At one point there was a popular book called “All I Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten”. It was the kind of book you could polish off while you were standing around waiting for someone at the bookstore, or at least get the major gist of it.
Dan and I occasionally refer to a game that we play each other (religiously) by email called Combat Mission. This game is a technical WW2 simulation that is very realistic from a tactical perspective – it isn’t a “first person shooter”. You need to utilize real-world tactics in order to achieve success in the game and poor planning and implementation is harshly punished by failed battles and missed objectives.
Dan always plays the Allies and I always play the Axis. Thus when we play on the Eastern Front he has the Russians, and the Russians often feature “conscript” or “green” level soldiers. These soldiers represent very hastily trained men who are thrown into battle for the first time; they generally fare very poorly on the battlefield. Poorly trained soldiers take a long time to obey orders (i.e. “move out”), go to ground at the first sign of enemy fire, and when panicked take forever to “rally” back to the battle.
After playing for a long time Dan has some “rules of thumb” that he uses for playing conscripts. He judges success not in typical terms (taking objectives, holding them against the enemy, etc…) but in rather unique terms – how much of their ammo did they shoot off before being routed by enemy fire or otherwise destroyed? A dead conscript unit or knocked out tank or gun with little or no ammo remaining is a successful conscript!
I was recently reading a book about the Spanish Civil War called “The Battle For Spain” by Beevor (a book I will write about in more depth in a future post). On page 213 of the book, a Russian observer talks about the crazy tactics employed by the Russians who were waging the world war by proxy:
“During the battles near Jarama, battalion commander Comrade Glaziev considered that the best crews were those that fired off the most shells.”
So maybe we are on to something, after all!