How well could 15 year olds fight in a war?

Aug 2018
643
Southern Indiana
Although they might be smaller and not as strong as older soldiers, they would be quicker, stealthier and have more energy. They would be less experienced, but then again maybe they would prove to be easier to control than older soldiers, perhaps their naivety would also make them less afraid.
 
Sep 2017
814
United States
I don't know about that.

It's not just pulling a trigger. It's running, it's humping all day up and down mountains with quite a bit of equipment, in excess of a hundred pounds sometimes: communication equipment, night vision, body armor, ammo, water, medical supplies, food, etc. The m16 weighs 8lbs. The m249 weighs over 20 locked and loaded. Carrying these weapons all day, aiming, etc, is a struggle, mentally and physically. Physical training in the US military has been revamped recently for good reason.

I bet a modern day US Marine or US Army soldier is much more physically capable than a WWI Doughboy.
Those are all luxuries of a first-rate military power. An African boy carrying a rifle isn't laden with all the gear of a U.S. marine.
 
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MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
3,034
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
Some 15-year-olds ware and are more militarily capable than others.

And probably there were always a few boys, some much younger than that, in large military units. Not every ancient soldier was a spear carrier, sword wielder, archer, or slingers. So there were probably always a few positions that didn't need a man's strength, and some of them were filled by boys, often more or less apprentice warriors.
 
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Sep 2017
814
United States
Child soldiers may not be as physically capable even in the modern world, but they are smaller and more nimble. A 6'5" 300-pound beast of a man, who would've splintered armor with the snap of his fingers in the ancient world, is just a bigger target today. Children can hide behind smaller things and manuever more stealthily than any adult.

In the days of spears and shields, a child would always be at a disadvantage against an adult in battle. An 11-year old Spartan kid with years of agoge behind him is still going to be so much underdeveloped than an adult peasant levy. Reach, strength, control, and so on would all lag so far behind; you could probably bonk him on the head with the shaft of your spear before he could even reach you, and if he did hit you first, it might not even do damage.

But today, a kid with a gun has a much more even playing field. Sure, an adult might have faster and more accurate aim, reaction time, and so on, but if the kid pulls the trigger first and the bullet hits you, it doesn't matter how small the child is.

Along being easier to control, and lacking developed moral compasses and reality checks, there's also the reverse side of the psychology. Who would be easier for you to shoot: a 35-year old man or a 10-year old boy? I'm sure many soldiers would have a much harder time fighting a battalion of child soldiers mentally and emotionally.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,557
Portugal
Yes, in the last 100 years or so the strength requirements of a soldier have reduced. You don't have to be very strong to pull a trigger. You did have to be much stronger to throw a javelin, thrust a sword, or hold a shield. Today, younger soldiers are attractive because of the psychological aspects I mentioned. It's also a reason why child soldiers are banned by international law - young soldiers with no moral compass are more likely to commit atrocities.
Quite true!

But even in ancient time and in the middle ages we could see youngers, with javelins or slings. I recall a scene about the conquest of Lisbon to the Muslims in 1147 in which the crusader chronicler mentions young (“garciones”) Christian slingers (“fundiferi”) harassing the Muslims.

DE EXPUGNATIONE OLISIPONIS CRUCESIGNATI EPISTOLA ANNO DOMINI MCXLVII. PORTUGALIAE MONUMENTA HISTORICA SCRIPTORES. VOL. I FASC. III PAGINAE 391-414. BIBLIOTECA NACIONAL DE PORTUGAL. CERCO DE LISBOA DESCRITO POR CRUZADO. PROF. DR. DARCY CARVALHO. FEAUSP SAO PAULO BRAZIL 2019. STUDIES IN MEDIEVAL AND MODERN LATIN IN PORTUGAL. O LATIM DE PORTUGAL. LATINITAS LUSITANA. : DARCY CARVALHO : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive, XII

How about Hitlerjugend units? I've read that often times the these soldiers were under 18. IDK how accurate that is though....
From the days that I read about WII, yes, they were like boy scouts with Nazi ideology and weapons, and there is those famous photo of Hitler congratulating the kids after a fight (bottom):

In Portugal there was a version during the “Estado Novo” dictatorship, created in 1936, the “Moçidade Portuguesa”.
 

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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,710

In the Battle of Griswoldville, the Georgia militia was defeated by Sherman's forces. Many of the casualties were under 15 or over 70, some as young as 12. Griswoldville still exist sort of as a place, but the town was destroyed and never rebuilt. The Confederacy was drafting men from 17-50 and had many early teen boys in the regular army.
 
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Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,503
here
Child soldiers may not be as physically capable even in the modern world, but they are smaller and more nimble. A 6'5" 300-pound beast of a man, who would've splintered armor with the snap of his fingers in the ancient world, is just a bigger target today. Children can hide behind smaller things and manuever more stealthily than any adult.

In the days of spears and shields, a child would always be at a disadvantage against an adult in battle. An 11-year old Spartan kid with years of agoge behind him is still going to be so much underdeveloped than an adult peasant levy. Reach, strength, control, and so on would all lag so far behind; you could probably bonk him on the head with the shaft of your spear before he could even reach you, and if he did hit you first, it might not even do damage.

But today, a kid with a gun has a much more even playing field. Sure, an adult might have faster and more accurate aim, reaction time, and so on, but if the kid pulls the trigger first and the bullet hits you, it doesn't matter how small the child is.

Along being easier to control, and lacking developed moral compasses and reality checks, there's also the reverse side of the psychology. Who would be easier for you to shoot: a 35-year old man or a 10-year old boy? I'm sure many soldiers would have a much harder time fighting a battalion of child soldiers mentally and emotionally.
Any examples in the Ancient World of 6'5" men splintering armor in such a fashion? Or is that just hyperbole?

And in regards to guns leveling the playing field, as you put it, that's not really a recent (100 years ago) development is it?