Academic journal article Military Review

Knowing and Doing

Academic journal article Military Review

Knowing and Doing

Article excerpt

DURING WORLD WAR I, Major General Hunter Liggett served as a division, corps and army commander in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). When he assumed command of the US First Army in autumn 1918, he had already served in the Army for more than 39 years. Before the war, he held a wide variety of operational assignments, including battalion and brigade command. More important, he actively and continuously studied to prepare for future war. This preparation for "the next war" served Liggett well in the severe test amid the trenches of France.

Liggett's ceaseless preparation allowed him to break free of the stereotypical, unimaginative generalship that too often characterized World War I commanders. His study and reflection of nearly four decades allowed him to rise above his personal assignments and develop practical solutions to modern war's complexities. This was nowhere more apparent than in Liggett's establishment of a modern effective command environment. His personal preparation also reflected itself in the great care he took in preparing his units for operations. Throughout his career, Liggett's leadership remained firmly balanced upon the twin pillars of taking care of soldiers and his own admirable character. Early Career After graduating from the US Military Academy in 1879, Lieutenant Liggett joined the Fifth Infantry on the Montana frontier. For most of the next two decades, he served with the same regiment in the West. Despite his long frontier service, Liggett was never involved in any major Indian campaigns, although he did earn the Indian Campaign Badge. In one small skirmish, Liggett's regimental commander commended his leadership. In 1892, Liggett left the West with his regiment when it was posted to Florida. 1

Historian Edward M. Coffman noted that early 20th-century US Army officers prepared for war through operational experience, institutional schooling and training maneuvers.2 Liggett, to one degree or another, used all three means. Although he missed combat in Cuba, he served there briefly during active operations. Then from 1899 to 1902, he served in command and staff positions in the Philippines during the insurrection. Returning to the United States, he became the Department of the Lakes adjutant general in Chicago. In 1907, he assumed infantry battalion command in the 13th Infantry, stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

While at Fort Leavenworth, then Lieutenant Colonel Liggett began his education in the newly founded Army education system. "Though not detailed as a student," Liggett later wrote, "I managed to assimilate most of what the School of the Lines and the School of the Staff had to offer."3 He did this through association with instructor, then Lieutenant George C. Marshall. As Marshall described it, he "would give [Liggett] the problem after the class got it. Then I would go over his work, correct his work, after I had the approved solution."4 Through this covert approach, Liggett gained an appreciation for regimental and divisional tactics.

As a 1910 Army War College (AWC) class member, Liggett built on the foundation of his Leavenworth "course." At the AWC, he prepared for duty on the general staff and learned the tasks of commanders and staffs of larger troop formations. These two schools were particularly important to Liggett and his colleagues. Serving only in small units of a relatively small army, US Army officers relied on the theoretical school instruction to learn the methods of large-scale modern war. However, equally important to Liggett were the associations he made at the schools: Malin Craig, an AWC classmate, later served as Liggett's World War I chief of staff, and Marshall served as Liggett's chief of operations.5

Upon graduation, Liggett became the AWC director, and later, its president. As the AWC director, he was instrumental in reshaping its curriculum along the lines of the Leavenworth schools, adding instruction in military history, operational planning and general staff duties. …

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