World best soldiers ever

Armed conflicts in the history of humanity from the ancient times to the 20th Century.
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Gary
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Post by Gary » Sun May 13, 2007 9:47 am

Can I just ask?

When we are debating the "Best soldiers"

are we looking for discipline, fighting ferocity or skill to perform a tricky job deep behind enemy lines?

In terms of ferocity, you need to go back to medievil or ancient times, those were the days before firearms and you literally had to hack someone to death :(

Interms of special operation skill then you want the SAS, Delta Force or something like that.
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Post by Bgile » Sun May 13, 2007 11:34 am

I would think the only valid comparison would be whether they were the best in the world compared to their contemporaries.

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Gary
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Post by Gary » Sun May 13, 2007 9:17 pm

and comparing Roman centurions to 21st century paratroopers doesnt quite work :stubborn:
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Laurenz
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roman kegions

Post by Laurenz » Sun May 13, 2007 11:37 pm

The situation in de bello gallico in 7 years was sometimes on the edge.
At Gergovia it was quit dufficult and in Alesia was the main deceison.
Goscinny and Uderzo showed it very well in Asterix and the Avernianshield :-)

At the Rhine river sometimes 3/4 of the Roman (elite) legions were in defense position.
In 0009 the Roman governor in Germany Varus lost 3 legions.
The main reason for this was Arminius, the leader of the Germans.
He was a Roman officer and knew well the Roman strategy.
He led his troups not to an open battle against the Romans, he attacked them while they were on a walk through the northern German forests.
So Arminius could easely use the melee tactic.
18000 Roman soldiers on a way which had no more than 3 meters range from left to the right.
So the Romans were spreaded on nearly a 20 miles snake.
The battle took 3 days.
The Romans could hold their position for another 150 years in southern Germany.
But then it was over.
So we could compare it in our days to the U.S. army which nobody can beat on the battlefield.
Kind regards,
L.

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RF
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Post by RF » Tue May 15, 2007 9:22 am

Laurenz,

Are we talking about quality of soldiers, or the quality of leadership?

The battle of Tutorborg, to which you describe, lasted for three days because of the ferocity in resistence of the Roman Legions.

And Gary is absolutely right - how do you compare troops two thousand years apart?
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Soldiers

Post by Laurenz » Tue May 15, 2007 3:07 pm

Dear RF,
Correct, your arguements are fine.
So the question is really difficult.
L.

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Karl Heidenreich
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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Wed May 16, 2007 10:55 pm

Orville:

Maybe the Roman legions were the world's best infantry.
Their iron discipline and harsh training made them virtually unbeatable (and they were rarely defeated, if I'm not mistaken).

American infantry in WW2 was of uneven quality. Our mass army had to be assembled quickly, and the qualilty of their basic training may or may not have been adequate.
Many of its officers had little, if any, combat experience.
Some divisions (the 1st, the 3rd, the 28th) were great, while others (the 27th, the 106th) couldn't hack it.

An American division in the ETO in WW2 needed 700 tons of supplies a day to keep going. A German division, on the other hand, had to get by on 200 tons a day as the war went on--and they fought hard right to the end of the war.

I believe the Germans themselves, comparing their British and American adversaries, considered American armor and artillery to be the best, while the British were superb with infantry.
Granted, the romans were awesome but... the Spartans build a complete society based on the "warrior-concept". The roman legionaires were "professional soliders" but the spartans were "professional warriors". But it´s very valid to put them No.1.
I have never believed that the US average grunt was something exceptional. If we are talking of the airborne divisions then it´s another matter. Many years ago I read, I believe it was Cornellius Ryan´s book on Market-Garden, that the Germans believed that the US was very good at tanks and the British were very good at infantry. But, again, I bet my money on the Waffen SS, either Panzer or Infantry, against any allied unit (obviously at even terms).

I´ll say that in the Clasical Ages the Spartans were No. 1.
During the Roman Empire, well, the romans of course.
In the medieval ages take your pick. Vikings? Saxons?
In the Renaisance then the Spanish are not a bad pick.
In the pre-Napoleonic ages then Frederick the Great armies.
In the Napoleonic Ages then the British Grenadiers, of course.
In the Civil War the Stonewall Brigade any time.
In WWI the German Infantry
In WW2 the Waffen SS
At Korea: the marines
At Vietnam: the North Vietnamese regular
At the 1991 Gulf: no one (fighting the Iraquis is not worth to judge. I believe that if Schwarzkoft had fought the ruskies then the US Army would be defending Arabia from the Shock Armies).
At the 2003 Gulf: The US 3rd Division did a very pretty good job.

What about Special Forces and all that stuff: show me a victory please?
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RF
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Post by RF » Thu May 17, 2007 9:27 am

I notice that in all this discussion so far the WW2 Japanese have not been mentioned.

One thing that does stand out from Allied, particulary British and Australian squaddie assessments of enemy forces, were that the Japanese were not only the most ruthless but also the bravest foe, feared far more than the Germans.
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RF
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Post by RF » Thu May 17, 2007 9:35 am

Karl,

One point in considering the Roman Legions and infantry was that they certainly did have reverses, and these were very largely due to inadequate commanders.

Hannibal used elephants against the Roman Legions, possibly the earliest form of what could be described as tank attack, and as a tactical commander Hannibal was as good as any commander in history. He quickly learned the weak point of a Roman Legion - attack it on its flanks.

Another lesson was the destruction by ambush of the Roman IX Legion by Iceni tribesman led by Queen Boudicca. These tribesman (and women) were far more savage than the Romans, and would think nothing of torturing, disembowling and then eating the remains of Roman Centurians.
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Orville H. Larson
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Post by Orville H. Larson » Fri May 18, 2007 8:58 pm

Karl Heidenreich wrote:Orville:

Maybe the Roman legions were the world's best infantry.
Their iron discipline and harsh training made them virtually unbeatable (and they were rarely defeated, if I'm not mistaken).

American infantry in WW2 was of uneven quality. Our mass army had to be assembled quickly, and the qualilty of their basic training may or may not have been adequate.
Many of its officers had little, if any, combat experience.
Some divisions (the 1st, the 3rd, the 28th) were great, while others (the 27th, the 106th) couldn't hack it.

An American division in the ETO in WW2 needed 700 tons of supplies a day to keep going. A German division, on the other hand, had to get by on 200 tons a day as the war went on--and they fought hard right to the end of the war.

I believe the Germans themselves, comparing their British and American adversaries, considered American armor and artillery to be the best, while the British were superb with infantry.
Granted, the romans were awesome but... the Spartans build a complete society based on the "warrior-concept". The roman legionaires were "professional soliders" but the spartans were "professional warriors". But it´s very valid to put them No.1.
I have never believed that the US average grunt was something exceptional. If we are talking of the airborne divisions then it´s another matter. Many years ago I read, I believe it was Cornellius Ryan´s book on Market-Garden, that the Germans believed that the US was very good at tanks and the British were very good at infantry. But, again, I bet my money on the Waffen SS, either Panzer or Infantry, against any allied unit (obviously at even terms).

I´ll say that in the Clasical Ages the Spartans were No. 1.
During the Roman Empire, well, the romans of course.
In the medieval ages take your pick. Vikings? Saxons?
In the Renaisance then the Spanish are not a bad pick.
In the pre-Napoleonic ages then Frederick the Great armies.
In the Napoleonic Ages then the British Grenadiers, of course.
In the Civil War the Stonewall Brigade any time.
In WWI the German Infantry
In WW2 the Waffen SS
At Korea: the marines
At Vietnam: the North Vietnamese regular
At the 1991 Gulf: no one (fighting the Iraquis is not worth to judge. I believe that if Schwarzkoft had fought the ruskies then the US Army would be defending Arabia from the Shock Armies).
At the 2003 Gulf: The US 3rd Division did a very pretty good job.

What about Special Forces and all that stuff: show me a victory please?
Karl, what you said about the Spartans is certainly correct. Those people, and the Roman legions, were the finest infantry of their time. And, of course, their martial virtues of hard discipline and hard training are timeless.

American infantry in WW2 was uneven. I mentioned the 27th and 106th Divisions as examples of divisions that couldn't hack it in battle. The 27th fought on Saipan (under overall Marine command) and turned in a lackluster performance. The Marine commander, Lieutenant General Holland ("Howlin' Mad") Smith, USMC, raised hell about it, and the squawk went all the way to Washington, where George C. Marshall vowed never to put Army troops under Marine command again.
(Another example of wonderful interservice cooperation, huh?!)

The 106th Division fell apart in the opening days of the Germans' Ardennes counteroffensive in December 1944. I have a book on the subject--DEATH OF A DIVISION by Charles Whiting. Let me quote:

"What was wrong with the leadership of the 106th Division and the 14th Cavalry? We have seen that General Jones, Colonels Devine, Cavender and Descheneaux all failed as leaders with tragic results for their men. . . .

"So what did they do? They did the worst of all things when under attack--nothing. Colonel Descheneaux and Colonel Cavender and their superior, Jones, simply failed to react to the all-out German assault on the two regiments' flanks. . . .

"There was no 'Crusade in Europe' for the young soldiers of the 106th Infantry Division. We have seen how they told their German captors that they didn't know why they were 'over here' and they had it 'much better at home.' They had not been prepared by their leaders for what was to come, and they had no inner pride--what the military calls 'esprit de corps'--in themselves or their outfit, not to speak of their country, which would fortify them and allow them to face up to the challenge when it came. . . .

". . .But the basis of all this complicated amalgam is confidence in leadership, confidence that the officers who command you in battle know what they are doing.
Lacking this leadership, even the best-equipped
troops--and American troops have always been the most generously and best-equipped soldiers in all the wars fought in the twentieth century--will crumble when hit hard. . . ."

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RF
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Post by RF » Fri Jun 01, 2007 10:17 am

RF wrote:
Are we talking about quality of soldiers, or the quality of leadership?
As Karl will be aware from previous threads, this is a question that also applies exactly to the Bismarck and Rheinubung themselves....
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Post by RF » Fri Jun 01, 2007 10:21 am

Orville,

Was it not the case that the 106th was an entirely new and untrained outfit, placed in the Ardennes precisely because it was the quietest part of the front and where there would be no trouble - exactly as Gamelin had thought in 1940?
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Orville H. Larson
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Post by Orville H. Larson » Sun Jun 03, 2007 9:26 am

RF wrote:Orville,

Was it not the case that the 106th was an entirely new and untrained outfit, placed in the Ardennes precisely because it was the quietest part of the front and where there would be no trouble - exactly as Gamelin had thought in 1940?
That's right, RF. The 106th Infantry Division had relieved the 2nd Infantry Division in that particular area in the second week of December. It was called the "Ghost Front," where supposedly nothing would ever happen.

About the division commander, Major General Alan Jones, AUS:

"On 15 December, in his CP, the former Sankt Josef's school in St. Vith, General Jones was worried about his young GIs. Not only had they a difficult section of the front to maintain, but they were already proving just how inexperienced and badly trained they were. In the few days they had been in the line, carelessness on their part had set both a regimental command post and a battalion motor pool afire, revealing their positions to the Germans on the hills beyond. Not only that, 70 men had had to be sent to the rear with trench foot, a sure sign that the men didn't know how to look after themselves or that they were encouraging self-inflicted wounds to get out of the line.

"The general was also worried about himself. With 16,000 men's lives in his hands, how would he react in an emergency? In all his long army career, he had never yet fired a shot in anger. What would he do if the Germans ever came out of the snow-capped hills to the front of his CP? It was obvious to those around him that he was nervous. . . ."

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RF
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Post by RF » Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:48 am

Without the attack on 16 December 1944 these failings would not have been of any significance. However some form of common sense should have led to sufficient re-appraisal for the unit to be placed further back behind the front line.

''Ghost front'' was an apt description, given the fog, snow, low cloud and forrested terrain.

One thing about the Battle of the Bulge has always puzzled me - how it is with all the Allied intelligence and code breaking that the Allies had no inkling whatsoever of this attack....
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Post by Orville H. Larson » Tue Jun 05, 2007 7:42 am

Was it an intelligence failure? Maybe--and maybe not.

Divining the enemy's intentions isn't an exact science. You've got to take a mass of disparate information and try to make sense of it. And, of course, if the enemy isn't giving you much--if he's maintaining tight security, or if he's feeding you deliberate disinformation--then the intelligence situation is untenable.

Was there an air of complacency, of wishful thinking, at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force? Probably. Ike and his senior subordinates--Smith, Bradley, Montgomery, Hodges, Simpson et al.--didn't really think the Germans were capable of mounting that kind of offensive.

Did the Germans maintain secrecy in the planning and preparations for the offensive? Absolutely.

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