Was targeting officers in warfare frowned upon?

Was targeting officers in warfare frowned upon?

  • yes

    Votes: 1 7.7%
  • no

    Votes: 10 76.9%
  • other

    Votes: 2 15.4%

  • Total voters
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Sep 2014
Queens, NYC
Like so much else in war, targetting of officers changed in acceptability throughout the ages.
Up to about the 16th century, going after the prominent guy was generally ok-it had to be done by going hand-to-hand, he had a chance to fight his adversaries.
The age of gunpowder changed that-an officer etc. was likely to be hit simply at random, from a distance, with little chance of defence or specific countering. But-this was a risk shared by everybody. So, at first some indignation at the randomness, then simple acceptance. Besides, nobody was going to eschew firearms because of the risk of hitting adversarial officers at random.
Age of precision firearms-now the officer could be hit at a distance, specifically targetted, little chance of avoidance, protection, or specific countering. At first indignation, then acceptance. Nowadays it's in the job description-the officer (RTO, FO, messenger, etc.) has to factor the risk in.
Btw-what about the Age of Archery? I suspect that the effectiveness of armor obviated any precision at a distance.
Likes: Edric Streona
Sep 2014
Queens, NYC
^^That might make special sense when shooting at moving targets.
But, somewhere on some site, it's contended that the principle of "aim small, miss small" may have been useful even in archery combat.
Sep 2017
United States
I read that some Roman officers would brag about how many mounts were shot out from under them. There also used to be some sort of reward or title for a man who killed the enemy leader in single combat, though I forget what it was called and what the details were.
Aug 2018
Southern Indiana
I've read the same thing and the "logic" was that officers would prevent common soldiers from committing atrocities such as killing the wounded. In practice, they often seemed to be targeted, but they were certainly treated better after capture.
Likes: Niobe
Sep 2014
Queens, NYC
Dan Howard, page 2 post 14:

Aim at what? How close do you think the enemy has to be before the archer either withdraws from the fight or switches to hand weapons?
Based on what I can see on Youtube, I'd say the switch to hand weapons might be effected at approximately 15 yards. Any closer runs the risk that the opponent would be on top of the archer before the latter can go to melee weapon.

Withdraw? I don't know. I guess it might be a function of the organization, training, and drill.
Feb 2016
It may have been ungentlemanly, but the British did it too, and it was done before the AWI, Austrian pandours, Colonial rangers, French woodsmen, German jagers.. they all targeted officers first, musicians (buglers and drummers not bandsmen)and NCOs second when they could. Any British whining about it was probably due to the inability to respond in kind in the early stages... until they had their own riflemen.

Americans were not any more independent minded thinkers than their French, British and Prussian contempories, they needed their officers and sergeants as much as anyone else. They certainly swallowed alot of propaganda without question, were prone to panic or inaction when their officers were down.. not exactly hallmarks of free thinkers.

I doubt they targeted British officers out of any sense of contempt or spite but more out it being an accepted way to sap morale and hamper unit effectiveness... and much easier with a rifle than a smoothbore.
Feb 2016
Officers and Sergeants are targets as they are visable leaders and it is hoped without them the unit will be less effective.
Buglers and drummers were targets as they relay orders and with out them battlefield communication is hampered.