Writing the Military: 5 Biggest Mistakes

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This article is by Joseph Zieja.

I’m an officer in the United States Air Force, and I’ve been wearing the uniform for ten years.  I also write.

I’ve had pieces appear in Daily Science Fiction and some other anthologies across the web and in print.  So I have a tiny bit of writing clout to back up my military experience, and you can lean on that when I tell you that there are a lot of mistakes in the way that writers portray the military in their fiction.

I therefore present to you the Top 5 Biggest Military Mistakes in Fiction, According to Joe Zieja.  I’ll try my best to keep it­ to speculative fiction, since I know that’s who my audience is, but these mistakes extend to all genres.

One last warning:  I’m from New Jersey.  Hold on to your self-esteem.

1. Yes, You Should Have Thought of That Before:  Misuse of Technology

No one is as desperately misled as Hollywood when it comes to military technology.  Movies take a lot of poetic license, but they’re expected to sacrifice accuracy for the sake of explosions and entertainment.  But seriously, if you can’t make a cell phone call while driving in the Lincoln Tunnel, you probably can’t fly a satellite-controlled airplane through it.  That’s all I’m saying.

It’s not just about computers.  If you don’t understand the basics of medieval arms and armor, you’re going to look very foolish when your hero saves the day by throwing a broadsword like a ninja star.   What happens when a knight in full plate mail falls off his horse after a failed cavalry charge?   Does he swiftly roll to his feet and rally the troops?  No.  He lays there doing his best impression of a turtle until someone comes by and captures him or puts a sword through his visor, because his armor is just too heavy.

If you have someone inside a pressurized airplane firing full metal jacket penetrators, you’re going to have some depressurization issues and everyone is going to get the bends, including the hijackers.  It’s tough to pull a caper when it feels like the blood is about to boil out of your veins.

Understand what a sword, bow, and spear can and cannot do.  Understand how a gun works, how missiles work, how bombs work.  This information is readily available on the internet, but all too often writers use movies and television as their encyclopedia.  All you’re doing is perpetuating the wrongness.

2. Who Is Running This Army?  Failure to Understand Rank and Organization

I love Battlestar Gallactica.  Love it.  They get a lot of things right when it comes to military protocol, but they failed when it came to establishing a proper rank structure.  You have a “Commander” piloting a ship in the “fleet”, which indicates that they’re using the navy rank structure.  Well, a captain is in charge of a ship, not a commander.  The executive officer of the ship, the commander’s deputy, is a colonel.  First of all, colonels outrank commanders in the US military rank structure.  Second of all, colonels aren’t in the navy – they’re in the marines, air force, and army.  They then mix up the ranks further, using air force ranks for their pilots.  A captain is the head fighter pilot on the Battlestar Gallactica, which, if you stick with navy rank structure, makes him ALSO outrank the commander of the ship.  It’s a total mess.

But wait, you say.  It’s a science fiction show set in a world where Earth never existed.  Can’t they call the ranks anything they want?  Why can’t a commander outrank a colonel?

It’s a speculative world, so you have some liberties, but if you’re going to borrow terms from the modern world, it doesn’t help you at all to mix them up.  In your fantasy world, you could also decide to call small red fruits hanging from trees “oranges” or “bananas.”  But that would be silly and confusing, wouldn’t it?   Borrowing from the real world is great; it helps you establish commonalities that ease the transition from the real world to your world.  Stick with the real world conventions.

3. If the General Shoots, Everyone Else Is Dead:  Misapplication of Military Roles

Generals don’t man machine guns and throw grenades.  Presidents of the United States don’t hop in F-16s and fight off the aliens.   If these things are happening in your book, everyone else is probably (or should be) dead.

We love characters of status.  Kings, generals, leaders.  Important people.  The problem is that writers very often wrongly associate important people with exciting people.  The president of any country in the modern day world is an important person.  He is not an exciting one.  Generals are important people who make decisions so that folks younger than them (the captains, the privates, the sergeants) can go do the real work.  They do not make precise targeting calculations and save the day with the silver-bullet shot.

There are examples in history where the important people were also the exciting ones.  Many warrior societies had their kings go to war, even fight in front lines, but there will be ramifications.  Fantasy writers can get away with this a little bit more than SF writers, but don’t forget that kings have to run their kingdoms.  If you have a king that’s never around, you are going to have problems with administration.  George R. R. Martin handled his absent king very realistically by having his kingdom fall apart.

One more quick point about officers and enlisted.  Officers are leaders and managers.  Younger officers absolutely “do” things.  They lead men into combat, shoot, fly, kill people and break things, but their primary job is not to “do.”  It is to lead.  Enlisted are the worker bees, for lack of a better expression.  They are expected to be extraordinarily competent in one specific skill set, and the officer’s job is to take many enlisted people and make their effectiveness greater than the sum of their parts.

Officers don’t turn wrenches; they tell enlisted to turn wrenches, because an officer would turn the damn thing the wrong way.

4. FORWARD, DEMARCHE!  Misuse of Military Communication

We talk funny.  REALLY funny.  I mean so funny that there have been times when I have been talking with another military member in a room full of civilians, and at the end of the conversation the civilians have had absolutely no idea what any of us said.  It’s a way of life.

I find that a lot of writing gets the lingo wrong.  It’s particularly bad in fiction where the military isn’t the focus.  Generally people who are writing military-centric fiction do their research; it’s the folks that are just putting a scene or two in their writing that jack it all up.  People repeatedly using the long form of ranks and terminology – we shorten everything at every opportunity – people confusing rank abbreviations and acronyms, people mixing up technological terms.  Sending a B-52 to dogfight, for example (it’s a huge bomber aircraft) or asking for another clip to put in their revolver (revolvers don’t take clips for ammo).

There also tends to be an over-reliance on correct terms.  Writers will get so excited that they’ve learned a new word that they’ll put it into the text over and over again, particularly when characters are speaking.  Repeatedly calling a gun “the Springfield 1911” or a character “Private First Class John Smith” starts to sound really tacky.  Just call it a gun.  Just call him Smith, or the PFC.  We do.

5. First We Go There, Then We Kill Them, Then We Win: Ignoring the Complexity of War

The only thing more complicated than war is marriage.

Writers often forget to account for the many moving parts that make up the military, politics, and logistics of war.  Look at the two World Wars, for example.  They were both several years in the making before a shot was fired, and both were large enough in scale to completely change the way the world worked forever.   It is not an insignificant thing that can be solved by simply going there, killing the enemy, and declaring victory.

Now, I understand that nobody wants to write a book called “The Continuing Adventures of the Guy Who Keeps Track of Supply Counts.”  In fact, I encourage writers not to write about the mechanics of war that aren’t as exciting.  But you can’t simply ignore them.  It’s a foul when a massive, million-man army is ready for war in under a week.  It’s a foul when armies move more than, say, ten miles in a day.  Even the technologically advanced armies of World War II had a difficult time covering ground, since nature tended to get in the way.

When do your armies eat?  How do they get resupplied?  Foraging and hunting isn’t enough; a 20,000-man army roving through the forests would quickly deplete the natural resources around it.  The European landmass has a very difficult time supporting large amounts of horses for cavalry.  The desert of the Middle East necessitates long supply chains.  The high mountains of Tibet require oxygen masks.

My point is that you have to consider the larger effects of war, because they extend beyond simply killing people.  There are psychological, economic, social, and political effects that come with it and influence the outcome.   Dealing with them judiciously and accurately helps your writing become more real.  Ignoring them makes your writing seem like a cartoon.

Final Thoughts

Having gone through the Top 5, I want to make it clear that what I’m advocating isn’t strict adherence to the principles of the possible.  Writing fiction is all about achieving the balance between fiction and fact; you have to lure the audience into a false sense of security by showing them what they know is true.  People don’t seem to ignore this tenet as much when discussing other things: sailing, horseback riding, geography.  Why forget it with the military?  Establish a little bit of credibility by avoiding some of the mistakes I’ve talked about here, and you can dance all over the place.

And then you can blow some stuff up.

Do you feel that it’s necessary to be “accurate” in fantasy or science fiction?  If so, to what level?

About the Author:

Joseph Zieja is a veteran of the US Armed Forces and a budding author of speculative fiction with over a dozen works published in magazines across the web and in print, including two pieces in Daily Science Fiction.  He was asked to speak on creating realistic military fiction at WORLDCON 2012 alongside Jack Campbell and Myke Cole. 

You can learn more about Joseph at josephzieja.com

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57 thoughts on “Writing the Military: 5 Biggest Mistakes”

  1. Useful post, It’s best to learn from other’s mistakes than to feel the urge to commit one by oneself & then think of learning. I think we’ve all made some of these mistakes to some degree or another.

  2. A knight was expected to make cartwheels in armour and they did that.
    Horses were likely to get killed or dying in battle and campaign.
    I wouldn´t want to wear a combat kit leaving me helpless when that happens

    Le combat en armure au XVe siècle – YouTube

    Armour Aerobics – YouTube


    Is Adamas Rank commander(and when what does this Rank mean) or his Position.
    Commander of the Battlestar Galactica and a captain could mean that rank in the airforce or army,
    The Rank structure of the colonial fleet could come from the airforce not the navy, which isn´t that unheard of.
    e.g. Perry Rhodan Solar Fleet,
    Rank follows the Airforce System, the Person who is in command of a ship is called Commandant his rank in cause of the flaggship is normally colonel

    Generals and King did lead their men from the frontlines and they did fight.

    Classical Examples are the gothic Kings Teja, Totila and Theoderic.
    German Kings and Empereors like Otto the Great, Otto II, Duke Leopold V of Austria(Austrias Colours are inspired by him, after a battle the only part of of his Waffenrock or surcoat not red was under his Swordbelt

    IIRC the mongols coul move much more in a day than ten miles, how much could a roman legion cover without a train?

    Cäsar did cover much more than 25 km a day if need be

  3. Points well made. My current adventure series is focused on a sailing brig in the middle of the 1800’s. I am trying to accurately separate my characters on board into the sailors, the warrant officers group, and the Master – i.e. Captain. Having worked my career in companies large down to one-me-I the effects of hierarchy is clear. Each level has their own culture, problems, joys, and interactions. I love putting these people into action.

    I am trying to follow your guidelines and they are well taken. Merchant shipboard culture is not military but the same rules of command and control apply. There is more latitude for out-of-the-box behavior than in the military.

  4. THANK YOU. I got here on a quick google search to see if anyone had talked about this cuz it pisses me off to no end how in military sci fi there’re always SO MANY officers and no one’s enlisted. Never got super into BattGatt but I kinda think did it at least a little bit more right. The worse offenders are Star Trek and Stargate, and I was a huge fan of them growing up but still it confused me even back then. Now it just pisses me off. Like, you’re not gonna have a 4-6 man commando team led by a Colonel and everyone else is a Captain. Consistently, it’s just like, where are all the enlisted guys??? You said it better than I: it’s their job to make big(ger) decisions and give orders, it’s our job to carry them out and get shit done. Anyway, you’ve got a new subscriber, gonna check you out further and definitely gonna read your books. I too want to be an author one day. Take care.

  5. Have you ever considered writing a book, or just a short e-book, on how to write military characters in fiction?
    I would definitely buy that one.

  6. The five points are ‘spot on’ observations …points that trigger my own “really?” reactions when I read others’ works when they miss a point. Among my own published books, the first one (“Just Dust, An Improbable Marine’s Vietnam Story”) depicts numerous real war scenarios and what actually goes on …from the obvious explosions to long periods of utter boredom. My added point today, however, focuses on the emotional aspects of war …reactions that are hard for others to experience who have never been there or done that. Nearly all of us are neither John Wayne or Rambo personas, but many of us believe it is precisely these characters that people want to believe even if they’re not entirely accurate. Must good military writing replicate merely the blood …or need it reveal the nerve, the reaction, the mental jungle we must traverse?

  7. Thanks so much for your post, Joseph. I have no military experience whatsoever, but I’m just about to start writing a major campaign from a grunt’s point of view – so I’ve bookmarked this and will be referring back to it (and back to it, and back to it …) over the next few weeks. Oh, and I really like the tone: “I’m from New Jersey. Hold on to your self-esteem, and “The only thing more complicated than war is marriage” are two great lines!

  8. Joseph, I really appreciate this post. My Dad was USAF he worked on Jet Engines and served during Vietnam (his first wife was a fire-arms instructor at MacDill), my besties Dad was Marine Recon (Sniper) and after a medical Discharge after the first Gulf War he re-enlisted into the Army, where he served in personnel. My Grandfather was at Guadalcanal in WWII. I like to think that between those three men I have a good understanding of the People behind the uniform, and the lingo isn’t completely Greek.

    I know you wrote this some time ago, but I would like your opinion, we are writing a SciFi story where we have merged structures between the USAF and the Navy for our Space bound military. I’m most comfortable with the structure of the USAF groups, so we were using that combined with the Naval rank system (My ex was Navy). Do you think that would be overly confusing?

    (Sorry for the word vomit, my life is fueled by coffee today.)

  9. Two quibbles — Air Force? I thought you said you were in the military! 😉 (J/K, I was Army.) Seriously, though, the plate armor thing is a bit of an urban legend. Knights were actually quite mobile in them, though as we saw at Agincourt, they could be vulnerable to light infantry if mired in mud, etc.

    Great article, btw! Totally agree with everything else.

  10. I’m writing a piece of fanfiction where one of the main characters served 2 tours of duty in Afghanistan, during which he took part in clandestine operations to hunt taliban fighters across international borders. I was wondering if someone could tell me when he would’ve been deployed and when he would’ve come home. I know it’s just a fanfiction but I want to be as accurate as possible.

  11. It’s a myth that the weight of full plate armor would prevent a mounted knight from righting himself if he was knocked from his steed. A typical set of plate armor weighed around 50-60lbs with the helmet.

    Also, many revolvers can be loaded with moon clips, which hold multiple rounds of ammunition together in order to load all the chambers at once. Example: http://tinyurl.com/jfncva7

  12. Thanks for this article
    As a teenager who is trying to write military fantasy, I often find that getting these things write is important, we don’t want to insult veterans but also getting it write is just important. But as my story is set in an era where knights and royalty commanded armies as opposed to Field Marshals and Generals and whatnot, I think I should focus more on supply chains and the logistics of medieval warfare.
    And in response to people saying it gets in the way of story, I don’t think it EVER does. I think the restraints of supplies and economics make the struggle of armies a lot more real and some times even a passing mention to rations in a book or refugees just makes me feel a lot more immersed. Authors like Django Wexler, Sam Sykes, Joe Abercrombie and Myke Cole do this excellently, but also George RR Martin did it to an extent. I particularly like to show the social effects of war (refugees, loss of work, housing, food etc)
    I really like to get things write and the military history nerd inside me feels so happy when some wields a bastard-sword or a talwar instead of a broadsword and a scimitar. Oh terminology… thou art a wondrous beast
    Anyway, that concludes my comment. Love the articles about the military

  13. From a navy point of view, Canadian, British, etc. Captain is a rank but it is also an appointment as the commanding officer of a ship. I would expect the system is similar in the USN. Most destroyers, and similar sized ships would have a Commander(rank) as its Captain(appointment). Smaller vessels could have a Lieutenant Commander as Captain. Captains (rank) are normally shore based, or in the case of those countries with larger vessels, A/C Carriers, etc. the Captain might indeed be a Captain.
    Some Canadian ships carry Air Force personnel (helicopter pilots) and support personnel. Pilots are Captains (RCAF rank). The story is told of the ship’s Captain declaring that from now on the RCAF Captain would be referred to as Lieutenant ( the Navy’s equivalent of an air force/army Captain) because there was only one Captain on his ship – a Commander. Gets a bit confusing, no?

  14. People need to research these things… Though sometimes I write my characters arguing in the middle of battle about this sometimes.

    “Pass me a clip!”

    “That’s a revolver!”

  15. Good thoughts, here. I think I did about three hours of research re weapons (types, which one would work best for each character, given their abilities and personality, etc.) I’m finding that understanding the implications of wounds is harder. (For example, I have a character who receives a wound on his arm from a sword. I’m not sure how far he would make it without having to rest, etc.) Are there any sources online that anyone could recommend?

    • It depends on how deep the wound is for the amount of muscle, tendon, ligament that would be impacted. I sliced my thumb on the inside straight down to bone, nicked a nerve and refused medical treatment opting for a compression bandage in place of stitches. I was able to use my thumb almost fully within a week. But the first three or four days I was useless. I would say his arm could not be load baring and any sort of strain from impact jostling would probably be enough to have him breathing hard or locking his jaw. Not enough to have him screaming.

      So the first question: what kind of sword caused the wound? Was it sharp? Well warn? Dull? Sharp blades cause injuries that heal faster and are less painful.

  16. A very interesting read! I have always wondered how correct the movies are – so it would sound like they are mostly not realistic. LOL, I am watching Army Wives on Netflix right now. I am enjoying it, but now after reading your article, I’m afraid I will start to question everything I see and hear 🙂 It’s good to be informed though, so I can avoid getting wrong ideas.

  17. I’m going to have to go against the grain here and take the position that strict adherence to military accuracy is not necessary or even desirable in many cases.  As the OP points out repeatedly, in the real world things move slow and have serious limitations.  He also stresses how it has it’s own unique culture and language that civilians do not even understand.  More often then not, realism is not going to serve you well in the fantasy and science fiction realm.  And for the record, the rank “issues” in Battlestar Galactica never bothered me at all.

    • A good writer can segue time lapsed situations to imply realism while keeping a story on pace, and anyone with even the most limited military background will grimace of MISAPPLIED jargon… that’s not limited to the military. IT People, Lawyers, Medical People. Any and all fields have acronym’s and terms that aren’t used the same way among those in the outside world. I read two books a day, I have lived almost everywhere in the country. All you have to do is use a Street Name in a story set in Utah, small example, and it will turn me off your writing. The more people read, the more particular they are about research.

  18. I am not in nor ever
    was in the military, and I still hate some of the BS I see on TV shows and
    movies. What I hate is when a military commander (whether captain, or colonel,
    or whatever) allows military protocols to be bypassed. I stopped watching the first
    episode of Crusade because why? The episode opens up with news of an empire
    collapsing, and then a mutiny breaks out on the ship. Then, in the following
    scene, the stupid captain of the ship decides to forgive all the mutineers.
    WTF!!?? So…years of military discipline is thrown out, because, oh well,
    there’s no empire anymore so why not. Even I, a civilian, can dimly fathom that
    controlling your forces in a chaotic situation is of paramount importance, so
    why throw away your main weapon of control?? There’s absolutely no way in hell
    any officer worth his salt would allow such a blatant disregard for military
    order to go unmarked. After that I decided this character was Too Stupid To
    Live and I could not watch a show with a main character who was that stupid.
    (Well, that, and all the dull exposition going on made me give up on it, too.)
    I have many times wondered why the Captain and/or the First Officer of the Enterprise go on the away teams. But that hasn’t annoyed me enough to stop watching Star Trek.

  19. Hi Joseph
    Excellent post, thanks.
    I couldn’t agree more that getting these details correct is pretty-much essential. More than in any other genre, keeping people in the story and detached from the real world is a must. 
    I’m a musician and any time people use musical terms wrongly or something is inaccurate is pulls me straight out of the story (not to mention bugging the hell out of me).
    If you’re going to write about something that some readers will have a knowledge of you have to do your research.

  20. Truly awesome article. Most of my writing is military focused, so this was a great read for me. Also very informative.
    Thank you!

  21. Interesting mistakes that writers forget, but could it be intentional to make a long story short and make it exciting? Many writers do. I love it for future reference if ever I will write the story of one family during WWII. Thnx, learned a lot.

  22. Thrilled to find your page! And this is a great question, too! I find when I watch movies I always hope that the factual parts are indeed factual, so I do the same in my writing. I will research in depth to get it right.

  23. I’m an enlisted army Vet (Desert Stom, 12 years).  I agree full-heartedly with #2.  If you don’t take the time to get the structure, it’s going to be really wrong.  It seems like writers think, “Okay, I need an officer,” and that’s where their understanding ends.  I’ve seen fictional officers with enlisted jobs, or doing a job level that is completely in appropriate for their rank.  And what the heck happened to the enlisted?  From the way a lot of writers carry along, we don’t even exist.  According to them, the military is made of officers.  Officers are actually a very small percentage.  Enlisted is the bulk of the military.

    • LindaAdamsVA See my comment below.  You’ll be happy to know that the first interstellar flight has Chief Petty Officers, Petty Officers, Specialists, and Crewman, as well as Security Officers who are Sergeants (from a different branch of the military).  Can’t fly the ship without the enlisted contingent!

  24. “The only thing more complicated than war is marriage.” — fantastic line!

    I write fantasy, but I think anything that is “borrowed” from our world should ring true and the not-true aspects should be accounted for by the rules of the fictional world. This is a great post. I’d love to know a little more about this lingo you mention…

  25. Thanks for the post. I write modern day realistic Sci-Fi and am completing the third book of a trilogy. I have a conflcit between the Chinese and The Seventh Fleet over Taiwan (would we really go to war for Taiwan???) and this article helps.

    I’ll check out more links and navigate around the site some more.

  26. The point about political leaders not necessarily living exciting military lives is a great one I could learn from. A lot of the warrior characters I have designed over the years have been rulers or generals, but perhaps a more common soldier would work better.

  27. Thanks for the great tips.  My novel has a couple chapters about a soldier in Iraq.  I researched by reading dozens of books and watching dozens of documentaries about the conflict, so I knew I had most of it right, but I had a coworker who was a vet and HR person with the US Army who quickly became my military adviser.  He not only corrected small details, but he pointed out areas where I could expand to give scenes a greater impact.  I’m very grateful to have his expert help.

  28. Fantasy is called fantasy for a reason. Its more important to be consistent with whatever mythology you tweaked. Accuracy is much more important in science fiction.

  29. In my opinion, science fiction requires some accuracy, at least scientific plausibility. Fantasy is… well… fantastic. By definition, it doesn’t require accuracy. Just how I see it. I’m answering the original question, not responding to anyone else’s post (which I haven’t read).

  30. andy, by “broadsword”, I believe the writer was actually thinking about a long sword, a two handed sword, or a bastard sword(what’s commonly referred to as a “hand and a half sword”, which is basically a long sword with a two handed hilt)

  31. I learned a lot of fascinating stuff in the article and in the comments, especially about knights in armor!  Fortunately, I don’t write about knights.  I do write about the 28th and 30th centuries, however, and I had to construct a rank system for the military.  There was no reason to assume that it will be identical or even close to what it is today, but I did study a list of ranks so I wouldn’t make any really egregious errors (I hope).  The Captain is still definitely the boss on his own spaceship, with Commander, Lt. Commander, Lieutenant SG, Lieutenant JG, and Ensigns as the officers beneath him.  In Flight Command, the only ranks above Captain are Commodore and Admiral, and those are mostly ground-based officers.   In Ground Command, you have the usual Captain, Major, Colonel, General, etc., as in the US Army.  This is in my WIP, The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, that I’ve been serializing on http://termitewriter.blogspot.com

  32. Great article! One of the hardest things I find about writing is all the research. It’s so hard to stop and figure out how exactly a piece of armor or technology should work when you’re in the middle of cranking out a chapter. Especially military things. And then finding a source that makes an easy reference guide, instead of something you have to slog through to find one small detail, can be difficult. Can you suggest any quick reference type material for weapons/military facts? Just yesterday I spent three hours trying to figure out how long a throwing knife can be before it’s not a throwing knife anymore…and if it’s not a knife weighted for throwing, what are the chances of being able to take down a target from ten feet away? :/ It’s hard to write a bad ass when  you’re, like, not a bad ass…

  33. I believe in two things (actually many things, but for this post, two things) and that is when you create a world the rule structure in place needs to be adhered to at all times. Whatever you do must be plausible within the boundaries set by your rule structure (even if it means the supreme overlord must battle, which in some worlds is obligatory otherwise he is seen as weak). The second thing is something I believe in strongly.  As far as possible keep things logical and realistic. If the guy changes into a werewolf I want it to happen as natural and realistic as possible so that I’m almost convinced it is possible. If my protagonist is facing giants he wont be able to outrun them, might not even swerve out of the way in time, but he might get a bit of a head start if he runs into a thick forrest with big-ass trees. Same with being attacked by a dragon: Shoot the wings! Shoot the wings! Same logic applies to any weapon, horse, human, armor, need for water, etc. 

    One of the reasons why I love fantasy so much is that you can find yourself in a world that is totally alien to you, but yet told so realistically that you immerse yourself in it completely and this is what grownups–back when I wasn’t one–never could understand about this genre. 

    Anyway, great article, thanks.

  34. Just published an eBook with a fantasy war, were the attacking leader has the importance of supply lines explained to them.  And she never goes near the fighting, assigning a leader and war commander to each army and staying back in her keep.
    Fun that an article about getting things wrong got armored knights wrong. But the linked article covers it better.
    been told one military academy here in Australia assign cadets a problem – You have a flag pole, rope, a flag, a sergeant and four corporals.  How do you raise the flag?
    Any answer that starts with “Pick up the flag/pole/rope”is wrong
    The correct answer is “Sergeant, raise that flag.”

  35. A great post but not sure I agree with all of it. When the king goes to war – as happened so often in The Crusades, often the state is run better by his wife.  There were plenty of instances of knights getting back up and charging again. At Crecy – admittedly in the era just before full plate – the French made 19 charges at the English, some refreshing their horses. The armour could easily defeat the longbow arrows. The horses, however were vulnerable. Also, some knights could turn somersaults or even swim in their armour.
    But good points well made on the whole!

  36. Overall excellent. There is one item that is incorrect, however: it is quite possible for a person in full plate to stand back up after a fall. He won’t “roll to his feet,” true, but the only time he’s going to have a problem standing on his own—or, more pertinently, remaining on his feet—is if he’s fallen onto a churned-up, muddy field… as happened to the French chivalry at Agincourt. I speak from experience here, having worn full Gothic plate before several times, including in sport combat where you were expected to fall down when you were “killed.” I did plenty of standing up without help. (I wasn’t that good, and got killed a lot.…) It’s really not that hard to move in. If it had been, they wouldn’t have worn it: you don’t wear something for protection that’s predictably going to get you killed. And they knew quite well that they weren’t going to be able to remain on their horses all the time: everyone takes a spill once in a while, and no one is going to want to lie there and wait for help to come along, even if they weren’t in any immediate danger at the moment. So, indeed, understand how your paraphernalia works—and beware of buying into myths about same.

  37. There are some errors in this article.
    First, there is no such thing as “plate mail.” “Mail” comes from a term meaning “net” and thus cannot describe plate armour. (See Okeshott page 90: http://books.google.com/books?id=HLwnRGEaHfgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=inauthor:%22R.+Ewart+Oakeshott%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=8osFUe61L4K08ATXm4Bg&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false ).
    A prone knight was not helpless under his armour; 15th century plate armour was both articulated for body movements and balanced. It was heavy, but a knight could still get up and fight, and fight very effectively. See item #4 in “Top Myths of Renaissance Martial Arts” ( http://www.thearma.org/essays/TopMyths.htm ) and a visual demonstration by ancient weapons expert Mike Loades: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMuNXWFPewg
    I suspect that the author uses the term “broadsword” to refer to a Medieval sword, but despite its common usage, it is incorrect. There were broadswords in early modern warfare, but they were not the knightly swords of the Middle Ages. See “Broad Sword or Broadsword?”: http://www.thearma.org/essays/broadsword.htm

  38. Thank you, US Army, for assigning me to a brigade headquarters and a section where we designed field exercises and war scenarios!

  39. I don’t want to be 100% but at least plausible. There is nothing 100% on the battlefield but to expect one side to be complete morons is not realistic.

  40. Not bad at all, however it is written rather well and it is rather common sense that lacks when ppl do write in those areas.

  41. About #2:
    If they’re using the Air Force captain, then a Navy Commander outranks the captain(Commander is Navy rank O-5, and Captain is AF rank O-3).
    Also, it’s possible that both Adama and Tigh are both the same rank(If Tigh is actually a Lieutenant Colonel, which is AF and Army O-5, and from my tiny amount of knowledge, can be referred to as simply Colonel)

  42. Excellent post. I’ll be putting in some military movement / battles in the 2nd of my Pool of Soul series which will release Oct. ’14. Hadn’t realized the army wouldn’t be able to move only up to 10mi / day, so THANKS! Gotta keep that timeline in shape.
    I’m a fantasy writer / reader, and I totally feel accuracy is key to keeping a reader interested. If it’s not believable – even in world x with creatures y & z – then they’re more apt to scoff & put the book down. Definitely can’t have that happen!


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