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

learn more… | top users | synonyms

7
votes
2answers
2k views

What would be a typical rank for KGB intelligence offices spying abroad in the 1980s?

What would be typical ranks of KGB officers spying in the west during the 1980s? I know there were some western spies recruited by the KGB, that after defecting to the Soviet Union got/had ranks in ...
13
votes
6answers
5k views

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 ...
4
votes
2answers
343 views

Was there more than one way for anti-aircraft fire to shoot down a dive bomber in World War II

I read somewhere that there were two "best" times for anti-aircraft to shoot down a dive bomber (of World War II vintage). One was when the plane was going into the dive. The other was when the plane ...
5
votes
1answer
232 views

What are the modern roles of “brigadier” generals and commodores?

It has been said that the hardest jump in the military is between colonel and general. That's because a colonel is a "specialist" who commands troops of only one type (infantry, cavalry or artillery), ...
10
votes
1answer
398 views

Was there any new military innovation during the Siege of Malta?

In the Siege of Malta, the Knights Hospitaller defended the island despite being heavily outnumbered by the invading Ottoman troops. Malta was such a small island, the Turks were the masters of the ...
2
votes
2answers
667 views

What were the German “general” ranks in World War II?

The Anglo-American armies share ranks up to "full" (or four star) general. (The German army has ranks equivalent to those armies for non-general officers). The American army deviated from the English ...
3
votes
3answers
774 views

What was the origin of the roles of “lieutenant” officers?

A "captain" is a commander of a basic unit, a company in the military. As such, it makes sense that he will have one or more "lieutenants," first and second lieutenants that is. A major commands the ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

Military tactics specifically aimed against cavalry horses

Were tactics specifically aimed against horses common in past cavalry warfare and what forms did they take? For instance, did opponents try to harm (poison or shoot-them-first), distract (loud ...
5
votes
1answer
2k views

Were the “hussars” that Jan Sobieski used at the battle of Vienna actually elite troops?

Apparently, the decisive blow at the 1683 Battle of Vienna was struck by Jan Sobieski, with only 3,000 "hussars" (cavalry). This seems a bit hard to believe, given that the Turkish army had about ...
7
votes
2answers
428 views

Were there any battles in Continental Europe that were decided by “peasants with pitchforks?”

I can think of one such battle in the British Isles; the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 in Scotland. In that battle, a 14,000-man English army despoiled a bunch of "homeless" vagrants on their way to ...
9
votes
3answers
436 views

At the Battle of Zama, was the Roman army more “native” than the Carthaginian?

At the battle of Zama, which army had a higher proportion of native troops? Within the context of this question consider troops to be either "native" or "mercenary". Native troops serve out of ...
6
votes
3answers
422 views

Organized and intentional suicide attacks during military conflicts

First of all I want to make it clear that we're not speaking about terrorist attacks here. This question is strictly dedicated to war operations, in a dictionary meaning. Also this question is about ...
1
vote
1answer
153 views

Were Russian recruits ever chained?

This paper contains the following remark: Recruits were then marched off, without proper care, to a destination that might be hundreds of miles away; initially they were branded and even ...
5
votes
1answer
340 views

Was the battle of Stalingrad “unique” in the annals of history?

I'm referring to the fact that BOTH sides ordered their troops to fight for the city "to the last man and last round." (Hitler). The Soviet Union's General Vasili Chuikov echoed this by saying "We ...
8
votes
2answers
930 views

What uniforms did each of the American Civil War regiment wear during First Bull Run / First Manassas

During the American Civil War battle First Bull Run / First Manassas, regiments of both sides turned up in either the gray militia uniform or the blue 1858 regulation uniform, in addition to any ...
8
votes
6answers
729 views

What advantages have motorized infantry enjoyed over standard infantry besides speed?

My understanding is that motorized infantry have greater combat value than "standard" infantry (foot soldiers armed with rifles, or perhaps machine guns), over and above their greater mobility. Do ...
11
votes
6answers
20k views

Why have officers in the U.S. army tended to “top out” at the level of Major?

In the U.S. army, something like 75%-80% of newly-commissioned Second Lieutenants are promoted to First Lieutenant (around age 25), perhaps 75%-80% of First Lieutenants are promoted to Captain (ages ...
11
votes
1answer
793 views

Where did the design of the US Colonel insignia come from?

I've been trying to figure out why the insignia for a colonel in the U.S. military is an eagle. Obviously, there is the connection with the seal of the united states. But why is it used by the colonel ...
7
votes
5answers
2k views

How did a nomadic minority group the Manchus come to rule over China?

The population of the Chinese empire was about 120 times larger than the Jurchen tribe, who later renamed themselves to Manchus. Yes, the Manchus were very skilled warriors and the late Ming dynasty ...
3
votes
1answer
249 views

What is “quarter column”

I'm watching a documentary on the Boer War and apparently, during the Victorian era, the British Army commonly employed their infantry in "quarter column". I've tried to look it up, but can't find ...
3
votes
1answer
501 views

Riveted mail - flat or round rings? Die cut rings mixed with riveted ones?

I'm interested in the chainmail worn in the 14th and 15th century. As far as I know, almost all chainmail found in Europe has been riveted and woven 4 in 1. But I hear that there were chainmails made ...
17
votes
2answers
5k views

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 ...
3
votes
1answer
848 views

Missing link in the German tank development?

As you know, the Leopard 1 was not the first tank of postwar Germany. Germany work on different new tanks. There are prototypes as medium tank Indienpanzer (later developed into a Swiss KW30 and its ...
9
votes
1answer
181 views

Identification of a treacherous general of 17th century China

My aunt is part of an informal discussion group interested in the history of China. Apparently, during the Ming dynasty in the 1600s, there was a general whose treachery (I the charge was he was ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

Did the Soviet Union know when DEFCON levels changed?

The US military uses a scale of alert readiness called DEFCON, with DEFCON 5 being the lowest alert level and DEFCON 1 being the highest, preparing for imminent nuclear war. At least once during the ...
15
votes
1answer
346 views

Are photos of WWII US Navy damage reports available online?

I have located a PDF of the USS Marblehead's Bomb Damage Report from 4 Feb 1942. The report lists plates of photographs which are not included in the report I have found. Do copies of this report ...
10
votes
2answers
408 views

What kind of armor did the soldiers use in pre-gunpowder Southeast Asia?

The tropical Southeast Asia (especially the Malay world, e.g. Malaysia/Indonesia) are very hot, and apparently wearing European-style full armor is very uncomfortable in hot climates. What kind of ...
12
votes
2answers
657 views

Was the Napoleonic era cavalry armour effective against firearms?

During the Napoleonic wars in Europe, many heavy cavalry units still retain the use of armours, for example, French Carabiniers-à-Cheval below, How effective were these to protect the cavalryman ...
6
votes
1answer
191 views

British way in construction of AFV

Why have British tanks not changed very much? The USA have moved from the VSS, VVSS, HVSS (Lee and Sherman) suspensions to the torsion bar suspension (T26 and Patton family), USSR - from twin bogies ...
6
votes
5answers
351 views

Historical examples of significant no man's lands between states in perpetual conflict

What are some historical examples, if any, of large-scale (say > 10000 km squared) "no-man's lands" between states in perpetual conflict? These states would be mutually hostile, firmly divided ...
15
votes
3answers
2k views

Was any significant percentage of Mongol army infantry?

Mongols of Khan's time are generally considered to be a cavalry army, which makes sense logistically, given the width and speed of their military maneuvers. But is there historical evidence of Khan's ...
24
votes
9answers
11k views

How severe were the casualties in ancient/medieval battles?

I've heard that in most battles prior to the introduction of gunpowder weapons, the casualties were usually very low (around 5% even in long battles) prior to the moment when someone's formation was ...
6
votes
2answers
337 views

Changing troops in first line during battle

I remember Caesar in De Bello Gallico mentioning Romans changing fighting/resting troops in some siege defense while Celtic attackers didn't do this and lost the battle because of it. This is just one ...
16
votes
4answers
4k views

How was Israel able to build a powerful military within days of the formation of the state?

The State of Israel was formed in May 14, 1948. I guess the first Arab-Israel war broke out in the same month of the same year. Israel won the war decisively. The question is not "How did they win ...
21
votes
3answers
2k views

Military brothels in WW2

Did any of the other belligerents of WW2 besides Japan and Germany provide their troops with authorised military brothels?
9
votes
1answer
238 views

Gengkhis Khan armor secret

Gengkhis Khan the king of the Mongolian Empire used a specific kind of cloth material for his military fatigues. This cloth material worked as an armor and was an advantage for his soldiers to win ...
16
votes
3answers
1k views

Was the US Navy larger in 1917, and if so, why?

Following the recent discussion in the third US Presidental Debate about the size of the Navy, there actually seemed to be a good discussion buried in there. How does the US Navy compare to its ...
11
votes
3answers
1k views

Why were there “hussars” all across Europe?

From what I read, hussars are originally a cavalry forces in Medieval Hungary. But then it became a class of light cavalry that were in service in many European nations, and during the Napoleonic ...
12
votes
2answers
614 views

What decides who goes in the front rank in a line infantry formation?

In an infantry formation, the front ranks seems to have much higher chance of being killed because they are exposed to the enemy front. This thread explains how soldiers are arranged in Roman ...
5
votes
3answers
565 views

What is the motivation of having heavy infantry to the right and light infantry to the left flank?

In Napoleonic wars era, a line contains mostly regular troops except for two kind of elite units, the heavy one, e.g. grenadiers, they normally are the bravest, strongest troops with the best stamina, ...
12
votes
2answers
392 views

In which situation is the broadside more preferable than every gun firing on their own time?

Mathematically, a ship should be able to fire more shots if each of the cannons fire at their fastest speed, instead of waiting for everyone to be ready, but it seems that a broadside is sometimes ...
0
votes
3answers
348 views

Why Americans like to enroll in military services despite huge risks involved? [closed]

Working in US military is one of the riskiest jobs in America because of the regular engagement in battles compared to other military in the world. I live in a third-world country. Even in my ...
9
votes
7answers
578 views

Has there ever been an attempted military takeover of a democracy in the western world?

Ignoring the Spanish 1981 and Greek 1967 coups. Are there any other examples of the military attempting (or even managing) to overthrow an elected government in an advanced democracy in the western ...
17
votes
6answers
4k views

Why hasn't Russia maintained significant numbers of aircraft carriers?

The United States has 11 aircraft carriers in total. Russia has only one. This is reflective of the past, in which we saw that the USSR also didn't put much importance on constructing aircraft ...
5
votes
2answers
264 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
326 views

Did the Carthaginians have the option of sending Hannibal to Sicily?

Sicily was a major focus of the First and Second Punic Wars. The first Punic war ended with Carthage handing over major grain-growing areas on the island, and the port of Lilybaem to Rome as spoils of ...
14
votes
7answers
11k views

Why did Nazi soldiers do Hitler's bidding?

The atrocities committed by Nazi soldiers during World War II are well known. I'd like to know what motivated those soldiers to do Hitler's bidding. Were they brainwashed? Did they believe they were ...
16
votes
1answer
1k views

Any notable battles fought with steel vs. bronze weapons?

In answering the question Was the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age violent I found out a few facts that I hadn't expected. Namely, that the early iron weapons weren't necessarily much ...
8
votes
1answer
581 views

What is the history of standing armies in India?

Specifically, the points I am looking answers to are: 1) What is the first recorded instance of a standing army in the Indian subcontinent. 2) When did it become a general practice to have standing ...
11
votes
3answers
3k views

How does the amount of equipment carried by various historical infantries compare?

I've heard many statements amount the weight of supplies and munition carried by soldiers of various historical forces. In particular, I've heard many comments about the amount that the British ...