The Minute Book
Thursday, 14 April 2016

Military Leadership, As the Germans See It (1944)
Topic: Leadership

Military Leadership, As the Germans See It (1944)

US War Department, Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. II, No. 7, March 1944


Several months ago the commanding officer of the Third Panzer Grenadier Division [General der Panzertruppen Fritz-Hubert Gräse] assembled extracts from two German Army manuals, one dealing with military leadership and the other pertaining to the training of officers, and ordered that they be distributed as a single booklet to the officers of his command. In a foreword the commanding officer said, "This booklet should always accompany my officers. It should become an indispensable possession. I expect them to take it out again and again, and study it until its contents have become a guide for their lives and actions. It should force them to test themselves, over and over, to see whether they are adequately prepared to meet the high—and often merciless—demands which will be made upon them.

"The longer the war lasts, and the more difficult conditions become, the more decisive the work of the officer will be, and the greater his responsibilities.

"In full recognition of this, and with the recollection of our oath and the example of our comrades who died at Stalingrad, it can no longer be difficult to find the surest expression of our duty: to show our men how to live, which means, after all, to show them how to die."

In any attempt to gauge the enemy, it is particularly useful to know the broad principles with which he has been indoctrinated. The extracts which follow are therefore of the utmost significance.

The German View

"a.     Warfare is an art, free and creative, based on science. It demands the utmost of each person.

"b.     Warfare is subject to continuous development. New technical devices give it a continuously changing form. Their introduction must be recognized ahead of time, their influence properly evaluated and quickly applied.

"c.     Situations in war have unlimited variations. They change frequently and suddenly, and cannot always be properly anticipated. Incalculable factors are often of decisive influence. One's will is opposed by the independent will of the enemy. Friction and mistakes are daily occurrences.

"d.     The science of warfare cannot be compiled exhaustively in rules and regulations. The principles which form this science must be applied as conditions require. Simple actions logically executed are the best way to success.

"e.     War taxes and tests an individual's physical and emotional powers most rigidly. Therefore, in wartime, character is more essential than pure mental ability. Many a man, overlooked in peacetime, has become great on the field of battle.

"f.     Leadership in the German Army, and particularly in lower units, must be entrusted to personalities who are capable of sound judgment and clear perception of immediate and possible future situations—men who are self-reliant and firm in their decisions, persevering and energetic in executing them, indifferent to the vicissitudes of war, and intensely aware of the high responsibility resting upon them.

"g.     The officer is a leader and educator in all fields. Aside from having the ability to size up his men, he must possess superior knowledge and experience, a sense of moral responsibility, and a sense of justice. He must excel at self-discipline and courage.

"h.     The example and personal bearing of the officer and soldier in charge of men are of decisive influence on the troops. Officers who show coolness, resolution, and daring in face of the enemy carry their men with them to success. But they must also find the way to the hearts of their men and win the prize of their confidence by untiring care and an understanding of their thoughts and feelings. Mutual confidence is the safest guarantee of discipline in moments of emergency and danger.

"i.     Every leader must commit his whole self in all situations, without fear of responsibility. This cheerful acceptance of responsibility is one of a leader's most noble qualities. However, it must not be interpreted as a license to make independent decisions without regard for the unit as a whole, to neglect carrying out orders with painstaking exactness, or to substitute for obedience an attitude of the l know-it-all'. Self-reliance must not be corrupted by mere arbitrary judgment. Exercised within the proper limits, it can become the basis for great success.

"j.     The value of a man is still decisive in spite of all technical inventions. Present-day tactics of scattered fighting have increased his significance. Modern battle requires fighting men who can think and act for themselves, who exploit each situation resolutely and boldly after due consideration, and who are permeated by the conviction that success depends on each individual.

"Great physical endurance, ruthlessness with oneself, will power, self-confidence, and daring enable a man to cope even with the most difficult situations.

"k.     The value both of leader and man determines the combat efficiency of the unit. The efficiency is augmented by a high standard of quality, care, and condition of arms and equipment. Superior combat efficiency can outweigh numerical superiority. The higher the combat efficiency of units, the greater the possibility of conducting forceful and mobile operations. Superior leadership and combat efficiency of a unit are the most reliable guarantees of victory.

"l.     Leaders must live with their troops and share with them their danger and hardships, their joys and sufferings. Only in this way can they gain from their own experience a sound judgment of their combat efficiency and their needs and requirements. Every man is responsible, not merely for himself, but also for his comrades. The more capable and enduring must lead and direct the weak and inexperienced. Such is the basis from which a feeling of genuine comradeship may develop. This is as important between the leader and his men as it is among the men themselves.

"m.     A unit which has been formed only superficially, and which has not been welded together by hard training and education, may easily fail at critical moments or under the impact of unexpected events. Therefore, from the outset of a unit's training, extreme importance must be attached to promoting and preserving strong community ties, as well as to discipline.

"It is the duty of every commander to counteract immediately—and severely, if necessary—any laxity of discipline, and any tendency toward riotous conduct, plundering, panic, or other harmful influence.

"Discipline is the main pillar of the German Army. Its strict enforcement is a blessing for all.

"n.     The fitness of a unit must be preserved for those decisive situations which require supreme effort.

Leaders who exert their troops unnecessarily, impair their own chance of success. In combat, any expenditure must remain in proper proportion to the desired objective. Objectives which are impossible to attain should not be set, for they lower the confidence of the men in their leader and are detrimental to the morale of the unit.

"o.     From the youngest soldier on up, every individual must commit his entire emotional, physical, and mental strength to the mission at hand. Only this endeavor can insure the utmost efficiency of the unit in coordinated action and can create men who will, in the hour of danger, lead the weak to bold action.

"Thus, determined action remains the foremost requirement in warfare. Everyone, the highest commander and the youngest soldier, must always be conscious of the fact that the burden of negligence weighs more heavily than a mistake in the choice of means."

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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