I’ve finished reading Aleksander Maslov’s Fallen Soviet Generals, a chronicle of the fallen general officers of the Red Army in World War II. Over two hundred Soviet generals were killed, on average one every six days. German general casualties were similarly massive. The Western Allies got off lightly (the United States lost twenty generals), although there were exceptions. In Vietnam the U.S. Army lost five generals.
The subject of how generals died after the invention of the telephone and radio has been a area of weird fascination for me, and I even chose it as the subject of my first (probably too goofy given the seriousness of the topic) ebook.
No doubt there would be a lot of generals dying in a hypothetical World War III, even a purely conventional one, along with their subordinates. The causes can be divided into two main categories:
“Deep Fire” refers to anything to strike deeper, and encompasses air strikes, long-range artillery, surface-to-surface missiles and special forces raids. This would likely be the leading cause of general deaths. The long-range fire strike complex (to use the Soviet term) abilities of both sides had increased dramatically from World War II, and command installations are clear targets for “big-ticket”, scarce weapons.
“Close Fire” refers to direct fire and, for the sake of convenience, shorter-ranged battlefield mortars and artillery. While the advances in deep fire and targeting would potentially render it secondary, it cannot be counted out as a form of killing generals. Maslov’s book gives countless examples of how, in twisted, confused, rapidly mobile engagements, command posts ended up close to enemy soldiers and armored vehicles, with very dire consequences for those inside them. Especially in a conflict with overwhelmingly more mechanization than the Second World War, something similar is bound to occur.
Of course, these categories can be blurred. Is a long-distance tank raid “deep” or “close?” Is a CAS airstrike on a forward command group “deep” or “close?”
Either way, the generals will not be spared.