Measuring Human Factors based on Casualty Effectiveness in Italy 1943-1944

Then there is our analysis from the 137 engagements from the Italian Campaign. This was new analysis using the entire current version of the database.

………………………………………………………..Average………Average

Italian Campaign Data……………………………Force Ratio….Loss Ratio

All U.S. Attacks (70 cases)………………………..1.80-to-1………2.41-to-1

U.S. Low-odds Attacks (13 cases)……………….1.35-to-1………3.95-to-1

….1.20- to 1.50-to-1

All UK Attacks (49 cases)…………………………3.00-to-1……….3.17-to-1

UK Low-odds Attacks (7 cases)………………….1.29-to-1……….2.20-to-1

….0.85- to 1.50-to-1

All German Attacks (18 cases)………………….1.44-to-1……….1.14-to-1

German Low-odds Attacks (13 cases)…………1.02-to-1……….0.92-to-1

….0.72- to 1.48-to-1

 

In this case, when the U.S. was the attacker, they lost more than two men for every one the defending Germans lost. The UK lost about three men in the attack for every German loss. When the Germans attacked they lost about one for one. This was true even though the average force ratio of the U.S. and UK were higher than the German attacks.

The low odds attack data just reinforces this impression. When the Americans attack, they loose four men for every defending German lost. The UK low odds attacks are little better in that they loose two men for every defending German lost. When the Germans attacked at low odds, they lost fewer than one for one (from War by Numbers, pages 42-43).

………………………………………………………..Total…………….Total

Italian Campaign Data…………………………..Force Ratio…..Loss Ratio

All U.S. Attacks (70 cases)………………………1.65-to-1………..1.06-to-1

U.S. Low-odds Attacks (13 cases)……………..1.36-to-1………..1.43-to-1

…..1.20- to 1.50-to-1

All UK Attacks (49 cases)…………………………2.58-to-1………1.63-to-1

UK Low-odds Attacks (7 cases)………………….1.24-to-1………1.92-to-1

….0.85- to 1.50-to-1

All German Attacks (18 cases)…………………..1.27-to-1………0.84-to-1

German Low-odds Attacks (13 cases)………….1.03-to-1………0.63-to-1

….0.72- to 1.48-to-1

 

The Italian data, based upon weighted averages, show a different picture. Most significant is the casualty effectiveness of the U.S. attacks. The shift in the loss ratio from 2.41-to-1 down to 1.06-to-1 is caused a number of smaller engagements having very lopsided exchange ratios. For example the casualty ratios for one of the Rapido River operations were 48.12 to 1. These engagements clearly skewed the statistics. In fact, there is only one other engagement which has a casualty exchange ratio greater than 10.

Using these weighted statistics, if it harder to discern any difference in casualty effectiveness between the U.S. and the Germans. The U.S. had a 1.06-to-1 loss ratio when they attacked (average force ratio of 1.65-to-1), while the Germans had a 0.84-to-1 loss ratio with lower average odds (1.27-to-1). This supports the contention that combat effectiveness favored the Germans by 20 to 30 percent. These figures show the British slightly worse than the U.S., with a casualty effectiveness ratio some 50% worse than the U.S. (from War by Numbers, pages 44-45).

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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9 Comments

  1. Were the allies usually attacking uphill against prepared positions while the Germans were usually attacking (or counter-attacking) downhill ungainst un-prepared positions?

    • What advantage do you consider the uphill positioning gave the Germans for it to account for a more favourable outcome?

      • Uphill + prepared positions = potential for better observation for firing upon attacking force + better protection against direct fire from attacking force + greater exhaustion (physically and emotionally) of attacking force

        By the same token, charging downhill against unprepared position would be the other side of the coin.

        According to History.com editors:

        “The Allied advance through Italy produced some of the most bitter, costly fighting of the war, much of it in treacherous mountain terrain.”

        “Germans entrenched in the high Apennine Mountains at Cassino brought the mobile Allied army to a grinding halt for four months…. Where the mountains receded, there were still muddy rolling hills, flooded rivers and washed-out roads to hamper the Allied advance and assist the German defenders.”

        “Under the resourceful Commander Kesselring, German forces set up several defensive lines across the narrow Italian peninsula. The southernmost of these, the Gustav Line, ran just behind Monte Cassino. Despite Allied air superiority across Italy, it took Allied soldiers four grueling battles over several months to break through heavily fortified Monte Cassino and the Gustav Line.”

        The casualty results for battles that were a part of that campaign in that terrain would be expected to favor the uphill defenders in prepared positions.

    • It isn’t as simple as that. These are division-sized engagements. In many cases the frontage they are covering is 10 kilometers or more. For example, the first German attack, in rugged mixed terrain, is Vietri I which occurred from 12 through 15 September 1943. The unit frontage was 15 kilometers and the engagement was a 4-day engagement.

      Now, I am currently doing some work on the effects of terrain in combat and have developed figures for the German attacks in various terrain. I will post them up in a blog post today.

  2. I’ve seen several references in their war diaries to German forces reporting they have abandoned attacks in face of excessive casualties. Is a small part of the relatively low casualty rate experienced by German units possibly down to a willingness to abandon attacks if likely to lead to heavy losses as they were essentially fighting an 18 month delaying action?

    Regards

    Tom

    • Even on the offense, they were sometimes quick to abandon attacks if it looked unproductive. This happened more than once at Kursk in July 1943. Among the nine armored divisions in the south, in the first two days, two cancelled their attacks. On the 5th of July the 6th Panzer Division called off its attack and on the 6th of July the 3rd Panzer Division called off its attack. They both ended up moving to other parts of the line and rejoining the battle on subsequent days.

      • So, in Italy, would the willingness of the Americans and British to push on with attacks in the face of heavier losses, in the face of which the German forces given their delaying action instructions abandoned the effort, not distort the loss ratios?

        In addition, and I don’t know the specifics of each engagement that you have analysed, the Allies successfully launched three large amphibious attacks and a multitude of opposed river crossings in Italy (although some, by both American and British forces, failed). I can’t think of a German equivalent throughout the entire campaign – did they even attempt a large scale river crossing?

        Regards

        Tom

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