Urban Combat in WW2

Submitted by “Mage” on the Spearhead discussion forum

Apropos to the recent discussion of town sector combat in SH, I came across an OR study of urban fighting. I thought that some members might be interested in a summary of the study background and conclusions. My comments will be in [].

“Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities: Phase I”, The Dupuy Institute, prepared for US Department of the Army Center for Army Analysis. The study is available on the net as a PDF file from the publications section of the TDI website. The study looked at 137 division level WW2 engagements in the ETO, 24 were urban, 22 conurban* and 91 non-urban to compare an extensive set of factors between urban and non-urban fighting. The towns involved in the engagements were Aachen, Boulogne, Calais, Dieppe, La Havre, Cherbourg, Brest & Paris.

‘Conurbation: defined as “an aggregation of continuous networks of urban communities” or a “city surrounded by large numbers of urban districts”. TDI specifically uses this term to describe the pattern of settlement commonly seen in Europe, where large numbers of small and medium villages or built-up areas exist, with large tracts of clearly undeveloped land between them. As such, a division-level operation would be expected to encompass one or more of these villages, and they would serve as significant strongpoints in any defensive scheme.’

The study conclusions are:

1) Urban combat did not significantly influence the Mission Accomplishment (Outcome) of the engagements.

2) Urban combat may have influenced the casualty rate. If so, it appears that it resulted in a reduction of the attacker casualty rate and a more favorable casualty exchange ratio compared to non-urban warfare. Whether or not these differences are caused by the data selection or by the terrain differences is difficult to say, but regardless, there appears to be no basis to the claim that urban combat is significantly more intense with regards to casualties than is non-urban warfare.

3) The average advance rate in urban combat should be one-half to one-third that of non-urban combat.

4) Overall there is little evidence that the presence of urban terrain results in a higher linear density of troops, although the data does seem to trend in that direction. [SH probably is about right or a bit high with number of platoons that can be engaged in a town sector.]

5) Overall, it appears that the loss of armor in urban terrain is the same or lower than that found in non-urban terrain, and in some cases is significantly lower. [In all these instances the armor was properly supported by infantry, so I wouldn’t reccommend any changes to SH factors.]

6) Urban combat did not significantly influence the Force Ratio required to achieve success or effectively conduct combat operations. [ie urban areas confered no special defensive bonus to units defending in the urban terrain. A 2:1 force ratio was adequate to ensure attacker success.]

7) Nothing could be determined from an analysis of the data regarding the duration of combat (time) in urban versus non-urban terrain. [Though the implication of lower advance rates is that urban combat takes longer. It certainly shouldn’t be quicker though, as it is in SH. There was more discussion of this issue in the case study section of the report.]

There have been 4 other OR studies of urban fighting. This study discusses in some detail the other studies and their conclusions.

A side bit of information from the study is that the average urban center for these towns (other than perhaps Paris) is 4 to 5 sq km or about 50 SH town sectors. These urban centers would then have a network of smaller urban areas, clusters of several town sectors, interspersed with non-urban areas about them. Which would be fairly easily represented in SH.


www.dupuyinstitute.org – listed under publications

A Google search for dupuy institute yields some interesting sites worth checking out as well. For those unaware, TDI was founded by Col. Trevor Nevitt Dupuy (deceased). Dupuy has written many history books and articles, perhaps his most famous (and controversial) was “Numbers, Predictions and War” discussing how warfare can be simulated and thus predicted by mathematical processes.

Dupuy Institute (2002, January 11). Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities. Author.

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