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8/14/2019 US Army: morrison http://slidepdf.com/reader/full/us-army-morrison 1/32 The John F. Morrison Lecture in Military History Military Leadership and the American Experience by Gerald F. Linderman John F. Morrison Professor, 1988—89, and Professor of History, University of Michigan 4 October 1988

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    T h eJ o h n F . M o r r i s o nL e c t u r e i nMili tary H i s t o r y

    Military Leadershipand theAmerican Experience

    byGerald F. Linderman

    John F. Morrison Professor, 198889,andProfessor of History, University of Michigan4 October 1988

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  • 8/14/2019 US Army: morrison


    T h eJ o h n F . M o r r i s o n

    L e c t u r e i nMilitary H i s t o r y

    Military Leadershipand theAmerican Experience

    byGerald F. Linderman

    John F. Morrison Professor, 198889,andProfessor of History, University of Michigan4 October 1988

    Comba t Studies InstituteU.S. Army Command a nd General Staff CollegeFort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-6900

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  • 8/14/2019 US Army: morrison


    Gerald F.LindermanGerald F. Linderman, born in

    Marshfield, Wisconsin, earned a B.A.from Yale University in 1956 andserved in the Foreign Service of theDepartment of State from 1956 to1966, with tours in Africa and India.He earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. inhistory from Northwestern Universityin 1964 and 1971 respectively.Joining the faculty of the Departmentof History at the University ofMichigan in 1969, he became a fullprofessor in 1986 where hecontinues in that position. ProfessorLinderman is the author of TheMirror of War: American Societyand the Spanish American W ar(1974) and Embattled Courage: TheExperience of Combat in theAmerican Civil W ar (1987), a HistoryBook Club main selection.Professor Linderman, the 1988-89John F. Morrison Professor ofMilitary History at the U.S. ArmyCommand and General StaffCollege, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas,has received numerous teachingawards at the University of Michigan.

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    commandant. Morrison was abrilliant teacher and tactician. Infact, years later, his students wouldproudly declare: "I was a Morrisonman." General George C. Marshall,one of Morrison's students atLeavenworth, went so far as toproclaim that "he taught me all I hadever known of tactics."

    Leaving Leavenworth in 1912,Morrison held commands atVancouver Barracks, along theMexican border, in China, and attraining camps in the southernUnited States. After an observationvisit to France in 1917, he becamedirector of training for the entireArmy. He retired in December 1921.

    The John F. Morrison Professor ofMilitary History was established atthe U.S. Army Command andGeneral Staff College in 1974, and adistinguished historian has beenselected every academic year tohold this chair. Professor Gerald F.Linderman is the fifteenth MorrisonProfessor.


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    Gerald F. Linderman, the John F.Morrison Professor of MilitaryHistory, 1988-89, presented this talkto Command and General StaffOfficer Course students on4 October 1988.

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  • 8/14/2019 US Army: morrison


    Military Leadershipand theAmerican ExperienceMilitary leadership in this society in

    wartime presents, and has alwayspresented, a problem of specialseverity. At the root of the problemis the relationship between theindividual American and that largersociety of Americans. Despitecomplaints in every generation thatindividualism is on the decline, byany comparative measurement-simply setting this society againstothers-we have not sought toexpress ourselves through the socialgroup. Nor do we often accept thatthe success of the group represents,in some equivalent and satisfyingmeasure, the success of theindividual. Nor are we often willingto subordinate to the group our owninterests and perceptions.

    Let me try to draw a contrast.Johannes Steinhoff was a World WarII fighter pilot, an ace, a Luftwaffemajor trying to combat Allied airpower over Sicily. In July 1943, hereceived from Hermann Goring,commander in chief of the Luftwaffe,this teleprinter message addressedto the German fighter aircraft forcesin Sicily:

    Together with [our] fighter pilots inFrance, Norway and Russia, I can onlyregard you with contempt. I want an

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    immediate improvement in fightingspirit. If this improvement is notforthcoming, flying personnel from thecommander down must expect to beremanded to the ranks and transferredto the eastern front to serve on theground.Such a transfer was to be notexactly a promotion: these pilots

    would have been thrown against theRed Army as untrained infantry.Goring's message was an unjustand outrageous signal. He was

    wrong. The problem was not"fighting spirit." Pilots were dyingdaily. The problem was that Germanaircraft had been surpassedtechnologically and that so manyexperienced pilots had been killedand could not be replaced.Steinhoff was furious, filled withanger and indignation. He protestedto his own general, who in turn saidto him:

    Listen, you're not to take it seriously.I did what I could. I've been urging[Goring] to abandon the wholebusiness, but then he sent this signal tothe Air Corps. . . . And once again:don't take the teleprint too seriously.Do you promise me that?

    Though still explosive, Steinhoffhesitated and then answered, "Yes,sir."

    Immediately, however, he beganto think of the disparity between the

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    force of his emotion and themeekness of his reaction:

    1 felt almost ashamed of my attitudewhen speaking to the general. Itseemed to me that I had been anaccessory to an act of treachery ofwhich our pilots were the victims. ... Ihad thrown in the sponge, simplyanswering "Yes, sir."

    So why had he done it?In this answer lay that trust in one'ssuperior-a whole attitude toward

    life-which had been instilled into us,into our fathers and into their fathersbefore them. For us soldiers, it hadhitherto been the only right attitude,indeed the only conceivable one. Theobedience practised for centuries bythe German soldier had alwayspresupposed an unshakeable trust thatthe orders he received would besensible orders and that the highcommand would search their heartsvery carefully before sacrificing wholeformations. And the many who weresacrificed died in the certainty that thiswas so.1"An unshakeable trust that the

    orders . . . received would besensible orders": what a small partthat precept has played in ourmilitary experience. It is not theAmerican way. The United Stateshas never possessed anunquestioning soldiery and hasnever even approached the idea oflegions, those willing or compelledto expend themselves in the nameof remote and ill-understood policy,as were the formations of Rome or

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    of nineteenth-century Britain indefense of the outposts of theempire. The absence of such forceshas not previously constituted muchof a problem for us; it has, however,become a problem-as yetunsolvedin those situations oflimited war that have confronted ussince 1950. When decisive militaryvictory on the scale of World War Ior World War II is not attainable,when wars are concluded bytortuous negotiations over elusiveends while combat continues,American willingness to sacrificeshrinks. As many of the men inKorea asked themselves, if there isto be no winner, why die for a tie?

    The American refusal to pay muchdeference to military leadership hasalso meant that we have had noexperience of a military culture, nomilitary island within our own societyon which values other than those ofthe society at large pertain. It is truethat four and one-half hours aftermidnight on the first day of basictraining, new privates feelthemselves catapulted into a militaryculture utterly different from their lifeoutside, but not many remainintimidated. American civil societyso permeates military life, renderinga military isolation so difficult thatmilitary leaders have had tounderstand that orders in war mustbe framed not only for Americans as

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    soldiers but for those sameAmericans as civilians temporarily inmilitary uniforms.

    "An unshakeable trust that orders, . . received would be sensibleorders": from the Army's earliestdays, foreign observers have notedthe absence of that confidence inAmericans. Baron Friedrich Wilhelmvon Steuben, George Washington'sinspector general, said of theAmerican soldiers he observed,"One must first explainand thengive the order."2 And implicit in thatformulation is the possibility thatone's explanation will proveunconvincing and that one's orderwill not be obeyed. Von Steubenwas not the last to discover thatgiving orders in the American Armywas a lot less fun than in thePrussianArmy.

    Let me offer you, as a brief studyof the difficulty of exercising militaryleadership in this society, thesituation that confronted a companycommander in the American CivilWar. He had to understand, aboveall, that leadership was not his toexercise by virtue of the rank heheld. Several factors contributed tohis troubles.

    In the Civil War, a captain did notordinarily know much more than hismen. Field Manual 22-100, MilitaryLeadership, tells us that, in order to

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    be a military leader, there are certainthings that one must be, that onemust do, and that one must know.

    3In the Civil War, it was vital that anofficer be a person of the requisitequalities and that he do certainthings to prove that he possessedthose qualities. But what was he toknow? The technical andtechnological aspects of war are somuch more demanding today thanthey were in 1861. A leader todaymust know so much more thancitizens at large that his expertisebecomes an important source ofothers' respect for him. But, in theCivil War, few thought thatwarmaking required specializedknowledge; few thought that therewas anything to soldiering beyondthe firing of a rifled musket, anexperience with which many recruitswere already familiar. James A.Garfield entered the war as alieutenant colonel, a nice place tostart out in the Army, especiallysince he possessed no militaryknowledge-none. But he did notfor a moment doubt his fitness forhigh command. "Pluck," he said,simple readiness to fight, wasinfinitely more important than"military science."4

    For another reason, too, rankcounted for little. Men enteredmilitary service determined not to be"bossed." The Southern soldier,

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    said one Confederate enlisted man,was "an individual who could notbecome the indefinite portion of amass, but [he] fought for himself, onhis own account." A Confederateofficer observed that the rank andfile "failed utterly to understand . . .why, as soldiers . . . they were noteach and all entitled to be treated asfree men." At the top, Robert E. Leecomplained that "our people are solittle^ liable to control that it is difficultto get them to follow any course notin accordance with their owninclination." And it was no better onthe Union side, where William T.Sherman grumbled that "eachprivate thinks for himself. . . . Idoubt if our democratic form ofgovernment admits of thatorganization and discipline withoutwhich an army is a mob."5

    Now, what could a Civil Warcompany officer do in such asituation? One would expect him toissue the essential orders and seethat they were executed anddiscipline enforced. Ah, that hecould not do, because his was not atwentieth-century America, not anurban and industrial America, but asociety of farmsteads and smalltowns. Nor was his a twentieth-century American Army. Units werenot national composites, drawing, asthey do today, men from all parts ofthe country. Most companies were

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    made up of residents of the sametown, at most the same county, asituation that gave enlisted men apowerful leverage. In most cases,the captain had been elected bythose in his company. Those in theranks were his boyhood friends, andhe expected to return to that smalltown to live in their midst and amongtheir families once the war was over.

    A lieutenant colonel in the 3dOhio, John Beatty, decided that hehad to discipline the men who werestraying from camp at their whim.The court-martial charges hepressed, however, brought down onhim, in his words, "not only thehatred and the curses of the soldiers... but ... the ill-will of their fathers,who for years were my neighborsand friends." And his attempt toestablish discipline simplyaggravated insubordination. Someof the men drifted away for days,and those who remained refused todrill. When Beatty ordered one ofthe worst, a drunken and rebellioussoldier, to be buckled to a tree, thewhole regiment protested: "Thebitter hatred that the menentertained for me had nowculminated." Beatty faced themdown; he drew his sword and toldthem that he would die before hewould let them free the man; finally,they dispersed. But it was not over.At last, the colonel of the regiment


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    intervened, but only to plot with themen against Beatty; 225 soldierssigned a petition demandingBeatty's removal. Again, JohnBeatty persevered, but you canimagine how poisoned were hisrelations with friends around himand friends at home.6

    Now, the Civil War did not, ofcourse, come to a halt because theproblems of command were sopainful. It was fought not becausearmies were held together byexternal discipline but becauseofficers and men shared adedication to the same set ofvalues-values that all were anxiousto express in combat. The mostimportant of them was courageanassertive, aggressive, fearlesscourage. So, while Civil War campdiscipline remained abominable andmarch discipline abysmal, disciplinewas best where it was mostnecessary-in battleand herecourage was the key. Men wouldrespond to orders in and aroundbattle when their own courage wasat issue and when orders were givenby officers of whose courage themen were convinced. It is thiscourage that, in the early years, heldCivil War armies together. It wasnot ideology, not any notion ofcause, not organization, not training,not the coercion of a courts-martialsystem that provided Civil War

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    At the extreme, he would bethreatened directly with what inVietnam was fragging.

    Now, I do not mean to suggestthat, in the Civil War, all the cardsrested in the hands of the enlistedmen. Soldiers were just as intent ondemonstrating their own courage asthey were determined to compelofficers to prove their courage.Thus, the possibility that a soldiermight be branded a coward in thecolumns of his hometownnewspaper was a powerful deterrent.Also intimidating were the Army'spublic degradations of cowardly orrefractory soldiers-the headshaved, the buttons cut, the coatturned, and the miscreant drummedout of camp as the band played"The Rogue's March." There werephysical punishments too, and someof themtying men up by theirthumbs or binding them to the racksof battery wagons- wereexcruciating. And there were militaryexecutions. Soldiers, however,seldom reacted to such episodes astheir officers intended-with theresolve to be better soldiers-butwith anger and revulsion. Oftenrepulsed by what they had seen,they simply walked away intodesertion. Or their resistanceincreased. Sentries aimed highwhen prisoners ran to escape. Menselected for firing squads loaded


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    blanks, aimed poorly, or simplyfailed to pull the trigger. For oneConfederate execution, twenty-foursoldiers had to be marshaled toshoot a single man.10 Thus, allofficial responses to indiscipline hadto be used sparingly and with thegreatest care.

    Now let me attempt to bring theseobservations down to our own day.Following the Civil War, the Armybecame a small frontier constabularywhose job it was to discipline theIndians of the Plains. In theprocess, it became a professionalforce lean, sinewy, imbued with ahighly professional discipline. That,however, counted for little in theSpanish-American War, when theRegulars were once gain inundatedby civilian volunteers, in numbers tentimes their own. Officer-enlistedman relationships were again muchas they had been at the outset ofthe Civil War.

    The novelist Sherwood Andersonwas one of those volunteers in 1898,one of those hometown-companyNational Guardsmen. He wasamused that officers and men hadbeen told that they should not messtogether:

    Ed and Dug [company officers,again elected] are all right. They haveto live off by themselves and act asthough they were something special,kind of grand and wise and gaudy. It's


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    kind of a bluff, I guess, that has to bekept up.12

    Sherwood Anderson could notseparate the company commanderfrom the janitor he had known backin Ohio, or the first lieutenant fromthe celery raiser at home, or thesecond lieutenant from the knifesharpener.13 And they did notcontrol him:

    An officer might conceivably "getaway" with some sort of injustice forthe momentbut a year from now,when we are all at home again[?] . . .Did the fool want to take the chance offour or five [of us] huskies giving him abeating some night in the alleyway?14So, while such companies wereon active duty in 1898, fistfights

    between officers and men werefrequent. Marching columns oftenbroke ranks for sight-seeing. Ordersrequiring that water be boiled andorders forbidding the men to sleepin huts previously occupied byyellow-fever victims- ordersdelivered by hometown friendswere ignored. In 1898, for everysoldier who was killed on thebattlefield, fifteen died of disease.

    But the Spanish-American Warwas the last of the hometown wars,and the power of command wasstrengthened dramatically by theexperience of World Wars I and II.Here, several developments cameinto play. Today's America is no


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    longer fragmented, but integrated; itis a centralized society andbecoming more so. Washingtonexerts a direct and powerful role inour daily lives, far beyond that whichnineteenth-century Americans couldhave imagined. The Army, itself amuch more powerful bureaucraticorganization than it was 100 yearsago, draws additional strength fromits role as an arm of Washington. Inthe nineteenth century, for example,soldiers did not worry aboutdishonorable discharges. The smalltown, while still autonomous, did notcare what Washington thought ofone of its citizens. Today, within afar less personal mode of life,dishonorable discharges hurtopportunities in education, careers,and housing. They can affect onethrough life, and soldiers know it.

    The power of command has alsobeen strengthened directly by thosetechnological aspects of war thatnow require a specializedknowledge, thus enhancing theinfluence of those who possessexpertise. The basic unit of war isno longer only a man and his rifle,and we no longer maintain, as didTheodore Roosevelt, that to find thebest military commanders one needonly to look for the best citizens.

    And, finally, command meets lessresistance because war itself hasbecome a phenomenon immensely


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    more potent and overwhelming thanit was in 1861-65, and thus menentering the Army are far lessconfident that they can control theirfates on the basis of their ownindividualized behavior.

    Still, although the power ofcommand has been made strongerby changes within our society andby changes in war itself, the job ofcommand remains painfully exacting.We have always had a diversesociety, but its wildly heterogeneousand assertively multiethnic qualitytoday requires of the Army officercomplex cross-cultural under-standing of a high order. And that ismade more important by thedisappearance, in the wake ofVietnam and Watergate, of a set ofstandards, generally described aswhite, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, andmale, which, despite their severedeficiencies, at least identified amainstream of American values thatcould be invoked by officers as ameasure of common expectations.We appear, moreover, to be enteringa period in which low-intensityconflict threatens us more than doesgeneral war. Low-intensity conflictwill bring with it a severemaldistribution of sacrifice. A fewwill be called to do the difficult work.Deciding which few will, I fear, createproblems of equity reminiscent of


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    to which that experience brings ustoday; and in operating an Armywithin the space that opens toperceptive people who understandsuch things and are able to keep insome rough and always difficultbalance the requirements of themission and the peculiarities of theAmerican citizen-soldier.


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    Notes1. Johannes Steinhoff, Messer-schmitts Over

    Sicily (Baltimore, MD: The Nautical andAviation Publishing Company of America,1987), 189, 192-93.2. Dixon Wecter, When Johnny ComesMarching Home (Boston, MA: Houghton

    Mifflin, 1944), 9.3. Field Manual 22-100, Military Leadership(Washington, DC: Department of theArmy, 1983), 1.4. Allan Peskin, Garfield: A Biography (Kent,OH: Kent State University Press, 1978),87.5. Jacob R. Perkins, Trails, Rails and War:

    The Life of General G. M. Dodge(Indianapolis, IN: The Bobbs-Merrill Co.,1929), 82; Carlton McCarthy, DetailedMinutiae of Soldier Life in the Army ofNorthern Virginia, 1861-1865 (Richmond,VA: J. W. Randolph & English, 1888), 8;Hilary A. Herbert, "Grandfather's TalksAbout His Life Under Two Flags,"Southern Historical Collection, Universityof North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill, 112;Ella Lonn, Desertion During the Civil War(New York: The Century Co., 1928), 15;William T. Sherman, Home Letters ofGeneral Sherman (New York: C.Scribner's Sons, 1909), 209, 211.

    6. John Beatty, Memoirs of a Volunteer,1861-1863 (New York: W. W. Norton &Co., 1946), 71-82.

    7. Ibid., 139-40.8. Jacob D. Cox, Military Reminiscences ofthe Civil War (New York: C. Scribner'sSons, 1900), vol. 2, 31.


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    9. Enos B. Vail, Reminiscences of a Boy inthe Civil War (Brooklyn, NY: Printed byauthor, 1915), 113.10. Charles T. Quintard, Doctor Quintard,Chaplain C.S.A. and Second Bishop ofTennessee (Sewanee, TN: The UniversityPress, 1905), 83-86.11. Much of this analysis draws on thespeaker's Embattled Courage: TheExperience of Combat in the AmericanCivil War (New York: The Free Press,1987).12. Sherwood Anderson, A Story Teller'sStory (Garden City, NY: Garden CityPublishing Co., 1924), 284.13. Ibid., 281-82.14. Ibid., 282.15. Field Manual 22-100, Military Leadership,32.


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