Questions pertaining to characteristics of armed forces' structure, manpower, equipment, or expenditures.

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Why was the 1944 surrender of 20,000 Germans on the Western Front remarkable?

I remember very well those days last September when we first heard the rumor that General Elster would surrender to the 99th Division, no one would believe it. "20,000 German troops and their ...
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1answer
1k views

What are those X in top of the flag?

Well, I was wondering. What are those crosses in the top of the flag when we visualize military battleplans? For instance, take a look in a map of the Battle for El Alamein: The Free French ...
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3answers
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Can you identify the ship in this picture?

Unidentified ship possibly numbered 545, aircraft carrier in background, maybe San Francisco or Washington State?
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128 views

Curious office hours of Topographical Bureau where Napoleon served in 1795?

In his new biography Napoleon the Great Andrew Roberts reports about Napoleon's stint in the Historical and Topographical Bureau of the war ministry in Paris between mid-August and early October 1795. ...
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2answers
218 views

Were there many instances when an “overaged” commander was at odds with a much younger second in command?

I can think of two. The first was at Stirling Bridge, in 1297 when the English outnumbered the Scots some 4 to 1, but the 72-year old English commander, John Warrenne, Earl of Surrey was not keen on ...
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1answer
465 views

What is the origin of the black/devil riders?

From what I understand, the black/devil riders were a group of German soldiers or mercenaries who were famous for using black painted armor. They developed various techniques for fighting on ...
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0answers
112 views

How important were “columnar” strategies in Japan's invasion of China?

In trying to invade a large country like China, there are at least two main strategies 1) a narrow "columnar" strategy, usually based along an artery such as the Yangtze River that provides a natural ...
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2answers
380 views

Is there evidence Muslim soldiers fought in the Continental Army?

It is said that Muslims fought for the American Revolution, by serving in the Continental Army. Wikipedia cites a few names: Records from the American Revolutionary War indicate that at least a ...
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2answers
382 views

Why did the musket become the standard infantry combat weapon in European armies around 1700?

Could it have been because of the introduction of the bayonet, particularly in "socket" form? This question goes (well) beyond a related question. Until the introduction of a bayonet, musketeers ...
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2answers
375 views

How much firepower did the British navy represent in 1940?

A question was recently asked about how Britain would have defended herself against a cross-channel invasion by Hitler. A key element in the British defense would be the Royal Navy. At the beginning ...
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1answer
79 views

What type of defenses did the Pequot use at their fort?

During the Pequot War (1634-1638), the Pequot built a fort near modern Mystic, Connecticut. This fort was overrun by the English settlers in 1637 who massacred most of the inhabitants. What type of ...
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8answers
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What's the advantage of the infantry column formation in the Napoleonic Wars?

In movies/books set in the Napoleonic Wars, the British are normally deployed into lines and the French into columns. The columns are usually the advancing ones, charging into the line as the line ...
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1answer
116 views

When was encrypted voice over radio first used?

I have been trying to find when encrypted radio's were first used? Not something like the German Enigma that transmitted encrypted data but when a person could actually talk to another person over an ...
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1answer
377 views

Did Hannibal start the Second Punic War prematurely?

IN 221 BC, Hamilcar, Hannibal's father, made a peace with Rome that divided Spain north and south between Rome and Carthage. The latter got the larger "piece," the area shaded in green on the map ...
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5answers
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Why did the scutum fall out of use?

Wikipedia says By the end of the 3rd century the rectangular scutum seems to have disappeared. Why did the rectangular scutum design fall out of use? Why was the shield design not commonly ...
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8answers
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At the end of WWII, were nazis working on any other super weapon besides V-2?

At the end of WWII, were nazis working on anything else besides V-2? If so, what was it, how close was it to completion, and could it potentially turn the events around for them?
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1answer
117 views

Did Japan use reconnaissance balloons in WWII?

I have heard that Japan had used reconnaissance balloons in WWII, especially in China as the Chinese lacked air power and effective anti-air weaponry. I know that balloons - airships to be precise - ...
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3answers
1k views

Was the Italian campaign a strategic mistake?

Background In September 1943, the Allied forces invaded Southern Italy in combined amphibious operations in Reggio di Calabria (Operation Baytown), Salerno (Operation Avalanche) and Taranto ...
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2answers
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What did squires do in the middle of a medieval battle?

According to wikipedia, a normal squire daily job included: Carrying the knight's armour, shield, sword, Holding any prisoners the knight takes, Rescuing the knight should the knight be ...
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6answers
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How did the US/South Vietnam lose the Vietnam war?

South Vietnam was helped by US. Even when the US was gone, they had a 1 million army. So why did they lose? Even without US support, South Vietnam had about the same manpower, higher technology, and ...
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3answers
607 views

Why didn't the Persians make and use ballistas and other kinds of artillery?

In 1980 E.P.Thompson published an interesting paper called *Barbarian Invaders and Roman Collaborators *. Among other subjects he consdiers there the leakage from Rome to its enemies of technical ...
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3answers
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Did the U.S. and Soviet Union have a submarine battle in 1968?

There are books and articles about the Soviet submarine K-129 and the USS Scorpion in 1968, with various stories of attempted nuclear attacks and reprisals. Is there a factual narrative about these ...
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1answer
378 views

Why has SACEUR exclusively been an American officer?

After reading this BBC article about the new SACEUR, General Philip Breedlove, United States Air Force, it occurred to me that SACEUR has always been an American officer. Supreme Allied Commander ...
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1answer
231 views

Ancient China military sizes

When reading about warfare records in ancient China, I see a lot of references to "# of chariots" instead of "#k soldiers" or something like that. Do we know how big these armies actually were? As in, ...
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1answer
135 views

What did Kennedy know about Soviet missiles during the Cuban missile crisis?

After the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US declassified reports showed that the USSR only had four operational ICBMs in October 1962, notwithstanding contrary rhetoric during the ...
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2answers
605 views

Which military commanders burned their own ships?

I understand it happened more than once where a general arrived by sea and shortly after landing ordered the ships to be burned, so that retreat would never be an option. Which military ...
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1answer
318 views

Is Costa Rica's refusal to maintain a standing army unique?

After a 44-day bloody civil war in 1948, the rebel fighters of Costa Rica banned the country from having a standing army. Other than conquered nations under the dominion of another, is there any ...
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3answers
983 views

What is the earliest known account of the modern military salute?

The military salute, made with right hand to head of a soldier, seems to be a European tradition, however it is adopted by many armies in the world. What are origins of this gesture? I came across a ...
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4answers
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How did Israel win the Six-Day War?

Considering Israel fought several Arab countries, which had troops largely outnumbering the Israeli, how did they manage to win the war decisively, with much fewer casualties than the Arab countries? ...
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4answers
294 views

Examples of defense without walls

Walls (or physical barriers) appear to be the standard defensive structure for a city in order to keep invaders out. Are there examples of cultures/cities that successfully defended themselves without ...
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2answers
154 views

Are these uniforms credible for American sailors just after WW2?

In the 1961 French film Lola (set in the Atlantic French harbour Nantes), American soldiers wear the white uniforms seen below: Was this uniform typical for these soldiers in Nantes following WW2? ...
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6answers
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Why did Civil War officers tell their men to “aim low”?

I'm listening to Gettysburg by Stephen W. Sears and the officers on both sides seem to always exhort their men to "aim low". For instance, General John Gibbon told his 2nd Division infantry: Do ...
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2answers
748 views

How did militia barracks look in the 19th century?

I’m seeking some information (preferably photos or art, but description would also help a bit) on how the exterior of militia barracks looked in ~1790 - 1870 in Europe. It would be helpful to mention ...
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4answers
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How did Genghis Khan's army feed so many horses?

The average horse eats 10-20 pounds per day, according to this pet website. Considering the fact that the horses may have to eat even more because of the hard traveling they had to endure, it's likely ...
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2answers
176 views

Are there any remaining existant texts that describe the styles and techniques of Medieval European swordsmanship?

We have, in the modern day, no shortage of movies which feature characters from the Medieval period of European history engaged in combat, with swords, cavalry, and arrows. Do we have any historical ...
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2answers
265 views

Was it not possible to exploit the gaps between each pre-modern melee formation?

Soldiers seem to be split into their respective companies or battalions but on the battlefield instead of presenting a complete front line they split up and leave gaps in the line between each ...
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1answer
1k views

In WW2, which midget submarine program was the most successful?

In WW2, which midget submarine program was the most successful? I know at least Great Britain and Japan had midget submarines and used them during the course of the conflict. Which WW2 combatant had ...
6
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1answer
188 views

Could an enlisted soldier in German Imperial Army get rank above Gefreiter?

According to wiki, up until 1918, Gefreiter was the only rank to which an enlisted soldier could be promoted. Sounds strange. Is it true? Where did Germans take their Corporals, Sergeants and ...
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1answer
205 views

Testudo formation vs ballista?

We have a related modern question: WWI trench tactics using shields? But if we move back into antiquity, are there accounts of the testudo formation withstanding ballistae bolts? Could it?
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1answer
139 views

Were commandos brought in to break the Grand Mosque siege French or Pakistani?

In December 1979 some miscreants occupied the Grand Mosque in Mecca. I have read the Wikipedia article regarding this, but i am still unclear who broke this siege. Were they Pakistan army commandos or ...
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3answers
413 views

Why did Robert E. Lee stop offensive maneuvers?

According to the Wikipedia article on the Battle of Gettysburg, after that battle Robert E. Lee stopped making offensive maneuvers and rather started reacting to Union offensives. Is this 100% true, ...
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2answers
715 views

What was the alcoholic beverage of choice for British soldiers during WW2?

The British army has throughout history plied soldiers with rum and grog to boost morale and quiet dissent. Did this policy continue into WW2, and if so, what was the drink supplied by the state?
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2answers
334 views

How many soldiers were present at the charge down Little Round Top?

The events of July 2, 1863 have been discussed endlessly, from Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels to the film Gettysburg. Since reading the book and seeing the film many times, I can't help but wonder ...
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3answers
652 views

How were shields fastened to soldiers' backs?

I'm researching armor (from all time periods, though most of my reference is from the medieval era) and I found there's little reference for how soldiers traveled with shields. Some shields have a ...
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4answers
339 views

When were soldiers compensated with land grants?

In what times and places was it common to give land to soldiers, as a form of payment for their army service? I have learned in school that this was common in Rome. However, in the wikipedia article ...
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4answers
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Does Grant's use of attrition tactic support his reputation as a general?

In 1864, General Ulysees S. Grant began the "final campaign" against Richmond using a war of attrition. That's because of the Union's 2-to-1 numerical advantage against a qualitatively superior ...
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1answer
294 views

Why are modern tanks regiments called cavalry?

The word cavalry is derived from the French word cavalerie which means horse. Historically the term cavalry has been used to represent troops mounted on horseback. After the invention of battle tanks ...
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What is the best historical example of conflict between two cultures with differing levels of technology? [closed]

Let me start with some background, in fiction authors like to explore situations where the human race meets another civilization. As a rule of thumb both races in one way or another - sometimes after ...
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How did the Roman army go from constantly losing battles in the middle of the 3rd century to winning almost everything?

During the middle of the 3rd century (crisis years) the roman legions seemed to be beaten left and right by the Goths, Sassanians and numerous Germanic tribes. Then suddenly with the arrival of the ...