Analysis for Force Ratios using the Campaign Data Base (CaDB)

We have not made much use of our Campaign Data Base. (See: The History of the DuWar Data Bases | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org)). We used it as part of the Enemy Prisoner of War (EPW) studies back in 2000-2001 and have not made use it in the last two decades. But, for a presentation I did last year on force ratios, I blew the dust off of it because I wanted to see if force ratios were different for army-level operations than for division-level engagements. I mean, in the ETO data we have (116 cases), in the force ratios ranging between 1.15-to-1 to 1.88-to1 the attacker won 79% of the time (so much for needing 3-to-1). See: The 3-to-1 rule and the War in Ukraine | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org). So the question became, is the pattern we see at army-level different than division-level?

The Campaign Data Base consists of 196 campaigns from 1905 to 1991. They from two days in length to 155 days in length. Only three were over 60 days in length. The problem is that the database is not complete. We assembled it, used it once and have not used it again. There are some holes. For example, we only had the starting strength ratios calculated for 163 cases, we only had the total casualty ratios calculated for 162 and only had the winner calculated for 156 cases. In most cases the missing data is available but has not been assembled. The database just needs a little tender loving care. 

The average attacker strength (99 cases) was 188,909. The average defender strength (96 cases) was 95,497. This comes out to a 1.98-to-1 ratio.

The average attacker losses (176 cases) was 36,076. The average defender losses (172 case) was 47,004. This comes out to a 1-to-1.30 ratio.

The average attacker percent losses per day (163 cases) was 0.69%. The average defender percent losses per day (162 cases) was 1.85%. This comes out to a 1-to-2.68 ratio.

The starting strength ratio (163 cases) was 2.24 (2.24-to-1). The total casualty ratio was (164 cases) 1.35-to-1.

Now, the holes in the database become an issue. This are holes that can be filled given time (read: budget). We have 97 cases where the attacker is coded as the winner, and 38 cases where the defender wins. We have draws in 21 other cases. The rest (40 cases) are currently not coded.

Anyhow, this all produces the following table:

                                                   Attacker   Defender   Draw 

Av. Attacker Strength               208,835    156,821     171,312

Av. Defender Strength                91,486    100,729       96,582

       Ratio                                   2.28           1.56           1.77

 

Av. Attacker Losses                    34,630      69,098       15,232

Av. Defender Losses                   52,466      64,271       12,632

      Ratio                                     0.66           1.08           1.21

 

Av. Attacker % per day              0.73           0.98           0.32

Av. Defender % per day             2.59           0.98           0.39

      Ratio                                      0.28          1.00            0.82

 

Starting Strength Ratio              2.42          2.24            1.79

Casualty Ratio                            1.04          2.51            1.22

 

Contemplate for a moment what this data is telling you. A few observations:

  1. There is a difference in force ratios between winning and losing engagements (2.28-to-1 vice 1.56-to-1).
  2. There is a difference in casualties between winning and losing engagements (0.66-to-1 vice 1.08-to-1).
  3. The data for these army-level operations does not look significant different than for a division-level operation. This is significant.

I will stop here for a moment. This is from slides 12 – 18 for my force ratios briefing. There is more to come (because my briefings, like some of my books, are never short).

 

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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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3 Comments

  1. Question to consider: does the attacker mostly decide to conduct an attack when (and where) troop numbers, troop quality, terrain features, weather conditions, air superiority (when relevant), etc. favor the attacker, and does the defender mostly decide to put up a sturdy defense when (and where) those factors favor the defender (unless Adolf issues stand-or-die-no-matter-what orders)?

    Be cautious about promoting a calculated strength-ratio threshold as the green light for attacking, if the decisions to attack for cases in the dataset were based on having the advantage for a number of factors. Beware of the effects of self selection!

    Chris, your models tend to be multifactorial; still, be cautious in drawing conclusions (just as there should have been caution when planners recommended using a 3:1 ratio as a green-light threshold for attacking).

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