The Stress of Battle – Part 3 – Op Research on Terrain Effects

504th Regiment, 82nd Airborne troops advancing...
504th Regiment, 82nd Airborne troops advancing through snow-covered forest during the Battle of the Bulge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the third part of my extended review of The Stress of Battle by David Rowland. It is such a strong piece of operational research that I thought that it would be useful for wargame designers (and players) to understand what the research evidence is for what went on in WW2 battles.

Fighting in Woods

The data comes from an analysis of 120 battles that took place in woods or forests from the US Civil War to the Korean War. It also applied all the things from the previous research and tried to see how woods differed from combat in other types of terrain.

Woods Open Urban
Attacker casualties per defence MG (at 1:1 force ratio)

0.818

2.07

0.76

Force Ratio Power Relationship

0.418

0.685

0.50

  • Defence is less effective in woods, most likely because limited fields of view mean that the engagement ranges are shorter
  • Combat degradation is greater in woods during night battles
  • Artillery suppression is less effective in woods (presumably because the trees absorb some of the shell splinters)
  • Attack casualties reduce with attacker experience (after ten battles attacker casualties are half of that of inexperienced troops)

Continued in Part 4 – Operational Research on Anti-Tank Combat

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About Author:

James has a keen interest in military history, backed with experience as a TA reservist and a 17th century re-enactor. He has designed and run several face to face social games and is the editor of MilMud, the journal of the CLWG game design group. He is currently working on a book on the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution.

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