Quotes - Initiative (page 1)

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The individual soldier has become increasingly independent in combat; this in turn has not only called for improved training, discipline, motivation and coordination, it has also required fostering improvement in intelligence, initiative, and judgement on the part of each individual at lower levels. - T.N. Dupuy, Col, US Army, Ret., The Evolution of Weapons and Warfare, 1980

The Six Rules of Soldiering:

  1. Develop individual initiative and responsibility
  2. Never follow orders blindly
  3. Develop proper discipline
  4. Develop primary groups
  5. Develop an unremitting attack philosophy
  6. "The Golden Rule" - It is better to do something wrong but decisive, than to wait for orders which may never arrive.

Martin van Creveld, Fighting Power - German and US Army Performance, 1939-1945, referencing a German training manual "Heeres Dienstvorschrift 300 - Truppenfuhrung" (Army Manual 300 - Command of Troops, 1936)

In early September [1924] the garrison of Cologne was engaged in brigade training. I was given command of the skeleton enemy comprising four aeroplanes, six tanks, a squadron of cavalry and two skeleton battalions. I had to take up a position on a low ridge. The opposing force comprised an infantry brigade, a field artillery battery and a squadron of cavalry. I hid my cavalry in a thick wood quite close to and on the flank of my position. I was in wireless communication with my aeroplanes, which were some eight miles distant, and my tanks I placed in front of my position but beautifully disguised as haystacks. When the brigade attacked and were about to launch an assault, my cavalry burst out of the wood and took the enemy in the flank, my tanks threw off their haystacks and advanced on the attacking enemy, and my aeroplanes, advised by signal, came up from the rear of the attacking enemy, very low down, and bombarded the enemy's guns, infantry and cavalry with hundreds of tennis-balls which I had collected in Cologne. The result was disastrous, and I witnessed what I had never seen before - panic on peace manoeuvres. The infantry were terrorised and ran, fixing their bayonets. Two companies of the K.O.Y.L.I. and one company of the 60th bolted and spread panic among the rest. The gunner horses took fright and broke loose and the gunners took refuge under their guns. I never saw such pandemonium.
        At the subsequent conference the gunner officers and colonels commanding battalions severely criticised my unorthodox methods, but Bethel, in charge of the exercise, congratulated me on such realistic methods during peace manoeuvres. Everyone was very angry with me, but I could not help laughing at troops panicking when tennis-balls are dropped on them from aeroplanes. - Colonel R. Meinertzhagen, CBE, DSO, Army Diary, 1899-1926, 1960

An army in which juniors are methodically "covering up" for fear they will reap criticism for using unorthodox methods in the face of unexpected contingencies is an army which is slow to learn from its own mistakes. - S.L.A. Marshall, MEN against FIRE, 1947

Commanders in time of peace should therefore make it their duty to encourage initiative in their subordinates, instead of checking it, as is the case too often. Subordinates should be taken to task only when their action was taken thoughtlessly -- without a good reason. - Major General Baron Hugo von Freytag-Loringhoven, The Power of Personality In War, 1911 (translated by the Historical Section, [US] Army War College, 1938; pub 1955)

Fetishism for battle drills has been largely responsible for sanitizing imagination, creativity and mental mobility in infantry ranks. Battle drills are ... a set of reactions ... Conversely, tactics are a thought out plan to overcome the threat, the two are therefore dissimilar. - Col Arjun Ray, quoted in the RUSI Journal, Autumn 1989

"Finally, as you grow older, try not to be afraid of new ideas. New or original ideas can be bad as well as good, but whereas an intelligent man with an open mind can demolish a bad idea by reasoned argument, those who allow their brains to atrophy resort to meaningless catchphrases, to derision and finally to anger in the face of anything new."
- The Duke of Edinburgh, speaking at the Sovereign's parade, R.M.C., 1955, quoted in On the Psychology of Military Incompetence, Norman F. Dixon, Futura 1988

"His Majesty made you a major because he believed you would know when not to obey orders." ... As far as the Germans were concerned, the first demand in war was decisive action. - John A. English, A Perspective on Infantry, 1981

I believe that it is better in an emergency to do something not quite perfect than to sink into deep reflection or consult others and let the moment for action pass for ever. During my army career was told by a distinguished soldier that I "rushed my fences". maybe I do, but I often surmount them. - Colonel R. Meinertzhagen, CBE, DSO, Army Diary 1899 - 1926, 1960

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. - George S[mith] Patton 1885-1945, War As I Knew It [1947], pt. III, ch. 1

With the brigadier wounded and the brigade-major killed and the impossibility of getting any orders through to the junior leaders, the section, platoon, and company commanders had to act on their own initiative. (landings at Gallipoli, 25 April, 1915) - Brig. The Right Hon. Sir John Smyth, Bt, VC, MC, Leadership in Battle 1914-1918

"A good soldier obeys orders without question ... and keeps his buttons bright." I always did both ... until I gradually found out that some orders are criminal nonsense. - Strome Galloway, The General Who Never Was, 1981

Initiative is a desirable characteristic in a soldier only when its effort is concentric rather than eccentric: the rifleman who plunges ahead and seizes a point of high ground which common sense says cannot be held can bring greater jeopardy to a company than any mere malingerer. -- S.L.A. Marshall, MEN against FIRE, 1947

The army was back in the horse era [following WWI] and while militarily regressive, it was good fun and exercise for all concerned. There were not enough army horses to mount the militia, so a varied collection of horseflesh was hired for the duration of the camp, mostlu untraioned range ponies. As a grand finale to training, a full-scale sham battle took place at the end of the summer. For this, the militia converged from all points, but mainly from the cities, the majority being business men and office workers. The general officer commanding Military District No. 10 was a hard-bitten cavalrymen of the old school and it was mandatory that victory go to the cavalry after a furious charge annihilating the infantry.
This foregone conclusion was a sore point with the veteran machine-gunners, Worthy and Blackie in particular, who knew it to be preposterously unrealistic, so that summer of 1923 steps were taken to destroy the fallacy for all time - if not by fair means, then by foul.
The day arrived, and at dawn the infantry marched off to do battle, each man with a newspaper sheet inside his tunic. Throughout the long hours they advanced, manoeuvred, deployed, as the situations warranted. By late afternoon, hot and dusty, all were ready to call it a day. The intrepid horsemen formed up for the coup de grace - the devastating charge that would proclaim them the superior force - and with a flourish of trumpets, galloped down upon the hapless foot soldiers. The infantry held their ground until the crucial moment, then on command the newspapers blossomed forth, wildly waving in front of the oncoming horses.
        It was stupendous. Chargers stampeded in all directions, horsemen toppled like ninepins, and by a miracle the only casualties were bumps and bruises. An overwhelming victory for the infantry - but when the account reached M.D. 10 headquarters, the top blew off.
        The Gopher Hole Gazette - a camp news-sheet starting and ending with that summer, carried an hilarious account in what was to be, in consequence, its final issue. Standing orders were then issued that hereafter, notwithstanding, the cavalry would be victorious. That couldn't happen to-day. The Canadian Army has acquired a sense of humour along with a sense of proportion. - Larry Worthington, 'Worthy'; A Biography of Major-General F.F. Worthington, C.B., M.C., M.M., 1961

In a far-off Indian campaign a young officer, before the attack was due to be launched, took off his epaulettes and the plate and feather from his cap, so that, in Shipp's view, he looked like 'a discharged pensioner.' Asked why he had taken this 'imprudent and improper course' he replied that he hoped the enemy might be unable to distinguish him from a private. This young officer 'never re-established his former character' and had to leave the regiment.
        But in a day of increased fire-power and deadly sniping [WWI] the idea began to gain ground that an attack might be likelier to succeed if the officer in command of it had more than a two-seconds chance of survival. Hence the transfer of 'pips' from cuff to shoulder and the wearing of ordinary soldiers' tunics. Hence, also, the decline of the vogue for light riding breeches, which had singled out scores of subalterns for a priority death. The officer's courage was never higher, but any tradition which served to squander it deserved to go under, unregretted. - E.S. Turner, Gallant Gentlemen; a portrait of the British Officer 1600-1956, 1956

Although the story sounds apocryphal, it was told by a Russian tank officer who claimed to have been a witness. A tank unit was out on maneuvers that involved defense against enemy attack helicopters. The exercise proved a frustrating one for the tankers. They were unable to evade detection, and, worse, the umpires constantly ruled that the simulated shots that they were taking at the target drones- the army budget for such being tight-were misses. Finally, one sergeant boiled over. Unbeknown to his superior, he took careful aim and cut loose with live ammunition, scoring a perfect hit and bringing the drone crashing down. The ensuing bureaucratic furor was resolved in perfect bureaucratic fashion. The powers-that-were decided to reprimand the platoon commander for the poor discipline in his outfit, but recognized the sergeant's marksmanship with a commendation. - James F. Dunnigan and Albert A. Nofi, Dirty Little Secrets; Military Information You're Not Supposed to Know, 1990

Let us be clear about three facts. First, all battles and all wars are won in the end by the infantryman. Secondly, the infantryman always bears the brunt. His casualties are heavier, he suffers greater extremes of discomfort and fatigue than the other arms. Thirdly, the art of the infantryman is less stereotyped and far harder to acquire in modern war than that of any other arm. The role of the average artilleryman, for instance, is largely routine; the setting of a fuse, the loading of a gun, even the laying of it are processes which, once learnt, are mechanical. The infantryman has to use initiative and intelligence in almost every step he moves, every action he takes on the battlefield. We ought therefore to put our men of best intelligence and endurance into the Infantry. - IN PRAISE OF INFANTRY, Field-Marshal Earl Wavell, "The Times", Thursday, 19th April 1945

The Ingredients of Victory

The potentiality of atomic weapons tends to cast a shadow over the value of historical analogy for the analysis of future warfare. However, regardless of this factor, in my judgment certain military fundamentals will continue to hold true. Fire-power, mobility, communications, and well-trained men employed in the proper combination at the decisive point of combat remain the keys to success in battle. Further, these ingredients of victory must always be combined in proper proportion by trained judgment and with imaginative foresight. - General Maxwell D. Taylor in "Infantry" (U.S.).

Tradition -- Remember tradition does not mean that you never do anything new, but that you will never fall below the standard of courage and conduct handed down to you. Then tradition, far from being handcuffs to cramp your action, will be a handrail to guide and steady you in rough places. - Field Marshal Sir William Slim.

Field Marshal Lord Carver: "He mentions that time and again British units were defeated, units who did not move, because they were waiting for orders or for approval of their intentions. This implies that forces will fight effectively if the soldiers' braveness is supplemented by two factors: By good tactics and by initiative, enterprise, ie. by the willingness of officers, NCOs and enlisted men to act independently and, if need be, even contrary to their (obsolete) mission." - AUFTRAGSTAKTIK (MISSION TYPE ORDERS); Briefing by BGen K. Hoffman (Commandant of the German Pionierschule) as presented to the USAES on 12 Oct 94/ reproduced as an enclosure to 1180-1 (D Mil E) 2 Dec 94 - CME UPDATE - DECEMBER 1994

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