[September 12, 2014] Lately I’ve been re-reading S.L.A. Marshall’s 1978 book on men in battle. Long ago my copy went missing but my neighbor who was an Air Force veteran loaned me his first edition red-bound book. My neighbor is not only a veteran but as a young man emigrated from Italy. Being in his 80s, he had many relatives who were in WWII – one cousin had fought for the Russians and never returned. The book of his is underlined to show important passages from Marshall’s book. Thanks to my neighbor for the loan of this great book.
Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command in Future War. S.L.A. Marshall, 1978.
The audience for this book is the junior combat commander. Marshall has several important observations about men under fire in combat that they should be conscious of in their training. First, the majority of men in battle do not fire their weapons. This was a very controversial observation but eventually accepted. Second, the battlefield is a lonely place. Men in combat act best when they know they are supported by others and this is done through communication. And third, he wrote that discipline is complex but “the fault in our disciplinary level was not primarily that the discipline of the ranks needed to be more relaxed, but that the discipline of our officers needed to be tightened.” He believed leadership in future war needed to be greater than ever. Exceptional book that I highly recommend. It tells about the psychology of humans, something all leaders should come to understand.
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