From: Mosquito Bite, Texas
I actually think we agree on more than you think. And no, the soldiers weren't bad, they were just outclassed. This is basically my point from above. The soldiers were individually of pretty good quality. Small units were generally pretty good also. But at the regiment level on up, we were woefully unprepared as a general rule. While there were some commanders who understood what the "next" war would be like, as demonstrated by Patton's performace in the Louisana maneuvers, most were clueless. We had to drastically change the operational "culture" so that we could get those trained soldiers in the right place at the right time so they could do their thing. Look at all the division commanders at the beginning of the war. Most were not commanding units of any size at the end. They were replaced along the line by more adept commanders who understood how to fight a mobile war. (And yes, there were exceptions, but take a look at the general's list from 1939 and see how many were army, corps and division commanders in 1944. Some were just too old to perform well (a problem in the peacetime army of the time for noth officers and NCO's. By uncle's company commander was a fifty-year old captain in 1938 or 39. That just does not happen anymore.) But, most were too married to the "old" ways. Sharp, violent, mobile (not necessarily mechanized) warfare put them out of business. That's what hurt us the most.
By the way, the same was true after Vietnam. We were so married to "search and destroy" we would have been easy pickings for a rapid soviet advance in central Europe. My Cavalry Squadron commander in 1974 had been an observer during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. When he came to our well-trained and ready-to-go unit, he saw how poorly we would perform with a well-prepared enemy. So, he completely rewrote the US Army Operations manual in a year. He taught us to fight in a completely different way. Sure, our troops were of pretty good quality, we were pretty well trained, but everytime we fought the Germans in exercises, they haded us our lunch. But, we were following the old doctrine. It stunk.
DA let him train us a new way to demonstrate the new "tactics" (actually operational level, not tactics) to test the proposed change in doctrine he and some others had brought back from that war, and after a year we took on the Germans and other US units and ran them from Hof to Munich in about four days. We were using Israeli inspired operational techniques. These were later adopted by the army and by 1978 all the operations manuals had been updated and the new doctrine adopted. By that time, we could have handled ourselves quite well. (Of course, had it really happened, we probably still would have been overrun in Europe, but that was due to raw numbers until help could deploy from the States. That's essentially the second point I was making. Our doctrine was simply out of date in 1939 and 40. Yes, it had begun to change, but it took combat to make the transition complete.
But, still, back to the original point, the training was done with minimal equipment. We really didn't have that many units equipped with decent vehicles, weapons, and the like. One reason was the rapid expansion of 1940-41. We could mobilize units, but not properly equip them very fast. By learly fall, 1942, there was considerable improvement. But not before except in a few "high piority" units. And while it's true that it was not David and Goliath, our industrial base alone made that scenario unlikely, we were at a great disadvantage due to insufficient funding from an isolationist dominated congress.
I'll conlude with another story. My wife's unle was a commo sergeant in an engineer battalion attached to the 1st ID. They trained laying and picking up catgut string for several months, because they had no commo wire. They only had two old field phones to wire together. That doesn't mean the training was bad, but it does demonstrate how little equipment we had during the expansion. By the way, they had just a few days to see the new field phones before they boarded ships to head for North Africa. The first time they got them working "over dirt," as he says, it was "over sand."
You know, now that I think about it, David and Goliath may be exactly how we started out. But we were Goliath. Large, not prepared to fight the new technology held by a smaller foe, and not willing to accept the fact that we might lose. And, like Goliath, we took it right in the head. The difference is that we got up, strapped our helmet back on, rearmed, retrained, and then went to look for David and his buddies.
< Message edited by bjmorgan -- 4/19/2008 6:08:31 AM >