In a slim book first published in 1947, Army Historian Brig. Gen. S.L.A. Marshall urged military leaders to use more training resources to teach individual soldiers and Marines to engage the enemy. The book was called Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command in Future Wars. In it, Marshall claimed that his interviews with combat troops in World War II showed that only 15 to 25 percent ever used their weapons in a fight. Republished several times, the book became controversial over the accuracy of the interviews and the numbers of troops questioned. It did, however, help spur military interest in creating different training methods.
Marshall (1900-1977) would jokingly be known as “SLAM” Marshall after later success and fame with such books as Pork Chop Hill, The River and the Gauntlet, Battle at Best, and Night Drop, among others. He was the official U.S. Army historian in Korea and an author whose books—which include Vietnam action—provide an intimate, engaging portrait of small-unit combat. Marshall’s works show, quite effectively, how and why many troops feel ineffective, cut off and powerless once a firefight begins.
Fast forward to 1987, the year Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece Full Metal Jacket hit the screens with R. Lee Ermey (our “Gunny”) as the film’s centerpiece in the character Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. The film depicts U.S. Marine training and combat with more realism than had ever been seen on film. But as the scenes in the film unfold, something far more than training brutality surfaces as the film’s driving force. Sergeant Hartman tells the men, “The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle.” Toward the end of the film, in Vietnam, the wisdom of this message is driven home savagely, and in reverse, when an entire Marine unit is stopped cold by a single enemy soldier with a rifle. Whatever book you read or battle you study, the lessons of history are quite clear: Doing your job in the thick of the fight will make a difference. Keeping your head down and waiting for others to stop the threat may not be a good idea. The power of one is infinite, especially on the battlefield. While it may be sometimes hard to imagine that you alone—one individual among many—may be the critical asset to your unit. Remembering those who have gone before should help sweep away any doubt.
Least you think you have to go back to Omaha Beach, Pork Chop Hill, or Khe Sanh to find individual rifleman fighting their way through a tough spot, consider this issue’s book review account of the house-to-house fighting of U.S. Army grunts in the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq. We also have a full feature on what Gunsite is calling their most intensive course, “Urban Combat, the New Face of War.”
With respect to individual skills, this issue is packed with training emphasis on critical subjects—such as using an AK-47 as an emergency pickup, and advanced first aid to stop serious bleeding.
Unit readiness features include guarding our borders with Mexico; attacking buses with hostages; new suburban police and S.W.A.T. techniques; and the latest VIP protection tactics. Another feature show why things are never dull with “Off-Road Motocops,” growling and going with Kawasaki KLR 250 motorcycles. Georgia State Troopers have gone to using Benelli Novas, Glocks and Tasers, and we show how and why they’re using this firepower.
As usual, new guns and gear are prominent in our pages. Featured are the latest on “Dead Silent” suppressors; a possible Humvee replacement, the awesome battle-ready JLTV; the compact sniper “bullpup” from Desert Tactical Arms; and several others.
The guns and gear are all great stuff, needing only one thing: Strong men and women ready to use them!
In a slim book first published in 1947, Army Historian Brig. Gen. S.L.A. Marshall…
by Bob Pilgrim / Jul 1, 2008