Monday, 5 August 2013

Men and Supermen

My painting has slowed somewhat lately due to the school holidays, but I have managed to finish a tank platoon...

And some heavy machine guns....
And I have started to make some modular terrain... more of which later.

My renewed interest in WWII has also led to a renewed interest in reading history. Which in turn has raised in me a couple of questions.

The first relates to the fetishization of the Germans. It is a curious meme of modern history to paint the German war effort as if somehow the wrong side one. Whilst there is some merit in the argument that the Germans had the best weaponry - at least in terms of tanks (at least in terms of fighting the British and Americans) - there is an odd tendency to overplay the German tactical and strategic achievements.

A case in point is the Normandy campaign. Reading Max Hastings Overlord, one would be forgiven for believing that the campaign was akin to the Battle of the Somme. Yet 3 months after the landings the Allies were fighting the battles of Arnhem to secure crossings into Germany.

The comparison is made with the German invasion of Russia, and the rapid advances achieved in that campaign. Yet for some reason the logistic impossibility of the Normandy campaign achieving anything like Barbarossa is ignored. As is the fact that Overlord achieved it's objectives, and Barbarossa didn't achieve any of it's objectives. One of which was the destruction of the Soviet army. David Glantz points out that at the start of the invasion the Red Army numbered @5 million men, by December the number of Russians under arms was 8 million.

Which leads me onto my second conundrum.

In most wargame rules SS troops are counted as being elite, and therefore have a number of benefits - ranging from higher morale to more attacks etc.

The problem I have with this is that the SS units were not drawn from a pool of supermen, who completed training by letting grenades explode on their heads, they were drawn from within the German army and air force. And that the reason for their 'improved' performance lies more with their being kept at full strength - as opposed the standard practice of keeping shattered units on the OOB for political reasons - than fanatical Nazi zeal.

The same applies to all elite units - I'm not singling out the SS here - which in turn makes me wonder what is being represented on the table top. Because even if the rules include support weapons and the like, the higher rating for elite units - and conversely lower rating for the green troops - is clearly representing something other than an objective rating of the figures on the table.

For instance those 8 million Red army soldiers in late 1941 would in standard wargame rules be treated as less useful than for instance the Red Army troops in 1944. Yet the only real difference is a lack of support weapons, and the perception of their poor performance is based on their poor strategic use within the campaign, They were certainly capable of stopping the supposed unstoppable juggernaut dead in it's tracks, as is the case at Smolensk, Kiev and Moscow.


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