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Re: WANNABE HUNTERS
What are you working on now? I'm pasting on some readings that I am working
on with Mike Lynch. Some will interest you. Do see the last comment on an
old French friend, distressing the world by his candor on the tortures for
which he was responsible in Algeria.
The past several weeks have been fascinating. Several books have given me a
broader outlook on the world in which I've lived these 75 years, and some
insights I want to share. The most recent one I've finished is an anthology
by Don Vandegriff and a number of other competent young thinkers on defense
matters. It is titled Spirit, Blood, and Treasure. Its focus is on
personnel matters, one of my own long term concerns as some of you know from
my appreciation of the message from Stouffer, "Assigning a stupid man to the
infantry is tantamount to condemning him to death." We have not yet faced
this grievous, enduring problem.
One of Vandegriff's contributors, Chuck Spinney, wrote the book's remarkable
last chapter that describes a fault that deserves much more attention than it
has gotten in the past. I refer to the inability of the Pentagon's managers
to account each year for more billions of the dollars they are furnished.
This complements the other personnel faults cited in this work. Mike Lynch
has my copy of the book now. I will supplement my own cri de coeur with his
hand written comments from each page when it is returned.
All of you were in my mind when I finished a new book, A War of Nerves,
Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century, by Ben Shephard. It got
into my consciousness initially because of a brief note about it in the
review section of the NYT's on June 3. It spoke of the historical
relationship between soldiers and the psychiatrists that treat them, the
total focus of this historical work. Some of us are old enough to recall
hearing from old veterans about the "shell shock" of WW-One from persons
exposed to it. A number of us have ourselves been exposed to later versions
of this disabling phenomenon. Fortunately, we've missed one feature Shephard
discusses, the use of poison gases and their horrible impact on men in the
This history of the psychic effects of combat on some soldiers was not my
first academic exposure to such data. It inspired me to consolidate some of
my prejudices and send them to the author and a couple of the people he
cites. My personal acquaintance with the disability combat visited on me and
a number of people with whom I've served has convinced me part of the history
of "Love" Company, 21st Infantry should be reviewed by those concerned with,
and responsible for our military's future. This theme is relatively simple:
The psychic disabilities imposed on individuals in "Love" Company by
the combat it endured for the first eight months of our service in Korea did
not disable them during this time, nor after their military service. The
cohesion imposed on us by the character and capabilities of our NCOs and
officers went far beyond its utility in Korea itself. Our ability to become
and remain a first class fighting command has critical lessons for today's
We learned how to be together as a solid element. Our faith in one
another was earned, imitated by newcomers, and never wavered. We loved one
another. All of this allowed us to avoid the disabilities that afflicted
other individuals and units, including many of those from our own regiment.
Shephard's very relevant history examines British and American units exposed
to the disabling psychic impact of combat. He has gone much further
analyzing the effect of war on combatant's nerves than my own narrow
experience in a Korean era rifle company. He provoked my memory's return to
that distressing era. My/our experience provides another sort of solution to
this problem (prevention of it, actually) besides the provision of
psychiatrists to treat affected soldiers.
The handful of stand-out NCOs who came intermittently with our sporadically
assigned replacements after our catastrophic first battle (39 KIA, 54 POW, 5
MIA, 4 WIA, 17 present for duty), made an incredible difference to what we
became, as opposed to some other units. These NCOs were met by the only
surviving SGT of our first fight, Hugh Brown, himself in the Company only
four (?) days before we paid dearly to fulfill a "hold at all costs" order
designed to buy more time for the defense General MacArthur had in mind. The
only assigned officer to survive this first fight (me!) had been gone from
the unit nine days to help load out Task Force Smith, fight its first battle
with them, and then spend three cautious days walking back to "Love" Company,
my real home. This background is to insist on the dimension of the recovery
of our company and the difference that surviving sergeant made.
I underline "sergeant" because our regimental surgeon's treatment for the
TFS' fight (medicinal alcohol, band-aids, and a night on a medic's stretcher)
did not seem adequate for him to repeat after the second fight, and he sent
me back to Japan. Brown kept our remnants (17 men, including him) together
and functioning. My unauthorized return eight (?) days later set a pattern
followed by many of us thereafter. Stealing a jeep by our stand-out sergeant
twice from the medics and coming home ("Love"Company) as soon as his wounds
stopped bleeding made this the correct behavior for everyone. His last two
wounds on the same day in February were too severe for him to do this, but we
all knew by then what it took to "keep the faith." He had deserted "forward"
to us from the Division Headquarters in early July, a pattern that did far
more for our esprit than just keeping our personnel numbers higher. (You may
know of the late Harry Summers, who later became a serious thinker on
defense matters. He got himself down from the Division's miserable tank
outfit where he was a company clerk to join his friend, this Sergeant.)
The enclosed statement by another of our replacement officers, T.L. Epton:
"I'll swear to my dying day we were different" describes how we treated one
another. It tells what we were and how we maintained our unit, despite the
horrors we endured. My belief is that our Army needs to follow the pattern
established by that sergeant who had served in Merrill's Marauders in WWII,
so we don't have to repair disabled men with the aid of psychiatrists. We
can't do this by peopling our infantry with men from such outfits as
MacNamera's "Project 100,000." We need hear and contend with the thrust of
Stouffer's conclusions from WWII.. Our effort to get our POWs the Bronze
Star for Meritorious Service they earned and were denied by bureaucrats
thinking like clerks is underway and may succeed as did our effort with the
CIB for them.
Professor William O'Neill's American High, the Years of Confidence 1945-1960,
is another fascinating work for us would-be historians to use. His ten
chapters on this vital period make today's world far easier to understand.
They do not make living in it more comfortable.
My reaction to General Wesley Clark's account of the air war in Kosovo,
Waging Modern War, is the second enclosure. I will give you Mike Lynch's
reaction to it as soon as it is available. Douglas MacGregor's concepts for
the transformation of our Army and the rest of the Defense Department are so
clear that they should be adopted now by SECDEF Rumsfeld. My pious hope is
that this is announced tomorrow. Both men would probably be assassinated by
the weekend, but it is a cost worth paying. See Doug's Breaking the Phalanx.
A French general, Paul Aussaresses, has attracted much attention in Paris
with his candid discussion of how torture was used in their war in Algeria.
This somber tale became public a year ago when he was interviewed by Le
Monde, their principal newspaper. The book he wrote on the subject, Services
Speciaux Algerie 1955-1957, was published seven weeks ago. It has been on
their "best-sellers" list since, # 4, this week. It is expected to sell
200,000 copies at the rate it is going now. We should all read it,
particularly given our need to understand and practice "urban warfare."
Paul and I became very close while I was at the Special Warfare School at
Fort Bragg (61-63). He used to come up most months to explain why they had
lost their war in Indo-China; why we would lose ours; and why we should not
go there. The short-term intelligence success of torture, and its longer
term failure with the people we were trying to help was proven by our own
efforts in Vietnam. Not incidentally, we got the concept for what we called
the Phoenix program from him in 1962. Sadly, our senior people could not
hear his message about not going to Vietnam.