George C. Marshall’s tenure as Deputy Commandant of the Infantry School was marked by many innovations in the training of Infantry officers of the inter-war years. One of his innovations was the use of training films. They’re ubiquitous now, but were a rather radical idea at the time. There is certainly no substitute for actually training on a given learning objective. But before the “doing” part, it certainly helps to give an overview of how a certain task should be done. Yes, of course the doctrinal manuals are the authoritative resource. But the dramatic enactment of doctrinally sound operations makes it easier for the student to grasp the fundamentals of the learning objective.
The 29th Infantry Regiment was (and still is, for that matter) the “schoolhouse” regiment at Ft. Benning, providing troops upon which officers at career schools can practice the roles and missions they’ll assume at ever higher levels of responsibility. Having studied a particular task on paper (or film) in the classroom, the students go to the woods of Ft. Benning’s various training areas and put into practice that which they’ve learned.
Marshall was famous for making such learning exercises as difficult as possible through various means, such as providing inadequate maps, or simply no maps at all! Other times, he would issue orders with deliberate ambiguities. The goal wasn’t merely to create officers who could execute the steps of a learning checklist, but rather determine which officers could thrive in the confusion of war, those who could discern the wheat from the chaff.
Of all the events of the Twentieth Century, it is the First World War that has had the most dramatic and longest-lasting impact on the psyche of Western civilization, more so than all the events that followed. For anyone with an abiding interest in that war, the 1964 BBC documentary The Great War is an invaluable reference to understanding. Narrated by Sir Michael Redgrave, the 26-part documentary is a superbly-crafted work. The tenor of the broadcasts reflects the erosion of the naïve hopes of the warring parties in 1914 into the grim fatalism that the years of slaughter evoked, and the upheaval that would ultimately topple the crowned heads of Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Serbia. BBC producers make excellent use of voice to read the actual words of the key participants such as Edward Grey, Bethmann-Hollweg, Conrad von Hotzendorf, Joffre, Haig, Falkenhayn, and others. The series features remarkable and little-seen motion footage of the world of 1914-18, including the civilians, the politicians, the armies, and the great battles of that war. The battle footage heavily emphasizes the two great killers of that war (in inverse order), the machine gun, and modern breech-loading recoil-dampened artillery.
Of note also are the poignant, and sometimes extremely moving, interviews with the participants of events of the great tragedy. Some had been in the thick of the fighting, others young subalterns or staff officers at the sleeve of the decision-makers. Most remarkably, the BBC managed to produce a documentary about momentous events that changed the world and yet also managed to allow the viewer insight into the inestimable human tragedy that these events summoned. At the time of the release of The Great War, those events were closer in time to the audience than the beginning of the Vietnam War is to our contemporary world. The twenty-six episodes are around forty minutes each. Worth every second of the time spent.
Oh, and as the credits roll at the end of each episode, one can spot the name of a very young (19 years old) contributor named Max Hastings.
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Alte kamerad LTCOL P, Marine artilleryman extraordinaire, has a great piece about a great piece. He points out some pretty sobering stats from the continuing effort to make ground combat a co-ed sport.
In the 155 mm Artillery Lift and Carry, a test simulating ordnance stowing, volunteers had to pick up a 95 lb. artillery round and carry it 50 meters in under 2 minutes. Noted the report, “Less than 1% of men, compared to 28.2% of women, could not complete the 155 mm artillery round lift and carry in the allotted time.” If trainees had to “shoulder the round and/or carry multiple rounds, the 28.2% failure rate would increase.”
As LTCOL P points out, such a test is in no way, shape, or form anywhere near realistic. The HE M107 projectile is 95 pounds, a tad heavier with lifting eyebolt. I would posit that making the test the moving of ten or twenty of those projectiles over, say, 100 meters, BEGINS to get to what kind of heavy manual labor is involved in being a field artilleryman. I would doubt severely that any female tested could get anywhere close to passing that particular test. And that is simply a beginning test. Try it after several days of 3 hours’ sleep in the snow or in yesterday’s rainwater, or in the 115 degree heat, after displacing twice in four hours and digging in spades each time.
You can be guaranteed the feminists and their spineless apologists in uniform will continue to find ways to obfuscate and slant results such as these and continue to scream for she-warriors who are the physical equivalent of men, when they are not being helpless victims, of course. Our present and future enemies must be awfully impressed.
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ICYMI, Bruce MacKinnon, the editorial cartoonist for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, created one of the most moving tributes I’ve seen since the Challenger accident.
The unknown soldier aids the unarmed guard.
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was just 24. Rest in peace, sir.
An interesting and informative look at the truly herculean effort sometimes overlooked in the epic that was World War II.
Salvaging and reclaiming tanks and vehicles destroyed in combat was sometimes a disturbingly gruesome task, as the late Belton Cooper wrote so eloquently about. But the salvage effort was truly impressive, and saved the cost of manufacture, transport, and time to supply the gigantic American arsenal in Europe and the Pacific with the spare parts needed to keep fighting.
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Superb article from Captain Lauren Serrano in the Marine Corps Gazette. She will undoubtedly become the target of feminists in and out of the Armed Forces as some sort of traitor to womanhood, much as Captain Kate Petronio has been. But she is right as rain. As was Captain Petronio.
Captain Serrano explores far more than the mere physical obstacles to women in the Infantry. She tells an age-old immutable truth about young warriors:
Having women in an infantry unit will disrupt the infantry’s identity, motivational tactics, and camaraderie. The average infantryman is in his late teens or early twenties. At that age, men are raging with hormones and are easily distracted by women and sex. Infantry leaders feed on the testosterone and masculinity of young men to increase morale and motivation and encourage the warrior ethos. Few jobs are as physically and emotionally demanding as the infantry, so to keep Marines focused, the infantry operates in a cult-like brotherhood. The infantry is the one place where young men are able to focus solely on being a warrior without the distraction of women or political correctness. They can fart, burp, tell raunchy jokes, walk around naked, swap sex stories, wrestle, and simply be young men together. …this is the exact kind of atmosphere that promotes unit cohesion and the brotherly bond that is invaluable. This bond is an essential element in both garrison and combat environments. Ask any 0311 what encourages him to keep training or fighting in combat when he thinks he can go no further, and he will respond, “My brothers to my right and left.” No matter how masculine a woman is, she is still female and simply does not mesh with the infantry brotherhood.
Well-stated, and spot-on. A great article, well worth the read.
Semper Fidelis, Skipper. You have the moral courage to speak an unpopular truth, for the greatest good of Corps and Country. But for more Officers, men and women, especially senior ones, to have such a backbone.
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Much rightful attention will be paid to the events of the First World War as we mark the centennial of the events of the “War to End All Wars”.
Not to be lost in those observances of the Great War is tomorrow begins the marking of the 75th anniversaries of the events of the Second World War. It was seventy-five years ago tomorrow, September 1st 1939, that the Wehrmacht of Hitler’s Third Reich crossed the Polish border and unleashed the savagery and bloodshed of that global conflagration.
A great deal of what is in the news today can lead one to believe that the world is literally going to hell. Perhaps it is, but the last century shows us that it has been there before. Imagine in 1939 being a man or woman in your early 40s, who experienced the war of 1914-18, lost family and loved ones, perhaps your home and possessions, only to see war again come to your land and your people. Again, for the second time in your short life, you may send a loved one (a son, or a husband) to war. Millions of men who fought in the Second World War had done so in the First. Even without yet more personal participation as a soldier, the horrors of war were again manifest in the lives of hundreds of millions of souls, many of whom would perish before the uneasy peace ended the carnage.
In 1914, the world was plunged accidentally into a bloodletting that spiraled out of control, by incompetent and irresponsible leaders in the nations of Europe. In 1939, the world was again plunged into bloodletting, this time deliberately so by monsters who spewed their hatred and made no secret of their plans for conquest and subjugation. Following a half a decade of weakness and appeasement from the Western democracies, whose desperation to avoid war only fueled the appetite of the dictator.
There are lessons aplenty from 1914, and many more from 1939. Which are most applicable to 2014? As the storm clouds gathered in the late 1930s, the words of Berthold Brecht must have echoed forlornly across the great cities of Europe.
Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men!
Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,
The bitch that bore him is in heat again.
If one listens to the cries of “death to the Jews” in the Muslim protests all over Europe, and watches the death squads murder thousands in Iraq, those words should echo still.