Academic journal article Military Review

COMMAND CULTURE: Officer Education in the U.S. Army and the German Armed Forces, 1901- 1940, and the Consequences for World War II

Academic journal article Military Review

COMMAND CULTURE: Officer Education in the U.S. Army and the German Armed Forces, 1901- 1940, and the Consequences for World War II

Article excerpt

COMMAND CULTURE: Officer Education in the U.S. Army and the German Armed Forces, 1901- 1940, and the Consequences for World War II, Jörg Muth, University of North Texas Press, Denton, 2011, 366 pages, $29.95.

At a recent scholarly conference, a number of prominent military historians confessed to being "recovering Wehrmacht-oholics." That is, they were working to get over an unhealthy fascination with the armed forces of the Third Reich. In his new book Command Culture, Jörg Muth argues that, starting in the 19th century, the U.S. Army has been obsessed with the German military. However, while recognizing that professional military education was a key element of German battlefield performance, the U.S. Army could never replicate the best German practices in its own institutions. This, Muth believes, was especially true in the years prior to World War II. The dysfunction began at West Point, with its backward curriculum and sadistic plebe system yielding rigid conformists unable to think creatively on the battlefield. Worse, the interwar Command and General StaffCollege at Fort Leavenworth possessed a mediocre faculty that stressed the "school solution" over independent and creative thought.

The only exception to this dismal picture was George C. Marshall's Infantry School (where the curriculum was shaped by a German liaison officer). In Muth's view, the result of the U.S. Army's dreadful education system was a timid and lackluster performance by U.S. Army commanders in World War II.

Muth makes important points, but his argument has the effect of a sawed-offshotgun fired at close range: it achieves considerable target effect but it also inflicts significant collateral damage. …

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