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

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Why were troops with bayonets often effective against enemy cavalry even though the bayonet was a “secondary” weapon?

The bayonet was introduced in the late 17th century as a knife (later a short sword) attached to a musket, to enable the musketeer to protect himself when reloading their single-shot weapons. As such, ...
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1answer
107 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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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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4answers
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Why didn't Japanese infantrymen and samurai use shields?

Shields were considered useful in Europe until the development of full plate armor. Despite the fact that they never had anything comparable to plate armor, shield use was apparently abandoned by the ...
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1answer
82 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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2answers
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What prevented the Mongolian Empire from expanding into Europe?

The Mongolian Empire reached quite a vast extent according to the map below and leaders such as Genghis Khan seemed to defeat all their enemies consistently. Yet, the empire never extended into ...
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1answer
278 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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3answers
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How to explain the Khalkhin Gol outcome in view of Soviet weakness and Japanese strength at that time?

Conventional wisdom says that the USSR was very weak in 1939/40/41, in large part due to the purges of the 1930s, ideological interference in the armed forces, and lack of equipment, preparation and ...
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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
92 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
810 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
521 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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2answers
792 views

World War 1 Indian propaganda posters

In World War 1, because war broke out between the triple entente and the central powers (and they happened to have a lot of foreign colonies), the allies made posters to recruit soldiers from all ...
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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 ...
4
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1answer
289 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
169 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
101 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
211 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
283 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
745 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
273 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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8answers
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Why bother attacking castles at all? Why not go around?

Castles were designed to hold people, weapons, and supplies to survive a siege. They were well-defended. Taking one could easily be a long, bloody struggle. Why attack at all? Most castles I've seen ...
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2answers
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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
660 views

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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2answers
664 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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5answers
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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 ...
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4answers
2k views

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
158 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
221 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
878 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
147 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 ...
2
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1answer
171 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
107 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
372 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, ...
4
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2answers
289 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
299 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
264 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
238 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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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
222 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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9answers
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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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2answers
414 views

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 ...
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1answer
493 views

What percentage of eligible men were drafted during WW2 and Vietnam?

During the times of these conflicts I'm pretty sure the eligible ages to be drafted were from 18 - 25. During these times what percentage of US males between those ages were drafted. I'd like to be ...
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3answers
862 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 ...