23/11/2018 at 04:13 #104377
I am currently reading Jim Storr’s new book Hall of Mirrors and in it he makes a quite stark claim: “Russians lie”, meaning, in context, that casualty/equipment loss/kill reports in WW2 were deliberately falsified.
That got me thinking, about falsified reports. Clausewitz claimed it would happen as a matter of course. As a student of the Peninsular War, British ones seem fairly accurate (i.e. the paperwork tallies with the correspondence) but the French, much less so: Suchet, Soult and (perhaps) Ney were bad, Massena was off the scale. IIRC Douglas Bader claimed that the Luftwaffe did it but I haven’t seen any evidence of that. The only large-scale deception I have ever come across was a JAAF pilot in Burma (in one of Christopher Shores’ books). I saw a hint of it in a comment (internal) about a British Army unit in Northern Ireland claiming to have successful contacts in the early 70s which could not have happened, at least in the way reported.
What are your experiences? Have you ever come across large-scale deliberate deception? I am specifically not talking about over-optimistic claims in air and tank combat, which seems to have been endemic, but which weren’t strictly speaking intentional falsifications.
https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/23/11/2018 at 05:03 #104379
In a system with sanctions and rewards, there will always be a temptation to doctor reports to minimise the one and maximise the other.
Generally, the military tend to see misinformation as the purview of the General Staff and their political masters. So, they prefer useful facts which they can then embroider. And yes, the good guys do it too, although I would say that the bad guys do it more, probably because they can enforce acceptance.
Probably one of the classics was the battle of Britain in which both sides shot down their opponents in droves, each eliminating their opponent in short order. In fairness, expecting a bunch of competitive, testosterone soaked adolescents to do proper accounting at 300 MPH whilst exhausted, terrified, hyped up and in a life or death fight where losing could involve a death about as horrifying as the rule of law permits (or perhaps no death just the horror), might be a little unreasonable. The evidence is that, as both sides were happily reporting these numbers as accurate, their analysts were desperately trying to get their heads around the art of finding out what really happened. Even still, I would never ask a fighter pilot a quantitive question.
Perhaps the most extraordinary example of made up numbers was the failure of the Japanese Navy to let the army know the details of the events of 4ht June 1942.
So yeah, it happens, preferably, the facts and the fiction are used for their respective purposes, but human beings are bad at not believing their own propaganda.23/11/2018 at 06:58 #104383
It was said of the British High Command in World War I that they kept … three sets of numbers, one to mislead the public, one to mislead the politicians and one to mislead themselves.
Looking at the BoB as an example, both sides were reasonably accurate in reporting (publicly) their own losses but overclaimed on opponents losses by around 100% ie they claimed around twice as many kills as actually happened. That seems to be a reasonably consistent figure in other reports. Most were honest mistakes (multiple claims on the same victim, planes thought to be shot down actually escaping etc). Luftwaffe claims tended to be more accurate than RAF ones though, as they had higher requirements to confirm a kill. Bader isn’t perhaps the most objective observer.
It’s quite likely that the Pensinsular example actually reflects better staff work by the British than the French, who were probably simply guessing as they just didn’t know. How accurate were the Spanish figures?
There is also an element of deliberate deception involved of course too, & that probably falls into the Russian operational concept of Maskirovka https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_military_deception but it’s likely that all modern militaries do it to some extent.
23/11/2018 at 07:17 #104385
- This reply was modified 2 months, 4 weeks ago by Etranger.
It is notable that in all this book keeping no one felt that it might be necessary tp mislead the Germans.23/11/2018 at 08:23 #104386
As noted above, any system with rewards and sanctions will encourage potentially dishonest behaviours,bintentional or not. When the sanction is a trip to a penalty battalion or concentration camp, even more so.
Blatant lies at a higher level are well documented, both Patton and Guderian deliberately misreported the locations, status and missions of their units in order to further their offensive ambitions, as did Rommel. Many commanders simply disobeyed orders they didn’t like, and Montgomery lamented that in the British Army, orders were viewed as a starting point for debate and eg Hausser could get away with directly disobeying Hitler mainly as he commanded Hitler beloved SS Panzer Korps.
At a lower level, it is hard to say, but in WW2 you didn’t get to be a formation commander by being pleasant, easy to get along with or playing by the rules. One of the more public falsifications was 9th SS Panzer Divs strength returns at Arnhem, but even they couldn’t actually hide their Panthers and had to give them to 10th SS.
As for enemy loss inflation, that was endemic, and commanders were just as capable of spinning defeat into victory then as they are now.
"Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke23/11/2018 at 09:18 #104404
The most egregious example that springs to my mind is the Americans’ use of bodycount as a measure of success in Vietnam, and the inevitable abuses that generated.
Bloody Big BATTLES!23/11/2018 at 09:20 #104405
What was Wellingtons reaction after Albuherra, you have written me a defeat, rewrite it as a victory.23/11/2018 at 11:22 #104407
Does Iraqi Information minister count?
Tired is enough.23/11/2018 at 13:03 #104411
I have been reading a lot about the Battles before and of Berlin 1945. I read two editions of the same book and the figures quoted are different in a number of engagements. One I remember is of a group of half a dozen German tanks holding up the Russians by destroying 300 AFVs over a couple of days with the loss of one tank. This was accepted in the first edition. The second edition written after documents became available from East German Sources after the fall of the Berlin Wall changed the success rate of the panzers. What the Panzer veteran had not said was that the two battalions of infantry, a battalion of Volkssturm and two flak batteries were also involved. Oddly these also claim “killing” dozens of Russian AFVs but their reports fell into Soviet hands when they stood their ground and were overrun while panzers who withdrew were able to claim everything.23/11/2018 at 15:09 #104412
What was Wellingtons reaction after Albuherra, you have written me a defeat, rewrite it as a victory.
Since Beresford had indeed defeated Soult’s attack, then Wellington was gently correcting a subordinate.
https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/23/11/2018 at 18:10 #104415
On a related note with the Peninsula, in all fairness, it’s a lot easier to arrive at a more accurate report when you hold the battlefield. If you’re bundled off the battlefield in disarray, it’s a lot harder to establish the true state of affairs.23/11/2018 at 18:43 #104416
On a related note with the Peninsula, in all fairness, it’s a lot easier to arrive at a more accurate report when you hold the battlefield. If you’re bundled off the battlefield in disarray, it’s a lot harder to establish the true state of affairs.
Sure. But some of the most egregious examples are from the side holding the battlefield (e.g. Massena at the Coa). It does seem to explain the lack of solid casualty figures for the Spanish in many circumstances.
https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/26/11/2018 at 06:17 #104527
Funny that you should mention Christopher Shores’ books, because the example that springs immediately to mind are the American Volunteer Group (‘Flying Tigers’) in Burma. They were paid by the kill, so their victories are colossally inflated (as were the IJAAF’s claims, as you mentioned). By contrast, the RAF by that stage in the war were scrupulous in examining pilots’ claims, following widespread over-inflation of claims in France and the Battle of Britain. Unfortunately however, with the exception of Christopher Shores’s works, the claims have since been taken largely at face-value and the RAF’s efforts in Burma are derided, while the Flying Tigers and IJAAF in Burma are regarded as aviation gods, when in reality the RAF’s fighter kill-loss rate was absolutely no worse than that of the AVG.
My wargames blog: http://www.jemimafawr.co.uk/26/11/2018 at 09:40 #104548
The most egregious example that springs to my mind is the Americans’ use of bodycount as a measure of success in Vietnam, and the inevitable abuses that generated. Chris Bloody Big BATTLES! https://uk.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/BBB_wargames/info http://bloodybigbattles.blogspot.com/
I watched a series about the vietnam war and the quote that sticks in my mind, was a former CIA analyst (IIRC) who said of the bodycount measure:
“When you can’t measure what’s important, what you can measure becomes important”
The important thing he referred to was the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people – the Americans couldn’t measure how successful they were at winning them, so fell back to bodycount as a measure of their success …
Not exactly sure what this tells us, or its relevance here, but I thought I’d share anyway
.26/11/2018 at 15:26 #104574
When I get home from game night my wife will ask “How did you do?” or “Did you win?” Those reports to her are always perfectly factually accurate.
https://sites.google.com/site/miniaturemachinations26/11/2018 at 15:56 #104576
Darkest Star GamesParticipant
More than just body count “errors” occurred in Vietnam. The brass in MACV sometimes made up entire battles for “good PR”. I know for a fact that 2 battles described in major news magazines did not happen, not in the locations they said, and not with the the units stated as I know people that were in those specific units at that time.
But the brass also pushed it downawards as well. My father was in Special Forces, in Project SIGMA in III Corps. His unit worked in-country recon directly for II Field Force (in III Corps, each team was 2 US and 4-6 indigenous) and some cross border stuff for SOG (SIGMA became Command and Control South for SOG towards the end of his tour in early ’67) and several times his team saw and reported battalion size units in Warzones C and D, and several times MACV and IIFF told them they were wrong. His team was once compromised and got into a running firefight with a MFVC regimental HQ unit that the brass said didn’t exist so couldn’t have happened… These sorts of things contributed to Tet’68, which was actually no surprise to MACV as they had all the enemy troop movements.
I’d say the biggest misreporting of the Vietnam war though was Walter Crankcase stating on TV that millions saw that the FWF had lost the war and that the communists could not be beaten. He was dead wrong as the VC were finished as a fighting force and the NVA took huge loses, but that misreport led to an extreme alteration of the war.
Probably not the same sort of thing y’all previously mentioned (such as quartermaster reports, kill counts, etc) but probably way more overarching effect.
"I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."27/11/2018 at 01:40 #104599
Yes, the AVG are a very interesting case, it being difficult to determine whether there was deliberate falsification to get kill bonuses or whether it simply led to extremely wishful thinking. The JAAF case was slightly different IIRC: one of their star pilots was reasonably obviously just making it up…
I think that I have mentioned before on here that USAAF claims and Soviet claims for Korea are entirely contradictory: both sides claim a very favourable kill ratio.
The brass in MACV sometimes made up entire battles for “good PR”. I know for a fact that 2 battles described in major news magazines did not happen, not in the locations they said, and not with the the units stated as I know people that were in those specific units at that time.
That is exactly the kind of thing I was asking about. There were a couple of similar-ish incidents in the Peninsular War (not including the endemic casualty report falsification).
https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/12/12/2018 at 06:02 #105555
My gut feeling is that if you can find unit strength returns, they are likely to be a lot closer to the truth than enemy casualty claims.
After all, a battalion commander is less unlikely to report that they have more tanks than they actually do, for fear of being assigned an objective that they can’t handle.
WW2 Kill Claims in general are pretty screwy.
An essay I read a while ago discussed Wittmann’s rampage through Villers-Bocage and pointed out that a good chunk of the “Panzers” he claimed as kills were anything from Bren carriers to command vehicles with no guns (and no crew at the moment either).
German memoirs can be pretty funny that way.
“Dear diary, it’s August 14, we’re 30 miles from the Hungarian border and just won a great battle where we destroyed multiple regiments of the Communists with no losses of our own”.
“Dear diary, it’s September 8, we’re 30 miles inside the Hungarian border and just won a great battle where we destroyed multiple regiments of the Communists with no losses of our own”.
- This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by Ivan Sorensen.
Nordic Weasel Games
https://sites.google.com/site/nordicweaselgames/12/12/2018 at 06:07 #105557
And.. I just realized that I managed to misunderstand the topic. Ah well, I shall leave my post as a monument to my poor reading comprehension 🙂
Nordic Weasel Games
https://sites.google.com/site/nordicweaselgames/01/01/2019 at 03:22 #106661
I’d say the biggest misreporting of the Vietnam war though was Walter Crankcase stating on TV that millions saw that the FWF had lost the war and that the communists could not be beaten. He was dead wrong as the VC were finished as a fighting force and the NVA took huge loses, but that misreport led to an extreme alteration of the war. Probably not the same sort of thing y’all previously mentioned (such as quartermaster reports, kill counts, etc) but probably way more overarching effect.
I think that his reports must be taken in the context that for months Westmoreland and the Military had been say that the Communists had been defeated and couldn’t launch a Major attack. Tet while defeated on the ground lead to a mistrust because of the previous Misreporting.
Even after the defeats during Tet, they still launch a similar offensive later that year, which while again defeat comprehensively it again eroded trust.
A classic example of misreporting in Vietnam was Operation Speedy Express in 1969, the 9th Div reported a body count of 10899. The Army inspector general wrote in 1972, “While there appears to be no means of determining the precise number of civilian casualties incurred by US forces during Operation Speedy Express, it would appear that the extent of these casualties was indeed substantial, and that a fairly solid case can be constructed to show that civilian casualties may have amounted to several thousand (between 5,000 and 7,000).”01/01/2019 at 13:56 #106677
An essay I read a while ago discussed Wittmann’s rampage through Villers-Bocage and pointed out that a good chunk of the “Panzers” he claimed as kills were anything from Bren carriers to command vehicles with no guns (and no crew at the moment either). German memoirs can be pretty funny that way.
Many sources use the German term “panzer” to mean the same as English “tank”. In German army usage in WW2 the term “panzer” meant what we would cal “Armoured Fighting Vehicle”. In many memoirs written by Germans that I have read “panzer” was used describe Marders, Hetzers, Panthers, SdKfz 250, SdKfz 251 etc. So when Wittman claimed to have killed “panzers” he was using German context not Anglo-American usage.
In 1945 in particular the communications within German forces and between various HQs was abysmal. Not only that “Divisions” and “Armies” were being created without any staff groups, communications, equipment and in many cases troops. So strength returns at best are fanciful figures submitted so that might appeal to Hitler rather than reflect reality.
Any historical document needs to be read in the political, military and linguistic context of the author.01/01/2019 at 15:03 #106678
When I get home from game night my wife will ask “How did you do?” or “Did you win?” Those reports to her are always perfectly factually accurate.
My report to the wife stresses whether I enjoyed myself or not and why, which is treated with more significance than the winning/losing issue.
Inaccurate reporting is a well-known phenomenon, whether referring to air victories (as we know, the Red Air Force shot down all bar 500 of the aircraft Germany produced during WWII: the reported confirmed victories prove it*), air-to-ground tank kills (as we know, kills of German tanks by Tiffies enabled Allied armies to all but motor unimpeded through to Germany, after all at Mortain 2TAF destroyed 252 tanks**), or the 270 3 Pz Div lost to Soviet Sturmoviks at Kursk***.
We know the Germans halved the claims in an attempt to get greater accuracy in the numbers count but they probably should have divided by another ten. The difficult question is how to reflect the low actual casualty rate against the very real perception of menace engendered in the fighting.
In case you need verification:
- * As described by Soviet Air Marshall in his historical narrative
- ** Oops, should have said nine
- *** Actually I think it was 49 during the whole Kursk operation.
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