Academic journal article Military Review

The School of Hard Knocks: Combat Leadership in the American Expeditionary Forces

Academic journal article Military Review

The School of Hard Knocks: Combat Leadership in the American Expeditionary Forces

Article excerpt

THE SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS: Combat Leadership in the American Expeditionary Forces

Richard S. Faulkner, Texas A&M University Press, College Station, 2012, 392 pages, $65.00

RICHARD S. FAULKNER has rightly named his book The School of Hard Knocks. The combat leadership in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) did in fact learn the lessons of war the hard way, often at the expense of soldiers' lives. Our history, leadership, and tactics books conveniently ignored the faults of the AEF's combat leadership for years. After all, the war, a short one, at that, was won in part because of America's involvement.

Some recent books on AEF leadership failures, such as Robert Ferrell's 2004 Collapse at Meuse-Argonne: The Failure of the Missouri-Kansas Division, are about specific units, as if they were an anomaly, but Faulkner exposes how widespread the unpreparedness of our combat leadership actually was. There were indeed many hard lessons learned in World War I, as NCO and commissioned officer selection and training set the conditions for leadership challenges on the battlefield.

Faulkner guides the reader from officer training just before the war, during the vast buildup, and in France, where the hard knocks would fall. He also addresses the junior officer "ninety-day wonders" and ad-hoc methods of selecting NCOs, or "jumped-up sergeants. …

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