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Subject: A Question of Combat Effectiveness Threshold of Damaged Units rss

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Michael Power
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I have adopted whenever practicable a method of determining combat ratio and results as published by Mark Diehl in two issues of the Wargamer’s Digest - “Do You Really Want A Simulation,” May 1977, page 8; and “Rapid Combat Results - The Combat Calculator,” December 1976, page 32. The results is provided as a percentile loss (see below) of which I am willing to work with (chits underneath). It is an aspect of the combat losses that I have a question about. That is how much loss can various size units in a European World War II scenario take and still be considered a usable combat unit albeit at a reduced level? There must be some percentage point of their original size when a unit has taken such losses that it no longer viable or combat effective.

There is also the question of type units of equivalent sizes. Infantry units when compared to armor units may have a different threshold of loss resulting in their ineffectiveness as a combat unit.

Would nationalities be a factor?

Scale of units this inquiry is directed at:
Platoon
Company
Battalion
Regiment
Brigade
Division

Type of units in the main:
Infantry
Armor
Reconnaissance
Artillery

Some of you Geeks have actual military experience and/or exposure to games that post date 1990 which may give you some insight into this question. I would be grateful for any input you may have.

Combat results losses as percentile reductions on the combat results table:
13%, 25%, 38%, 50%, 63%, 75%, 88%, & 100%

If your interested in the generic combat ratio formula and combat ratio table referred to above you may find it at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/612164/utah-beach-situat...
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Eric Walters
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So much depends on the unit, at whatever scale. Some units melt into ineffectiveness when only a few get wounded/killed; others will fight like tigers until it's practically gone. It's more than just leadership and morale as well--weapons and tactics proficiency counts a great deal. So that unit down to 30% strength still packs a wallop.

This is part of the reason elite units fight to the death; with high esprit de corps, excellent leadership, and tremendous weapons/tactics skill they can hang tough for a long, long time....
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Joeseph McCarthy
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And let's not forget training. I consider that the #1 factor in determining the worth, or lack of same, of any military organization. You train how you fight.

Additionally, if you train well, including individual initiative in tight spots, you will have a good all-round unit. If you train soldiers to be automatons, they'll be wonderful on fixed defense, or anything else that requires them to stand and fight. But the minute they have to maneuver, or respond in a creative manner, their effectiveness goes down. Officer casualties can disable such a unit, even though it has suffered little loss to its overall numbers. It may not kill its ability to be on the field, but it may reduce it to a non-mobile Hedge Hog.

And, combat effectiveness has to take in account whether they're receiving or giving a punch too. In Squid Leader this would show in firepower and morale. You can have units with sucky firepower, but excellent morale, and visa versa.

Mogadeet
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K G
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Some much of this depends on so many factors.

I wish I remembered the game, but I recall a rule in which the Soviets defended at twice their normal strength when they were encircled. Is that realistic? I don't know, but it addresses a factor that might have otherwise turned them to surrender: desperation.
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Jason Sadler
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Remember that 20% probably represent most of the pointy end of a unit.
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Robert Wesley
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Mogadeet wrote:
And let's not forget training. I consider that the #1 factor in determining the worth, or lack of same, of any military organization. You train how you fight.
Just as long that it were 'applicable' for their ongoing 'utilizations', since 'moi' personally "trained" for my MOS and beyond that further STILL, yet, while it NEVER was 'performed', and gladly at that!
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Mogadeet wrote:
Additionally, if you train well, including individual initiative in tight spots, you will have a good all-round unit. If you train soldiers to be automatons, they'll be wonderful on fixed defense, or anything else that requires them to stand and fight. But the minute they have to maneuver, or respond in a creative manner, their effectiveness goes down. Officer casualties can disable such a unit, even though it has suffered little loss to its overall numbers. It may not kill its ability to be on the field, but it may reduce it to a non-mobile Hedge Hog.
The funniest 'thang' I'd often encountered when within the Military, was people approaching 'moi' and just bluntly stating outright that in case of "War", then, they'll be sticking by my 'side', of A-N-Ys! There were even a few Officers that inquired of my own 'opinions' regarding yet another, overall, and I did try to soften any describing about 'foibles' of theirs.
Mogadeet wrote:
And, combat effectiveness has to take in account whether they're receiving or giving a punch too. In Squid Leader this would show in firepower and morale. You can have units with sucky firepower, but excellent morale, and visa versa.

Mogadeet
heh heh! The "Naval Infantry" 'contingent' no doubt, eh?

Demi-lastly, then I had heard that a unit suffering around 30%-casualties of their 'Combat Personnel', was considered as rendered "ineffective" with con-committal "R&R" until back up to strength where permitted, while certainly any losing much more were even sorely in need as well.
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Gordon Reynolds
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sounds good to me
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Bob Roberts

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Here is a quote I saved from a discussion on some forum or other a while back that may help answer part of your question...

Quote:
I don't have my material anymore, but in the late 80s, I was involved with operational research as part of a main battle tank replacement project. There was a really interesting paper on reasons units "broke" where "breaking" was becoming no longer effective; failure to follow orders, running away, refusal to advance being some of the symptoms.

The paper was based on study of either allied or just British units (or maybe it was Commonwealth units) that broke during WWII and what the general reasons were that caused the reaction. It gave a list of factors that were the main contributer to units breaking and the percentage of times that factor was the major contributing factor. The study was based on post action interviews.

The biggest contributer to failed morale of the broken units studied accounted for 30%-50% of the instances (again, I don't have the paper anymore and am going by memory). And that factor was "threatening maneuver by enemy troops". This meant being outflanked – there was a separate entry for close combat if I recall correctly.

What I found fascinating (I was a also wargamer at the time, of course) was that casualties in a unit only accounted for about 10% of the morale failures. This was a surprise because at that time, many rules available involved checking morale at such and such a casualty rate with a good chance of breaking of casualties were high.




Hope that helps...
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Michael Power
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Bob Roberts,

I've always felt that the threat of an enemy's flanking maneuver of one's position was more of factor toward breaking when compared to losses. Thirty years of paintballing bears this out. Receiving fire from more than one direction was more un-nerving than mere losses when the opponent was to one's front. However, what I'm seeking is not so much as the cause of the loss of morale but instead how much loss can a unit suffer before it is no longer an effective combat unit. Using the combat results table, referred to above, there are various percentage losses suffered. This leads to a multitude of step losses.

For example a unit with a combat value of 6-4 (attack/defense) in the course of a game is subjected to several losses from subsequent actions of attacking and/or defense.
6-4 loses 13% now becomes
5-3 loses 26% now becomes
4-2 loses 39% now becomes
2-1 ad infinitum

At some point the unit must be considered a non-factor and removed. The question remains⎯at what percentage point of the unit's starting values will it no longer be a viable combat effective?
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Joeseph McCarthy
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My father (a Pacific veteran) frequently pointed out that the only time the Japanese soldier stopped fighting was when he was dead. He said that as long as he stayed put he was as deadly as a viper. But once on the move he was toast. Japanese soldiers were never trained to think, and they didn't, but as long as they stayed in their holes or had lots of officers they were the toughest soldiers in the world.

He told stories about never even thinking about Japanese as combat units. They were just tiny groups of soldiers occupying strong points, (2 japs in a cave could stop a company dead in its tracks) and you had to get them one at a time, and until they were ALL dead, they were deadly as Hell and full of fight. But the minute they came out of their holes, he said, you knew you had licked them.

Mogadeet
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Jason Cawley
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I studied the question in some detail for an earlier era - Napoleonics - and then updated that with less extensive studies of company scale actions from WWs I and II, and some after (Korea e.g.).

The basic story is that effective losses run twice actual casualties for the highest motivation and quality units, and 3-4 times actual losses for ordinary ones. That is, a normal unit that has taken only 12 to 17 percent losses is effectively cut in half, and will frequently abandon its mission in response. And is certainly likely to fail at any such mission if it doesn't.

You have to imagine every man hit causing a second to spend all his time and effort tending to wounded and trying to get his surviving friends the heck out of there, and a third to run for his life if he can, and cower at the bottom of the deepest cover he can find if he can't safely run. Lower quality units you get both of the latter effects. Fanatic veterans on their best day you might get only the tend the wounded effect. But these things are not temporary, they don't go away in a minute or three of imaginary rally.

Highest quality units in a losing battle, rallying repeatedly and throw into the fray over and over again, still never lose more than two third, in the highest outliers of voluntary loss in history. And half is more lime an upper bound.

It is entirely normal for an infantry formation taking 25% losses to be driven from the field in blind panic as a result. The whole formation has crumbled by that loss point. A few of the bravest stood it when half had fled or cowered, then those got whacked as over exposed to the full fury of the fight, without help. When they go and are seen to go, the rest won't stand.

This pattern repeats across huge technical, control, formation, and scale changes, through the whole history of organized firearm equipped infantry, pretty much.
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Fred Thomas
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Based on the company-level curves in this paper (pages 22-26 of a big pdf), I calculated effective strengths for various levels of casualties.

6% Ax95% Dx97%
11% Ax91% Dx97%
17% Ax86% Dx97%
22% Ax70% Dx95%
28% Ax29% Dx83%
33% Ax0 Dx65%
39% Ax0 Dx41%
44% Ax0 Dx22%
50% eliminated

Sample calculation for 6% casualties: 76% of attackers and 69% of defenders are neither reserves nor suppressed. The 75 and 67 come from initial reserves of 25% for the attacker and 33% for the defender, so I'm assuming that the printed full strengths do not count the reserves.
AS = (100-6)*0.76/75
DS = (100-6)*0.69/67
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Jason Cawley
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Michael - losses taken by units pinned in position and under attack sometimes exceed the voluntary loss threshold, certainly. To complete destruction in some cases. But almost all units won't continue to voluntarily expose themselves to further combat at such casualty levels.

As for leaving men where they fall and an ethic of staying at the front and the firing line, sure armies want the men to do that. But taking care of the wounded is the textbook example of the honorable risk reducing activity during battle, that men seek out, consciously and unconsciously, as the risk level around them rises.

Most men draw the line at throwing down their personal weapon and running headlong to the rear. Most men draw the line at direct surrender. In both cases, at least as long as they can physically see other members of their unit continuing to fight. It is honor in the form of peer pressure that holds men to face danger.

But honorable actions that continue to show solidarity with other members of the unit, devotion to duty, and the fortitude to perform some clearly necessary task - but that just also happen to lower personal danger and help self preservation - these attract men like gravity wells, when death is flying by.

Somebody has to run the message over to the captain, who just happens to be 200 yards farther back. Corporal Jones has been hit and can't make it back to the aid station without assistance. There are 3 wounded men around me in this area of low ground sheltered from the machinegun fire, and they could bleed to death if their wounds are not bandaged immediately. I just heard Sergeant Smith call for ammo, and I know I saw a stash of what he needs over with 3rd platoon. Lt Johnson gave us orders to cover this flank and he is clearly counting on us, we can't reorient towards the hotter front without hurting his plans. We could really be more effective at that knoll 80 yards back, it can see farther to the right. We've got to get this overheated Bren back in running order. Someone has to load more mags.

Men are inventive in finding ways to contribute to the success of the unit in ways that do not involve charging forward into machinegun fire. The hotter it gets around them, the more men will settle into these honorable but not as aggressive tasks. As the danger level rises higher still, this escalate into some men just pinned to the ground in available pieces of superior cover, unwilling to move or expose themselves to fire.

This is what leads to the frequently reported small unit leader's report, that he led in an attack and looked around 15 minutes later, and only 15 men were still with him. It is also why real battles take a lot longer than first person shooter simulations of fearless - because deathless - heroes. The men are doing lots of things besides charging ahead with guns blazing. Almost anything, really...
 
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