Craft of war

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The craft of war is the knowledge of practical methods of warfare from the perspective of soldiers and combatants. In the course of history, especially with the emergence of standing armies and professional armies, it was understood as a teaching profession and new recruits were mediated by older and experienced soldiers. In addition to behavior in combat situations, skills also included the construction, maintenance and use of war machines , the operation of cannons / artillery , the erection of protective devices and much more.

The term is complex and encompasses both practical knowledge and experience in the work of fighting and killing, as well as the manual skills typical of war, which are brought from civilian life and adapted to military requirements.

Areas of the craft of war

The term describes two areas. On the one hand, all activities related to fighting , the use of weapons , the killing of enemy people, mostly with the aid of techniques and weapons, in particular also the joint approach in situations with rapidly changing events, are classified under warfare . These activities also had to be learned. Mercenaries experienced in the craft of war often had a higher combat strength than a unit consisting of unskilled and inexperienced recruits. The term here denotes the "manual work" of the fighter and has a negative connotation in this use , since it compares reprehensible, shocking and macabre actions in peacetime with the practice of an ordinary craft.

An essential part of learning the craft of war is the breaking down of a psychological inhibition threshold for killing , with which the recruit comes into the army and which is a disadvantage for the combatant in crucial situations. This threshold plays a role above all in close combat situations and historical wars and takes a back seat in some areas of modern wars.

On the other hand, the craft of war also required real craft skills that are not directly related to combat. Historically, the abilities of the combatants that they had learned in civil life or that they pursued professionally were used. Then it was a matter of using the work knowledge for war-useful purposes and adapting it to requirements. In ancient wars, older professions were used, often woodworking and above all blacksmithing ( armorer ), in medieval wars more and more advanced metalworking professions were added, such as metal foundry who cast balls from captured metals ( Kugler ) or wheelwright who could tire wagons. In modern times, mechanical and electrotechnical trades are particularly important.

During military history , there was a general tendency towards craft specialization in the craft of war , which, however, due to its disadvantages, could not be given in at all times and in every army. Even today's armies are not always highly specialized. The degree of specialization depends not only on technical progress, but also on the forms of war and strategic prospects. Armies that get into distress or fight in the resistance often give up specialization in favor of training general skills, in which each combatant can take on as many tasks as possible independently. On the other hand, offensive, superior armies often have a large number of specialists whose work becomes effective when the armed force is structurally intact and militarily successful.

Crafts of war in antiquity

As it is today, standing armies and various forms of temporarily recruited units were already widespread in antiquity , the troops of which often came from a common location or followed a common leader, but returned home with him after the end of hostilities or at harvest time . The associations that were temporarily involved mostly use inhomogeneous war techniques and did manual work as they were used to at home. Everyone was responsible for their own equipment. More valuable items of equipment such as breastplates or a particularly stable and therefore valuable stabbing weapon were brought from home or captured and appropriated.

Standing armies, which were introduced by the Romans in particular , were divided into specialized formations, each of which preferred one or a few combat techniques. These associations consisted of mercenaries who were particularly suitable or practiced for the assigned tasks, but often had different origins and different languages. Communication in Roman armies during the battle took place, among other things, with whistling signals . The mercenaries were given weapons that were made and maintained by accompanying craftsmen. In particular, the mercenaries could not produce metal armaments and arrows in sufficient quality or in the required number of items. Construction projects and the construction of siege equipment were carried out jointly by the army.

Roman ballista

Some special techniques required considerable manual skill even in antiquity, including the construction of ballistae , heavy slings and the use of Greek fire , which required sophisticated craftsmanship and could also be dangerous for your own team if incorrectly planned or insufficiently instructed. In general, the war equipment could be manufactured in the war zone and only rarely had to be transported over long distances. Even in the Egyptian Empire there were horse-drawn chariots that had to be repaired.

Cooking was also an essential part of the craft of war . The availability and, above all, the quality of the prepared food had a significant influence on the morale of the troops at all times . Cooking is not part of the craft of war per se, but the way of procuring food is, i. H. As a rule, the population of the conquered area was plundered or expropriated . The food was brought to the train in well-organized armies , where it was transported and prepared tasty. This procedure was the main method of feeding the army until the Napoleonic Wars . Bakers, cooks and butchers always traveled with them, and in the event of capture they were often treated on an equal footing with fighting soldiers.

A disadvantage of the handicraft in the Roman army was that cutting weapons could only be manufactured in lower quality by the army itself, since higher quality alloys could only be made in special factories in the heartland.

Crafts of war in the Middle Ages

Blide with movable counterweight in the Château des Baux, France (reconstruction)

The new techniques introduced in the course of the Middle Ages gradually revolutionized the craft of war. The invention of effective throwing machines like the Blide , which had a novel mechanism and could hurl stones very precisely at opposing fortifications, had to be built by a well-rehearsed team of carpenters and many helpers on site. With the advent of firearms, which developed slowly and were not very effective at first, blacksmithing became more important. New professions such as gunsmithing emerged, but most of them did not travel with the armies and had great technical knowledge. Ammunition for light firearms , rifles, arquebuses , etc. could be transported, but was often also poured on site by bullets traveling with them. With the invention of portable large arms such as cannons, armies were forced to cast cannonballs from captured metals of various compositions. To do this, longer breaks had to be taken, during which fortifications were also set up.

The craft of war at sea was very closely intertwined with the nautical professions and had to deal with numerous craft tasks. It was not until the beginning of the colonial period that units of marines emerged , most of whom were transported by ships and were less trained in nautical tasks.

Asian steppe peoples

In terms of mobility, the Asian equestrian peoples (e.g. Parthians , Avars , Huns ) were far superior to the European knights with their heavy armor . As nomads , they carried everything they needed on horseback . Thus, they were more flexible than many of their competitors' armies, which had to orient their logistics to fixed cities. This art of war reached its climax under the Mongols . The Mongolian ruler Genghis Khan founded an empire after 1190, which stretched in its greatest extent from Europe to the Far East, whereby the war technology of the defeated peoples was largely adopted by the Mongolian warfare . These armies were only slightly specialized, that is, the responsibility for the provision of the ordnance was broadly divided among all combatants.

Warcraft in the modern age

Modern armies are different from ancient or medieval armies in many ways. A key difference is the invention of the motor , which greatly simplifies the transport of equipment and materials. Many manual activities can be carried out in the hinterland. Since this was accompanied by an acceleration of wars and campaigns, the soldiers no longer have enough time for week-long breaks. The traditional manual work was replaced by transport and repair tasks, which are carried out by specialized units. The communication required electro-technical skills such as installing field-telephone systems, but with the development of microelectronics laid and effective communication channels increasingly, located in the back country establishments need to be installed or being used locally only finished components. The soldier, who bears the main combat load, is mostly responsible for operating weapons, driving vehicles and loading ammunition and is provided with comprehensive logistical support.

In modern wars, the classic concept of the craft of war as the knowledge of fighting and killing takes a back seat . Almost all modern armies avoid close combat or close contact with the enemy. Whenever possible, combat situations involving life and death fighting from person to person are avoided using other techniques. The firearm usually allows a minimum distance between the opponents and there are seldom those forms of direct fighting that were common from ancient times to the end of the colonial era. When it comes to learning to be a soldier, the focus is no longer on how an opponent can be incapacitated with a stabbing weapon. Knowledge of warfare today includes advantages and disadvantages of ammunition types and types of weapons, effective use and behavior in combat situations that take the opponent's capabilities into account.

Specialization in the craft of war

With the advancement of technology in warfare, manual tasks increasingly came to the fore, which had to be done by the combatants themselves. Although ancient armies were also accompanied by real craftsmen such as blacksmiths , there was no specialization of troop units in manual and supporting tasks in today's sense. Throughout the entire Middle Ages until the First World War , the equipment was mainly serviced by the fighting soldiers who were also used to transport goods during breaks in combat or at the front, but mostly consisted of normal troop units. This meant that each unit was able to participate independently in the war and, if necessary, change its areas of responsibility. Specialization also came late in the Asian region. A special feature are the armies of Imperial China, which were accompanied by a large number of craftsmen in historical times. It was not until the Second World War that largely specialized associations emerged on all sides, which were primarily responsible for technical and manual activities and which were less involved in the fighting. Technology had evolved and required specialists whose loss should be avoided. Mechanics in particular were important.

Specialization has some strategic disadvantages , including the threat of bottlenecks in the event of the loss of a special unit, the binding of personnel who cannot intervene in combat itself and the need to protect these units by other units or strategic considerations. Such war-oriented units represent easier targets because they often cannot defend themselves with the combat strength that is otherwise common in their army . Another disadvantage is that the other units rely on the availability of craftsmen and can no longer do work themselves. This leads to material losses if defective but repairable equipment has to be left behind.

The advantages of specialization in the war trade consist in a much more effective organization and a more economical materials management . Craft activities can be done much faster and better by trained soldiers. The material saving occurs when spare parts are moved collectively to the location of the special unit instead of distributing them evenly and in much larger numbers to the troops. Since it is difficult to plan in advance what is needed and in what quantity, the troop units would each have to have their own well-stocked warehouse so that they can repair quickly if necessary. A centrally aligned craftsmen's unit can operate more economically.

In state-of-the-art armies, a large part of all the work to be done consists in the preparation and maintenance of the technology by special forces who are constantly trained and kept up to date. Success depends largely on them. In some armies, tasks in this area are increasingly being handed over to military service providers or private companies. There is currently no uniform view of the status of employees in such companies under international law. They are not involved as regular soldiers and are often not considered prisoners of war by the enemy army.

With long-range weapon systems or strategic submarines , military technology has been developed that is only operated by specialists who are never used in classic combat. Instead of handicraft, engineering takes place here. For special tasks, engineers sometimes work with craftsmen to build unique devices that later go into series production or are abandoned. In the development of remote-controlled or independent fighting technology, which is already advanced in some areas, one no longer speaks of craft. The craft of war combines with scientific fields, development and research of military technology .

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Crafts of war  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations