Bob's Rules of Infantry Combat

V1.1

Much of what I thought I knew about infantry combat was wrong. I had spent so much time contemplating mechanised warfare that the plight of the average infantryman in combat had passed me by. Then I started working on my firepower essay which entailed reading more than hundred references and slowly I came to appreciate the nature of the infantry battle. What follows are my thoughts on what an infantry battle looks like. They are backed up by extensive reading, but the interpretations is mine, hence the title: Bob's Rules of Infantry Combat.

The scope of these musings starts around 1918 with the dawn of fire and manoeuvre tactics at the end of WW1, though many lessons are applicable before that date too. I believe that they still apply today, though good evidence of recent combat results is hard to find. There is good data for WW2, Korea and Vietnam, and there is some analysis work done in the 80's. After that sources dry up, I guess they are out there but we'll have to wait for them to be declassified.

Although this is labelled as "Infantry Combat" many of the rules apply to combat in general not just infantry. In many cases I have taken examples outside of infantry combat in order to make a point.

Rule 1a: Don't join the infantry.

Rule 1b: Don't send replacements directly to the front line with experienced men.

Rule 1c: Don't get promoted

Rule 2a: Combat is the most stressful thing you'll ever do.

Rule 2b: Everything in combat takes a long time.

Rule 2c: (nearly) Everyone is suppressed all the time

Rule 3a: Many soldiers don't bother shooting or are otherwise utterly useless in combat

Rule 3b: Six Gutful Men

Rule 3c: Somewhat less Gutful Men

Rule 4: Everyone is Invisible

Rule 5a: "Couldn't hit the side of a barn at 10m"

Rule 5b: Gutful Men shoot better

Rule 5c: Heavy weapons shoot better

Rule 6a: The rifle doesn't make that much difference

Rule 6b: Automatic fire is a good way of wasting ammo

Rule 6c: The boys (and girls) like to make some noise

Rule 6d: Machine guns are awesome but some are more awesome than others

Rule 6e: Overkill, enough is enough

Rule 6f: Mortars and artillery hurt

Rule 6g: If you can't get a mortar use an RPG

Rule 6h: They don't like it up 'em

Rule 7a: Skirmishes are important

Rule 7b: Fire, fire and manoeuvre

Rule 7c: Fiddling with squad organisation makes no difference

Rule 8a: We shall shock them

Rule 8b: Tanks are scary.

Rule 8c: Leadership is critical, the four top factors for morale

Rule 8d: Casualties are bad, but not that bad

Rule 9: The woodpeckers will be OK

Reading between the lines

RBL 10a: Special forces are special

RBL 10b: Snipers are lethal

RBL 11a: Loss of leaders leads to loss of impetus

RBL 11b: Elite units won't remain elite for long in sustained combat

Conclusions

Rule 1a: Don't join the infantry.

Its very, very, dangerous. Any other job is safer. Hembolt: www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a268787.pdf shows that in WW2 the infantry regiments of the 28th US Infantry took 93% of the total casualties. It would be expected that in an infantry division the infantry would take the casualties, but this division had both an armoured battalion and a tank destroyer battalion attached. The infantry took 4526 casualties and three infantry regiments have 3251 x 3 men so that  equals 46.4% casualties. The tank battalion took 80 casualties out of a strength of 729 (10%)  and The TD Battalion took 102 casualties out for a strength of 797 (12.7%). You may have thought that going into battle with four other smelly blokes surrounded by cordite and petrol was a daft idea, but a tank is armoured and that keeps the artillery and bullets out. Basically being in the infantry is four times more dangerous than any other job in the army.

Even in armoured divisions the infantry take the majority of the losses. http://professionalwargaming.co.uk/TheRelationshipBetweenBattleDamageAndCombatPerformance.pdf notes that in the Battle of the Bulge in the US 6th Armored Division the infantry took 70% of the casualties and the tanks took 13%

Rule 1b: Don't send replacements directly to the front line with experienced men.

You might be thinking the experienced men would train the inexperienced "on the job". However the one thing the experienced men are very experienced at is taking cover. As the enemy can only shoot at the targets they can see, and its the inexperienced men that stick out, they are the ones that get shot. Page 31 of http://lmharchive.ca/use-of-infantry-weapons-and-equipment-in-korea-operations-research-office/ has some descriptions of this. The WW2 experience was similar: http://professionalwargaming.co.uk/TheRelationshipBetweenBattleDamageAndCombatPerformance.pdf, "New men suffered heavy casualties because they were not adjusted to battlefield conditions or acquainted with members of their units". Worse from a combat effectiveness viewpoint was the fact that, "The dwindling stock of veterans rapidly reduced then because these men had to expose themselves more often in providing needed leadership for the large drafts of replacements"

Rule 1c: Don't get promoted

Infantryman isn't quite the most dangerous job in the army. Leader of infantrymen is the most dangerous. Good leaders lead, which means inspiring your men by example, which means standing up. First. There is a fair chance that you will be the only target the enemy can see well, which means you will attract all the enemy fire. WO203/700 examines the fighting at Milestone 54 in Burma: 37% of other ranks were hit while standing (the rest were lying down) but 80% of the officers were hit while standing. In the Falklands Officer and NCO KIA were 42% of the total dead. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falklands_War#Casualties ). In the Yom Kippur NCOs and officers made up 33% of the casualties (DEFE70/587), Going back to Hembolt:  www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a268787.pdf  on pg 7-10 we can see casualties by speciality. At first glance it looks like Rifleman took the most casualties at 12.2 per 1000 men per day. However there are many riflemen and many fewer squad leaders, roughly a ratio of 1 in 10. Riflemen took 1.22% casualties per day but squad leaders took 1.5% per day. The casualty rate for 2nd Lieutenants is roughly 32%! WO203/700 shows 42% of battalion officers became casualties.

Rule 2a: Combat is the most stressful thing you'll ever do.

Combat is dangerous; everyone is very scared. Everyone is massively stressed. Very stressed people don't think well and make bad decisions see: http://projects.mindtel.com/2005/SDSU.Geol600.Sensor_Networks/sensornets.refs/2003.%20ASC.%20Army%20Studies%20Conference/IO-01.pdf, "the magnitude of the deficits observed was greater than those produced by alcohol intoxication or by treatment with sedating drugs". It should be borne in mind that the testing was done after an (admittedly extreme) peace time exercise not actual war.

Rule 2b: Everything in combat takes a long time.

One of the author's favourite quotes, unfortunately un-sourced, goes like this, "consider a 1970's British army infantry platoon attack on a squad or MG nest that were done from assembly area to reorg in 20 minutes in Aldershot when reality was 3+ hours in Falklands in 1982". A study of infantry advance rates in battle WO291/1169 showed the average advance rate against opposition is 724 yards an hour. Being shot at is a powerful disincentive to putting you head up and moving forward.

Rule 2c: (nearly) Everyone is suppressed all the time

Suppression is not well understood despite many experiments being run. The US during the Cold War ran SUPEX and SASE to try and determine the suppressive effects of fire. As none of the participants were in any danger at any time the author questions how relevant the results were to combat conditions.

For the purposes of this essay suppression is defined as not being able to shoot.

The evidence from war is sparse, but pretty much as soon as the shooting gets close everyone hugs the dirt. Lt Col Wigram on Sicily in 1943 had some interesting words to say about this (http://mr-home.staff.shef.ac.uk/hobbies/Wignam.txt), "The battle goes something like this:- Enemy MGs open fire, the whole platoon lie down." and "I have made particularly careful observation on this point and have checked it up with a large number of platoon commanders. As soon as our MGs open up the Germans (who are always using tracer) stop . Even inaccurate fire from our Brens will quieten the Spandaus until we have finished firing" Sydney Jary, in 18 Platoon, described what it was like to be under Spandau fire in Normandy  "There must have been about twelve machine guns firing at one time. This devastating display of firepower stopped the battalion dead in its tracks". https://inews.co.uk/culture/endured-perfect-hell-real-life-accounts-somme/ has an account from WW1 by Lt Alfred Bundy, "Suddenly however an appalling rifle and ­machine-gun fire opened against us and my men commenced to fall. I shouted “down”, but most of those that were still not hit had already taken what cover they could find". A German reporter on the Eastern Front (http://tankarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/german-soldier-quality.html) noted of recruits, "When the first shots were fired, the recruits buried themselves in the snow and were useless for battle. When the officers tried to encourage them, they pretended to be dead. When the Russians brought in tanks, they got up and ran away". The effect was noted in the Falklands verses regular soldiers, "The disruption of the attack is out of all proportion to the manpower and weapons utilisation of the defender" (DEFE19/276). Paul Frick (https://www.quora.com/In-a-combat-situation-how-does-experience-make-the-difference-between-two-soldiers-provided-that-they-have-similar-physical-traits-and-training) ex USMC Sergeant has this to say, "Experienced soldiers tend to be super cautious which is not desirable in certain situations. It can slow down your movement". In effect many soldiers self suppress.

Surveys of soldiers in Vietnam, all of who were decorated for bravery, indicated that 74-78% of soldiers fiirst reacted to fire by hitting the ground or moving to some sort of cover. Kushnick and Duffy: www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/519874.pdf. Only 5-9% immediately returned fire. In 59 to 89% of cases this was triggered by hearing enemy shooting (the variance depends on whether the soldier was attacking or defending). The survey then notes that only 11-15% of men withdrew or hunkered down as their second reaction.

The following table is interesting

Even light inaccurate fire suppresses two thirds of soldiers (its worth noting that these are highly subjective measures)

Kushnick and Duffy note in further interviews with "ordinary" soldiers (i.e. not medal winners) tjat their initial reaction to shooting was much the same as the medal winners: 82% took some sort of protective action, only 9% shot back. As their second reaction 20% kept hunkered down. Its interesting to note that 78% reported their second reaction took less than 15 seconds and 38% said they reacted in 5 sec.

Interestingly psychological research shows that when we are scared time subjectively slows down. So for those involved in a battle things seem to take even longer perhaps by as much as a third. https://www.fastcompany.com/3064113/how-to-trick-your-brain-to-slow-down-time This means that the times above might be an exaggeration.

There is no evidence about the effect of suppression on the "Gutful Men" (see rule 3b). It stands to reason that these more effective soldiers are harder to suppress, otherwise they would be no more effective than their comrades. However in the surveys above the gutful men (medal winners) perform as well as the "ordinary" soldiers. So it seems that suppression doesn't stifle shooting but it may well stifle accurate shooting by the majority of troops. The author believes that the lack of accuracy in combat shooting compared to peace time (see Rule 3a below) is basically caused by suppression.

Rule 3a: Many soldiers don't bother shooting or are otherwise utterly useless in combat

SLA Marshal's figure of 15% is infamous. In any combat he discovered that only 15% of men used their weapons. (http://mr-home.staff.shef.ac.uk/hobbies/MaF1.txt) Even under the direst circumstances only 25% of men shot. These figures still stir up controversy and Marshal didn't keep proper statistics see http://www.canadianmilitaryhistory.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/4-Engen-Marshall-under-fire.pdf  for a refutation of SLA Marshall's work. However, Lt Col Wigram had this to say: "Every platoon can be analysed as follows: six gutful men who will go anywhere and do anything, 12 `sheep' who will follow a short distance behind if they are well led, and 9-6 who will run away". Six out of twenty four is 25% - does that look familiar?

By the time of the Korean war the US army had reacted to SLA Marshall's reports and circa 50% of men were firing according to Marshall. By the time of Vietnam that figure had increased to c80%. www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a191403.pdf . Unfortunately making the sheep shoot made no difference to their combat effectiveness. The following quote is illustrative, though it's from the Australians in Vietnam rather than the Americans, "its a tragic fact, and one that we should not conceal; that on average we couldn't hit the side of a barn at ten metres with a shotgun" and, "In the heat of battle many soldiers pointed their weapon in the general direction of the the enemy without having identified a specific target and pulled the trigger, often over and over again." https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/37980987/infantry-marksmanship-and-combat-effectiveness-australian-armyRowland's work on infantry combat noted, "moreover the evidence points to this (the average kill rate) being made up of one rifleman in eight inflicting an average of four casualties and the remainder contributing nothing", see: The Stress of Battle by David Rowland.

http://www.benning.army.mil/library/content/Virtual/Documents/Hardcopy/paper/D767.67_A21_enclosureno2.pdf

Whether they are firing or not a large number of soldiers are ineffectual, see Rule 5a for a explanation.

Rule 3b: Six Gutful Men

The corollary of Rule 3a is that there are some infantry men who are absolutely lethal. These are the "Gutful Men" identified by Wigram. Marshall also comments on this phenomena, "In the main the same men were carrying the fire fight for each company day after day. The willing riflemen, grenadiers, and bazooka men who had led the attack and worked the detail of destruction upon the enemy on a Monday would carry the attack when the fight was renewed in a different part of the island on Wednesday" It's a well know fact that a handful of man are killers and the rest are not. It applies to infantry, anti tank gunners, tank crews and fighter pilots. See Thomas Horner http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a518282.pdf  and http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a227842.pdf (page 312) for some examples, e.g. in manoeuvres 20% of the tanks do 80% of the kills.

Rowland identifies most of the heroes as officers and senior NCO's: 14% of officers, 8.4% of Senior NCOs and only 1.3% of other ranks were heroic (defined as being awarded a medal): http://ismor.cds.cranfield.ac.uk/14th-symposium-1997/assessing-the-effect-of-heroism-on-combat-effectiveness/@@download/paper/rowland.pdf . This is confirmed by Horner who says (about tanks), "The biggest killers were crews commanded by officers." In the jungles of Malaysia the M1 or M2 carbine was in short supply so only issued to officers. It was found that the carbine only required 80 shots to produce a kill, whereas an Owen SMG required 252 shots and a Sten Gun 317. The good old bolt action rifle was better at 140 shots, but still not as good as the carbine (WO291/1668).

The astute amongst readers will not that Wigram's percentages and Rowland's don't match. It follows that to be a "hero" (i.e. to get a medal) a person must be gutful however the converse does not always apply.

Rule 3c: Somewhat less Gutful Men

Wigram notes of Gutful Men, "I would say that casualties in this group are often 100 per cent per month" which the author believes is a conservative estimate. See Rule 1c, remembering that many Gutful Men are officers or senior NCOs.

Rule 4: Everyone is Invisible

Its very hard to spot infantry if they are halted, as infantry almost inevitably halts in cover. Marshall comments on the "Empty Battlefield", "The harshest thing about the field is that it is empty. No people stir about. There are little or no signs of action. Overall there is a great quiet which seems more ominous than the occasional tempest of fire" and "I have heard them (infantry men) say after their first try at combat: 'By God, there was never a situation like it. We saw no one. We were fighting phantoms.'" This was in the "open" terrain of NW Europe not the dense jungles of Vietnam. There have been numerous studies of the distance at which shooting takes place. The following graphs are from: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/b004383.pdf

The terrain in the Ardennes is fairly mixed, with much of it being open farmland. It can be seen from the graph that about 63% of the time the maximum LOS from a defensive position is 300m or less. Not surprisingly shooting distance are consequentially rather short.

 

About two thirds of engagements take place under 100m, and about 85% take place under 300m. As can be seen there are no shots over 500m. This has a drastic effect on the range kills are scored at.

 

Most kills take place under 100yds and pretty much all kills under 200yds.  One interesting thing to note is that casualties drop when solders get closer than 75-100yds.

Just in case you might believe that fighting in somewhere open like the desert makes a difference to this general rule, I find the case of the New Zealanders fighting for Point 175 in 1941 enlightening, "Colonel C. E. Weir of 6 Field Regiment went with the Brigadier up to a vantage point to have a look and make a plan… and there wasn't a thing to be seen and I could have sworn that there were no Huns holding that hill" and "it was exasperating that the ground in front still clung doggedly to its secrets, and there was no sign of the enemy but his deadly fire." http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2-2Epi-t1-g1-t11-body.html

https://ndiastorage.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/ndia/2005/smallarms/wednesday/arvidsson.pdf shows that desert ranges are a bit longer but still 80% are under 300m

Rule 5a: "Couldn't hit the side of a barn at 10m"

Shooting in combat is poor, very poor. Its much worse than even the very worse performances in peace time. The table below shows the dispersion in mils. One mil dispersion is a miss by a meter at 1000m range, so its 10cm at 100m.

Rifles Range in metres
Accuracy in mils 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500
Wartime (Salt) 12.5 9.0 7.4 6.5 5.8 5.4 5.0 4.7 4.4 4.2
Worst peace 8.0 5.4 4.3 3.7   2.9   2.5   2.2
Average peace 2.0 1.5 1.3 1.2 1.1 1.1        
Hitting Standing Target                    
Wartime (Salt) 5.8% 2.8% 1.8% 1.4% 1.1% 0.9% 0.8% 0.7% 0.6% 0.5%
Wartime (Rowland) 4.5% 3.1% 2.2% 1.6% 1.3% 1.0%        
Worst peace 13.4% 7.5% 5.4% 4.2%   3.0%   2.3%   1.9%
Average peace 89.9% 61.4% 43.1% 32.3% 25.4% 20.3%        
Hitting Prone Target                    
Wartime (Salt) 1.0% 0.5% 0.3% 0.2% 0.2% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1%
Wartime (Rowland) 1.6% 0.7% 0.4% 0.3% 0.2% 0.2%        
Worst peace 2.3% 1.3% 0.9% 0.7%   0.5%   0.4%   0.3%
Average peace 32.2% 14.6% 8.9% 6.2% 4.7% 3.6%        

The standing target has the area of a US E Type Target and the prone target area has the area of an F Type target. www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a228398.pdf has the peacetime accuracy figures and www.ismor.com/33ismor_archive/papers/33ismor_salt_paper.pdf has the wartime figures labelled "Salt". The wartime accuracy figures labelled "Rowland" arise from the fact that in "Stress of Battle" Roland notes rifle fire is degraded by a factor of 20. The Salt and Rowland methodologies independently produce hitting chances remarkably close to each other.

The first interesting point is accuracy gets worse the closer you get to the target. That doesn't necessarily mean the hit chance gets lower as the apparent size of the target gets bigger as you close. However, the hit chance does not get a big as you might expect as you close with the enemy.

In wartime hitting a prone enemy  is highly unlikely as can be seen from the table. This is mostly because soldiers don't actually aim at their targets: "A survey , indicates that 80% of rifle fire was pointed rather than aimed when targets were visible enemy soldiers." www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a118713.pdf and "Small arms fire in the offensive is disorganized and un-aimed, and thus damage inflicted is slight", Guards Major General Vekhin - http://tankarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/dp-in-combat.html. Marshal noted that on his first combat assignment, "...green US Marines with jittery nerves hitting the beach and blazing away with their weapons at anything that moved and many things that did not" Quoted from http://www.canadianmilitaryhistory.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/4-Engen-Marshall-under-fire.pdf  The effect was also noted on the Eastern Front by the Germans (http://tankarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/german-soldier-quality.html), in this case pertaining to newly arrived replacements, "..., recruits, upon hearing the first shots, hid behind cover and started firing their rifles in the air uselessly"

Rule 5b: Gutful Men shoot better

Though there is limited evidence of how much better. Rowland suggests that heroes (or Gutful Men) shoot during war as well as they do in peacetime. However as we can see from Rule 5a that peacetime shooting is of variable quality. Roland doesn't really give any evidence why he believes heroes shoot at peacetime levels but if we go with this assumption they would be between 3 and 20 times as effective pending on what level of peacetime shooting we go with. His analysis of AT gun shooting concludes that heroes shoot five times better than the rank and file: ismor.cds.cranfield.ac.uk/14th-symposium-1997/assessing-the-effect-of-heroism-on-combat-effectiveness/@@download/paper/rowland.pdf .WO291/1668 suggests that officers shoot between 1.5 and 4 times better than the average rank and file.  http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a518282.pdf shows 20% of the tanks do 80% of the kills. If there are 100 tanks doing 100 kills, then 20 tanks do 80 kills for 4 each. 80 other tanks only do 20 kills or 0.25 each. That means the good tanks are 16 times as effective as  the poor tanks.

You can take you pick as to where you think the average is. For what its worth the author guesses the range of three to five time more effective is probably about right.

Rule 5c: Heavy weapons shoot better

Marshal noted that the participation rates in combat were higher for crew served weapons than riflemen. This is backed up by Rowland in Stress of Battle, who notes that rifle fire is degraded by a factor of  20 compared to trials but MG fire is only degraded by a factor of 5. WO292/242 indicates that MGs were only degraded by a factor of 3 and mortars by a factor of 4 compared to what might be expected in trials. It has been suggested that MGs fire better than rifles as its standard practice (at least in the British Army) to put an NCO, who has a higher chance of being gutful, in close proximity to the gun. Also see Rule 6c.

Rule 6a: The rifle doesn't make that much difference

As we have seen in rule 5a most soldiers shooting is lamentable. Its so bad that the errors made by the shooter far outweigh the intrinsic accuracy or inaccuracy of the rifle. So if doesn't matter how accurate the average infantryman's rifle is. (See www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a228398.pdf )

Although there is much on the web about the poor stopping power of the 5.56mm bullet, all the scientific evidence indicates that at normal combat ranges its as lethal as the 7.62mm. Indeed the British tested the 9mm Sten Gun (which fires a low power pistol bullet) and found it perfectly acceptable at 300yds (WO491/276). Thus smaller bullets are preferable as a soldier can carry more of them. There is a good reason why 5.56mm replaced larger calibres as the standard bullet for rifles.

There is some evidence the 7.62mm is more "suppressive" than the 5.56mm (http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a081134.pdf ) but this is probably irrelevant, see Rule 2c. It may be worth something when shooting at Gutful Men who probably have a more discerning sense of what's dangerous or not compared to the "normal" soldier.

What is required is rock steady reliability. You can't shoot at the enemy if the gun is jammed. www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a168577 says, "Reliability is perhaps the most important feature of a combat rifle. The "problem" with the M16 in Vietnam was reliability - it would not shoot every time the trigger was pulled. The burst control mechanism degrades reliability - a serious problem."

Given that most fighting takes place at short ranges against fleeting targets "point-ability" is a desirable feature. This is a combination of light weight and shortness. It is the driving force behind modern US forces swapping the M16 for the M4 Carbine. The British in Malaysia ran a number of small-arms trials. There were designed a shot range trials verses moving and pop-up targets. (WO291/166). The the trials the light and point-able Owen SMG scored 2-3 times the number of hits compared to the less manoeuvrable Bren Gun. The Owen SMG remains better than the Bren out to 125yds, despite the fact that the Bren has a reputation for accuracy and the Owen does not.

Rule 6b: Automatic fire is a good way of wasting ammo.

For rifles only the first shot of a burst has a reasonable chance of being on target. The recoil induced barrel climb will ensure the rest fly off off ineffectually to heaven. Figure 11 www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/713552.pdf shows that semi auto fire has at least as much chance of hitting a target as auto fire. Of course it's more economical as its one bullet rather than 2 or 3.

There is some evidence that automatic fire at very short ranges may be advantageous, certainly in trials (WO291/166) fire in bursts scored more hits than single shots at short range. A perusal of the graphs indicates that single shots become more effective than bursts between 35 and 125 yards depending on target type and range.

http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/722394.pdf on page 16 has a discussion on the factors determining whether semi-automatic or automatic fire is better. It concludes semi automatic is better in daylight, but full auto may be better at night.

All this is trials data, and we know that dispersion is very much higher in combat (see rule 5a). We know that the second and subsequent shots of a burst are less accurate than the first (otherwise automatic fire would be the clear winner in terms of effectiveness, which its not). In combat the second and subsequent shots will be even less accurate than the trials shots. From http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a240488.pdf we have the relative dispersion rates for M16 burst and semi auto.

It can be clearly seen semi-auto is more accurate than full auto. The consequences of this are that semi-auto and auto hit almost the same number of targets: 78.4% in semi auto and 77.0% in burst fire. Not all the burst fire hits were first round hits, 13.4% were second or third round hits. The trials did support the notion that automatic fire at close ranges is better than semi auto, with a "significant" increase in hits at 50m.

Unfortunately the author can find no trials comparing bolt action rifles with semi-auto rifles, except for the special case of sniper rifles. However the practical rates of fire are similar at 10-20 rounds per minute, they have the same "point-ability" and fire the same bullets. The author concludes that under combat conditions there is no discernable difference.

In conclusion, with the exception of very close ranges (c50m), there is little to choose from between different types of rifle. Given the usual small arms engagement ranges there is probably little to chose between a rifle and an SMG.

Rule 6c: The boys (and girls) like to make some noise

Automatic fire raises morale.

Although there is little casualty producing difference between different rifle types, psychologically automatic weapons are heartening. Indirect evidence of this can be seen from the firing rates from Korea and Vietnam - see Rule 3a. Marshall's observation that its the squad's automatic weapons that do most of the shooting may well be attributed to this factor. In https://archive.org/details/DTIC_AD0000342 Marshall notes that rifle men cluster around the automatic weapons before stating to fire (in this case the US infantry has the semi-auto M1 rifle)

www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a168577 has much to say on this matter: "One of the reasons the M16 was acquired was because soldiers in combat felt they were being outgunned by an enemy armed with an automatic AK-47. Many times it is a very close call as to which side has fire superiority. The psychological impact of fully automatic fire can often make the difference in the unit's perception of how effective their fire is. There are also some data to suggest that a soldier is more willing to expose himself and return fire if he has a fully automatic weapon, as opposed to a more controlled way of delivering fire. It has been well established that, during World War II and Korea, a large percentage of soldiers failed to fire their semi-automatic weapons during some enemy contacts. In Vietnam, armed with a fully automatic weapon, almost all soldiers returned fire. Much of the Vietnam firing was "wasted", i.e., it didn't hit anybody, however, it was a rare exception when individuals or unit got into trouble because they had expended all of their available ammunition. The point can be made that there is nothing wrong with firing a lot of bullets if ammunition stocks are retained at safe levels."

The is plenty of qualitative evidence that automatic fire is heartening, but the author has yet to find any quantitative evidence.

Rule 6d: Machine guns are awesome but some are more awesome than others

The author's research indicates that the average machine gun produces as many casualties as 15 riflemen, see the Firepower essay.  This appears to hold even in situations where the MG's superior range over the rifle cannot be fully exploited, such as Vietnam and Burma.

The author is currently researching the difference between different classes of machine guns. For example a British 1906 trails report (WO140/9) says, ".it was calculated that from our previous experience with the Rexer that it would be found that the fire effect of three of them would be about equal to that of one Maxim." the Rexer is a magazine fed LMG with a bipod. It has no barrel change. The Maxim is a tripod mounted MMG, which is belt fed and water-cooled.

Preliminary findings by the author indicate that average effectiveness, relative to a rifleman are as follows:

Some of these are based on very scanty references so are subject to change. For example the BAR figures are just based on the number of kills by the Turkish battalion in Korea. It should also be noted in Korea it was a habit to dispense with the bipod which almost certainly had a detrimental effect on accuracy. The Rexer was in the same category as the BAR and if the British testers are to be believed it would have an effectiveness index of c.9, i.e. roughly the same as a Bren.

Rule 6e: Overkill, enough is enough

Trials have illustrated that doubling the number of MGs does not produce double the casualties. www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/815051.pdf indicates that two MGs only do 75% of the hits per round fired as a single MG. http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a074296.pdf shows that three MGs do pretty much the same number of hits as two, so 66% of the hits per round fired. If we plot these points in Excel and do a trend line, we can tentatively extrapolate the trend and find at 10 or more MGs each extra adds only 25% of the firepower of a single MG.

What this means is the much vaunted German WW2 Panzer Grenadiers with two MG34 per squad are not quite as effective as you might expect.

Interestingly in peacetime trials the same effect can be seen to a lesser extent with rifles. ORO http://www.cfspress.com/sharpshooters/pdfs/Operational-Requrements-For-An-Infantry-Hand-Weapon.pdf noted a c10% degradation when 4 men were firing simultaneously compared to individual fire. http://www.forgottenweapons.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/1959-Rifle-Squad-Armed-with-a-Light-Weight-High-Velocity-Rifle.pdf showed that an 11 man squad would on average produce only 62% of the the hits per shooter as a 5 man squad.

The primary reason for this is that effective fire control is very difficult. In "Stress of Battle" Roland has the following to say, "... the more targets are hit the more incidence of overkill. In other words as the intensity of fire relative to target size increases so does overkill, from a factor of 1 at 20% casualties to almost 3 at 95% casualties"  This means that if an enemy has taken 20% casualties each target was, on average, hit once. If the enemy takes 95% casualties each target was on average hit three times. So if there were 100 enemy it takes 20 shots to kill 20% but 285 shots to kill 95%, over 10 times as many! The "obvious" solution is to carefully control the fire of individual weapons so they don't pick on the same target. Roland notes that even when shooters are aware of the issue they still overkill at the same rate. Roland's research applies to armour engagements but the author can see no reason why the principles should not apply to infantry combat, though the amount of overkill might vary.

How much this holds in real combat, rather than in peacetime trials, is undetermined, given that many members of the squad are not shooting or shooting very poorly (i.e. there is less chance of overkill), see Rules 3a and 5a.

Rule 6f: Mortars and artillery hurt.

The author's research indicates that the average mortar produces as many casualties as 53 riflemen and artillery as many as 42 riflemen, see the Firepower essay

British WW2 research indicated that 0.02 to 0.08lb per hour per square yard was sufficient to neutralise enemy in open positions. So that means for an 100 x 100yd area it requires 8000lb or 320 25pdr shells. "Normal" 25pdr rate of fire is 3 rounds per minute, so one gun fires 180 rounds an hour, so two guns can do the required firing. That means a battery of eight guns can neutralise an area 400yd by 100yd. Neutralise in this case means those within the bombardment can neither shoot or move. Neutralisation continues as long as the shells are falling. See http://nigelef.tripod.com/wt_of_fire.htm which takes its data from WO291/946.

If enough HE is lobbed at the enemy it will rob him of his will to resist after the bombardment is lifted. Again this applies to open positions. 0.1lb per hour is deemed sufficient to cause a collapse in morale. 1lb per hour per square yard for 15 minutes is also enough to produce collapse. Taking the latter example, if firing at a 100 x 100yd area it requires 100000lb or 4000 25pdr shells. As a gun fires 65 rounds in 15 minutes it would take 60 guns to achieve the required effect. Even if switching to rapid rates it would still be 30 guns. The longer bombardment is more realistic, only requiring one tenth of the guns, so four hours of fire by an 8 gun battery would be more than enough to produce collapse.

Note this does not apply to units with overhead cover. WO291/946 notes that such positions need a direct hit by a shell capable of damaging them to be effective. This will, of course, be somewhat terminal for the occupants.

Rule 6g: If you can't get a mortar use an RPG

Vietnam casualty figures attest to he lethality of the RPG, see the firepower essay for some examples. Normalising the data shows that on average an RPG is worth 42 rifles. Given the limited ammo carried by a RPG gunner this is a significant effect.

The British used the M72 LAW  and Carl Gustav in a similar role in the Falklands, "The Scots Guards found the 66mm LAW and 84mm CARL GUSTAV to be very effective against troops behind sangars" (DEFE19/276)

Rule 6h: They don't like it up 'em

Very few bayonet casualties occur yet it appears the bayonet is a decisive weapon. Rowland in "Stress of Combat" reports that if a force can actually close with and over-run the enemy the enemy will surrender. However he is somewhat coy in explaining where this analysis comes from, even in the background correspondence that is held by the National Archives.

Before WW1 it was a widely held belief, by most nations, that the bayonet attack was decisive. http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a437022.pdf discusses this. This quote is illustrative, "Victory is won actually by the bayonet, or by the fear of it, which amounts to the same thing so far as the conduct of the attack is concerned"

Dr John Stone has a very interesting analysis of bayonet fighting: https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/files/80560627/A_Proxemic_Account_of_Bayonet_STONE_Firstonline22January2016_GREEN_AAM.pdf. His thesis, supported by numerous examples, is that bayonet fighting is very rare as either the attacking side halts before contact or the defending side breaks and runs. Only when there is mutual surprise between adversaries (i.e. in close terrain) does hand to hand combat take place. So in most cases, if the attackers are resolute the outcome is positive for the aggressor.

The number of bayonet charges has significantly diminished since WW2. Increased firepower and the tendency to react by dispersing has made closing with the enemy a very dicey proposition. http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/692677.pdf shows the precipitous decline and http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2016/09/08/age-bayonet-case-study-among-11-marines/ show there has been no upsurge in recent times.

Accounts of grenade usage in Korea (https://archive.org/details/DTIC_AD0000342) do not show the "make or break" effect of the bayonet charge. It seems that closing to zero meters, or at least the perception by the defending side that the attacker is prepared to do so, is critical in the outcome of the assault.

This begs the question whether a charge without the bayonet, that closes to zero meters, is still as effective as the bayonet charge? Unfortunately the author knows of no specific research around this matter but http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a612103.pdf hints strongly that the bayonet is required to produce the psychological effect on the enemy. Only one recorded encounter involved the bayonet, whereas there were multiple other close combat weapons used which implies the enemy were not scared and stood their ground. Even looking at encounters where only "proper" weapons were used (mostly rifles) the bayonet was used in 1 in 30 combats (3%).

In conclusion bayonet charges that are perceived by the defender as going to contact are decisive, though defensive fire must be overcome. It seem likely that the six inches of steel on the end of the infantryman's rifle are required to produce a decisive psychological impact.

Rule 7a: Skirmishes are important

If we consider the standard "two up, one back" formation then two out of three regiments of a division are in the front line, four out of nine battalions eight out of twenty seven companies and sixteen out of eighty one platoons. That's only 20% of the division's potential front line fighting strength actually on the front line. Sixteen platoons carry the fighting for the whole division. Its probably worse than that, as some platoons will be tasked with attacking a critical feature and the others will be waiting until that feature is conquered.

So a "divisional attack" actually devolves into a series of little skirmishes between small units. The literature supports this, though the research was all done in manoeuvres rather than actual battle and they deal with armoured battles rather than infantry battles. The author can see no reason why the same principle would not apply to infantry battles as well as tanks. A look at the average engagement ranges from Rule 4 should illustrate why battles devolve into a series of smaller battles. Infantry do not engage much above 300m.

The phenomena is documented by Rowland in "Stress of Battle" and also in http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a202842.pdf which has some detailed analysis of the work by Rowland and analysis of US trials that show the same patterns.

Rule 7b: Fire, fire and manoeuvre

Fire and manoeuvre, where a part of a force suppresses the enemy and the rest closes, works well. Wigram had this to say: "Platoon and Company Commands have applied some sort of Battle Drill to knock out these enemy MGs. Where they have done so they have invariably succeeded in taking the position with very few casualties."

However the typical two up one back formation is not ideally suited to fire and manoeuvre, it needs more firepower and just a modicum of manoeuvre. Two back and one up seems to be more effective. Colonel Kilcullen (https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/37980596/rethinking-the-basis-of-infantry-close-combat-australian-army) has this to say, "... the orthodox arrangement of a platoon in the assault, a platoon in fire support and a platoon in reserve does work, but is costly in time and casualties. An arrangement using a much higher proportion of the force in fire support, a reserve of firepower (rather than a manoeuvre reserve) and a small assault element works better in complex terrain."

Rule 7c: Fiddling with squad organisation makes no difference

Since WW2 the US Army has changed its squad organisation umpteen times. The USMC has changed once, and that change is controversial. See www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/1014512.pdf for an overview up to the year 2000. The author sees no evidence that the US Army's performance has dramatically improved compared to the USMC.

The reason is that in both peace and wartime squads or sections are habitually under strength, so the theoretical organisation never applies. WO291/47 says, "a [full strength] section of 1+9 . is assumed but rarely in battle will the section strength exceed 1+6.". www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/1014512.pdf indicates, "As for the US Marine Corps, real-life experience with 13 man squads is questionable, as their is little evidence that we have ever maintained such a large in sustained combat. Indeed, our squad wartime strengths appear to . vary between 9 and 11 men". Wigram describes a platoon as: "six gutful men who will go anywhere and do anything, 12 `sheep' who will follow a short distance behind if they are well led, and 9-6 who will run away" which is 24-27 men when a full strength platoon is 37 men.

These independent squads, when under strength, cannot fire and manoeuvre, with the possible exception of the stronger USMC squad. www.dtic.mil/get-tr-doc/pdf?AD=ADA366298 indicates the "break point" where a squad is no longer effective is 6 men.  http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a583578.pdf indicates that an 11 man squad becomes ineffective at fire and manoeuvre (together) when reduced to 7 or 8 soldiers. So somewhere between 8 to 6 remaining soldiers a squad's performance becomes very much degraded. Given that some modern squads are 8 men strong this must be concerning. This is probably why both Col Kilcullen and Wigram both refer to fire an manoeuvre with platoons rather than squads.

Rule 8a: We shall shock them

Some of the rules above have touched upon what the enemy can do to inflict poor morale on troops: the shock of the bayonet charge (see Rule 6d), the suppressive effect of firepower (see Rule 2c) and the demoralising effect of intense bombardment (see Rule 6e)

Morale has multiple meanings and is used in many different ways. In this section I am using it in the wargaming sense. The ability to manoeuvre and hold steadfast in the face of enemy fire and casualties.

In The Stress of Battle, David Rowland addresses shock. This may lead to panic (i.e. a precipitous retreat) but even if it does not it degrades the shocked unit's combat effectiveness by 60%, Rowland analyses the causes of shock. Surprise is a powerful enhancer of shock, and its often difficult to achieve shock without surprise. Rowland breaks down shock as follows

In private correspondence with the author historian Jack Radey, he had this to say about Soviet collapses in 1941, "During the summer fighting into the fall, there were units that fell apart under two kinds of circumstances.  If they were hit with tanks and Stuka strikes, while inadequately dug in and with few effective antitank weapons, [they] cracked.  Some fought to the death, some fled, some surrendered.  Others fell apart once they realized they were encircled, out of food and ammo, and without any communications, orders from above, etc" and "...the idea of fighting panzers and Stukas in the wide open steppe, without adequate AT weapons, is a horrifying thought."

Rule 8b: Tanks are scary.

Rowland lists the following causes of tank shock, with the chances of achieving it:

Without surprise the effects are less pronounced

A "invulnerable" tank is one the infantry don't feel equipped to cope with.

Even if they are not shocking, tanks are still very intimidating. British trials with the PIAT (WO 291/153) indicated it had half the hit rate vs. a moving tank from the front than from the rear (35% vs. 72%). WO 291/1060, referring to the Panzerfaust says, "The disproportionately large number of misses at close range is thought to be due to the fact that short-range firing is nerve-racking to the firer"

From a German document captured by the Soviets ( http://tankarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/german-tank-fear.html ), "The fear of massed enemy tank attacks still grips the soldiers, especially among the young and inexperienced replacements, to the point of mental breakdown. As a result, soldiers often leave anti-tank foxholes and positions, which lets enemy tanks cause significant losses and the Russian infantry to take our positions without battle."

Rule 8c: Leadership is critical, the four top factors for morale

Command and control (leadership), being surprised, manoeuvrability (being attacked from the rear or flanks) and troop training are the four biggest factors effecting morale, see the breakpoint essay

Leadership and training are the two factors the unit itself can influence. The reader could interpret this as well trained leaders being critical to success.

A couple of quotes illustrate this point, "But leadership is also  critical element. Dollard noted that 89% percent of those surveyed emphasised the importance of getting frequent instructions from leaders when in a tight spot." http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vo5/no2/leadersh-directio-eng.asp and "What bonds these teams and drives them to get results? Simple - Good Leadership"  https://www.army.mod.uk/media/2698/ac72021_the_army_leadership_code_an_introductory_guide.pdf . In The Adventures of Dunsterforce (https://archive.org/details/adventuresofduns00dunsrich) General Dunstable has this to say about the Baku Militia, "Twice a counter-attack was got on the move and advanced bravely, but bravery without skill is unavailing. the leading was bad and failure was the result. In most cases the Baku battalions had fine commanders but company and platoon commanders, who are all important in counter-attack, were miserable.". The lamentable performance of Iraqi forces verses US forces can be partially explained by lamentable leadership. POW interviews from the invasion of Iraq indicate that Iraqi officers were anything other than competent, "no prisoner ever described an attempt by officers to compel resistance against coalition forces." https://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pdffiles/PUB179.pdf

http://www.benning.army.mil/library/content/Virtual/Documents/Hardcopy/paper/D767.67_A21_enclosureno2.pdf

 

Rule 8d: Casualties are bad, but not that bad

To quote McQuie "To summarise, there seems to be no pattern of of influence. No matter how casualties are measured battles have been given up as lost when casualties ranged from insignificant to overwhelming"

Although many commentators have opined that between 25-33% casualties are enough to render a unit combat ineffective the evidence seems to indicate this is simplistic. This may be an average figure but the variation around the mean is huge. Leonard Wainstein in http://professionalwargaming.co.uk/TheRelationshipBetweenBattleDamageAndCombatPerformance.pdf indicates for the battles that failed to produce victory, "Losses incurred from these formation covered a spectrum from virtually none to 56%, the heaviest being suffered by a unit moving ahead when relieved.". In cases where a unit was victorious, "...formations that continued to attack or defend despite losses of some degree from heavy to appalling"

The above examples are mostly at division level. However Dorothy Clark produced a very influential report ( www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/059384.pdf) about the break point of infantry battalions, "The very wide individual differences in the ability of infantry battalions to carry out a given mission can not be accounted for in terms of casualties alone, no matter how the data are (sic) presented"

Rule 9: The woodpeckers will be OK

Apparently the sound of battle does not dampen the ardour of frisky woodpeckers: https://pubag.nal.usda.gov/catalog/1274043

Reading Between the Lines

The following sections are the author's interpretations the consequences of the rules. They are not supported by evidence, though they can be logically derived from the rules above.

RBL 10a: Special forces are special

It seems that "troop quality" is related to the number of Gutful Men in a force. By troop quality I am using it in the wargames sense, as a measure of the human factors for the troops in question.

The author's sense is that special forces are special by virtue that they are all "gutful". Certainly the training and selection processes intend to produce that effect. If this is so a special forces four man team has nearly as may Gutful Men as a normal platoon.

RBL 10b: Snipers are lethal

In this section the author is not talking about designated marksmen, but snipers that operate a distance away from the rest of the comrades.

There appears to be very few published statistics on sniper effectiveness. There are plenty of fairly sensationalist sites on the web lauding snipers with particularly high kill rates. However there is no reason to suppose that rule 5b does not apply to snipers too. There will be a handful or real killers and the rest will be mediocre at best. However, it is the author's contention that the average sniper is more lethal than the average rifleman, because of the way snipers are deployed. Snipers are deployed a distance away from the enemy, compared to the average grunt. This should serve to lower their stress rates and thus improve shooting. They also operate from concealment so are unlikely to be subject to accurate counter fire, at least before they shoot. They have advanced optics, are often accompanied by a spotter and take up commanding positions with good lines of sight. Thus the "empty battlefield" may not appear so empty to a sniper. All these factors should contribute to their improved lethality.

There is a little evidence on the effectiveness of designated marksman in The Fire-power of the Infantry Section https://www.archeion.ca/fire-power-of-infantry-section, which says that 1-2 marksmen will be the equivalent or better than 7 "indifferent" shots. The author infers that "proper" snipers might be even more effective.

RBL 11a: Loss of leaders leads to loss of impetus

A review of literature on casualty rates indicates that unit's casualty rates decline after an initial surge. In effect combat gets less intense. The author's thesis is that this is due to the leadership and the gutful men in the units becoming casualties.

RBL 11b: Elite units won't remain elite for long in sustained combat

If you want a unit to remain elite you have to use it sparingly. If you feed in replacements, unless all the replacements have been trained to the same standard and selected in the same way, the replacements will dilute the "eliteness". The author contends that maintaining a large pool of elite soldiers in reserve to replace losses is unlikely, so replacements will not be up to the same standard. Replacements take a while to reach full efficiency.

Conclusions

The infantryman's lot is not an easy one. they are by far the most likely soldiers to be killed or wounded. Leaders and the better soldiers are even more likely to become casualties.

Many infantry either do not fire or fire with little or no effect. The overt cause of this is obscure but the underlying cause is almost certainly the fact that combat is very stressful. When they do fire most infantry are highly inaccurate, though those armed with machine guns .perform better. As infantry are so inaccurate the real killers on the battlefield are artillery and mortars. The RPG is a sort of poor man's mortar. Another consequence of the infantry's inaccuracy is that it really doesn't matter what sort of rifle they are armed with: bolt action, semi automatic or fully automatic. Only at very close ranges (c50m) does fully automatic fire have an advantage.

Most infantry are suppressed most of the time so advance rates are not particularly quick

The combat power of the infantry hinges on a handful of "Gutful Men" who shoot and move better than their comrades. These soldiers do most of, if not all of the killing. Many are officers and NCOs. Unfortunately they are also the most likely people to become casualties.