“I’ll bet there isn’t a single soldier in this entire place.”
What a shame.
Humanity used to live around the world. A little over 100 years ago, titans – large humanoids, fast and powerful, regenerate quickly, between 3 and 15 meters tall, not noticeably intelligent – appeared and started slaughtering everyone. Humanity was incapable of resisting them, and so they first built and then pulled back behind a series of huge walls. These walls kept the titans away for 100 years; the show is set during the period in which the outermost wall gets breached for the first time. The main characters are present during that event and later decide (for reasons relating to it) to join the military. The main action of the show takes place after their initial training is over.
If your response was something like “warrior is a way of life, soldier is just a job” then you get half marks. You’re on the way to the solution, although you’re not there yet.
And if you said “warriors are DPS, while soldiers are tanks and off-healers” then a) I’m not sure that’s true in an era of viable dual-spec classes, and b) MMOs are not a good source of information about military issues, even those with anime based on them. This Sword Art Online review might be more your thing.
It’s because they’re complete bloody idiots.
Strategy and Tactics:
Let’s start with the basics. A strategy is a high-level statement of how you are going to win the conflict you are engaged in. It’s the continuation of a sentence that begins “We will defeat our enemy by…” and ideally doesn’t go on much longer. An example from history would be “… destroying their means to fight”. Operations are what you carry out in order to implement your strategy. If your strategy is to starve your enemy of the resources they need in order to continue fighting you might attack their transport networks. And finally, at the lowest level, tactics are how you conduct your operations. Sneaking into enemy territory and wrecking bridges has a long history.
Their strategy boils down to “sit behind our walls and hope the titans go away”. This is the same sort of thing that a three year old does by sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending they can’t hear you, and it works about as well against titans as it does for three year olds. At best this could result in a stalemate until the titans find some way to get at the humans (spoilers; they do!). It certainly isn’t going to lead to any reduction in the threat the titans pose.
Their operational concept involves sending groups out into territory controlled by the titans to establish supply depots. Where, unsurprisingly, they get slaughtered wholesale for no appreciable gain. The disconnection between their strategy and the operations they are carrying out is massive; personally I think they have mistaken activity for operations.
And tactically, their method of dealing with titans is so far from effective that I don’t even know what to say. Their equipment, weapons, training… everything is predicated around getting someone with a sword up to the titan’s neck so they can slice it open. Words fail to express how indescribably fucking stupid this is. What makes this even more infuriating is that humanity has millennia of experience of how to deal with similar tactical problems. If you’re going to send out people in ones and twos against titans, with weapons that require them to be actually touching the titan to use, of course you’re going to take horrendous casualties. You are giving away every possible advantage you could have, and transferring them to your enemy. This is the sort of insane idea that could only be come up with by someone who is fixated on individual prowess and achievement at the expense of all else.
The other main reason is the lack of thought that has been put into what you do if you’re not swinging a sword at a titan. There are three arms of service – the Survey Corps, which does reconnaissance and light-infantry tasks; the Garrison Corps, which maintains and defends the walls; and the Military Police, who act as a sort of police force and praetorian guard. There don’t appear to be any organisational levels between that and the squad that you’re assigned to, which must make assigning tasks an absolute nightmare for commanders. Perhaps because of this their supporting arms are basically non-existent. Squads are assigned on an ad-hoc basis to carrying supplies, maintaining and using the cannons mounted on the walls, or anything else that someone thinks needs to be done. It’s hard to tell whether this is the cause or result of no-one being able to approach this as a profession, but effect is the same – there are some truly bizarre oversights being made.
See, the walls are built as fortifications. Their entire job is to prevent titans getting in. But that point does not seem to have occurred to the people who designed these walls. Cannons at the top of a wall can’t hit anything at the base, but the designers didn’t care. They didn’t try to channel the titans into areas where the weapons could bear on them. They didn’t provide any close-in weapons for defending the walls. They didn’t design the walls with bastions for enfilading fire. They didn’t design a series of obstacles to slow attackers and give defenders time to respond, they didn’t have secondary fortifications in case a breach was made in the wall, they didn’t put in additional walls as spokes to limit the amount of territory lost in the event of a breach… The list goes on and on. They just put up a wall 50 metres high, stuck a few cannons on the top, and called it a day. How anyone could look at it and say “Yes, this is a suitable defence for the last of mankind!” is completely beyond me.
Now, it would be unfair of me to say all this and not offer any ideas about how they could do better. But that’s the subject of the next article…