and many military historians I've read are of the opinion that "pound for pound," the average German soldier was better trained, better motivated, and better equipped than the average American dogface. As others have already described, the American advantage lay primarily in sheer tonnage.

LetFreeMarketsReign wrote:
Could it be that Americans were the best soliders of any nation in WW2?


Just for the sake of discussion, mind you, no.

LetFreeMarketsReign wrote:
Edit: I admit I'm leaving out a lot of variables and factors and it's obviously more complicated than what I wrote above. I just wanted to explore the issue.


Define your terms first. "Best." "Superior." Other than casualty rates, you've offered nothing to demonstrate that the WWII American military was inherently superior to like enemy forces.
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