Tall Tales A Smidge Before Scott Beauchamp

…that were treated as gospel.

It is one of the most remarkable—and enduring—statistics about the way men fight war: in combat no more than a quarter of fighting men, even disciplined and well-trained soldiers, will fire their weapons. The claim, first made by military historian S.L.A. Marshall in his 1947 book, “Men Against Fire,” has become accepted wisdom.

The questions (and artistic license excuse) sound familiar…

…Why would Marshall make up such a thing? Marshall was “by professional upbringing and temperament a journalist above all,” wrote Spiller.

…as does the action-hero resume.

…Marshall claimed to have led men in combat in World War I. Apparently, that too was fiction. Marshall’s regiment in World War I was behind the lines, involved in road work and building delousing stations. Leinbaugh discovered records of Marshall’s unit, which include such stirring reports as

1 mule killed by kick from mule. Drop from rolls.

He has finally been exposed, appropriately enough, as a louse toiling in the company of asses. I guess no one ever listens to the guys who were actually doing the fighting…

…The only real skeptics at the time were a few of the soldiers whom Marshall profiled in his histories, like “The Men of Company K.” Asked one old Company K sergeant, “Did the SOB think we clubbed the Germans to death?”

4 Responses to “Tall Tales A Smidge Before Scott Beauchamp”

  1. Skyler says:

    I’m getting very angry. I’m supposed to be studying for a final but you inconsiderate people keep putting fascinating stuff on the internet. Will someone PLEASE turn the internet off?
    I know the USMC puts a lot of faith in SLAM, and I dutifully read “Soldier’s Load and the Mobility of a Nation.”
    I found it written without much to make it credible. I never believed his ideas about people being so slow and tired when marching toward battle. Now that it is revealed that he was in a logistics outfit, it makes sense.
    Morale is higher the closer you get to the shooting. There is a focus that gets sharper as you near the point of the spear and gets fuzzier as you get further away. Of course, this all depends on the level of hope for victory, I’m sure.
    My experience is that today’s Marines are invariably excited and eager to get to the shooting.
    The only thing I much cared for in SLAM was his insistence that men should not carry more than about 40 to 60 pounds. I think this is still good advice. The amount of weight we have to carry now is oppressive.

  2. Mr. Bingley says:

    How much does the average load-out weigh these days, Skyler? I can only imagine that all that body armor and electronic shit ain’t light…

  3. Skyler says:

    I don’t have hard numbers, but I think at least 80 pounds or more. And that’s not including a day pack.
    The sapi plates, water (always water), and ammo are pretty hefty all by themselves. Once you put that day pack in place with food and basic hygiene items, you’re getting into almost as much as I weighed when I signed up. Now imagine if it were in a cold weather environment with sleeping bag and everything else. It’s gotten absurd. We are no longer light infantry, we are heavy infantry.
    I would much prefer to forsake all armor except when in a static defensive mode or while in a vehicle. I would rather have some kind of ability to run and sprint. With all that weight you can really only waddle and jog.

  4. The_Real_JeffS says:

    I’ve heard that stress injuries to the knees, feet, and back are way up in veterans….and young troops. It was bad enough before. Now? Wow.

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