Discussion in 'General' started by Trincomalee, Jun 25, 2008.

  1. Trincomalee

    Trincomalee Senior Member


    A longish item on this programme this afternoon , saying official WW2 US Army historian maintained only 15% ever fired their weapons .
    What do you think ?

    SLA Marshall, official US Army historian in the Second World War found that amongst frontline troops only fifteen per cent ever actually shot their weapons. A recent study claims that even when soldiers do fire their weapons they are so overcome with fear and tension that they are likely to fire wildly or miss.

    Laurie Taylor is joined by American Sociologist, Professor Randall Collins, author of Violence A Micro-Sociological Theory, to debate the rituals and micro-dynamics of violence and his contention that humans are biologically restrained from committing violent acts against each other.

    You should still be able to listen to this .
  2. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    Blimey, this is pretty old hat. Marshall wrote his classic 'Men Against Fire' in 1947! There has been a long running controversy about this, based on criticisms of Marshall's methodology and also his military qualifications. He apparently never actually led troops in combat, despite his claims. He was a private in the Great War and his 'general' rank was essentially honorary. Doubts have been cast over whether he did conduct much of the research for which he is famous and his one-time disciple, Colonel David Hackworth, later did a hatchet job on him in his book 'About Face'. As far as I can recall critics allege that the '15%' figure is a figment of Marshall's imagination, which doesn't actually emerge from his findings. Most troops do open fire, in fact, but many of them just spray fire wildly in the general direction of the enemy. You can see this in lots of footage of street fighting in Vietnam for example and in more recent conflicts.
  3. marcus69x

    marcus69x I love WW2 meah!!!

    15% ? I can't get my head round to believing that. I can understand soldiers firing wildy into the general direction if they're overcome with fear, but to have only 15% of them fire their weapons? What would their commanders do if they were under fire and he saw 85% of his men not shooting back? He'd kick their butts. I don't believe it.

    I've also read somewhere that the average soldier only saw 12 days actual combat during the whole war? Can't remember the source now though.
  4. soren1941

    soren1941 Living in Ypres

    I remember seeing some SAS troops putting some fire down from a prison roof, during a jail uprising in Afghanistan, the shots looked pretty aimed rather than sprayed, but then these are the best of the best.

    YouTube - edit: SBS/SAS afganistan

    Look at the chap with GPMG ( not sure what they are called! ) firing from the hip and aimed shots from the shoulder! what a man!

  5. soren1941

    soren1941 Living in Ypres

    I know it's old film, but did you hear waht the commentator said? Amnesty wanted to know why so many prisoners died? from what I read there were 600 escaped prisoners who had got hold of the armoury..... there looks like no more than 20 US/Brit special forces, they should get medals not complaints!
  6. soren1941

    soren1941 Living in Ypres

    Sorry I just relaised that i've gone orf topic!
  7. Trincomalee

    Trincomalee Senior Member

    My father must have seen VERY little fighting . He arrived in Singapore just before it fell . But when I asked if he had killed anyone he said he had shot and killed a sniper that he could see in a tree . When I heard the 15% figure it struck me as strange . I would doubt that my father saw more than a very few days in action , yet he knew that he had killed someone in that short space of time .
    I thought that someone has done the sums for the number of bullets compared with the number of casualties ? Is this a different project ?
  8. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    Marshall's general point that there are a small number of 'natural fighters' in every military force who do most of the effective fighting does seem to stand up to scrutiny. See the fascinating wartime volume of Sir Denis Forman's autobiography 'To Reason Why' covering the period when he was attached to the Barnard Castle Battle Training School commanded by Lionel Wigram. Wigram eventually carried out detailed research (on the spot) of infantry fighting in Sicily. He did this entirely independently of Marshall, of whom I don't think he'd ever heard. He concluded that in an average platoon strength of 24 there were about 6-8 'gutful men' (Marshall's 'natural fighters') who did most of the actual fighting, a dozen 'sheep' who followed orders but didn't go out of their way to get involved or show much initiative and a few useless blokes who cleared off at the first shot. When Montgomery read this he was furious that Wigram was questioning the bravery of British troops. He promptly shot the messenger: Wigram was demoted and eventually died leading partisans in the Appenines.
  9. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek

    Been reading a few books about Iraq lately and the insurgents were putting Aks on fully auto and just emptying their mags. A lot more British soldiers would be dead if those insurgents ever had any real training and were composed in a firefight.
    Be interesting to know how many of UK forces in Iraq or Afghanistan haven't see action on their tours.
  10. Trincomalee

    Trincomalee Senior Member

    Where does this fit in with invading armies that massacre local populations , not in the heat of war , but by systematically lining them up and executing them . Is anyone in those circumstances able to not shoot , or kill ?

    Are the "effective" fighters that you mention , Mark , the "wilder" element or the better adjusted people ?
  11. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    They could be either-it depended on how you handled them. Both Marshall and Wigram identified that the 'natural fighters' were often not men who got on in the peacetime army-nonconformists, poor disciplinary record etc. The trick was to identify them, train them effectively and put them in leadership positions. Wigram, controversially, believed in actively weeding out the 'useless' men from combat units as they were simply a liability.
    Incidentally, the expert on the Radio 4 programme accepted the received wisdom that Marshall's findings encouraged the US army to emphasise the 'putting down lots of rounds approach' in training which has led to the wild firing you see in recent conflicts, with the result that the number of rounds per hit has increased dramatically. Marshall's critics would dispute this causal link and the whole idea that troops in World War II were inherently reluctant to fire.
  12. Trincomalee

    Trincomalee Senior Member

    So all this time later , they still haven't really worked it out ?

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