This leads to a point, which it is better to state here than anywhere else. In all military instruction pertaining to the weapons and techniques of war, the basis of sound indoctrination is the teaching that weapons when rightly used will invariably produce victory, and preventive measures, when promptly and thoroughly taken, will invariably conserve the operational integrity of the defense. It is wrong, dead wrong, to start, or carry along, on the opposite track, and try to persuade men to do the right thing, by dwelling on the awful consequence of doing the wrong thing. Confidence, not fear, is the keynote of a strong and convictive doctrine.
In war, in the absence of information, man's natural promptings alternate between unreasoning fears that the worst is likely to happen, and the wishful thought that all danger is remote. Either impulse is a barrier to the growth of that condition of alert confidence which comes to men when they have a realization of their own strength and a reasonably clear concept of the general situation.
Man is a peculiar animal. He is no more prone to think about himself as the central figure amid general disaster than he is to dwell morbidly upon thoughts of his own death. Left in the dark, he will get a certain comfort out of that darkness, at the same time that it clouds his mind and freezes his action. Disturbed by bad dreams about what might happen, he nonetheless will not plan an effective use of his own resources against that which is very likely to happen. Only when he is given a clear view of the horizon, and is made animated by the general purpose in all that moves around him, does he understand the direction in which he should march, and taking hold, begin to do the required thing.
It is almost gratuitous that this even needs to be stated. No high commander would think of moving deliberately into the fog of war if he was without knowledge of either the enemy or friendly situation. Even to imagine such a contingency is paralyzing. But in their nervous and spiritual substance, admirals and generals are no different than the green men who have come most recently to their forces. Such men can not stand alone any more than can the recruit. They draw their moral strength and their ability to contend intelligently against adverse circumstance largely from what is told them by the men who surround them. That is why they have their staffs. They could not command even themselves if they were deprived of all information.
Toward the assuring of competent, collected action, the first great step is to remove the mystery. This is a process which must be mastered in peacetime, if it is to stand the multiplied strains of war. What mystery? Let it be said that it surrounds the average file on every hand, even though the average junior officer does not realize it, while at the same time he himself is completely mystified by much that transpires above him. For example, we all like to throw big words about, to air our professional erudition; and we do not understand that to the man who does not know their meaning, the effect is a blackout which makes even the simplest object seem formidable. To illustrate, we can take the word "bivouac," common enough in military parlance, but rare in civilian speech. When green men are told, "We are going into bivouac," and they are not sufficiently grounded in the service to know that this means simply going into camp for the night without shelter, their instinctive first thought is, "This is another complex military process that will probably catch me short." Similarly if told that they are detailed "on a reconnaissance mission along the line of communications with a liaison function," they could not fail to be "flummoxed." And if then instructed to take a BAR up to the MLR and follow SOP in covering a simulated SFC party, they wouldn't be far from justified if they blew their tops, and ran shrieking from the place.
These are horrible examples, put forward only to illuminate a fairly simple point. Exaggerated though they may be, something of the same sort happens in almost every installation nearly every day. The difference is only in degree. Every man in the service has an inalienable right to work and to think in the clear. He is entitled to the why and the wherefore of whatever he is expected to do, as well as the what and the how. His efficiency, his confidence and his enthusiasm will wax strong in almost the precise measure that his superior imparts to him everything he knows about a duty which can be of possible benefit to the man. Furthermore, this is a two-way current. Any officer who believes in the importance of giving full information in a straight-forward manner, and continues to act on that principle, will over the long run get back more than he gives. But the chump who incontinently brushes off his subordinates because he thinks his time is too valuable to spend any great part of it putting them on the right track dooms himself to work in a vacuum. He is soon spotted for what he is, and if his superiors can't set him straight, they will shrug him aside.
These are pretty much twentieth century concepts of how force is articulated from top to bottom of a chain of command. Yet the ideas are as old as the ages. Ecclesiastes is filled with phrases pointing up that clarification is the way of strength and of unity. "All go unto one place." "Two are better than one." "Woe to him that is alone when he falleth." "A threefold cord is not quickly broken." "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." "Folly is set in great dignity." "Truly the light is sweet." Great commanders of the past have reflected that knowledge is the source of the simplifying and joining of all action and have pondered how better to resolve the problem. But it is only in our time that this great principle in military doctrine has become rooted deep enough to stay, because the technological complexity of modern war is such as to permit of no other course.
It is folly to attempt to oversimplify that which is of its nature complex. War cannot be made less intricate by conjuring everyone to return to kindergarten and henceforth use only one-syllable words. No such counsel is here intended. The one thought worth keeping is that the military system, as we know it, will prove far more workable, and its members will each become a stronger link in the chain of force, if all hands work a little more carefully toward the growth of a common awareness of all terminology, all process and all purpose.
Once pronounced, the object also requires to be seen in due proportion. The principle does not entail that a corporal must perforce know everything about operation of a company which concerns his captain, to be happy and efficient in his own job. But it does set forth that he is entitled to have all information which relates to his personal situation, his prospects and his action which it is within his captain's power to give him. A coxswain is not interchangeable with a fleet admiral. To "bigot" him (make available complete detail of a total plan) on an operation would perhaps produce no better or worse effect than a slight headache. But if he is at sea—in both senses of that term—with no knowledge of where he is going or of his chances of pulling through, and having been told of what will be expected of him personally at the target, still has no picture of the support which will be grouped around him, he is apt to be as thoroughly miserable and demoralized as were the sailors under Columbus, when sailing on and on, they came to fear that they would override the horizon and go tumbling into space.
Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick Morgan wrote of the policy applied at his COSSAC planning headquarters during World War II: "Right down to the cook, they were told what had happened, what was happening, along with their part in it, and what it was proposed to do next."
Paraphrasing Montaigne, President Roosevelt told the American people during a great national crisis that the main thing they need fear was fear itself. In matters great and small, the fears of men arise chiefly from those matters they have not been given to understand. Fear can be checked, whipped and driven from the field when men are kept informed.
The dynamics of the information principle lies in this simple truth. We look at the object through the wrong end of the telescope when in the military service we think of information only as instruction in the cause of country, the virtues of the free society and the record of our arms, in the hope that we will make strong converts. These are among the things that every American needs to know, but of themselves they will not turn an average American male into an intelligent, aggressive fighter. Invigorated action is the product of the free and well-informed mind. The "will to do" comes of the confidence that one's knowledge of what requires doing is equal to that of any other man present.
This is the controlling idea and all constructive planning and work in the field of information is shaped around it.
COUNSELING YOUR MEN
Among the ever-pressing problems of the commander, and equally of the young officer schooling himself to the ways of the service, is the seeking of means to break down the natural timidity and reticence of the great majority of men.
This he can never do unless he is sufficient master of himself that he can come out of his own shell and give his men a chance to understand him as a human being rather than as an autocrat giving orders. Nothing more unfortunate can happen to an officer than to come to be regarded by his subordinates as unapproachable, for such a reputation isolates him from the main problems of command responsibility as well as its chief rewards. So holding himself, he will never be able to see his forces in their true light, and will either have to exercise snap judgment upon the main problems within his own sphere, or take the word of others as to the factors on which promotions, rewards and punishments are based within the unit.
When the block is due to an officer's own reticence, mistaken ideas about the requirements of his position, or feeling of strangeness toward his fellows, the only cure for him is to dive head-first into the cold, clear water, like a boy at the old swimming hole in the early spring. Thereby he will grow in self-confidence even as he progresses in knowledge of the character of his men and of human nature in general.
If an officer is senior, and is still somewhat on the bashful side, by watching the manner of his own seniors when he gets counsel, and thawing toward his immediate juniors, thereby increasing his receptiveness toward them, there will occur a chain reaction to the bottom level.
The block, however, is not always of the mind and heart. No man can help his own face, but it can sometimes be a barrier to communication. One commander in European Theater was told by his Executive that his subordinates were fearful to approach him because of his perpetual scowl. He assembled his officers and he said to them: "I have been told that my looks are forbidding. The mirror reminds me of that every morning. Years ago I was in a grenade explosion, and a consequent eye injury and strain have done to me what you have to see every time we get together. But if you cannot look beyond the face, and judge my disposition by all else that you see of me in our work together, you do not yet have the full perception that is commensurate with your responsibility."
The too-formal manner, the overrigid attitude, the disposition to deal with any human problem by-the-numbers as if it were only one more act in organizational routine, can have precisely the same chilling effect upon men as came of this officer's scowl. Though no man may move wholly out of his own nature, a cheerfulness of manner in the doing of work is altogether within any individual's capabilities, and is the highest-test lubricant of his human relationships.
As a further safeguard against making himself inaccessible, the officer needs to make an occasional check on the procedures which have been established by his immediate subordinates. At all levels of command it is the pet task of those "nearest the throne" to think up new ways to keep all hands from "bothering the old man." However positive an order to the contrary, they will not infrequently contrive to circumvent it, mistakenly believing that by this act they save him from himself. Many a compassionate commander leads an unwontedly lonely life because of the peculiar solicitude of his staff in this matter and his own failure to discover what is happening to him. In this way the best of intentions may be thwarted. There is no sure cure for the evil but personal reconnaissance.
It is never a waste of time for the commander, or for any officer, to talk to his people about their personal problems. More times than not, the problem will seem small to him, but so long as it looms large to the man, it cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Ridicule, sarcasm and the brush-off are equally inexcusable in any situation where one individual takes another into his confidence on any matter which does not involve bad faith on the part of the petitioner. Even then, if the man imparts that which shows that his own conduct has been reprehensible or that he would enlist the support of his superior in some unworthy act, it is better to hear him through and then skin him, than to treat what he says in the offhand manner. An officer will grow in the esteem of his men only as he treats their affairs with respect. The policy of patience and goodwill pays off tenfold because what happens to one man is soon known to the others.
In this particular there has been a radical change within the services during the current century, simply because of broader understanding of human relationships. In the Old Army, the man could get through to his commander only if he could satisfy the First Sergeant as to the nature of his business; this was a roadblock for the man who either was afraid of the First Sergeant, or was loath to let the latter know about his affairs. Custom dies hard and this one has not been entirely uprooted. But the distance we have traveled toward humanizing all command principles is best reflected by the words of General Eisenhower in "Command in Europe": "Hundreds of broken-hearted fathers, mothers, and sweethearts wrote me personal letters begging for some hope that a loved one might still be alive, or for additional detail as to the manner of his death. Every one of these I answered."
It is not necessary that an officer wet-nurse his men in order to serve well in the role of counsel. His door should be open, but he does not play the part either of a father confessor or of a hotel greeter. Neither great solemnity nor effusiveness are called for, but mainly serious attention to the problem, and then straight-forward advice or decision, according to the nature of the case, and provided that from his own knowledge and experience he feels qualified to give it. If not, it is wiser to defer than to offer a half-baked opinion. To consider for a time, and to seek light from others, whether higher authority or one's closer associates, is the sound alternative when there is a great deal at stake for the man and the problem is too complex for its solution to be readily apparent. The spirit in which this work should be undertaken is nowhere more clearly indicated than in the words of Schuyler D. Hoslett who in his book, "Human Factor in Management," said this: "Counseling is advising an individual on his problem to the extent that an attempt is made to help him understand it so he may carry out a plan for its solution. It is a process which stimulates the individual's ability for self-direction."
Family affairs, frictions within the organization, personal entanglements which prey upon the mind, frustrations and anxieties of varying kind, the sense of failure and other nameless fears which are rooted deep in the consciousness of nearly every individual, are the more general subjects in counseling.
Whatever impairs the man that he wishes to take up with his officer becomes ipso facto the officer's rightful business. Equally so, on the positive side, when his only desire is to bring forward something that he believes would serve the interests of organization, he should be heard.
In either case, the perfecting of counsel develops around two controlling ideas, stated in the order of their importance: (1) what is in the best interests of the unit, and (2) what is for the good of the man. In this particular, the officer as counselor is rarely in the role of a disinterested party. Unlike the preacher, the lawyer, the teacher or the best friend, he has to look beyond what is beneficial simply to the spiritual, mental and moral need of one individual. There is an abiding necessity to equate the personal problem to the whole philosophy within which a command operates. To keep in mind that every individual has his breaking point is everlastingly important. But to remember that the unit is also made of brittle stuff is not less so.
When undue personal favors are granted, when precedents are set without weighing the possible effects upon all concerned, when men are incontinently urged, or even sympathetically humored by their superiors toward the taking of a weak personal course, the ties of the organization are injured, tension within it mounts and the ranks lose respect for the manhood of their leaders.
All things are to be viewed in moderation, and with compassion, but with a fine balance toward the central purpose. Let us take one example. Within a given command, at a particular time, leaves have been made so restricted, for command reasons, that there must be a showing of genuine urgency. One man comes forward and says that he is so sick for the sight of home that he can no longer take duty. As certainly as his superior tries to facilitate this man's purpose because of fear that he will break, the superior will be harassed by other requests with no better basis, and if they are not granted, there will be general discontent. On the other hand, suppose another man comes forward. A wire from home has informed him that his mother is dying. If the superior will not go to bat on such a case, he will win the deserved contempt of the same men who were ready to take advantage of the other opening, but in this instance would seek nothing for themselves.
To know the record, the character and the measure of goodwill of the subject is all-important in counseling. It puts the matter in much too dim a light to say that after the call comes, the officer should check up on these points so that he can deal knowledgeably with the man. That is his first order of business within the unit—to learn all that he can about the main characteristics of his men. This general duty precedes the detail work of counseling. Under normal circumstances, no officer is likely to have more than 250 men in his immediate charge. There are exceptions, but this is broadly the rule. It is by no means an excessive task for one individual to learn the names and a great part of the history of the men he sees daily, when not knowing them means that he has neglected the heart of operations.
What the man says of himself, in relation to the problem, deserves always to be judged according to his own record. If he has proved himself utterly faithful, action can be taken on the basis of his word. If he is known to be a corner-cutter and a cheat, his case, though listened-to with interest and sympathy, needs to be taken with a grain of salt, pending further investigation.
World War II officers had to abide by this standard in dealing with the general malaise which arose out of redeployment. When a man came forward and said that he couldn't take it any more, and the commander knew that he had always been a highly dutiful individual, it became the commander's job to attempt to get the man home. But when a second man came forward with the same story, and the record showed that he had always shirked his work, the question was whether he should be given the final chance to shirk it again. To favor the first man meant furthering discipline; his comrades recognized it as a fair deal. To turn back the second man was equally constructive to the same end. In a general situation of unique pressure, commanders found that these principles worked.
Many of the problems on which men seek advice of their officers are of a legal nature; unless an officer is versed in the law, the inquiry must be channeled to a qualified source. Other problems are of a kind that use should be made of the home services of such an organization as the Red Cross. A knowledge of the limits beyond which the help of a special office or agency must be sought is therefore as important to the officer-consultant as an ability to give the man full information about the whereabouts and use of these facilities.
The Red Cross is usually an effective agent in checking the facts of a home situation and returning the data. But at the end of the line where officer and man sit together, its resources for helping the individual (when what is needed mainly is advice on a human equation) are not likely to be any better than what his military superiors can do for him. In any time of crisis, the normal human being can draw strength and composure far more surely from a person he well knows than from a stranger.
There is this illustration. During World War II, many a man overseas got word that his home had been broken up. The counselor could talk the thing out with him, learn whether a reconciliation was the one most important thing, or whether the man was groping his way, looking for a friend who could help him see the matter in proportion, and weigh, among other things, his duty to himself. The Red Cross could check the facts of the home situation. But the man's readjustment depended in the main on what was done by those who were closest to him.
Sooner or later every commander has to deal with some refraction of this kind of problem. When it comes, moralizing and generalizing about the weakness of human nature does no good whatever. To call the man a fool is as invidious as to waste indignation upon the cause of his misfortune. Likewise, any frontal approach to the problem, such as telling the man, "Here's what you should do," should be shunned, or used most sparingly. The more effective attitude can be expressed in these words: "If it had happened to me instead of to you, and I were in your same situation, here are the things I would consider, and here are the points to which I would give greatest weight." To tell any subject to brace up and be a man is a plain inference that he is not one. To reflect with him on the things which manhood requires is the gentle way toward stirring his self-respect. So doing, a counselor renews his own character. Also worth remembering is that in any man's dark hour, a pat on the back and an earnest handclasp may work a small miracle.
There is much counseling over the subject of transfer. Herein lies an exception to a general rule, for in this case the good of the man takes precedence over the good of organization. No conscientious officer likes to see a good man depart from his organization. Nevertheless, the service is not in competition with itself, and it advances as a whole in the measure that all men find the niche where they can serve most efficiently, and with the greatest satisfaction. There are officers who hold to every able subordinate like grim death, seeing no better way to advance their personal fortunes. This is a sign of moral weakness, not of strength, and its inevitable fruit is discontent within the organization. The sign of superiority in any officer, at whatever level, is his confidence that he can make another good man to fill any vacancy. When it is self-evident that a man can better himself and profit the service through transfer, it is contrary to all principle to deny him that right. This does not mean that the unit's exit door should be kept open, but only that it should be ready to yield upon a showing of competent proof. It is not unusual that when the pressure mounts and war danger rises, many a man develops a sudden conviction that he would be more useful in a noncombat arm. The officer body itself is not unsusceptible to the same temptation. Unless the great majority are held to that line of duty which they had accepted in less dangerous circumstance, the service would soon cease to have fighting integrity. But it makes no point to keep men in a combat arm or service who are quite obviously morally and physically unequipped for its rigor, and it is equally wasteful to deny some other arm or service the use of a specialist whose skills fill it particularly. Some of the ablest commanders in our service have abided by this rule: They never denied the man who had a legitimate reason for transfer, and they never shuffled off their lemons and goldbricks under a false label. Though seemingly idealistic, the rule is also practical. The time wasted in excessive worry over a discard is sometimes better spent by concentrating on the value of trumps.
Men tend to seek officer counsel when they feel discriminated against by lesser authority. When that happens, it is the duty of the officer to get at the facts, and act according to them. Complaints against any junior are always unpleasant to hear because of their air of intrigue. Tactlessly handled, without due weighing of the case from both sides, they turn one blunder into two. But no officer is well-advised if he believes that his duty automatically is to uphold the arm of a subordinate when the facts say that the latter is dead wrong. His duty is to reduce friction wherever it is caused by a misuse of power. This implies dealing discreetly with the offender instead of directly discountenancing him.
There are a few broad, common-sense rules which, when followed, will enable any officer to play his part more effectively in the counseling of men.
Privacy is requisite and the interview should not be held at an hour when interruptions are likely.
A listless manner spoils everything, diminishes the force of reason and discourages confidence.
To put the man at ease immediately by some personal gesture is more important than observing forms.
Thereafter the situation is best served by relaxation of bearing rather than by tension.
All excess of expression is a failing, but above all in the man to whom another looks for guidance.
To listen well is the prelude toward pondering carefully and speaking wisely.
No counsel is worthy that has any lower aim than one's own ideals of self-respect.
Early enough is well; quickly done can be quickly undone.
To refuse with kindness is more winning than to acquiesce ungraciously.
To note another man's mood, and to become congenial to it, is the surest way to engage his confidence.
Decisions which are wholly of the heart and not of the mind will ultimately do hurt to both places.
No man will talk freely if met by silence, but an intelligent question encourages frankness above all else.
When one man loses possession of himself it is the more reason that the other should tighten his reserve.
Affectation in one's own manner gives the lie to one's own credit and destroys it with others.
To express pity for a man does not serve to restore him and put him above pity.
When a man is so burdened by a personal problem that it shuts out all else, he must be led to something else.
Imprudent tactics can undo the wisest strategy.
While these dispositions have particular value in relation to the counseling of one's subordinates, they also have some application to any situation in which men work and commune together. Men at any level do not mistake the touch of sincerity, nor fail to mark as unworthy of trust the man who pays only a superficial regard to a matter which they deem important.
For the officer already burdened with other duties, counseling may seem like a waste of time, and an activity that more properly belongs to the chaplain. The wise and understanding "padre" may sometimes counsel men on their material problems and thereby assist the officer who is over troops. But so doing, he is committing a trespass unless he acts with the commander's knowledge and consent. The commander is the foster father of the men in his organization. When he renounces this role, he neglects a trust.
That neglect cuts the fighting efficiency of the unit at its root. Finally, counseling, like all else in military life, has a combat purpose. Other things being equal, the tactical unity of men working together in combat will be in ratio to their knowledge and sympathetic understanding of each other. Whatever the cause, aloofness on the part of the officer can only produce a further withdrawal on the part of the man. Finally, the cost comes high. In battle, and out of it, the failure to act and to communicate is more often due to timidity in the individual than to fear of physical danger.
Described in cold type, the counseling process probably appears a little sticky. Actually, it is nothing of the sort. For it has been going on ever since man became civilized. It is a force in all organized human relationships, beginning in infanthood and lasting through old age. Because of the nature of a military group, and particularly because of the deriving of united strength from well-being in each of the component parts, there is much more need to regularize it and to qualify all men in a knowledge of those things which will enable them to assist a fellow in need of help. But in the military society, far more than in civil life, confidence is a two-way street. It would be almost impossible to express the collective gratitude of tens of thousands of lieutenants and ensigns who in times past have learned to rely on the friendly counsel of a veteran sergeant or petty officer, and have usually gotten it straight from the shoulder, but with respect. The breaking-in of most young officers, and the acclimating of them to their role in a command system, is due, in large measure, to support from this source. Nor are senior commanders reluctant to receive moral comfort of this same kind in periods of crisis.
When the planes of the First Tokyo Raid under Col. James H. Doolittle, crashed among the mountains and along the sea-coast of Eastern China, after one of the most valiant strokes in our military annals, their commander was among the few who had the added misfortune of coming to earth within the Japanese lines. By fate's mercy, he just happened to escape by walking between the enemy outposts. Farther along, he saw the wreck of another of his planes. Then he came to a third; it was smashed beyond hope. But its crew had already heard from several other parties. They too had lost their B-25's to the fog, the night and the crags. Doolittle realized then that everything was gone, lives saved yes, but otherwise the expedition was a total ruin.
The Commander sat for a long time in the cockpit of the wrecked plane, terribly depressed, thinking only of how totally he had failed.
At last one of the younger men, Sgt. Paul Leonard walked up to him and said: "What's the matter, Colonel?"
Doolittle said: "It couldn't be worse. We've lost everything. We've let the country down."
The kid said: "Why, Colonel, you've got this all wrong. You have no idea how this looks to the United States. Don't you realize that right now they're getting ready to make you a general? Why I'll make you a bet they give you the Congressional Medal."
Doolittle thanked him. He thought it was a nice thing for the boy to say. That kind of loyalty was worth having in a bad hour. The boy started to walk away; he could tell that Doolittle didn't believe a word of it. Then suddenly he turned and came on back.
"Colonel," he said, "I'd like to make a deal with you. Suppose I'm right about it and you're wrong. So they give you a star and the Congressional Medal. If that happens, will you agree to take me with you wherever you go?"
Doolittle made him a solemn promise. Fresh courage came to him out of the boy's tremendous earnestness.
And of course the boy was right, and the contract was kept, and all things went well until, by a savage irony, Sgt. Leonard was killed in the last German raid against Doolittle's headquarters in Europe shortly before the war ended.
USING REWARD AND PUNISHMENT
One of the illusions having greatest currency among our people is that any green member of the fighting establishment is merely an American civilian in a uniform, and that therefore, his spirit is nourished to the extent that accommodations and usages of the service most nearly duplicate what he has known elsewhere.
This belief is especially prevalent during wartime when every mother's son puts on a new suit; it is natural to think that everything in the service will better suit the boy if it smells like home. The corollary of this rather quaint idea is that military organization is therefore most perfect when it operates in the same way as the civil society.
Earlier in this book it has been suggested that these ideas need to be questioned on two broad grounds: Do not both of them run counter to the facts of encharged responsibility, and to human nature itself?
To emphasize it once again, the military officer is not alone an administrator: he is a magistrate. There are special powers given him by the President. It is within these powers that he will sit in judgment on his men and that he may punish them when they have been grievously derelict. This dual role makes his function radically different from anything encountered in civil life—to say nothing of the singleness of purpose which a fighting service is supposed to move forward.
Moreover, the military officer is dealing with men who are submitted to him in a binding relationship which by its nature is not only more compelling but more intimate than anything elsewhere in society. As much as the parent in the home, and far more than the teacher in the school or the executive in business, he is directed to center his effort primarily on the building of good character in other individuals.
One need only compare a few points of advantage and disadvantage to see why a better balanced sense of justice and fair play is required of the military officer than of his brother in civil life, and why the aim would be far too low if the fighting services did not shoot for higher standards of personnel direction than are common in the management of American business. Here are the points:
If any subordinate in the civilian vineyard feels that he is getting a bad deal from his boss, and has become the object of unfair discrimination, it is his royal American privilege to quit on the spot, be he a policeman, a government factotum or a hod carrier. He can then maintain himself by carrying his skill into a new shop. But an enlisted member of the armed establishment cannot quit summarily, and finally, if his commander is just wrong-headed and arbitrary, it can be made almost impossible for him to transfer out. However bad his fortune, he's stuck with it.
Nepotism is so general in our business and political life that the people who suffer from its effect accept it more or less as the working of nature; the results are therefore less destructive of efficiency than they might be otherwise. It is common to see the boss's nephew or his son get a good spot in the office and then rise like a rocket, even though he is a third-rater. And it is not less common to see a straw boss in a factory favor the man whom he thinks might grease the wheels for him on the outside. But in the armed establishment, favoritism on any grounds, and particularly on such treacherous grounds as these, will destroy the foundations of work and of control.
The armed establishment has its own body of law. Therein, too, it differs from any civilian autonomy except the state itself. The code is intended to enable a uniform standard of treatment to all individuals in the regulating of all interior affairs. The code is not rigid; its provisions are not absolute. It specifies the general nature of offenses against society, and special offenses against the good of the service. But, except for the more serious offenses, particularly those which by their nature also violate the civil code, it does not flatly prescribe trial and punishment. Military law, in this respect, has more latitude, and is more congenial, than civil law covering minor offenders. Rarely arbitrary in its workings, it premises the use of corrective good judgment at all times. It regards force as an instrument only to be used for conserving the general good of the establishment. The essential power behind the force is something spiritual—the will and conscience of the great majority, expressing itself through the action of one or several of their number. Its major object is not punishment of the wrong-doer but protection of the interests of the dutiful. This view of military law is four-square with the basic principle of all action within the armed services—that in all cases the best policy is one which depends for its workings on the sense of duty in men toward each other, and thereby strengthens that sense through its operations.
Put in these terms, the attitude of the service toward the problem of correction as a means of promoting the welfare of the general establishment obviously reposes a tremendous burst in the justice and goodwill of the average officer. It would be useless to blink the fact. But there is this to be said unalterably in favor of the military system's way of handling things: If the organization of the whole human family into an orderly unit is ever to be made possible, it will be done only because many men, of all ages and working at many different levels, develop this faculty for passing critical, impartial judgment on the conduct and deserts of those whom they lead, instead of regarding it as a special kind of wisdom, given only to the few anointed. Nor is that all. Not only the knowledge but the sense of duty in men is imperfect. In every society are men who will not obey the law of their own accord. Unless the authority which receives and interprets the law will also impose it, by force if necessary, the reign of law soon ceases. Whether an ordered society is to exist thus depends upon whether there are citizens enough, fixed with a sense of duty, to obey it and to enforce it.
At first glance, the responsibility seems extraordinarily heavy and difficult. But with broadening experience, it becomes almost second nature to an officer quickly to set a course by which to judge individual men in relation to the affairs of organization, provided that he has steered all along in the light of a few elementary principles.
Concerning reward, and equally with respect to punishments, no more pertinent words could be said than those uttered long ago by Thomas Carlyle: "What a reflection it is that we cannot bestow on an unworthy man any particle of our benevolence, our patronage or whatever resource is ours—without withdrawing it, and all that will grow out of it, from one worthy, to whom it of right belongs! We cannot, I say; impossible; it is the eternal law of things."
He said a number of important things in this one brief paragraph. There is first the thought that when any reward, such as a promotion, a commendation or a particularly choice assignment is given other than to the man who deserves it on sheer merit, some other man is robbed and the ties of organization are weakened.
Next, there is this proposition: if, in the dispensing of punishment, undue leniency is extended to an individual who has already proved that he merits no special consideration, in the next round a bum rap will be given some lesser offender who is morally deserving of a real chance. The Italians have an epigram: "The first time a dog bites a man, it's the dog's fault; the second time, it's the man's fault."
According to Carlyle, these things have the strength of a natural law. Nor is it necessary to take his word for it. Any wise and experienced military administrator will say approximately the same thing and will tell of some of the bad examples he has met along his way.... The commander who was afraid to punish anybody and by his indecision punished everybody.... The lieutenant who had such a bad conscience about his own weak handling of a bad case of indiscipline that he threw the book at the next offender and thereby spoiled a good man and gained the ill will of the company.... The old timer who smarted under excessive punishment for a trivial offense, broke under it, got into worse trouble, and became a felon.... The officer who promoted his pets instead of his good men and at last found that there were no good men left.... The skipper who condoned a small case of insolence until it swelled into a mutiny.... The fool who handled every case alike, as if he were an animal trainer instead of a builder of human character ... and so on, ad infinitum. It is a long and sorry list, but the overwhelming majority of dutiful executives in the armed services avoid these stupid blunders by following a Golden Rule policy toward their men.
If lack of obedience is the most frequent cause of service men being brought on the carpet, then as obedience is a moral quality, so should punishment be employed as a moral act, its prime purpose being to nourish and foster obedience. Before meting punishment, it is necessary to judge a man, and judgment means to think over, to compare, to weigh probable effects on the man and on the command, and to give the offender the benefit of any reasonable doubt. Before any punishment is given, the questions must be faced: "What good will it achieve?" If the answer is none, then punishment is not in order. Punishment of a vindictive nature is a crime; when it is given uselessly, or handed out in a strictly routine manner, it is an immoral act.
But when punishment has to be awarded, the case must be handled promptly, and its issue must be stated incisively, so that there is no room for doubt that the officer is certain about his judgments. Men know when they are in the wrong, and even when it works to their disadvantage, they will feel increased respect toward the officer who knows what should be done, and states it without hemming and hawing. The showing of firmness is the first requirement in this kind of action. It is as foolish to go back on a punishment as to threaten it and not follow through. The officer who is always running around threatening to court martial his subordinates is merely avowing his own weakness, and crying that he has lost all of his moral means. Even the dullest men do not mistake vehemence and abuse for signs of strength.
To punish a body of men, for offenses committed by two or three of their number, even though the offense is obnoxious and it is impossible to put the finger on the culprits, is the act of a sadist, and is no more excusable within military organization than in civilian society. Any officer who resorts to this stupid practice will forfeit the loyalty of the best men in his command. There is no reason why it should be otherwise.
As a general rule, it is a serious error to reprimand a subordinate in the presence of any other person, because of the unnecessary hurt to his pride. But circumstances moderate the rule. If the offense for which he is being reprimanded involves injury of any sort to some other person, or persons, it may be wholly proper to apply the treatment in their presence. For example, the bully or the smart-aleck who wantonly humiliates his own subordinates is not entitled to have his own feelings spared. However, in the presence of his own superior, an officer is always ill-advised to administer oral punishment to one of his own juniors, since the effect is to destroy confidence both up and down the line.
It is always the duty of an officer to intervene, toward the protection of his own men against any manifest injustice, whatever its source. In fact, this trust is so implicit that he should be ready to risk his professional reputation upon it, when he is convinced beyond doubt that the man is being unfairly assailed, or that due process is not being followed. Both higher authority and civil authority occasionally overreach; an officer stands as a shield protecting his men against unfair treatment from any quarter. But it is decidedly not his duty to attempt to cheat law or thwart justice for the sake of his men simply because they are his men. His job, as Shakespeare puts it, is "to unmask falsehood and bring truth to light, to wrong the wronger till he render right."
Finally, the best policy on punishments is to eliminate the frictions which are the cause of most transgressions. When a ship is happy, men do their duty. Scarcely anything will cross them up more quickly than to see rewards given with an uneven hand. Even the stinker who has no ambition but to duck work can recognize a deserving man, and will burn if that man is bypassed in favor of a bootlicker or some other lightweight.
Nothing is more vain than to give a promotion, or any reward, in the hope, or on the promise, that the character who receives it will hit the sawdust trail and suddenly reform.
Duty is the only sure proving ground. Men, like motors, should be judged on their all-around performance. There is no other way to generate the steady pull over the long grind.
FITTING MEN TO JOBS
In civilian society, what amounts to a cult has developed around the idea that the average person has a natural bent for some particular job or profession, which if thwarted will fill him with those frustrations which are conceded to be the cause of most of the mental and moral disorders of mankind.
Therefore if all men could become rightly placed, we would have Utopia tomorrow.
This theory of what humanity mainly cries for is perforce rejected by the military establishment, for several eminently practical as well as ideal reasons.
It discounts man, his plastic and impressionable nature, his response to all that goes on around him and his marked ability to adjust to any environment. He is not like a bolt fitted into a hole by a riveter, nor merely clay in the hands of the potter. What he becomes is mainly of his own making.
Further, the theory does not meet the needs of the situation, since in the services, as elsewhere, there are not enough better holes to go around, and no man is ready to say that he is good for nothing but life as a file-closer.
But the last and main reason why the theory is no good is that it doesn't square with human experience. A narrow classification system invites the danger of overspecialization and lessens the team play which is so indispensable to all military enterprise. It is possible for the machine to break down totally from lack of interchangeability in its parts.
We learn much from war, but some of the most obvious lessons are disregarded. One of the things that it should teach us is the tremendous adaptability of the average intelligent man, his ability to take hold of work altogether remote from any prior experience, master it, and find satisfaction in it, provided he is given help and encouragement by those who already know.
This is the great phenomenon of war—greater than the atomic bomb or supersonic flight. Former bookkeepers emerge as demolitions men. Divinity students become pharmacist's mates. School teachers operate tanks. Writing men turn into navigators. Woodsmen become lecturers. Longshoremen specialize in tactics. And all goes well.
Then when it is all over, and everyone gets back in his well-worn groove, the social scientists explain that these miracles occurred because under the stimulus of great fear and excitement which attends a period of national emergency, individuals will sublimate their main drives, and adjust temporarily to what would be otherwise an onerous personal difficulty. Sheer poppycock! Normal men do not feel pressed by fear simply because a state of war exists; their chief emotions change scarcely at all. These transformations occur only because the man had the potential all along, and with someone backing him up and giving him the feeling of success, his incentives became equal, at least, to anything he had known in his peacetime occupation.
That is the long-and-short of it. If our average man couldn't become a jack of many trades, and a master of several, the United States would never be able to meet a major war emergency.
For these reasons, service concepts of how men should be fitted to jobs do not develop around the simple notion that it is all a matter of putting a square peg in a square hole—which is the one best way to deny the peg any room for expansion. The doctrine is that men are many sided, that they learn their own powers and likes through experiment, that they are entitled to find what is best for them, and that having found it, their satisfactions will still derive mainly from intelligent and interested treatment by their superiors.
Every officer arrives sooner or later at the point where he has a direct hand in the placement of men. By way of preparation for that responsibility he should do two things mainly—learn all that he can from his superiors about its technical aspects, and in his own thinking, concentrate on principles to the exclusion of detail.
The fundamental purpose of all training today is to develop the natural faculties and stimulate the brain of the individual rather than to treat him as a cog which has to be fitted into a great machine.
The true purpose of all rules covering the conduct of warfare and all regulations pertaining to the conduct of its individuals is to bring about order in the fighting machine rather than to strangle the mind of the man who reads them.
Thus in the assignment of men to work within any military organization, no amount of perfection in the analysis of skills and aptitudes can compensate for carelessness in their subsequent administration. The uniformed ranks are not mechanics, storekeepers and clerks primarily, but fighting men. This makes a difference. The optimum over-all results do not come from the care exercised in seeing that every man is placed at exactly the right job but from the concern taken that in whatever job he fills, he will feel that he is supported and that his efforts are appreciated. There is scarcely a good man who has served long within the profession without filling a half-dozen roles requiring vastly different skills. And looking back, what would the average one say about it? Not that he was happiest where the nature of the task best suited his hand, but happiest where his relations with his superiors gave him the greatest sense of accomplishment.
That is the human nature of the equation. We can let the economist argue that what a man puts into a job is largely dependent on what he takes out of it. And we can let the philosopher answer him that the fault in his proposition is that he has turned it the wrong way 'round. Regardless of which man has put the cart before the horse, there are two basic truths which outweigh the merits of the argument.
First. All human progress has come of the willingness of a man at a particular time to undertake a job which no one had ever done before.
Second. The main reward of any job is the knowledge that worthwhile work has been accomplished.
This last may sound like a corny maxim, but it's true. The reason maxims become corny is because they're true.
Despite all of the present-day emphasis on paycheck security as the mainspring of human action, the far stronger force which moves man as a social being is his desire for a secure place in the respect and affections of his associates, including his chief or his employer. Gary Cooper, playing in "The Cowboy and the Lady," used the line, "I aims, ma'm, to be high-regarded." Except for the few wrong-headed people, he was speaking for the whole human family.
The man who can get along without wanting or needing words of approval from other people is fit for a cell by himself, either padded or barred.
Loyalty in the masses of men waxes strong in the degree that they are made to believe that real importance is attached to their work and to their ability to think about their work. It weakens at every point where they consider that there is a negative respect for their intelligence; the dignity in any work is not inherent in the job itself but in the attitude of others toward it. Cabinet ministers, college presidents and industrial magnates will quit their jobs when they feel they no longer have the confidence of those to whom they are responsible. That experience is as demoralizing to great men as to the mine-run. Equally, the feeling of compensation which comes with any token of recognition is one of those touches of human nature which make all men akin. If men of genius and good works did not find Nobel prizes and honorary college degrees highly gratifying, this custom would have faded long ago. It is as rewarding to them to be called good at their job as it was to the New Jersey street sweeper who pushed his broom so diligently that he swept halfway into the next town before discovering his mistake.
The far inferences of these things should be reasonably clear to every officer of the fighting establishment. It makes little difference whether a man is digging a ditch or is working up a loading table for an invasion: what he thinks about his work will depend in large measure upon the attitude of his superiors. He will develop no great conviction about what he is doing except as it is transmitted to him. The fundamental cause of any breakdown of morale and discipline within the armed service usually comes of this, that a commander or his subordinates transgress by treating men as if they were children or serfs instead of showing respect for their adulthood.
The requirements of modern war are such that we certainly do not want to turn out one man exactly like another, or turn the majority into mechanical men, capable of one set function. But the rule applies to officers as well as men. The greater freedom which is needed has nothing to do with social behavior or privilege. It is the freedom to think boldly and originally for the common good, for, to quote Kant again: "What one learns the most fixedly and remembers the best is what one learns more or less by oneself."
Thus in the matter of sizing up men, judging of their capacities and trying to get them rightly placed, the need is not a formula, since no formula will work. It is only by keeping principles uppermost in our thoughts that the greatest measure of common sense will prevail in our actions. That is what is needed, rather than clairvoyant powers, or a master's degree in psychology, if the service officer is to handle personnel efficiently. There are no great wizards in this field: there are only men who know more about the human nature of the problem than others because they have had a zest for meeting humanity and have built a text out of what others have told them.
The job begins by the search for data on the individual—all of the data that may be obtained. It goes on from that to sitting down with the subject, getting him to open up and talk freely about himself, what he has done, what he would like to do with his life, and his reasons for so feeling, et cetera. But the information from all sources has to be balanced against one's impression of the outer man, not just what he says but how he talks, the degree of his attentiveness, his bearing, his eye, his self-control. The decision is made on the basis of all these reckonings. This is common sense in action, and the only alternatives to it are to act upon a hunch or purely emotional grounds; one might, with better reason, determine another man's fortune by the flip of a coin.
Let's see briefly how the method works out in practice.
If the record shows that a man is a bad speller, careless about punctuation, not interested in writing, non-experienced at clerkship, and something of a rough diamond in his nature, he would be a bad bet for the administrative side, or in supply work, or in a communications role, though with a little polishing, and provided that he seems self-assured and is what we would call a "likeable" man, he might become a capital leader of a tactical group.
On the other hand, the man who says he had tried in vain to develop a manual skill, but has always been clumsy with his hands, and is supported in what he says by the records of his service, isn't necessarily excluded from becoming a good weapons or demolitions man, if he seems strong in body and nerve, though he would hardly do for a mechanic's berth, or a carpenter's assistant or as a radio repairman. Weapons and demolitions require strength, carefulness and good sense rather than great dexterity.
Take the man who is uncommunicative, or morose or unusually shy. From the day that he starts his service, his superiors should do their best to help him to change his ways; these ingrown men are roadblocks to group cooperation. But if he does not pick up and become outgiving, he hasn't the quality of a junior leader and there is no point in wasting space by sending him to any school or course out of which it would be expected that duties as an instructor would devolve upon him.
However, there is one word of extreme caution on this point. For as long as 6 months after entering service, some men are under abnormal constraint because they are in a new element, and feel a little frightened inside. Whether this is the case is to be judged best by getting full information on the man. If the record shows that he had led his class in college, managed an athletic team, headed a debating team in high school, been the main wheel in a boy's club or a Scout troop, or led any kind of group, this is to be taken as a sign that the potential is there and that he is a sleeper. The most common error made in the services is that we are prone to underscore that a man was a lieutenant in a cadet company while taking no note of the file who had greater prestige in other activities because of his natural qualities as a leader.
These are only a few average samples of personnel handling, and of elementary reasoning. As Mother Goose might say, if the list had been longer, the case still wouldn't have been stronger. Far more profitably, we can dig a little deeper into the subject of principles.
In two senses, every decision as to the placing of men in the armed service is a moral decision, and therein it differs from average civilian responsibility. What is best for the man has always to be measured against the ultimate security and fighting objects of the establishment.
For example, it is dead wrong, even in time of peace, to commit tactical leadership to the hands of the man whose moral force clearly falls short of what is required on the field of war, no matter how congenial he may be. And it is just as wrong to let a blabbermouth work his way into security channels, even though the hour is such that he can do no immediate harm.
What importance should be attached to a man's estimate of his own capabilities? It is always pertinent, but it is by no means decisive. This is so for two reasons, the first being that the majority of men tend to over-sell themselves on the thing they like to do, and the second, that very few men know their own dimensions. Almost consciously, men resist the thing that they do not know, because of premonitory fears of failure. When the Armored Force School was first organized in 1941, a private from a unit stationed in Georgia was arbitrarily assigned to take the radio course. He protested, saying that he did not like anything about the field and therefore had no talent for it. But his commander sent him along. Within 1 week after arriving at Fort Knox, he was operating at a faster rate than any man in the history of the Army. Every service could tell stories of this kind; they are not miracles; they are regular features of the daily show.
At the same time, the man who volunteers for a particular line of duty—especially if it is a hard duty—already has one mark in his favor. The fact that he wants to do it is one-half of success. Before turning him down, there must be a substantially clear showing that he lacks the main qualifications. It must be a compelling reason, rather than the overweening excuse that it is more convenient to keep him where he is. In any case, he should be thanked for coming forward, and earmarked as a good prospect for the next likely opening.
There is a slack saying in the services that "the good man never volunteers." That is an outright canard. The best men still do.
In job placement, mistakes are inevitable. Any authority in this work will say so. Every experienced man who has had conspicuous success in picking the right men, and in getting scores of individuals started up the right ladder, will also shudder a little as he recalls his particularly atrocious blunders. Outward appearances are so greatly deceiving! The prior estimates placed on men are so frequently highly colored or outright dishonest!
As to the making of mistakes, it is just not enough to comment that they have value, provided one has sufficient breadth to learn from hard experience. What is vastly more important is that the mistake, once made, will not be needlessly compounded. That is a normal, human temptation. The attitude, "I don't care if he is a chump; he's my chump," has nothing in its favor. Yet it becomes a point of pride in some men that they will not admit their judgments are fallible. Consequently, having chosen the wrong man for a given responsibility, they will sustain him there, come hell or high water, rather than make public acknowledgement of error.
With what result? Mainly this, that for the sake of the point, they win, with it, the contempt of their other subordinates. For there is something very childish about this form of weakness, though it is a failing not unknown in many men otherwise qualified for high responsibility. To put it plainly, no man has the moral right to suffer this upon any organization he is professing to serve.
The advice of one's subordinates, as to the placement and promotion of men with whom they are in close contact, is not to be followed undeviatingly. Men play favorites: they will sometimes back an individual for no better reason than that they "like the guy." Too, each small group leader, even the best one, will work to advance the interests of his own men, because so doing is part of his own buildup. Unless decisions are made from a central point of view, the subordinate who talks the most convincingly will get an extra portion of favor for his men, and jealousies will wrack the organization.
There is one last point. No officer can progress in fitting men to jobs except as he becomes better informed about job requirements. This is an essential part of his education. There is no administrative technique which is separate and apart from knowledge of how basic work is performed in the fields which have to be administered. A great many officers resist this truth, but it is nonetheless valid.
What is eternally surprising in the fighting services is how the aggressive questing for knowledge continues to pay large dividends, and leads, in the average case, to a general forgiveness of one's little sins and vices.
AMERICANS IN COMBAT
The command and control of men in combat can be mastered by the junior leaders of American forces short of actual experience under enemy fire.
It is altogether possible for a young officer his first time in battle to be in total possession of his faculties and moving by instinct to do the right thing, provided that he has made the most of his training opportunities.
Exercise in the maneuvering of men is only an elementary introduction to this educational process. The basic requirement is a continuing study, first of the nature of men, second of the techniques which produce unified action, and last, of the history of past operations, which are covered by an abundant literature.
Provided always that this collateral study is sedulously carried forward by the individual officer, at least 90 percent of all that is given him during the training period becomes applicable to his personal action and his power to lead other men when under fire.
Each service has its separate character. The fighting problem of each differs in some measure from those of all others. In the nature of things, the task of successfully leading men in battle is partly conditioned by the unique character and mission of each service.
It would therefore be gratuitous, and indeed impossible, to attempt to outline a doctrine which would be of general application, stipulating methods, techniques, etc., which would apply to all Americans in combat, no matter in what element they engaged.
There are, however, a few simple and fundamental propositions to which the Armed Services subscribe in saying to the officer corps what may be expected of the average man of the United States under the conditions of battle. Generally speaking, they have held true of Americans in times past from Lexington to Okinawa. The fighting establishment builds its discipline, training, code of conduct and public policy around these ideas, believing that what served yesterday will also be the one best way tomorrow, and for so long as our traditions and our system of freedoms survive. These propositions are:
When led with courage and intelligence, an American will fight as willingly and as efficiently as any fighter in world history.
His keenness and endurance in war will be in proportion to the zeal and inspiration of his leadership.
He is resourceful and imaginative, and the best results will always flow from encouraging him to use his brain along with his spirit.
Under combat conditions he will reserve his greatest loyalty for the officer who is most resourceful in the tactical employment of his forces and most careful to avoid unnecessary losses.
He is to a certain extent machine-bound because the nature of our civilization has made him so. In an emergency, he tends to look around for a motor car, a radio or some other gadget that will facilitate his purpose, instead of thinking about using his muscle power toward the given end. In combat, this is a weakness which thwarts contact and limits communications. Therefore it needs to be anticipated and guarded against.
War does not require that the American be brutalized or bullied in any measure whatever. His need is an alert mind and a toughened body. Hate and bloodlust are not the attributes of a sound training under the American system. To develop clearly a line of duty is sufficient to point Americans toward the doing of it.
Except on a Hollywood lot, there is no such thing as an American fighter "type." Our best men come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. They appear from every section of the Nation, including the territories.
Presupposing soundness in their officer leadership, the majority of Americans in any group or unit can be depended upon to fight loyally and obediently, and will give a good account of themselves.
In battle, Americans do not tend to fluctuate between emotional extremes, in complete dejection one day and in exultation the next, according to changes in the situation. They continue, on the whole, on a fairly even keel, when the going is tough and when things are breaking their way. Even when heavily shocked by battle losses, they tend to bound back quickly. Though their griping is incessant, their natural outlook is on the optimistic side, and they react unfavorably to the officer who looks eternally on the dark side.
During battle, American officers are not expected either to drive their men or to be forever in the van, as if praying to be shot. So long as they are with their men, taking the same chances as their men, and showing a firm grasp of the situation and of the line of action which should be followed, the men will go forward.
In any situation of extreme pressure, or moral exhaustion, where men cannot otherwise be rallied and led forward, officers are expected to do the actual physical act of leading, such as performing as first scout, or point, even though this means taking over what normally would be an enlisted man's function.
The normal, gregarious American is not at his best when playing a lone-handed or tactically isolated part in battle. He is not a kamikaze or a one-man torpedo. Consequently, the best tactical results obtain from those dispositions and methods which link the power of one man to that of another. Men who feel strange with their unit, having been carelessly received by it, and indifferently handled, will rarely, if ever, fight strongly and courageously. But if treated with common decency and respect, they will perform like men.
Within our school of military thought, higher authority does not consider itself infallible. Either in combat or out, in any situation where a majority of militarily-trained Americans become undutiful, that is sufficient reason for higher authority to resurvey its own judgments, disciplines and line of action.
To lie to American troops to cover up a blunder in combat rarely serves any valid purpose. They have a good sense of combat and an uncanny instinct for ferreting out the truth when anything goes wrong tactically. They will excuse mistakes but they will not forgive being treated like children.
When spit-and-polish are laid on so heavily that they become onerous, and the ranks cannot see any legitimate connection between the requirements and the development of an attitude which will serve a clear fighting purpose, it is to be questioned that the exactions serve any good object whatever.
On the other hand, because standards of discipline and courtesy are designed for the express purpose of furthering control under the extraordinary frictions and pressures of the battlefield, their maintenance under combat conditions is as necessary as during training. Smartness and respect are the marks of military alertness, no matter how trying the circumstances. But courtesy starts at the top, in the dealing of any officer with his subordinates, and in his decent regard for their loyalty, intelligence, and manhood.
Though Americans enjoy relatively a bountiful, and even luxurious standard of living in their home environment, they do not have to be pampered, spoon-fed and surfeited with every comfort and convenience to keep them steadfast and devoted, once war comes. They are by nature rugged men, and in the field will respond most perfectly when called on to play a rugged part. Soft handling will soften even the best men. But even the weak man will develop a new vigor and confidence in the face of necessary hardship, if moved by a leadership which is courageously making the best of a bad situation.
Extravagance and wastefulness is somewhat rooted in the American character, because of our mode of life. When our men enter military service, there is a strong holdover of their prodigal civilian habits. Even under fighting conditions, they tend to be wasteful of drinking water, food, munitionment and other vital supply. When such things are made too accessible, they tend to throw them away, rather than to conserve them in the general interests. This is a distinct weakness during combat, when conservation of all supply is the touchstone of success. The regulating of all supply, and the preventing of waste in any form, is the prime obligation of every officer.
Under the conditions of battle, any extra work, exercise, maneuver or marching which does not serve a clear and direct operational purpose is unjustifiable. The supreme object is to keep men as physically fresh and mentally alert as possible. Tired men take fright and are half-whipped before the battle opens. Worn-out officers cannot make clear decisions. The conservation of men's powers, not the exhaustion thereof, is the way of successful operation.
When forces are committed to combat, it is vital that not one unnecessary pound be put on any man's back. Lightness of foot is the key to speed of movement and the increase of firepower. In judging of these things, every officer's thought should be on the optimistic side. It is better to take the chance that men will manage to get by on a little less than to overload them, through an over-cautious reckoning of every possible contingency, thereby destroying their power to do anything effectively.
Even a thorough training and long practice in weapons handling will not always insure that a majority of men will use their weapons freely and consistently when engaging the enemy. This is particularly true of Americans. In youth they are taught that the taking of human life is wrong. This feeling is deep-rooted in their emotions. Many of them cannot shake it off when the hour comes that their own lives are in danger. They fail to fire, though they do not know exactly why. In war, firing at an enemy target can be made a habit. Once required to make the start, because he is given personal and intelligent direction, any man will find it easier to fire the second and third time, and soon thereafter his response will become automatic in any tactical situation. When engaging the enemy, the most decisive task of all junior leaders is to make certain that all men along the line are employing their weapons, even if this means spending some time with each man and directing his fire. Reconnaissance and inspection toward this end, particularly in the early stages of initial engagement, are far more important than the employment of weapons by junior leaders themselves, since this latter tends to distract their attention from what the men are doing.
Unity of action develops from fullness of information. In combat, all ranks have to know what is being done, and why it is being done, if confusion is to be kept to a minimum. This holds true in all types of operation, whatever the service. However, a surfeit of information clouds the mind and may sometimes depress the spirit. We can take one example. A commander might be confronted by a complex situation, and his solution may comprise a continuing operation in three distinct phases. It would be advisable that all hands be told the complete detail of "phase A." But it might be equally sensible that only his subordinates who are closest to him be made fully informed about "phase B," and "phase C." All plans in combat are subject to modification as circumstances dictate; this being the case, it is better not to muddle men by filling their minds with a seeming conflict in ideas. More important still, if the grand object seems too vast and formidable, even the first step toward it may appear doubly difficult. Fullness of information does not void the other principle that one thing at a time, carefully organized all down the line, is the surest way.
There is no excuse for malingering or cowardice during battle. It is the task of leadership to stop it, by whatever means would seem to be the surest cure, always making certain that in so doing it will not make a bad matter worse.
The Armed Services recognize that there are occasional individuals whose nervous and spiritual makeup may be such that, though they erode rapidly and may suffer complete breakdown under combat conditions, they still may be wholly loyal and conscientious men, capable of doing high duty elsewhere. Men are not alike. In some, however willing the spirit, the flesh may still be weak. To punish, degrade or in any way humiliate such men is not more cruel than ignorant. When the good faith of any individual has been repeatedly demonstrated in his earlier service, he deserves the benefit of the doubt from his superior, pending study of his case by medical authority. But if the man has been a bad actor consistently, his officer is warranted in proceeding on the assumption that his combat failure is just one more grave moral dereliction. To fail to take proper action against such a man can only work unusual hardship on the majority trying to do duty.
The United States abides by the laws of war. Its armed forces, in their dealing with all other peoples, are expected to comply with the laws of war, in the spirit and to the letter. In waging war, we do not terrorize helpless non-combatants, if it is within our power to avoid so doing. Wanton killing, torture, cruelty or the working of unusual and unnecessary hardship on enemy prisoners or populations is not justified in any circumstance. Likewise, respect for the reign of law, as that term is understood in the United States, is expected to follow the flag wherever it goes. Pillaging, looting and other excesses are as unmoral where Americans are operating under military law as when they are living together under the civil code. None the less, some men in the American services will loot and destroy property, unless they are restrained by fear of punishment. War looses violence and disorder; it inflames passions and makes it relatively easy for the individual to get away with unlawful actions. But it does not lessen the gravity of his offense or make it less necessary that constituted authority put him down. The main safeguard against lawlessness and hooliganism in any armed body is the integrity of its officers. When men know that their commander is absolutely opposed to such excesses, and will take forceful action to repress any breach of discipline, they will conform. But when an officer winks at any depradation by his men, it is no different than if he had committed the act.
On the field of sport Americans always "talk it up" to keep nerves steady and to generate confidence. The need is even greater on the field of war, and the same treatment will have no less effect. When men are afraid, they go silent; silence of itself further intensifies their fear. The resumption of speech is the beginning of thoughtful, collected action, for self-evidently, two or more men cannot join strength and work intelligently together until they know one another's thoughts. Consequently, all training is an exercise in getting men to open up and become articulate even as it is a process in conditioning them physically to move strongly and together.
Inspection is more important in the face of the enemy than during training because a fouled piece may mean a lost battle, an overlooked sick man may infect a fortress and a mislaid message can cost a war. In virtue of his position, every junior leader is an inspector, and the obligation to make certain that his force at all times is inspection proof is unremitting.
In battle crisis, a majority of Americans present will respond to any man who has the will and the brains to give them a clear, intelligent order. They will follow the lowest-ranking man present if he obviously knows what he is doing and is morally the master of the situation, but they will not obey a chuckle-head if he has nothing in his favor but his rank.
In any action in which the several services are joined, any American officer may expect the same measure of respect from the ranks of any other service as from his own, provided he conducts himself with a dignity and manner becoming an American officer.
For all officers, due reflection on these points, relating to the character of our men in war, is not more important than a continuing study of how they may be applied to all aspects of training, toward the end that we may further strengthen our own system. This is the grand object in all military studies. That service is most perfect which best holds itself, at all times and at all levels, in a state of readiness to move against and destroy any declared enemy of the United States.
Army Historical Division—Okinawa: The Last Battle, 1949. Omaha Beachhead, 1946.
H. H. Arnold—Global Mission, 1949.
Basil Bartlett—My First War, 1941.
William Liscum Borden—There Will Be No Time, 1946.
David L. Brainard—The Outpost of the Lost, 1929.
Bernard Brodie—A Guide to Navy Strategy, 1944. The Absolute Weapon, 1946.
Vannevar Bush—Modern Arms and Free Men, 1949.
Winston S. Churchill—The World Crisis, 1931. The Unknown War, 1931. The River War, 1933. Marlborough: His Life and Times, 1933-35. A Roving Commission, 1939. The Second World War, 1948—.
Hugh M. Cole—The Lorraine Campaign, 1950.
W. F. Craven and J. L. Cate—The Army Air Forces in World War II, 1948—.
Edward S. Creasy—Decisive Battles of the World, 1862.
James P. S. Devereux—The Story of Wake Island, 1947.
Giulio Douhet—Command of the Air, 1927.
Clifford Dowdey—Experiment in Rebellion, 1946.
Theodore Draper—The Six Weeks' War, 1944.
Dwight D. Eisenhower—Crusade in Europe, 1948. Report by the Supreme Commander, 1946.
George Fielding Eliot—The Ramparts We Watch, 1938. If Russia Strikes, 1949.
Charles W. Elliott—Winfield Scott, 1937.
Cyril Falls—The Nature of Modern Warfare, 1941.
Ferdinand Foch—The Principles of Warfare, 1913.
J. F. C. Fuller—Decisive Battles, 1940. The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant, 1929. Armament and History, 1946. The Second World War, 1948. Armored Warfare, 1943.
Douglas F. Freeman—R. E. Lee, 1934.
William A. Ganoe—History of the United States Army, 1942.
James M. Gavin—Airborne Warfare, 1947.
Joseph I. Greene—The Living Thoughts of Clausewitz, 1943.
Russell Grenfell—The Bismarck Episode, 1949.
U. S. Grant—Personal Memoirs, 1885.
Augustin Guillaume—Soviet Arms and Soviet Power, 1949.
Francis de Guingand—Operation Victory, 1947.
W. F. Halsey—Admiral Halsey's Story, 1947.
Gordon A. Harrison—The Cross-Channel Attack, 1950.
B. H. Liddell Hart—Sherman, 1934. The Future of Infantry, 1934. The German Generals Talk, 1949.
G. F. R. Henderson—Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War, 1898. The Science of War, 1905.
Pendleton Herring—The Impact of War, 1941.
R. D. Heinl, Jr.—The Defense of Wake, 1947. Marines at Midway, 1948.
John Hersey—Into the Valley, 1943.
Russell Hill—Desert War, 1942.
Max von Hoffmann—The War of Lost Opportunities, 1925.
Ralph Ingersoll—The Battle Is the Pay-Off, 1943.
Douglas Wilson Johnson—Topography and Strategy in the War, 1917.
Melvin M. Johnson and Charles T. Haven—Automatic Arms, 1941.
Walter Karig, Russell L. Harris and Frank A. Manson—Battle Report, 1944-1949.
George C. Kenney—General Kenney Reports, 1949.
Roger Keyes—Naval Memoirs, 1933.
Alexiei Kuropatkin—The Russian Army and the Japanese War, 1909.
Lee J. Levert—Fundamentals of Naval Warfare, 1947.
Bert Levy—Guerilla Warfare, 1942.
Charles B. MacDonald—Company Commander, 1947.
A. T. Mahan—Influence of Seapower Upon History.
George McMillan—The Old Breed, 1949.
George C. Marshall—General Marshall's Report, 1946.
S. L. A. Marshall—Island Victory, 1944. Bastogne: The First Eight Days, 1946. Men Against Fire, 1948.
Giffard Martel—An Outspoken Soldier, 1944.
Walter Millis—The Last Phase, 1946. This Is Pearl, 1947.
John Miller, Jr.—Guadalcanal: The First Offensive, 1949.
Drew Middleton—Our Share of Night, 1946.
Samuel Taylor Moore—America and the World War, 1937.
Samuel Eliot Morison—History of United States Naval Operations in World War II (14 vols.), 1947—.
W. F. P. Napier—History of the War in the Peninsula (6 vols.) 1828.
James R. Newman—The Tools of War, 1942.
Frederick Palmer—America in France, 1921. John J. Pershing, 1921.
George S. Patton, Jr.—War As I Knew It, 1947.
Thomas R. Phillips—Roots of Strategy, 1940.
Frederick Pile—Ack-Ack, 1949.
Fletcher Pratt—Ordeal by Fire, 1935. Road to Empire, 1939. The Marine's War, 1948. Navy: A History.
Leonard Rapport and Arthur Northwood—Rendezvous With Destiny, 1948.
Roland Ruppenthal—Utah Beach to Cherbourg, 1947.
W. T. Sherman—Memoirs, 1886.
Robert E. Sherwood—Roosevelt and Hopkins, 1948.
Milton Shulman—Defeat in the West, 1948.
Holland M. Smith—Coral and Brass, 1949.
E. L. Spears—Liaison 1914, 1930. Prelude to Victory, 1939.
Joseph W. Stilwell—The Stilwell Papers, 1948.
Alfred Vagts—The History of Militarism, 1937.
Yorck von Wartenburg—Napoleon as a General.
Archibald Wavell—Allenby, 1941. Generals and Generalship, 1941.
John W. Wheeler Bennett—The Forgotten Peace, 1939. Munich: Prologue to Tragedy, 1948.
Kenneth P. Williams—Lincoln Finds a General, 1949.