[Waterloo] Napoleonic Era Infantry Combat vs. Modern Combat


The realities of Napoleonic infantry combat were very different from that of the World Wars and especially contemporary combat. This video takes a look at the weapons, basic principles and other important factors from that era. In order to provide a more relatable and vivid impression I will use references to modern weapons and combat.

Weapon Comparison

First off, the weapons, the infantry weapon of the Napoleonic era was the musket. Now a musket is not a rifle, a musket uses a smooth bore barrel, whereas a rifle has a barrel with spiraled groove, which is also called rifling. This spiral gives the projectile a spin that increases its stability and accuracy. Although the rifle is more accurate due to nature of its barrel it took longer to reload and was more complicated.

Now, the standard muskets at the Battle of Waterloo were usually muskets from the 18th century in slightly improved version. So let’s take a look at them and how they influenced combat and doctrine.

Muskets abilities and limits

The French Musket 1777 (improved 1801) usually called Charleville after the manufactory place (p. 50 Füssel) had a weight of 4.6 kg, a length of 1.53 without bayonet and a caliber of 17.7 mm (0.69 in).

The British used mostly the Land Musket, which is better known as the Brown Bess. Its weight was 4.8 kg with a length of 1.49 m and a caliber of 19.3 mm (0.75 in).
The Prussians had a newer musket yet in low numbers, I provide it mostly for reference, since the Prussian troops at Waterloo used a variety of looted weapons and the older Prussian Potsdam Musket (1723 / M1723/M1740).

The Prussian M1809 had a weight of 4kg, a length of 1.435 m and a caliber of 18.5 to 19 mm.

The muzzle velocities of all these muskets was around 300 m / second (1000 ft / second), but take this value with a grain of salt. (The weight of the musket balls was around 20 to 30 gram. Since the infantry carried around 50 to 60 shots, this meant about 1 to 2kg of extra weight.)

As you can see there is only a slight difference between these weapons, but let’s take a look at two more modern weapons. First the German standard rifle for the Second World War the Karabiner 98 kurz.

It had a weight of 3.9 kg, a length of 1.11m and a caliber of 7.92 mm with a muzzle velocity of 760 m/s. Second, a contemporary weapon the US M4 Carbine, it has a weight of 3.4 kg, with the stock extended is has a length of 0.756 m and a caliber of 5.56 mm. The muzzle velocity is 880 m / s ( 2900 ft / s).
The main differences are clear, the weapons got shorter and lighter. The muzzle velocity increased and the caliber decreased. Not really surprising, but let’s take a look how these changes affected the individual soldiers and the combat situations.

Weapons and their influence on combat

Weight and Length

First off, men in the Napoleonic era were usually smaller and had less weight, thus the weight of the gun in combination with the longer length had a more tiring effect than for a “modern infantry man”. A British male in the first half of the 19th century with an age of around 30, had an average weight of about 58.5 kg ( lbs). Thus the Brown Bess was about 8.2 % of his body weight. (British men, Birth Cohort: 1800-1819; Age 26-30; 58.50 (see Table 4) source )

The average German male in 2005 weighed 82.4 kg ( lbs), thus the Brown Bess would only be about 5.2 % of his body weight. This difference doesn’t seem much, but you need to take into account a prolonged engagement which usually followed after a longer period of marching or maneuvering. It all adds up, especially if you try to aim that weapon and hold it steadily. Furthermore, reloading in the Napoleonic era took several complicated steps that required to lower the weapon. Together, the physical strain on a Napoleonic soldier just for aiming, firing and reloading his weapon was far more tiring than for an infantry man in the World Wars or in a contemporary conflict. ( Source )

The difference in Muzzle Velocity and Caliber

Next, the difference in Muzzle velocity and Caliber resulted in different kinds of wounds. First off, the larger caliber meant that the damaged area was larger, also the projectile was a ball and not a shaped bullet. In combination with the increased muzzle velocity that means that modern bullets usually pass through their targets and most other stuff like wood and car doors, unless you are acting in a Hollywood movie. Quite contrary to a musket ball, which usually stuck when it hit its target. The combination of larger wounds, stuck projectiles and the poor state of medicine meant that limb damage often resulted in amputations and other wounds were usually deadly in one way or another.
Let’s take a look at the overall accuracy of the Muskets.

The firefights during the Napoleonic era were quite prolonged engagements and could take a few hours, yet the amount of causalities was quite low in comparison to modern firefights. This was due to the high inaccuracies of musket fire, which was a result of technical and other factors.

First, basically above the range of 150 m the chances of scoring a hit was extremely slim. (Bremm: p. 41) Various shooting tests were performed both against single targets or large targets that simulated an enemy formation. A Prussian shooting test in 1810 was performed against a target of 90 m length and 1.8 m height, which was the size of an enemy column. It resulted in a hit chance of 60 % at a range of 70 m. At 140 m it dropped to 40 % and at 210 m it dropped to 5 %. (Bremm: p. 43).

Yet, these test were usually performed under ideal conditions, since muskets had a far lower muzzle velocity than a bolt-action rifle from the World Wars, the bullet drop was more significant. Additionally, these musket were way more difficult to handle than modern weapons, which decreased their accuracy in combat significantly.

Scholars at that time did various calculations based on causality rates and other values and came to different opinions on the average hit chance:
Napier assumed only one out of 300 shots would hit, thus giving a hit chance of 0.3 %.
Guibert assumed 1 out of 500 shots with a chance of 0.2 %
At the battle of Vitoria the British needed around 800 rounds to inflict one casualty, thus giving a hit chance of 0.125 %. (Nosworthy: p. 204-205) These low hit rates were also due to the fact that units fired outside their effective range, thus severely decreasing the chance to hit. (p. 205)

Nevertheless, let’s compare the musket hit chance with that from the Battle of Vitoria. If we take the hit chance of 40 % at 140 m and the value from Vitoria with 0.125 % than the musket was 320 times less effective in combat. So let’s take a look at the reasons for this high discrepancy between theoretical and practical values.

Causes for difference between theoretical and practical values

Volley Fire vs. Aimed Fire

One factor was that regular line infantry didn’t use aimed fire regularly, unlike the various skirmisher units. Additionally, there was almost no training and even when training was performed it was done under ideal conditions that had little resemblance with the actual combat situation. (Nosworthy: p. 205-206)

Now, why wasn’t aimed fire used regularly? Because it was usually not feasible on the battlefield. The soldiers were confined to close formations that used concentrated and coordinated fire against the enemy. As Nosworthy notes: “ Aimed fire and volley fire were by their very nature mutually exclusive practices.” (Nosworthy: p. 206)

The combat situation at that time required regularly delivered and strictly controlled volleys. (Nosworthy: p. 206) This was not the time of individual soldiers shooting at individual soldiers. It was more like large groups of soldiers shooting at another large group of soldiers. This is also reflected by the previously mentioned Prussian shooting test that used a large area as target to reflect an enemy column.

Discipline, unit cohesion and coordination were crucial and way more rigid than in modern combat, as an example, an infantry formation attacked by cavalry needed to withhold its fire until a critical moment, else most of the shots were completely ineffective. (Nosworthy: p. 206-209) Although not really a historical accurate movie, such a situation can be seen in The Last Samurai, when the infantry fires too early at the enemy cavalry charge that comes out of the fog, thus inflicting almost no causalities.

Physics and not accounting for it

Another factor were physics, although bullet drop was known and there was a system to adjust the angle for various ranges. Usually this practice was not performed in combat situations, which is noted by officers from several armies. (Nosworthy: p.206-207) The reasons for this are many, first not all officers nor their men fully deemed leveling their musket necessary, second the main focus was on a high rate of fire and third correct leveling of muskets would have required proper training. (Nosworthy p. 207)

Chaos of Combat

The next factor was due to the very nature of combat in that time period. The effectiveness of fire decreased as soon as combat prolonged, Due to the confusion and disorder of a large group of men firing repeatedly. Which was very well described by General Mitchell:
“One man is priming; another coming to present; a third taking, what is called aim; a fourth ramming down his cartridge. After a few shots, the whole body are closely enveloped in smoke, and the enemy totally invisible;” (Nosworthy p. 209)

Thus, in a short amount of time the effectiveness of a unit would decrease significantly in enduring engagements. This also resulted in switching from volley fire to running fire, which was basically a disorganized voluntary fire. (Nosworthy: p. 208-209) Although this voluntary fire was usually aimed, the results were disappointing.: “Duhèsme was surprised to find that his battalion, firing at any enemy battalion one hundred paces [aprox. 76 m] away, was only able to inflict three or four casualties as the result of lengthy firefight.” (Nosworthy: p. 209) (NOTE: according to Glossary in Nosworthy: 1 pace = 30 “; that means 0.76 m)

Smoke, Dust and Fog

Next, as already noted smoke was a serious problem, this was due to the fact that in those days smokeless powder wasn’t invented. It was only a small annoyance for a single soldier, but for a large formation of infantry that was concentrated in a tight fashion and optimized to fire as much rounds as possible this was a serious problem, because the smoke quickly accumulated. According to reports from that time, this resulted in situation where even larger formations couldn’t be seen when more than 45 m (60 paces) away, some claim even 15 m (20 paces), but well that account was from a journalist. (Nosworthy: p. 210)


Another major aspect that was the reliability of muskets. Since a musket was muzzle-loaded, heavy or continuous rain basically made it unusable. An example was the Battle at Katzbach, where rain prevented both sides from using musket fire. (Nosworthy: p. 213)
Furthermore, the flint (flintlock) (Feuerstein) became defunct after around 25 to 30 shots and thus needed to be replaced. Even under good conditions up to 20 % of all shots were misfires. (Bremm: p. 43)

Prolonged fire also could overheat the barrels, which could lead to igniting the powder to early, and as a result maim or kill the soldier. (Nosworthy: p. 216) Continuous fire of around 25 rounds would heat up the barrel that it couldn’t be held properly for reloading and it was required to hold it at the sling. (Nosworthy: p. 72-73) Also after around 8 minutes of continuous firing the barrels were too hot to continue. (Nosworthy p. 73) This of course reduced the rate of fire as a firefight prolonged.

Rate of Fire

Theoretical a rate of fire of 4 to 5 shots per minute was possible, but in reality it was closer to 2 or 3 shots per minute (Füssel: p. 50) Nosworthy notes that in the first minutes a veteran may achieve 5 shots per minute, but this would drop to around 3 shots per minutes rather soon.. Since firefights lasting for 3 hours were not unheard of. The average rate of fire was probably below 3 or 2 shots per minute. (Nosworthy p. 73)


From our perspective many practices during the Napoleonic Era may seem ineffective and often even suicidal, but taking a closer look reveals that due strong differences in technical equipment, training and the resulting necessities of combat that these approaches were probably the most effective available at the time to deliver as much firepower as possible. I hope this video gave you a better understanding of that era of Military History and can serve as a foundation for upcoming videos.



Nosworthy, Brent: Battle Tactics of Napoleon and his Enemies (amazon.com affiliate link)

Füssel, Marian: Waterloo 1815 (amazon.de affiliate link)

Bremm, Klaus-Jürgen: Die Schlacht – Waterloo 1815 (amazon.de affiliate link)

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Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.

Disclaimer amazon.ca

Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon.com.ca, Inc. Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.ca.

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Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à.r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu amazon.de Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden können.

Online Resources

Demographic Data – 18th Century

Rifle vs Musket

Infantry Tactics and Combat during the Napoleonic Wars.

Karabiner 98 Kurz (not wikipedia because the weight there is a joke)

Brown Bess

Brown Bess – wikipedia

Potsdam Musket 1723

Infanteriegewehr M1809

Charleville Musket 1777

Infographic – German Infantry Division 1914/1918 – Organization, Structure & Numbers


German Infantry Division 1914/1918 Organization & Structure- 1,049px × 2,499px


German Infantry Division 1914/18 – Visualization – Organization & Structure


Stachelbeck, Christian: Deutschland Heer und Marine im Ersten Weltkrieg (amazon.de affiliate link)

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German Infantry Division 1914/18 – Visualization – Organization & Structure

Infographic – German Infantry Division 1914/1918 – Organization & Structure


German Infantry Division 1914/1918 Organization & Structure- 1,049px × 2,499px

Intro – Basic Numbers of 1914 Division

In 1914 a German infantry division consisted of about 18000 men. The division was equipped with 4600 horses. 24 heavy Machine guns and 72 light field guns. (Source: Stachelbeck: Deutschland Heer und Marine im Ersten Weltkrieg (S. 120) – amazon.de affiliate link)

Organization of 1914 Division

Now in terms of organization and structure, a German Infantry division in 1914 consisted of 2 Infantry brigades, which themselves consisted of 2 Infantry regiments each, which consisted of themselves of 3 infantry battalions and 1 MG Company. Furthermore, the division had one artillery brigade, which consisted of 2 artillery regiments, which consisted of 2 artillery battalions each. Additionally in some cases there were also cavalry, engineer and medical units attached.

Infantry Company in 1914

This structure is quite abstract, so to get a better grasp on it in terms of men, let’s get one level lower. Each Infantry battalion consisted of 4 infantry companies. Since a division had 12 infantry battalions there was a total of 48 infantry companies. Such a company itself consisted of 150 men in peacetime, yet was increased to 270 during wartime. This meant that around 13000 (12960) of the 18000 men served in the Infantry companies.

This Layout was soon changed for various reasons. One was to get a more uniform structure, the structure of 2 subunits levels was replaced with a structure of 3 sub-units. This structure of 3 was still the determining in World War 2 infantry divisions. (Note that changing this structure didn’t necessarily lead to a change in total men or equipment, for instance the numbers of guns for a battery was changed from 6 to 4. (S. 123-124))

Changes during the War

There were many other changes throughout the war concerning the division layout, some were to deal with the change in necessities of the war and others about strategy. To note a few changes, there was the addition of a permanent medical company in 1916 and the increase engineer companies throughout the war. But probably the greatest change was in terms of equipment.

Comparison 1914 – 1918

To give you a short impression on how much an early-war Infantry Division was different from a late-war Infantry division, let’s revisit the initial numbers and compare them to a division that was intended for offensive operations in 1918, the so called “Mob-Division” or “Angriffsdivision”.

The early war division had around 18000 men, whereas the late war had 15000 to 16000 men, note that the second number is an estimate by an expert on this topic.
In terms of horses there was a decrease from 4600 to 4300, since the attack divisions received more horses than regular divisions the number of horses in overall decreased to greater extent than this display might suggest.

In terms of light machine guns there was an increase from 0 to 180.

Furthermore, the number of heavy machine guns also increased from 24 to 108.

Whereas in terms of light field guns the number of 72 was halved to 36.

Yet, there was a significant change in other artillery weapons, whereas the early war division relied solely on light field guns the 1918 division had: 12 heavy artillery guns, 18 light mine launchers and 6 medium mine launchers. Note that the mine launcher in German is called “Minenwerfer” meaning literally “mine thrower”, which is the old German name for a mortar.
(Source: Stachelbeck: Deutschland Heer und Marine im Ersten Weltkrieg (S. 120) – amazon.de affiliate link)

End Note – Visualization of the men to machine gun ratio

As you can clearly see, the number of machine guns increased substantially by more than 10 times from 24 to 288 machine guns, thus several times multiplying the amount of firepower of the division.

To illustrate in 1914 there was one machine gun for every 750 men. Whereas in 1918 there was a machine gun for every 56 men.
The number of artillery pieces in total didn’t change and stayed at 72, but the number of types was increased and thus resulted in a far more versatile artillery force. The heavy artillery provided more firepower and the mortars allowed for short range indirect fire in close coordination with the infantry, thus the overall flexibility and effectiveness of the division was increased without increasing the total number of artillery pieces itself.



Stachelbeck, Christian: Deutschland Heer und Marine im Ersten Weltkrieg (amazon.com link)

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Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Disclaimer amazon.de

Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à.r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu amazon.de Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden können.

Online Resources

Reorganization of the German Army, 1914-1918

Artillery of the Great War

Imperial Roman Army – Organization & Structure


The Roman Imperial Army consisted of

  • Provincial Armies
  • Garrison in Rome
  • And the Navy

The brunt of the forces was in the Provincial armies that were made up by the legions and their auxiliaries in total around 240k men. The Garrison in Rome was about 15k men, although few in numbers these units were the most powerful in political terms. Finally, the Navy consisted of about 45k men.

Base Organization

  • Garrison in Rome
    • Praetorian Cohorts
    • Urban Cohorts
    • The Vigiles
  • Provincial Armies
    • Legions
    • Auxiliaries
  • Navy

Garrison in Rome

Let’s start with the Garrison in Rome. They consisted of the Praetorian Cohorts, the Urban Cohorts and the Vigiles.

Praetorian Cohorts

The Praetorian Cohorts were the guards of the Emperor and went on campaigns with him. These were elite soldiers that were ideally suited for peaceful and less peaceful duties. Due to their proximity to the Emperor and military power they had a major influence on who became the next Emperor. Thus, the first act of an Emperor usually consisted in ensuring the loyalty of the Praetorians, this was done in different ways such as paying large donations or replacing them with loyal legion units. [4 Symbols]
The number of Praetorians ranged widely from about 5 000 to 10 000 men.

These cohorts were under the orders of one of two prefects. Each cohort was lead by a tribune and six centurions.

Urban Cohorts

Additionally to the Praetorians there were another 3 cohorts in the vicinity of Rome the so called Urban Cohorts. Each consisted of 500 men each. They mainly served as a police force within Rome, e.g., they dealt with the control of slaves and unruly citizens. Originally they were under the authority of the city administration, but in the 2nd century this was changed and they were more closely linked to the Emperor.


Finally, the vigils was a force of 7 cohorts with 1000 men each. Their main function was firefighting and patrolling the streets at night, nevertheless they were lead as a military unit.

Provincial Armies

Whereas the units in Rome were the most important in political terms, the most important military units were the provincial armies consisting of the legions and auxiliaries.


Every province that bordered to barbarian region had one or more legions stationed in it. They were commanded by a legate who also was the governor of the province. If a province had several legions stationed in it, the governor was also the army legate that had command over the legates for each legion. The legates were chosen carefully depending on the circumstances of the province, because being a legate was a step in political career not a military one. The other officers in the legion command were six military tribunes and the camp prefect. The military tribunes were split in two groups, one of them was from the highest social class and this was basically his apprenticeship in command. The other five tribunes were form the upper class and had no command authority but fulfilled administrative duties. The third in command was the camp prefect, which was a senior position in a military career and usually held by men in their fifties.
The number of legions only varied a little bit and was usually around 25 to 30 legions. A few were lost or disbanded. Probably the most notable loss occurred in the early Empire, when the Germans were less welcoming to other civilized cultures and destroyed three legions in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.

A legion consisted of around 5000 men of mostly heavy infantry and some cavalry. The infantry was made up by 10 cohorts each with 6 centuries consisting of 80 men each. The attached cavalry unit had 120 men. Note that these numbers varied later on. Most notably, is doubling the number of soldiers in the first cohort.

Contubernia (8 men) x 10 = century; 2 x century = maniple (160). Century basic unit of the legion. Cohort = 6 centuries. 10x cohorts = Legion;
First cohort, 5 x double centuries; 5 x 180 = 800

Now a legion was an elite unit of mostly heavy infantry, thus it was important to conserve its forces and also to support it with more agile troops.

This is where the Auxiliaries come in.


Each legion had its own Auxiliaries attached. These were made up by men from the lower class that had no Roman citizenship. that was free, but had no Roman citizenship.
Their manpower was about equal to that of the legion, but without a central command structure beyond the cohort. Auxiliaries units were lighter, more mobile and also more expandable. They usually made first contact with the enemy, allowing the legate to conserve his legionnaires for the decisive engagements.

The Navy

Now, to the final the part to the Roman Navy, which was permanently established in beginning of the Empire. Nevertheless, it was never was as important as the legions. Furthermore, the information about the Navy in certain areas is scarce and quite disputed. Its main functions were securing the seas and to support the legions in various campaigns.
The Navy was organized into fleets, each fleet was commanded by a prefect and consisted of squadrons of probably 10 ships each. A captain commanded a ship, whereas a centurion was in charge of the crew.

Unlike in most movies, the rowers of Roman galleys usually were not slaves and were expected to take part in combat at sea and on land.
The two major fleets, where based on the Eastern coast and Western Coast. Each fleet consisted of about 50 ships mostly triremes. There were several smaller fleets mostly in important areas like Egypt, Rhodos and Sicily. But the Navy wasn’t limited to the sea. There were river fleets too, e.g., on the Danube. These rivers fleets were used for patrolling the borders and various support duties.

Some fleets were established temporarily to support campaigns of the Legion, e.g., a fleet used on the Rhine and German North Sea.

Summary & Conclusion

The Imperial Roman Army had to maintain order in a vast area with various different challenges and enemies. To adapt to these challenges a diverse force was needed, ranging from elite troops on the fringes of the Empire to firefighters within the walls of Rome. Considering the secondary role of the fleet in an Empire that covered the whole Mediterranean underlines that Rome was first and foremost a land power. Thus the quote “all roads lead to Rome” is not without merit.

Related Articles

Recruitment of the Imperial Roman Army
Imperial Roman Army – Training



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Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Disclaimer amazon.co.uk

Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.

Disclaimer amazon.ca

Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon.com.ca, Inc. Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.ca.

Disclaimer amazon.de

Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à.r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu amazon.de Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden können.

Soviet Air Force 1941/1942 – Defeat & Recovery

The Soviet Air Force in World War 2 got a very rude awakening, it endured one of the most devastating defeats in aviation history. At the time of the German attack the force consisted of about 400 000 personnel, and 10 000 to 15 000 aircraft, of which 7 500 were deployed in the Soviet’s Western theatre. Whereas the German Air Force had around 2800 aircraft deployed for Operation Barbarossa. The Germans achieved total surprised and launched an attack with about 1000 bombers against 66 airfields in the Russian border districts. (p. 272)

Aircraft Losses during Operation Barbarossa

The reported losses on these initial attacks vary, but the 1970s Soviet official history states the loss of 800 aircraft destroyed on the ground and a total loss of 1200 aircraft. This basically crippled the Soviet air force stationed near the front lines. These attacks also inflicted significant damage and chaos on the logistical side. Thus, by day three of operation Barbarossa the Luftwaffe was free to focus mainly on supporting the ground troops, who captured the Russian airfields.(p. 273)

In Mid July 1941 the Soviets admitted to the destruction of almost 4000 (3985) aircraft, whereas the German air force claimed around 6900 (6857) planes destroyed. The kill claims were probably a bit higher than the real ones, but the official war time number probably lower. Yet, most importantly both numbers are substantial.

These losses were during the initial phase of operation Barbarossa and are based on war time claims by both side. Now according to post-war Soviet and German records between the beginning of the operation and the end of the year 1941 ( 22nd of June 1941 and the 31st of December 1941), the losses were approximately as follows:
A total of 21 200 aircraft were lost on the Soviet side. With 17 900 combat aircraft and the loss of 3300 support aircraft. (Greenwood: p. 67/ p.88) Yet, only 50 % of these losses were combat losses. The German side lost a total of 2500 (2505) combat aircraft and 1900 (1895) damaged. (Greenwood: p. 67)

Note: That these numbers may be quite off and shouldn’t be compared 1:1, because both sides counted losses differently, the problem is I haven’t found a proper article on this topic yet. Although a knowledgeable user indicated that German losses were usually total losses, whereas Russian losses seemed to include damaged vehicles.

Reasons for the Disaster

The reasons for the disaster are many, some of them were the result of ongoing processes, some were structural shortcomings and others were definitive failures in leadership. In any way Stalin played a major role in most of these factors.

Although the Soviet Air Force was successful in the Far East in 1938 and 1939. During the Spanish Civil War the German Bf 109 outclassed the Russian planes like the I-15. The performance of the Red Air Force in the Winter War against Finland was a disaster, thus a major reorganization was started in February 1941 which would at least take until Mid-1942, thus it wasn’t finished when the Germans attacked and made the force even more vulnerable. (p. 274)

Additionally, the Soviet expansion into Eastern Poland and the Baltic States required many resources that would have been needed elsewhere, about two thirds of built or renovated air fields were located in these regions. (p. 275) Thus, many units were still located on unsuited air fields, which were too small or unfinished, which also made camouflage and dispersal more difficult. Unlike the British the Soviets lacked a proper early warning system, which resulted in a total surprise combined with Stalin’s reluctance to prepare properly to the upcoming German attack. (p. 275)


Another major structural problem was created by Stalin purges. In 1937 the Air Force had 13000 officers, of those 4700 (4724) were arrested. Followed by another 5600 (5616) in 1940. (75 % of the most senior and experienced commanders were among those.) Although some of the arrested officers were later released it were only around 15 % (about 900 (892) or 16 percent of those in 1940). This of course had a severe impact on morale and effectiveness, because the Air force consisted of to a large degree of purge survivors, promoted inexperienced young officers and fresh recruits. (p. 276)

The purges also affected the design bureaus for weapons and aircraft. Some were dismissed, some were arrested, which often lead to the execution and some were put in special prison bureaus like Andrei (Nikolayevich)Tupolev.(p. 277-278)

Furthermore the drastic measures and understandable fear surrounding the purges also inflicted the production of aircraft, because changing the production line from one aircraft to another can be quite complicated and usually includes a severe reduction in efficiency for adapting machinery and processes, this “loss” or better investment of time could be easily seen as sabotage. So most factories were reluctant in switching over to new models.(p. 278)

This meant that in 1940 7300 (7267 old fighters and bombers) old designs were produced whereas only around 200 of newer models.(186 new fighters and ground attack “machines” (p. 277))
The numbers especially for newer models increased in 1941, yet the training on the new aircraft was kept to a minimum due to fear of losses caused by accidents, which could also lead to “sabotage” or other charges. I guess Stalin would have been a huge Beastie Boys fan or maybe the other way round, that would at least explain all those moustaches… Oh, well I digress.

Recovery Summer 1941 to Winter 1942

Let’s take a look at the recovery of the Soviet Air force, although the German losses were way lower than the Soviet ones, the Luftwaffe also had far fewer aircraft available in the beginning. Furthermore, the logistical system of the Luftwaffe was unsuited for a long war in Russia, something I discussed already in one of my previous videos. Already in October and November the Russians ordered attacks against Luftwaffe airfields. Additionally, since the Japanese were no longer a threat, more than 1000 aircraft from the Far East arrived, all this helped to slowly tip the balance.
Whereas in end of September (30th) 1941, the Russians could oppose the 1000 Luftwaffe air planes with only 550 (545) of their own. In mid-November the situation was quite different with 670 Luftwaffe planes versus 1140 (1138) Russian planes. (p. 279) Yet, the numbers alone didn’t win the battle for the Red Air Force, but the balance was slowly changing and in fall 1942 the Luftwaffe got seriously challenged. (p. 279)

After Hitler denied the 6th Army to break out of Stalingrad it was supplied only by the Luftwaffe, the Soviet established a so called “aerial blockage” and after two months of intensive fighting the Luftwaffe’s air superiority was finally lost. (the Germans could only field 350 fighters vs. 510 (509) Russian fighters in November 1942 (19th))

Important Factors in the Recovery

Let’s take a look at the major factors that contributed to the resurrection of the Soviet Air Force. One aspect was the mostly successful evacuation of the air craft industry and the lack of German attacks on this industry. Furthermore, the successful creation of a talented command staff and successful reorganization, which was supported by Stalin. (p. 280) The restructuring efforts included the transformation into air divisions, whereas each division consisted of one type of aircraft, which improved the logistics and command efficiency.(p. 281)
Additionally, the use of on-board radios grew, which allowed better coordination with ground stations for warning and command-and-control. (p. 281) There were also tactical changes like the creation of special ace units and the use of free hunts with experienced pilots. The Soviet Air doctrine focused strongly on fighters in order to achieve air superiority, thus a considerable effort was spent to develop the fighter arm into an elite force. (p. 75 Greenwood)

All these changes and the continuous Luftwaffe losses, allowed the Soviet Air Force to break the air superiority of the Luftwaffe and subsequently force it into the defensive role. Thus, within a mere 18 months the Soviet Air Force was able to recover and deal a severe blow against its enemy.

Additionally, the Soviet Air Force was starting to receive more and more planes, due to the lend-lease program which supplied around 18000 (18303; p. 280) planes during the whole war.



Amazon.com (affiliate link): Jones, David R.: From Disaster to Recovery: Russia’s Air Forces in the Two World Wars. In: Higham & Harris: Why Air Forces Fail
Amazon.de (affiliate link): Jones, David R.: From Disaster to Recovery: Russia’s Air Forces in the Two World Wars. In: Higham & Harris: Why Air Forces Fail

Amazon.com (affiliate link): Greenwood, John T.: Soviet Frontal Aviation during the Great Patriotic War, 1941-45. In: Russian Aviation and Air Power in the Twentieth Century
Amazon.de (affiliate link): Greenwood, John T.: Soviet Frontal Aviation during the Great Patriotic War, 1941-45. In: Russian Aviation and Air Power in the Twentieth Century

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Online Resources


Axis and Soviet air operations during Operation Barbarossa

Pop-culture Beastie Boys Reference – Sabotage

Logistics of the Luftwaffe in World War 2

for a more thorough look check my video on why the Luftwaffe Failed in World War 2.


In order to understand the logistics of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) in World War 2, we must take a look at the rearmament process, the military control of the industry, the attitude towards logistics and the dominance of the operational-tactical approach.

The Type/Sub-type Madness

The German re-armament focused on a fast build-up of arms and equipment. To achieve this many different models were produced by a wide range of companies. Yet, such an approach increases the cost of maintenance and supply due to the wide range of different vehicles and weapons.

This problem becomes apparent, if you look at the numbers in 1943: the US Army Air Force has 18 types of aircraft, whereas Germany had 50. This problem was prevalent in other areas too, like the armament of planes.

Take the B-17, it had one type of defensive gun, the 0.50 cal machine gun, whereas the He-111-H6 had three different types [SHOW 7.92 mm, 13mm and 20mm]. Nearly every German plane usually had a combination of at least two different types of guns throughout the war, whereas the US Forces usually used only one type of gun at all.

Luftwaffe in charge of its own industry

This problem was to a certain degree due to the control of the arms industry by the Luftwaffe. Until 1944 as the only branch of the German Armed Forces, it controlled its own industry. Which was in contrast to the United States, where the industry delivered the units most suited for mass production to the military.

Now, these circumstances were already problematic, but although German engineering is usually highly regarded throughout the world. The relationship of the military and engineering was “complicated” at best.

Disdain for Engineering

Many officers had a lack of technical understanding and were fine with it, some were even blatantly ignorant. Technology for them and thus the engineers were basically “meager”/mere servants.

This is divide between military and engineering is well illustrated by the debate about special insignias for technical officers. It was assumed that a technical officer would be perceived as less valuable by normal officers.

The attitude of the military towards technological and logistical matters manifested itself in the overall doctrine and principles.

Primacy of the operational-tactical approach vs. logistics

For instance, the primacy of the operational-tactical thinking was codified in the directive for the quartermaster. It clearly states that the supply chain management acts as a servant to the operational and tactical command.

“Alle im Versorgungsdienst tätigen Offiziere und Fachbearbeiter müssen sich bewußt sein, daß die Versorgung stets Dienerin der operativen und taktischen Führung ist und niemals zu deren Hemmschuh werden darf.” (Horst Boog, S. 242-243; referring to Quartiermeister-Vorschrift, Berlin 1936)

“All officers and clerks working in the supply services must be aware that the supply chain management is always servant of operational and tactical leadership and must never become the stumbling block.”

This is again in contrast to the Allies, in the RAF War Manual on operations, it is stated that every operational commander had to be aware of the supply/logistical situation. Yet, there is nothing similar in the German directive.

The Result

To conclude, the German Air Force was well suited for small and short wars with its operational (and military) focus, but the fast buildup and military dominance in industrial matters lead to a logistical nightmare as the war prolonged and turned into a war of attrition. Whereas other air forces usually adapted their logistical approach, the German Air Force command was reluctant due to disregard for anything outside of the operational and tactical realm. Thus, to a certain degree the Luftwaffe resembled very well the so called “Knights of the Skies”, yet in a time when the outcome of a war was mostly determined by “mere servants”.



Boog, Horst: Luftwaffe und Logistik im Zweiten Weltkrieg; in: Vorträge zur Militärgeschichte 7: Die Bedeutung der Logistik für die militärische Führung von der Antike bis in die neueste Zeit.

Further Reading and Recommendation

amazon.com amazon.de


Amazon Associates Program: “Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.”

Amazon Partner (amazon.de): “Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu Amazon.de Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden kann.”

Online Resources

Heinkel He 177

The Logistics of Alexander the Great

Script & Notes

Intro – Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great started in 334 BC his series of conquests that would last for ten years. He successfully invaded and conquered the First Persian Empire. In 326 BC he invaded India, but eventually had to stop the campaign, because his troops wouldn’t carry on. In 323 BC he died in Babylon at the age of 33.

As you can clearly see the territory covered is even quite extensive for any modern army. The question arises how even a small army could be properly supplied in such a vast area. Which brings us to the question of military logistics.

[Sadly, the sources on this topic are sparse. They usually focus on less mundane aspects like feeding the troops and requisition of supplies within the Empire.]

Definition of (Military) Logistics

Now, logistics is a modern term, but many logistical operations were also performed in Alexander’s time. Let’s take a look at a simple and a bit modified definition of military logistics.
Military logistics is the provision of all means to perform military operations.

To put it simply, logistics concerns everything from the fuel for your tank, to the food for your stomach and the guy, who cleans the shitter.

Or in a more sophisticated way: Military logistics deals with the determination of demand, requisition and distribution, of men, material, facilities and services.

Main Areas of Military Logistics

Hence, the main areas of military logistics are

  • Recruitment and Reinforcements
  • provision and acquisition of materiel
  • Acquisition and construction of facilities
  • services

Note that the common definitions of modern military logistics (usually) wouldn’t include recruitment. But due to Alexanders extensive campaigns and different organizational structure, recruitment is included in our definition.


Initially Alexander fielded around 30000 infantry and 5000 cavalry. These troops consisted mainly of Macedonians and allies. Yet, around 5000 men were mercenaries.
To reinforce his army Alexander had three possibilities:

  1. Recruitment in Macedon
  2. Hiring Mercenaries in Greece and in the Balkans
  3. Recruitment in conquered territories

Recruitment in Macedon was limited, there are only two accounts of it. One about 3000 infantry and another one about 6000 infantry and 500 cavalry. This recruitment was problematic, because it is known that the recruitment unit had to use force in order to complete their operations.

The main source for reinforcements were Mercenaries. Although the initial financial situation only allowed a minimum amount of mercenaries. After capturing the Persian camp and baggage-wagons at Issus, Alexander had a large quantity of gold and silver at his disposal.

To recruit mercenaries’ special recruitment officers were used at known assembly areas. Whereas in an early battle Alexander killed and enslaved a large amount of captured Greek mercenaries who fought on the Persian side, he later recruited such units into his own army. In total it is estimated that around 60 to 100 thousands mercenaries served in Alexander’s army during his campaigns. (Bosworth p. 60, Wirth p. 100)

There is only limited information available about the recruitment in the conquered Persian territories. One account describes a force of around 30.000 men that were trained and equipped similar to the Macedonians. These troops weren’t ready until Alexanders return from India, thus they never saw any combat.

Transportation of reinforcements

In the first years of his campaign Alexander had to transfer reinforcements on the land route, because he disbanded his fleet due to financial problems. This changed in 332 after large parts of the Persian fleet joined Alexander. In general, the reinforcements were transported by sea and marched to the destination on the Persian Royal Roads. Alexander also took over the Persian communication network to coordinate the reinforcements with his main army. There is only one known account when the reinforcements arrived earlier than the main force.
Overall, Alexander’s reinforcements had to cover vast distances to reach his army. The longest distance covered was by a Thracian unit that transferred from the Balkans to India. It should be noted that these long marches had several benefits. The served as a show of force in the newly conquered regions and also provided security operations along the way.
Now every army needs to be supplied with materiel.

Provision and Acquisition of Materiel

This part is limited in comparison to modern times. It is important to note that the Macedonian soldiers, the allied soldiers and the mercenaries had to bring their own weapons and armor. But due to the extensive distances and duration of Alexander’s campaign this wasn’t always feasible. There is an account of the delivery of around 25 000 pieces of armor to India.
The three main areas for Provision and Acquisition in ancient times were:

  • The provision of siege equipment
  • The construction and transport of ships
  • The transportation of loot

The Provision of siege equipment

Was performed by a distinct unit in Alexander’s army. We know it had its own commander, Diades of Pella, but we have no information about its size. Diades was in charge of the construction and improvement of siege towers, battering rams and scaling equipment. If possible the equipment was transported on ships. Some equipment that would have been impractical to transport was constructed at a location close to the siege itself. For example…

We know from the siege of Tyros that some craftsmen were ordered from Cyprus and Phoenicia. The lumber was from Mount Lebanon and delivered to Sidon where the construction took place. Finally, the equipment was transported with ships to Tyros.

Which brings us to the next part the construction and transportation of ships.

Construction and transportation of ships and bridges

Ships and pontoon bridges were used to traverse large rivers and streams. It was important that those ships could be disassembled into smaller parts in order to transport them to the next river. For instance after crossing the Indus, the ships were disassembled into several parts and then transported to the River Hydaspes.
Now, comes the part that most of us have at least virtual experience with, the transportation of loot.

Transportation of Loot

Loot and its transportation was important for several reasons. Now, Soldiers had to take care of their own loot, which could result in over-encumbrance. So, basically Alexander’s soldiers faced the same problem modern gamers face in Skyrim or Fallout. According to the ancient Greek historian Plutarch when Alexander reached the mountains of India, he realized his army was too slow. Thus, Alexander burned his baggage-wagons, those of his companions to set an example and finally gave orders to burn those of his soldiers too, which resulted not solved the problem of over-encumbrance but also raised the morale of most soldiers.
Yet, the more important part is about the major spoils of war. Large amounts of silver and gold had to be transported to mints in order to finance Alexander’s campaign and his Empire. In order to properly haul these precious metals, a large amount of mules and camels was necessary, according to some sources around 10.000 mules and 5000 camels for the larger convoys. Additionally, several thousand troops were used to provide sufficient security.
Early on those transports were sent back to Macedon, but Alexander established several mints along his conquest.

Acquisition and Construction of Facilities

Most facilities Alexander took over from the Persian Empire, mainly the bureaucracy, the excellent Royal Road system, the good courier service and a network of signal beacons. These facilities were crucial in Alexander’s campaign, because they allowed him to efficiently coordinate reinforcements, loot and his Empire. Alexander also established new facilities, mainly the founding of new cities and the construction of mints.

The first and most notable city founded was Alexandria. Many more cities followed, especially in the eastern regions. These founding’s may appear as basic efforts of colonization with economic and cultural motivations, but their main aim was to ensure the military dominance in the regions. Furthermore, they were used to settle wounded and incapacitated soldiers. Additionally, fortresses and other fortifications were built.

Alexander also established several mints in the conquered territories, e.g., in Asia Minor, Cyprus, Phoenicia, Alexandria and Babylon.


The three main services were the provisioning of food, medical service and recreation.
The primary concern was of course the provisioning of food. Alexander was well aware of this fact, and probably for this reason he chose his routes mainly along food sources. Sometimes this lead to some extensive detours, e.g., when crossing through Mesopotamia. Also Alexander put his most able commanders in charge of foraging operations. If possible he organized the construction of supply depots along his marches. Nevertheless, sometimes a lack of supplies couldn’t be avoided.

Little is known about the medical services in Alexander’s army. We can assume that there was something like a medical corps due to the sources mentioning the transport of medicine to India. Another indication is that ancient historians made a clear distinction between dead and wounded soldiers in their records.

Recreation was done mostly in the form of festivals with contests in athletics and horse racing accompanied with music and other forms of entertainment.


Alexander the Great is well known for his tactics, but we can assume that his capabilities concerning military logistics were also fundamental for his success on the battlefield.

Sources & Recommendations


In this case my sources were mostly German, but from what I have seen these books are also about this topic, although I didn’t use the English book.

amazon.com amazon.de
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Online Resources
















Additional Sources





Stalingrad & Romania – Germany’s blamed Ally

Note this is a script for the video, this is not intended as an article, but it contains also a few more information and references.


One common theme in Germany and Austria was and sadly still often is to blame the Romanians and Italians for various German defeats in World War 2.Probably the most common is to blame the Romanians for the disaster in Stalingrad, because their Armies were defending both flanks of the German 6th Army.

Yet, at a closer look at the situation surrounding the Stalingrad disaster clearly shows that the defeat of the Romanian troops wasn’t their fault. This might not be a popular topic, but it is something very important to address, because I think that soldiers of all nations did their best and deserve our respect even if they held views that are not in alignment with our own.


So let’s start at the beginning, during Operation Barbarossa in 1941 Hitler was quite reluctant about Expeditionary Forces, especially the Italians ones, but after suffering heavy losses throughout the offensive and during the defensive in the Winter of 1941 the German forces were severely depleted.

Hence, for the summer offensive in 1942 Germany needed troops from its Allies, notably Romania, Italy and Hungary. The initial plan was based on the assumption to use 750 000 non-German troops.
But there were major problems with these troops:

  1. The training and experience of these troops was not on par with that of the German Army.
  2. They were lacking equipment, most importantly tanks, artillery and anti-tank guns.
  3. These troops also needed to be supplied, which put further strain on the German supply lines.
  4. There were several internal rivalries, most notably Hungary and Romania, who had land disputes and held back troops in case a war would break out between them.

These were well known problems that the German High Command was aware off. Another major shortcoming on the German side was that those troops should have been equipped with German equipment this was in some cases promised. But the Non-German troops only received very few if any of that equipment, thus their ability to fight against the Soviet Army was severely limited especially against Russian tanks like the T-34.

The Prelude

This situation was problematic enough, but it got worse throughout the Operation “Fall Blau” or Case Blue. The initial plan was to destroy large parts of the Red Army between Donez and Don. Afterwards the German Pincers should meet at Stalingrad. Note that this plan didn’t include the capture of Stalingrad itself. Furthermore, only after the success of the previous operation the Caucasus should be attacked.

The non-German Armies were considered less effective in terms of combat effectiveness, thus they were assigned for defensive operations most notably holding the 600 km long front between Voronezh and Stalingrad. Only a few German divisions were available to provide support in case of a Russian attack.

The initial plan was already very optimistic, but Hitler changed it during the operation, especially the fact that in July he ordered to split the Army Group South and lead the troops against Stalingrad and the Caucasus simultaneously in July. (23rd of July 1942; S. 134) Furthermore, he ordered that the city should be captured. This meant urban warfare and urban warfare is mostly a war of attrition, something the German army wasn’t suited for, because it lacked already manpower, quite in contrast to the Soviet Union, which was very well suited for a war of attrition.
The whole situation was obviously dangerous, the Chief of the General Staff of the Army noted in September (24th) that only after the capture of Stalingrad a sufficient number of German troops would be available to stabilize the Romanian parts of the front. Now, while the German Sixth Army was fighting in Stalingrad the Romanian armies secured its Northern and Southern flank. (S. 128)

To summarize:

  • the German Army had no reserves left,
  • it was involved in heavy fighting in Stalingrad,
  • the Romanian armies were severely under-equipped
  • and securing both flanks of the 6th German Army.

The Soviet Attack

Meanwhile the German military intelligence, which was probably the weakest link in the whole German military establishment, didn’t notice the massive buildup of Soviet forces on the Northern and Southern Flank. Only in November 1942 the Germans suspected an attack on the Northern Flank, but were still unaware about the upcoming attack on the Southern flank. Finally, when the Soviets attacked the focused on the center of the Romanian armies, where no German units were present. (S. 136)

Due to the lack of tanks and anti-tank guns most Romanian troops were routed, yet the remains of the 3rd Romanian Army now under command of General Lascar were surrounded early on and fought well for 4 days. Even Hitler himself noted the bravery of these troops. (S. 138)

The main problem is they never should have been there (and they should have been better equipped in the first place). Thus, blaming the Romanians nowadays is just short sighted or outright stupid.
Of course most of the German soldiers on the Eastern Front didn’t know better and they lost their comrades in Stalingrad, thus they were quite understandably bitter about the fast Romanian defeat. And clearly after the war, they brought this memory back with them. But for all of us, who never fought on the Eastern Front, I think it is time that we acknowledge that the fault was with Hitler and the German Army High Command and not with the Romanians, who also bleed and died in Russia like everyone else.



Amazon.de (affiliate Link): Vogel, Thomas: Ein Obstmesser zum Holzhacken. Die Schlacht um Stalingrad und das Scheitern der deutschen Verbündeten an Don und Wolga 1942/43. S. 128- in Stalingrad Militärhistorisches Museum.

Online Resources

Third Army (Romania) – World War 2

US Army Infantry Battalion Structure & Attack Tactics World War 2 (1944)

This is the script for the video, not an article.

US Army Infantry Battalion Numbers

In 1944 an US Army infantry battalion roughly consisted of 900 men.
These were divided up in the HQ Company with 120 men.
Three rifle companies with 190 men each.
A weapons company with 160 men and
a medical detachment with 30 men.

The HQ Company was equipped with

  • 8 bazookas
  • 3 57mm anti-tank guns
  • 2 .50 cal and
  • 6 .30 cal machine guns.

Each rifle company had

The weapons company had

  • 6 bazookas
  • 8 81mm mortars
  • One .50 cal and
  • 8 water cooled .30 cals for supporting the other companies

And finally the medical detachment had bandages, probably.

Tactics: Attack against an organized position

Before we take a closer look at how an infantry battalion attacks an organized position, Some basics: artillery and smoke were used to support the attack. The Field Manual states that “in the presence of the enemy, fire must be used to protect all movements not masked by cover, or by fog, smoke, or other conditions of reduced visibility.”
The attack against the enemy position would consist of a main and secondary attack. Depending on the situation, each of those would be performed by a different set of units. The battalion consisted of 3 rifle companies, let’s call them Able, Bravo and Charlie. In this case Able company carries out the main attack, Bravo company performs the secondary attack and Charlie company is kept as reserve to exploit any breakthrough or to fight off counter-attacks. Finally, the weapons company would support the main attack.

The main attack was usually directed against the weakest point of the enemy defense. In order to increase power of the main attack, it was conducted on a narrower zone than the secondary attack.
The main purpose of the secondary attack is to prevent the enemy from providing a concentrated defensive effort. This could be done in two ways, either by advancing or by simply providing fire support. In this video we only look at the advancing version.

Secondary attack with advance

Here is the situation, the German positions are at the top. The main attack is directed against a position on the left side performed by Able Company, which will be supported by the weapons company with its mortars and machine guns.

Ideally the secondary attack should mislead the enemy, into committing reserves away from the main attack. Thus Bravo Company is assigned a terrain objective which it should attack with full force. Finally, Charlie Company is staying in cover ready to exploit any breakthroughs.
We can assume that the company commanders usually weren’t informed on what kind of attack they were performing, because the Field Manual states: “In attack orders, however, the battalion commander does not distinguish between nor use the terms “main attack” and “secondary attack.” Although, practice and field manuals usually deviate from each other.

The main and secondary attack are performed in conjunction, thus the enemy can’t focus his defense on one point. The narrower attack space of the main attack and the support from the weapons company allow for a breakthrough in the enemy line.

Able Company now attacks the flanks of the enemy line, while Charlie Company is brought through the gap in the line to exploit the situation. Meanwhile the weapons company moves up to continue its support of the attacking units, if necessary. Depending on the situation and objectives the companies would continue to attack the flanks or break into the rear areas.



Amazon.com (affiliate link): Stephen Bull: World War II Infantry Tactics: Company and Battalion
Amazon.de (affiliate link): Stephen Bull: World War II Infantry Tactics: Company and Battalion

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Websites & Online materials

Authorized Organization – 1944 Infantry Division – Infantry Battalion (niehorster.org)

Field Manual 7-20 Infantry Battalion 1944

*Amazon Associates Program*
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How does a Mortar work?

The text below is the basic script of the video.


A modern mortar is a weapon that provides short-range indirect fire at high angles, usually between 45 and 80 degree. The first modern mortar was the so called Stokes Mortar, it was developed during the First World War unlike traditional mortars it was relatively small and mobile, which made it well-suited for trench warfare, because unlike unwieldy artillery it could be used directly by the infantry units at the front line.

Of course mortars design evolved since the Stokes mortar, but the basic principles are still the same, so how does a modern mortar work?

How does a mortar work?

A Mortar is basically just a huge tube, which is closed on the bottom side and mounted on a base plate that allows for some adjustment. At the bottom of the barrel there is a fixed firing pin. If a mortar shell is dropped into the barrel and hits the pin, the propelling charge is ignited.
Then the explosion of the propelling charge creates gas that pushes the mortar shell (or bomb) out of the tube.

Mortar Components and Shell Components

The Mortar Shell is sometimes also called bomb. It’s main components are the impact fuze at the top, which triggers the Exploder. Followed by the high explosive filler in the body, the primary charge in the tail section and usually augmenting charges on the tail.

As you can see the propelling charge is made up of two components the primary charge and the augmenting charge. The first is inside the mortar round, whereas the augmenting charges are usually outside of the mortar shell and can be added and removed in order to reduce the power and thus speed and range of the shell.

Range variation due to augmenting charges

The addition and removal of augmenting charges increases the flexibility in terms of range, since a mortar usually operates at angles of 45 to 80 degree. (p.126 for ranges) To give you some reference, for the British 81mm L16 mortar introduced in the mid sixties, the max range of just the primary charge is 520 meters, whereas with 6 augmentation charges a max range of 4680 m can be achieved. Yet, the minimum range with all charges is 1700 m, whereas with just the primary charge it can be used as close as 180 m.

The Tail Fins

One interesting aspect about a mortal shell are it’s tail fins. Originally they were cheap and added to provide some stability, but during the Second World War it became obvious that these fins had a major influence on both accuracy and range. Thus, emphasis was given to create efficient and well-produced fins. The tail fins need to be placed at some distance to the body, due to the low pressure inhibiting their effect. In theory, the fins should be of a greater diameter than the body, but the cost were usually not worth the benefits of complicate designs.

Basic Advantages and Characteristics of Modern Mortars

Since you have an idea how a mortar works, now a short overview on the basic advantages and characteristics of a modern mortar: It is a cheap and easily to produce weapon that provides infantry a weapon for quick and immediate indirect fire, unlike artillery which needs to called in from behind. Furthermore, due to the weight and size light and medium mortars are portable. Thus they are usually part of the infantry and not the artillery units, as you can clearly see in my video about the organization of an US Army Battalion.


Finally, the command to prepare a mortar round for firing is not load but HANG IT! So, hang in there, thank you for watching. 



Amazon.com (affiliate link): Hogg, Ian V.: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ammunition
Amazon.de (affiliate link): Hogg, Ian V.: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ammunition

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Amazon Associates Program (amazon.com)

“Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.”

Amazon Partner (amazon.de)

“Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu Amazon.de Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden kann.”

Websites & Further information


Great video that shows the removal of several augmenting charges around 3:00

Credits & Special Thanks

The Counter-Design is heavily inspired by Black ICE Mod for the game Hearts of Iron 3 by Paradox Interactive

Notes on Accuracy & “Methodology”

Due to several reasons the mortar shell and mortar are not of the same type (and diameter in real life), but the functionality is similar.

  1. The depicted Mortar Shell is a 8cm Wgr 38 for a German World War 2 Mortar.
  2. The depicted detailed Mortar is roughly a Esperanza 60mm Model ‘L’ Mortar.
  3. The depicted Mortars in the beginning are US M2 60mm mortars.
  4. At supersonic speed everything is probably a bit different: “Ideally the fins should be greater in diameter than the body of the bomb, in order to get the operating surface of the fins out into undisturbed air where they will have the greatest effect, though this is only really necessary at supersonic velocities.” (Hogg, Ian V.: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ammunition, p. 104; see sources)