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Saving Private Ryan vs. The Longest Day vs...
DutchBird
#068
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Zuid-Holland, Netherlands
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Posted: Thursday, June 03, 2010 - 09:34 AM UTC

Quoted Text

My opinion is based in Vietnam and post Vietnam service. The vast majoruty of ur officers were military managers not combat leaders and we got the job done in spite of them. They were slaves to "THE BOOK" and totally lacked the ability to think outside the box.



This is rather ironic, because what has come to be recognised as perhaps the major problem of American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is their inability if not unwillingness to think outside the box (at least until the arrival of Petraeus). The few officers who did, did so in direct violation of their orders (this last one was stated by a senior commander with the American airborne troops in Northern Iraq, the first one who was able to reduce the violence there).

Even more so, from what I have come across, this is an opinion shared by many from across the world, at least from the 1990's onwards (I have seen/heared Dutch, Swedes, Danes, Brits, Australians voice that opinion - also when comparing the US to other forces they had to work with). Generally they considered US troops to be among the most inflexible they encountered. I have known a US intelligence officer (who worked both at high (abstract) desk level as well as operating on the frontlines in the field) who rated most of the northwestern European NATO armies higher than the Americans, measured pound by pound.

Likewise telling perhaps, is the attitude of the Dutch in Iraq and the British, Canadians and Dutch in Afghanistan concerning the role of American troops - where to a considerable degree the American troops are seen as part of the problem, not the solution. There have been major internal debates (to put it mildly) within NATO command about the conditions under which these three nations would allow Americans to operate within the territories under their command. All three nations not surprisingly with a completely different doctrine and tactics concerning how to deal with the Taliban.


WW II actually suggest something similar. Not only was there the harsh lesson of Kasserine (where British warnings about German capabilities and tactics were ignored), similar problems again emerged in later in Italy.


And frankly I have a serious issue with your statement which makes me doubt this:

The basis for German (small-)unit tactics was the so called 'Auftragstaktik.' This led to two factors: one was that German soldiers were trained to think and act to a level one or two ranks above the level they were serving in. Second, was that the book was largely thrown out of the window - the whole concept of 'Auftragstaktik' was based on lower ranking officers and men (even privates) operating on their own initiative in order to achieve a wider pre-formulated goal.

Considering its major successes, I find it highly unlikely that this would have been abandoned after the war.

Also, you should not take the word of Australians or New Zealanders too literal, as they seem to have been amongst the most 'loose' troops there are.


In general you seem to be confusing stratification and to some extent sticking to procedures (in peace time) with an inability to listen to the lower ranks, inhibiting initiative and the like. If that were so, how then could rather disparate armies like the UK army, German army, Canadian army and the Dutch army operate together so easily - and it seems much easier than with the American army. For that matter, the enormous successes of the German army already invalidate the direct link between increasing stratification and decreasing capabilities of initiative and flexibility.



casailor
Joined: June 22, 2007
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Posted: Thursday, June 03, 2010 - 04:59 PM UTC
When it comes to officers, the US Army hasn't had what I would call leaders for a long time. That is why I used the term "military managers". Officers are expected to punch all the spaces on their dance cards instead of being leaders in one unit. The fact that one OER saying that an officer doesn't walk on water can ruin his entire career makes US officers very risk-averse. The German army in WWII did very well and junior enlisted often performed duties far above their pay grade, but the officer's corp was very stratified. From what I've heard, if you didn't come from a proper junker background you werent even considered for officer's training. With that mindset you can never have enoough officers.

I'm not defending the US military, in fact I think it often succeeds in spite of itself. I can't speak to operations in Afganistan, but the political correctness permeating American society can't help our battlefield performance. From what I've heard, the current rules of engagement are a joke.
calvin_ng
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Posted: Thursday, June 03, 2010 - 05:05 PM UTC
Harm not ALL American Units are "unflexible" or "unable to get anywhere without there officers present". Coming from what you said, you seem to have little respect for the U.S and its Armed forces. Again part of the problem? We've had our fair share of fights for the time being. I really find it insulting, as I know most American troops do not act like this. Especially when some were just awarded the Gold Cross medals for rescuing injured German troops. How unflexible is that?
DutchBird
#068
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Zuid-Holland, Netherlands
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Posted: Thursday, June 03, 2010 - 06:16 PM UTC
Calvin,

you felt insulted - let's say that some of us felt the same when reading casailor's comments.

Of course I realise not all US troops are the same. There is a difference between units, and their flexibility, although from what I have come across, difficult to generalize - most of the times there is a correlation between 'elite' and non 'elite', but not always. But put it this way, even some of the US Special Forces in Afghanistan had a hard time to adjusting to the Dutch way of doing things in Uruzgan, even though it has proven to be among the most effective (the Dutch/UK/Canadian ways are quite similar, and have now been adopted by the US).

I definitely respect the individual US soldier and do believe that the vast majority try to do their best and make the most of it as much as their abilitues allow. I also believe that most will risk their life to help out their fellow soldiers, regardless of country of origin.

I have less respect for the US Army in general. They are not by definition the best, as is often assumed. Yes, they are the most powerful at the moment, but that has as much to do if not more with quantity than quality. If you want (blind) firepower, the US is among the best. If you want anything else, the US is suddenly not so good. Most of those who I saw comment about working alongside American troops considered most American troops a mixed bag - as one said: 'it is very nice to have their fire support, as long as you always have eyes in your back as well.'

These issues are at least in part the logical consequence of the size of the US armed forces itself. Another part is the American cultural background (which also leads to some good aspects, like the 'we can do mentality' which is also needed).

The problem as I see them comes from the top, which permeates down into training, and is in part cultural (which you can do little about other than training, training and training), due to geography. For one, the US lacks exposure/interaction with other cultures, something which for instance the European countries are exposed to, where one has to interact with others on a coparatively daily basis. Such interactions seems some extent able to limit some of the problems. If you get constantly told you are the best and the American way is the best (something that is much more prevalent in American society than in most others) it is impossible to avoid this affecting your actions and behaviour in the field. The stereotype of the American soldier as a cowboy has some basis in reality, unfortunately. There is a problem in training, I think, considering among others the relatively high number of friendly fire incidents or erroneous bombings involving Americans on the shooting side. The Amercian army is a good cold war army, but was (and to some extent arguably still is) still quite ineffective/bad fighting the type of conflict as they encountered in Afghanistan and Iraq. And before the arrival of Petraeus, it was largely up to the individual commanders to change what was obviously not working, and relatively few did. And those who did had to go to their British and Dutch colleagues in Iraq, or British, Canadian, Dutch and Germans in Afghanistan for advice (and use their private Amazon creditcard).

It is one of the reasons why, when they took over Kandahar province, Helmand and Uruzgan the Canadians, British and Dutch demanded that only they could give permission for troops (including aircraft) to operate in these provinces.

grom
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England - North West, United Kingdom
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Posted: Thursday, June 03, 2010 - 10:44 PM UTC
Thank you for your support Harm,I myself am not anti US but some of casailors remarks have a way of putting European Forces down which I found quite annoying, at the end of the day we are all allies.I did'nt want to get into the same game as casailor by pointing out the many failures of the US as I've previously stated all nations have made mistakes and no doubt will in the future, and everyone believes their forces are the best but not at the cost to someone else.
casailor
Joined: June 22, 2007
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Posted: Friday, June 04, 2010 - 04:01 AM UTC
Hey everyone, I wasn't trying to put anyone down. I was just expressing my opinion based on my personal, if somewhat dated, experience. I've never said American leaders were the best, since it is a fact that they usually aren't. Americans are somewhat arrogant by nature, we have been successful and often view the countries that provided the contents of our "mixing bowl" population as staid, somewhat backwards countries. We are taught that the immigrants that came to the US lessened their home countries (have you heard of the complaints in the sixties about the "brain drain"?) The Kiwis and the Aussies have similar views. In my view the rigid operational rules followed by US forces in Afganistan are the direct result of the Zero fault policy of our Army where one OER that is not fantastic can ruin a entire career. Before you condemn our Army entirely, remember Desert Storm which was totally planned using American doctrine. I always thought that inserting conventional forces into Afganistan was foolish, our doctrine was not focused on that type of fighting. I always thought we should have supported the Northern Alliance with supplies and Spec Ops personnel and let the Afgani people fight their own war. What we do well we do very well. what we do poorly we do very poorly. We've always believed that in war Stuff happens, and blue on blue casualties happen. We even had a saying in my day "friendly fire isn't" to reflect that belief.
Splinty2001
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Michigan, United States
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Posted: Friday, June 04, 2010 - 04:26 AM UTC
As a retired U.S. Army NCO, and a 3 tour Iraq vet, I think alot of you are placing way too much emphasis on our officer corps and almost none on the best part of the Army, the NCO Corps.Both Afghanistan and Iraq are considered Squad Leaders wars and as such often don't get alot of direct involvment from officers above the rank of Captain. Also don't give alot of creedence to what you read or hear from the press, most of it is at best a pale shadow of the way things really are in both conflicts. As a Staff Sergeant in Iraq I spent 90% of my time outside the wire doing civil affairs type missions, like training Iraqi Police and meeting with the people who lived in my Area of Responsibilty, not blowing things up or killing anything that moved. The US has been given a very bad and IMHO almost completely false reputation in that area.
ptruhe
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Texas, United States
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Posted: Friday, June 04, 2010 - 04:41 AM UTC
Let's get this back on topic.

1. Some war movies covering WWII produced by American studios for American audiences have a tendency to gloss over the contribution played by British and other Allied troops.
2. Same goes for books by American authors for American audiences.
3. Anybody with a half a brain and a decent knowledge of WWII history appreciates the British holding their own and hosting our troops in preparation for D-Day. If Britain had fallen then D-Day might never have happened.

Paul

casailor
Joined: June 22, 2007
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Posted: Friday, June 04, 2010 - 06:20 AM UTC
I agree fully.
DutchBird
#068
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Zuid-Holland, Netherlands
Joined: April 09, 2003
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Posted: Friday, June 04, 2010 - 07:03 AM UTC
Peace called then

And I fully agree with ptruhe.

And as far as a consequence of points 1 and 2 he raises, that is largely what determines what movies are made or what gets published (or largely determines what is produced in plastic, for that matter).

The unfortunate risk is that eventually those falling under categorie 3 are no longer served, and eventually even might disappear.

Cheers,

Harm
calvin_ng
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United States
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Posted: Friday, June 04, 2010 - 09:20 AM UTC
Allow me to apologize then if I sounded a little childish . Believe me, other Americans and I would never put other countries down. But Harm you gotta admit, the U.S is one of the most culturally diverse places in the world, so your right, each Unit might vary.
grom
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England - North West, United Kingdom
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Posted: Saturday, June 05, 2010 - 10:13 PM UTC
All quiet on the North American European front, good it just shows how some ill chosen remarks can spark bad feeling,I think it can be safely said modelling and politics of any sort dont mix.
youngc
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Western Australia, Australia
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Posted: Sunday, June 06, 2010 - 04:36 PM UTC

Quoted Text

All quiet on the North American European front, good it just shows how some ill chosen remarks can spark bad feeling,I think it can be safely said modelling and politics of any sort dont mix.



They certainly don't, and since this discussion borders on current events, shouldn't really be spoken of here anyway.

But, I'm very happy with the respectful undertone and thought put into each "side's" argument, and it has made very interesting reading. Usually things get ugly a lot sooner, but you guys are clearly not the immature type who usually cause locked topics.

Regards,
Chas