Human Waves...

Justiciar

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Wondering if HW should not have a "use by date?" In that by a certain date did Russians forces really execute HW in the DFE form of the rule?

My thinking is that for DFE (that is to account for the generally lethality that a WW2 East Front battlefield had become by x/1943?...once the Russian had learned from the Germans how to wage war as well, if not better than the Germans, (and the weapon systems they had on line to do so) that HW as ASL has it for DFE should not become an SSR [specific to a known battle] rather than a hip pocket tactic for use at any time by the Russians?

I get this ship has sailed as to the ASLRB, this thread is just for the sake of the discussion...like a West Civ 101 essay exam...it is designed to allow you to bring for and against arguments to the question at hand...there does not have to be a right or wrong answer per se...though I have a view...
 

Carln0130

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Haven't researched the subject well enough to answer from the historical POV. Certainly as an ASL tactic, it is not all that easy to use and if used against defending positions that are not softened up/can lay multiple fire lanes to cut a swath through the HW, it comes with its own high price. I think the rule largely polices itself. As always with ASL, mileage may vary with exact situation, but I think in most cases, it is a non-starter as a concern.
 

Justiciar

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No, the point was not about lining it up or easy to do/use or anything like that...

The point is exactly about the "historical POV"... that is the question at hand...did they really trot this out as a tactic...were they teaching SNCO and LTs to do this in x/1943....?
 

R Hooks

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I think the soviets certainly taught it as part of infantry training. if it wasn't used in 44/45 I think is more of the nature of German delay tactics. It's very possible IMO that the Germans had retreated before the human wave reached them.
 

Justiciar

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You know it was taught in '44/45 at AIT? Could I get the source for that?

A Soviet division shrunk by some 7,000 men between '39 and May '45. I should think this reduction, and the lesson drawn from combat had its affect.
 

Eagle4ty

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The tactic was certainly used in 44-45, at least from recollections and historical accounts of German troops. As the Soviets swept through the Baltic they conscripted thousands of locals and partisans and immediately pressed them into service, often times trowing them into battle with a couple of weeks or even days of training. Sorry I can't remember the name of book about the Actions in Baltic & East Prussia but the use of human waves by Soviet (and in some cases German) units were mentioned more than once. I also believe Le Tissier also mentioned their use in the final drive to Berlin as the Soviets pressed freshly conscripted poorly trained units from the Ukraine and other captured territories into the cauldron of battle in the race to be the first into the city. Even the Americans during the Battle Of The Bulge reported some of the less trained German formations employing human waves to attempt to break positions.
 

Michael Dorosh

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The tactic was certainly used in 44-45, at least from recollections and historical accounts of German troops.
You have to wonder about the veracity of those lurid accounts though for a variety of reasons.

I think Justiciar is on the right track in looking for period training documents.

There is some irony in Patton's own memoirs describing "marching fire" as a US tactic in 1944-45. Basically a skirmish line where everyone advances with semi-auto M-1 rifles and fires on the move. Not sure how often it was actually done, but lots of things sound better on paper than they were in actuality.

I don't know if I would be quick to draw a connection between "untrained conscripts" and "human wave" either. From what I've read, the hardest thing to get inexperienced troops to do is expose themselves to enemy fire. It would probably be easier to get a squad of veteran GIs to advance in a skirmish line than a platoon of conscripts to rush a defensive position at bayonet point. Though it might have been useful in partisan actions between two poorly equipped forces.
 

xenovin

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Human waves weren't in the training manuals. They were a result of inept and/or under-trained officers who lacked the ability to coordinated attacks (or fearful of countermanding a superior's orders) thus they sent troops out in repeated waves of frontal assaults to the slaughter. To the credit of the common Soviet soldier, they continued the assault through murderous fire until they closed with the enemy - if any of them were still alive. This became less common after 1942 as junior officers became better trained (and didn't die in their first frontal assault as flank attacks became understood) but Soviet practice of "recon by fire" - sending troops forward so German MG and gun emplacements fired and gave away their position for later Soviet artillery attacks - continued through the war and looked like a human wave attack to the Germans (because it was but with limited objectives). The Soviet 1936 infantry training manuals reads very much like German doctrine about initiative and bold attacks (probably as a result of Russo-German collaboration in the early 1930s) but the 1942 update captures the shortcomings of the junior and mid-level officer corps and the 1944 version finally amassed all the hard lessons learned during the war and worth a read if you can find them in US intel repositories.
 

Eagle4ty

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You have to wonder about the veracity of those lurid accounts though for a variety of reasons.

I think Justiciar is on the right track in looking for period training documents.

There is some irony in Patton's own memoirs describing "marching fire" as a US tactic in 1944-45. Basically a skirmish line where everyone advances with semi-auto M-1 rifles and fires on the move. Not sure how often it was actually done, but lots of things sound better on paper than they were in actuality.

I don't know if I would be quick to draw a connection between "untrained conscripts" and "human wave" either. From what I've read, the hardest thing to get inexperienced troops to do is expose themselves to enemy fire. It would probably be easier to get a squad of veteran GIs to advance in a skirmish line than a platoon of conscripts to rush a defensive position at bayonet point. Though it might have been useful in partisan actions between two poorly equipped forces.
I would have to believe that the veracity of using marching fire at least was probably a valid tactic. I cannot attest to the time period but if learned tactics are an indication I can attest to the fact it was a tactic taught to us and used often during the Viet Nam War. Now did this tactic come from the Second World War? If Patton describes such an action one can only extrapolate that perhaps this was an inspiration for its inception as a valid tactic.

As for not getting less trained troops to expose them selves to fire on an attack, I believe this is an absolute fallacy. Once motivated to conduct an assault less combat experienced troops often throw caution to the wind, feel invulnerable and will conduct assaults as if in the American Civil War era charging headlong into the fight, bunching up and in general acting more like an armed mob than an efficient trained force or concerned with personal safety. I've seen this with ill trained Iraqi forces and there are enough accounts of its occurrence in later battles of WW-II & Korea to at least convince me that the tactic, though not necessarily tactically sound, was still employed.
 

Eagle4ty

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Pretty much describes the training we got. Normally used in the final assault though. I could certainly imagine a unit pressed for time and consisting of a wealth of less combat experienced troops would institute such a tactic right from the get go especially against a much weaker opponent or poor defensive position. Now give me a commander that's under the gun to accomplish the mission, perhaps less experienced as well, and a few highly motivated junior officers or NCOs to kick but on the laggers; not much of a stretch to imagine a form of human wave being utilized.
 
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Sorry for the late post on this topic but the Human Wave as designed in ASL would have been a very, very rare thing even in 1941. It simply requires the troops to be too disciplined. Thankfully, the access to Soviet archives since 1990 has done a lot to correct the image of the Red Army that became the norm in 1950s, 60s and even 70s thanks to the one-sided views provided by the German veterans. The German soldiers, and especially the professional officer corps, were playing to a willing audience as they told their tales to wide-eyed American (and allied) officers of 'hordes' of mindless Red Army soldiers, charging in drunken waves from their trenches. All one has to do is read von Mellenthin's "Panzer Battles" or Manstein's "Lost Victories" to find a very skewed (read: inaccurate) view of the Red Army in combat

I would suggest a few volumes of relatively new and excellent examinations of the fighting on the eastern front in the open months of Barbarossa. David Stahel has two volumes out, "Barbarossa" and "Kiev 1941". David Glantz has his excellent (but loooonnngg) "Barbarossa Derailed", volumes 1 and 2. Stahel's text give and excellent view of not only the problems faced by the Red Army in the early battles but also how shocked the Germans were by both the tenacity of the Red Army soldier and the quality of their kit. German losses were far in excess of expectations and diaries (personal and unit) noted that almost every attack took a maximum effort to overcome the defences in order to exploit the Red Army's weaknesses.

"Human Waves" did happen but more often than not, what the Germans called such an attack were usually a mass of infantry, sometimes with tanks in the mix, advancing rapidly over open group. Coordination was usually poor as was control of the troops and these attacks usually were turned back with heavy losses.

Cheers.
 
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Vinnie

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How similar is the bayonet charge as done by British forces to the human wave?
I always got the impression that this was more a "sudden dash from cover to close with the enemy" than the human wave from distance. More akin to an assault move, advance into CC than a distance eating charge.
 

The Purist

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Bayonet charges have been recorded in a number of actions by allied troops in NWE but these were usually after the assault squad had manoeuvred close enough for a quick dash into German positions. I would not call them 'human waves'.
 

Michael Dorosh

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I think you are both correct - many of the so-called 'bayonet charges' post-1918 were probably nothing more than infantry carrying out the final stages of the assault, coincidentally with bayonets fixed. "Fix bayonets" was still part of battle procedure when I did my basic training in '88 and my understanding was in 39-45 it was the same - when in contact, you had your bayonet on. The standard battle drills involved closing to grenade range and following up with the bayonet, though I think in practice more often in small teams or even individuals rather than entire squads.

The human wave and bayonet charge rules depict something much different than that, in other words.
 

The Purist

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A lot of people have a misunderstanding of British (CW) infantry tactics in WWII. The CW armies were very 'loss averse' and the battle drill used in the mto/eto placed as high value on manoeuvre and firepower to help the assault squads close on the objective. Almost all the riflemen carried two 30 round magazines for the squad's Bren gun as well as their own bandoliers of .303 cartridges (50 rounds in 10 strip clips per bandolier) for the SMLE (10 round box magazine) and as many hand grenades as possible.

This doesn't mean German fire didn't inflict serious damage on the attackers, as Monte Casino and Normandy show (the Canadian took some fearful losses when caught in open around Caen and villages surrounded by fields of grain). That said, pressing home an attack at the point of bayonet in ASL would have been a section or squad action via the advance phase and CC and not a multi-hex line of stacked MMCs charging forward.

I suspect this is already understood.:geek:
 

Eagle4ty

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A bit of confusion here as to what is a Human Wave may depend on the minds eye view of what one expects. I "assume" many people see the human wave as similar to the scenes depicted in "Enemy At The Gates". Men advancing almost shoulder to shoulder at a mad dash to close with the enemy regardless of casualties and taking very few precautions or taking little advantage of cover. I'm not saying this did not occur and may very well be the conditions the developers of ASL envisioned when developing the rule. However, more than likely it is the common Soviet Tactic of rapidly closing with an enemy by use of massed assets over disadvantageous terrain (e.g. the steppes, streets, etc.) that was utilized by the Soviets way until the 1980's and is still being used by such nations as the Ukrainians (can personally attest to this).

As Michael knows most western armies train for advance under contact by utilizing 3-5 sec. rushes or similar tactics to close with the enemy (hand grenade range), and personal HtH combat as a last resort. The Soviets had a different doctrine. Perhaps because their squads/platoons wern't built around an automatic weapon but relied primarily upon the bolt action rifle (purely my conjecture here), they emphasized rapid movement to INDIVIDUAL contact with the enemy. The lessons of WW-I were not universal as the war in the east still maintained a modicome of maneuver that in the west had been shut down for the most part [EXC: Pershing's open warfare concept-but the U.S. paid for that]. Even after the advent of the use of the rapid fire AK (very inaccurate on automatic), Soviet troops were taught to fire on the move to suppress the enemy while maintaining a rapid advance, even over extended distances, towards their objective. Movement was emphasized more than use of cover because cover was so scarce and the shock and awe factor of finding large masses of your enemy in among ones own forces so quickly was unnerving (especially to German forces that relied heavily upon the MG to do much of their damage-even more so as the war progressed).

Is the Human Wave as depicted in ASL a valid Soviet tactic for late war (WW-II)? As a design for effect I believe it still conveys the desired effects of Soviet doctrine throughout the war. It is perhaps a little heavy handed for later war, but still valid for their use and conveys the proper condiditions encountered on the battlefields then. JMHO
 
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