In your opinion, how crucial was the creation of the machine gun to the development of warfare since that point in time?

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,538
#12
I remember reading somewhere that during WW2 troops were most afraid of artillery' "screaming meemies", and mortars, but most losses were from machine gun fire.
Artillery and mortars were responsible for the majority of battle casualties in the Second World War. Among U.S. military personnel for example 53% of battle deaths and 62% of wounds were inflicted by shrapnel.
 
Likes: Futurist

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,521
Sydney
#13
During the battle of Verdun ,most soldiers didn't even see an opponent
the rather small battlefield was simply a eleven months long artillery mincing machine
where divisions were mauled as they were thrown into the mix

it is ironical that the less useful and lethal weapon was the infantry rifle ,
Artillery , mortars , grenades , gases and sharpened shovels were the killers
 
Mar 2019
1,255
Kansas
#16
A documentary I watched some years ago explained the deadliness of the machine gun in WW1. Given the static nature of the front lines there was plenty of time to set up blind killing paths with machine guns. The machine gun position really never saw their enemy. Simply fire down a predetermined line and hope. The attackers had the reverse problem, they could not identify the location of machine guns, so trying to mount counter measures were extremely difficult.
 
Jul 2016
9,327
USA
#18
I remember reading somewhere that during WW2 troops were most afraid of artillery' "screaming meemies", and mortars, but most losses were from machine gun fire.
Losses were very theater specific and were very dependent on who someone was fighting and where. For instance, in the ETO and Eastern Front, the vast majority of casualties were from high explosives, predominately artillery, mortars, and rockets, in that order. Then machine guns, then grenades, finally other small arms including submachine gun, then rifle. But in the Pacific, the Japanese would lose more to small arms fire than in other theaters, especially later in the war, as the Japanese fought more predominately from fixed fortifications, which largely nullified the use of indirect fire, meaning to get them out required satched charges, direct hits with tank, canon, or bazooka fire, flamethrower, hand grenades, or small arms.

A decidedly potent combination that would do very well with killing could be done by the company level defense by numerous countries. For instance, the Germany possessed 8.0 cm mortars at the company level, but had an LMG in every squad. What they did was wait until the dismounted enemy on the attack was firmly inside their engagement area kill zones and then they would open fire on them, often with flanking fires (angled or totally to the sides). The primary enemy avenue of approaches would be covered by machine guns, which would engage once enough enemy were suckered in, with zones of grazing fire (one meter off the ground) traversing left and right. At that point, the enemy's forward advance would be blocked by mines, and any progress they might be making through the mine field would be stopped as they got shot at with machine guns and small arms, forcing them to go prone or take cover. With the attack stalled, small unit leaders would need to try to rally the men, and would often be the only ones standing up, waving their arms, trying to motivate their subordinates to follow them and advance, making them easy targets for machine gunners and riflemen both. As that is happening, the platoon leader is on the radio or field telephone calling back to company HQ to get mortars fired at specific aiming points that had already been registered (pre-fired on accuracy).

And if the attackers reveal they are using enough forces of high enough importance the attack is designated as the enemy main attack, by higher level commanders, who are judging subordinate's situation reports. Thus calls for fire would be judged and additional assets, like battalion, regimental level mortars and canon, division level artillery, corps level artillery, including rockets, and even air strikes, would be prioritized and allocated, as they are available.

Even with combined arms its still a very valid tactic, as more anti-tank weapons would be included in the defense, with the arty and mortars killing or wounding any accompanying infantry, while unsupported tanks are gutted at medium to close range by hidden AT weapons.

Against an enemy who conducts very tenacious attacks, this tactic can account for a very large number of casualties. Now imagine if the enemy attacks in echelon, in waves. The first wave runs into the above. A smart commander conducting the attack realizes that plan didn't work. So he halts and tries something different, maybe trying to find another route, or halting until more suppressing firepower can be brought to try to suppress the defenders. Etc. But what about a military force that doesn't alter orders. When a higher level commander says that a regiment will attack a specific narrow sector, with battalions in column, regiments stacked behind each other, it means the first battalion runs into that defense and gets chewed up. The survivors, often leaderless, pull back on their own. Then another near identical attack is launched, in the same place. Then that one is beaten back similarly. And then another. And sometimes another.

This was one reason for the massive casualties on the Eastern Front, and other fronts and combatants too. Inflexible commanders willing to take casualties trying to force an objective, like pounding a square peg to get it through the round hole. Eventually either the square peg breaks, or the round hole breaks. In a war of attrition against an enemy who for numerous reasons cannot conduct one (Germany), often times the Soviets could still achieve tactical and operational success in such attacks because as badly hurt as they were during the attack, they still killed enough defenders, or caused them to expend so much ammunition to stop the attacks, that subsequent would succeed.

Not to suggest the Red Army wasn't capable of some incredibly intelligent and well planned attacks, they were. Just that a lot of them, especially early in the war, up until '44, were often done without enough supporting arms and without enough flexibility and initiative by local leaders.

Also not to suggest that no one else could do that, the Japanese had a similar system they were using in 1944-45, as did all members of the Allies, I was just using the Germans as an example.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,085
#19
That site is just wrong. And not just a little wrong. Very wrong. elsewhere it says "-The Battle of the Somme- the first known usage of the machine gun on the Western Front"
The depth of ignorance to make a statement like that is staggering,

The Majority of battlefield casualties in ww1 were artillery.
 
Mar 2018
728
UK
#20
Could not be further from the truth. WW1 was probably the most artillery heavy war in history. Dennis Winter in "Death’s Men" claims around 75% of military casualties were from artillery, while John Keegan in ‘The Face of Battle’ estimates at around 70%.

Maybe a one paragraph text from a website called jhalpinww1technology is not a valid source, especially when it gives no citations.
 

Similar History Discussions