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Hell is mud: Military history and the influence of mud

C. E Wood, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Soldiers have known for centuries just how significant mud was in military operations, but historians have not recognized its importance and few have ever examined mud in more than a passing manner. Only two John Collins' Military Geography and Harold Winters' et al. Battling the Elements examined mud, but they understood it only as a part of the entire environment's affect on the battlefield and neither analyzed mud's influence on the individual combatant. Therefore, this work's purpose is to examine mud's influence on mobility and on combatant's and their material over the centuries and throughout the world. The dissertation uses veterans' memoirs, archival sources, personal interviews, and secondary sources as evidence. ^ The dissertation begins by defining mud. Different combinations of soils, particle sizes, and soil moisture ratios created a plethora of muds. For simplicity, this work limits mud to two types and two sub-types. All mud had certain characteristics: softness, adhesiveness, and slipperiness; and its effects: churnability, dampening, and suction. The work's first half also delineates three kinds of mud that influenced the battlefield based on their predictability: permanent, seasonal, and random mud. Military commanders knew with certainty that mud existed in permanent features like swamps, marshes, and bogs. Seasonal mud occurred when predictable rainy seasons (or thaws) like the Russian rasputiza and monsoons appeared. Random mud was the least predictable and it derived from local thaws and summer storms. ^ The dissertation's second half examines mud's effect on the morale, health, and fatigue of combatants. With the individual as the focus, the work explains how mud proved discomforting and lowered morale. In health terms, mud caused illness, hampered casualty evacuation; and, when deep enough, killed. Mud also enhanced exhaustion and caused vehicles and weapons to malfunction. ^ Mud was a key factor in many military campaigns and veterans of those battles understood that fact. However, its influence on military history never received the attention from historians that it deserved thus this dissertation is a noteworthy expansion of historical knowledge. ^

Subject Area

Geography|History, General

Recommended Citation

Wood, C. E, "Hell is mud: Military history and the influence of mud" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3116614.