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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > Warfare by Other Means

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Warfare by Other Means Economics, demographics, cultural, technological, and other factors that have affected the course of history.

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Old 21 Apr 17, 03:59
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POWs - the seldom factored Co$t$ of War ...

Having one of those late night ruminations and thought(s) occur to me that how much/often, if at all/any, have a Combatant going into a conflict/war considered the issues of POWs (Prisioners Of War) in the budget$ and operation$ schemes ???

Consider; a 'brigade' of enemy troops captured as priosners might cost you slightly less in 'room and board' than a brigade of your own troops. Factor in the weapons, equip, and training costs and about two brigades of POWs from your opponent(s) could equal one of your own in the field and operating, and hopefully some begin to see an essential economics factor that should/needs to be budgeted.

This is an area I'll readily aqdmit has been little to none considered by myself until now and I'm physihing here for other's input. In games/simulations I've studied/played, don't recall a specific "line item" on the "budget" to consider on likely taking and "expense of keeping" - POWs.

I'm looking mostly from a 20th century+ perspectrive here on the issue of acquiring POWs and then factoring them into one's "military budget", this seems an issue that has acquire some traction in recent decades that it lacked in centuries before ...

No 'flame or bait' here, this is an honest thread inquiry, topic for discusion. How much does the issue/factor of POWs drive budget/policy/plans of a 21st century military operation? ???
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  #2  
Old 21 Apr 17, 07:17
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POW handling Was a serious factor in the planning of the Battle of Amiens in 1918 which broke the German Army on the Western Front. Haig, Rawlinson and Monash ran a staff planning operation that was after four years of war impressively thorough. It was expected that large numbers of POWs would be taken (although in the event these numbers were greatly exceeded - success can also be an embarrassment). Experience from previous campaigns on the Somme and in Flanders suggested that one factor that slowed down progress after initial success was the clogging of supply routes with large numbers of POWs that needed to be sent to the rear. Even the need to allocate soldiers to escort them could prove a serious drain on resources.

Accordingly considerable effort was put into planning initial holding pens and then the dispersal of POWs to more permanent camps in the rear. Routes that would not compromise the need to bring up reinforcements etc were carefully planned and appropriate signage prepared. This in its self would be a giveaway of an intended offensive and so was held in secrecy until the battle opened.

Rather than divert front line troops to the task of handling POWs considerable numbers of Category B men were sent to France ( Cat B men were able to fire a rifle adequately and march but for various reasons [often the need to wear glasses] categorised as unfit for front-line service)' At the same time a corps of Royal Canadian Mounted Police who were fit and willing but just over age for front line service was organised and sent to France to provide mounted escorts for POW columns..

Food supplies and cooking facilities for POW holding areas were also planned in some detail. At this point supplies of Bully Beef in France were more than the BEF knew what to do with so the main problem was firewood.

"No plan survives contact with the enemy." is a somewhat inaccurate paraphrase of von Moltke. Having spent a fare amount of my time as a management consultant involved in large scale project planning (some times at a national level) I would report that the rare particle the planon is extremely unstable and any large and complex plan starts to unravel at the edges even in the absence of any opposition. I suspect that military plans have an even shorter half life) Contemporary accounts of Amiens (and photographic evidence) reveal still clogged roads with traffic advancing to the front contending with such things as columns of POWs in the wrong place. However with no initial plan things would have been much worse.
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Old 21 Apr 17, 08:48
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...well you had the Bataan Death March--the Japanese didn't ''plan'' on that many captives--
...and in WW2 they had enough problems getting their own troops supplies/transportation-much less the POWs...there usually were never enough supplies and transport-for US or Japanese troops....hard to spare troops and supplies, when you had some combat going on...very hard
...from my readings most WW2 POWs in Germany and Japan were hungry--and a lot of civilians were not much better off
now with the Americans there weren't as many POWs--the Japanese usually fought to the death--on Iwo around 1000 POWs from a total of around 20,000 !!

...my co-worker was in PG1 and he said they just used bulldozers to form a sand/etc ''wall'' around the Iraqi POWs

not many big wars going on with many POWs? the US has the transport/etc
surely enough to take care of POWs...with it's budget, it must be a small cost to handle them ? even a significant number of POWs ?

in the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam did not plan on a 'long' war [ like hitler 1941 ]--so plans for POWs were not discussed much...
..[ attackers usually don't plan for a long war? -- usually more POWs in a long war and/or the longer the war--the more cost of the POWs ]

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Old 21 Apr 17, 11:04
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It was evident in Europe in 1945 that the USA had done little planning for POWs and as increasing numbers of German troops surrendered to the the US forces in many instances the US Army completely failed to cope. In many instance German POWs were held behind temporary barbed wire fences in open fields with no shelter or food for considerable periods. In the end the larger US run camps were transferred to British administration.

Britain had planned and prepared. That she was able to do so relatively successfully was due o the fact that significant experience of dealing with POWs had been gained in 1918/19 and many of the men who had been involved were still available to repeat the process 1944/45.
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Old 22 Apr 17, 18:04
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. It was expected that large numbers of POWs would be taken .
WarHistoryOnlinelcom gives the number of German POW's at Amiens as 50,000, that's a lot.
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Old 23 Apr 17, 09:22
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WarHistoryOnlinelcom gives the number of German POW's at Amiens as 50,000, that's a lot.
The revised infantry tactics which included bypassing strong-points, leaving them isolated and liable to yield to following mop up assaults was likely to result in increased German POWs as opposed to German casualties.
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Old 23 Apr 17, 13:57
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Consider this: if you have a policy of taking prisoners and treating them decently, you will take more prisoners. Look at the East Front in WW2 after the first year: the Germans fought much harder knowing the hell of Soviet POW treatment.

Likewise the Japanese distaste for surrender: blasting them out of every cave and crevice took lives and logistics far in excess of any POW treatment.

In the grand scale of things a viable POW policy will save you far more than you spend.
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Old 23 Apr 17, 15:27
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The biggest problem by far is feeding them, clothing them, housing them and providing them heat in the winter, and medical care. The Western Allies, of curse, were the only ones bothered by such niceties for their POWs. Everyone let them freeze and starve and die of disease. And don't forget the manpower in terms of trained soldiers to act as guards, escorts and so forth.

My father managed a POW camp of 2500 wounded enemy POWs on a constant basis and it was a sticky logistical problem in wartime England. He had a entire company of American military police under his command just for the manpower end of things, and they had to be fed, watered, housed and heated, too, and to a higher standard than the POW's.

Properly containing POWs is as expensive an a prison system.
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Old 23 Apr 17, 18:24
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Quote:
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Consider this: if you have a policy of taking prisoners and treating them decently, you will take more prisoners. Look at the East Front in WW2 after the first year: the Germans fought much harder knowing the hell of Soviet POW treatment.

Likewise the Japanese distaste for surrender: blasting them out of every cave and crevice took lives and logistics far in excess of any POW treatment.

In the grand scale of things a viable POW policy will save you far more than you spend.
On the day after D-day June 7th, 1944, 20 Canadian soldiers were illegally executed in a garden by the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend. In response the Canadians are rumoured to have had a take no prisoners policy for a while. This from Objects of Concern: Canadian Prisoners of War Through the Twentieth Century, p.102:

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In 1944, these considerations suddenly became imperative. Whether or not an unofficial take-no-prisoners policy existed in the Canadian Army is a matter of some debate, but there can be no doubt that it was the practice of certain German units in Normandy. (18) On the morning of 7 June 1944, [brief synopsis of 12th SS incidents]…When these murders came to light in July, the government was forced to address the dangers surrounding the moment of capture. CMHQ had to take swift action to make soldiers aware of the new hazards facing them if captured, although Crerar, now GOC of the 1st Canadian Army, was more concerned that atrocity stories might drive Canadian soldiers to reprisals. In fact, the text of a message to the troops provoked some debate. Crerar wanted to say that the prisoners [killed by the 12th SS] had been ‘murdered under circumstances of great brutality’ to convince soldiers of the type of enemy they faced, but the government wanted the phrase omitted to avoid alarming relatives. In the end, Crerar compromised and said only that there must be no retaliation but that anger should be converted into a ‘steel-hard determination; to defeat the enemy. (20) The impact of this incident on the training of soldiers for captivity is difficult to access. One soldier, however, recalled that before going to action in northwest Europe, his unit was briefed on the different German troops they might face and the attitudes such troops could be expected to have. (21)"
My Dad was in Normandy in 1944 (a lieutenant then) and I asked him if there was a take no prisoner policy then. His response was, nothing was explicitly said, but there was a time.
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Old 24 Apr 17, 07:36
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The Western Allies, of curse, were the only ones bothered by such niceties for their POWs. Everyone let them freeze and starve and die of disease. .
The Germans treated many of their western POWs properly for at least the first years of the war. So did the Italians
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Old 28 Apr 17, 01:09
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I remember well the images of US forces taking large numbers of Iraqi prisoners in GW1. A telling indictment of our Gulf War strategy. What we should have done was turn those Iraqi divisions around, provided special forces teams for liaison, and driven on Baghdad as allies of a Free Iraqi Army.
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Old 28 Apr 17, 06:31
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I remember well the images of US forces taking large numbers of Iraqi prisoners in GW1. A telling indictment of our Gulf War strategy. What we should have done was turn those Iraqi divisions around, provided special forces teams for liaison, and driven on Baghdad as allies of a Free Iraqi Army.
A pipe dream I'm afraid. I was in Iraq just after the end of the Iran Iraq War and before GW1. The Iraqi army was very loyal to Sadaam and the regime, It would take a lot more than some special forces liaison teams to turn it around!
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Old 28 Apr 17, 07:57
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I remember well the images of US forces taking large numbers of Iraqi prisoners in GW1. A telling indictment of our Gulf War strategy. What we should have done was turn those Iraqi divisions around, provided special forces teams for liaison, and driven on Baghdad as allies of a Free Iraqi Army.
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A pipe dream I'm afraid. I was in Iraq just after the end of the Iran Iraq War and before GW1. The Iraqi army was very loyal to Sadaam and the regime, It would take a lot more than some special forces liaison teams to turn it around!
Spot on, Mark. Some of the individual draftees in the regular Army might have been turned eventually, but their combat value was questionable, at best. The RG fought, ineffectively, but the fought right to the end, and continued to attempt to preserve combat power and escape tight to the cease fire.
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Old 28 Apr 17, 09:20
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. Some of the individual draftees in the regular Army might have been turned eventually, but their combat value was questionable, at best. The RG fought, ineffectively, but the fought right to the end, and continued to attempt to preserve combat power and escape tight to the cease fire.
They'd had years fighting a WW1 style war on the Faw peninsular with artillery bombardments, frontal attacks on trench systems etc (with minefields added). Baghdad was full of young one legged men as a result. This experience made them a force totally unsuited to the fighting in GW1 but tough and difficult to break
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Old 28 Apr 17, 15:09
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The Iraqi army was very loyal to Sadaam and the regime, It would take a lot more than some special forces liaison teams to turn it around!
The Republican Guard was very loyal to Saddam, That was not the case of all Iraqi Army units. And the units that had lain down their arms did not need "turning" as much as redirecting. The role of the SF would have been more in the line of coordinating close air support and artillery fires. Now, would everything have degenerated into a ball of worms once this "Free Iraqi Army" rolled into Baghdad? Possibly, but I believe Iraq would have had a better chance than they got with zero support once Saddam's opponents rose up.
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