The WWII soldier.....

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Lucky13, Sep 20, 2008.

  1. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Which of the combatants let their grassroot soldier feel the liberty of making their own decisions, come up with ideas, make on the spot decisions when it's needed etc...and not being hampered by that everything had to go through "the right channels"?
     
  2. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Combatants as in Nations, I know not!
    However, with the formation of the S.A.S. under David Stirling, so began a system totally unique to the British Army, probably any army, where the decisions, actions etc. can originate at grass roots, where the 'pyramid of command' is inverted, and things start at the bottom and work up, unlike the 'normal' chain, where everything is passed down from upon high.
     
  3. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Agree with Airframes....to my knowledge (quit laughing, guys), the rank-n-file regular army grunts typically went with the chain of command system, with occasional sergeants/Lt's going off on their own as the opportunity arose. The Paras/SAS-type organizations, though, being small(er) and with less rear-eschelon support while out on combat missions, were by default almost required to have members capable of thinking on-the-spot. I think this would apply to all nations, in general.
     
  4. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    So some nations didn't look bright on the soldiers own iniative, no matter how good it was then....pull the rank all the time more or less?
     
  5. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    More or less, Lucky, especially in the German armed forces, where, although under NAZI rule, the old Prussian values of discipline still held strong. You've heard the German army sayings, "Zu befehl!" and "Befehl ist befehl!"
    (At your orders and 'orders are orders'.)
    Of course, there could be, and were, exceptions in most armies/air forces/navies, but they were individual exceptions, not the general rule.
    Terry.
     
  6. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    , How about the first army to brief every man and equip with maps regardless of rank of his mission and the tasks of others in his unit so the mission could carry if the leaders were out and it wasn't the Brits
     
  7. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    That's just good planning. Sure, the soldiers knew what the orders were, what the mission was, and what Bob over there was supposed to be doing, and could do Bob's job even if Bob wasn't around to do it himself. But...isn't that still just following orders? Not blindly following orders, but following orders nonetheless. I think the "initiative" described in the OP would be better illustrated by looking at the 101st, for example. Sure, they dropped into Normandy, and had specific objectives to accomplish, but they managed to raise alot of havoc on their own, used their own judgement, still accomplished their missions but did alot more in the process. Or the FSSF, at Anzio. Told to hold their section of the front, stretched out with one foxhole about every 20 or 50 yards, they took it upon themselves to not only man, but send out recon patrols each night. They took some prisoners. They killed some Germans. They captured a LOT of intel and scoped out a LOT of recon. They took it upon themselves to kill one, maybe two Germans in a foxhole, leaving one or two to wake up and find the body of their compatriot next to them, really screwing with the average German grunt's mind. Upper eschelons loved the results, but would never have ordered that on their own. Following orders, yes, but taking the initiative whenever the opportunity arose. I'm sure that the average GI, had he had the training these guys had, would have made the same choices. They just didn't have that advanced training. Guess you could say it boils down to the training that each individual country gave to their grunts. Treat them like unwashed, illiterate masses, and they will perform the same. Train them well and encourage independent thought processes, and while you're not going to get an entire army of supermen, you'll find an amazing number of very intelligent individuals floating to the top.
     
  8. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Totally agree, Rabid. Well said mate!
    Terry.
     
  9. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    Airframes you're completely wrong. You only need to read how German soldiers were trained preparing for the Blitzkrieg.

    If you read the German training and doctrine manuals you'll realize that German training emphasized initiative and improvisation on the battlefield. German soldiers were taught to make quick decisions in combat and improvise when necessary. This emphazis on independent thinking decision making is one of the prime reasons for the success of the Blitzkrieg and the effectiveness of he German soldier throughout the war.

    A little something to read:
    German Soldiers

    And the SAS were far from the only spec ops units out there, the more intensively trained Brandenbrug Regiment probably the first 'true' specops unit in that the men were trained by the FallschirmJägers, GebirgsJägers,,Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, Panzerwaffe, Panzergrenadiers, Abwehr Kriegsmarine.
     
  10. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    Soren is right on German soldiers, they were trained use their own initiative. Of course within limits of ordered tasks.

    But IMHO Finns were allowed, or used, even more their own initiative, in good and in bad.

    Juha
     
  11. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    I agree with both of you, Soren and Juha. But, my response was to Lucky's original question, and was aimed at the NORM among all armies of WW2. Yes, soldiers, in particular in some units more than others, were trained to act on initiative, and to sieze opportunities. However, the overall command structure was still predominant. My mention of the (original) S.A.S. was as an illustration of the BRITISH army at the time, three years into the war; Stirling's ideas, and methods, reinforced and expanded by the core group he assembled, were AT THE TIME, totally unique to the 'standard' procedures of the BRITISH forces, who, in general, were still entrenched in outmoded ways.
    I am fully aware of the qualities of the German armed forces at the time, and of the individual in particular, and would point out that the methods employed by the German forces during WW2, especially the period(s) of 'Blitzkreig', are included in the instruction at various levels of today's British forces. Afterall, it can be said that the German forces at that time totally 'redesigned' the rule book as far as 'modern' warfare goes. Until then, the idea of total and flexible cooperation between elements in the field had not been properly implemented, and the use of air power, for example, in support of ground operations, was born in 1939-40, courtesy of the German armed forces. But, to confirm, my initial response was to Lucky's question about combatants allowing freedom etc., to which my immediate answer was "..as in Nations, I know not." Therefore, as far as my initial response is concerned, I would argue that I am not "completely wrong".
    Not having been around during WW2, I can not comment with authority on what might have ACTUALLY happened as regards the intended structure of orders within a chain of command in the British army, but, as a former member of Britains S.F., (in more modern times!) I DO know that the lessons learned, from ALL sides in that conflict, have been noted and absorbed, and have, in the British army as in others, where appropriate, been written in to 'the book'.
    I trust this clarifies any misunderstanding you might have regarding my response to Lucky's original question.
    Regards, Terry.
     
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