Michael McBride

Brits “selling” their stories

POW by John Hubbell (testament to POW as a classic…first edition $150)

Much of military life cannot be completely comprehended by those who have not shared the experience. This is not to say that the general populace cannot respect the efforts or accomplishments of the military, but they might not comprehend that the physicality of the beach landing at Normandy, demanded the equivalent of a couple of marathons…and it continued into the night, the next day, and on, and on.

Certainly civilians appreciated the success achieved in Normandy, but they may not really appreciate the enormity of the personal effort that made it the military victory it was.

And such it is with many aspects of military life.

How is it possible to trade nearly all of one's privacy for the communal living conditions found in the field, and under nearly all combat scenarios? How is it possible to submit to a system that demands obedience and discipline, and still retain your ego and sense of self? How is it possible to do heroic things in the face of overwhelming odds, when the natural human response can be the polar opposite?

Much of military life seems incongruous to the outsider. I was struck my freshman year of NROTC by the idea that the mission of the Marine rifle squad was "to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or repel the enemy's assault by fire and close combat." It seemed a bit insane to me that we would actually try to find the enemy, because if we actually found him, the odds of getting killed would go up exponentially…seemed better to stay away from the enemy…easier to stay alive.

Unless the enemy was trying to "locate, close with, and destroy" you and your unit, in which case his offensive initiative, may result in your still getting killed… likely in a way far more devastating than forcing the enemy to respond to your initiative and offensive operations. Over time military strategists have come to appreciate that gaining and maintaining contact with the enemy is an effective way to hold the initiative, even if it results in casualties, because being surprised or ambushed is far deadlier.


Michael McBride

Michael E. McBride retired as a Major from the Marine Corps and blogs at http://www.mysandmen.blogspot.com.

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