« Money Making | Main | Your Property is no Longer Your Own. »

June 21, 2006

Military Responsibility for Civilian Deaths

Anyone out there know where I can find something on military history? I’ve tried Google but my skills are obviously not up to it.

I’m aware that he claims of planes shot down in WWII were ludicrously too high, on both sides. I also think I’ve seen things about how troops grossly over-estimate how many of the enemy they have shot.

But does anyone have any links to where these things might be discussed? Some estimation of what discount to put on claimed casualty figures to reach actual?

June 21, 2006 in Military | Permalink


Might be something on www.strategypage.com in the archives - maybe do some google Site: searches on there.

Other than that....not sure sorry!

Posted by: Steve B | Jun 21, 2006 2:14:26 PM

There's a useful discussion about RAF claims in the Battle of Britain at:


After that period the RAF used gun cameras to confirm pilot claims, although it also confirmed how rarely the pilots hit anything at all, let alone what they were aiming at.

For Army claims, I think the best research was by General George Marshall after WW2, and there's later stuff from Vietnam. There's some discussion in Richard Holmes' book 'Firing Line', but that's in my bathroom at the moment so I can't easily look it up...


Posted by: Peter Jackson | Jun 21, 2006 2:29:39 PM

Also a good discussion of claimed vs. actual kills in the Battle of Britain in 'The Most Dangerous Enemy' by Stephen Bungay, Aurum Press: ch. 15, The Numbers Game. The book's an excellent read, especiallythe last chapters where it looks at the stereotype character reversal shown by the Britishand German opposing forces. RAF fighter claims were 200-300% higher then actual kills. The Luftwaffe were rigorous in investigating claims, but still overestimated RAF casualties. Germans seemed to overclaim by 100-150%: between 10 July and 11 August 1940 the Luftwaffe claimed 381, the RAF lost 178. Hope that helps, book's still worth the read.

Posted by: Peter McGrath | Jun 21, 2006 3:15:42 PM

I remember being impressed with Len Deighton's "Fighter": perhaps he goes into the numbers.

Posted by: dearieme | Jun 21, 2006 3:49:04 PM

I would go to "The Right of the Line", John Terraine's history of the RAF during the second world war. As well as being very good on casualty figures for the major air battles it is also extremely well annotated and has a very good bibliography. It has also been described as the best single volume history of the Second World War ever written.

Posted by: Mike Solent (Husband of Natalie) | Jun 21, 2006 6:36:47 PM

I doubt it would be possible to come up with a formula to give an 'estimation of what discount to put on claimed casualty figures to reach actual' -- the likely accuracy of a particular set of figures would surely be influenced both by which country's information ministry was making the claims and which general's figures they were starting from.

It's a subject Antony Beevor discusses several times in Stalingrad; apparently the actual size of the German VIth Army when they were surrounded is quite controversial, even before you start to estimate the number of casualities (other than 'most of the poor buggers', of course). Ditto the civilian casualties during the siege.

Posted by: SteveG | Jun 22, 2006 1:31:27 AM

Aeroplane Monthly also did an article on the claims vs actual figures comparing German and British methods. I can't remember the details, but basically they said that both sides got it wrong by a pretty wide margin.

They also said something about the German claims being less verifiable because they had a different method of scoring for individual pilots and unit tallies. Again I can't remember the details, but it might be worth dropping them a line.


Posted by: The Remittance Man | Jun 22, 2006 4:25:14 PM