Doinkers Lose

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

I recently mentioned that posturing is a terribly underestimated element of combat and cited Dave Grossman on the importance of loud weapons:

The reality is that, on the battlefield, if you are going “doink, doink,” no matter how effectively, and the enemy is going “BANG!, BANG!,” no matter how ineffectively, ultimately the “doinkers” lose.

John Plaster (The Ultimate Sniper) shares an anecdote from Nam that demonstrates that exact point:

The only time I ever shot a man with a suppressed weapon was in April 1969. Our SOG recon team, RT Illinois, had been inserted in Cambodia 30 minutes after one of the heaviest B-52 strikes of the war to assess damage to the enemy’s secret cross-border sanctuaries. The target was the suspected headquarters of the NVA 27th Infantry Regiment. This was part of the “secret bombing” for which Henry Kissinger was later criticized. Of course, I thought it was a splendid idea and still do.

The North Vietnamese soldiers who managed to survive this aerial bombardment, however, thought it a terrible idea, and — Kissinger and the B-52 crews not being available — they attempted to convey their feelings to we members of RT Illinois. The ensuing firefight was horrific.

While our team leader, Ben Thompson, led two badly wounded Vietnamese mercenaries and the rest of the team toward an extraction landing zone, teammate George Bacon and I delayed the assaulting North Vietnamese in a series of short ambushes. In addition to tossing grenades, George and I took turns peppering our pursuers with small-arms fire, he riddling them with 5.56mm from his CAR-15 and me “ppfff-fff-tt-ting” at them with a suppressed 9mm Karl Gustav Swedish K submachine gun. When George fired, the NVA sought cover and slowed down, but when I let loose, it had no effect. They had no idea I was shooting at them.


  1. Baduin says:

    He quotes Keegan (a specialist of everything and nothing), and this is already suspicious. Further, Keegan quotes percentages of wounds treated by physicians. In combat, it is impossible to survive a bayonet wound — the attacker is right there to hit you again if you are not quite killed the first time.

    And if Grossman thinks it is “virtually impossible to stab an opponent” he should read less and play football more. It is difficult to stab an opponent, because he defends himself, and can stab you right back, not because attacker has any special sentiment for him.

    In addition, he has things backwards: Alexander won because he was losing few men in combat, not lost few men because he was winning. Greek way of fighting was superior exactly because it depended on close combat, not on ranged combat as Persians did. Greeks were fighting as units, and were superior in hand-to hand fight. Read Herodotus.

    As for Clausewitz and du Picq, they were explaining why the bayonet charge is so important.

  2. Isegoria says:

    The number of casualties from bayonets has always been vanishingly small compared to the supposed deadliness of cold steel. It’s largely a moral weapon. People run away from a charge. Even in close-quarters combat, where bayonets should find plenty of use, soldiers tend to prefer clubbing their enemies with a blunt rifle butt.

    I’ll accept that there’s some circularity in the relationship between winning and suffering few casualties, but Alexander’s troops hardly won against superior numbers with such tiny casualties through superior attrition rates. They swept the enemy from the field and didn’t have to fight face to face, over and over, to the last man.

  3. The socket bayonet was a technological leap forward because it eliminated the need for a dedicated pikeman. With the socket bayonet, every infantryman was a musketeer and a pikeman. The proper context to see bayonet use in is not a offensive bayonet charge but a defensive infantry square. Like the pike or sarissa, the bayonet is as much about dissuading horses and their riders from charging down on the infantry as it is about infantry attacking with bayonets blazing. This insight is as old as Narses but people kept forgetting it through out the Middle Ages, allowing horsemen to develop big heads.

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