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    My initial thought reading Capt Cranmer’s article was “she’s getting everything wrong – — she’s advocating the exact opposite of what the Marine Corps should be doing” to enhance combat effectiveness. It wasn’t until I was about a third of the way through Capt Cranmer’s article that I realized that she was using sarcasm to make her point.

    But I have a comment about the Von Schell quote.

    I read Battle Leadership many years ago and I recall Von Schell talking about a situation were a General issued orders for an attack to his 3 Regimental Commanders. But knowing how each one thought — which Colonel needed a detailed order, which didn’t, etc… — he issued the order separately to each Regimental Commander; tailoring how he issued the order. This has stuck with me all these years and is contrary to Capt Cranmer’s quote. So I looked up the quote to ascertain its context.

    The context is Von Schnell contrasting how the German Army and the US Army developed their officers, circa 1932. The primary way the German Army developed its officers was through duty with troops. The primary way the US Army developed its officers was through its school system.

    In our Army, we know of no other way of training officers than with troops. All other means —schools or courses — are purely supplementary. In America, however, this constitutes the fundamental feature of an officers’ training.

    Why was this the case with the US Army?

    The regular establishment is a cadre army whose principal mission in peace is the training of reserves. It is not so much an army to be brought to full strength in case of war, [but to be] instructional personnel for that war army which will first come into existence upon mobilization.

    His [American officer] chief role is that of teacher and counselor of the great war army.

    Below is the entire paragraph the quote is in; so it can be placed in context:

    Within the limits of this brief article we can only suggest answers to such a question and the undoubted difficulties attendant thereto. How is a uniform viewpoint of the officer corps attained? Under the conditions prevailing in the Army of the United States it is obvious that the officers’ schools cannot be content with introducing their students to the world of military thought and merely guiding their thought processes so that their intelligences will ripen later under the guidance of older officers. Since the opportunities for practical training in the service are limited the student must take away with him from the schools’ definite answers to his questions; he must be given standard ideas and principles. His thinking must be led down prepared channels to the solution recognized as most appropriate. Independent thinking must take second place to a uniform solution. Therefore, the danger naturally arises of too much emphasis being placed on set forms.

    I feel Capt Cranmer took Von Schell’s quote out of context. As a German officer, Von Schell knew his army’s way of developing officers was best. It produced officers who could think and adapt to the uncertainties of combat. This is consistent with everything else Von Schell says in Battle Leadership. But he acknowledges that because of what the US Army expected of its officers and how it relied on the “school system” to develop them, “independent thinking must take second place to a uniform solution”.

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