PDA

View Full Version : WWII era tech question



rosehips
04-30-2016, 11:30 PM
Hi all. My mc is a sniper staking out a broken telegraph line because he believes the enemy will have to send an engineer to fix it, and he considers killing an engineer high priority. It occurred to me as I was rereading that you might not actually need an engineer to fix a ruined telegraph line. Do you? If not, how can I alter this scene to be accurate? As it stands the telegraph line is running along a bridge that was bombed, and the line is broken in two places.

mirandashell
05-01-2016, 12:43 AM
Which country is this set in?

mpack
05-01-2016, 12:57 AM
Hi all. My mc is a sniper staking out a broken telegraph line because he believes the enemy will have to send an engineer to fix it, and he considers killing an engineer high priority. It occurred to me as I was rereading that you might not actually need an engineer to fix a ruined telegraph line. Do you? If not, how can I alter this scene to be accurate? As it stands the telegraph line is running along a bridge that was bombed, and the line is broken in two places.

From my understanding, linesmen travelled in small crews while doing field repairs. I don't believe they were usually combat engineers but specially trained infantry troops assigned to communication platoons attached to HQ/command companies. That said, I don't think the scene you describe is unrealistic. Ideal conditions (assigned work crews) rarely match the conditions of an ongoing battle.

cmhbob
05-01-2016, 01:15 AM
Here's a movie example from Enemy At The Gates: https://youtu.be/WTi7v77XZYs?t=55s

It's much easier to string new line than to try and repair cut line. Less exposure, although that may not help.

King Neptune
05-01-2016, 02:40 AM
Whether splicing or replacement would be preferable would depend on the nature of and the condition of the line. An equal amount of splicing would be required in each case; there were two breaks, so two splices. If it is a single wire, then repairing the old probably would be faster. You might have your characters discuss how to handle it.

rosehips
05-01-2016, 05:05 AM
A fantasy country which might most closely resemble Russia, but not in a close way.

rosehips
05-01-2016, 05:06 AM
I actually had that scene in mind. I didn't think about it too deeply, though, but isn't Vasili under the impression he's killing some sort of expert?

rosehips
05-01-2016, 05:07 AM
So in the case of splicing, you would need an engineer (or at least someone with more expertise) but not so with replacing?

King Neptune
05-01-2016, 05:40 PM
So in the case of splicing, you would need an engineer (or at least someone with more expertise) but not so with replacing?

No, the same knowledge and experience would be necessary for splicing the existing wire and replacing it, because both require almost identical work. If the people out there were just grunts, then they might call an expert, just to be sure, but an experienced technician would take a good look and make a decision within seconds. He'd check the condition of the wires and the number of wires and go.

James D. Macdonald
05-01-2016, 06:28 PM
Splicing 1940s level telegraph wire is relatively simple. You could learn how in under a minute.
(http://constructionmanuals.tpub.com/14027/img/14027_122_2.jpg)
The purpose of the sniper is to prevent two units from communicating, not (necessarily) to kill trained technicians. In the case of the movie clip given, what had happened on the German side was probably "Private Hassenfuss! Strap this on your back and crawl over there!"



isn't Vasili under the impression he's killing some sort of expert?

To be completely fair, from Vasili's point of view, anything more technical than growing cabbages probably requires some sort of expert.

rosehips
05-02-2016, 12:24 AM
Okay, thanks all. So it sounds to me like it wouldn't require anyone with a lot of technical skill. I need for the sniper to have chosen to hang around for longer than he usually would because he thinks this is an especially good target. He also muses about how the expert is probably a member of a class oppressed by the enemy, drafted against his will for his expertise (the sniper has a bit of pathos about killing him over this, though not enough to make him hesitate). I agree about the importance of breaking communication lines, and do address that as well, but I want to keep my bit of pathos in there as it gives some color to the sniper's character as well as the situation with the enemy running low on experts, etc.

blacbird
05-02-2016, 12:27 AM
To be completely fair, from Vasili's point of view, anything more technical than growing cabbages probably requires some sort of expert.

I had a hell of a time getting my cabbages to grow last year, so what exactly are you trying to say here?

caw

rosehips
05-02-2016, 03:11 AM
Okay, thanks all. So it sounds to me like it wouldn't require anyone with a lot of technical skill. I need for the sniper to have chosen to hang around for longer than he usually would because he thinks this is an especially good target. He also muses about how the expert is probably a member of a class oppressed by the enemy, drafted against his will for his expertise (the sniper has a bit of pathos about killing him over this, though not enough to make him hesitate). I agree about the importance of breaking communication lines, and do address that as well, but I want to keep my bit of pathos in there as it gives some color to the sniper's character as well as the situation with the enemy running low on experts, etc.

I didn't include the question I have. Basically, what could I change the telegraph line to to make it necessary to have an engineer or similarly skilled worker sent out to fix it? The setting of the scene can change from the bridge to whatever makes sense.

King Neptune
05-02-2016, 03:34 AM
It could be a railroad bridge with points, so trains from either direction could turn onto the bridge and go either way when they came off the bridge. That would require at least four sets of points on each side of the bridge.

frimble3
05-02-2016, 04:44 AM
Okay, thanks all. So it sounds to me like it wouldn't require anyone with a lot of technical skill. I need for the sniper to have chosen to hang around for longer than he usually would because he thinks this is an especially good target. He also muses about how the expert is probably a member of a class oppressed by the enemy, drafted against his will for his expertise (the sniper has a bit of pathos about killing him over this, though not enough to make him hesitate). I agree about the importance of breaking communication lines, and do address that as well, but I want to keep my bit of pathos in there as it gives some color to the sniper's character as well as the situation with the enemy running low on experts, etc.
I see no reason why you couldn't keep your bit of pathos. After all, your sniper is killing the man from a distance. If his orders were only "Kill the man who comes to repair the wire" I could well imagine him sitting there, patiently waiting, making up stories about his targets to while away the time.
If his specialty is sniping, he may well assume that anyone working with technical stuff is an engineer. (Depending on his background - a farm boy, accustomed to mending fences, might ponder whether or not he would like a job like that.)

James D. Macdonald
05-02-2016, 07:26 AM
You'd need to send an engineer to wire the bridge for demolition.

andadu27101
05-02-2016, 10:28 AM
What you described was common occurrence in WW II. The Russians actually used a lot of tel wires…they had lots and lots of units. They had specialized communication units which laid down wires and repaired them (most damage was done from bombs, shells, or tanks running over them). To the back of the front they inspected the lines regularly. Always more than one man went along. In the front zone, where they could run into enemy patrols the communication guy will always have a few soldiers tag along. Your sniper wouldn’t risk it…not for a repair man. A sniper was a high commodity, worth a hundred repair men…he won’t risk capture (and certain execution) not even for a junior officer. What you describe doesn’t make sense. Try something else.

rosehips
05-02-2016, 08:56 PM
I do have the repair guy come out with soldiers as an escort. I won't belabor the details, but basically the soldiers aren't really doing their job very well for a variety of reasons, and the sniper is aware that that will be the case. I'm getting that repairing the telegraph wire doesn't work. I'm going to research KN's suggestion about the four points on the bridge. I may also go with JDM's idea about the enemy sending someone to demolish the bridge, though that makes somewhat less sense to me just in terms of who needs the bridge fixed. The destruction of the bridge isn't ultimately all that important to the plot, though, so it's just a matter of rethinking things a bit if I do go with that option.

rosehips
05-02-2016, 08:58 PM
I see no reason why you couldn't keep your bit of pathos. After all, your sniper is killing the man from a distance. If his orders were only "Kill the man who comes to repair the wire" I could well imagine him sitting there, patiently waiting, making up stories about his targets to while away the time.
If his specialty is sniping, he may well assume that anyone working with technical stuff is an engineer. (Depending on his background - a farm boy, accustomed to mending fences, might ponder whether or not he would like a job like that.)

Thanks, you've given me something to think about in terms of where his superiors would want him to go. I hadn't really considered it from that angle, so that helps.

And FWIW, he was a merchant sailor before becoming a sniper. The war in this story isn't happening at sea or he'd have been drafted into the navy.

Trebor1415
05-02-2016, 11:23 PM
Okay, thanks all. So it sounds to me like it wouldn't require anyone with a lot of technical skill. I need for the sniper to have chosen to hang around for longer than he usually would because he thinks this is an especially good target. He also muses about how the expert is probably a member of a class oppressed by the enemy, drafted against his will for his expertise (the sniper has a bit of pathos about killing him over this, though not enough to make him hesitate). I agree about the importance of breaking communication lines, and do address that as well, but I want to keep my bit of pathos in there as it gives some color to the sniper's character as well as the situation with the enemy running low on experts, etc.

The target doesn't need to be an expert for the pathos to work.

Reading about snipers you'll see times where they talk about being able to see the eyes of the men they shot through the magnification of the scope. The level of intimacy is not normal for a regular soldier unless you are in hand to hand combat. Normally, you fire at an enemy at a distance and you aren't going to see him as clearly and definitely aren't going to be able to look into his eyes as you pull the trigger.

The other issue is that normally shooting in combat is "kill or be killed." You are here, they are there, you are running towards them or they are running towards you. If you don't shoot some of them now they may be on top of you before you can stop them, or if you don't shoot at them now, they might shoot you before you get to them. It's very chaotic and random and there's a very real element of "If I don't kill him, he will kill me." It's very "hot blooded" in the heat of the moment stuff.

For snipers though, it is more like hunting a prey animal. Some soldiers even view snipers as murderers. They stalk the enemy like prey and shoot them "in cold blood" without the enemy even knowing they are there much of the time. This can exact a pyschological toll on the sniper. (For some, other's aren't bothered).

As to "having to hang around longer than normal" back it up a bit for me. Why does the sniper have to hang around longer than normal, plot wise? Is he captured because he should have left earlier? Is he not able to make it back to his unit because he's cut off by the enemy because he hung around too long? Etc.

Tell me that so I understand what you really need here. I think you got distracted by the idea of a "high value" target (engineer, etc) where the real plot problem is one step earlier. (Why does he need to hang around longer than normal? Your current answer is for a high value target, and you are looking at having an engineer be that target. But, don't get fixated on that. There might be a better answer for the plot issue of why he is there if I know why "you need him to be there still."

WeaselFire
05-03-2016, 03:31 AM
Hi all. My mc is a sniper staking out a broken telegraph line because he believes the enemy will have to send an engineer to fix it, and he considers killing an engineer high priority. It occurred to me as I was rereading that you might not actually need an engineer to fix a ruined telegraph line. Do you? If not, how can I alter this scene to be accurate? As it stands the telegraph line is running along a bridge that was bombed, and the line is broken in two places.

1) Watch the exact same scene in Enemy at the Gates.

2) Stop ripping off Enemy at the Gates. :)

It's wires. Any guy with a knife can fix them. Any monkey who can move can string a new line. There would never be an engineer involved in the entire process.

What do you really need for your story? The most you would find a combat engineer doing is setting charges to blow the bridge the line is hanging from.

Jeff

rosehips
05-07-2016, 12:27 AM
The reason I think I need the target to be an expert is because the sniper believes him to have been drafted against his will to do the job. The enemy is in trouble, they are running low on skilled personnel, and they have begun impressing people from an oppressed part of their population (this is a fantasfy story so the details won't make much sense here if I try to explain) to fill those positions. It's ironic because they had previously barred skilled professionals in that population from practicing their crafts. The sniper's feeling of discomfort isn't over killing the enemy so much as over killing someone who is being forced to help the enemy despite being a member of this oppressed class.

rosehips
05-07-2016, 12:32 AM
1) Watch the exact same scene in Enemy at the Gates.

I don't know if you saw the reply I made above where I did say I had that scene in mind. :)


2) Stop ripping off Enemy at the Gates. :)

Yeah, I'm looking at having to rewrite the scene as an opportunity to do that! It was never supposed to be a big deal, pivotal scene, but I do like to be somewhat accurate and it's good to resist the urge to be lazy and copy from somewhere else. ;)

mpack
05-07-2016, 02:11 AM
The reason I think I need the target to be an expert is because the sniper believes him to have been drafted against his will to do the job.

Wouldn't that be true of a lot of the rank and file soldiers too? Lots of peasant farmers out on the battlefields of the Eastern Front.

mirandashell
05-07-2016, 02:16 AM
There is a tale that Stalin ordered that any Russian soldier running the wrong way should be shot on sight. How true that is, I don't know

But the Siege of Leningrad was definately a pissing contest between Stalin and Hitler.

King Neptune
05-07-2016, 02:48 AM
There is a tale that Stalin ordered that any Russian soldier running the wrong way should be shot on sight. How true that is, I don't know

I wasn't there, but I have met people who were, and the KGB were behind the front lines. They searched anything that common soldiers picked up, art, weapons, tools, etc., and they determined whether the state of the soldiers should have it. Their other function was to kill anyone running from battle. I can't find number right now, but there are many references to the practice.


But the Siege of Leningrad was definately a pissing contest between Stalin and Hitler.

It was a must win battle, and consider who won.

mirandashell
05-07-2016, 03:26 AM
Who decided it was 'must win'?

Don't get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the people of Leningrad. We had it hard here but nothing even close to what they went through. But I don't think that either Hilter or Stalin gave a second's thought to the suffering they were inflicting.

King Neptune
05-07-2016, 05:18 AM
Who decided it was 'must win'?

Don't get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the people of Leningrad. We had it hard here but nothing even close to what they went through. But I don't think that either Hilter or Stalin gave a second's thought to the suffering they were inflicting.

I don't know who decided it was a must win, but it might hve been the guys at the top. It might also have been Zhukov but for different reasons. There were several high party men who might have put pressure to save the Petrograd area. A lot of industrial and other assets would have been lost, if the Sovietskis had retreated.
And Stalingrad was a must win for the Germans. They had it surrounded, and most of the p[eople were gone, but it was an active military garrison that opposed them and could make more trouble, if they tried to ignore it.

mirandashell
05-07-2016, 02:32 PM
Ok, now we're getting down to the minutia, which wasn't what I meant and is derailing the OP. I'll leave it here.

rosehips
05-08-2016, 02:22 AM
Wouldn't that be true of a lot of the rank and file soldiers too? Lots of peasant farmers out on the battlefields of the Eastern Front.

Sure, but he'd have no way to know if the peasant was a draftee or not. Whereas he's heard all sorts of rumors about the impressing of these experts from the oppressed group.

Am I making any sense?

rosehips
05-08-2016, 02:30 AM
It could be a railroad bridge with points, so trains from either direction could turn onto the bridge and go either way when they came off the bridge. That would require at least four sets of points on each side of the bridge.

I sthis the kind of bridge you were talking about?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swing_bridge

King Neptune
05-08-2016, 03:25 AM
I sthis the kind of bridge you were talking about?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swing_bridge

No, nothing that complicated I was thinking about a bridge with a pair of these on either side of the river.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railroad_switch
Look down the page, and you may notice "crossover switch (or slip). That's the sort of thing that I was thinking of. Then look at the rest of the page, and you will realize why a trained engineer would be necessary, and I don't mean the kind who merely runs the engine.

WeaselFire
05-08-2016, 08:37 AM
The reason I think I need the target to be an expert is because the sniper believes him to have been drafted against his will to do the job.

Small conflict like Belfast in the 70's maybe. Not in an all-out war. First, how would the sniper know? And second, what really far out odds put them together at the same place and time? And what truly foolish commander put a critical skill on the line to get shot at? WWII technology assumes a much lower level of training needed to be an engineer or other expert. As in, ten percent or more of the population would have similar skill sets. Everyone with critical skills would be as far away from combat as possible, training average grunts how to do the job.

Maybe if you give the experts a different uniform, some insignia, maybe specialized tools or something else a sniper could see to indicate who is who on the battlefield. In Viet Nam, commanders learned not to wear insignia and never let subordinates salute. Made them automatic sniper fodder.

Jeff

Cath
05-08-2016, 03:20 PM
Wow. You're out in fantasy land if you want me to believe this...

By the way, I'm not sure why you think a train switch requires a trained engineer.
Show a little respect for your fellow posters please, Weaselfire. By all means disagree with the content, but do it without the digs at the individual.

James D. Macdonald
05-08-2016, 06:43 PM
If they were rural, they likely can weld, run a backhoe, rewire a dishwasher and disassemble, repair and reassemble a pump before they hit high school.


That's if you're talking about rural USA. One of the advantages that the US Army had was that their basic draftees had a pretty good background in machinery and driving and such. Not so much with European conscripts, who might be able to drive a plow team or a horse cart, but a tractor?

Even as late as the 'eighties, at the Naval Small Craft Instruction And Technical Training School, where we were teaching sailors from various Latin American navies how to be diesel mechanics or HVAC technicians, on the first day you'd still have to explain to many of them, "That is a screwdriver." (Eso es destornillador, if you must know.)

WeaselFire
05-08-2016, 06:47 PM
Show a little respect for your fellow posters please, Weaselfire. By all means disagree with the content, but do it without the digs at the individual.

Edited, thanks.

Jeff

King Neptune
05-08-2016, 07:08 PM
That's if you're talking about rural USA. One of the advantages that the US Army had was that their basic draftees had a pretty good background in machinery and driving and such. Not so much with European conscripts, who might be able to drive a plow team or a horse cart, but a tractor?

Even as late as the 'eighties, at the Naval Small Craft Instruction And Technical Training School, where we were teaching sailors from various Latin American navies how to be diesel mechanics or HVAC technicians, on the first day you'd still have to explain to many of them, "That is a screwdriver." (Eso es destornillador, if you must know.)

Yes, during WWII my parents were in a unit that trained the utterly ignorant. Many had never seen a flush toilet before being inducted. They probably could have harnessed a plow horse, but that was about the most complicated thing. There are stories...

mpack
05-08-2016, 08:01 PM
Sure, but he'd have no way to know if the peasant was a draftee or not. Whereas he's heard all sorts of rumors about the impressing of these experts from the oppressed group.

Am I making any sense?

During the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet Union conscripted ~29-30 million soldiers. Even if your fantasy world isn't a precise parallel, it would seem a safe bet that a significant number of the soldiers on both sides would be draftees. Of course, you can write it however you need for your world, but you will be writing against assumptions.

Is it possible for there to be an ethnic or cultural marker the sniper can use to signal his target is part of the oppressed class? That might allow you to clarify his conflict without requiring a specific level of expertise.

rosehips
05-09-2016, 12:27 AM
During the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet Union conscripted ~29-30 million soldiers. Even if your fantasy world isn't a precise parallel, it would seem a safe bet that a significant number of the soldiers on both sides would be draftees. Of course, you can write it however you need for your world, but you will be writing against assumptions.

Is it possible for their to be an ethnic or cultural marker the sniper can use to signal his target is part of the oppressed class? That might allow you to clarify his conflict without requiring a specific level of expertise.

Thanks. Yes, there is an ethnic marker. The issue (for me, anyway, though I'm seeing I may have a bigger problem with believability here) isn't why he'd identify the guy as one of the oppressed class. It's why the enemy would have chosen to use someone from the oppressed class. It doesn't work with what I've set up for the guy to be some random soldier. The enemy isn't supposed to be having trouble with getting enough rank and file soldiers. The trouble is that they excluded the oppressed class from practicing their professions out of a superiority complex, and now they find they don't have enough experts among the supposedly superior population and they are having to go back on their previous policy. It's a widely known situation, even on the sniper's side of the war, something people removed from the whole thing can enjoy for its irony. The sniper has this moment of pathos because he's closer to it--he has to kill someone who most likely doesn't want to be helping the enemy at all and is being forced to do so against his will. The point of the scene is twofold, I suppose: 1) establish the situation on the enemy's side in a way that's concrete for the reader, and 2) give the sniper some humanity.

I hope that clarifies why I think it's important for the target to be an expert: expertise is kind of central to the irony of the situation and the way the enemy has shot itself in the foot with its superiority complex.

Ultimately I can rework the damage to the bridge in whatever way makes sense, as that's not the point of the scene.

rosehips
05-09-2016, 12:35 AM
And second, what really far out odds put them together at the same place and time? And what truly foolish commander put a critical skill on the line to get shot at?

The sniper is waiting in what appears to be an abandoned area. He's waiting there because his superiors are banking on the enemy sending an expert to deal with some sort of damaged thing. They send the expert with an escort of soldiers, but for a variety of reasons, the soldiers aren't doing a very good job of looking out for threats, so the sniper is able to kill his target and pick off most them as well.

I had been working off the idea that reestablishing communications with the telegraph wire would be important enough to risk an engineer, but that's out. So once I'm done figuring out the railroad bridge KN suggested I'm hoping to be able to come up with some compelling reason they'd send an expert there.

Sorry if this is confused, my 4 yo won't stop harassing me as I type this.

cmhbob
05-09-2016, 01:58 AM
Just a bit of battlefield fieldcraft for you: make sure your sniper is well back from the window. Most soldiers are taught not do stick the rifle barrel out through an opening; it draws attention, and thus draws fire. And don't forget a security guy/spotter.

WeaselFire
05-10-2016, 07:18 AM
The sniper is waiting in what appears to be an abandoned area. He's waiting there because his superiors are banking on the enemy sending an expert to deal with some sort of damaged thing. They send the expert with an escort of soldiers, but for a variety of reasons, the soldiers aren't doing a very good job of looking out for threats, so the sniper is able to kill his target and pick off most them as well.

I had been working off the idea that reestablishing communications with the telegraph wire would be important enough to risk an engineer, but that's out. So once I'm done figuring out the railroad bridge KN suggested I'm hoping to be able to come up with some compelling reason they'd send an expert there.

Okay, here's one:

A mobile radar truck (slight alteration of tech of the era but still in the realm) has broken down and been shot up. The regular army folk have managed to get the vehicle running but they need the radar working in order to properly position the radar to detect incoming planes. It takes a radar tech, who are in short supply, to repair the shot up radar. Radar techs are identifiable by the fact that they carry a six foot rod which is used to align the radar antenna properly. A normal soldier could carry it, but once at the radar truck they would hand it to the radar tech, at which time your sniper knows who he has to shoot.

You don't have to worry much about making the guarding troops do a poor job of protecting the expert, snipers are trained to evade detection until the shot is fired and, if at all possible, still avoid detection. Even crack troops could fail the protective duty. Heck, Secret Service experts didn't catch Lee Harvey Oswald until he had slipped away.

Of copurse, we all know Lee Harvey didn't actually kill Kennedy anyway... Shhh! :)

Jeff