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

...but if the Strait is guarded such that they can't get them without braving an enfilading strafe of torpedoes, then it wouldn't do much good even if they knew where they are. From this comment by ...
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133 votes
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Why bother to attack in trench warfare?

Why bother to launch an attack? First thing is to realize that strategic trench warfare in the Great War was not planned. It's something that happened to prevent being strategically outflanked. While ...
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121 votes
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Why were ships-of-the line not supposed to open fire on frigates during fleet actions?

In age-of-sail fleet actions, the primary use of frigates (and smaller vessels) was to relay messages (usually in the form of flag signals) between the flagships and the rest of the fleet. They ...
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97 votes
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Why bother attacking castles at all? Why not go around?

Armies go around castles all the time, but what usually happens is that the castle is placed under siege. This is done at least with the intention of keeping the defenders in, and hopefully taking the ...
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83 votes

Why bother attacking castles at all? Why not go around?

Note: Brett Deveraux covers this much better than I can in the third article of his series on fortifications; strongly recommended. There are two assumptions that need to be clarified. What is the ...
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81 votes
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Were kamikaze pilots an effective strategy for Japan?

No. The general argument goes something like this: Japan was running out of trained pilots Japan couldn't spare the fuel to properly train more pilots But they had plenty of planes. Thus untrained ...
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73 votes
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When did bombs actually look like this?

Early hand grenades looked like that: The word "grenade" originated in the Glorious Revolution (1688), where cricket ball-sized iron spheres packed with gunpowder and fitted with slow-burning wicks ...
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67 votes

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

Electronic computing was not available, but a simple and constrained problem like timing a bomb drop can be handled by a dedicated mechanical or electromechanical device, the bombsight. These are "...
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62 votes
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Why didn't the British Grand Fleet force an engagement with the German Imperial Navy in WW1?

tl;dr Sea control is good. Sea denial is not that much worse. Sinking an enemy ship at the cost of significant damage to your own is less desirable than keeping your enemy holed up in port (where his ...
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62 votes

How would a Spartan have held his shield?

SHORT ANSWER Most battles were short and thus the shield did not have to be held for long in combat. Also, Spartans who survived the training which began in early childhood were extremely tough both ...
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58 votes
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Why were Royal Navy ships forbidden to attack the ARA Veinticinco de Mayo in Argentinian waters?

The exclusion zone mentioned in the article is described in the Wikipedia article as follows: The Total Exclusion Zone (TEZ) was an area declared by the United Kingdom on 30 April 1982 covering a ...
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56 votes
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In what way were Renaissance battles like chess matches?

The claim comes from Machiavelli, and, for example, this site criticizes it. In this case, Machiavelli was arguing in favor of training militias instead of using mercenary forces. A similar case is ...
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55 votes
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Have any kings ever been serving admirals?

It turns out William IV wasn't called the "Sailor King" for nothing. He was a younger son of George III and thus didn't expect ever to become king. His naval career began at the age of ...
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53 votes

Was Switzerland really impossible to invade during WW2?

No country is impossible to invade. Andorra could invade the USA. The question you should have asked was "Was Switzerland Impossible to Conquer during World War II?". The answer is no ...
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50 votes
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Why was PTSD not written about as much before the 20th century?

I believe this is as much sociological as medical. Terms such as 'shell shock' or 'battle fatigue' were used from at least WWI - it was believed that shelling actually 'shocked' the brain - but ...
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50 votes

How would a Spartan have held his shield?

Lars' answer has addressed the fact that the shields (know as a hoplon) often didn't need to be held for long; I'd like to address the actual mechanics. Image showing the shield held close in to the ...
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47 votes

Has there been any "invasive plants warfare" in the past?

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and ...
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46 votes

How did warriors age historically?

The Romans were known to retire their soldiers with a pension after 25 years of service. That would probably have put most of them in their early to mid 40's. Given that experienced veterans are ...
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45 votes

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

Verse 3. After crossing a river, you should get far away from it. If the river is a barrier, you can be hemmed in against it. If your enemy is the one hemmed in, they also have a defense on at ...
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45 votes
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Was Switzerland really impossible to invade during WW2?

Ok, since I think I finally got your real question (as I see it): I'm simply asking if the defense of Switzerland during WW2 was overrated. Many people claim that the country was impossible to occupy,...
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44 votes

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

Two reasons why not to put a grenade in a sling, based on the fusing/arming system (An additional reason is that there are rifle launched grenades, if you need more range). Features of a hand ...
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43 votes
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How did the Nazis plan to defeat America during World War II?

No, Hitler had no plan for defeating the US outright. However, the Germans had been fighting against the US for quite some time in the Battle of the Atlantic, since US escorts would take convoys ...
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43 votes
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Where was gunpowder invented/ discovered?

This confusion is A Thing. I actually looked into it a few weeks back. Its quite likely that ancient Indians were the first people to harvest and make use of saltpeter. We certainly haven't found ...
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40 votes

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

Gibraltar during the war had a quite formidable British naval presence (Force H), an airfield, and significant coastal gun emplacements easily capable of covering the entire strait. The primary ...
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37 votes
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Has anyone ever named a war after their own country or faction?

(1) "The Battle of France" - so called by the French. The the term "Battle of France is widely used for the WW2 fighting of the French against the German invasion. See e.g. Wikipedia Battle of ...
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36 votes

Why bother attacking castles at all? Why not go around?

There are at least two reasons. The first is that a castle is usually located on the most strategic ground in the area, a hill, river, etc. Basically, it is, or controls, the most valuable "real ...
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33 votes
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How Did the Mongol Empire Get So Big?

There are a number of tactical and strategic reasons that the Mongols were successful. Core of strong leaders: Not only were the upper levels of military leadership strong, but the mid-level and ...
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33 votes
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Who said: "Armies prepare to fight their last war, rather than their next war"?

I think this adage is very old and has been rephrased countless times (though with slight modifications), but the modern English adaption might be from the 20th century: King Wuling, "A talent ...
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32 votes

Have any kings ever been serving admirals?

Leotychidas II of Sparta During the Greco-Persian Wars, King Leotychidas II of Sparta (reigned 491 to 476 BC) was appointed admiral in overall command of the Greek fleet in 479 BC, while he was king. ...
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31 votes
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Did Henry V’s archers at Agincourt fight with no pants / breeches on because of dysentery?

tl; dr At least some of the archers who fought at the Battle of Agincourt almost were almost certainly suffering from dysentery contracted at Harfleur. However, most of the worst affected had been ...
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