Wednesday, July 18, 2012

EOW skirmish combat 7: Shock

We have been taking the part of various characters, not all of them nice, in post-apocalyptic novels.  Now a lot of the supernatural creatures in these novels could certainly cause shock.  But that is too easy.  If your are some summoned being of the Elder Gods, and the very site of you drives people insane, I am not sure there is much of a tactical lesson there.  So instead, we are going to take a more off beat group. 

We are going to be the Chinese invaders of Nebraska!  I should probably tell our readers here from other countries, and U.S. citizens from either coast that indeed Nebraska is part of the United States and that according to certain varieties of apocalyptic fiction, the Chinese have a burning desire to take.  Truthfully we (remember we are the Chinese now) usually land in San Francisco, but along with our blue helmeted buddies in the U.N., we always seem to be marching into those Western States.  Apparently the Chinese are lacking in arid, cold farm and mineral lands closer to home.  In the case of the U.N. they are trying to erase the shame of not being able to bomb next door defenseless Libya without U.S. help.
Anyway as you will see, we have what it takes to create the second most deadly multiplier we will discuss in our series:  Shock.
Shock is a temporary paralysis or inability to perform. If you adversary is in shock, they are at least for a short period of time, nearly helpless.  Combatants in shock are cowering behind cover, running away, staring into space, or trying to surrender.  Of course being able to recognize and take advantage of that situation is another matter entirely.
Shock can be caused by a variety of  factors:  surprise,  sudden approach, the use of armor, and the use of certain types of weapons.  Obviously in low level infantry skirmishes, many of these are not likely to be present..  However, it is noteworthy that even relatively low level National Guard units might have access to some or all of these implements.
Surprise attacks by infantry have about a 50 percent chance of also causing shock if one of two other factors is present: poor or non-existent training of the defensive units (in the book stated as being a “weak nationality factor’), and night or poor visibility.  So if you attack even well trained units on a foggy morning, taking them by surprise, they are going to be “shocked” or temporarily paralyzed about 50% of the time.  So they will not only be unready, they may not even fire at you with what they have on hands.  Likely they are running or putting their hands in the air.  However, when one of these factors is not present, a surprise infantry attack only leads to shock about 18% of the time.
We aren’t going to go too much into artillery or armor.  That isn’t the type of fight we are talking about here.  However, in brief, short and fast works as well with artillery as slow and long.  With armor, sometime the sheer speed of the attack works, but armor combined with surprise leads to shock 95% of the time.  We can see why the Cartels like the idea of having their own armored vehicles.
The Human Face of War
Jim Storr, Birmingham War Studies, London, New York, 2009

Shock has two main battlefield effects. The first is to reduce defense effectiveness, as measured  the attackers casualties by about 40 percent.  This is in addition to the effect of surprise. Hence an attack which achieves both surprise, and shock will degrade defense performance by about 60-65 percent

The second aspect of shock effect is to disrupt the defense. Some individuals and small groups many continue to resist. Others will give up, surrender or withdraw. This effect will be variable and unpredictable. The overall effect will depend both on exploitation by the attacker and the defending commander’s ability to restore the cohesion of his forces. Thus any action that is likely to inflict shock, such as a sudden bombardment, should be followed up by rapid exploitation on multiple routes.  That exploitation should locate week points where individuals and small groups have been shocked, and exploit them p87.

Shock is ephemeral.  It does not last very long.  The quick rush of the tanks, the hurricane artillery bombardment will be recovered from.  We discussed in our Surprise discussion (Number 6) that the U.S. could use training and doctrine to mitigate a narrow range of some types of surprise.  Well in World War 1, the Germans learned to do a very similar trick with the massive allied bombardments that pummeled their trench lines.  They became so good at rushing to the defense after the cessation of a bombardment, that the allies found that they literally had to just behind a rolling wall of artillery shells in order to take positions through firepower.  The Germans had trained away the effects of artillery shock.  In World War 2, possibly with less success, the Germans worked similarly to reduce the shock caused by armor attacks. 
So what are our poor Chinese going to do against all these rifle toting patriots?  Use aggressive scouting to pin the opponent - relying on the fact that few of the defenders have much training, and that few of them have worked together previously.  While the defenders are talking about who is going where, the organized Chinese will be moving.  Once the defenders are situated, you can use rapid bursts of light mortars or automatic grenade launchers to cause them to freeze up while you rush their positions.  Since they won't have tanks, you can use your lighter armored personnel carriers to cause shock with rapid attacks on located positions.  Isolated snipers can be bypassed using smoke or terrain.  The main point to remember is that you are still mobile and in communication.   Partisan groups were effective in Russia against the Germans, but they did take very heavy casualties.  There is not the population density in many portions of the West to support a continuous drain on casualties.  With the population already starving (remember we Chinese/U.N troops are usually opportunists, not the causal agents), they are not likely to be supportive of a group that is causing even more death and destruction.  Red Dawn?  Maybe.


PioneerPreppy said...

Nice series. So far not much to add except I believe shock is minimized in smaller units and forested terrain unless the defenders are total idiots anyway.

russell1200 said...

PP: Outside of surprise situations, most of the better shock weapons seem to occur with "stuff" beyond the scale we are talking about.

However, even our least experienced conscripts in World War 2 were better trained than the rabble you see in our "fictional" apocalyptic settings, and as Tunisia proved, they were very much subject to shock.

Remember, according to the data, wooded terrain is not always a big advantage for the defender. It tends to let the attacker get too close. The Union Army disaster was at Cold Harbor in the open, not in The Wilderness.

Anonymous said...

Agree w/ Russell - Civil & WWI wooded battles were close skirmishes, compounded by a persistent and disorienting cloud from the weapons used.
Some Native tribes knew how to use the disorienting effect of the dark forest on settlers (Last of the Mohicans illustrated the experience well). Highwaymen did likewise... there was a reason for Europeans fear of the woods.

russell1200 said...

Anon: Oddly enough, the Natives in New England liked to ambush from behind low lying swamps. Presumably this kept the militia units from counter charging into the ambush. But at the same time, it would also make it hard for the Indians to charge the disrupted enemy and finish them off. Possibly because their numbers were already so depleted from desease, the New England natives seemed to be particularly adverse to casualties at times. It was working for them reasonably well until the Governor of New York got newly allied Mohawks to interceed on the side of the New Englanders.

Anonymous said...

Am I late? Is this microphone on?

So russell1200, you thinking of investing in night vision stuff?

My limited understanding is either go with Gen 1 or spend some coin for Gen 3. Gen 2 isn't worth the money, they say.

I used Gen 2 before. At least I think it was Gen 2. Mid 80's army stuff. Grainy with no depth perception.

I might pick up a Gen 1 someday. Limited NV is better then no NV golden hordes.

Against the authorities, forgetaboutit.