Leaders who showed cowardice? -1 reply

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jumjum

Write heavy; write hard.

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11th April 2005

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#1 10 years ago

The story about the airline pilot who safely brought his passenger down in the Hudson River, got all passengers out, and walked up and down the aisles to make sure no passengers were left, got me thinking. He will become famous and will be recognized and rewarded for his courage and leadership, as he should be. But it got me thinking about those wartime situations in which commanders don't show courage.

We're seldom told much about those officers or non-coms who let their men down, sometimes acting in cowardly fashion. I know I've read memoirs and the authors usually discuss such events without identifying the leader who let them down. Such as "the lieutenant hid in his foxhole", or "the colonel was relieved". (I was very surprised that in Band of Brothers Lt. Norman Dike, a real officer in E Company, was identified by name.)

I understand why these leaders who failed to be brave aren't often named: male society in particular holds physical cowardice in such disdain that the veterans who tell these tales usually give their poor commanders a break and don't name them, figuring they suffered enough. But I'd like to know more about how these things were handled.

In the RAF for example, flying officers who showed cowardice were dealt with extremely harshly - officially declared "LMF", the dreaded designation for "lack of moral fiber", another way of saying they had been cowards. The LMF officers were stripped of rank and sent to serve as an enlisted man, usually in the RAF. It was a little different in the USAAF, where some higher commanders were a little more understanding about combat fatigue, and often pilots who had shown the white feather after having performed well were given rest or hospitalization, even transfers without noting any kind of cowardice on the man's record. But in those situations where a man showed unquestionable cowardice he was dealt with much like in the RAF.

Is anyone familiar with real stories of moral failure of officers or even non-coms in battle, or how the Army or Marines in particular handled such cases? I'd like to know what happened in the future to such men, whether their poor performance followed them, or if it otherwise ruined their lives. Perhaps too morbid to contemplate, but I'm curious. I'm talking about leaders who failed in the face of the enemy, not some guys at HQ who had stress-related breakdowns from working 18 hour days for weeks on end (which happened). I'm not talking about men who felt or even showed fear because they all did - or should have. I mean the ones who shamed themselves and ran away, or let someone else do their job and take the risk because they couldn't stand to expose themselves to danger, that kind of thing.




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#2 10 years ago

Brig. Gen. James Ledlie, of the Union army in the American Civil War.

Instead of leading his troops during the Battle of the Crater in 1864, he stayed in an underground bunker drinking heavily. His men were at the same time being slaughtered and faltering under a lack of direction and leadership.

It's also less well known that a year and a half earlier, while commanding artillery he shelled his own men at a skirmish at Whitehall, North Carolina, causing many casualties through sheer incompetence.

After the battle, he was the target of a Court of Inquiry. General Meade relieved him of his command. He resigned from the military a month later and went into the railroad business.




Lobo

All your base are belong to FH

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27th April 2003

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#3 10 years ago

The real truth?, ww2 (and every war) was fought (in the full sense of the word), by a 10% of the men on the battlefield, the other 90 % were trying to hide in an hole and look like they were fighting. I don't blame them, none of us know what it means really, the fear, the lost of the faith, the horror...




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#4 10 years ago
Lobo;4772142The real truth?, ww2 (and every war) was fought (in the full sense of the word), by a 10% of the men on the battlefield, the other 90 % were trying to hide in an hole and look like they were fighting. I don't blame them, none of us know what it means really, the fear, the lost of the faith, the horror...

You have anything to back that up with?




Lobo

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27th April 2003

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#5 10 years ago

Armageddon, The battle for Germany, 1944-1945, by Max Hastings. Read it, a nice book




Moose12

I am also [130.Pz]Gef.Elche Pz

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6th December 2005

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#6 10 years ago

Most people who show cowardice as you put it, or rather reluctance, fade into oblivion, they are transferred to low combat situations and poor posts, they just dissapear.




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#7 10 years ago
Lobo;4772142The real truth?, ww2 (and every war) was fought (in the full sense of the word), by a 10% of the men on the battlefield, the other 90 % were trying to hide in an hole and look like they were fighting. I don't blame them, none of us know what it means really, the fear, the lost of the faith, the horror...

In Cannae, by Adrian Goldsworthy, he mentions how the roman legionares generally preferred to stay in the middle of their ranks, only moving forward to chase routers, or replace men, while the suicidally brave men in front go torn down and the those in the back just tried to stay unoticed.




[130.Pz]W.Fuchs

Requiescat in Pace

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20th March 2008

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#8 10 years ago

Well Patton said it right I guess. Twice actually. 'No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.' 'If we take the generally accepted definition of bravery as a quality which knows no fear, I have never seen a brave man. All men are frightened. The more intelligent they are, the more they are frightened.'




[130pz.]Kading

I take what n0e says way too seriously

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9th April 2005

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#9 10 years ago

jumjum, with all due respect, who are you to talk of cowardice on the battlefield? i know you are old, but i doubt you were in it for a real war. so all you know of this subject are books and tv shows. unless i am leaving out a secret tour in Nam?




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#10 10 years ago
Lobo;4772142The real truth?, ww2 (and every war) was fought (in the full sense of the word), by a 10% of the men on the battlefield, the other 90 % were trying to hide in an hole and look like they were fighting. I don't blame them, none of us know what it means really, the fear, the lost of the faith, the horror...

A Myth of Military History | Newsweek National News | Newsweek.com

Over the years hundreds of journalists have quoted Marshall's famous study—including me, in the pages of NEWSWEEK. But last month a reader sent me a copy of a March 1989 article from American Heritage magazine that set me straight. In fact, there is no real evidence that so few soldiers open fire, writes Frederick Smoler in "The Secret of the Soldiers Who Don't Shoot." "It just may be," concludes Smoler, "that Samuel Lyman Marshall made the whole thing up." Smoler reports on the digging of Harold P. (Bud) Leinbaugh, an Army infantryman who saw a lot of combat in Europe during the war, and a military historian named Roger Spiller. Both men were skeptical about Marshall's claim, and they decided to look into his research. They discovered that among the soldiers Marshall interviewed at Makin Island, a battle in the Pacific, there was a tendency to fire too much, not too little—to blaze away for no good reason. Marshall seems to have just invented his interviews in the European theater. Why would Marshall make up such a thing? Marshall was "by professional upbringing and temperament a journalist above all," wrote Spiller. Like many journalists then (and now), he was in love with the heroic ideal, that one man among many might stand up to carry the day. "Marshall may have come to war wanting it to be the place where single heroes counted," says Leinbaugh. Marshall himself apparently loved to play soldier, and he wanted to demonstrate that he knew more about combat than anyone else. His books seemed so detailed and persuasive, and he appeared to have interviewed so many soldiers, that readers believed him. Why did professional historians swallow Marshall's claim? "Intellectual sloth," wrote Spiller. Marshall's theory seemed to "promise entree into the hidden world of combat." (A 1994 New York Times review of "Reconciliation Road," a memoir by Marshall's grandson John Douglas Marshall that's mostly about his grandfather's assertion, concludes, "the most that the author can show is that his grandfather had tried to quantify what should have remained conjecture …")

S.L.A. Marshall's Ratio of Fire




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