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Infantry combat: "young man’s work"
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, August 30, 2007

Excellent article and description by a former infantryman now embedded with the Marines in Iraq about why infantry combat is "young man's work".

His realization was one I also came to in my time. It is a tough one to accept, but reality is reality and there's not much you can do but accept it.

But his description of life among the infantry is a pretty darn good one and certainly as I remember it, now almost fondly. Being an infantryman is indeed a unique and sometimes terrifying experience that, when you look back, is still an experience you wouldn't trade for anything in this world.
 
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Ah, yes. The job you love to hate and hate to love.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Sexist! Is all I can say.....This is merely a part of the propaganda effort of the phallocracy to deny womyn a full and equal place in society! I tell you a womon can take a Sh*te in the middle of the road as well as ANY man!

OTOH McQ what is your view of the idea of a Major as Company commander, as is the British practice, as opposed to a Captain, as is the US practice? Majors have 15 years in making them what ~37 y.o. in a young man’s business, but they bring more experience to the job, probably having been on brigade and battalion staff, and seen a bit more than a captain, with 3-10 years experience. (Edit Note: run-on sentence)
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I am not going to try to say that women should be in the infantry *however* Joe is right, a woman can take a sh*te in the middle of the road as well as any man. ;-)

She can stink, too.

Overall I think the guy in the article is right, it’s a job for young men. Men because they are simply physically stronger, and young because that is when a person is strongest and most resilient.

The lack of privacy, frostbite, chancy meals and body odor don’t impress me as particularly important.
 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
Joe, I’ve read and have little reason to doubt that the Wehrmacht, with the "Tante Jude"* manual and a policy of never letting a less than thoroughly trained person be in charge whenever possible, extended the length of the war by as much as a half a year—not that we didn’t have a good enough reason to go with and results with 90 day wonders.

I do wonder though, if the Brits have entirely rid themselves of the gentleman officer model?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp

*I think I have that right, HIST 457 was a while ago.
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://tomdperkins.blogspot.com/
OTOH McQ what is your view of the idea of a Major as Company commander, as is the British practice, as opposed to a Captain, as is the US practice?
You’re asking a guy who was a company commander as a first lieutenant. ;)

I think a company is a perfect command for a captain. Nothing says you have to make a CPT with three years time in grade a company commander. And most battalion staffs are slotted by CPTs (usually with the exception of the S-3 who is usually a MAJ, although my 3 with the 1-325th was a sr. CPT). Again that’s a rule of thumb as I was also a Bn S-1 as a 1LT (also w/1-325th).

Major is the first step into field grade rank and at that point he or she begins to learn how to run a staff or command a battalion or above. Bn XOs are MAJs. Bde staff officers are MAJs. If I’m not mistaken, the only company command we give to MAJs is an aviation company.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Overall I think the guy in the article is right, it’s a job for young men. Men because they are simply physically stronger, and young because that is when a person is strongest and most resilient.

The lack of privacy, frostbite, chancy meals and body odor don’t impress me as particularly important.
Yeah, I think you’re right, although to be honest, I really didn’t advance the topic to say "see, women shouldn’t be involved in infantry combat". The article just struck a chord with me as I thought the description of what it entails as a routine part of the life and the job to be pretty well done.

I guess it probably could have been summarized with "it sure as he11 ain’t glamorous and most of the time in ain’t fun, but I wouldn’t do anything else".
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
McQ,

You obviously have the better part of knowledge with the US Army approach circa the late 60’s. Have you heard enough of the WWII approaches to small unit commander training by the USA and the Wehrmacht (prior to DDay) to compare and contrast the two?

Also, do you see any youth/life extension technologies—anything from resveratrol, to testosterone supplementation (to late teen early 20’s levels), to HGH, anything—which is likely to increase the age at which a male stops being a "young man" to a substantially older male, say in the next 30 years? Or is that just too long off to say anything about it?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp

 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://tomdperkins.blogspot.com/
My father, not an Infantryman, once said "I have never met someone who WAS an Infantrymen, that wasn’t overwhelmingly proud of the fact that he had been one."

Tom Ive read the same thing...is there a translation of Tante Jude laying around anywhere? I’ve always wanted to read it. I will say that after 1943 the Germans were pretty much on the defensive so they had an easier time of it than the USSR and Western Allies on the Offensive.

Also, I would recommend reading Draftee Division. It’s a history/herstory of the US 88th Infantry Division. The authort’s conclusion is that the 88th did well IN SPITE of the US replacement system, and that the 88th ran it’s own leadership training camp may ahve helped overcome the 90 wonder Syndrome. Lastly, he debunks the myth of the Wehrmacht as worth 1.15 Allied units, fostered in the 1950’s by Depuy. He recalculates the JQMA values and discovers that the Wehrmacht was, on the average, worth about .9 or less of an equivalent US unit. Which doesn’t debunk the idea that German officers and NCO’s were very good, merely that the Wehrmacht is/was over-rated.

No offense but I don’t think 1/Lt’s ought to be company commanders McQ, BUT I realize that at that time Captains were a vanishing breed and someone had to command the company. I think 18 months to three years in as a 1/lt is just too young to command a company, but I am and have always been a civilian so what do I know? I don’t mean to demean your performance as a company commander either, that was not a personal slam. It just seems 1/Lt’s are so young and they haven’t been to their Officer Advanced Course, designed, supposedly, to prepate offricers FOR company command.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
He recalculates the JQMA values and discovers that the Wehrmacht was, on the average, worth about .9 or less of an equivalent US unit.
Gotta wonder, is that a comparison over the years 1939-1945 for the Germans vs 1941 vs 1945 for the US? Or relative effectiveness over distinct years like 1941, then 1943, and then 1945?

Sure the Werhmacht was in the toilet with four months left to go, but then I wouldn’t want a comparison from 1942 only—Kasserine would have thrown the curve a bit.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://tomdperkins.blogspot.com/
...infantry combat is "young man’s work".
Agreed as far as it goes, but I don’t know that advancing understanding of human physiology and medicine will leave that true for more than another generation, at least for the technological world powers.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://tomdperkins.blogspot.com/
You obviously have the better part of knowledge with the US Army approach circa the late 60’s. Have you heard enough of the WWII approaches to small unit commander training by the USA and the Wehrmacht (prior to DDay) to compare and contrast the two?
Not really, Tom. I’d just note that the "regular Army", i.e. that small corps of divisions such as the Airborne divisions and infantry divisions such as the 1st and 3rd IDs seemed to be much better led than did those that followed. I’m mostly inclined to believe that difference is primarily due to experience rather than a particular small unit leader training doctrine.

The Germans, however, did have an exceptionally good small unit commander training program and it showed. It is, in my estimation, one of the reasons they were able to wage war as long and as ably as they were.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
My father, not an Infantryman, once said "I have never met someone who WAS an Infantrymen, that wasn’t overwhelmingly proud of the fact that he had been one."
Absolutely. Earth pigs rule.
No offense but I don’t think 1/Lt’s ought to be company commanders McQ, BUT I realize that at that time Captains were a vanishing breed and someone had to command the company. I think 18 months to three years in as a 1/lt is just too young to command a company, but I am and have always been a civilian so what do I know? I don’t mean to demean your performance as a company commander either, that was not a personal slam. It just seems 1/Lt’s are so young and they haven’t been to their Officer Advanced Course, designed, supposedly, to prepate offricers FOR company command.
Well I don’t disagree, but the company needed a commander and I was it - the former CO had been relieved, the 1SG had been assaulted and badly injured and discipline had gone down the tubes. I was the senior company grade officer available (I was at brigade level at the time) and was sent to take over and restore both order and discipline. Heh ... and I did.

And you’re right, I left there to go to the Advanced Course to prepare me to do what I had just succesfully done. ;)

It was also supposed to teach me to be a principle staff officer at battalion level, another thing I’d already done. Needless to say I was a bit bored by the Advanced Course.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Tom the Recalc is done only for combat between US units and Wehrmacht units, that realistically limits it to late 1942 to 1945. More than likely really 1943 on...The problem, in the author’s opinion, was that Depuy’s force-on-force selection, OVER-represented elite Wehrmacht units, such as Panzer and PanzerGrenadier units, but was fairly averaged on it’s US unit selection. After a recalc the values show that an US INFANTRY divsion, generally equalled a German PanzerGrenadier unit in combat potential. Which is not unsurprising when you think on it. A US Infantry division generally had a M-4 battalion, or a tank destroyer battalion assigned to it, or possibly both, as well as an ADA battalion. For all it’s faults and bad-mouthing, a Sherman was pretty much the equivalent of the Pzkw-4, so a US infantry division had the equivalent of a Panzer battalion attached, PLUS other anti-tank and automatic weapons giving it a firepower edge. A US infantry division could motorize itself, fairly easily, from Corps and Army assests, so when you get down to it, a US Infantry division WAS a Wehrmacht PanzerGrenadier unit, 9 infantry battalions (6 in the Pzgr Div.), 1 battalion Pkkw Mk4 apiece, and the US unit came with possibly a unit equivalent to a Hetzer abteilung, and automatic weapons in the 2cm to 4cm range, AND it’s divisional artillery was far superior. So really it’s no surprise when you look at it that a US infantry unit ought to score about where a Pzgr unit scores.

And a Wehrmacht INFANTRY division was woefully short of firepower as compared to a US division, only at the rifle section to company level could the Germans claim equality if not superiority, due to the MG-42, and the presence of 8 cm and 12 cm mortars at that level. Once you move to the regiment and divivison level the US unit has more battalions, more artillery, a tank battalion, and a host of other advantages.

If it weren’t for the Germans defending and having a very good doctrine and small unit leaders, they would have lost much quicker. Because they really weren’t that good...Fan boys don’t like to hear that, thinking aobut Panthers and JagdPanthers, and 8.8 cm guns and all, but really the Wehrmacht as a whole was not that powerful.

McQ my brother served at about the time you were a company commander. They used to tour the barracks with Maglites, just to be safe.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
McQ my brother served at about the time you were a company commander. They used to tour the barracks with Maglites, just to be safe.
First night I was there I was headed out the door to walk through the barracks and an NCO asked me if a) I was going alone and b) unarmed. Apparently the former CO and 1SG used to do it together with the 1SG carrying a .45.

I said yes to both. Made my tour, had no problems and did it every night afterward with the same result.

I’d also point out that in the first 6 months I court-martialed 16, gave out innumerable Article 15s and literally beat the he11 out of two different soldiers who assaulted me (they were part of the 16). Only time in my career I was ever threatened or assaulted. Backed another one into a corner and tore my uniform shirt off (buttons flying everywhere) and challenged him to a fight with no repercussion. He wouldn’t take me up on it. Never had another problem with him.

Sometimes it helps in situations like that for your troops to think you’re slightly crazy. ;)

When I left, the place was a country club.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
to think you’re slightly crazy
Think.

Didn’t you just write:
I was headed out the door to walk through the barracks and an NCO asked me if a) I was going alone and b) unarmed. Apparently the former CO and 1SG used to do it together with the 1SG carrying a .45.
???

Would you care to share the extent to which you think you were good as opposed to lucky?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://tomdperkins.blogspot.com/
Would you care to share the extent to which you think you were good as opposed to lucky?
heh -

What is it they say,
"when you did it, it ain’t braggin...."
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Would you care to share the extent to which you think you were good as opposed to lucky?
Heh ... well there’s another part to the story which has to do with one of the two soldiers who assaulted me.

It took place at dinner the day I took command. I walked into the mess hall and two soldiers were literally duking it out while about 3 NCOs watched and did nothing (and that, as you might imagine, was a big part of the problem there).

I went over and stepped in between them, grabbed their uniform shirts and shoved them apart while telling them "that’s enough, drop your hands", etc. I was in uniform so there was no doubt who I was.

Well one soldier stepped back just like I commanded. But the other took a shot at me and I caught a glimpse of the fist coming at my head out of the corner of my eye. I jerked my head back just in time and he got me with a grazing shot on the side of my head.

I then pulled him toward me with my left hand and hit him about as square on the jaw as I’ve even hit anyone in my life. He went over a chair, flat on his back, out cold. His foot stayed up on the overturned chair and was twitching. You could have heard a pin drop in that place.

I turned to the other soldier and ordered he and two others to get the guy to the dispensary. I then ordered the three NCOs outside and chewed their @sses for about 10 minutes and told them if I ever walked into a situation like that again and they were there but I had to take action, they’d all be missing a stripe or two.

So, when I walked through the barracks that night, I’d already developed a bit of a reputation. ;)

As I’ve told others, in reality that soldier did me a favor which I repaid by courtmartialing him.

You couldn’t have written a script for a better entry into a troubled company. They knew within a day that I wasn’t afraid of them or afraid to act. The purpose of the walk that night was to reinforce that.

Apparently it worked.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Excelllllllent McQ I can see why you had no problems after that.....
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Y’know, someday I’ll have to write that into a piece of fiction...

...if I claim it’s the truth, no one’ll believe me.
You couldn’t have written a script for a better entry into a troubled company.
We’ll, skill fertilizes good fortune.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://tomdperkins.blogspot.com/
Y’know, someday I’ll have to write that into a piece of fiction...

...if I claim it’s the truth, no one’ll believe me.
Heh ... I know. It was indeed a seemingly rude introduction to command, but hey, it all worked out well.

The situation I walked into was a racial one. The two fighting were black and white. As it turns out, it was the white guy who took a swing at me. Of the 16 I CM’d, 8 were white and 8 were black. I pulled no punches (no pun intended) and I maxed everyone. If you’re going to come in hard, you at least have to be fair about it.

The two who assaulted me were white. The one I told you about and one I knocked through a plate glass window after a short scuffle - kinda took all the fight out of him. ;)

It took me 6 months to get it all under control. A lot of bluff, a lot of ’in your face’, and a lot of luck. I did 4 months without a 1SG. The 1SG I got was one of the finest NCOs it has ever been my pleasure to serve with ... thank goodness. He and I could start a sentence and have the other one finish it, that’s how synched we were. After 6 months it was a pretty darn nice place to serve.

As it turned out, it was one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had. Certainly never a dull moment. I had two of my NCOs, both black, come up to me at the end of my tour and ask me if I was going to extend and stay in command. I told them no, that I needed to go on and go to the advanced course. They both told me that they, then, weren’t going to extend their tours. Greatest compliment they could have ever paid me.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
McQ what was training time like in that period? Was it mostly in garrison or did you all have funds to go off post and train?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
McQ what was training time like in that period? Was it mostly in garrison or did you all have funds to go off post and train?
Well that particular command was in Korea and we had a 24/7 mission.

When I was at Ft. Bragg with the 82nd, we did quarterly rotations, one month on post support, one month on alert and one month in the field training.

Training could be anywhere. I did a month in Turkey one time (jumped with the Turkish airborne ... now they’re nuts). We went to Camp LeJune another (and worked with the Marine 2nd Force Recon guys). Did another FTX with the Marines where we jumped into a place named "Catfish DZ". Yeah, it was a swamp.

One of my favorites off post gigs took place in Star and Troy NC on an operation called "Gobbler Woods" which was the final couple of weeks in the SF Q course. We played the OPFOR for the SF candidates. Had a freakin’ ball and rolled up a bunch of student A teams (which didn’t make them particularly happy but we enjoyed it).
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
"My father, not an Infantryman, once said "I have never met someone who WAS an Infantrymen, that wasn’t overwhelmingly proud of the fact that he had been one."

In one of Bill Mauldin’s books he writes of wearing his CIB, as a civilian, underneath his sweater, where he would peek at it once in a while. Very interesting books, by the way, for several reasons. If you can find one, buy it.

"the myth of the Wehrmacht as worth 1.15 Allied units, fostered in the 1950’s by Depuy."
"is that a comparison over the years 1939-1945 for the Germans vs 1941 vs 1945 for the US? Or relative effectiveness over distinct years like 1941, then 1943, and then 1945?"

Depuy attributed part of the superiority to more efficient manpower utilization. By far the largest number of engagements used in his database were 1943-1944 on the Western front, mostly in Italy. Something like 80 engagements, I think. By then, of course, any Chaplain’s assistants, etc., in the German army had long since been issued rifles and put in slots where their knowledge of prayer was put to the test.


"The situation I walked into was a racial one."

There was a lot of that going around back then. Some nasty stuff. I did my last year at Ft. Benning after returning from RVN, and I swear if I had it to do over, I would extend my tour in RVN(in a ’strap job, of course).
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

 
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