Keep Your Mission in Mind!
Combat Lessons, Number 1, Rank and file in combat: What they're doing, How the do it. (US Army, 1944)
Greater emphasis must be placed on inculcating in junior officers and NCO's the will to accomplish assigned missions despite opposition.
Lieutenant Colonel E. B. Thayer, Field Artillery, Observer With Fifth Army, Italy:
"Difficulty was experienced in making patrol leaders realize the importance of bringing back information by a specified hour, in time to be of value. Patrols often returned, after encountering resistance, without accomplishing their mission. Sending them back to accomplish their mission, despite their fatigue, seemed to be the most effective solution to the training problem involved, although the information required often arrived too late."
Lieutenant Colonel T. F. Bogart, Infantry, Observer With Fifth Army, Italy:
"Greater emphasis must be placed on inculcating in junior officers and NCO's the will to accomplish assigned missions despite opposition. A few accounts of patrol actions illustrate this point:
"(1) A reconnaissance patrol consisting of a platoon was sent out, at about 1900 one evening to determine the strength of a of any of the Germans in two small towns, the first about two miles away and the second about three miles farther on. The patrol reached the outskirts of the first t,own and met an Italian who told them there were no Germans in the town and then started to lead the patrol into town. A few hundred yards farther a German machine gun opened up, the Italian disappeared, three of the patrol were killed, and the others dispersed. They drifted back to our battalion during the night, and it was not until nearly daylight that the practically valueless report of the action was received. Not the slightest conception of the strength in the first town was obtained and no information of the second town. It was necessary to send out another patrol with the same mission.
"(2) A patrol was sent out with the mission of determining the condition of a road, especially bridges, over a three-mile stretch to the front. When this patrol had covered about a mile it ran into a motorized German patrol. Two of the Americans were killed, and the platoon leader claimed six Germans. The patrol leader forgot his mission, returned to the battalion CP with the remainder of his patrol, and had to be sent out again with a great loss in time in getting the information desired.
"(3) On several occasions patrols were sent out on ‘reconnaissance missions with instructions to get certain information by a specific time. The hour would pass and sometimes several others without a word from the patrol. Sometimes it was due to difficulties encountered, sometimes to mistakes in computation of time and space factors, but in all cases there was no good reason why some information did not get back by the specified time."
COMMENT: The failure of patrols in these instances stems from a lack of appreciation on the part of NCO's and junior officers of their missions. In patrol actions, as in the operations of larger units, the mission must be kept uppermost in the minds of all ranks, and no action should be undertaken which does not contribute directly to the accomplishment of that mission. Conversely, no incidental or inadvertent contact with the enemy should deter or divert patrols from the complete accomplishment of their missions, to include compliance with all instructions given, where humanly possible.