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
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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'...
78
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7answers
20k views

Why bother to attack in trench warfare?

At least on the western front, trenches were heavily defended. Any charge was just suicidal, with heavy losses for the attacker and much smaller losses for the defender. As there is a big strategic ...
71
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3answers
17k views

When did bombs actually look like this?

I guess most are familiar with the cartoonish "bomb icon". It is used to warn of metaphorical or literal explosive danger and shows a deep black sphere with a smaller cylinder attached. That is where ...
69
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2answers
10k views

Why were ships-of-the line not supposed to open fire on frigates during fleet actions?

Found this passage in the book Patrick O'Brian's Navy (p. 57) In the era of fighting sail there was an unspoken convention that line-of-battle ships did not fire on frigates during any fleet action ...
62
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5answers
49k views

Did World War II-era bombs actually whistle?

In WWII-era films and newsreels, aerial bombs are often shown making a whistling sound as they fall; starting high pitched, then decreasing as the bomb approaches the Earth (example here, starting at ...
54
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2answers
9k views

How would a Spartan have held his shield?

I am astonished at the weight of a Spartan shield, which I have read would have weighed 30 lbs (13.5 kg). This is, of course, extremely heavy for most people. Ergo, it raised the question for me: ...
52
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10answers
16k views

How did pilots know when to release bombs on airplanes during World War2?

Given that during this time computing technology wasn't advanced enough to calculate when to drop bombs accurately on a target, I recall hearing something about bomber pilots using a modified watch to ...
52
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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 ...
47
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17answers
19k views

Was Switzerland really impossible to invade during WW2?

My question is not about an alternative scenario, nor about the reasons that caused Switzerland to not get invaded (as could be seen here: Why was Switzerland not attacked during the two World Wars?). ...
44
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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 ...
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. ...
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 ...
36
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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 ...
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 ...
34
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2answers
9k views

Did the Pope's crossbow and archery bans have any effect?

One of the more famous and certainly curious decisions at the Second Council of the Lateran in 1139 was a ban on using missile troops against Christians. Specifically, Canon 29 states that: We ...
30
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12answers
9k views

Were slings used for throwing hand grenades? If not, why?

It seems using a sling is far more effective than throwing things with your bare hands. As far as I know, slingers were widespread in the Ancient era, as well as in the Middle ages: However, in XIX-...
30
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4answers
7k views

Why didn't the British Grand Fleet force an engagement with the German Imperial Navy in WW1?

I'm watching the channel The Great War on YouTube, which documents the goings on of the First World War week by week (careful, it's addictive and there are literally hundreds of episodes). It is my ...
30
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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 ...
29
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9answers
6k views

Why was PTSD not written about as much before the 20th century?

As late as WW1 there was very little literature surrounding PTSD/'shellshock'. In fact, the term was not coined until the 1980's. Considering the fact that warfare has been a part of human life since ...
28
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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 ...
26
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9answers
5k views

What was the cleanest war ever fought?

If not all, the vast majority of wars in known history were dirty, cruel and with a lot of civilian casualties. That makes me wonder if there has ever been a "clean" war where both sides played "by ...
23
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1answer
4k views

In Antiquity, were Persian arrows considered superior to their Greek counterparts?

In Xenophon's Anabasis I ran into the following part: The Persian bows are also large, and consequently the Cretans could make good use of all the arrows that fell into their hands; in fact, ...
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 ...
22
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6answers
8k views

Why did Sun Tzu believe you shouldn't wait beside a river when eager to fight?

In Sun Tzu's Art of War, Chapter 9 (The Army on the March), Verse 5, Tzu says If you are anxious to fight, you should not go to meet the invader near a river which he has to cross. My thinking is ...
22
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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 ...
19
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5answers
3k views

What was the most recent country to be conquered and dissapear

In the Old Days, one country would conquer another and add it to its empire. What was the most recent country to be conquered and cease to exist as a country?
19
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4answers
2k views

What made Alexander great?

Historians have titled Alexander III of Macedon "the Great". In a very short period of time he conquered one of the largest empires in ancient history and was undefeated in battle. What I'd like to ...
19
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1answer
3k views

Did Henry V’s archers at Agincourt fight with no pants / breeches on because of dysentery?

At the Battle of Agincourt (1415), according to the War History Online article The Time English Soldiers went to Battle without Pants, and Won The conditions for the archers at the start of the ...
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 ...
18
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1answer
2k views

Did the Germans have a team equivalent to the one from Bletchey Park in the UK during WWII?

There is a lot of information about the British code breakers at Bletchey Park and the work they did for cryptography, computing and the war effort. Still, I haven't heard a lot about a German ...
17
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6answers
8k views

What other one word responses have been made to military ultimatums besides “Nuts!”, “Mokusatsu” and “If”?

I am aware of three well known circumstances where a one word response was given to a military ultimatum: The Japanese government responded “mokusatsu” to the Potsdam Declaration prior to the ...
17
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5answers
2k views

How was Napoleon's invasion of Russia supplied?

How was such a great army, like the army of Napoleon on its way to Moscow, supplied with food and other needed things? Were they transporting it from France or maybe stealing from territory on their ...
17
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3answers
2k views

Roughly, what percentage of arrows can be reused after a battle?

The English Longbowman according to some sources can shoot at/above 10 arrows per minute. Some of the medieval battles would last for many hours. Back-of-the-envelope math says the number of shots ...
17
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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, ...
16
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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 ...
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 ...
16
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5answers
3k views

Why were the Mongolian armies able to to use greater percentages of archers than (Medieval) Europeans?

Much has been made in other posts about how hard it was for European armies to train and maintain large numbers of archers able to use a longbow, crossbow, or similar weapons. Yet, the Mongolians ...
16
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4answers
3k views

How did ancient armies keep the route of supplies to their battlefield?

How did ancient armies like the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Chinese, or even in later times, the Arabs and Mongols keep the route of supplies going to support their armies marching through the vast ...
16
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1answer
2k views

How frequently were homing pigeons used in the World Wars?

It seems that the strategic weight of specially bred pigeons is much higher than I thought at first, based on the number of pigeons used and the effort to stop them. (In WW2 Germans even trained ...
16
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1answer
919 views

If salt was scarce and expensive, how did people “salt the earth” to ensure their enemies would stay defeated?

A common theme through much of history seems to be ensuring that the recently defeated enemy cannot recover from the loss. A way to ensure that is restricting the ability to grow food -- i.e. "salting ...
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 ...
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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4answers
4k views

Did any armies systemically favor axes/hammers over swords?

In fantasy literature there are plenty of examples of cultures (such as the Dwarves of Lord of the Rings) who favor axes or hammers above swords in combat. Did any historical army follow that pattern?...
14
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3answers
7k views

How did warriors age historically?

How good was a 40 years old or 50 years old frontline warrior expected to be historically? Experienced or decrepit? I know boxing champion statistics, but war is more complicated than boxing.
14
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2answers
4k views

Why were the Huns so successful at siege warfare but the Goths were not?

I am listening to Mike Duncan's podcast titled "The History of Rome" and in it he mentioned that it is kind of a mystery that the Huns were so successful at siege warfare but the Goths were not. Both ...
14
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5answers
6k views

Did American forces specifically target officers during the revolutionary war?

There is a story that says that American revolutionaries fought unconventionally against the British, including targeting their officers, which was not done between European forces. Is this true or ...
14
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1answer
483 views

Why did the wagon forts of the Hussites fade away?

The wagon forts of Hussites were quite successful tactically, and helped them repel five crusades from European leaders. I was wondering why did the wagon fort tactics not see a wider adoption in ...
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 ...
13
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3answers
3k views

How were fortification doors protected against fire?

Ancient and medieval fortifications are often shown to have wooden gate doors in the midst of their stone walls. Now granted, these doors are often massive and incredibly thick, but it still seems ...