In any specific action we always have the choice between the most audacious and the most careful solution. Some people think that the theory of war always advises the latter. That assumption is false. If the theory does advise anything, it is the nature of war to advise the most decisive, that is, the most audacious. Theory leaves it to the military leader, however, to act according to his own courage, according to the spirit of the enterprise and his self-confidence. Make your choice, therefore, according to this inner force; but never forget that no military leader has ever become great without audacity.
—CARL VON CLAUSEWITZ,
Die Grundsätze des Kriegführens
(PRINCIPLES OF WAR), 1812
Classification of officers
I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent — their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy — they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent — he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.
Chief of the Army High Command, Hammerstein-Equord.
And on the Prussian topic, remember that the Germany military was – by tradition – apolitical: simply the sword and shield of the state. And I think we all know how conservative and traditional Prussians are. They simply weren’t philosophers (as Liddell-Hart put it), and were unable to deal emotionally and intellectually with someone like Uncle Adolph. It made them better soldiers, perhaps, but lesser human beings. Maybe that’s the difference between being reared in a democracy vs. an autocracy: subservience of conscience to the state vs. subservience of the state to conscience.
During training exercises, the lieutenant driving down a muddy back road encountered another car stuck in the mud with a red faced colonel at the wheel.
“Your jeep stuck, sir?” asked the lieutenant as he pulled alongside.
“Nope,” replied the colonel, coming over and handing him the keys, “Yours is.”
By the time a Marine pulled into a little town, every hotel room was taken. “You’ve got to have a room somewhere,” he pleaded. “Or just a bed, I don’t care where.”
“Well, I do have a double room with one occupant – an Air Force guy,” admitted the manager, “and he might be glad to split the cost. But to tell you the truth, he snores so loudly that people in adjoining rooms have complained in the past. I’m not sure it’d be worth it to you.” “No problem,” the tired Marine assured him. “I’ll take it.” The next morning the Marine came down to breakfast bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
“How’d you sleep?” asked the manager. “Never better.” The manager was impressed. “No problem with the other guy snoring, then?”
“Nope, I shut him up in no time” said the Marine. “How’d you manage that?” asked the manager. “He was already in bed, snoring away, when I came in the room,” the Marine explained. “I went over, gave him a kiss on the cheek, said, ‘Goodnight, beautiful,’ and he sat up all night watching me.”
Improvise, Adapt and Overcome
Though no comparison should be made of the deaths or injuries that have resulted from such *accidental* negligent handgun discharges should be attempted, a record expense for material damage to government property not involving human injury was recorded a few years before the adoption of the 9 millimeter Beretta M9 pistol by a bored guard with an M1911A1 .45 automatic pistol. At a remote airfield in Greenland, the aircraft and hangers of one USAF Weather Reconnaissance Squadron were under guard as top-secret gear, since those planes would overfly the remains of areas targeted following nuclear exchanges in the event of global conflict.
Accordingly, one indoor maintenance hanger guard was left to entertain himself over a repeating four-hour shift with no other entertainment that his .45, the reading of books and magazines while on the duty having been forbidden as “distracting” and punished with Article 15 proceedings. So the lonely guard instead equipped himself with an extra magazine of dummy ammunition and practiced his fast-draw techniques from the GI holster (it can be done pretty fast, with enough practice.) Eventually, it happened.
The gun was pulled in a blur, the hammer dropped and a live round in the chamber fired. The good news was: no one was hurt. That was not the only news. After clearing his pistol, the shaken guard began to wonder where the slug had gone. After a short search, he found a neat half-inch diameter hole in one of the hanger’s twin doors. Glancing outside, he noted that on the exit side the sheet metal had peeled back like a banana peel, and with a little work, some putty and paint, it was possible that no one would ever know.
He found an unlocked toolbox with a hammer and neatly rearranged the exit hole into its earlier configuration. Some caulking and gray paint took care of the rest, and a “NO SMOKING” sign on the inside of the door, moved just a few inches, covered the trail of the .45 slug even better.
But during his work on the exterior side, he had noticed a plane parked outside the hanger that hadn’t been there before. Though there was no crew around to have heard the shot, there was an airfield tow tractor hooked to the plane, and it might be that a deal would have to be made with some sympathetic ramp-rat.
He threw on his parka and went outside, to find an enormous radar/electronics pod under the wing facing the hanger. Fearing the worse, he checked the multimillion dollar accessory for a bullet hole, but thankfully it was clean. He checked for the tow operator, but the driver had wisely and thankfully fled for the comfort of a warm barracks or mess hall. As the relieved guard started back for the hanger he happened to glance at the big pod, now nearly touching the ground as the air leaked out of the port side landing gear’s tires, and he finally figured out where his .45 slug went.
They took the pistols away from the guards after that, whereupon they were armed with nightsticks made from cutdown G.I. broomsticks or the old wooden entrenching tool handles. One day one of the planes came back from a lengthy mission, and the maintenance chief ramrodding the unit asked the crew how bad the weather had been for their flight. Bewildered they reported it had been completely uneventful, and wondered why he’d asked….
He took them to the leading edge of the wing of their plane, and pointed out multiple inch-deep dents along the aluminum surface. The group continued to try to figure out the cause, when one of the guards wandered past, tapping his idiot stick on a parked fuel tanker to the tune of *In a godda-da-vida….*
Upon checking, the maintenance boss found that that particular club didn’t fit the several-dozen dings in the wing, and the erstwhile percussionist was never caught. But they of course then took the sticks away as well. I have no idea what martial weapon was then used to guard the secret aircraft and their more-secret gear, but suspect toothbrushes.
Poor is the country that has no heroes, but beggared is
that people who, having them, forgets…