Panzer Aces Wittmann and Staudegger at Kursk – part 4

Panzer Aces Wittmann and Staudegger at Kursk – part 4

Finally, there are some additional claims made for panzer ace Michael Wittmann (1914-1944) for the 12th of July 1943 and for the entire Battle of Kursk in July 1943. They are:

  1. It is claimed that Wittmann destroyed 8 Soviet tanks, 3 AT guns and one gun battery on the 12th.
  2. During the battle Wittmann killed 30 T-34s, 28 AT guns, and two destroyed batteries.
    1. Source: Agte, page 127.

I am not going to attempt to check these claims. There were lots of Soviet tanks killed on the 12th, I have no way of knowing if the claim of 8 is close to correct or not. There were also lots of Soviet tanks killed in the entire battle. I have no way of knowing if the claim of 30 T-34s is close to correct or not. One does note though that the claim was that he killed 8 T-34s on the 5th (even though they probably were not T-34s), killed 3 T-34s on the 7th and 8th, and claimed 8 tanks on the 12th. This only adds up to 21. I do not know when and where the other 9 T-34s were claimed.

I could certainly choose to get preachy about the need for two-sided research from unit records, but I fear that I have made this point ad naseum already. I think these posts again make this point. I do need to stress that unless an author has actually checked the numbers to the opposing sides reports, any data like this should be stated only as a claim, probably footnoted as to source, the validity and reliability of the source considered, and probably should be noted as not confirmed. Anyhow, sorry for the previous long post, but I felt I needed to show the grunt work involved in trying to chase down just one of these claims. All too often, I have seen authors use medal award claims, newspaper accounts and propaganda claims as some form of hard reliable data. They are very rarely crossed checked with the opposing side’s data. This is fraught with problems (just to get a little bit preachy).


P.S. Picture is of Wittmann’s Tiger 007, destroyed 8 August 1944 by British forces at Saint-Aignan-de-Cramesnil, Normandy, France. Picture was taken in 1945. Source is Wikipedia.


Panzer Aces Wittmann and Staudegger at Kursk – part 3

Panzer Aces Wittmann and Staudegger at Kursk – part 3

My previous posts on this subject looked at the claims of two panzer aces made on the 5th of July 1943 and the claims for Wittmann for 7 and 8 July. Let me address a couple of more claims credited to Michael Wittmann (1914-1944) and Franz Staudegger (1921-1995).

  1. It is claimed that Staudegger killed 22 T-34s on 7 or 8 July.
    1. Including two tanks in close combat.
      1. Agte’s book does note two tanks killed in close action in the battle of 8 July but this was done by the infantry of the 2nd SS (Deutschland) PzGr Rgt (Agte, page 103). This was in addition to the 22 T-34s Staudegger killed.
      2. But Agte does note the two T-34s killed in close action by Staudegger on the 5th, crediting him with 24 kills for the battle (Agte, page 128).
    2. At the village of Psyolknee.
      1. Agte does not claim it was at Psyolknee.
      2. But these people do (and they date the battle 7 July):
        4. As does many other sites (just search Staudegger & Psyolknee)

His actual Knight’s Cross submission says 8 July (Agte, page 105), so not sure where the 7 July date comes from. Usually the sources that mention the 7 July date also mention the village of Psyolknee. Well, I have the 1:50000 scale maps, and I cannot find a village anywhere called Psyolknee. Have no idea where that name comes from (actually let me guess…several kilometers north of them was the river the Psel. It could also have been transliterated as Psyol. Not sure where the “knee” comes from).

The story is that his unit went off to the NW leaving him in Teterivino. There was then an attack by 50-60 tanks from the NE and he drove out of Teterivino, engaged them alone, but with the 2nd SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment in the area and also engaged. He killed 17 tanks in two hours. The Soviet armor withdrew. He then drove after them, ran across them in a hollow and destroyed five more, running out of ammo. All were T-34s.

So, which Soviet unit was attacking on 8 July to the NE of Teterivino with 50-60 tanks?

Well, as reported in my book (Kursk, page 622) the LSSAH panzer group attacked to the northwest out of Teterevino (map grid 3050). Most of this force became embroiled with a fight with parts of the XXXI Tank Corps, specifically the 100th Tank Brigade. I note that the assault gun battalion, reinforced by the 2nd SS PzGr Rgt was sent to Luchki (map grid 2546) to guard against a new tank threat from the area northeast of Teterevino (probably the X Tank Corps, but it could have been the newly arriving II Tank Corps). I do have maps from the SS Panzer Corps (page 624) and the XXXI Tank Corps (page 626) for that day in the book. Luchki is actually SW of Teterevino (north). Note that there is a second Teterevino on the map at map grid 3340. They are only around 10 kilometers from each other. I also have a map of the X Tank Corps positions around Prokhorovka and the Psel River for 1700 on 7 July and 2100 on 8 July (page 627).

  1. The SS Panzer Corps map for 8 July shows Das Reich SS PzGrD operating in Teterevino (actually in both of them) — see page 624
  2. XXXI Tank Corps is definitely not near Teterevino — see page 626
  3. The X Tank Corps is to the north and northeast of Teterevino, with the 178th Tank Brigade being the closest — see page 627.

So where was the X Tank Corps on the 8th? Well, the unit records I have don’t help a lot here. They specifically claim that on the July 7 at 1700 the corps was in the area of Prokhorovka along the following line (TSAMO, Fond: 3410, Opis: 1, Delo: 17):

  1. 178th Tank Bde: The bushes–ht. 252.4–the brick;
  2. 183rd Tank Bde and self-propelled gun rgt; the road from Prokhorovka to the southeast—northern outskirts of Lutovo (3957)–the upper reaches of the gullies 1 km south of Prokhorovka (4156);
  3. 11th Mech Bde with a mortar rgt: ht. 230.5–the road junction 2 km northeast of ht. 230.5;
  4. The 186th Tank Bde forms the reserve in the area of Litovka (4261)-Borchevka (4259). this is north of Prokhorovka.

By 2100 on 8 July the situation was as follows:

  1. 11th Mech Bde with a mortar rgt: Krasnyi Oktiabr (2758)–Prokhorovka (2857)–Vasilyevka (3056);
    1. Note that there are two Prokhorovka’s on the map, one at 2857 on the Psel River and the larger and more famous one at 4057. They are 12 kilometers apart. This unit is clearly on the Psel River.
  2. 183rd Tank Bde with a SP gun rgt: the southern outskirts of Kruglik–southern outskirts of Kalinovka;
    1. This is opposite the 48th Panzer corps.
  3. 178th Tank Bde with an AT art rgt: the southern spur of the gully south of Andreyevka (3256?…on the Psel river?) – northern slopes of ht. 240.6
  4. 186th Tank Bde: Situation unchanged

Now you kind of need to look at the 1:50000 scale maps of the area to sort this out (I do have them in my book). I will place the grid coordinates of every named place in their discussion, as they can be mapped out on graph paper (i.e. 3350 is the 33 kilometer on the north-south line and 50 kilometer on the east-west line). But…..we can probably shorten the discussion by looking at the unit strength and losses. The July 7 the 10th Tank Corps had:

  1. 186th Tank Bde; 32 T-34s, 21 T-70s
  2. 183rd Tank Bde: 32 T-34s, 22 T-70s
  3. 178th Tank Bde: 32 T-34s, 21 T-70s
  4. 1450th SP Art Rgt: 9 SU-76s, 12 SU-152s
  5. Elsewhere: 3 T-34s

Now it states for the Corps that losses from 7 – 11 July were 515 killed, 1,124 wounded, 25 guns, 16 AT rifles, 10 cars, 2 tanks, 4 mortars and 57 machine guns (page 10 of TSAMO, Fond: 3410, Opis: 1, Delo: 17). Also note Fond: 3410, Opis: 1, Delo: 14, page 5: X Tank Corps losses from 7-12 July 1943: 515 KIA, 1,124 WIA, 7 76mm, 18 45mm, 4 mortars, 57 machineguns, and 2 T-34s. The First Tank Army (primarily opposite 48th Panzer Corps) started reporting the X Tank Corps on 9 July on two of its tanks brigades (identified in a 10 July report at the 183rd and 186th tank brigades). We have no reports on the 178th Tank Brigade until we receive a personnel loss report from the First Tank Army for 5-19 July. The 178th Tank Brigade lost 34 KIA and 134 WIA for this period. On 15 July the 10th Tank Corps, which had driven into Tolstoye Woods, had a reported tank strength of 110 tanks: 1 KV, 63 T-34s and 45 T-70s (the math error is in the original). So all indications are that no tank brigade from this unit was seriously shot up on the 8th. If one was, it would have had to been the 178th Tank Brigade.

So what is one to do? It appears that while the X Tank Corps three brigades were in the area on the 7th, they were moving over to the 48th Panzer Corps sector and never did attack towards Teterevino. Clearly the German claim of 50 to 60 tanks would indicate one full strength Soviet tank brigade. None of their tank brigades appear to have taken any significant losses at this time. I gather most of the losses were taken by their mechanized brigade, which remained in the Prokhorovka area after the rest of the tank corps had moved over to the northwestern flank of the 48th Panzer Corps.

Lets briefly also look at the XXXI Tank Corps.

  1.  According to Operational Report #206, 1st Tank Army, 0700 July 8, 1943: XXXI Tank Corps with the attached 192nd Tank Bde is defending the line Krasnaya Polyana–ht. 252.5–western outskirts of Malye Mayachi–western half of Greznoye–ht. 227.8. From 0600 the corps is fighting with enemy tanks where have broken through towars ht. 239.6. Enemy aircraft, in groups of 20-30 planes, is severely bombing the corps’ units.
  2. According to Operational Report #207, 1st Tank Army, 1800 July 8, 1943: XXXI Tank Corps with the 192nd Tank Bde; during the day fougth along the line Krasnaya Polyana–Malye Mayachi–Greznoye, repelled the enemty’s attempts to break through to Veselyi. By 1500 the enemy had broken through our front in the direction of Grenzye and Kochetovka from the area of ht. 224.5. Simultaneously, 100 enemy tanks launched an attack in this direction from the area of Veselyi. The fighting continues. Losses for July 7 are 25 tanks knocked out or burned personnel losses are being calculated.
  3. According to Operational Report #208, 1st Tank Army, 1900 July 9, 1943: XXXI Tank Corps, with the 59th Ind Tank Rgt and the 4th AT Art Rgt defended the line along the western bank of the Solotinka River on the Sukhoe Solotino sector–ht. 188.1, with the mission of preventing a breakthrough by the enemy’s tanks in the direction of Kochetovka–the Oboyan highway…..There is no information on losses at this time.
  4. Also according to Operational Report #208, 1900 July 9, 1943: Two brigades of the X Tank Corps reached the fighting at 1600 and were ordered to deploy and attack the enemy, as to halt his further advance to the north and northwest, and to close the break in the line….
  5. Operational Report #210, 1900 July 10, 1943:
    1. X Tank Corps: “On July 9 the corps lost 2 T-34s burned.”

Determining the locations and actions of the II Tank Corps on the 8th and 9th of July are somewhat of a challenge. We have detailed daily reports of actions and losses starting the 10th.

  1. At 0700 on July 10 the enemy attacked the Komsomolets Sokhoz (3253). II Tank Corps is defending the line (excl.) Vasilevka (3056)–Andreyevka (3256) –Mikhailovka (3357) –ht. 241.6–the railroad crossing 2 km north of Belenikhino (3350), with the mission of preventing an enemy advance on Prokhorovka.
    1. This does stretch the corps from the Psel River to in front of Prokhorovka to opposite the Das Reich SS Division.
  2.  The same report (TSAMO, Fond: 3407, Opis: 1, Delo: 108, pages 195-216) does give strength and losses.
    1. 99th Tank Bde: 31 T-34s (15 ready for action, 12 knocked out and 4 undergoing repair), 21 T-70s (16 ready for action, 4 knocked out, and 4 broken down)
    2. 26th Tank Bde: 11 T-34s (3 broken down, 6 knocked out); 4 T-70s (3 broken down, 3 knocked out). In all there are 20 T-34s and 20 T-70s.
    3. 169th Tank Bde: 31 T-34s (5 broken down, 3 knocked out); 19 T-70s (1 knocked out).
    4. 15th Guards Heavy Tank Rgt: 13 Churchills (2 broken down, 2 knocked out).
    5. So based upon losses it is possible on 8 July that 99th Bde could have been engaged (and lost 16 tanks) or the 26th Tank Bde could have been engaged (and lost 9 tanks) or the 169th Tank Bde could have been engaged (an lost 4 tanks). Of course, this is the strength as of 0700 on 10 July. The incident in question happened on the 8th.
  3. My book notes that:
    1. The II Tank Corps was originally ordered to Korocha on the 6th (page 496).
    2. It was alerted the night of 6/7 July (at 2345) and by 0800 on 8 July had concentrated in the Kamyishevka and Pravorot area (page 497) or Pravorot (4052) and Krasnoye (4555) (see page 534)..
    3. It then concentrated in the Vinogradovka area (3650) on the morning of the 8th after its 200 kilometer march on the 7th (page 534).
    4. It attacked on the afternoon of the 8th (page 534).
    5. The II Tank Corps lost at least 31 tanks on the 8th (page 534).
    6. Its attack on the 8th is described in depth on page 629.
      1. The corps attacked at 1320 (Moscow time).
      2. Lost more than 30 tanks.
      3. Between 2100 and 2200 one the brigades of the tank corps attacked height 258.2, which was occupied by the Soviet 183rd Rifle Division.
      4. I do have an interview on that page from a tank commander in the 99th Tank Bde (Senior Sergeant Petr Petrovich Ivanov, born 1924, interviewed 1999).
        1. “…Our tank brigade moved forward in two battalion columns followed by one battalion and motorized rifle units. The Germans started shelling us, but we got a command to move faster. We saw the German tanks when we were about two kilometers away from them. We continued moving closer….When the German tanks and artillery started their massive fire and one of their shells hit my tank turret, my mood dropped, but I continued moving forward in the first line of the brigade. The tank battle lasted for several hours. We could not move forward. Actually, we had to retreat some because the Germans started to go around our tank brigade from the flanks. Then I got a little bit scared. On top of everything, an artillery shell hit the tank. The shell did not penetrate the tank, but a piece of armor, chipped from inside of the tank because of the shell, wound the gunner in the shoulder….
      5. Note this discussion is in the section about the fighting by Das Reich.
        1. I have it in my engagement sheet on page 642 as opposite Das Reich.
      6. Regardless, it does not look like the engagement or the unit that Staudegger engaged.

The fourth and final candidate is the V Guards Tank Corps (as the II Guards Tank Corps has good records and clearly was not a candidate, see the tank corps map in my book on page 636). We actually have decent records from the V Guards Tank Corps for the 8th.

  1. At 1030 the corps launched a counterattack and reached the line Sobachevskii (3044)–Kalinin (3246)–Belenikhino (3348)
    1. This would put it opposite the Das Reich SS Division.
    2. More detail positions by Tank Bde are provided by Combat Report #0112, 2200, July 8, 1943: (TSAMO, Fond: 3403, Opis: 1, Delo 18),
    3. 20th Gds Tank Bde = 2 km south of Sobachevskii
    4. 22nd Gds Tank Bde = Belenikhino, where it was halted by intense tank and antitank gun fire.
    5. This is the report that incorrectly states: “II Tank Corps, on the right, was concentrating in the Vinogradovka area, but did not attacking during the day.”
  2. Losses for July 8 are:
    1. 20th Gds Tank Bde = 14 T-34s and 7 T-70s
    2. 21st Gds Tank Bde = 14 T-34s and 2 T-70s
    3. 22nd Gds Tank Bde = none (it says that)
  3. Tank in line on the evening of July 8:
    1. 20th Gds Tank Bde = 7 T-34s, 7 T-70s
    2. 21st Gds Tank Bde = 7 T-34s, 7 T-70s
    3. 22nd Gds Tank Bde = 7 T-34s, 5 T-70s
  4. Souce: TSAMO, Fond: 3403, Opis: 1, Delo: 18a
  5. There is also the 48th Guards Tank Rgt with the unit which started the battle with 21 Churchills. On the morning of July 7 it was still reporting 21 Mk-4s. At 2200 8 July it was reporting 5 Churchills..

So in conclusion…..

  1. It does not appear to have been the X Tank Corps (unless they did an attack and only lost two tanks, or they did an attack, lost a lot of tanks and did not report it…at all, ever);
    1. If it did attack, the most likely candidate is the 178th Tank Brigade.
  2. It does not appear to have been the XXXI Tank Corps (unless a tank brigade detached from the corps, moved many kilometers across the front of the SS Panzer Corps advance and came down from the NE…but this seems extremely unlikely).
  3. It does not appear to be from the II Tank Corps; although it could have been. This is the best possible candidate.
    1. The 99th Tank Bde had lost at least 16 tanks, but appears to have been engaged with the combined arms force from Das Reich.
    2. The 26th Tank Bde had lost at least 9 tanks (at least 6 T-34s).
    3. The 169th Tank Bde does not appear to have been seriously engaged (at least 4 tanks lost, 3 were T-34s).
  4. And the V Guards Tank Corps on the 8th was clearly facing Das Reich and was to the left (south) of II Tank Corps.
  5. Therefore, the most likely candidate is the 26th Tank Bde, which we don’t have location and action data for. It lost at least 9 tanks on the 8th (6 T-34s, 3 T-70s).

So which Soviet unit attacked there and what were their losses? Does anyone out there have better records of the II Tank Corps actions on the 8th?


P.S. The picture is of a Tiger I at the Battle of Kursk: Source:

Panzer Aces Wittmann and Staudegger at Kursk – part 2

Panzer Aces Wittmann and Staudegger at Kursk – part 2

My previous post on this subject looked at the claims of two panzer aces made on the 5th of July 1943. Let me address a couple of more claims credited to Michael Wittmann (1914-1944) and Franz Staudegger (1921-1995).

  1. It is claimed that Wittmann killed two T-34s, two SU-122s and 3 T-60s/T-70s on 7 and 8 July 1943.
    1. Sources of these claims:
      5. and there are others.
    2. These claims are not mentioned in Agte’s book on Wittmann.

The challenge here is finding where those SU-122s were. They were:

  1. The 1440th SP Artillery Rgt that was attached to the 67th GRD, opposite the German 48th Panzer Corps and probably lost most of its armor on the 5th.
    1. The Germans report that the Gross Deutschland Panzer Rgt encountered Su-122s on 7 July (see my Kursk book, page 510).
    2. On the 11th of July the XXXII Guards Rifle Corps had the 1440th SP Artillery Rgt attached to it, which had 2 SU-76s and 7 SU-122s ready for action (14 Su-76s and 8 SU-122s total).
    3. An unscathed Su-122 was found around Tolstoye Woods and handed over the 3rd Panzer Division for its use (see Kursk, page 1078).
  2. The 1438th SP Artillery Rgt that was part of the Seventh Guards Army and clearly never faced the SS. It has 9 Su-76s and 12 Su-122s.
  3. The 1447th SP Artillery Rgt which was part of the V Guards Mechanized Corps and still had 9 Su-75s and 12 Su-122 as of 11 July.
  4. The 1461st SP Artillery Rgt attached to the First Tank Army and was part of VI Tank Corps. It was far from the SS Panzer Corps.
  5. The XXIX Tank Corps has 12 Su-122s. But the corps did not see battle until 12th of July. They lost nine of them on 12 July (see Kursk, page 951).

Therefore, by default, the 1438th, 1447th, 1461 SP Art Rgts and XXIX Tank Corps Su-122 would have never encountered the SS. The 1440th may have, but the 67th Guards Rifle Division and XXXII Guards Rifle Corps was primarily opposite the 11th Panzer Division. As the LSSAH was to the east of the 11th Panzer Division, it is possible that it could have been engaged by the LSSAH and Michael Wittmann. Overall, the claims for 7 and 8 July were possible. Do not know how probable they are.

Will address the claims for Staudegger in a subsequent post.

P.S. The first picture is of from Kubinka Tank Museum in Moscow Oblast. Not sure where the second picture of a German Su-122 came from, it was in an image gallery. Also see these links:

Panzer Aces Wittmann and Staudegger at Kursk – part 1

Panzer Aces Wittmann and Staudegger at Kursk – part 1

Two of the top panzer aces at the Battle of Kursk were Michael Wittmann (1914-1944) and Franz Staudegger (1921-1995). They were both in the heavy panzer company (armed with Tiger Is) of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler Panzer Grenadier Division (LSSAH or LSSAH PzGrD). I only briefly addressed them in my Kursk book. I now find myself going back over their efforts.

The problem is that while there are very detailed narratives on their actions from 5-12 July 1943, there are unresolved issues with these narratives. Let me address a couple of them:

  1. It is claimed that Wittmann killed 8 T-34s and 7 AT guns on 5 July 1943 (source: Agte, page 96, 126).
    1. Some accounts say 12. For example:
    2. Some accounts say 13 T-34s and 2 AT guns.
  2. It is claimed that Staudegger killed two tanks (T-34s?) the evening of 5 July in close combat. (source: Agte, pages 98-99)
    1. Some accounts say it was a T-34. For example:
    2. and

First of all, the unusually high German claims are the Eastern Front are often believable because of the unusually high losses by the Soviet Union. It often becomes difficult to disprove any claims. For example, on page 875 of my Kursk book I examine the German claims of tank kills compared to actual Soviet losses.

The biggest problem with the claims of killing T-34s on 5 July was that there was not many (if any) T-34s in and around the SS Panzer Corps on that day. The German accounts state that they were facing dug-in T-34s in their attack on 5 July (see Agte, pages 93, 95, 96 and 97). The attack of the LSSAH was in the area of Byikovka against the 52nd Guards Rifle Division, Sixth Guards Army. The armor units attached to the Sixth Guards Army were: 1) the 230th Tank Regiment, 2) the 245th Tank Regiment, 3) 1440th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment, and 4) the 96th Tank Brigade. The 245th Tank Regiment was armed with 27 U.S. built M-3 Stuart tanks and 12 U.S. built M-3 Grants. The 96th Tank Brigade had 5 T-70s and 46 T-34s. We did not have detailed unit records for the other two regiments, but we assumed for the Kursk Data Base (KDB) that the 230th Tank Regiment was also armed with American built tanks. Valerii Zamulin in his book has the 230th Tank Regiment with 32 Stuarts and 7 Lees (one in repair) on 1 June 1943. He also confirmed in a meeting with me at the now out-of-business Grevey’s Sports Bar that they were armed with American tanks. Zamulin’s book shows the 1440th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment on 1 June 1943 with 9 T-70s (one in repair) and 12 T-34s, but adds a footnote that states that at the beginning of the Kursk offensive the regiment was given a complete standard complement of a mix of 21 Su-76 and Su-122s. That is also what we had originally assumed (see Kursk: page 145).

So, to summarize, only one unit attached to the Sixth Guards Army, the 96th Tank Brigade, was armed with T-34s. This unit was located northeast of Belgorod, attached to the 375th Rifle Division, but to the east of Gostishchevo and behind (to the NE) of the 81st Guards Rifle Division (Seventh Guards Army). The SS Panzer Corps was deployed with the LSSAH on its left (west), the Das Reich SS Panzer Grenadier Division (DR) in the center and the Totenkopf SS Panzer Grenadier Division (T) on the right. The Sixth Guards Army was deployed with the 52nd Guards Rifle Division opposite both LSSAH and DR and to its east was the 375th Rifle Division, opposite T PzGrD. The 245th Tank Regiment we have records for and it appears that it lost most of its tanks on 5 July. They were to the west of the SS Panzer Corps, opposite the German 48th Panzer Corps. The accounts and interviews we did from the units of the 48th Panzer Corps reported American tanks there. The 1440th SP Artillery Regiment was attached to the 67th Guards Rifle Division, which was also opposite the 48th Panzer Corps. Certainly, in the morning of 5 July, it raises the question of which, if any, T-34s could have been engaged.

Now, we do have the records of the 96th Tank Brigade. It reports for 5 July that the moved on the 5th to defend the Lipovyii Donets crossings of the Nepkhayevo, Visloye and Ternovka. This is in the area of the T SS PzGrD. They report no losses on the 5th. They specifically state “No tank losses” on the 6th (TSAMO, Fond: 3191, Opis: 1, Delo: 3, pages 15-17). On July 8 they report a strength of 46 T-34s and 6 T-70s, so they had gained 1 T-70 since 4 July. They also reported their first losses (3 tanks burned and 3 knocked-out).

There were units moving up to the Soviet second defensive echelon. The 1st Guards Tank Brigade of the III Mechanized Corps was moving up to the left of the SS Panzer Corps. They report that they lost one T-34 at 23:30 on 5 July. This is discussed in my Kursk book on page 754. The biggest armored formation in the area was the excellently lead II Guards Tank Corps. It was to the NE of Belgorod, behind the 96th Guards Tank Brigade. It not receive orders to move on the 5th of July until 1635 (Kursk: 417).  The corps was deployed along the Lipovyii Donets at 0400 (Moscow time) on the 6th of July (Kursk: 473), which would put it facing T PzGrD.

Therefore, one of five things occurred:

  1. The 230th Tank Regiment was armed with T-34s (not likely)
  2. The 1440th SP Artillery Regiment was armed with 12 T-34s and saw action against the LSSAH (not likely).
  3. The 96th Tank Brigade saw significant action on the 5th (not likely).
  4. There were unreported T-34s that were part of the rifle divisions (not likely).
  5. The Germans were killing American tanks and claiming them as T-34s (most likely).

Finally one must consider the count. It appear that there were only around 39 tanks in the 230th Tank Regiment. The accounts published never mention any assault guns encountered on the 5th of July. Assuming 30 tanks from the 230th Tank Regiment were lost this day (which is what we assumed for the KDB), then did indeed Michael Wittmann kill 8 of them (27 percent)? Keep in mind this Soviet armor unit was facing two SS Panzer Grenadier Divisions, both of similar size and armament. Furthermore, Wittmann’s tank company was one of eight tank companies in his division, and one of 16 tank companies among these two divisions, plus there were 6 or so assault gun companies, four infantry regiments, many anti-tank guns, significant artillery, massive air support, etc. So could Wittmann have really killed 27 percent of the tanks the SS Panzer Corps faced that day, or his company killed 23 Soviet tanks (Kusk: page 392) or around 77 percent of the tanks the SS Panzer Corps faced that day? It is possible. Not sure how probable it is.

So, there are a lot of other experts out there. Please let me know where I might be wrong in questioning this.



  1. The first picture is of Michael Wittmann, but colorized. It is from this site:
  2. The second picture is supposedly of Michael Wittmann, but no claims as such, nor time and place. See:
  3. Picture of a Grant, although not from the Eastern Front.
  4. Picture of a Stuart, not from the Eastern Front.
  5. Picture of a T-34/76. See:

P.P.S.: Some accounts of such claims:

Patrick Agte, Michael Wittmann: And the Waffen SS Tiger Commanders of the Leibstandarte in WWII: Volume One (Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA., 1996).

Also see my Kursk book, pages 145, 148, 267, 270, 271, 274, 284, 286, 392, 394, 395, 402, 417, 447, 473, 474, 754



U.S. Military Deaths from 2006

U.S. Military Deaths from 2006

Interesting chart from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Source:

OCO Deaths = Overseas Contingency Operations — meaning mostly Iraq and Afghanistan.

Non-OCO Deaths = means mostly accident, self-inflicted wounds, and illness. There are the almost 1,000 deaths a year that are going to occur in the U.S. military even when at peace. They listed accidents as 4,599 cases, self-inflicted deaths as 3,258 cases and illness/injury as 2,650 cases. Note that OCO operations also include accidents (471), self-inflicted wounded (282) and illness and injury (119). There are also 458 homicides in non-OCO and 41 homicides among the OCO deaths (along with 2,698 killed in action and 874 died of wounds).

It would have been more interesting if they started those charts in 2000 or 2001.

A few other interesting charts from that link:

The chart below is Iraq war deaths from 2006. Total Iraq war deaths since 2003 were over 4,500.

And these are Afghanistan war deaths from 2006. Total Afghanistan war deaths since 2001 add up to over 2,300.

These are, of course, only U.S. DOD deaths. There are also U.S. contractors, NATO allies, other U.S. allies, Iraq and Afghanstani forces, militia, civilians, insurgents, etc. It starts adding up.

Urban Combat in War by Numbers

Urban Combat in War by Numbers

So our work on urban warfare ended in 2005 with the Stalingrad contract being cancelled because of the weather. It was a pretty significant body of work, but the Army’s interest shifted to insurgencies and so did our work. From 2005 through 2009, our major work was on insurgencies, which is summarized in my book America’s Modern Wars.

When things finally got quiet enough for me to consider writing books, I briefly considered doing a book on urban warfare. But, the subject had fallen out of fashion. I therefore decided to try to summarize all our conventional warfare work into a single book, War by Numbers.

Our urban warfare work is described in a half dozen earlier posts. It is covered in much more depth in two chapters of my book War by Numbers. Chapter 16: Urban Legends, cover the three phases of this work (Phase I = ETO, II = Kharkov, III = Manila and post-WWII). The chapter is called “urban legends,” because so much of the work on urban warfare in the time immediately preceding our work overemphasized the intensity, casualties, fatigue and actions that would occur in urban warfare. They had, mistakenly, created a mythology about urban warfare, based upon looking at a few extreme case studies. This discussion on urban warfare flowed into the next chapter, Chapter 17: Use of Case Studies. As I pointed out at the start of that chapter (pages 265-266):

Unfortunately, military history is often the study of exceptions…..What often gets lost is the norm, or what is typical….we at the Dupuy Institute are not averse to using case studies; we simply prefer not to use them as our only analytical tool….We look for the norms and the typical situation and use case studies only as part of a further examination of the study.

The rest of the chapter is based upon the outstanding work that Richard C. Anderson did looking at a number individual division’s operations in a variety of cities (in particular Brest, Aachen, Cherbourg and Manila). More than six different case studies. The most significant one was the work done on urban operations and combat stress, or battle fatigue (it is in our Phase I report, which is on line). This was the work that caused RAND to revise their work and prepare a report that paralleled our research effort.

Chapter 16 is 59 pages long, while Chapter 17 is 20 pages.


P.S. Source of picture (Berlin 1945):



Urban Phase IV – Stalingrad

Urban Phase IV – Stalingrad

So, the Center for Army Analysis (CAA) decided to award us a contract to do Stalingrad based upon our recommendations at the end of the Phase III effort (see the previous post) and our proposal of dated 31 August 2004. We noted in our proposal that we had looked at 304 urban engagements and compared them to 319 non-urban engagements.

This is certainly the most comprehensive collection of urban combat data collected. Still, it is not definitive. In almost all cases, the defender is in a losing battle and is being enveloped. While this is the norm for urban warfare, one is left to wonder if the results for the first three phases of the analysis changes if the urban terrain is part of the front line and part of a set piece attack.

So we ended up proposing to create around 60 division-level urban engagements from the Battle of Stalingrad and compare them to 120 or more non-urban engagements from Kursk.

As we noted in our proposal “Assuming a contract award of 31 March 2005, The Dupuy Institute intends to complete the effort by the end of December 2005.”

Well, the contract was not awarded quite as quick as we liked. But it was in the government contracting office in August 2005, and fully funded. We had our Soviet research team ready to go. They had access to the Soviet unit records. We had a staff of researchers in place (including me and Shawn). We had our German and Russian translators lined up. We were ready to start work in October 2005.

Then Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. It was 29 August 2005. In early September the tragedy was so significant and the U.S. rescue and recovery efforts were overwhelmed, that the U.S. military was called in to help. No additional funding was provided for this, so the military had to pay for it from existing funds. The DOD then decided to fund the rescue effort by grabbing all non-essential funds from any contract not awarded, and this included ours. So come October 1st, instead of us starting work on a new contract, we discovered, on rather short notice, that it was no longer funded. Instead I had to hand out pink slips.


P.S. We later assembled most of the Russian unit records we needed for this project, but were never able to convince CAA to fund this fourth phase of our urban study effort.

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase III – part 3

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase III – part 3

Am 25.10.1941 konnte die faschistische deutsche Wehrmacht mit überlegenen Kräften Charkow, die Hauptstadt der Ukraine erobern.
UBz.: Panzer und Infanterie bei Strassenkämpfen in der Stadt

Description: Street fighting at Kharkov on 25 October 1941: infantry advancing covered by a StuG III assault gun and Sd.Kfz. 250 halftrack(Bundesarchiv Bild 183-L20582)

So, in our three phases of urban warfare study, taking place over three years, how much urban warfare did we examine? Well by count of engagements, we looked at 304 urban cases, division-level and battalion-level. Mostly what this means is one division or battalion-level engagement per day. Still, this is not insignificant.

We did assemble back in 2003 a listing of all the significant urban engagements we had identified since 1904. There are not all that common. We counted 117 of them in conventional combat between 1904 and 2003 (they are listed on pages 3-7 of the Phase III report). Of those 117, we had examined 22 of them (18.8 percent). We considered that 38 or so of them were major urban battles (division-level or larger). Of those, we examined 17 (44.7%). Only three of the remaining 21 major urban battles are known to have good data for both sides. The biggest remaining untapped source of data was the Battle of Stalingrad, which could yield over a hundred division-level engagements. This led us to make four points (page 10-11 of the report):

We suggest that there remain a number of ways in which we can broaden and deepen or knowledge of the effects of urban warfare.

  1. Conduct a detailed study of the Battle of Stalingrad. Stalingrad may also represent one of the most intense examples of urban combat, so may provide some clues to the causes of the urban outliers.
  2. Conduct a detailed study of battalion/brigade-level urban combat. This would begin with an analysis of battalion-level actions from the first two phases of this study (European Theater of Operations and Eastern Front), added to the battalion-level actions completed in this third phase of the study. Additional battalion-level engagements would be added as needed.
  3. Conduct a detailed study of the outliers in an attempt to discover the causes for the atypical nature of these urban battles.
  4. Conduct a detailed study of urban warfare in an unconventional warfare setting.

Anyhow, it was clear that our next step was Stalingrad. You will also note that in 2003/2004 we were also suggesting we study urban warfare in an unconventional warfare setting. This suggestion seemed to get no attention.


Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase III – part 2.1

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase III – part 2.1

I forgot a cool graphic from these charts I posted the Phase III – part 2 discussion:

This is on page 61 of the Phase III report. It is also on page 260 of my book War by Numbers.

There is some explanatory text for this chart on pages 60-61 (and pages 259-261 of my book War by Numbers). The text from the report is below:

Over time one may note that the average weighted percent-loss-per-day in urban operations from 1943 to 2003 – a 60-year time span – ranges from 0.50 to 0.71 if Soviet attacks are excluded. In contrast, the average weighted percent-loss-per-day in non-urban terrain ranges from 0.76 to 1.27 if the Soviet attacks and Tet are excluded.

These data can be plotted over time by simply inserting the various percentage-loss-per-day for each of the engagements under the appropriate year. To do so we have eliminated the Eastern Front Soviet attacks (urban and non-urban) and Tet Offensive non-urban outliers and have normalized the intervening years where there are no data points. The result is interesting and clearly establishes that that over the last 60 years urban warfare has remained less intense than non-urban warfare (at least at the division-level and as measured as a percent-loss-per-day).

It is notable that the sole point at which the two lines intersect – during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War may actually shed some light upon why the belief that urban warfare is more costly and/or intense than that in other types of terrain exists. Quite simply, the urban case in the 1973 War – the Battle of Suez City – is one unique engagement fought during that entire war and is just one of 32 engagements from that war that was fought in urban terrain. And it is one of the few cases that we have found where division-level urban combat was as intense as the average non-urban combat during the same campaign. Overall in just seven of the 31 non-urban engagements in the 1973 War was the attacker percent-per-day loss higher than 1.57 percent found at Suez City, and in only two of those were the attackers Israeli. Nor were the Israeli armor losses extraordinary at Suez City, they amounted to only about 11 tanks, for a loss rate of just 4.6 percent-per-day. This may be contrasted to the 11.43 percent-per-day armor loss that the Israelis averaged in the nine non-urban attacks they made against the Egyptians in the 1973 War.[1]

That Suez City stands out as unique should hardly be surprising. What is surprising is that it – and the few other possible outliers we have found – has become identified as the “typical� urban battle rather than as a unique case. In that respect Suez City and the other outliers may provide copious lessons to be learned for future battles in urban terrain, but they should not be accepted as the norm. On that note however, it is somewhat depressing to see that many lessons of urban warfare apparently learned by the different combatants in World War II apparently were forcibly relearned in later wars. That the mistakes made in earlier urban battles are repeated over and over again in later wars – such as avoiding sending unsupported armor into built-up areas – is more than somewhat perplexing. Worse, we have been unable to find any example in World War II of the misemployment of armor in an urban environment that mirrors the foolishness exhibited by the attackers at Suez City or Grozny. Thus it could be supposed that any benefit of technological evolution in warfare over time might be counterbalanced in part by the simple failure to draw adequate lessons from the past.

[1] The highest rate was at Chinese Farm I when the Israelis armor loss was 24.40 percent-per-day.


Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase III – part 2

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase III – part 2

Another part of our Phase III effort was to look at post-World War II cases. This is, by its nature, invariably one-sided data. Maybe at some point we will get the Chinese, North Koreans, Vietnamese, Syrians, etc. to open up their archives to us researchers, but, except for possibly Vietnam, I don’t think that is going to happen any time in the near future. So, we ended up building our post-World War II cases primarily from U.S. data.

We added 10 engagements from the Inchon/Seoul operation in 1950. For Vietnam we added  65 division-level urban engagements from the Tet Offensive in 1968 and 57 division-level non-urban engagements. We also added 56 battalion-level urban engagements from the Tet Offensive (all in Hue). We had 14 division-level urban engagements and 65 division-level non-urban engagements from various contingencies and conventional operations from 1944 to 2003. This included ELAS Insurgency, Arab-Isreali Wars, Panama, Mogadishu, the 1991 Gulf War and Baghdad in 2003. We also added 9 battalion-level urban cases, mostly from Beirut 1982-1984.

To add it all up this was:

                                                 Urban       Non-urban

Phase I (ETO)                              46              91

Phase II (Kharkov/Kursk)             51              65

Phase III (Manila/PTO)                53              41

Post-WWII – Division-level           89            123

Post-WWII – Battalion-level          65               0

                                                   ——-         ——

Total cases                                 304           319

This is a lot of cases for comparisons.

Just to show how they match up (from page 28 of the report):

Attackers in Division-Level Engagements:


PTO Kor Tet Oth ETO EF (Ger Atk) EF (Sov Atk)
Avg Str/day 12,099 28,304 6,294 10,903 34,601 17,080 17,001
Avg Cas 78 30 94 254 178 86 371
Avg Cas/day 78 30 39 59 169 86 371
Avg % Loss/day 0.63 0.71 0.78 0.56 0.50 0.49 1.95
Wgt % Loss/day 0.65 0.71 0.62 0.54 0.49 0.50 2.18



PTO Tet Oth ETO EF (Ger Atk) EF (Sov Atk)
Avg Str/day 17,445 13,232 18,991 21,060 27,083 27,044
Avg Cas 663 44 377 469 276 761
Avg Cas/day 221 22 191 237 206 653
Avg % Loss/day 0.83 0.19 1.56 1.09 1.00 2.39
Wgt % Loss/day 1.27 0.17 1.01 1.13 0.76 2.41

I will pick up more on the Phase III effort in a subsequent posting (a part 3 to this series). These charts are also on page 238 of War by Numbers.

P.S. The image was taken from this website:

It says image by Bettmann/CORBIS.

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase III – part 1

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase III – part 1

Now comes Phase III of this effort. The Phase I report was dated 11 January 2002 and covered the European Theater of Operations (ETO). The Phase II report [Part I and Part II] was dated 30 June 2003 and covered the Eastern Front (the three battles of Kharkov). Phase III was completed in 31 July 2004 and covered the Battle of Manila in the Pacific Theater, post-WWII engagements, and battalion-level engagements. It was a pretty far ranging effort.

In the case of Manila, this was the first time that we based our analysis using only one-side data (U.S. only). In this case, the Japanese tended to fight to almost the last man. We occupied the field of combat after the battle and picked up their surviving unit records. Among the Japanese, almost all died and only a few were captured by the U.S. So, we had fairly good data from the U.S. intelligence files. Regardless, the U.S. battle reports for Japanese data was the best data available. This allowed us to work with one-sided data. The engagements were based upon the daily operations of the U.S. Army’s 37th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division.

Conclusions (from pages 44-45):

The overall conclusions derived from the data analysis in Phase I were as follows, while those from this Phase III analysis are in bold italics.

  1. Urban combat did not significantly influence the Mission Accomplishment (Outcome) of the engagements. Phase III Conclusion: This conclusion was further supported.
  2. Urban combat may have influenced the casualty rate. If so, it appears that it resulted in a reduction of the attacker casualty rate and a more favorable casualty exchange ratio compared to non-urban warfare. Whether or not these differences are caused by the data selection or by the terrain differences is difficult to say, but regardless, there appears to be no basis to the claim that urban combat is significantly more intense with regards to casualties than is non-urban warfare. Phase III Conclusion: This conclusion was further supported. If urban combat influenced the casualty rate, it appears that it resulted in a reduction of the attacker casualty rate and a more favorable casualty exchange ratio compared to non-urban warfare. There still appears to be no basis to the claim that urban combat is significantly more intense with regards to casualties than is non-urban warfare.
  3. The average advance rate in urban combat should be one-half to one-third that of non-urban combat. Phase III Conclusion: There was strong evidence of a reduction in the advance rates in urban terrain in the PTO data. However, given that this was a single extreme case, then TDI still stands by its original conclusion that the average advance rate in urban combat should be about one-half to one-third that of non-urban combat/
  4. Overall, there is little evidence that the presence of urban terrain results in a higher linear density of troops, although the data does seem to trend in that direction. Phase III Conclusion: The PTO data shows the highest densities found in the data sets for all three phases of this study. However, it does not appear that the urban density in the PTO was significantly higher than the non-urban density. So it remains difficult to tell whether or not the higher density was a result of the urban terrain or was simply a consequence of the doctrine adopted to meet the requirements found in the Pacific Theater.
  5. Overall, it appears that the loss of armor in urban terrain is the same as or less than that found in non-urban terrain, and in some cases is significantly lower. Phase III Conclusion: This conclusion was further supported.
  6. Urban combat did not significantly influence the Force Ratio required to achieve success or effectively conduct combat operations. Phase III Conclusion: This conclusion was further supported.
  7. Nothing could be determined from an analysis of the data regarding the Duration of Combat (Time) in urban versus non-urban terrain. Phase III Conclusion: Nothing could be determined from an analysis of the data regarding the Duration of Combat (Time) in urban versus non-urban terrain.

So, in Phase I we compared 46 urban and conurban engagements in the ETO to 91 non-urban engagements. In Phase II, we compared 51 urban and conurban engagements in an around Kharkov to 49 non-urban Kursk engagements. On Phase III, from Manila we compared 53 urban and conurban engagements to 41 non-urban engagements mostly from Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Manila. The next blog post on urban warfare will discuss our post-WWII data.

P.S. The picture is an aerial view of the destroyed walled city of Intramuros taken on May 1945

U.S. and Russian Troops Fight

U.S. and Russian Troops Fight

Just wanted to post up this article by The National Interest….as they linked to our blog in the article: Did U.S. and Russian Troops Fight Their Bloodiest Battle Since World War I in February

We had no idea they were linking to us….I just noticed a few hits from their site, so decided to check. Our link is on the first line of the second page, under “ill-judged attack”:

Ribbentrop Memoirs – 1943

Ribbentrop Memoirs – 1943

I have been back to doing a lot of work lately on events in July 1943. This led me to Joachim von Ribbentrop’s memoirs, who was Hitler’s foreign minister. He wrote his memoirs while he was in prison after World War II. In 1946 he was the first Nazi leader to be executed. Below is a very interesting passage covering much of what he had to say about events in late 1942 and all of 1943. It is from pages 168-171. It can be found at:

When the Anglo-American landing in North Africa took place in November, 1942, 1 happened to be in Berlin. The very first reports showed the remarkable tonnage employed — four millions were mentioned. Clearly, an operation of such vast dimensions was very serious, and we had apparently been very wrong in our estimates of enemy tonnage. Indeed, Hitler later admitted as much. Since fortunes in the African theatre had always swayed backwards and forwards, I now feared the worst concerning the Axis position in the Mediterranean.

After contacting the Fuhrer I invited Count Ciano to come to Munich immediately for a conference; the Duce could not be spared to leave Italy. I flew to Bamberg, where I boarded the Fuhrer’s special train, which arrived there from the East.

I briefly reported as follows: The Anglo-American landing was serious, for it showed that our estimates of enemy tonnage, and therefore of the prospects of our U-boat war, had been radically wrong. Unless we could expel the British and Americans from Africa, which seemed very doubtful in view of our transport experiences in the Mediterranean, Africa and the Axis army there were lost, the Mediterranean would be open to the enemy, and Italy, already weak, would be confronted with the gravest difficulties. In this situation the Fuhrer needed a decisive reduction of his war commitments, and I asked for authority to make contact with Stalin through Mme Kollontay, the Soviet Ambassadress in Stockholm; I suggested that, if need be, most of the conquered territories in the East would have to be given up.

To this the Fuhrer reacted most strongly. He flushed, jumped to his feet and told me with indescribable violence that all he wanted to discuss was Africa — nothing else. His manner forbade me to repeat my proposal. Perhaps my tactics should have been different, but I was so seriously worried that I had aimed straight at my target.

Since the previous spring my power of resistance in face of such scenes had declined. It struck me then, as it did on subsequent occasions, that any two men who had had so violent a quarrel as mine with Hitler simply had to part company. Our personal relations had been so shattered that genuine co-operation seemed no longer possible.

There was nothing left for me but to discuss a few details concerning Count Ciano’s visit, and then the Fuhrer curtly ended the interview.

The next few days brought no further opportunity to mention my proposed contact with Stalin, although at that time — before the Stalingrad catastrophe — our negotiating position with regard to Moscow was incomparably stronger than it became soon afterwards. A week later the Russians attacked, our allies on the Don front collapsed, and our Sixth Army’s catastrophe at Stalingrad followed. For the time being, negotiations with Russia were ruled out — especially in the opinion of Hitler.

During the sad days which followed the end of the battle of Stalingrad I had a very revealing talk with Hitler. He spoke, as he often did, of his great admiration for Stalin. In him, he said, one could perceive what one man could mean to a nation. Any other nation would have broken down under the blows of 1941 and 1942. Russia owed her victory to this man, whose iron will and heroism had rallied the people to renewed resistance. Stalin was his great opponent, ideologically and militarily. If he were ever to capture Stalin he would respect him and assign to him the most beautiful palace in Germany. He added, however, that he would never release such an opponent. Stalin had created the Red Army, a grandiose feat. He was undeniably a historic personality of very great stature.

On this occasion and in a later memorandum I again suggested peace feelers to Moscow, but the memorandum, which I asked Ambassador Hewel to present, suffered an inglorious end. Hewel told me that the Fuhrer would have nothing to do with it and had thrown it away. I mentioned the subject once again during a personal conversation, but Hitler replied that he must first be able to achieve a decisive military success; then we could see. Then and later he regarded any peace feeler as a sign of weakness.

Nevertheless, I did make contact with Mme Kollontay in Stockholm through my intermediary, Kleist, but without authority I could do nothing decisive.

After the treachery of the Badoglio Government in September, 1943, I again acted very energetically. This time Hitler was not as obstinate as in the past. He walked over to a map and drew a line of demarcation on which, he said, he might compromise with the Russians. When I asked for authority, Hitler said he would have to think the matter over until the following morning. But when the next day came, nothing happened. The Fuhrer said he would have to consider this more thoroughly. I was very disappointed, for I felt that strong forces had again strengthened Hitler’s inflexible attitude against an understanding with Stalin.

When Mussolini arrived at the Fiihrer’s headquarters after his liberation, the Fuhrer told him, to my surprise, that he wanted to settle with Russia, but when I thereupon asked for instructions I again received no precise answer, and on the following day the Fuhrer once more refused permission for overtures to be made. He must have noticed how dejected I was, for later he visited me in my quarters, and on leaving said suddenly: ‘You know, Ribbentrop, if I settled with Russia today I would only come to grips with her again tomorrow — I just can’t help it.’ I was disconcerted and replied: ‘This is not the way to conduct a foreign policy, unless you want to forfeit confidence.’ My helplessness made me regard the future with gloom.

Source of the picture is:

The person who originally posted that picture guesses that the picture was from 1943 taken at Rastenburg Station, East Prussia (which is 5 miles west of Hitler’s headquarters, the Wolf’s Lair).



Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase II – part 2

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase II – part 2

There was actually supposed to be a part 2 to this Phase II contract, which was analysis of urban combat at the army-level based upon 50 operations, of which a half-dozen would include significant urban terrain. This effort was not funded.

On the other hand, the quantitative analysis of battles of Kharkov only took up the first 41 pages of the report. A significant part of the rest of the report was a more detailed analysis and case study of the three fights over Kharkov in February, March and August of 1943. Kharkov was a large city, according to the January 1939 census, it has a population of 1,344,200, although a Soviet-era encyclopedia gives the pre-war population as 840,000. We never were able to figure out why there was a discrepancy. The whole area was populated with many villages. The January 1939 gives Kharkov Oblast (region) a population of 1,209,496. This is in addition to the city, so the region had a total population of 2,552,686. Soviet-era sources state that when the city was liberated in August 1943, the remaining population was only 190,000. Kharkov was a much larger city than any of the others ones covered in Phase I effort (except for Paris, but the liberation of that city was hardly a major urban battle).

The report then does a day-by-day review of the urban fighting in Kharkov. Doing a book or two on the battles of Kharkov is on my short list of books to write, as I have already done a lot of the research. We do have daily logistical expenditures of the SS Panzer Corps for February and March (tons of ammo fired, gasoline used and diesel used). In March when the SS Panzer Corps re-took Kharkov, we noted that the daily average for the four days of urban combat from 12 to 15 March was 97.25 tons of ammunition, 92 cubic meters of gasoline and 10 cubic meters of diesel. For the previous five days (7-11 March) the daily average was 93.20 tons of ammunition, 145 cubic meters of gasoline and 9 cubic meters of diesel. This it does not produced a lot of support for the idea that–as has sometimes been expressed (for example in RAND’s earlier reports on the subject)–that ammunition and other supplies will be consumed at a higher rate in urban operations.

We do observe from the three battles of Kharkov that (page 95):

There is no question that the most important lesson found in the three battles of Kharkov is that one should just bypass cities rather than attack them. The Phase I study also points out that the attacker is usually aware that faster progress can be made outside the urban terrain, and that the tendency is to weight one or both flanks and not bother to attack the city until it is enveloped. This is indeed what happened in two of the three cases at Kharkov and was also the order given by the Fourth Panzer Army that was violated by the SS Panzer Corps in March.

One must also note that since this study began the United States invaded Iraq and conducted operations in some major urban areas, albeit against somewhat desultory and ineffective opposition. In the southern part of Iraq the two major port cities Umm Qasar and Basra were first enveloped before any forces were sent in to clear them. In the case of Baghdad, it could have been enveloped if sufficient forces were available. As it was, it was not seriously defended. The recent operations in Iraq again confirmed that observations made in the two phases of this study.

P.S. The picture is of Kharkov in 1942, when it was under German occupation.

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase II – part 1

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase II – part 1

Our first urban warfare report that we did had a big impact. It clearly showed that the intensity of urban warfare was not what some of the “experts” out there were claiming. In particular, it called into question some of the claims being made by RAND. But, the report was based upon Aachen, Cherbourg, and a collection of mop-up operations along the Channel Coast. Although this was a good starting point because of the ease of research and availability of data, we did not feel that this was a fully representative collection of cases. We also did not feel that it was based upon enough cases, although we had already assembled more cases than most “experts” were using. We therefore convinced CAA (Center for Army Analysis) to fund a similar effort for the Eastern Front in World War II.

For this second phase, we again assembled a collection of Eastern Front urban warfare engagements in our DLEDB (Division-level Engagement Data Base) and compared it to Eastern Front non-urban engagements. We had, of course, a considerable collection of non-urban engagements already assembled from the Battle of Kursk in July 1943. We therefore needed a good urban engagement nearby. Kharkov is the nearest major city to where these non-urban engagements occurred and it was fought over three times in 1943. It was taken by the Red Army in February, it was retaken by the German Army in March, and it was taken again by the Red Army in August. Many of the units involved were the same units involved in the Battle of Kursk. This was a good close match. It has the additional advantage that both sides were at times on the offense.

Furthermore, Kharkov was a big city. At the time it was the fourth biggest city in the Soviet Union, being bigger than Stalingrad (as measured by pre-war population). A picture of its Red Square in March 1943, after the Germans retook it, is above.

We did have good German records for 1943 and we were able to get access to Soviet division-level records from February, March and August from the Soviet military archives in Podolsk. Therefore, we were able to assembled all the engagements based upon the unit records of both sides. No secondary sources were used, and those that were available were incomplete, usually one-sided, sometimes biased and often riddled with factual errors.

So, we ended up with 51 urban and conurban engagements from the fighting around Kharkov, along with 65 non-urban engagements from Kursk (we have more now).

The Phase II effort was completed on 30 June 2003. The conclusions of Phase II (pages 40-41) were similar to Phase I:

.Phase II Conclusions:

  1. Mission Accomplishment: This [Phase I] conclusion was further supported. The data does show a tendency for urban engagements not to generate penetrations.
  2. Casualty Rates: This [Phase I] conclusion was further supported. If urban combat influenced the casualty rate, it appears that it resulted in a reduction of the attacker casualty rate and a more favorable casualty exchange ratio compared to nonurban warfare. There still appears to be no basis to the claim that urban combat is significantly more intense with regards to casualties than is nonurban warfare.
  3. Advance Rates: There is no strong evidence of a reduction in the advance rates in urban terrain in the Eastern Front data. TDI still stands by its original conclusion that the average advance rate in urban combat should be one-half to one-third that of nonurban combat.
  4. Linear Density: Again, there is little evidence that the presence of urban terrain results in a higher linear density of troops, but unlike the ETO data, the data did not show a tendency to trend in that direction.
  5. Armor Losses: This conclusion was further supported (Phase I conclusion was: Overall, it appears that the loss of armor in urban terrain is the same as or less than that found in nonurban terrain, and in some cases is significantly lower.)
  6. Force Ratios: The conclusion was further supported (Phase I conclusion was: Urban combat did not significantly influence the Force Ratio required to achieve success or effectively conduct combat operations).
  7. Duration of Combat: Nothing could be determined from an analysis of the data regarding the Duration of Combat (Time) in urban versus nonurban terrain.

There is a part 2 to this effort that I will pick up in a later post.

The Dupuy Institute on Youtube

The Dupuy Institute on Youtube

Well, there are a few videos related to TDI on youtube:

  1. The Battle of Kursk interview done for Voice of America (VOA): http://1.
  2. Trevor Dupuy’s voice: http://1.
    1. Short version:
  3. R. Earnest Dupuy’s announcement on D-Day:

This all there is on youtube. Maybe we should start our own channel.

Next interview, I will remember to say “material” instead of “stuff.”

My Response to my 1997 Article

My Response to my 1997 Article

Shawn likes to post up on the blog old articles from The International TNDM Newsletter. The previous blog post was one such article I wrote in 1997 (he posted it under my name…although he put together the post). This is the first time I have read it since say….1997. A few comments:

  1. In fact, we did go back in systematically review and correct all the Italian engagements. This was primarily done by Richard Anderson from German records and UK records. All the UK engagements were revised as were many of the other Italian Campaign records. In fact, we ended up revising at least half of the WWII engagements in the Land Warfare Data Base (LWDB).
  2. We did greatly expand our collection of data, to over 1,200 engagements, including 752 in a division-level engagement database. Basically we doubled the size of the database (and placed it in Access).
  3. Using this more powerful data collection, I then re-shot the analysis of combat effectiveness. I did not use any modeling structure, but simply just used basic statistics. This effort again showed a performance difference in combat in Italy between the Germans, the Americans and the British. This is discussed in War by Numbers, pages 19-31.
  4. We did actually re-validate the TNDM. The results of this validation are published in War by Numbers, pages 299-324. They were separately validated at corps-level (WWII), division-level (WWII) and at Battalion-level (WWI, WWII and post-WWII).
  5. War by Numbers also includes a detailed discussion of differences in casualty reporting between nations (pages 202-205) and between services (pages 193-202).
  6. We have never done an analysis of the value of terrain using our larger more robust databases, although this is on my short-list of things to do. This is expected to be part of War by Numbers II, if I get around to writing it.
  7. We have done no significant re-design of the TNDM.

Anyhow, that is some of what we have been doing in the intervening 20 years since I wrote that article.

Response To “CEV Calculations in Italy, 1943”

Response To “CEV Calculations in Italy, 1943”

German infantry defending against the allied landing at Anzio pass a damaged “Elefant” tank destroyer, March 1944. [Wikimedia/Bundesarchiv]

[The article below is reprinted from August 1997 edition of The International TNDM Newsletter. It was written in response to an article by Mr. Zetterling originally published in the June 1997 edition of The International TNDM Newsletter]

Response to Niklas Zetterling’s Article
by Christopher A. Lawrence

Mr. Zetterling is currently a professor at the Swedish War College and previously worked at the Swedish National Defense Research Establishment. As I have been having an ongoing dialogue with Prof. Zetterling on the Battle of Kursk, I have had the opportunity to witness his approach to researching historical data and the depth of research. I would recommend that all of our readers take a look at his recent article in the Journal of Slavic Military Studies entitled “Loss Rates on the Eastern Front during World War II.� Mr. Zetterling does his German research directly from the Captured German Military Records by purchasing the rolls of micro�lm from the US National Archives. He is using the same German data sources that we are. Let me attempt to address his comments section by section:

The Database on Italy 1943-44:

Unfortunately, the Italian combat data was one of the early HERO research projects, with the results ï¬�rst published in 1971. I do not know who worked on it nor the specifics of how it was done. There are references to the Captured German Records, but significantly, they only reference division ï¬�les for these battles. While I have not had the time to review Prof. Zetterling‘s review of the original research. I do know that some of our researchers have complained about parts of the Italian data. From what I’ve seen, it looks like the original HERO researchers didn’t look into the Corps and Army ï¬�les, and assumed what the attached Corps artillery strengths were. Sloppy research is embarrassing, although it does occur, especially when working under severe ï¬�nancial constraints (for example, our Battalion-bevel Operations Database). If the research is sloppy or hurried, or done from secondary sources, then hopefully the errors are random, and will effectively counterbalance each other, and not change the results of the analysis. If the errors are all in one direction, then this will produce a biased result.

I have no basis to believe that Prof. Zetterling’s criticism is wrong, and do have many reasons to believe that it is correct. Until l can take the time to go through the Corps and Army ï¬�les, I intend to operate under the assumption that Prof. Zetterling’s corrections are good. At some point I will need to go back through the Italian Campaign data and correct it and update the Land Warfare Database. I did compare Prof. Zetterling‘s list of battles with what was declared to be the forces involved in the battle (according to the Combat Data Subscription Service) and they show the following attached artillery:

It is clear that the battles were based on the assumption that here was Corps-level German artillery. A strength comparison between the two sides is displayed in the chart on the next page.

The Result Formula:

CEV is calculated from three factors. Therefore a consistent 20% error in casualties will result in something less than a 20% error in CEV. The mission effectiveness factor is indeed very “fuzzy,� and these is simply no systematic method or guidance in its application. Sometimes, it is not based upon the assigned mission of the unit, but its perceived mission based upon the analyst’s interpretation. But, while l have the same problems with the mission accomplishment scores as Mr. Zetterling, I do not have a good replacement. Considering the nature of warfare, I would hate to create CEVs without it. Of course, Trevor Dupuy was experimenting with creating CEVs just from casualty effectiveness, and by averaging his two CEV scores (CEVt and CEVI) he heavily weighted the CEV calculation for the TNDM towards measuring primarily casualty effectiveness (see the article in issue 5 of the Newsletter, “Numerical Adjustment of CEV Results: Averages and Means“). At this point, I would like to produce a new, single formula for CEV to replace the current two and its averaging methodology. I am open to suggestions for this.

Supply Situation:

The different ammunition usage rate of the German and US Armies is one of the reasons why adding a logistics module is high on my list of model corrections. This was discussed in Issue 2 of the Newsletter, “Developing a Logistics Model for the TNDM.â€� As Mr. Zetterling points out, “It is unlikely that an increase in artillery ammunition expenditure will result in a proportional increase in combat power. Rather it is more likely that there is some kind of diminished return with increased expenditure.” This parallels what l expressed in point 12 of that article: “It is suspected that this increase [in OLIs] will not be linear.â€�

The CEV does include “logistics.� So in effect, if one had a good logistics module, the difference in logistics would be accounted for, and the Germans (after logistics is taken into account) may indeed have a higher CEV.

General Problems with Non-Divisional Units Tooth-to-Tail Ratio

Point taken. The engagements used to test the TNDM have been gathered over a period of over 25 years, by different researchers and controlled by different management. What is counted when and where does change from one group of engagements to the next. While l do think this has not had a significant result on the model outcomes, it is “sloppy� and needs to be addressed.

The Effects of Defensive Posture

This is a very good point. If the budget was available, my �rst step in “redesigning� the TNDM would be to try to measure the effects of terrain on combat through the use of a large LWDB-type database and regression analysis. I have always felt that with enough engagements, one could produce reliable values for these �gures based upon something other than judgement. Prof. Zetterling’s proposed methodology is also a good approach, easier to do, and more likely to get a conclusive result. I intend to add this to my list of model improvements.


There is one other problem with the Italian data that Prof. Zetterling did not address. This was that the Germans and the Allies had different reporting systems for casualties. Quite simply, the Germans did not report as casualties those people who were lightly wounded and treated and returned to duty from the divisional aid station. The United States and England did. This shows up when one compares the wounded to killed ratios of the various armies, with the Germans usually having in the range of 3 to 4 wounded for every one killed, while the allies tend to have 4 to 5 wounded for every one killed. Basically, when comparing the two reports, the Germans “undercount” their casualties by around 17 to 20%. Therefore, one probably needs to use a multiplier of 20 to 25% to match the two casualty systems. This was not taken into account in any the work HERO did.

Because Trevor Dupuy used three factors for measuring his CEV, this error certainly resulted in a slightly higher CEV for the Germans than should have been the case, but not a 20% increase. As Prof. Zetterling points out, the correction of the count of artillery pieces should result in a higher CEV than Col. Dupuy calculated. Finally, if Col. Dupuy overrated the value of defensive terrain, then this may result in the German CEV being slightly lower.

As you may have noted in my list of improvements (Issue 2, “Planned Improvements to the TNDMâ€�), I did list “revalidating” to the QJM Database. [NOTE: a summary of the QJM/TNDM validation efforts can be found here.] As part of that revalidation process, we would need to review the data used in the validation data base ï¬�rst, account for the casualty differences in the reporting systems, and determine if the model indeed overrates the effect of terrain on defense.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Odds II

Stanley Cup Playoffs Odds II

Instead of blogging about quantitative analysis of warfare….I have been watching hockey. Sorry.

When I blogged about this last time, the Washington Capitals has won the first two games of the seven-game series. One of the commentators states that only twice in the last 41 years (or cases) has a team won the third series of the play-offs after loosing the first two games. So, historically, in only 4.878% (say 5%) of the cases has someone come back from loosing the first two play-off games to win. I then calculated that if the teams were even, then the odds of Tampa Bay winning 4 of the next 5 games was .09375 or 9%.

Stanley Cup Play-off Odds

Well….it turned into a dramatic series, for after the Capitals won the first two games, they then lost the next three. The Capitals had to win the next two games after that (odds are 25% if the two teams are even in ability). They did, winning the series 4-3.

So, were the two teams even? I actually don’t think so. The Capitals won 4-3 (making the argument that they were 57-to-43). On the other hand, over the course of 7 games the Capitals scored 23 goals to Tampa Bays’ 15. Particularly telling is that Tampa Bay was shut out in the last two games (meaning they did not score). So, 23/38 makes the case for the comparison to be 61-to-39. But particularly telling was that the Capitals out shot (made more shots on the goal) than Tampa Bay in all but the last game (32-21, 37-35, 38-23, 38-19, 30-22, 33-24, 22-29). So total shot count was 230-173…so 57-to-43.

Now there is a whole lot more going on in a hockey game than just shots on goals and scoring, which is why we watch. But….it does appear that the Capitals were the better team and, after the fact, we may be able to say that they had a 57% chance of winning each game. Now, if I could figure out the odds before the series….I could make a lot of money in Vegas!

Degrees of Bacon

Degrees of Bacon

For those who have not examined the Oracle of Bacon…check this site:

It clearly establishes that if you are working in an industry or field (like in Hollywood), it is hard not to know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone.

Anyhow, a Cambridge University professor named Stefan Halper is now in the news, involved in the latest twist to the Russian investigation: Who is Stefan A. Halper?

I have never heard of him before, but it turns out he was a contractor to Office of Net Assessment (ONA) from 2012-2016. We did a number of contracts for Andy Marshall’s shop, although the last one was in 2008. See: Andrew Marshall

He also turns out to have married Ray S. Cline’s daughter. Trevor Dupuy knew Ray Cline and published one of his books in 1986 through Hero Books. I met him once, when I was trying to put together a far ranging proposal on East Asia for Net Assessment. See: Terrorism as State Sponsored Covert Warfare. This book is out of print.

Anyhow, this is the nature of living and working in the Washington DC area. On the other hand, my favorite barber knows even more of the people we see on the news.

Pompeo’s 12 Demands for Iran

Pompeo’s 12 Demands for Iran

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined 12 basic requirements for a new agreement with Iran on nuclear and regional issues:

  • 1. Iran must provide a complete account of its previous nuclear-weapons research.
  • 2. Iran must stop uranium enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing.
  • 3. Iran must provide the International Atomic Energy Agency “unqualified accessâ€� to all sites in the country.
  • 4. Iran must stop providing missiles to militant groups and halt the development of nuclear-capable missiles.
  • 5. Iran must release all U.S. and allied detainees.
  • 6. Iran must stop supporting militant groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
  • 7. Iran must respect Iraqi sovereignty and permit the demobilization of the Shiite militias it has backed there.
  • 8. Iran must stop sending arms to the Houthis and work for a peaceful settlement in Yemen.
  • 9. Iran must withdraw all forces under its command from Syria.
  • 10. Iran must end support for the Taliban and stop harboring al Qaeda militants.
  • 11. Iran must end support by its paramilitary Quds Force for militant groups.
  • 12. Iran must end its threats to destroy Israel and stop threatening international ships. It must end cyberattacks and stop proxies from firing missiles into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


I doubt that Iran is going to fulfill all these demands without a regime change.




Another interview with Voice of America (VOA), this time it is on the current Russian Army:

I may get around to translating it at some point. There will be a video later.

General McInerney

General McInerney

Lt. General Thomas McInerney has been in the news lately, mostly for saying things that are getting him kicked off of news shows:

It is my understanding that he was the person who was responsible for making sure that DACM (Dupuy Air Combat Model) was funded by AFSC. He then retired from the Air Force in 1994. We completed the demonstration phase of the DACM and quite simply, there was no one left in the Air Force who was interested in funding it. So, work stopped. I never met General McInerney and was not involved in the marketing of the initial effort.

The Dupuy Institute Air Model Historical Data Study

The Dupuy Air Campaign Model (DACM)

But, this is typical of the problems with doing business with the Pentagon, where an officer will take an interest in your work, generate funding for it, but by the time the first steps are completed, that officer has moved on to another assignment. This has happened to us with other projects. One of these efforts was a joint research project that was done by TDI and former Army surgeon on casualty rates. It was for J-4 of the Joint Staff. The project officer there was extremely interested and involved in the work, but then moved to another assignment. By the time we got original effort completed, the division was headed by an Air Force Colonel who appeared to be only interested in things that flew. Therefore, the project died (except that parts of it were used for Chapter 15: Casualties, pages 193-198, in War by Numbers).

Our experience in dealing with the U.S. defense establishment is that sometimes research efforts that takes longer than a few months will die……because the people interested in it have moved on. This sometimes leads to simple, short-term analysis and fewer properly funded long-term projects.

Stanley Cup Play-off Odds

Stanley Cup Play-off Odds

Last night, as I was watching the Capitals trash Tampa Bay in the third round of the Stanley Cup play-offs….the announcer mentioned that only twice in the last 41 years (or cases) has a team won the third round of the play-offs after loosing the first two games. Tampa Bay was lost the first two games. So, historically, in only 4.878% (say 5%) of the cases has someone come back from loosing the first two play-off games to win. Note that the Capitals did this against Columbus in the first round.

Now, there are seven games in a play-off round.  So with five games left, Tampa Bay has to win 4 of the 5 games. So, assuming the teams are equal (50% chance of either winning a game), then the odds of Tampa Bay winning 4 of the next 5 games I calculate as .09375 (mathematicians…please check me on this) or 9%. So if the teams are equal, then Tampa Bay should statistically have a 9% chance of coming back and winning the round. Historically, it has only happened 5% of the time.

Suppose Tampa Bay is the better team. Lets say their odds of winning are 60% for each game, then their odds of winning 4 out of 5 rises to 18.144%. They did win 2 out of 3 games against the Capitals in the regular season, so maybe their odds of winning any single game is really 67%. This is a 26.34% chance of coming back. Let us say they are really good and motivated and have a 75% of winning each game, then the odds are  39.55%. On the other hand, to get to the historical 5% win rate in this situation, then team that is behind had to have around a 42% chance of winning each game.

Anyhow…..not sure what it all means.

Was Kursk the Largest Tank Battle in History?

Was Kursk the Largest Tank Battle in History?

[This post was originally published on 3 April 2017.]

Displayed across the top of my book is the phrase “Largest Tank Battle in History.� Apparently some people dispute that.

What they put forth as the largest tank battle in history is the Battle of Brody in 23-30 June 1941. This battle occurred right at the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union and consisted of two German corps attacking five Soviet corps in what is now Ukraine. This rather confused affair pitted between 750 to 1,000 German tanks against 3,500 to 5,000 Soviet tanks. Only 3,000 Soviet tanks made it to the battlefield according to Glantz (see video at 16:00). The German won with losses of around a 100 to 200 tanks. Sources vary on this, and I have not taken the time to sort this out (so many battles, so little time). So, total tanks involved are from 3,750 to up to 6,000, with the lower figure appearing to be more correct.

Now, is this really a larger tank battle than the Battle of Kursk? My book covers only the southern part of the German attack that started on 4 July and ended 17 July. This offensive involved five German corps (including three Panzer corps consisting of nine panzer and panzer grenadier divisions) and they faced seven Soviet Armies (including two tank armies and a total of ten tank corps).

My tank counts for the southern attack staring 4 July 1943 was 1,707 German tanks (1,709 depending if you count the two Panthers that caught fire on the move up there). The Soviets at 4 July in the all formations that would eventually get involved has 2,775 tanks with 1,664 tanks in the Voronezh Front at the start of the battle. Our count of total committed tanks is slightly higher, 1,749 German and 2,978 Soviet. This includes tanks that were added during the two weeks of battle and mysterious adjustments to strength figures that we cannot otherwise explain. This is 4,482 or 4,727 tanks. So depending on which Battle of Brody figures being used, and whether all the Soviet tanks were indeed ready-for-action and committed to the battle, then the Battle of Brody might be larger than the attack in the southern part of the Kursk salient. On the other hand, it probably is not.

But, this was just one part of the Battle of Kursk. To the north was the German attack from the Orel salient that was about two-thirds the size of the attack in the south. It consisted of the Ninth Army with five corps and six German panzer divisions. This offensive fizzled at the Battle of Ponyiri on 12 July.

The third part to the Battle of Kursk began on 12 July the Western and Bryansk Fronts launched an offensive on the north side of the Orel salient. A Soviet Front is equivalent to an army group and this attack initially consisted of five armies and included four Soviet tank corps. This was a major attack that added additional forces as it developed and went on until 23 August.

The final part of the Battle of Kursk was the counter-offensive in the south by Voronezh, Southwestern and Steppe Fronts that started on 3 August, took Kharkov and continued until 23 August. The Soviet forces involved here were larger than the forces involved in the original defensive effort, with the Voronezh Front now consisting of eight armies, the Steppe Front consisting of three armies, and there being one army contributed by the Southwestern Front to this attack.

The losses in these battles were certainly more significant for the Germans than at the Battle of Brody. For example, in the southern offensive by our count the Germans lost 1,536 tanks destroyed, damaged or broken down. The Soviets lost 2,471 tanks destroyed, damaged or broken down. This compares to 100-200 German tanks lost at Brody and the Soviet tank losses are even more nebulous, but the figure of 2,648 has been thrown out there.

So, total tanks involved in the German offensive in the south were 4,482 or 4,727 and this was just one of four parts of the Battle of Kursk. Losses were higher than for Brody (and much higher for the Germans). Obviously, the Battle of Kursk was a larger tank battle than the Battle of Brody.

What some people are comparing the Battle of Brody to is the Battle of Prokhorovka. This was a one- to five-day event during the German offensive in the south that included the German SS Panzer Corps and in some people’s reckoning, all of the III Panzer Corps and the 11th Panzer Division from the XLVIII Panzer Corps. So, the Battle of Brody may well be a larger tank battle than the Battle of Prokhorovka, but it was not a larger tank battle than the Battle of Kursk. I guess it depends all in how you define the battles.

Some links on Battle of Brody:

Afghan Migration

Afghan Migration

Fascinating article from a British-based analyst, Dermot Rooney:

A few highlights:

  1. “…war alone cannot account for the vast number of Afghan migrants or the great distance they are travelling.”
    1. “Globally, up until 1960, the ratio of refuges to fatalities in conflict zones was below 5:1.”
    2. “…in 2015 there was an almost unprecedented 50 as asylum applicants for every civilian killed.”
    3. “Whereas in 1979 over 90% of the Afghan refugees travelled less than 500 km and cross one border, now more than 90% travel over 5,000 km to seek asylum…”
  2. “There are now 1.3 million internally displaced Afghans, with the total increasing by 400,000 a year.”
  3. “The pull of economic opportunity plays a large part in the decision to migrate.”
  4. “In 2015, the population of Afghanistan was 32 million.”
    1. “…it is nonetheless obliged to import enough wheat to feed 10 million people…”
  5. “…Afghanistan’s population will pass 40 million in ten years.”
    1. “the natural growth rate of 2.3% a year added 700,000 to the Afghan population in 2015.”
    2. “Unless there is a dramatic improvement in the economy and security in that time, 16 million will depend on food aid…”


Battle of Kursk on VOA

Battle of Kursk on VOA

Zentralbild, II. Weltkrieg 19139-45
Der von der faschistischen deutschen Wehrmacht während des Krieges entwickelte neue Panzerkampfwagen Typ “Panther”.
UBz: die Verladung neuer “Panther”-Panzerkampfwagen zum Transport an die Front (1943).

The Voice of America (VOA) interviewed me about Kursk and the current Russian Army for some articles they were working on. The interviewer, Alex Grigoryev, was a journalist in Russia before he immigrated to the United States. The first interview, on Kursk, is on video here, with me speaking in English with Russian subtitles:

A few things I would change, but I don’t think I completely embarrassed myself.

Army Recruiting Goals

Army Recruiting Goals

This map is from 2003.

It appears that the Army has lowered its recruiting goals for 2018. In the first six months of the recruiting year, they brought in only 28,000 new soldiers. The goal for the year was 80,000. The overall goal is to grow the Army to 483,500. They have been able to maintain strength by retaining current soldiers (86% retention, compared to 81% in past years). Of course, the problem is the strong economy reduced recruits and “the declining quality of the youth market.”

Army lowers 2017 recruiting goal; more soldiers staying on

What the article does not state is that there is a limit to how long they can maintain the force through retention. At some point, they need to recruit more.

There is one interesting statement towards the end of the article that gets my attention: “Defense officials have also complained that despite the last 16 years of war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, the American public is increasingly disconnected from the military, and they say many people have misperceptions about serving and often don’t personally know any service members.”

Back in 2003-2005 we did some contracts for the state of Pennsylvania in preparation for the upcoming round of base closures. This was not our normal line of business, but some people who knew us contacted us and asked if we could help. It then got weird, because some people in Pennsylvania wondered why they were using a historical think-tank for this as opposed to all their politically connected lobbyists and consultants. So, they replaced us, except for Pittsburg, who independently maintained us as a contractor (The Military Affairs Council of Western Pennsylvania) . The end result was that all the bases targeted for closure in Eastern Pennsylvania were shut down, but Pittsburg managed to justify and keep their bases open (for the time being).

Anyhow, one of the arguments I was developing for Pennsylvania is that the U.S. military needed to maintain a presence in the Northeastern United States. As we pointed out in our first report we did in 2003 for the “Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Base Retention and Conversion-Pennsylvania Action Committee”:

As of 31 March 1943 New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey were among the top ten states in terms of War Department civilian employment….By fiscal year 2001 no Northeastern Sates was in the top ten in terms of Army and Air Force civilian employment….One side effect of Department of Defense downsizing and the BRAC process has been a continued shrinkage of the presence of the United States Armed Forces in the Northeastern U.S. and concurrent with that, the representation of Northeasterners in the Armed Forces….The U.S. Armed Forces is in danger of being transformed from a truly national force to a force with unusually strong regional representations: with a significant portion of the U.S. Armed Forces based, oriented and recruited from the Southeast. The Dupuy Institute does not believe that these trends are healthy, either for the nation as a whole or for the Armed Forces themselves.

Just to drive home point:

The Northeast has always played a significant part in the defense of the United States. Some of America’s most famous military figures have come from the region…and yet, since World War II it appears that this pattern has shifted. For example an examination of the biographies of nineteen of the senior commanders in the U.S. military show that now only two are from the Northeast, and this from a region that constitutes one-fifth of the population of the United States….Currently (as of 2000) only 14.6 percent of all personnel recruited annually in the U.S. military are from the Northeast.

And listed under possible reasons for this shift in participation:

  1. A stronger economy in the Northeast. U.S. military recruiting tends to be more successful in those area that have a lower per capita income. The Northeast has historically been one of the wealthiest areas of the U.S.
  2. A lack of major U.S. military presence in the Northeast…..They all reduce the visibility of the military in the region relative to other regions of the U.S.
  3. A lack of military families in the Northeast…..And since volunteers for military service often come from military families the reduced presence of the military in the Northeast has probably led to a decline in recruitment from the region…
  4. Cultural differences. For a variety of personal, political and economic reasons the citizens of the Northeast may be less likely to join the military.

Anyhow, this is part of a larger concern that I have had with our all-volunteer military becoming increasing regionally based and not being representative of the United States population as a whole.

U.S. Army Force Ratios

U.S. Army Force Ratios

People do send me some damn interesting stuff. Someone just sent me a page clipped from U.S. Army FM 3-0 Operations, dated 6 October 2017. There is a discussion in Chapter 7 on “penetration.” This brief discussion on paragraph 7-115 states in part:

7-115. A penetration is a form of maneuver in which an attacking force seeks to rupture enemy defenses on a narrow front to disrupt the defensive system (FM 3-90-1) ….The First U.S. Army’s Operation Cobra (the breakout from the Normandy lodgment in July 1944) is a classic example of a penetration. Figure 7-10 illustrates potential correlation of forces or combat power for a penetration…..”

This is figure 7-10:


  1. Corps shaping operations: 3:1
  2. Corps decisive operations: 9-1
    1. Lead battalion: 18-1

Now, in contrast, let me pull some material from War by Numbers:

From page 10:

European Theater of Operations (ETO) Data, 1944


Force Ratio                       Result                          Percent Failure   Number of cases

0.55 to 1.01-to-1.00            Attack Fails                          100%                     5

1.15 to 1.88-to-1.00            Attack usually succeeds        21%                   48

1.95 to 2.56-to-1.00            Attack usually succeeds        10%                   21

2.71-to-1.00 and higher      Attacker Advances                   0%                   42


Note that these are division-level engagements. I guess I could assemble the same data for corps-level engagements, but I don’t think it would look much different.

From page 210:

Force Ratio…………Cases……Terrain…….Result

1.18 to 1.29 to 1        4             Nonurban   Defender penetrated

1.51 to 1.64               3             Nonurban   Defender penetrated

2.01 to 2.64               2             Nonurban   Defender penetrated

3.03 to 4.28               2             Nonurban   Defender penetrated

4.16 to 4.78               2             Urban         Defender penetrated

6.98 to 8.20               2             Nonurban   Defender penetrated

6.46 to 11.96 to 1      2             Urban         Defender penetrated


These are also division-level engagements from the ETO. One will note that out of 17 cases where the defender was penetrated, only once was the force ratio as high as 9 to 1. The mean force ratio for these 17 cases is 3.77 and the median force ratio is 2.64.

Now the other relevant tables in this book are in Chapter 8: Outcome of Battles (page 60-71). There I have a set of tables looking at the loss rates based upon one of six outcomes. Outcome V is defender penetrated. Unfortunately, as the purpose of the project was to determine prisoner of war capture rates, we did not bother to calculate the average force ratio for each outcome. But, knowing the database well, the average force ratio for defender penetrated results may be less than 3-to-1 and is certainly is less than 9-to-1. Maybe I will take few days at some point and put together a force ratio by outcome table.

Now, the source of FM 3.0 data is not known to us and is not referenced in the manual. Why they don’t provide such a reference is a mystery to me, as I can point out several examples of this being an issue. On more than one occasion data has appeared in Army manuals that we can neither confirm or check, and which we could never find the source for. But…it is not referenced. I have not looked at the operation in depth, but don’t doubt that at some point during Cobra they had a 9:1 force ratio and achieved a penetration. But…..this is different than leaving the impression that a 9:1 force ratio is needed to achieve a penetration. I do not know it that was the author’s intent, but it is something that the casual reader might infer. This probably needs to be clarified.

Response 3 (Breakpoints)

Response 3 (Breakpoints)

This is in response to long comment by Clinton Reilly about Breakpoints (Forced Changes in Posture) on this thread:

Breakpoints in U.S. Army Doctrine

Reilly starts with a very nice statement of the issue:

Clearly breakpoints are crucial when modelling battlefield combat. I have read extensively about it using mostly first hand accounts of battles rather than high level summaries. Some of the major factors causing it appear to be loss of leadership (e.g. Harald’s death at Hastings), loss of belief in the units capacity to achieve its objectives (e.g. the retreat of the Old Guard at Waterloo, surprise often figured in Mongol successes, over confidence resulting in impetuous attacks which fail dramatically (e.g. French attacks at Agincourt and Crecy), loss of control over the troops (again Crecy and Agincourt) are some of the main ones I can think of off hand.

The break-point crisis seems to occur against a background of confusion, disorder, mounting casualties, increasing fatigue and loss of morale. Casualties are part of the background but not usually the actual break point itself.

He then states:

Perhaps a way forward in the short term is to review a number of first hand battle accounts (I am sure you can think of many) and calculate the percentage of times these factors and others appear as breakpoints in the literature.

This has been done. In effect this is what Robert McQuie did in his article and what was the basis for the DMSI breakpoints study.

Battle Outcomes: Casualty Rates As a Measure of Defeat

Mr. Reilly then concludes:

Why wait for the military to do something? You will die of old age before that happens!

That is distinctly possible. If this really was a simple issue that one person working for a year could produce a nice definitive answer for… would have already been done !!!

Let us look at the 1988 Breakpoints study. There was some effort leading up to that point. Trevor Dupuy and DMSI had already looked into the issue. This included developing a database of engagements (the Land Warfare Data Base or LWDB) and using that to examine the nature of breakpoints. The McQuie article was developed from this database, and his article was closely coordinated with Trevor Dupuy. This was part of the effort that led to the U.S. Army’s Concepts Analysis Agency (CAA) to issue out a RFP (Request for Proposal). It was competitive. I wrote the proposal that won the contract award, but the contract was given to Dr. Janice Fain to lead. My proposal was more quantitative in approach than what she actually did. Her effort was more of an intellectual exploration of the issue. I gather this was done with the assumption that there would be a follow-on contract (there never was). Now, up until that point at least a man-year of effort had been expended, and if you count the time to develop the databases used, it was several man-years.

Now the Breakpoints study was headed up by Dr. Janice B. Fain, who worked on it for the better part of a year. Trevor N. Dupuy worked on it part-time. Gay M. Hammerman conducted the interview with the veterans. Richard C. Anderson researched and created an additional 24 engagements that had clear breakpoints in them for the study (that is DMSI report 117B). Charles F. Hawkins was involved in analyzing the engagements from the LWDB. There were several other people also involved to some extent. Also, 39 veterans were interviewed for this effort. Many were brought into the office to talk about their experiences (that was truly entertaining). There were also a half-dozen other staff members and consultants involved in the effort, including Lt. Col. James T. Price (USA, ret), Dr. David Segal (sociologist), Dr. Abraham Wolf (a research psychologist), Dr. Peter Shapiro (social psychology) and Col. John R. Brinkerhoff (USA, ret). There were consultant fees, travel costs and other expenses related to that. So, the entire effort took at least three “man-years” of effort. This was what was needed just get to the point where we are able to take the next step.

This is not something that a single scholar can do. That is why funding is needed.

As to dying of old age before that happens…..that may very well be the case. Right now, I am working on two books, one of them under contract. I sort of need to finish those up before I look at breakpoints again. After that, I will decide whether to work on a follow-on to America’s Modern Wars (called Future American Wars) or work on a follow-on to War by Numbers (called War by Numbers II…being the creative guy that I am). Of course, neither of these books are selling well….so perhaps my time would be better spent writing another Kursk book, or any number of other interesting projects on my plate. Anyhow, if I do War by Numbers II, then I do plan on investing several chapters into addressing breakpoints. This would include using the 1,000+ cases that now populate our combat databases to do some analysis. This is going to take some time. So…….I may get to it next year or the year after that, but I may not. If someone really needs the issue addressed, they really need to contract for it.

C-WAM 4 (Breakpoints)

C-WAM 4 (Breakpoints)

A breakpoint or involuntary change in posture is an essential part of modeling. There is a breakpoint methodology in C-WAM. According to slide 18 and rule book section 5.7.2 is that ground unit below 50% strength can only defend. It is removed at below 30% strength. I gather this is a breakpoint for a brigade.


Let me just quote from Chapter 18 (Modeling Warfare) of my book War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (pages 288-289):

The original breakpoints study was done in 1954 by Dorothy Clark of ORO.[1] It examined forty-three battalion-level engagements where the units “broke,� including measuring the percentage of losses at the time of the break. Clark correctly determined that casualties were probably not the primary cause of the breakpoint and also declared the need to look at more data. Obviously, forty-three cases of highly variable social science-type data with a large number of variables influencing them are not enough for any form of definitive study. Furthermore, she divided the breakpoints into three categories, resulting in one category based upon only nine observations. Also, as should have been obvious, this data would apply only to battalion-level combat. Clark concluded “The statement that a unit can be considered no longer combat effective when it has suffered a specific casualty percentage is a gross oversimplification not supported by combat data.� She also stated “Because of wide variations in data, average loss percentages alone have limited meaning.�[2]

Yet, even with her clear rejection of a percent loss formulation for breakpoints, the 20 to 40 percent casualty breakpoint figures remained in use by the training and combat modeling community. Charts in the 1964 Maneuver Control field manual showed a curve with the probability of unit break based on percentage of combat casualties.[3] Once a defending unit reached around 40 percent casualties, the chance of breaking approached 100 percent. Once an attacking unit reached around 20 percent casualties, the chance of it halting (type I break) approached 100% and the chance of it breaking (type II break) reached 40 percent. These data were for battalion-level combat. Because they were also applied to combat models, many models established a breakpoint of around 30 or 40 percent casualties for units of any size (and often applied to division-sized units).

To date, we have absolutely no idea where these rule-of-thumb formulations came from and despair of ever discovering their source. These formulations persist despite the fact that in fifteen (35%) of the cases in Clark’s study, the battalions had suffered more than 40 percent casualties before they broke. Furthermore, at the division-level in World War II, only two U.S. Army divisions (and there were ninety-one committed to combat) ever suffered more than 30% casualties in a week![4] Yet, there were many forced changes in combat posture by these divisions well below that casualty threshold.

The next breakpoints study occurred in 1988.[1] There was absolutely nothing of any significance (meaning providing any form of quantitative measurement) in the intervening thirty-five years, yet there were dozens of models in use that offered a breakpoint methodology. The 1988 study was inconclusive, and since then nothing further has been done.[2]

This seemingly extreme case is a fairly typical example. A specific combat phenomenon was studied only twice in the last fifty years, both times with inconclusive results, yet this phenomenon is incorporated in most combat models. Sadly, similar examples can be pulled for virtually each and every phenomena of combat being modeled. This failure to adequately examine basic combat phenomena is a problem independent of actual combat modeling methodology.


[1] Dorothy K. Clark, Casualties as a Measure of the Loss of Combat Effectiveness of an Infantry Battalion (Operations Research Office, Johns Hopkins University, 1954).

 [2] Ibid, page 34.

[3] Headquarters, Department of the Army, FM 105-5 Maneuver Control (Washington, D.C., December, 1967), pages 128-133.

[4] The two exceptions included the U.S. 106th Infantry Division in December 1944, which incidentally continued fighting in the days after suffering more than 40 percent losses, and the Philippine Division upon its surrender in Bataan on 9 April 1942 suffered 100% losses in one day in addition to very heavy losses in the days leading up to its surrender.

[1] This was HERO Report number 117, Forced Changes of Combat Posture (Breakpoints) (Historical Evaluation and Research Organization, Fairfax, VA., 1988). The intervening years between 1954 and 1988 were not entirely quiet. See HERO Report number 112, Defeat Criteria Seminar, Seminar Papers on the Evaluation of the Criteria for Defeat in Battle (Historical Evaluation and Research Organization, Fairfax, VA., 12 June 1987) and the significant article by Robert McQuie, “Battle Outcomes: Casualty Rates as a Measure of Defeat� in Army, issue 37 (November 1987). Some of the results of the 1988 study was summarized in the book by Trevor N. Dupuy, Understanding Defeat: How to Recover from Loss in Battle to Gain Victory in War (Paragon House Publishers, New York, 1990).

 [2] The 1988 study was the basis for Trevor Dupuy’s book: Col. T. N. Dupuy, Understanding Defeat: How to Recover From Loss in Battle to Gain Victory in War (Paragon House Publishers, New York, 1990).

Also see:

Battle Outcomes: Casualty Rates As a Measure of Defeat

Pompeo: A couple hundred Russians were killed

Pompeo: A couple hundred Russians were killed

We usually stay away from the news of the day, but hard to ignore this one as we were recently blogging about it:



In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mike Pompeo, currently the CIA Director and nominee to serve as Secretary of State stated that “a couple hundred Russians were killed” by U.S. forces in Syria.

Our discussion of this:

Russian Body Count: Update

More on Russian Body Counts

More Russian Body Counts

Russian Body Counts

Response 2

Response 2

In an exchange with one of readers, he mentioned that about the possibility to quantifiably access the performances of armies and produce a ranking from best to worst. The exchange is here:

The Dupuy Institute Air Model Historical Data Study

We have done some work on this, and are the people who have done the most extensive published work on this. Swedish researcher Niklas Zetterling in his book Normandy 1944: German Military Organization, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness also addresses this subject, as he has elsewhere, for example, an article in The International TNDM Newsletter, volume I, No. 6, pages 21-23 called “CEV Calculations in Italy, 1943.” It is here:

When it came to measuring the differences in performance of armies, Martin van Creveld referenced Trevor Dupuy in his book Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945, pages 4-8.

What Trevor Dupuy has done is compare the performances of both overall forces and individual divisions based upon his Quantified Judgment Model (QJM). This was done in his book Numbers, Predictions and War: The Use of History to Evaluate and Predict the Outcome of Armed Conflict. I bring the readers attention to pages ix, 62-63, Chapter 7: Behavioral Variables in World War II (pages 95-110), Chapter 9: Reliably Representing the Arab-Israeli Wars (pages 118-139), and in particular page 135, and pages 163-165. It was also discussed in Understanding War: History and Theory of Combat, Chapter Ten: Relative Combat Effectiveness (pages 105-123).

I ended up dedicating four chapters in my book War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat to the same issue. One of the problems with Trevor Dupuy’s approach is that you had to accept his combat model as a valid measurement of unit performance. This was a reach for many people, especially those who did not like his conclusions to start with. I choose to simply use the combined statistical comparisons of dozens of division-level engagements, which I think makes the case fairly convincingly without adding a construct to manipulate the data. If someone has a disagreement with my statistical compilations and the results and conclusions from it, I have yet to hear them. I would recommend looking at Chapter 4: Human Factors (pages 16-18), Chapter 5: Measuring Human Factors in Combat: Italy 1943-1944 (pages 19-31), Chapter 6: Measuring Human Factors in Combat: Ardennes and Kursk (pages 32-48), and Chapter 7: Measuring Human Factors in Combat: Modern Wars (pages 49-59).

Now, I did end up discussing Trevor Dupuy’s model in Chapter 19: Validation of the TNDM and showing the results of the historical validations we have done of his model, but the model was not otherwise used in any of the analysis done in the book.

But….what we (Dupuy and I) have done is a comparison between forces that opposed each other. It is a measurement of combat value relative to each other. It is not an absolute measurement that can be compared to other armies in different times and places. Trevor Dupuy toyed with this on page 165 of NPW (perhaps Shawn could post a graphic of this page), but this could only be done by assuming that combat effectiveness of the U.S. Army in WWII was the same as the Israeli Army in 1973.

Anyhow, it is probably impossible to come up with a valid performance measurement that would allow you to rank and army from best to worse. It is possible to come up with a comparative performance measurement of armies that have faced each other. This, I believe we have done, using different methodologies and different historical databases. I do believe it would be possible to then determine what the different factors are that make up this difference. I do believe it would be possible to assign values or weights to those factors. I believe this would be very useful to know, in light of the potential training and organizational value of this knowledge.

Why is WWI so forgotten?

Why is WWI so forgotten?

A view on the U.S. remembrance, or lack thereof, of WWI from the British paper The Guardian:

We do have World War I engagements in our databases and have included in some of our analysis. We have done some other research related to World War I (funded by the UK Ministry of Defence, of course):

Captured Records: World War I

Also have a few other blog post about the war:

Learning From Defeat in World War I

First World War Digital Resources

It was my grandfather’s war, but he was British at the time.



Why it is difficult to withdraw from (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan….)

Why it is difficult to withdraw from (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan….)

Leaving an unstable country in some regions is an invite to further international problems. This was the case with Afghanistan in the 1990s, which resulted in Al-Qaeda being hosted there. This was the case with Somalia, which not only hosted elements of Al-Qaeda, but also conducted rampant piracy. This was the case with Iraq/Syria, which gave the Islamic State a huge opening and resulted in them seizing the second largest city in Iraq. It seems a bad idea to ignore these areas, even though there is a cost to not ignoring them.

The cost of not ignoring them is one must maintain a presence of something like 2,000 to 20,000 or more support troops, Air Force personnel, trainers, advisors, special operations forces, etc. And they must be maintained for a while. It will certainly result in the loss of a few American lives, perhaps even dozens. It will certainly cost hundreds of millions to pay for deployment, security operations, develop the local forces, and to re-build and re-vitalize these areas. In fact, the bill usually ends up costing billions. Furthermore, these operations go on for a decade or two or more. The annual cost times 20 years gets considerable. We have never done any studies of “security operations” or “advisory missions.” The focus of our work was on insurgencies, but we have no doubt that these things tend to drag on a while before completion.

The cost of ignoring these countries may be nothing. If there is no international terror threat and no direct threat to our interests, then there may not be a major cost to withdrawing. On the other hand, the cost of ignoring Somalia was a pirate campaign that started around 2005 and where they attacked at least 232 ships. They captured over 3,500 seafarers. At least 62 of them died. The cost of ignoring Afghanistan in the 1990s? Well, was it 9-11? Would 9-11 have occurred anyway if Al-Qaeda was not free to reside, organize, recruit and train in Afghanistan? I don’t know for sure…..but I think it was certainly an enabling factor.

I have never seen a study that analyzes/estimates the cost of these interventions (although some such studies may exist).  Conversely, I have never seen a study that analyzes/estimates the cost of not doing these interventions (and I kind of doubt that such a study exists).

Hard to do analyze the cost of the trade-off if we really don’t know the cost.


Syrian Disengagement

Syrian Disengagement

The United States has struggled with what to do in Syria. We never had good relations with the dictatorial Assad family. Their civil war started with civil protests on 15 March 2011 as part of the Arab Spring. The protests turned bloody with over a thousand civilian dead (have no idea how accurate this number is) and thousands arrested. It had turned into a full civil war by late July 2011. Our initial response was to remain disengaged.

It is only when Assad used chemical weapons against his own population, similar to Saddam Hussein of Iraq, that we finally considered intervening. President Obama announced a “red line” on 20 August 2012 against the use of chemical weapons. Assad’s forces violated this on 17 October 2012 in Salqin, 23 December 2012 at Al-Bayadah, most notably in 19 March 2013 in Aleppo and in several other locations during March and April,  29 April 2013 in Saraqib and a couple of more incidents in May, 21 August 2013 in Ghouta and several other incidents in August. All attacks used the nerve agent Sarin. Instead of responding militarily, this then turned into a coordinated international effort to eliminate all the Syria chemical weapons, which was done in conjunction with Russia. This was not entirely successful, as repeated later incidences would demonstrate.

In my opinion, the United States should have intervened with considerable force in March 2013 if not before. This would include an significant air campaign, extensive aid to the rebels, and a small number of advisors. This would have certainly entailed some American casualties. Perhaps the overall results would have been no better than Libya (which has also been in civil war from 2011). But, at least with Libya we did got rid of Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011. Gaddafi had most likely organized a terrorist attack against the United States. This was the 1988 Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 which killed 270 people, including 190 Americans (and was most likely conducted in response to Reagan’s 1986 U.S. bombing of Libya).

Still, an intervention in Syria at that point may well have ended Assad’s regime and empowered a moderate Sunni Arab force that could control the government. It may have also forestalled the rise of ISIL. Or it may not have…it is hard to say. But, what happened over the next eight years, with the rise of ISIL, their seizure of Mosul in Iraq, and the extended civil war, was probably close to a worse case scenario. This was a case where an early intervention may have lead to a more favorable result for us. I suspect that our intervention in Libya probably created a more favorable result than if we had not intervened.

The problem in Syria is that Assad represents a minority government of Shiite Arabs. They make up around 13% of the population (largest group are Alawites). This lords over a population of 69-74% Sunni (most are Arabs but it includes Kurds and Turcoman). In the end, given enough decades and enough violence, the majority will eventually rule. It is hard to imagine in this day and age that a minority can continue to rule forever, although Bashir Assad and his father have now ruled over Syria for almost 49 years. Part of what makes that possible is that around 10% of the population of Syria is Christian and 3% Druze. They tend to side with and support the Alawites, as a dominant, non-democratic Sunni rule would be extremely prejudiced against them. Needless to say, something like an Islamic State would be a nightmare scenario for them. So, for all practical purposes, Assad tends to have the support of at least a quarter of the population. From their central position, and armed by Russia, this makes them a significant force.

So, the question becomes, should the United States now disengage from Syria, now that the Islamic States is gone (but as many as 3,000 of their fighters remain)? Right now, we have at least 2,000 troops in and around Syria, with most of them outside of Syria (mostly based with our fellow NATO member Turkey). We have lost a total of two people since this affair started. We are allied with and supporting small moderate Sunni Arab groups and some Kurdish groups (which Turkey is opposed to and sometimes engages in combat). Turkey is supporting some of its own moderate Sunni Arab groups. Also in Syria is the radical Arab groups, Al-Qaeda and of course, the Islamic State (whose leader is still at large) and Al-Nusrah. So, is it time to leave?

What are the possible outcomes if we leave?

  1. Assad will win the civil war and we will have “peace in our time” (written with irony).
    1. As the moderate Sunni groups are primarily based in Turkey they may not disappear anytime soon, especially if they are still being given support from Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations, even if the U.S. withdraws support.
    2. The Kurdish groups are still in Syria and probably not going away soon. They have some support from the Kurds in Iraq.
    3. Al-Qaeda and ISIL and other radical groups are probably not going away as long as Syria is ruled by the Alawites.
    4. There is a border with Iraq that facilitates flow of arms and men in both directions.
  2. The civil war will continue at a low level.
    1. A pretty likely scenario given the points above.
    2. Will this allow for the resurgence of radical Islamist groups?
  3. The civil war will continue at significant intensity for a while.
    1. Hard to say how long people can maintain a civil war, but the war in Lebanon went on for a while (over 15 years, from 1975 to 1990).
    2. This will certainly allow for the resurgence of radical Islamist groups.
  4. We will have a period of relative peace and then there will be a second civil war later.
    1. The conditions that lead to the first revolt have not been corrected in any manner.
    2. Syria is still a minority ruled government.
    3. This could allow for the resurgences of radical Islamist groups.
  5. There is a political compromise and joint or shared rule.
    1. I don’t think this was ever on the Assad’s agenda before, and will certainly not be now.
  6. Assad is overthrown.
    1. This is extremely unlikely, but one cannot rule out an internal Alawite coup by a leadership with a significantly different view and approach.
    2. As it is, it does not look like he is going to be defeated militarily any time soon.

So, where does continued U.S. engagement or disengagement help or hinder in these scenarios?

A few related links:

  1. Map of situation in Syria (have no idea how accurate it is):
  2. Comments by Lindsey Graham on Syria:
  3. More Maps:





A fellow analyst posted an extended comment to two of our threads:



Military History and Validation of Combat Models

Instead of responding in the comments section, I have decided to respond with another blog post.

As the person points out, most Army simulations exist to “enable students/staff to maintain and improve readiness…improve their staff skills, SOPs, reporting procedures, and planning….”

Yes this true, but I argue that this does not obviate the need for accurate simulations. Assuming no change in complexity, I cannot think of a single scenario where having a less accurate model is more desirable that having a more accurate model.

Now what is missing from many of these models that I have seen? Often a realistic unit breakpoint methodology, a proper comparison of force ratios, a proper set of casualty rates, addressing human factors, and many other matters. Many of these things are being done in these simulations already, but are being done incorrectly. Quite simply, they do not realistically portray a range of historical or real combat examples.

He then quotes the 1997-1998 Simulation Handbook of the National Simulations Training Center:

The algorithms used in training simulations provide sufficient fidelity for training, not validation of war plans. This is due to the fact that important factors (leadership, morale, terrain, weather, level of training or units) and a myriad of human and environmental impacts are not modeled in sufficient detail….”

Let’s take their list made around 20 years ago. In the last 20 years, what significant quantitative studies have been done on the impact of leadership on combat? Can anyone list them? Can anyone point to even one? The same with morale or level of training of units. The Army has TRADOC, the Army Staff, Leavenworth, the War College, CAA and other agencies, and I have not seen in the last twenty years a quantitative study done to address these issues. And what of terrain and weather? They have been around for a long time.

Army simulations have been around since the late 1950s. So at the time these shortfalls are noted in 1997-1998, 40 years had passed. By their own admission, they had not been adequately addressed in the previous 40 years. I gather they have not been adequately in addressed in the last 20 years. So, the clock is ticking, 60 years of Army modeling and simulation, and no one has yet fully and properly address many of these issues. In many cases, they have not even gotten a good start in addressing them.

Anyhow, I have little interest in arguing these issues. My interest is in correcting them.



Now, in the article by Michael Peck introducing C-WAM, there was a quote that got our attention:

“We tell everybody: Don’t focus on the various tactical outcomes,â€� Mahoney says. “We know they are wrong. They are just approximations. But they are good enough to say that at the operational level, ‘This is a good idea. This might work. That is a bad idea. Don’t do that.’â€�


I am sorry, but this line of argument has always bothered me.

While I understand that no model is perfect, that is the goal that modelers should always strive for. If the model is a poor representation of combat, or parts of combat, then what are you teaching the user? If the user is professional military, then is this negative training? Are you teaching them an incorrect understanding of combat? Will that understanding only be corrected after real combat and loss of American lives? This is not being melodramatic… fight as you train.

We have seen the argument made elsewhere that some models are only being used for training, so…….

I would like to again bring your attention to the “base of sand” problem:

Wargaming Multi-Domain Battle: The Base Of Sand Problem

As always, it seems that making the models more accurate seems to take lower precedence to whatever. Validating models tends to never be done. JICM has never been validated. COSAGE and ATCAL as used in JICM have never been validated. I don’t think C-WAM has ever been validated.

Just to be annoyingly preachy, I would like to again bring your attention to the issue of validation:

Military History and Validation of Combat Models





Here are two C-WAM documents: their rule book and a CAA briefing, both from 2016:

C-WAM’s rule book:

CAA briefing on C-WAM:

A few highlights (rule book):

  1. Grid size from 2 to 10 km, depending on terrain (section 2.2)
    1. Usually 5 km to a grid.
  2. There is an air-to-air combat table based upon force ratios (section 3.6.4).
  3. There is a naval combat table based upon force ratios (section 3.9.4).
  4. There are combat values of ground units (section 3.11.5.B)
  5. There is a ground combat table based upon force ratios (section 3.11.5.E)
  6. There is a “tactics degrade multiplier” which effectively divides one sides’ combat power by up to 4 (section 3.11.5.P).
  7. These tables use different types of dice for probability generation (showing the influence of Gary Gygax on DOD M&S).

A few highlights (briefing)

  1. Executes in 24 or 72 hours time steps (slide 3)
  2. Brigade-level (slide 18)
  3. Breakpoint at 50% strength (can only defend), removed at 30% strength (slide 18 and also rule book, section 5.7.2).

Anyhow, interesting stuff, but still basically an old style board-game, like Avalon Hill or SPI.


Saudi Missile Defense

Saudi Missile Defense

The Houthi’s in Yemen are lobbing missiles at Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia does have a missile defense system (I assume made in America). Apparently they are missing the incoming missiles:

A few other points:

  1. One interceptor appears to have “pulled a u-turn” and exploded over Riyadh.
    1. This interceptor may have been the source of the Saudi casualties (one dead, two injured)
  2. This could be the largest barrage of missiles fired at Saudi Arabia by the Houthi’s yet.

I wonder what interceptor Saudi Arabia was using. I wonder if failure is common with most missile defense systems (the situation with North Korea comes to mind here).



Linked here is an article about a wargame called C-WAM, the Center for Army Analysis (CAA) Wargaming Analysis Model:

A few points:

  1. It is an old-style board game.
  2. Results are feed into RAND’s JICM (Joint Integrated Contingency Model).
    1. Battle attrition is done using CAA’s COSAGE and ATCAL.
  3. Ground combat is brigade-level.

More to come.

Reinventing the Army

Reinventing the Army

Interesting article: 2018 Forecast: Can the Army Reinvent Itself

A few highlights:

  1. They are standing up the Army Futures Command this summer.
    1. Goal is to develop new weapons and new ways to use them.
    2. It has not been announced where it will be located.
  2. They currently have eight “Cross Functional Teams” already set up, lead by general officers.
    1. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley has a “Big Six” modernization priorities. They are: 1) Long-range missiles, 2) new armored vehicles, 3) high speed replacements for current helicopters, 4) secure command networks, 5) anti-aircraft and missile defense, 6) soldier equipment.
      1. There is a link for each of these in this article:
    2. This effort will start making their mark “in earnest” with the 2020 budget.
      1. The 2018 and 2019 budgets have been approved. In the current  political environment, hard to say what the 2020 budget will look like [these are my thoughts, not part of the article].
    3. The U.S. Army has approved Active Protection Systems (APS) for their tanks to shoot down incoming missiles, like Russia and Israel are using.
      1. Goal is to get a brigade of M1 Abrams tanks outfitted with Israeli-made Trophy APS systems by 2020 [why do I get the sense from the wording that this date is not going to be met].
      2. They are testing APS for Bradleys and Strykers.
        1. Also testing anti-aircraft versions of these vehicles.
        2. Also testing upgunned Strykers.
      3. Army is building the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) light tank to accompany airborne troops.
        1. RPF has been issued, contract award in early 2019.
    4. The Army is the lead sponsor for the Future Verticle Lift (FVL) to replace existing helicopters. Flight testing has started.
    5. This is all part of the Multi-Domain Battle
      1. They are moving the thinkers behind the Multi-Domain Battle from the Training & Doctrine Command (TRADOC) to the Futures Command.
      2. Milley has identified Russia as the No. 1 threat. [We will note that several years ago some influential people were tagging China as the primary threat.]
      3. Still, Milley has stood up two advisor brigades [because we have wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Niger/Mali, Somalia, Yemen, etc. that don’t seem to be going away].
Russian Presidential Election

Russian Presidential Election

Traditionally, elections in Russia and the Soviet Union have a higher voter turnout than U.S. Presidential elections. While Putin handily won the presidential election on March 18, there were some efforts made to make sure the voter turnout was high enough.

For the record, Putin won the election with 76.66% of the vote. Pavel Grudinin of the Communist Party got 11.80% of the vote and Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the LDPR was 5.66%. I assume Zhirinovsky still wants Alaska back. There was no serious opposition candidate.

Oddly enough, the percentage of vote that Putin got was higher than the opinion polls or the exit polls. The opinion polls tended to show 60-65% while the exit polls were between 74-76%. From my experience, Russian’s are not very open to pollsters.

Turnout was officially 67.47%. In 1996, which was a free and open election, and which I accidently ended up witnessing, the turnout was 69.7% in the first round. The turnout in the last U.S. presidential election was 55.7%. U.S. voter turnout has not been above 60% since 1968 and has not been above 66% since 1900.

There were some who questioned the integrity of the election, including chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov and our very own Edward Snowden, now living in Moscow in exile (and would be arrested if he returned to the U.S.)



Anyhow, Putin has been elected for a second six-year term. According to the constitution, he can still only serve two consecutive terms. He served two four-year terms, the Medvedev served a four-year term with Putin as his prime minister. They then changed to constitution so that the presidential terms were now six years in length, and Putin is now starting his second six-year terms. He is 65 now and will be 71 when that term ends. A lot of people assume that he will never really let go of power.


Also See:,_2018

Army Manpower

Army Manpower

Spotted this little article: After years of drawdowns, Army needs 80,000 new soldiers to meet 2018 growth targets

To summarize:

  1. In December 2016, the Army was on a draw-down from 565,000 to 450,000 than back to 476,000.
  2. For 2017 they had to find 68,500 more recruits.
  3. For 2018 they have to find 80,000 more recruits.
  4. This is “….owing most to congressional budget decisions that first prompted it to shed soldiers as quickly as possible, then to suddenly pivot back into growth mode.

Now…..this is not that unusual. Instead of slowly shrinking the force and systematically increasing the force….we “Yo-yo” the force (we = the American people and the elected representatives that they vote into office). This does nothing to help the quality of the recruits, unit cohesion, morale, etc. Nothing new here, we seem to go through the same cycle every decade or so. Without getting into the “guns or butter” debate, it would probably help if defense budgets incrementally decreased and increased vice suddenly decreasing and increasing.

Source (and larger, readable version):


A few other interesting stats in the article:

  1. Only three in 10 Americans of enlistment age meet the military’s basic qualifications to serve.
  2. They recruit 11-12% more enlistees than they need as that is the number of soldiers who won’t make it through basic training and advanced individual training.
Novichok Dva

Novichok Dva

An article about Vil Mirzayanov:


  1. He was the Soviet scientists who revealed Novichok.
  2. He is 83 and now lives in the United States.
  3. He has witnessed several scientists fail to regain their health after exposure:
    1. “The damage it inflicts is practically incurable.”
    2. “These people are gone — the man [Sergei Skripal] and his daughter. Even if they survive they will not recover.”
  4. He published his memoirs in 2002.
  5. Russia declared in 2017 that is had destroyed all of its chemical weapon stockpile.


Use of nerve agents gets my attention. The attack in Salisbury, England on 4 March not only put their targets in critical condition (Sergei Skripal and his daughter), but left one responding British police officer seriously ill, two others with minor injuries.

The nerve agent used is Novichok, which was invented in the Soviet Union, and as far as I know, is unique to Russia:




P.S. I can see only three reasons to use this agent for an assassination:

  1. Because it is easy to smuggle in the agent or its component ingredients.
  2. To make sure everyone understands that it was done from Russia (although not necessarily by the Russian government).
  3. To terrorize defectors/opposition/business associates by using unusual and nasty agents (i.e. like Polonium used on Litvinenko).


We Will Bury You, Part Dva

We Will Bury You, Part Dva

As the Cold War appears to be on some people’s mind these days, I am reminded of this study: Reproductive Behaviour at the End of the World: The Effect of the Cuban Missile Crisis on U.S. Fertility

A few highlights:

  1. Portner (2008) and Evans, Hu & Zhao (2008) show that fertility decreases with hurricane and high-severity storm warnings, whereas Rodgers, John & Coleman (2005) and Trail & Borst (1971) find that fertility increased in Oklahoma County after Oklahoma City Bombing, in 1995 and in New York after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, respectively.
  2. We find that on average, the Cuban Missile Crisis did not have an effect on fertility. However, states closer to Cuba and with a greater presence of military installations experienced surges in births 8-10 months after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  3. The findings suggest that individuals are more likely to engage in reproductive activities when facing high mortality risks, but reduce fertility when facing a high probability of enduring the aftermath of a catastrophe.

Just for the record, my father was deployed to Florida for the Cuban Missile Crisis and was part of the units that would have landed in the initial wave. It was an volunteer only effort, as they were anticipating high casualties. None of the men in his unit choose not to volunteer.

I was born well before that time, and, I am the youngest of the family. I have no relatives in Florida.


We Will Bury You

We Will Bury You

Hard to ignore the news today coming from Russia. Some of links:

  3. http://1.

A few highlights:

  1. Putin: “We aren’t threatening anyone, we aren’t going to attack anyone, we aren’t going to take anything from anyone,” — Why does this remind me of a Twisted Sister song?
  2.  Putin: “The growing Russian military power will guarantee global peace.”
  3. America has 652 deployed ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and heavy bombers, while Russia has 527. The U.S. possesses 1,350 nuclear warheads on deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers, while Russia has 1,444. The U.S. claims 800 deployed and nondeployed nuclear launchers, while Russia is estimated to have 779. Note that this is all limited under existing treaties between the U.S. and USSR.
  4. Putin: “I want to tell all those who have fuelled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: All what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened. You have failed to contain Russia.”

On the other hand, if you are going to get into an arms race….you kind of need to have the mula to back it up.

U.S. GDP = 19,362,129 Million $ (2017 IMF figures)

USSR Russia’s GDP = $1,469,341


This is 7.6% of the U.S. GDP. Russia’s GDP is lower than South Korea’s. The European Union’s GDP is $17,112,922 million.



More on Russian Body Counts

More on Russian Body Counts

Don’t have any resolution on the casualty counts for the fighting on 7 February, but do have a few additional newspaper reports of interest:

  1. The Guardian reposts that the Russian foreign ministry reports that dozens were killed or wounded.
    1. So, if 9 were killed (a figure that is probably the lowest possible count), then you would certainly get to dozens killed or wounded. As this is a conventional fight, I would be tempted to guess a figure of 3 or 4 wounded per killed, vice the 9 or 10 wounded per killed we have been getting from our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan (see War by Numbers, Chapter 15: Casualties).
    2. Guardian article is here:
  2. The BBC repeats these claims along with noting that “…at least 131 Russians died in Syria in the first nine months of 2017…”:
  3. Wikipedia does have an article on the subject that is worth looking at, even though its count halts on 3 February:
  4. The original report was that about 100 Syrian soldiers had been killed. I still don’t know if this count of 100+ killed on 7 February is supposed to be all Russians, or a mix of Russians and Syrians. It could be possible there were 9 Russians killed and over 100 people killed. On the other hand, it could also be an inflated casualty count. See:
  5. Some counts have gone as high as 215 Russians killed:

Conclusions: A significant fight happened on 7 February, at least 9 Russians were killed and clearly several dozen wounded. It might have been over 100 killed in the fight, but we cannot find any clear confirmation of that. I am always suspicious of casualty claims, as anyone who has read my book on Kursk may note (and I think I provide plenty of examples in that book of claims that can be proven to be significantly in error).

More Russian Body Counts

More Russian Body Counts

Interesting article form the Telegraph: Putin’s shock troops-how Russia’s secret mercenary army came up against the U.S. in Syria

That copy may be behind a paywall…so try this:

A few highlights:

  1. Russian newspapers (which still maintain some independence from the government) have listed the names of 9 Russian’s who died in Syria on 7 February.
    1. This clearly contradicts the foreign ministry claim that 5 were killed.
  2. This is again claimed to be a battalion-sized action (500 Russians)
  3. There are some interesting conspiracy theories offered in the article as to why this Russian unit was sent in to be slaughtered. I am hesitant to explain by conspiracy something that can be explained by incompetence. There is no shortage of incompetence in warfare (or any other human affairs).
  4. Supposedly 3,000 Russians have fought for the Wagner Group in Syria since 2015.
    1. Before 7 February, there were 73 deaths (official figure is 46).
  5. It has been busy. In the last two weeks an Al-Qaeda affiliated rebel group shot down a Russian jet, Kurdish fighters downed a Turkish helicopter, Israel downed an Iranian drone and the Syrian army shot down an Israeli F-16.

This was a direct confrontation between U.S. forces and Russian-paid contractors. During the Vietnam War, some Russians were killed in our bombing of North Vietnam and other operations (16 or more Russians killed). During the Korean War, Russians pilots, posing as North Koreans, engaged in aerial combat with the U.S. aircraft, along with providing AA (around 300 Russians killed total). But I suspect you have to go back to Russian Civil War (1917-1921) to find a major ground action between U.S. and Russian forces. Not sure any of them were of this size.

Related articles: These 5 Proxy Battles Are Making Syria’s Civil War Increasingly Complicated

Russian Body Counts

Russian Body Counts

Russian Body Counts

I found this article from Reuters to be particularly interesting: Russian toll in Syria battle was 300 killed and wounded

A few key points:

1. The clash was on 7 February near Khusham in Deir al-Zor province in Syria.

2. Last week 300 Russian contractors may have been killed or wounded in Syria.

   a. That would be 100 killed and 200 wounded according to one rumor.

   b. Or at least 80 killed

   c. Or 5 killed according to Russian officials.

3. It is probably more than 5.

   a. The wounded men have been sent to 4 Russian military hospitals.

   b. There were more than 50 patients at one hospital.

   c. There were three planeloads of injured fighters flown to Moscow.

   d. One ward contained 8 patients.

4. The unit was 550 men and there are only about 200 who were not casualties according to one source.

5. They were “contractors” employed by the “Wagner Group.” These guys:


Related article: Russia: 5 citizens probably killed by U.S. strike

FY2018-FY2019 Defense Budget

FY2018-FY2019 Defense Budget

I gather we finally have a defense budget in place and it runs through September 2019 (there is no requirement to pass a budget for only one year). It is an $80 billion boost above spending caps for this year and $85 billion above spending caps for FY2019. This is a total of $165 billion above spending caps. The U.S. defense budget was already at least $35 billion over the spending cap. The budget request for FY2107 was initially $583 billion. I gather the budget for FY2018 is the BCA Budget Cap figure of $549 + $80  = $629 billion. Don’t quote me on this.



I did note that Senator Rand Paul in his brief filibuster speech last night said that we were involved in seven wars. Of the top of my head, I only count six:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Iraq
  3. Syria
  4. Libya
  5. Somalia
  6. “Trans-Sahara” (Mali and Niger)

Makes me wonder which war I am missing (perhaps he is counting Yemen).

Also of note was that we ended up halting a battalion-sized attack in Syria by the Syrian government. See:

A few highlights:

  1. More than 100 Syrian soldiers are claimed to have been killed.
    1. Syrians claim they lost 7 killed and 27 injured.
    2. One SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) member was injured.
  2. The Syrian attack included 122mm Howitzers, multiple launch rocket systems, T-55 and T-72 tanks.
  3. U.S. responded with Air Force AC-130 gunships, F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache gunships, Marine Corps artillery, HIMARS (our Katusha) and MQ-9 drones.
FY2018 Defense Budget

FY2018 Defense Budget

In case you were not watching closely, we still don’t have a defense budget for FY2018…which started four months ago. Right now, it is looking like we may have something agreed to by February 8, and according to some rumors, it will be an increase of $80 billion.

  1. The initial requested budget (which is different than what is actually spent) for FY2017 was $582 Billion.
  2. The president requested a $30 billion increase for FY2017.
  3. The president requested a $52 or $54 billion increase for FY2018 to $639 billion for FY2018 (source: Wikipedia, May 2017 DOD News article), or to $603 (source AP). I have never been able to sort out the difference here. I still don’t understand why there seems to be two different figures regularly batted about, nor do I understand how this claimed 10% increase adds up to a 10% increase. (read this for an answer:
  4. Congress is looking at a deal that will increase the budget by $80 billion, or I gather to some figure around $662 billion or $629 billion.
  5. Not sure how that budget increase is assigned or implemented as we are already 1/3rd the way through the fiscal year.
  6. I gather this increase is for the next two years.
  7. I gather there will not be a government shut-down on the 8th and that we may have a defense budget by then.

Anyhow, maybe we will know something more by the end of the week.



1. Wikipedia:

2. AP Article:

3. DOD article:





Nuclear Buttons (continued)

Nuclear Buttons (continued)

Right now, I gather the President of the United States has the authority to unilaterally fire off the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal on a whim. Whether this would actually happen if he tried to order this is hard to say. But I gather there is no real legal impediment to him waking up one morning and deciding to nuke some city and that there is no formal process in place that actually stops him from doing this.

This is a set of conditions that came into being during the Cold War for the sake of making our nuclear deterrent and strike and counterstrike capability more credible. The U.S. and Russian no longer have their nukes targeted at each other. This is more a matter of good manners and is something that could be changed in a moments notice.

Is it time for the United States to consider placing the authority to launch nuclear weapons under control of more than one person? Perhaps the authority of three people, the president, a senior military leader, and a representative of congress?


There is a little technical difficulty here, for in the case of an emergency, the President, Vice-President and Speaker of the House would be shuttled off to separate locations. Still, there could be a designated representative for the military (commanding general or his representative at United States Strategic Command) and one of our 535 congressmen or senators appointed as a representative for congress. There are any number of ways to make sure that three people would be required to authorized a launch of a nuclear weapon, as opposed to leaving a decision that could exterminate millions in seconds in the hands of one man. With the Cold War now in the distant past, and nuclear strike forces a fraction of their original size, maybe it is time to consider changing this.


Golden Knights

Golden Knights

Trademark fight between the U.S. Army and the new National Hockey League (NHL) team the Las Vegas Golden Knights: Army challenges Golden Knights trademark; Vegas responds

Best line from the article: “…we are not aware of a single complaint from anyone attending our games that they were expecting to see the parachute team and not a professional hockey game.”

Arctic Territories

Arctic Territories

The Arctic is an ocean, so claims there should be resolvable by existing rules concerning 12-mile territorial limits and 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zones. But, the law of the sea allows countries to claim beyond the 200 nautical mile limit if they can prove that their continental shelf extends beyond those zones. This has led to more issues.

There are only five nations with claims in the Arctic: The United States, Russian, Canada, Norway and Denmark (Greenland). There are some claims that are fairly typical, like the sea border area between the Alaska and Canadian territory being in dispute, Hans lsland near Greenland being in dispute between Denmark and Canada, and the question as to whether the Northwest Passage is Canadian territory or international waters. These are all disputes that will probably be solved through diplomacy.

But, confusing the situation is that three nations claim the North Pole. The North Pole is 430 miles (700 kilometers) from the nearest land. The sea depth there is 13,980 feet (4,261 meters).

Canada’s claims go all the way to the North Pole and 200 miles beyond it, based upon where they have claimed that their continental shelf is: Canada Claims North Pole


Russia has made similar claims. They are saying the Lomonosov and Mendeleyev ridges are part of its continental shelf and therefore part of its territory. A topographic map of the area is worth looking at:

Denmark also claims the north pole. Apparently the Lomonosov Ridge is also an extension of Greenland.

This map nicely summarizes the confusing and competing claims:

The Russians have gone so far as to dive down to the Lomosonov Ridge and plant a flag there in 2007. It is a flag planed 14,000 feet below sea level.

The Arctic

The Arctic

Brief article from Micheal Peck on Russia’s Arctic ambitions: Russia has plans to dominate the Arctic

In case you missed it, the Arctic has been warming up for the last few decades. As Peck points out: “Once a lure for hardy explorers–and a hiding places for ballistic missile submarines–the North Pole is now seen as a new frontier with abundant energy and mineral resources. With polar ice melting, new shipping lanes are opening up that offer the prospect of more direct routes for cargo vessels sailing between North America, Europe and Asia.”

Anyhow, while the U.S. Navy has only one heavy ice breaker, fellow NATO member Canada is working the problem. They are building a facility at Baffin Island and are developing arctic capable patrol vessels, frigates, etc.  There are also planning on building 6-8 Harry DeWolf class artic patrol vessel:

based upon:

There are also the efforts of NATO members Norway and Denmark, so it is not like the United States and Russia are the only participants here.

Still the Northwest Passage has only been opened seasonally since 2000, with a cruise liner going through it in 2006. It is now being transited with increasing regularity. Of course, there is also the Northeast Passage and Russia has the Northern Sea Passage, which they are developing. Still, these passages are seeing limited use right now. In 2016, 18 ships (7 Russian) traversed the Northern Sea Passage.

A few related links:

Canada at War. The Arctic. Northwest Passage, 1944

Amazing Voyage Through Perilous Arctic Ocean (2000)

Warming ‘opens Northwest Passage’ (2007)

Plain sailing on the Northwest Passage (2007)

That pricey Arctic luxury cruise was just the beginning. Up next: Arctic shipping. (2016)


The picture at the top of this post is from 2016.

Two Kursk books listed on

Two Kursk books listed on

We have a link to my Kursk book on our website: Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka

This link leads to the best source for purchasing the book (the publisher Aberdeen Books), although probably best just to purchase it directly from him (click on image of Kursk book in the sidebar to get to the Aberdeen Bookstore). It does not show any used books in that link. Apparently all the used books are listed here: Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka by Christopher A. Lawrence (2015-12-14)

In that link they are listing new books from $302.55 and used books from $321.07. There is a used book listed for $1,710.00. Now if anyone out there is ready to depart with $1700 for a Kursk book, please just contact me. I have an author’s copy or two I would sacrifice at that price.


Future Conventional Warfare Scenarios

Future Conventional Warfare Scenarios

What are the U.S. Armed Forces’ potential conventional warfare missions?  Is conventional warfare gone, leaving the U.S. Army conducting special ops, training, coordinating air and drone strikes, providing counterinsurgency support, and generally just kicking down doors?

Well, there are still a few potential conventional warfare scenarios out there, even if they have a low probability of occurring:

  1. Korea: We still have the majority of the 2nd Infantry Division deployed in Korea as a reserve force for the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army. If a war blows up in Korea, then we are immediately right in the middle of a conventional war. It is 1950 all over again. Amid all the “fire and fury” type comments, I do consider this to be a low odds of occurring. Still, it is one conventional warfare mission that has existed since 1950 and does not appear to be going away.
  2. Taiwan: I don’t think China is going to invade Taiwan (their third largest trading partner), but stranger things have happened. I believe we are informally committed to defend Taiwan if this happens. We have no ground troops there.
  3. Ukraine: We have no commitment to defend Ukraine. On the other hand, if Russia rolls across the border with tanks and is heading towards Kiev, then we may decide we need to intervene. Exactly with what forces we would use is a question, but this is potentially a mission in the future. I don’t think it is likely. If Russia was going to conduct a conventional invasion of  Ukraine, it would have done so in 2014.
  4. Baltic States: On the other hand, we do have a commitment to defend the three Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia). They are members of NATO. Right now, with the forces currently in place, a Russian conventional invasion would sweep over these three countries in a matter of days. Then what? The U.S. would be challenged to be able to quickly move a single armored or mechanized division there, let alone the several divisions it would probably take to re-claim them. We currently are not defending them and do not have the ability to quickly re-take them. That said, the odds of Russia doing this is very, very close to zero, because they do end up in a war with 29 nations. This is probably not the best use of their time.
  5. Belarus: On the other hand, I don’t rule out tanks rolling into Belarus at some point in the future. Lukashenko, the Belarus dictator, is 63 years old, and these guys don’t live forever. Once he is gone, will Belorus undergo a calm transition of power to a new president (for life)….or does Russia take this opportunity to reclaim Belarus? Unlike Ukraine, there is not a strong nationalist group that is clearly ready to fight off any Russian invaders. If Russia did decide to take Belarus (probably making sure they were invited, like they were in Afghanistan in 1979), is there anything we could do about it? How concerned would we be about it?
  6. Georgia: Russian already had a five day war with Georgia in 2008. Russia probably could have overrun Georgia if they wanted to. They probably can now. It is a very small country and geographically isolated from NATO. I don’t rule out it becoming a battlefield in the future. Not sure what the United States could do about it.
  7. Iran: While I don’t think that the U.S. will ever invade Iran, I would have said the same thing about Iraq in 2000. Of course, Iran is a country with a population more more than twice that of Iraq. Invading Iraq in 2003 led to lots of long-term complications. Invading Iran might get even more difficult.
  8. The mission not yet named: The last 30 years are notable in that the United States has been dragged into three major wars rather suddenly. At the beginning of 1990, I don’t recall any defense analyst saying the United States was about to enter into a war with Iraq for the sake of saving Kuwait (who we had no alliance with). Yet, less than a year later, this is exactly what we did, and it was done with a large conventional force of nine deployed U.S. divisions. In 2000, I don’t recall too many defense analysts saying that we would soon be invading Afghanistan and Iraq. These missions came rather suddenly. So, one must always assume that there is a possible conventional mission at any time in any place. It has happened twice in the last 30 years. These are hard to plan for and to structure forces for, yet there is clearly a need for a mobile conventional force just in case.

Anyhow, that list appears to cover the possible conventional warfare missions for the United States right now. The one with the highest probability of occurring is “the mission not yet named.” There are many other flash points in the world, but most of them are not ones that would attract American conventional ground forces. Still, as shown by Kuwait in 1990 and Iraq in 2003, we can end up involved in a conventional conflict with very little notice. This is a far cry from the days of the Cold War when the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact were lined up along the border of Germany. The future ain’t what it used to be, to borrow a quote.

We are now popular!

We are now popular!

We have been linked in an article in Popular Mechanics: The U.S. Is Sending Deadly Javelin Missiles to Ukraine

The article is definitely worth reading. Have no idea who Kyle Mizokami is.

This is the link they connected to:

The Russian Artillery Strike That Spooked The U.S. Army

Anyhow, appreciate the link.


It ain’t over till it’s over

It ain’t over till it’s over

Article on ISIL: Fight against ISIL not over yet


  1. ISIL fighters are able to move through parts of Syria that they (the international coalition) is unable to target (meaning Syrian government controlled areas).
  2. There is an estimated 1,000 – 2,000 ISIL fighters are left fighting around the desert between the Iraqi and Syrian border.
  3. Maj. Gen. Gedney warned that as ISIL lost control of the territory it held in Syria and Iraq, it will try to “vanish” in the population, before transforming itself into a more traditional insurgency (just to state the obvious).
Speaking of North Korea….

Speaking of North Korea….

Spotted this article yesterday on intercepting North Korea: Can U.S. Stealth Fighters Shoot Down North Korea Missiles

This caught my attention in light of our past discussions:

The Pros And Cons Of Shooting Down North Korean Ballistic Missile Tests

A few highlights from the article:

  1. It will be a little bit before the F-35 is capable of shooting down North Korea ballistic missiles. There are some “slight tweaks” that have to be done.
  2. There is THAAD, which in a recent test the system in Alaska intercepted a U.S. ballistic missile fired over the Pacific.
  3. There is GMD, which according to Atlantic magazine is 55% effective. Last May it did intercept an ICBM that was launched from 4,200 miles away.
  4. They could develop drones with lasers
  5. “Of North Korea were to launch only one missile at us, we could probably shoot it down…But their new missile could carry some very simply decoys, and it’s not certain that the missile we send out will be able to tell the difference between debris, decoys and a real warhead.”
  6. There are several interesting links in the article.

As we note have noted:

North Korean Missile Likely Broke Up on Re-Entry

Year Three

Year Three

As of today, the blog is two years old. The question is…….where does it go from here and what do we do with it?

Year Two

The blog now consists of 545 posts and we have 366 comments (that we did not consider to be spam). That comes out to 259 posts and 104 comments last year and 286 posts and 262 comments this year.

The question is…where do we go from here. Right now, our answer is the same as last year, which is to keep-on-keeping-on. Pretty much just keep doing what we are doing. Now, there is much more we could do with the blog, but, any major improvement requires an investment of time and money, and…….

We have considered bringing in more bloggers, having a paid employee posting daily defense news (so we can compete with the other blogs and news services), and having a paid blogger do more military history material (which we know this is of interest to a number of our readers)…but…this means our primary business during the day would be maintaining and developing the blog. Our interest is in study and analysis, not journalism. We think there is still a severe shortage of good fact-based analysis of defense affairs. We do not think there is a shortage of journalists and news sites. So for this next year, it does appear that this will continue to be a “not-to-interfere” effort while we pursue our various writing, marketing and analytical efforts.

Hope you all a happy New Year and hope that 2018 will be a great year for you all.

TDI Reports at DTIC

TDI Reports at DTIC

Just as a quick easy test, I decided to find out which of The Dupuy Institue (TDI) reports are on the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC). Our report list is here:

We are a private company, but most of these reports were done under contract for the U.S. government. In my past searches of the DTIC file, I found that maybe 40% of Trevor Dupuy’s HERO reports were at DTIC. So, I would expect that a few of the TDI would be filed at DTIC.

TDI has 80 reports listed on its site. There are 0 listed on DTIC under our name.

There are a significant number of reports listed based upon our work, but a search on “Dupuy Institute” yields no actual reports done by us. I searched for a few of our reports by name (combat in cities, situational awareness, enemy prisoner of war, our insurgency work, our Bosnia casualty estimate) and found four:

This was four of eight reports we did as part of the Capture Rate Study. So apparently one of the contract managers was diligent enough to make sure those studies were placed in DTIC (as was our Kursk Data Base), but since then (2001), none of our reports have been placed in DTIC.

Now, I have not checked NTIS and other sources, but I have reason to believe that not much of what we have done in the last 20+ years is archived in government repositories. If you need a copy of a TDI report, you have to come to us.

We are a private company. What happens when we decide to close our doors?



Basements appear to be very important in the world of studies and analysis. That is where various obscure records and reports are stored. As the industry gets grayer and retires, significant pieces of work are becoming harder to find. Sometimes the easiest way to find these reports is to call someone you know and ask them where to find it.

Let me give a few examples. At one point, when we were doing an analysis of Lanchester equations in combat modeling. I was aware that Bob McQuie, formally of CAA, had done some work on it. So, I called him. Turns out he had a small file he kept of his own work, but he had loaned it to his neighbor as a result of a conversation he had. So…..he reclaimed the file, two of our researchers drove over to his house, he gave us the file, and we still have it today. Turns out that much of his material is also available through DTIC. A quick DTIC search shows the following:

Of particular interest is his benchmarks studies. His work on “breakpoints” and comments on Lanchester equations is not included in the DTIC listing because it was published in Army, November 1987. I have a copy in my basement. Neither is his article on the 3:1 rule (published in Phalanx, December 1989). He also did some work on regression analysis of historical battles that I have yet to locate.

Battle Outcomes: Casualty Rates As a Measure of Defeat

So, some of his work had been preserved. But, on the other hand, during that same casualty estimation methodologies study we also sent two researchers over to another “gray beard’s” house and he let our researchers look through his basement. We found the very useful study called Report of the Model Input Data and Process Committee, reference in my book War by Numbers, page 295. It does not show up in DTIC. We could not of find this study without a visit to his basement. He now lives in Florida, where they don’t have basements. So I assume the remaining boxes of materials he had have disappeared.

I am currently trying to locate another major study right now that was done by SAIC. So far, I have found one former SAIC employee who has two volumes of the multi-volume study. It is not listed in DTIC. To obtain a complete copy of the study, I am afraid I will have to contract someone else and pay to have it copied. Again, I just happen to know who to talk to find out what basement it is stored away in.

It is hard to appreciate the unique efforts that go into researching some of these projects. But, there is a sense at this end that as the “gray beards” disappear; reports and research efforts are disappearing with them.

Isolating the Guerilla

Isolating the Guerilla

The Vietnam was significant in that it was third bloodiest war in U.S. military history (58,000 U.S. killed) and the U.S. Army choose to learn no lessons from it !!! This last point is discussed in my book America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

In 1965 Trevor Dupuy’s HERO (Historical Evaluation Research Organization) conducted a three-volume study called “Isolating the Guerilla.” It was an interesting survey of 19 insurgencies that included on its research team 26 experts. This included General Geoffrey Lord Bourne (British Army, ret.), Andrew C. Janos, Peter Paret, among others.

These guys:,_Baron_Bourne


The first volume of the study, although developed from historical sources, was classified after it was completed. How does one classify a study that was developed from unclassified sources?

As such, the first volume of the study was in the classified safe at DMSI when I was there. I was aware of the study, but had never taken the time to look at it. DMSI went out of business in the early 1990s and all the classified material there was destroyed. The Dupuy Institute did not have a copy of this volume of the study.

In 2004 we did our casualty and duration estimate for Iraq. It was based upon a survey of 28 insurgencies. We then expanded that work to do an analysis based upon 89 insurgencies. This was done independently of our past work back in 1965, which I had never seen. This is detailed in my book America’s Modern Wars.

As this work was being completed I was contacted by a Lt. Colonel Michael F. Trevett in 2008. It turns out he had an unclassified copy of the study. He found it in the Ft. Huachuca library. It was declassified in 2004 and was also in DTIC. So, I finally got a copy of a study after we had almost completed our work on insurgencies. In retrospect, it would have been useful to have from the start. Again, another case of disappearing studies.

In 2011, Michael F. Trevett published the study as a book called Isolating the Guerrilla. The book is the study, with many of the appendices and supporting data removed at the request of the publisher. It was a self-publishing effort that was paid by Michael out of his personal/family funds. He has since left the Army. I did write the foreword to the book.

What can I say about this case? We did a study on insurgencies in 1965 that had some relevance to the wars we entered in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. It remained classified and buried in a library in Ft. Huachuca, Arizona and at DTIC. It was de-classified in 2004 and came back to light in 2008. This was through the effort of a single motivated Lt. Colonel who was willing to take the time and his own personal money to make it happen.

The (Missing) Urban Warfare Study

The (Missing) Urban Warfare Study

[This post was originally published on 13 December 2017]

And then…..we discovered the existence of a significant missing study that we wanted to see.

Around 2000, the Center for Army Analysis (CAA) contracted The Dupuy Institute to conduct an analysis of how to represent urban warfare in combat models. This was the first work we had ever done on urban warfare, so…….we first started our literature search. While there was a lot of impressionistic stuff gathered from reading about Stalingrad and watching field exercises, there was little hard data or analysis. Simply no one had ever done any analysis of the nature of urban warfare.

But, on the board of directors of The Dupuy Institute was a grand old gentleman called John Kettelle. He had previously been the president of Ketron, an operations research company that he had founded. Kettelle had been around the business for a while, having been an office mate of Kimball, of Morse and Kimbell fame (the people who wrote the original U.S. Operations Research “textbook” in 1951: Methods of Operations Research). He is here:

John had mentioned several times a massive study on urban warfare that he had done  for the U.S. Army in the 1970s. He had mentioned details of it, including that it was worked on by his staff over the course of several years, consisted of several volumes, looked into operations in Stalingrad, was pretty extensive and exhaustive, and had a civil disturbance component to it that he claimed was there at the request of the Nixon White House. John Kettelle sold off his company Ketron in the 1990s and was now semi-retired.

So, I asked John Kettelle where his study was. He said he did not know. He called over to the surviving elements of Ketron and they did not have a copy. Apparently significant parts of the study were classified. In our review of the urban warfare literature around 2000 we found no mention of the study or indications that anyone had seen or drawn any references from it.

This was probably the first extensive study ever done on urban warfare. It employed at least a half-dozen people for multiple years. Clearly the U.S. Army spent several million of our hard earned tax dollars on it…..yet is was not being used and could not be found. It was not listed in DTIC, NTIS, on the web, nor was it in Ketron’s files, and John Kettelle did not have a copy of it. It was lost !!!

So, we proceeded with our urban warfare studies independent of past research and ended up doing three reports on the subject. Theses studies are discussed in two chapters of my book War by Numbers.

All three studies are listed in our report list:

The first one is available on line at:

As the Ketron urban warfare study was classified, there were probably copies of it in classified U.S. Army command files in the 1970s. If these files have been properly retired then these classified files may exist in the archives. At some point, they may be declassified. At some point the study may be re-discovered. But……the U.S. Army after spending millions for this study, preceded to obtain no benefit from the study in the late 1990s, when a lot of people re-opened the issue of urban warfare. This would have certainly been a useful study, especially as much of what the Army, RAND and others were discussing at the time was not based upon hard data and was often dead wrong.

This may be a case of the U.S. Army having to re-invent the wheel because it has not done a good job of protecting and disseminating its studies and analysis. This seems to particularly be a problem with studies that were done by contractors that have gone out of business. Keep in mind, we were doing our urban warfare work for the Center for Army Analysis. As a minimum, they should have had a copy of it.

The SAIC Library

The SAIC Library

The story of the disappearing SAIC research library occurred in the middle of the 1990s, during the same time as the HERO Library was disappearing. SAIC had an “Military Operations Analysis Division” that for a time was a competitor to HERO/DMSI. In particular, around 1990, they hired three former HERO/DMSI employees and used them for studies that normally would have been done by us. Trevor Dupuy was on-the-outs with some people at the U.S. Army Concepts Analysis Agency (CAA). Some time in the mid-1990s, SAIC decided to close down their military operations analysis division.

The early 1990s were a difficult time for defense contractors. The Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union had disappeared and the defense industry was shrinking. SAIC got rid of the division that did analytical work for DOD as they realized it was a dying business (something that we could never get through our heads). Companies like BDM, one of the stalwarts in the industry since 1959, was sold off in 1990s; with Trevor Dupuy’s old company, DMSI, also going out of business in the 1990s.

Anyhow, SAIC had a library for this division. It was the size of two double offices, maybe 400 square feet or more. It was smaller than the HERO Library. They decided to dissolve the library along with the division. They told the staff to grab what they wanted and dumped the rest. Having never had access to this library, I do not know if there were any holdings of value, but as SAIC had been around since 1969, it is hard to believe that there was not something unique there.


This post is related to:

The HERO Library

Missing HERO Reports


Combat Power vs Combat Power

Combat Power vs Combat Power

In my last post, I ended up comparing Combat Effectiveness Value (CEV) to Combat Power. CEV is only part of combat power. In Trevor Dupuy’s formulation, Combat Power is P = (S x V x CEV)

This means that combat power (P) is the product of force strength, including weapon effects (S), operational and environmental factors (V) and human factors (CEV).

From his list of 73 variables on page 33 of Numbers, Predictions and War (NPW), the operational and environmental factors include terrain factors, weather factors, season factors, air superiority factors, posture factors, mobility effects, vulnerability factors, tactical air effects, other combat processes (including surprise), and the intangible factors (which are included in his CEV).

Again, it turns into a much longer laundry list of variables than we have from ADP 3.0.

What Makes Up Combat Power?

What Makes Up Combat Power?

Trevor Dupuy used in his models and theoretical work the concept of the Combat Effectiveness Value. The combat multiplier consisted of:

  1. Morale,
  2. training,
  3. experience,
  4. leadership,
  5. motivation,
  6. cohesion,
  7. intelligence (including interpretation),
  8. momentum,
  9. initiative,
  10. doctrine,
  11. the effects of surprise,
  12. logistical systems,
  13. organizational habits,
  14. and even cultural differences.
  15. (generalship)

See War by Numbers, page 17 and Numbers, Predictions and War, page 33. To this list, I have added a fifteenth item: “generalship,” which I consider something different than leadership. As I stated in my footnote on pages 17 & 348 of War by Numbers:

“Leadership� is this sense represents the training and capabilities of the non-commission and commissioned officers throughout the unit, which is going to be fairly consistent in an army from unit to unit. This can be a fairly consistent positive or negative influence on a unit. On the other hand, “generalship� represents the guy at the top of the unit, making the decisions. This is widely variable; with the history of warfare populated with brilliant generals, a large number of perfectly competent ones, and a surprisingly large number of less than competent ones. Within in army, no matter the degree and competence of the officer corps, or the rigor of their training, poor generals show up, and sometimes, brilliant generals show up with no military training (like the politician turned general Julius Caesar).

Anyhow, looking at the previous blog post by Shawn, the U.S. Army states that “combat power” consists of eight elements:

  1. Leadership,
  2. information,
  3. mission command,
  4. movement and maneuver
  5. intelligence
  6. fires,
  7. sustainment,
  8. and protection.

I am not going to debate strengths and weaknesses of these two lists, but I do note that there are only two items on both lists (leadership and intelligence). I prefer the 15 point list.

The HERO Library

The HERO Library

The first research library that I was aware of that was broken up and scattered was Trevor Dupuy’s library that was kept at HERO/DMSI (HERO was a division of DMSI at this stage).

One has to talk corporate structure here for a moment. HERO (Historical Evaluation Research Organization) had been established and built up by Trevor Dupuy. In an attempt to expand the business, he created a company called DMSI (Data Memory Systems Incorporated) of which he was just one of the owners (although with about 40% of the stock). In 1987-1989 period, the U.S. defense spending reached it peaked as did DMSI, which had 25 employees. With Glasnost, Perestroika, the Warsaw Pact dissolving and finally the Soviet Union collapsing in 1991, the defense budget collapsed. In the resulting collapse, so to did DMSI. With the business crashing, Trevor Dupuy having a falling out with the other management and quit his own company.

DMSI/HERO had an extensive library and an extensive collection of research files, dating back to its founding in 1962. They even had share library privileges with the Library of Congress due to some unique material in the HERO library. The library took up a large room and there were file cabinets full of research files.

This library was broken up. First, Trevor Dupuy took the report file he kept in his office with him. This was the entire collection of 120+ reports written by HERO. Those eventually ended up at TDI (The Dupuy Institute). The library remained at DMSI, except for those books that the Dupuy family took from the library, which I gather was considerable. These are still in the hands of the Dupuy family. Then DMSI went out of business around 1993, and the remaining files and library were scattered. The employees were invited to take what they wanted out of the files. After that, one employee decided to rescue the files that he thought were important and moved them to his barn in rural Virginia. These included most (but not all) of the Ardennes files and Grace Hayes files (the original VP of research at HERO). A few years later, we arranged with that ex-employee to reclaim the files and he graciously brought them to our office from his barn. After we blew the dust, dirt, hay and mouse droppings from them, we then refilled them at TDI. The files taken by other employees were not recovered. Most of the remaining library was taken by a principal at the company and moved to his basement. They were used for his business for a while. Eventually, he needed to clean his basement and the “HERO Library” ceased to exist.

We were able to save most of the critical files, meaning the reports, most of the Ardennes files and the Grace Hayes files. The rest was lost, which was a shame, although not overwhelmingly critical. Still, the process got my attention and this is potentially a problem with any private company. Unless someone goes through some extra-ordinary process to preserve the files and libraries of their work, then when a private company collapses (which most do at some point), those files are lost. I am aware of several other cases like this.

Missing HERO Reports

Missing HERO Reports

Back in 1987 I did a DTIC search for HERO reports (DTIC is the defense library of reports, HERO was Trevor Dupuy’s old company(s) that produced around 130 or so reports). My DTIC search ended up finding something like 40% of HERO reports in their files. As almost of all these reports were done under contract for the government, then the figure should have been something more like 100%.

Now, I guess if I was a responsible citizen, I would have made sure that all the missing reports were identified, copies made, and they were then sent to DTIC. I did not do this, because as I busy running a large project that was behind schedule and over budget (the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base).

But……this little survey got my attention concerning what was preserved in the national report library (like NTIS…National Technical Information Center) and what was not. It raises the question as to whether we are properly preserving the studies and results of all this analysis that various companies have done….or are we loosing some of it. Unfortunately, I have found enough cases over the years of significant and important studies and files disappearing or becoming difficult to find….that I have become concerned. Whether this is indicative of a larger problem I will leave to the reader to determine, but there will be a few blog posts about this subject or the next week or two.

All of our reports and studies are listed on our website here:

It is some 130 HERO reports and 80 TDI reports.

It would be possible to someone to search the NTIS site and see how many these reports can be found (and which ones they cannot find). I would be interested in knowing the results of that if anyone wants to spend a few days doing this. If the problem exists for HERO and TDI reports…then it probably exists for work done by a lot of other companies also.

Eye Witness Reports on the North Korean Missile

Eye Witness Reports on the North Korean Missile

OK, looks like plane crews are reporting that they saw the missile break up on re-entry:

North Korean Missile Likely Broke Up on Re-Entry

So….we still have a few months, or few years, before they can nuke us.

New Secretary of the Army Confirmed

New Secretary of the Army Confirmed

On 20 November, the new Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, was confirmed by the Senate on an 89-6 vote. My original post about him includes some background info on him.

Secretary of the Army, take 3

North Korean Missile Likely Broke Up on Re-Entry

North Korean Missile Likely Broke Up on Re-Entry

It looks like the latest North Korea missile that was fired broke up on re-entry:

This is not a minor point.

The article also notes the need for the North Koreas to “master missile guidance and targeting” and the two-stage missile was at least partially liquid fueled, which takes time and can provide U.S. intelligence with a warning before it is launched.

Anyhow, it is still a developing program, although they have surprised people with how fast they have developed.

Ted Gurr Has Passed Away

Ted Gurr Has Passed Away

Dr. Ted Robert Gurr, noted researcher on political violence and author of Why Men Rebel (1970), passed away on 25 November 2017 at the age of 81. His obituary is here:

I never knew him, but his work was a major influence on my work. In the late 1960s, Gurr and Professors Ivo and Rosalind Feierabend led two independent quantitative analysis efforts on the causes of revolutions. Even though they each created their own databases and independently did their own regression analysis of the subject, they came up with similar results. I did have several discussions with Dr. Ivo Feierabend while I was doing some independent work on the causes of revolution.

We have posted about this work before. It is here:

Quote from America’s Modern Wars

Why Are We Still Wondering Why Men (And Women) Rebel?

Why Men Rebel?

Rest in peace Dr. Gurr, and we expect that your work will live on.

So Why Are Iraqi Records Important?

So Why Are Iraqi Records Important?

Last preachy post on this subject:

The Sad Story Of The Captured Iraqi DESERT STORM Documents

So, why does it matter? Well, Iraq has been involved in three wars in recent time that are significant.

We engaged them in the 1991 Gulf War. Even though this was a truly lopsided result, we do not have good two-sided data available for this war (it may exist, but it is classified/closed). As this was our largest conventional operation since the Korean War (1950-1953), then having good two-sided data for this war would be useful. As it is, the last major conventional fight that the U.S. participated in where there is good two-sided data is in Italy through June 1944. After that, German records significantly degrade and we do not have a good collection of opposing force data for Korea, Vietnam or Iraq….although we do have it for Grenada ;).

Then we invaded and conquered Iraq in 2003. This was effectively a three-division operation that went extremely well also. As this was the last major conventional operation we conducted, it would be useful to have good data for the opposing side (hopefully we do, but again, it is classified/closed).

But, probably most significant is the Iran-Iraq War from 1980-1988. This was the largest conventional war since the early 1970s (India-Pakistan in 1971 and the Arab-Israeli War of 1973). This was also the first major war that used chemical weapons since World War I (1914-1918). Chemical weapons and nerve agents were used extensively by Iraq against the Iranians, and also brutally against Kurdish civilians. Iran did make limited used of chemical weapons in response. It is also the only extensive use of nerve agents in warfare. This is probably important to understand and analyze. We do not have records from the Iranian side, so it would be nice to have records from the Iraqi side. Hard to analyze their operations if we have records from neither side. We really have no actual operational data on the effects of chemical weapons in combat since 1918, and we have no operational data on the effects of nerve agents in combat. This could be a major shortfall.

Now, the documents destroyed, according to the article we originally cited, was only the material captured during the 1991 Gulf War, with records dating back to 1978.  Some of it (at least 60%) was preserved on digital tapes. And, perhaps we have preserved all the military records we captured in 2003. So, in fact there may be an extensive collection available (at least 725,000 pages), although it is classified or closed to researchers. Based upon our track record of record preservation from Vietnam and onward, I have reason to be concerned.

Anyhow, a related link on our chemical warfare studies (including links to articles on the Iran-Iraq War):

Survey of German WWI Records


P.S. There are over a dozen counties in the world that still have chemical warfare arsenals, including Syria, Iran and North Korea.


U.S. Records in the Gulf War (1991)

U.S. Records in the Gulf War (1991)

Of course, there were problems with the U.S. Army record keeping in the Gulf War (1991). There were serious problems with the U.S. Army record keeping in the Vietnam War (1965-1973), so not surprising, the problem had not been corrected, and the same problems existed 20 years later. In the Vietnam War, the 82nd Airborne Division pretty much threw away most of their records. According to Don Hakenson, Director, Center of Unit Records Research, Records Management and Declassification Agency; in the Gulf War, 86% or 87% of the battalion daily journals were not preserved (see War by Numbers, page 146).

This became a big issue when the “Gulf War Syndrome” became an issue. People became suspicious that U.S. soldiers had become exposed to hazardous materials or chemical weapons. Yet, when the Veterans Administration and others tried to figure out where the units were at the time, they found that the records no longer existed for many these units. In many cases, they could not determine where the unit or the people were during operations. Many of the records had simply been thrown out.

The Gulf War Syndrome was not a small issue. It has been estimated that 250,000 U.S. veterans were afflicted. In was a case where record keeping briefly became a major issue. Wikipedia article:

Since the 1960s, there has been serious gaps in U.S. record keeping. There still was in 1998 when we conducted a survey of the subject for the U.S. Army. We have conducted no other surveys since then, but gather that corrective action has been undertaken.

U.S. Army Record Keeping

Gulf War Records

Gulf War Records

We, of course, have never examined the other sides records for the Gulf War (1990-91). We have included in our various combat databases over 20 division and battalion-level engagements from the Gulf War. These were all assembled for us by C. Curtis Johnson, former VP of HERO and author of something like eight books.

At the time he was working for a project that had collected the U.S. Gulf War records. So he had access to the U.S. records of the various engagements, as was able to assemble the U.S. side. He had to assemble the estimates of Iraqi strength and losses based upon the U.S. intelligence records and a little educated guesswork. There are real problems in using intelligence estimates to determine the other side’s strength and losses. I can point out a number of cases where loss estimates were off by an order of magnitude (I discuss this in depth in my Kursk book). Still, as we had overrun most of the units involved, taking their records at the time, then it appears that these were reasonable and the certainly the best estimates that could be made at the time. Because the records Curt was working with were classified, and our database is unclassified, he could not leave a record of how he developed these estimates. There were, of course, also problems with the U.S. records, but that is the subject of another post.

Now, our engagements could be improved upon by a careful examination of the captured Iraqi records, which is why this caught our attention:

The Sad Story Of The Captured Iraqi DESERT STORM Documents

Needless to say, this means that for all practical purposes, the 20+ engagements in our database can never be cross-checked or improved upon. It is the best that can be done.

Captured Records: Vietnam

Captured Records: Vietnam

There is a file of captured records for the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong, having political officers and a command structure, actually did keep records. The North Vietnamese Army also kept records. During the course of the war, some of these records were captured and are in a file at the National Archives. I don’t know of anyone who has used them. I did glance at the file, and there was no finders guide and nothing was translated. There did not appear to be much order to the file. I would have needed someone fluent in Vietnamese to help me (which is actually easy to find in Northern Virginia…for example General Nguyen Ngoc Loan ended up owning a Pizza restaurant in Springfield, VA).

** EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT ** South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, fires his pistol, shoots, executes into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem (also known as Bay Lop) on a Saigon street Feb. 1, 1968, early in the Tet Offensive. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams)

In the mid-1990s I did meet with Americans who had worked with the Vietnamese in trying to locate missing U.S. servicemen. They stated that the Vietnamese were very open and interested in researching and discussing the war. They felt that they would be receptive to a joint research project on Vietnam and would be willing to open their archives for us. As we had had access to the Soviet military archives since 1993, this looked like a fairly attractive next adventure for us. Unfortunately, we could not get anyone interested in funding research on insurgencies at that time. It was not something that U.S. had researched or analyzed since 1973.

Needless to say, after we got involved in insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, I again floated the idea to the Army of doing a joint research project on Vietnam. They listened to me a little longer, but in the end, there was really no interest in analyzing the insurgency in Vietnam. I am not sure why. It has the virtue of being one of the few insurgencies where the insurgents kept good records. This would allow us to do analysis based upon two-sided data. There was certainly something that could be learned from this.

Of course, one of the problems with studying Vietnam is that U.S. Army record keeping at that time was grossly substandard. It was the poorest quality records from the U.S. Army that I had ever observed. The files from most of the units were very scant. Sometimes it was difficult to even determine the units strength and losses. Some divisions were missing almost all of their files (like the 82nd Airborne). For the 1st Brigade, 5th Mechanized Division on the DMZ, we could not determine the tank strength of the unit. There was no periodic strength and loss reports for armor. For the assault helicopter battalion my father commanded, there was only a battalion newspaper and few other files. You could not tell what aircraft the unit had, nor their status or strength. It was embarrassing.

We did actually flag this problem to the active duty army of the time and they ended up giving us a contract to examine the state of current U.S, army record keeping, which is  discussed in this post:

U.S. Army Record Keeping

Anyhow, this is an extended discussion of captured records originally inspired by this post:

The Sad Story Of The Captured Iraqi DESERT STORM Documents


Korean War Story

Korean War Story

My father was a forward observer in Korea. In 1953, him and another U.S. soldier were camped out in a foxhole between the lines. It was nighttime and they were making dinner.

The U.S. command had requested that its soldiers should try to capture some Chinese soldiers. As added incentive, the people who captured one would get a three-day pass to Japan. This was a pretty good incentive for those living out in the field. So the two foxhole buddies were sitting making dinner and of course talking about what they would do on their three-day pass to Japan, assuming they could capture a Chinese soldier.

Suddenly, a Chinese soldier stuck his head over the rim of the foxhole. They saw him, yelled “There is one” and immediately leaped for him. The poor Chinese soldier took off running. They ran for a mile or two through the “no mans land” between the lines(which would became the DMZ) and eventually the two larger American’s were able to run him down and capture him.

Now, they were in the middle of the (soon be called) DMZ, in the middle of the night, dragging along a captured Chinese soldier, and not quite sure where their foxhole was. Furthermore, in their haste to get him, they forgot to grab their guns. For the two unarmed Americans dragging a Chinese prisoner through the dark, it was a very long and tense walk back to their foxhole.

They did get their three-day pass to Japan.


Note: This is a story told to me by father many years ago. It was not written down and I have never checked the veracity of it. I have no doubt that it is mostly true, but one cannot rule out a little exaggeration for the sake of a good yarn. We do not know what became of the Chinese soldier.

Korean War Records

Korean War Records

Not much to say about captured records in the Korea War as I have never checked on them. I assume there must be some taken from North Korean and Chinese units and they are files away somewhere. My father did capture a Chinese soldier during the Korean War.

Oddly enough, there not been much done in the world of quantitative analysis on the Korea War outside of the work that ORO (Operations Research Office) did in the 1950s. We have never done any significant work on the Korean War. In the late 1980s we did explore conducting some analysis of Korean War battalion-level combat. As part of that effort Trevor Dupuy and I went over to the National Archives at Suitland and pulled up some U.S. Army Korea War records. They appeared to be quite complete. There were a couple of French infantry battalions attached to the U.S. Division and we appear to have good strength and loss data for them also.

Later, in 1989, Trevor Dupuy arranged with China to conduct a joint research project. It was funded by OSD Net Assessment (Andy Marshall). Trevor Dupuy really wanted to do some two-sided analysis of combat with the Chinese Army in Korea, but apparently getting access to the Chinese Army records was still too sensitive at that point. So, instead, they arranged to do a joint research contract on a more general and less sensitive theme like perceptions of each sides intentions during the Korean War. But then in June 1989 the Chinese government rolled over the student protestors in Tiananmen Square with tanks. That ended all joint research projects for many years.

We never got back to trying to conduct a joint research project on combat with China. Instead in 1995, we started a research project on Kursk using Russia records.

Trevor Dupuy did mention that the Chinese informally told him that the United States often overestimated the size of the Chinese forces they were facing, and often underestimated the casualties the Chinese took. I have no idea how valid that is.


Anyhow, this is an extended discussion of captured records originally inspired by this post:

The Sad Story Of The Captured Iraqi DESERT STORM Documents

Captured Records: WWII

Captured Records: WWII

At the end of World War I, the United States made sure they had access to the German military records in their treaty and sent a research team over there to review and copy the pertinent records. At the end of World War II, we just took everything. The allies gathered together all the material, in part because of concerns over war crimes, and eventually the entire collection was shipped back to the United States.

In the 1960s, the United States decided to repatriate the records back to Germany. Before they shipped them out they decided to copy the entire collection of German World War II records and place them on microfilm. This was a massive effort done by government contractors that took several years. Like all good government contracts, towards the end, this one was behind schedule, so they were having to cut corners by choosing not to copy things that they felt were not particularly relevant. So, the originals records are now in the archives in Freiburg, Germany (a nice little town about as far away from the old East German border as you can get). There are copies on microfilm of most of the German records, sometimes in disorder, in the U.S. Archives II in College Park, Maryland (near Washington DC). The British also have microfilm copies of portions of the German records collection that they captured over at the Public Records Office in Kew (London). The UK collection is a fraction the size of the U.S. microfilm collection, and as far as I know has nothing additional in it.

But, there were some records that were not copied by the U.S., but it is not much. For example, for the Kursk Data Base, I did the German research from the U.S. record collection. There were 17 German divisions in the offensive in the south in July 1943. I made a detailed listing of the records I have reviewed and sent that list to Dr. Arthur Volz over in Germany. He then went to Frieburg and tried to locate additional material on strength and losses from those files. About the only additional material he located was the panzer regiment files from the 11th Panzer Division, which were either not in the U.S. archives or I overlooked when I did my research. That was it. Overall, the original copying effort was pretty exhaustive.

There was one major gap for a long time. For a couple of decades, many of the original German situation maps were in the U.S., but no longer accessible. There were supposed to be copied and sent to Germany, but there was a budget issue. Meanwhile one researcher was handling them so poorly that they canceled access so as to protect them. They have finally copied them and sent the originals back to Germany.

New WWII German Maps At The National Archives

There are also no real Luftwaffe files. Most of the Luftwaffe files were placed on a train and when the order came down from Hitler to destroy everything….these weenies actually obeyed the order and burned all their records. There are also major gaps in the German records after July 1944. Every six months, the German army units wrapped up their records and sent them back to their central archives. Because the war ended in May 1945, many of the records for July-December 1944 never made it back to be filed. Same for the 1945 records. This is why the QJM (Quantified Judgment Model) was originally developed from Italian Campaign Data from 1943 through June 1944.

Anyhow, this is an extended discussion of captured records originally inspired by this post and started with the discussions below.

The Sad Story Of The Captured Iraqi DESERT STORM Documents

Captured Records: World War I

Survey of German WWI Records


The CRS Casualty Estimates

The CRS Casualty Estimates

Let’s just outline the specifics of the casualty estimates for a war with North Korea in the latest Congressional Research Service (CRS) report dated 27 October 2017:

On page 18:

Even if the DPRK uses only its conventional munitions, estimates range from between 30,000 and 300,000 dead in the first days of fighting, given that DPRK artillery is thought to be capable of firing 10,000 rounds per minute at Seoul. One observer states

Estimates are that hundreds of thousands of South Koreans would die in the first few hours of combat–from artillery, from rockets, from short range missiles–and if this war would escalate to the nuclear level, then you are looking at tens of millions of casualties and the destruction of the eleventh largest economy in the world.

It does not appear that CRS has done any independent analysis of this issues. Its sources in the footnotes are articles from Reuters, New York Times, CNN, NAPSNet Special Reports and GlobalSecurity.

And on page 3:

Should the DPRK use the nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in its arsenal, according to some estimates casualty figures could number in the millions.


Casualty Estimates for a War with North Korea

Casualty Estimates for a War with North Korea

There are a few casualty estimates out there of the cost of a war with North Korea. A couple of these casualty estimates are summarized in this article:

They are:

1. As many as 2.1 million could die if nuclear detonations occurred over Seoul and Tokyo (source: website 38 North, October 2017).

2. As many as 300,000 could die in the first few days of a conflict between North Korea and the U.S. even without the use of nuclear weapons (source: Congressional Research Service, 27 October 2017:

The Dupuy Institute has not done any casualty estimates or analysis of a war with North Korea, nor are we planning to at this juncture. We have done a few casualty estimates in the past:




Assessing the TNDA 1990-91 Gulf War Forecast

Assessing the 1990-1991 Gulf War Forecasts

Forecasting U.S. Casualties in Bosnia

Forecasting the Iraqi Insurgency

Disappearing Statistics

Disappearing Statistics

There was a time during the Iraq insurgency when statistics on the war were readily available. As a small independent contractor, we were getting the daily feed of incidents, casualties and other such material during the Iraq War. It was one of the daily intelligence reports for Iraq. We had simply emailed someone in the field and were put on their distribution list, even though we had no presence in Iraq and no official position. This was public information so it was not a problem….until the second half of 2005…when suddenly the war was not going very well…then someone decided to restrict distribution. We received daily intelligence reports from 4 September 2004. They ended on 25 August 2005. There is more to this story, but maybe later.

This article was brought to my attention today:

A few highlights:

  1. From January 1 to May 8 Afghan forces sustained 2,531 killed in action and 4,238 wounded (a 1.67-to-1 wounded to killed ratio, which seems very low).

  2. Afghan forces control 56.8% of the 407 districts, a one percentage point drop over the last six months.

  3. Afghan government controls 63.7% percent of the population.

  4. Some of these statistics will now be classified.


One of our older posts on wounded-to-killed ratios. I have an entire chapter on the subject in War by Numbers.

Wounded-To-Killed Ratios

Survey of German WWI Records

Survey of German WWI Records

At one point, we did a survey of German records from World War I. This was for an exploratory effort to look at measuring the impact of chemical weapons in an urban environment. As World War I was one of the few wars with extensive use of chemical weapons, then it was natural to look there for operational use of chemical weapons. Specifically we were looking at the use of chemical weapons in villages and such, as there was little urban combat in World War I.

As discussed in my last post on this subject, there is a two-sided collection of records in the U.S. Archives for those German units that fought the Americans in 1918. As our customer was British, they wanted to work with British units. They conducted the British research, but, they needed records from the German side. Ironically, the German World War I records were destroyed by the British bombing of Potsdam in April 1945. So where to find good opposing force data for units facing the British during World War I?

Germany did not form into a nation until 1871. During World War I, there were still several independent states, and duchies inside of the Germany and some of these maintained their own armies. The kingdoms of Bavaria, Wurttemberg and Saxony, along with the Grand Duchy of Baden fielded their own armies. They raised their own units and maintained their own records. So, if they maintained their records from World War I then we could developed a two-sided database of combat between the British and Germans in those cases where the British units opposed German units from those states.

So….for practical purposes, we ended up making a “research trip” to Freiburg (German archives), then Karlsruhe (Baden), Stuttgart (Wurttemberg) and then Munich (Bavaria). Sure enough, Wurttemberg had an nice collection of records for its units (it was really only two divisions in a single corps) and Bavaria still had a complete collection of records for its many divisions. The Bavarian Army fielded over a dozen divisions during the war.

So we ended up in Munich for several days going through their records. Their archives were located near Munich’s Olympic Park, the place of the tragic 1972 Olympics. It was in the old Bavarian Army headquarters that had been converted to an archives. After World War II, it was occupied by the Americans, and on the doors of many of the offices was still the name tags of the American NCOs and officers who last occupied those offices. The records were in great shape. The German Army just before WWII had done a complete inventory of the Bavarian records and made sure that there were complete. It was clear that when we looked into that, that many of these files had not been opened since then. Many of the files had sixty years of dust on them. The exception was the Sixth Bavarian Division, which clearly had been accessed several times recently. Adolf Hitler had served in that division in WWI.

The staff was extremely helpful. I did bring them gifts of candy for their efforts. They were  neatly wrapped in the box with plastic mice attached to the packaging. Later, they sent me this:

So we were able to establish that good German data could be assembled for those Wurttemberg and Bavarian units that the face the British. The British company that hired us determine that the British records were good for their research efforts. So the exploratory research effort was a success, but main effort was never funded because of changing priorities among their sponsors. This research was occurring while the Iraq War (2003-2011) was going on, so sometimes budget priorities would change rather suddenly.

The Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) also made extensive used of chemical weapons. This is discussed in depth in our newsletters. See:  (issues Vol 2, No. 3; Vol 2, No. 4, Vol. 3, No 1, and Vol 3, No 2). Specifically see:, page 21. To date, I am not aware of any significant work done on chemical warfare based upon their records of the war.

This post is the follow-up to these two posts:

Captured Records: World War I

The Sad Story Of The Captured Iraqi DESERT STORM Documents

The 3-to-1 Rule in Histories

The 3-to-1 Rule in Histories

I was reading a book this last week, The Blitzkrieg Legend: The 1940 Campaign in the West by Karl-Heinz Frieser (originally published in German in 1996). On page 54 it states:

According to a military rule of thumb, the attack should be numerically superior to the defender at a ratio of 3:1. That ratio goes up if the defender can fight from well developed fortification, such as the Maginot Line.

This rule never seems to go away. Trevor Dupuy had a chapter on it in Understanding War, published in 1987. It was Chapter 4: The Three-to-One Theory of Combat. I didn’t really bother discussing the 3-to-1 rule in my book, War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat. I do have a chapter on force ratios: Chapter 2: Force Ratios. In that chapter I show a number of force ratios based on history. Here is my chart from the European Theater of Operations, 1944 (page 10):

Force Ratio…………………..Result……………..Percentage of Failure………Number of Cases

0.55 to 1.01-to-1.00…………Attack Fails………………………….100……………………………………5

1.15 to 1.88-to-1.00…………Attack usually succeeds………21…………………………………..48

1.95 to 2.56-to-1.00…………Attack usually succeeds………10…………………………………..21

2.71 to 1.00 and higher….Attack advances……………………..0…………………………………..42


We have also done a number of blog posts on the subject (click on our category “Force Ratios”), primarily:

Trevor Dupuy and the 3-1 Rule

You will also see in that blog post another similar chart showing the odds of success at various force ratios.

Anyhow, I kind of think that people should probably quit referencing the 3-to-1 rule. It gives it far more weight and attention than it deserves.


Raqqa Has Fallen

Raqqa Has Fallen

It would appear that Raqqa has fallen:

  1. This announcement comes from U.S.-backed militias.
  2. It was only a four-month battle (in contrast to Mosul).
  3. “A formal declaration of victory in Raqqa will be made soon”

This does appear to end the current phase of the Islamic State, which exploded out of the desert to take Raqqa and Mosul in the first half of 2014. It lasted less than 4 years. It was an interesting experiment for a guerilla movement to suddenly try to seize power in several cities and establish a functioning state in the middle of a war. Sort of gave conventional forces something to attack. You wonder if this worked to the advantage of ISIL in the long run or not.

I gather now that the state-less Islamic state will go back to being a guerilla movement. Not sure what its long term prognosis is. This is still a far-from-resolved civil war going on in Syria.

Captured Records: World War I

Captured Records: World War I

When Shawn Woodford sent me that article on the Captured Iraqi Records, it reminded me of a half-dozen examples I had dealt with over the years. This will keep me blogging for a week or more. Let me start a hundred years ago, with World War I.

The United States signed a separate treaty with Germany after the end of World War I. We were not part of the much maligned Versailles Treaty (although we had to come back to Europe to help clean up the mess they made of the peace). As part of that agreement, we required access to the German military archives.

We used this access well. We put together a research team that included Lt. Colonel Walter Kruger. The United States plopped this team of researchers in Germany for a while and carefully copied all the records of German units that the United States faced. This really covered only the last year of a war that lasted over four years (28 July 1914 – 11 November 1918). Krueger was in Germany with the team in 1922. This was a pretty significant effort back in the days before Xerox machines, microfilm, scanners, and other such tools.

These records were later saved to the U.S. National Archives. So one can access those records now, and will find the records of U.S. units involved, the German units involved (much of it translated), along with maps and descriptions of the fighting. It is all nicely assembled for researchers. It is a very meticulous and nicely done collection.

Just to add to the importance of this record collection, the German archives in Potsdam were bombed by the RAF in April 1945, destroying most of their World War I records (this raid on 14/15 April: apr45 and also: bundesarchiv). So, one cannot now go back and look up these German records. The only surviving primary source combat records for many German units from World War I is the records in the U.S. Archives copied (translated and typed from the original) done by the U.S. researchers.

Lt. Colonel Krueger was fluent in German because of his family background (he was born in Prussia). During World War II, he rose to be a full general (four-star general) in command of the Sixth Army in the Pacific:

This effort sets that standard almost a hundred years ago of what could/should be done with captured records. A later post will discuss the World War II effort.

The Sad Story Of The Captured Iraqi DESERT STORM Documents


McMaster vs Spector on Vietnam

McMaster vs Spector on Vietnam

Lt. General H. R. McMaster, the U.S. National Security Advisor, wrote a doctoral dissertation on Vietnam that was published in 1997 as Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. Ronald Spector, former Marine, Vietnam vet, and historian just published this article that caught my interest:  What McMaster Gets Wrong About Vietnam

What caught my interest was the discussion by Spector, very brief, that the Vietnamese had something to do with the Vietnam war. Not an earthshaking statement, but certainly a deserved poke at the more American-centric view of the war.

In my book, America’s Modern Wars, I do have a chapter called “The Other Side” (Chapter 18). As I note in the intro to that chapter (page 224):

Warfare is always a struggle between at least two sides. Yet, the theoretical study of insurgencies always seems to be written primarily from the standpoint of one side, the counterinsurgents. We therefore briefly looked at what the other side was saying to see if there were any theoretical constructs that were proposed or supported by them. They obviously knew as much about insurgencies as the counterinsurgents.

We then examined the writings and interview transcripts of eight practitioners of insurgency and ended up trying to summarize their thoughts in one barely “easy-to-read” table (pages 228-229), the same as we did for ten counterinsurgent theorists (pages 187-201). The conclusion to this discussion was (pages 235-236):

The review of the insurgents shows an entirely different focus as to what is important in an insurgency than one gets from reading the “classical” counterinsurgent theorists. In the end, the insurgent is primarily focused on the cause. The military aspects of the insurgency seem to be secondary concerns…..On the other hand, the majority of the insurgents we reviewed actually won or managed a favorable results from their war in the long run (this certainly applies to Grivas and Itote). Perhaps their focus on the political cause, with the military aspects secondary, is an indication of the correct priorities. 

I do have a chapter on Vietnam in the book also (Chapter 22).

NATO’S Black Sea Force

NATO’S Black Sea Force

This article caught my attention: NATO launches Black Sea force as latest counter to Russia

It consists of a Romanian brigade of up to 4,000 soldiers, troops from nine other NATO countries (including Poland, Bulgaria, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Britain, Canada). In addition, there is a separate deployment of 900 U.S. troops in the area.

During the cold war, there was only one NATO member on the Black Sea, Turkey, but there were three Warsaw Pact members (Soviet Union, Romania and Bulgaria). Now there are three NATO members (Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria), several countries who have a Russian-supported separatist enclave or two in them  (Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova) and, of course, Russia. It has become an interesting area.


Size of U.S. Defense Budget

Size of U.S. Defense Budget

If you have kids, the conversations sometime wander into strange areas. I was told yesterday that the U.S. Defense budget was 54% of the U.S. budget. I said that not right, even though Siri was telling him otherwise.

It turns out that in 2015 that the U.S. Defense budget was 54% of U.S. discretionary spending, according to Wikipedia. This is a significant distinction. In 2015 the U.S. defense budget was $598 billion. In 2015 the U.S. Federal budget was $3.688 trillion actual (compared to 3.9 Trillion requested). This is 16% of the U.S. budget. As always, have to read carefully.

Just to complete the math, the U.S. GDP in 2015 was 18.037 Trillion (United Nations figures). So, federal budget is  20% of GDP (or 22% is the requested budget figure is used) and defense budget is 3.3% of GDP.

Latest figures are 583 billion for U.S. Defense budget (requested for 2017), 3.854 estimated expenditures for the U.S. Federal Budget for 2016 and 4.2 trillion requested for 2017, and 18.56 trillion for U.S. GDP (2016) and 19.3 trillion (preliminary for 2017).



And other wikipedia links.



No Russian Chemical Weapons

No Russian Chemical Weapons

Russia is claiming that it has destroyed all of its chemical weapons (I gather that there is no reason to doubt this, this has been going on for a while). The U.S has destroyed most its weapons, with complete elimination planned for 2023.


Used Kursk Books

Used Kursk Books

Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka: is selling off its used copies of the Kursk book at $118.80. This is the first time I have seen them selling the book for below $200. They have eight “used-acceptable” books at 118.80. Another seller has a “used-acceptable” for $114.82. has six “used-good” for $120.04, seven “used-very good” for $121.28, and three “used-like new” for $122.51.

Kind of mystified how ended up with 24 used books.

Secretary of the Army, take 3

Secretary of the Army, take 3

On 19 July 2017 Mark Thomas Esper was nominated to be the new Secretary of the Army. This is the third nomination for this position, as the first two nominees, Vincent Viola and Mark E. Green, withdrew. Not sure when the congress with review and approve this nomination. I am guessing it won’t happen in September. The acting Secretary of the Army is Ryan McCarthy (approved as Undersecretary of the Army in August 2017).

Mr. Esper’s background:

  1. Graduate of USMA (West Point) in 1986 with a BS in Engineering.
  2. Masters degree from Harvard in 1995.
  3. PhD from GWU in 2008.
  4. Served as in infantry officer with the 101st Airborne Division during the Gulf War (1990-1991).
  5. Over ten years of active duty (1986-1996?). I gather still in the Army Reserve as a Lt. Colonel.
  6. Chief of Staff of the Heritage Foundation, 1996-1998.
  7. Senior staffer for Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, 1998-2002.
  8. Policy Director House Armed Services Committee, 2001-2202.
  9. Deputy Assistance Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy, 2002-2004.
  10. Director of National Security Affairs for U.S. Senate, 2004-2006.
  11.  Executive Vice President at Aerospace Industries Association, 2006-2007.
  12. National Policy Director for Senator Fred Thompson’s 2008 Presidential campaign, 2007-2008.
  13. Executive Vice President of the Global Intellectual Property Center, and Vice President for Europe and Eurasia at U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2008-2010.
  14. Vice President of Government Relations at Raytheon, 2010 to present.

Wikipedia article:

Rocket Man

Rocket Man

One of the two best versions of this song, from 2011:

The other great version, from 1978:


Economics of Warfare 20

Economics of Warfare 20


This is the twentieth lecture from Professor Michael Spagat’s Economics of Warfare course that he gives at Royal Holloway University. It is posted on his blog Wars, Numbers and Human Losses at:

This lecture continues the discussion of terrorism, looking at whether poverty or poor education causes terrorism. The conventional wisdom, supported by a book by Alan Krueger, is that they do not. The lecture presents four studies. Of those, one study (Krueger) makes the argument that they do not (see pages 4-5), while three of the studies (Enders and Hoover, de Mesquita, and Benmelech) find a limited association (see pages 6-14, 15 and page 21 ). Some of these other three studies have to work pretty hard to make their point. One is left to conclude that while poverty may have some impact on degree of terrorism and recruitment of terrorists, it is probably not the main or determining factor. We probably need to look elsewhere for the root causes.

The link to his lecture is here:


The Pros And Cons Of Shooting Down North Korean Ballistic Missile Tests

The Pros And Cons Of Shooting Down North Korean Ballistic Missile Tests

Two THAAD interceptors and a Standard-Missile 3 Block IA missile were launched resulting in the intercept of two near-simultaneous medium-range ballistic missile targets during designated Flight Test Operational-01 (FTO-01) on September 10, 2013 in the vicinity of the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll/ Reagan Test Site and surrounding areas in the western Pacific. The test demonstrated the ability of the Aegis BMD and THAAD weapon systems to function in a layered defense architecture. Photos taken by Missile Defense Agency. (Photo Credit: Missile Defense Agency)

On 3 September, North Korea tested what it claimed to be a thermonuclear warhead which can be mounted on a ballistic missile. While analysts debate whether the device detonated actually was a deliverable thermonuclear bomb, it is clear that the regime of Kim Jong Un is making progress in developing the capability to strike the United States and its regional allies with nuclear weapons.

Is there anything that can be done to halt North Korea weapons development and mitigate its threatening behavior? At the moment, there appear to be few policy options, and each of them carries significant risk.

  1. Launch a preemptive military strike.
  2. Enlist or coerce China into reigning in North Korea’s adventurism.
  3. Accept the fact that North Korea is now the ninth nuclear power in the world—with the capability to strike the U.S. and its regional allies with nuclear-armed ballistic missiles—and adopt the Cold War approach of containing it militarily and limiting its nuclear arsenal through negotiation.

Would attempting to shoot down forthcoming North Korean ballistic missile test launches be a viable policy alternative for the U.S. and its allies? Geof Clark proposed this option in a recent post:

I would argue that the U.S. use the United Nations as a forum to define the parameters for any possible North Korean missile launch that should be intercepted with allied BMD [ballistic missile defense] assets If, for example, a North Korean missile looks likely to hit close to Tokyo, based upon the trajectory identified by Aegis ships at sea, then BMD should shoot it down. By making our rules of engagement public, this would provide a clear signal to China and Russia that the U.S. and its allies intend to use their BMD capabilities (and potentially learn from any failures) against live enemy missiles, but also temper the risk of escalation into any further missile volleys between any parties.

A number of commentators questioned why the U.S. or Japan elected not to attempt to intercept North Korea’s 29 August ballistic missile test that flew directly over Japanese territory. A variety of technical and political issues were cited as justification for restraint. The U.S. and Japan resorted to the usual mix of condemnation and calls for further economic sanctions.

What are the arguments for and against a policy of intercepting North Korean missile tests?


  1. The main argument in favor of this is that it could change the narrative with North Korea, which goes like this: Kim’s government stages some provocation and the U.S. and its allies respond with outraged rhetoric, diplomatic moves to further isolate Kim’s regime, and the imposition of a new round of economic sanctions  It is hard to see how much more isolated North Korea can be made, however, and  the vast majority of its trade is with a benevolent China across a porous border. This story has played out repeatedly, yet nothing really changes. Shooting down North Korea’s missile tests could change this stale narrative by preventing it from conducting provocations without consequence.
  2. It would send a strong message to North Korea.
  3. It is not out of line with the provocations North Korea has done over the years (for example: sinking a South Korean patrol boat in 2002).
  4. It is a step short of a preemptive strike by the U.S. and its allies.
  5. It could stall North Korean missile development (especially the ballistic cap, which the North Koreans still have not developed).
  6. It could provide the basis for negotiations.
  7. It is a credible threat (unlike threatening trade sanctions against China to coerce it into restraining North Korea).
  8. It would embarrass Kim’s government by demonstrating that its threats are no longer effective.


  1. Which missile tests would be shot down? The U.S. has already declared that any North Korean missile that appears to be targeted at the territory of the U.S. or its allies would be engaged by BMDs and considered an act of war. (The determination that the 29 August test was not aimed at friendly territory was a major factor in the decision not to engage it.) The Trump administration has repeatedly warned the North Koreans of a massive military response to any perceived attack.
    1. Intercepting a North Korean test flying over Japan or into international waters would likely be interpreted by Kim’s regime as a deliberate escalation of the conflict. Such an act would probably extinguish what some have seen as signals from North Korea of a willingness to engage in diplomatic talks, and could precipitate counter-provocations in what is already a highly tense stand-off.
    2. Some have speculated that the North Koreans may attempt to launch a ballistic missile carrying what many believe to be a recently-tested thermonuclear warhead. The consequences of an attempt to intercept such a test would inevitably be dire.
    3. What about targeting North Korean short-range ballistic missiles, or long-range missile tested at short ranges? Intercepting these tests would pose formidable technical challenges for U.S. and allied BMD systems. The risk of failed intercepts would increase and the level of provocation to the North Koreans would be very high.
  2. China might interpret an attempted intercept as a violation of North Korean sovereignty. Although the Chinese have expressed frustration with North Korea’s behavior, it remains a Chinese client state. While certainly provocative, North Korea’s missile tests over Japan are not a clear cut violation of international law. China remains committed to defending North Korea against foreign threats. Intercepting an allegedly “peaceful� ballistic missile test could easily bring China to North Korea’s overt assistance. This would run contrary to the Trump administration’s avowed policy of enlisting the Chinese to restrain Kim’s government and raises the potential for a direct U.S/China confrontation.
  3. It is not at all clear that key U.S. allies South Korea and Japan would support a policy of intercepting North Korean missile tests not aimed at their territory. The U.S. needs permission from these countries to deploy its theater BMD systems within range of North Korean missiles. South Korea is already ambivalent about hosting U.S. BMDs and Japan has indicated that it will maintain its own policy regarding intercepting potential threats. An aggressive U.S. policy could risk damaging or splitting the alliance.
  4. A vow to intercept North Korean missile tests would place enormous pressure on U.S. and allied BMDs to perform effectively, a capability that remains highly uncertain. While theater BMDs have performed better in tests than the U.S. intercontinental Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, it is unlikely they can intercept every potential target. Any weaknesses demonstrated by theater BMD increases the political effectiveness of North Korea’s putative ballistic missile capability. The current ambiguity works in the favor of the U.S. and its allies. Dispelling the uncertainty would be a high price to pay in any circumstance but defense of U.S. or allied territory.
  5. It is not evident that suppressing North Korean missile tests at this point would have a significant impact on its capabilities. North Korea has already demonstrated that its ballistic missiles work well enough to pose a clear threat to the U.S. and its allies. Further testing would only refine existing technology to reduce the probability of technical failures.

Like the other available policy options, this one too carries a mix of potential benefits and risky downsides. The consequences of attempting to implement it cannot be completely foreseen. What does seem clear is that the existing approach does not seem to have worked. Successfully resolving a problem like North Korea is likely to take time, patience, and no small amount of imagination.


Status of Books

Status of Books

War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat: For some reason, does not have a Kindle edition available at the moment (I recall that they did). I have talked to the publisher and they are looking into it. The paperback edition is for sale on and of course, University of Nebraska Press. I have heard that some people overseas have gotten copies, but other people are having a problem. I also have the publisher looking into that. There is one 5-star review of the book on I don’t know the reviewer (meaning it is not a planted review).

Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka: The book has been selling at a consistent rate this year, and at that rate, it will be out of stock in the second half of 2018. If you are thinking about getting it, you probably don’t want to tarry too long. There are currently no plans for a re-print.

America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam: I do consider this the most significant of my three books, and of course, it is the one with the worse sales. I guess the study and analysis of insurgencies is passé, as we have done such a great job of winning these type of wars.


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