Questions tagged [warfare]

For questions related to: acts of organized violence between groups of people where the violence often has a political purpose; the impact of such violence on peoples/nations; and any other related questions.

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96
votes
16answers
25k views

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 ...
85
votes
7answers
26k views

Why didn't Germany blockade the Strait of Gibraltar during WW2?

The Strait of Gibraltar, at its narrowest point, is about 14 km wide. Why didn't Germany blockade it during WW2? It seems to me that only a handful of submarines and destroyers could do the job. Wasn'...
52
votes
14answers
25k views

When were swords last used in European warfare?

Specifically, I'm interested in the last documented occurrence of swords (of any sort) being used as a primary weapon by infantrymen or cavalrymen in Western warfare. That is, when did any European or ...
16
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4answers
13k views

What forces/incentives drove the Mongols to conquer a much larger land territory than they could comfortably settle or rule?

Internet resources on the Mongol Empire usually dwell on the Mongol conquests of a huge mass of territory. Unfortunately, seldom are the reasons behind the conquests explained. One gets the impression ...
5
votes
1answer
277 views

What was the custom/consensus regarding irregular combatants 19th century?

Immediately prior to the battle of Sedan, the German soldiers who captured the town of Bazeilles executed a number of armed civilians who had been firing on German troops that day. This happened in ...
42
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14answers
9k views

Has anyone ever named a war after their own country or faction?

An interesting conversation has come up on the Science Fiction and Fantasy SE site. I will try to summarize it as briefly as possible. Someone asked a question about the second Star Wars prequel. ...
36
votes
8answers
51k 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 ...
18
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1answer
11k views

What really happened to the Maya civilization?

Are there any reliable sources that explain the "disappearance" of the Maya? I am highly skeptical about the following account as it states that the cities were destroyed by the war when in actual ...
14
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3answers
344 views

Has there ever been a mass migration of factories comparable to the USSR's in WW2?

When the Soviet Union was invaded in 1941, the authorities quickly decided to move their factories east across the Urals in anticipation of the Blitzkrieg. This saved a lot of production capacity and ...
12
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2answers
4k views

Were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki necessary? [closed]

The United States bombed Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Before the Japanese could surrender, they bombed Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. The two bombs killed over 200,000 people, most of them civilians. ...
11
votes
3answers
947 views

At what point do armies tend to break?

I remember hearing something about where it was discerned that after a certain percent of losses armies tend to break (ie retreat). Does research on this exist? If so, at what point do armies tend ...
41
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4answers
9k 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
7k views

What equipment and formations did the Muslim armies employ against the Crusades?

One can easily find articles on Wikipedia about typical tactical formations of Romans, but I haven't found such information on the Muslim world, specifically during the crusades. Did the Muslim armies ...
6
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7answers
2k views

Has the American Civil War led to any significant innovations in 19th-century warfare?

The American Civil War (1861–1865) was a major conflict with a long string of battles. Has it led to any innovations in 19th-century warfare? It has been pointed out that it may have been the first ...
44
votes
9answers
27k views

How did the Nazis plan to defeat America during World War II?

Yamamoto famously advised against a war with the United States, because he could tell how powerful they would be once they got going. The Nazis, however, declared war on the United States of their ...
35
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11answers
9k views

Did archers synchronize fire? Why?

I noticed that in medieval movies and TV shows, when there is a big battle happening, groups of archers always synchronize their firing. I was wondering whether this is something that writers made up ...
16
votes
11answers
6k views

Why were people from the Asian Steppes able to militarily dominate Europeans on a repeated basis?

From the Huns through the Mongolians, why were nomadic people from the east able to create such havoc in Europe? Was it an endless 'first mover' advantage with horse domestication? Was it a higher ...
30
votes
3answers
22k views

How did Europeans first acquire gunpowder?

I know that gunpowder was first invented in China around the 10th century, and it seems that gunpowder likely made its way to Europe via the "Silk Road." However, there doesn't seem to be a ton of ...
22
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5answers
5k views

How did a besieged city/castle defend itself vs. catapulting diseased dead bodies into it?

I was a bit shocked to read that diseased dead bodies/animals where catapulted into besieged castles/towns. Biological warfare in the middle ages. But this "method" of warfare had probably a lot of ...
12
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4answers
6k views

What Are the Dynamics of A “Forced March?”

In the "Art of War," Sun Tzu opined that if you put your army on a forced march of a certain speed, you will lose one-third of your troops along the way. A rough rule of thumb was that an army would ...
11
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3answers
2k views

What exactly were currours, and what were they used for?

In researching this question on Medieval light cavalry, I came across this reference to "currours" in Wikipedia, with no link: Many countries developed their own styles of light cavalry, such as ...
8
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3answers
1k views

What Were the Types of Sieges?

As I understand it, there were two types of sieges. One was where the attacking army would "camp," surrounding the city, and let the defenders run out of food. An example was Ulysses S. Grant's siege ...
28
votes
2answers
2k views

Classical battle sizes vs medieval battle sizes

Why did classical battles did tend to be larger than in the medieval period? One particular example I am thinking of was the Battle of Stamford Bridge, which had around 30,000 participants, compared ...
22
votes
10answers
59k views

How far could an English war bow shoot?

The range of the medieval weapon is not accurately known, with estimates from 165 to 228 m (180 to 249 yds) So says Wikipedia. I did read, however, in a semi-fictional, semi-historical work of ...
15
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6answers
38k views

What is the longest effective range artillery weapon ever built?

What is the longest effective range artillery weapon ever built, regardless of wether it was actually used in combat?
15
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6answers
4k views

What is the longest retreat?

What is the longest sustained retreat by a military force in history, by total length? Not counting naval examples, as they can be much longer. When I search for it I get a lot of results to the ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

Why did Coloman of Slavonia leave Sajó bridge weakly defended against the Mongols?

During the beginning hours of the Battle of Mohi, Coloman of Slavonia was able to repulse the Mongol attempt to secure the bridge for their safe crossing over the river. But within two hours after ...
6
votes
7answers
3k views

Why were rockets not popular as part of artillery until 20th century?

Why were rockets not extensively used throughout the world like cannon until the 20th century? Maybe one may ask the reason for pointing out 20th century. I guess it's fair enough after thinking about ...
4
votes
1answer
2k views

What caused the shift from annexation of territory, to colonization of territory?

What caused the shift from annexation of territory, to colonization of territory? I've been thinking about this for some time, but can't come to any definite conclusions as my knowledge in history ...
17
votes
2answers
4k views

How did Aztec armor and weaponry match up to the Spaniards?

If you discount the germs and the gunpowder, how did the average Aztec warrior match up against the average Spaniard facing him? As I understand it European metallurgy was considerably more advanced, ...
13
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4answers
4k views

What were Britain's defensive plans for a Nazi invasion?

Despite the fact that it never ended up happening, a Nazi invasion of England was kind of a common sense inevitability for a while during the beginning of World War 2. Had the Battle of Britain gone ...
9
votes
1answer
2k views

How do war elephants fight?

Do they just run breaking phalanx? Do they pull their front food and then crush enemies below? What do elephants do? Or are the fighters on top of it just shoot arrows?
7
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3answers
3k views

Why did the line infantry not use shields in the 18th century?

Why did soldiers in the line infantry in the 18th century not used shield as protection against the fire from the other line infantry ? I have seen that line infantry was used this way where the one ...
6
votes
1answer
618 views

When did cavalry soldiers unsheathe swords?

Most movies depict cavalry's unsheathing of swords before a cavalry charge, far before their swords can ever be used. Is this authentic? The Young Winston (1972) exemplifies the above, but bizarrely....
5
votes
2answers
2k views

Did the Nazis regard chemical warfare as inhumane and “Jewish”?

I sometimes encounter accounts that the main reason why chemical weapons were not used in WWII was because initially they were invented by a Jew Fritz Haber, and as such Hitler expressed opinion that ...
3
votes
2answers
2k 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 (...
3
votes
2answers
335 views

Medical personnel fighting on the battlefield

How common was it for Red Cross medical personnel to take part in military action on the battlefields (in both World Wars)? How was this received by the combatants (friendly and enemy)? The question ...