Lead from Behind…

“For these reasons, the ‘principle of the object’ will come to have many times its former importance in instruction to all ranks. The need for a clearer concept of it, however, is not greater than the need for junior commanders who will take a keen interest in the larger affairs of war and for higher commanders who make it a practice to get down to their troops. More appropriate to what we will know in the future that to what we have experienced in the past is that old truth: It is not always possible to lead from behind.”

Brigadier General S.L.A Marshall (1900 to 1977)

S.L.A. “Slam” Marshall (full name, Samuel Lyman Atwood Marshall) served in World War I and then embarked in a career in journalism. In World War II, he was chief combat historian in the Central Pacific (1943) and chief historian for the European Theatre of Operations (1945). He authored some 30 books about warfare.

He startled the military and civilian world in 1947 by announcing that, in an average infantry company, no more than one in four soldiers actually fired their weapons while in contact with the enemy. His contention was based on interviews he conducted immediately after combat in both the European and Pacific theatres of World War II.

To remedy the gunfire imbalance he proposed changes to infantry training designed to ensure that American soldiers in future wars brought more fire upon the enemy. His studies during the Korean War showed that the ratio of fire had more than doubled since World War II.

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