Validating A Combat Model (Part XI)

Dead Japanese soldiers lie on the sandbar at the mouth of Alligator Creek on Guadalcanal on 21 August 1942 after being killed by U.S. Marines during the Battle of the Tenaru. [Wikipedia]
[The article below is reprinted from April 1997 edition of The International TNDM Newsletter.]

The Second Test of the TNDM Battalion-Level Validations: Predicting Casualties
by Christopher A. Lawrence


In the ease of the WWII results, we were getting results in the ball park in less than 60% of the cases for the attacker and in less than 50% of the eases in the case of the defenders. We were often significantly too low. Knowing that we were dealing with a number of Japanese engagements (seven), and they clearly fought in a manner that was different from most western European nations, we expected that they would be under-predicting, and some casualty adjustment would be necessary to reflect this.

We also examined whether time was an issue (it was not). The under-predicted battles are listed in the next table

We temporarily defined the Japanese mode of fighting as “fanaticism.” We decided to find a factor for fanaticism by looking at all the battles with the Japanese. They are listed below:

Looking at what multiplier was needed, one notes that .39 times 2.5 = .975 while .34 times 2.5 = .85. This argues for a “fanatic” multiplier of 2.5. The non-fanatic opponent attrition multiplier is also 2.5. There was no indication that both sides should not be affected by the same multiplier.

We had now tentatively identified two “fixes” to the data. l am sure someone will call them “fudges,“ but I am comfortable enough with the logic behind them (especially the fanaticism) that I would dismiss such criticism. It was now time to look at the modern data, and see what would happen if these fixes were applied to it.


A total of 20 battles were noticeably under-predicted. We examined them to see if there was a pattern in this under-prediction.

Next: “Casualty insensitive” systems

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Shawn Woodford
Shawn Woodford

Shawn Robert Woodford, Ph.D., is a military historian with nearly two decades of research, writing, and analytical experience on operations, strategy, and national security policy. His work has focused on special operations, unconventional and paramilitary warfare, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, naval history, quantitative historical analysis, nineteenth and twentieth century military history, and the history of nuclear weapon development. He has a strong research interest in the relationship between politics and strategy in warfare and the epistemology of wargaming and combat modeling.

All views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of any other private or public organization or entity.

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