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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Waste of Smothering Grenades

If you read the Medal of Honor citation archives, you will find many instances where a soldier deliberately threw himself on a grenade to protect his comrades from the blast. The military needs to train soldiers not to do this.

Why? It is not necessary. Being close to a grenade when it explodes does not mean certain death. Max Cleland was almost touching a grenade when it went off and he survived, although he did lose both legs and an arm. Most grenades have a 4-second fuse and do the most damage in about a 15-ft radius. If a grenade lands nearby, you have 2 to 3 seconds to find cover. That few seconds is enough to get at least 15 ft away from the grenade. If that is not possible, getting as flat as possible on the ground stomach down and head facing away will protect vital areas enough for survival. Getting shrapnel up your ass like the watch in Pulp Fiction is unlikely to kill you quickly.

For a more in-depth discussion on this topic, I suggest this article from Vietnam-Vet John Reed.

1 comment:

Alan said...

What you are failing to understand is combat effectiveness, and grenade operations.

Yes, you are correct the kill-zone/radius for grenades is approximately 5meters. If you are within that range you have a very high probability of suffering an injury, which will be fatal. However from 5meters out to nearly 200meters the shrapnel can still causing serious injuries.

These types of indirect fire weapons are so effective precisely because they can effectively remove from the fight large numbers of soldiers immediately. Sure, it may not kill them, but if you are wounded your ability to fight or move is severely degraded. You and your squad are no longer combat effective. There may be 5 of the 15 of you left, but that's not enough people to maintain a defensive position or to assault the enemy position.

The second order effect of wounded troops beyond loosing offensive/defensive capabilities is that they need to be evacuated from the battlefield to receive medical care so they don't die and can rejoin the fight as soon as possible. This is a further drain on resources, and can expose additional personnel to enemy attacks.

Yes, jumping on a grenade sucks, but in doing so you may save the lives of many other soldiers immediately, and may save countless more lives by winning the fight quickly against the enemy.

On to the second point. The grenades have only a 4 second fuse TOTAL (depending on the exact type of grenade). So from the time it is release for throwing by the attacker is when the time starts. They usually explode in about a second after arriving on target. Obviously, grenadiers are trained to use them this way to PREVENT the other guys from getting away or throwing them back. So really, you don't have any time to run, even if you could (and not get shot when you move from your cover, for example). The best you can hope for is to jump towards the ground facing away from where you think the grenade landed, but your odds of being unscathed are probably low if it's anywhere close.

Oh, and there is no specific military training or doctrine (that I'm aware of) to jump on grenades. Obviously, its a split second judgement call that only the individual soldier can make.