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Old 01-28-2010   #1
William F. Owen
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Default Combat Participation

OK, I know this is a touchy subject, but Ken White's post here, does merit further examination in my opinion.

There have been numerous, quite well researched opinions, data and papers, that not everyone fights, when required to do so.

What we seem to know is
  • Most men will fight, given good leadership, thus good leaders and NCOs make a huge difference.
  • In the absence of such leadership, they will simply revert to doing the minimum required by appearances.
  • 3-5% will run or simply play no useful part.
I do not want anyone to start airing dirty laundry, but I think this issue might be usefully discussed.
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Old 01-28-2010   #2
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The general morale alters these figures - an especially poor morale could boost the last figure, for example.

The stress level and expectations should also be able to change the structure much.

Finally, it's been written in some sources that the 'cowards' or 'fragile' soldier are usually known in advance. A good roganization should therefore be able to almost eliminate the last fraction median problematic fights.


I recall much German writing on the subject, and it doesn't focus on percentages or such but on what the leaders should do.
The forming of small teams ("Kampfgemeinschaften" - combat collectives) as small as fire team or squad with very strong cohesion is one of the advised courses of action. This goes so far that WIA infantry in WW2 preferred to cure in their company instead of in a hospital, knowing that they would be cared for betterby their comrades.
This is strongly related to "Kameradschaftlichkeit" (conmradeship?).

The other advise is about the vertical relations; leader-troops.
The leaders should immerse into this Kameradschaftlichkeit to be accepted and respected (eating same food, no luxury, lead by example...) while still retaining the ability to be tough (~ sacrific men).

As I said; there's much about how to address the problem in German literature, but very little statistics (if any) about it itself.
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Old 01-28-2010   #3
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Default Books on the Subject

A couple of good books, within the past few years or so, on this subject are "On Killing" and "On Combat" by Dave Grossman. Grossman founded Killology to research these very issues.
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Old 01-28-2010   #4
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A couple of good books, within the past few years or so, on this subject are "On Killing" and "On Combat" by Dave Grossman. Grossman founded Killology to research these very issues.
I know Grossman's work. Personally I think it's just plain wrong.
He has confused two entirely separate issues, that being a desire to kill with an ability to fight, just as SLA Marshall made the same mistake. Fear of harm is not fear of killing. Most of his evidence fails to make that distinction.

Once you subject a lot of his assertions to rigour they just fall apart. His assertion about man shaped targets and computer games is ridiculous.
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Old 01-29-2010   #5
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Maj Gen Kippenberger was one of the more accomplished and famed commanders within the NZ Div in WW2, as well as being one of the more intellectually orientated. After Marshall released his 'Men Against Fire' Kippenberger undertook an unofficial review of combat experiences amongst the NZ infantryman. His findings do not sit well with Marshall's assertions with regards to non-participation in combat.

(apologies for the poor formatting, the doc has not copied well from word)

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It may be accepted that a man will fight hardest when he has full confidence in himself and in his ability to use effectively the weapon with which he is armed. It is therefore necessary to treat men as individuals when making postings to sections and to allocate them to duties in the battalion which are in character. Thus a man who is a strong individualist may be a better soldier if employed as a sniper than he would be in, say, the anti*tank platoon. On the other hand, an indifferent performer in a rifle section may do well in a less exacting role with a mortar, perhaps because he needs the reassurance of other men working with him in the team, perhaps because he has more confidence in his ability with that weapon.

‘It could be seen from his reactions that he was absolutely terrified of front line action in a rifle section. He was placed in charge of a bren gun and as such took part in the Battle of Takrouna. With his machine-gun trained on to one of the approaches to the pinnacle itself, he stuck to his job during one of the enemy counter-attacks and simply mowed them down until the path was almost blocked with enemy dead. This man was one of the unsung heroes of Takrouna’

21. In general the most determined fighters should be found in the rifle sections, they are the essence of the fighting qualities of the unit and must be drawn from the finest material available.
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SECTION 2 – USING THE MAXIMUM WEIGHT OF FIRE
40. The necessity for maximum effective fire against enemy positions in the assault is generally accepted.

‘In the attack on Takrouna, my men knew they were in for a tough job. I consider that though much of their fire found no targets, the volume of thefire carried my men along.’

41. Well trained and well led infantrymen will engage the enemy at every opportunity, especially when the situation is most critical.

‘When we moved over the area (at Bel Hamed) in which the 20th Battalion
was over*run, we remarked that invariably in each hastily dug slit trench
there was a small pile of expended small arms cartridge cases, and this applied also to mortar pits and gun sites.’

42. Nevertheless, there will always be a small proportion of men who will be reluctant to use their weapons, either through fright, or the feeling of drawing enemy attention to themselves, or through mistaken feelings of humanity.

‘On the Senio, a forward platoon phoned battalion headquarters to say that a
German was lying out in front of their position, and they wanted a mortar concentration on the poor unfortunate. No one seemed anxious to fire a Bren, rifle, or SMG. An order from the commanding officer put this right * and the 'German' was found to be nothing more than a steel helmet!’

43. This hesitation will be greatest among unseasoned troops, and especially among those who have not been fully trained to place confidence in their own weapons.

‘During the 1941 Libyan campaign, I witnessed the phenomenon of a few men
carrying out the attack drill faithfully and yet not even bothering to look up at the enemy whenever they took to ground. They seemed to be just lying
there waiting for the next order to charge. I remember ordering these men
to use their rifles. Now and again they did, but I feel certain to no good effect. At the next stop the same thing would happen again.’

‘In the battle of Tanaheran I attacked with two platoons in jungle warfare.
The men were heavily armed * about four grenades each, 100 rounds per rifle
and a full complement of ammunition for Bren and SMG. At the conclusion of
the battle, the platoon that had borne the brunt of the fight were, to a man,
nearly out of ammunition. These men had been painstakingly trained, time and ammunition being no object.’

44. It is important that the proportion of passengers be kept as low as possible, in order that the great fire potential of the infantry battalion may take its full effect on the enemy.

45. This great volume of fire will normally be supplemented by the heaviest fire support that the formation commander can provide from other sources. It is the primary task of artillery and other arms to provide the maximum available fire support in order to help the infantry forward to their objectives, all other tasks are of secondary importance. At the same time, the battalion commander must appreciate the tremendous firepower that is available under his hand in the unit. If heavier support is not available, for any reason, his own resources are normally sufficient to enable him to get forward against anything but strongly fortified opposition.

‘I am convinced that my own unit was tremendously improved by the period
on the Senio when we had no artillery support. Men developed a new confidence and delight in the Bren, sniping became almost common, and most valuable of all, we suddenly found that we could use the PIAT for a great variety of useful purposes. The PIAT was a great infantry weapon, which we only really used to the full effect in the very last campaign.’

46. A commander may anticipate that about one*quarter of his (infantry) weapons will be effective at any one time in the attack, but this will be reduced in conditions of poor visibility. Infantry moving forward close behind an artillery barrage (leaning on the barrage) may have little necessity to fire, other than to demoralise the enemy further. It is unnecessary to emphasise that every worthwhile target should be engaged, even when opposition is light.
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Old 01-29-2010   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John View Post
Grossman founded Killology to research these very issues.
Grossman was taught in one of my university papers as gospel, and at the time I thought very highly of him. After hearing about 'killology' and looking at his website I became a little more suspicious of his scholarship, and on rereading 'On Killing' (this time aware that his 'referencing' of Marshall with all the caveats SLAM invokes) I was more disappointed than anything.

'On Combat' seemed bizarrely orientated towards martial arts and law enforcement than I expected from a book about combat.

Another book that fits into the criteria is Bourke's 'An Intimate History of Killing.' As with Grossman, Bourke's book has many, many issues before one could apply her messages to military training however I would still recommend it as being of interest and educational value. 'An Intimate History' focuses more on the effects of media in the perception of combat than in defining any psych/ science behind killing.

However, without any hesitation I would recommend J Glenn Gray's 'The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle'. The author enlisted in the US Army in 1941 on the same day he was informed that he had achieved a doctorate in philosophy. You won't get any universal lessons or paradox-changing theories from Gray, but it is a well written view of a soldier viewing his experiences and impulses with a logical and philosophical perspective.
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Old 01-29-2010   #7
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I think Grossman is valuable in one regard: he documents what happens to many people physiologically when in combat. So experiencing things like tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, and loss of fine motor skills should not come as a surprise.

I think that's about the extent of Grossman's contribution though.

Getting back to Wilf's original post. I suspect that most men really don't want to be there but they don't want to be seen as shirkers either. They see military service as a reluctant duty so they want to be able to say, "I did my part." But most men do not see military service as a calling or even an interest.

That's the biggest reason I don't like the idea of conscription.
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Old 01-29-2010   #8
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They see military service as a reluctant duty so they want to be able to say, "I did my part." But most men do not see military service as a calling or even an interest.

That's the biggest reason I don't like the idea of conscription.
Yet,surely, there is also a societal factor to be considered here too. Some states are permissive towards a "militaristic" civil-culture (by which I mean pro-military not pro-war) in which participation is seen to be an important part of what, ahem, turns a subject into a citizen. In Israel the IDF performs numerous ancilliary services; as a homogenising school to meld together recruits from differing backgrounds (spatially speaking, like Ethiopian, Yemeni, Indian jews, etc.) as well as inculcating the central tenents of Zionism and ensuring people learn basic civic responsibility and identification with the State. IMO this was dented after "Grapes of Wrath" (maybe even prior to that). Other countries like Russia where conscription often looked like a forced sojourn in borstal made service in the armed forces something one grittied one's teeth to get through. The strategic culture of states is IMO as important in inculcating a "warrior" mentality upon which to base, expand and deepen professionalism but there will, of course, always be those for whom the military is a plague on their house (like the ultra-orthodox in Israel for instance, though not because they are "scared"). Here (UK) there have been many calls for a return to national service (usually from people who, at the time, said they hated it!). It would be interesting to see if any studies were conducted by the German government in the interwar and war time (WWII) period as well as other countries. I'm sure there's a societal variable we're missing here. Anyway, thats my 2 pence of worth(less) observations from civvie street (and from someone who never got the opportunity to see if I was born to fight or flee).

Last edited by Tukhachevskii; 01-29-2010 at 09:20 AM. Reason: pselling takesmis
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Old 01-29-2010   #9
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Originally Posted by Chris jM View Post
Maj Gen Kippenberger was one of the more accomplished and famed commanders within the NZ Div in WW2, as well as being one of the more intellectually orientated. After Marshall released his 'Men Against Fire' Kippenberger undertook an unofficial review of combat experiences amongst the NZ infantryman. His findings do not sit well with Marshall's assertions with regards to non-participation in combat.

(apologies for the poor formatting, the doc has not copied well from word)
Hi Chris, if this doc is available on line, could you give us a link? I'd love to read it.
Some of the remarks you quoted are relevant to a number of other threads here as well.
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Old 01-30-2010   #10
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Originally Posted by Kiwigrunt View Post
Hi Chris, if this doc is available on line, could you give us a link? I'd love to read it.
Some of the remarks you quoted are relevant to a number of other threads here as well.
Concur. This document seems of great value and has managed to stay under my radar!
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- The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 01-30-2010   #11
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Default Kippenberger

This Kiwi general has appeared before, with posts by another member EmmetM (who has not been active for a few months) and this maybe helpful - it is not the desired link.

See:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...?t=1287&page=2
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Old 01-30-2010   #12
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Personally I have not seen any American Soldiers shy away from fighting, but as Ken mentioned in the more elite units such as SF and the Airborne Infantry there is a warrior culture which reduces the likelyhood of that happening. A friend many years ago said there are no better warriors than the Americans, Brits, Aussies and Canadians, there is just something in those cultures that produce men who like to fight. While simplistic, there seems to be degree of truth in that statement. Thoughts?

In all fairness, I wonder if it is fair to compare the combat stats from WWII (or the Korean War) where our Soldiers were fighting peer competitors (who had heavy armor, air, artillery and well trained infantry) where the combat intensity and casualty rate was much higher than in the combat we're engaged in today. Suspect that while there are many parallel forms of stress and factors weighing on a man's decision making process, there are also considerable differences that may be worth considering from a leadership perspective.

Shifting gears, is anyone aware of any studies, books, lessons learned that offer "practical" insights on how to inspire the foreign forces we're training in developing nations to develop the same level of fighting spirit that our troops have? I know there are a lot of factors, and in elite units where we can be selective like ISOF and the Afghan Commandos this isn't much of an issue, I'm more concerned about the regular infantry and police we're turning out.
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Old 01-30-2010   #13
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Personally I have not seen any American Soldiers shy away from fighting, but as Ken mentioned in the more elite units such as SF and the Airborne Infantry there is a warrior culture which reduces the likelyhood of that happening. A friend many years ago said there are no better warriors than the Americans, Brits, Aussies and Canadians, there is just something in those cultures that produce men who like to fight. While simplistic, there seems to be degree of truth in that statement. Thoughts
As you said it is pretty simplistic and most likely tied to the personal and rather limited experience of your most likely anglophone friend - it does not seem to be a case that he only has other anglophones in mind.


Quote:
In all fairness, I wonder if it is fair to compare the combat stats from WWII (or the Korean War) where our Soldiers were fighting peer competitors (who had heavy armor, air, artillery and well trained infantry) where the combat intensity and casualty rate was much higher than in the combat we're engaged in today. Suspect that while there are many parallel forms of stress and factors weighing on a man's decision making process, there are also considerable differences that may be worth considering from a leadership perspective.
As you said it depends an a rather large amount of variables and perceptions play a large part too. The German soldiers and commanders in WWII had a rather low regard for the bravery and fighting ability of the American soldier. This might partly be explained on the simple fact that their enemy could rely so much on their vast superiority in all supporting arms, as well as in numbers and material to dominate the battles. It may also play a role, that quite some members of the German army considered themselves to be man to man the finest soldiers of the war. You see, perceptions and the specific point of view are also to be considered.

Quote:
Shifting gears, is anyone aware of any studies, books, lessons learned that offer "practical" insights on how to inspire the foreign forces we're training in developing nations to develop the same level of fighting spirit that our troops have? I know there are a lot of factors, and in elite units where we can be selective like ISOF and the Afghan Commandos this isn't much of an issue, I'm more concerned about the regular infantry and police we're turning out.
This is an interesting question and some examples come to my mind. Perhaps I will dig a bit.


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Old 01-30-2010   #14
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As you said it is pretty simplistic and most likely tied to the personal and rather limited experience of your most likely anglophone friend - it does not seem to be a case that he only has other anglophones in mind.
participating in combat in two major wars (not the post 1989 type) with and against over 12 foreign Armies including those Bill Moore mentioned plus the New Zealanders -- the other eight were not anglophone. My observation was that all nations are willing to fight though techniques do vary and that cultural attitudes fall behind training in importance. I do not totally agree with Bill on airborne / SF warrior culture. There is an attitudinal difference but it's more complex than that and many non-airborne units also possess those same attributes.

Nor is Bills' comment simplistic. While I make no brief for it either way and would in fact say that in the eyes of many, it's a deficiency, not an asset, there's a fair amount of research that shows the Anglosphere does tend to be more violent than the other speech-i-phones.
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Old 01-30-2010   #15
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Kiwigrunt, Wilf, - unfortunately the document isn't available online, however I do have access to it as a word doc at work. I'll try and get it uploaded early in the week (the worst case being if I can't upload it to the board, I'll email to those interested). I may have access to some other unrestricted docs on the history/evolution of the RNZIR/2NZEF that could be of interest you, too, Kiwigrunt.

With regards to the elite/ aggressive units, Sydney Jary in 18 Platoon (he was a British subaltern for a significant period of WW2 in the ETO - I imagine his name is already known to most here) made an interesting comment towards the end of his book. While I don't have access to the text, he basically disputed the requirement for soldiers to be aggressive and gung-ho. There was a quote I remember pondering where, from memory, Jary stated that he'd prefer a reflective poet in the frontline over an impulsive brawler. I can't attest to the accuracy of that comment, and if anyone had 18 Platoon close to hand I'd be greatly obliged if they could confirm this quote.
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Old 01-30-2010   #16
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Kiwigrunt, Wilf, - unfortunately the document isn't available online, however I do have access to it as a word doc at work. I'll try and get it uploaded early in the week (the worst case being if I can't upload it to the board, I'll email to those interested). I may have access to some other unrestricted docs on the history/evolution of the RNZIR/2NZEF that could be of interest you, too, Kiwigrunt.
Thanks for that Chris, I appreciate that very much.


Quote:
With regards to the elite/ aggressive units, Sydney Jary in 18 Platoon (he was a British subaltern for a significant period of WW2 in the ETO - I imagine his name is already known to most here) made an interesting comment towards the end of his book. While I don't have access to the text, he basically disputed the requirement for soldiers to be aggressive and gung-ho. There was a quote I remember pondering where, from memory, Jary stated that he'd prefer a reflective poet in the frontline over an impulsive brawler. I can't attest to the accuracy of that comment, and if anyone had 18 Platoon close to hand I'd be greatly obliged if they could confirm this quote.
Yes, his book is on my ‘yet to read’ list.
For as far as your quote is an accurate refection of Sydney’s comments, I tend to agree with him. I have never been very impressed with the macho/gung-ho attitudes that we see a lot in the military. I find it more understandable from the younger ones from a testosterone perspective but to still see it with so many older (more mature?) NCO’s and officers is, uhhhm, a different matter.
This reflective poet does IMO need to be able to generate ‘controlled aggression’ but I don’t think that that requires an aggressive/ gung-ho nature per say.
A counter to this could be that the reflective poet may be less inclined to do what ‘needs’ to be done if he is not morally behind it. That would make it harder for him to generate the required aggression as opposed to utilising a level of aggression that is already there.
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Old 01-31-2010   #17
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Quote:
I have never been very impressed with the macho/gung-ho attitudes that we see a lot in the military. I find it more understandable from the younger ones from a testosterone perspective but to still see it with so many older (more mature?) NCO’s and officers is, uhhhm, a different matter.
This reflective poet does IMO need to be able to generate ‘controlled aggression’ but I don’t think that that requires an aggressive/ gung-ho nature per say.
Having never seen nor led soldiers in combat, I'm reluctant to pass judgement on the need for aggression, and how far that need stretches. I have, however, seen the 'dumb' side of aggression come out in low intensity ops that does more harm than good to both the AO and FF.

I have made a point of avoiding the term 'aggression' or even 'controlled aggression' when it comes to command or tactics. In my mind, 'audacity' is the undefinable quantity we need more than all else. Aggression triumphs action above all else, whereas I see audacity being the corner-stone of thinking, aggressive action coupled with purpose.
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Old 01-31-2010   #18
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...In my mind, 'audacity' is the undefinable quantity we need more than all else. Aggression triumphs action above all else, whereas I see audacity being the corner-stone of thinking, aggressive action coupled with purpose.
You need some aggression -- and thus some aggressive people; currently, some actions would not be won unless you had at least a few who would go through brick wall if told to do so. More importantly, that aggression needs to be focused by a competent leader who will search for and find a window to go through with everyone else while some batter that brick wall.

Even better is the really sharp audacious leader who finds and uses the door before it can be shut. If there were more of those leaders, the macho BS would disappear as no longer required...
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Old 01-31-2010   #19
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Originally Posted by Chris jM View Post
With regards to the elite/ aggressive units, Sydney Jary in 18 Platoon (he was a British subaltern for a significant period of WW2 in the ETO - I imagine his name is already known to most here) made an interesting comment towards the end of his book. While I don't have access to the text, he basically disputed the requirement for soldiers to be aggressive and gung-ho. There was a quote I remember pondering where, from memory, Jary stated that he'd prefer a reflective poet in the frontline over an impulsive brawler.
I think you may be referring to his opinion that infantrymen need endurance and "sufferance."
I interviewed Jary for 4 hours and a lunch in the Officers mess at Sandhurst back in 2004. Two thing stuck with me:

a.) He mentioned that in a fire fight there will be not shortage of volunteers to tend wounded, and haul ammo. This has been consistently confirmed by others, and I even found Marshall references it.
b.) That the most important component of courage was love of and loyalty to others. - this would speak to good NCOs and strong group cohesion.

Bill Moore
Quote:
A friend many years ago said there are no better warriors than the Americans, Brits, Aussies and Canadians, there is just something in those cultures that produce men who like to fight. While simplistic, there seems to be degree of truth in that statement. Thoughts?
The UK did a study in the early 1980's to test this hypothesis based on loss exchange ratios from combat. The results are classified, but basically what does seem to get mentioned is "Do not f*ck with the Finns."
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- The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 01-31-2010   #20
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The UK did a study in the early 1980's to test this hypothesis based on loss exchange ratios from combat. The results are classified, but basically what does seem to get mentioned is "Do not f*ck with the Finns."
Wait for JMM99.

Feast your eyes on a bit of Finn action
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