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Selected by General Raymond Odierno, 38th Army Chief of Staff, for the U.S. Army Chief of Staff's Professional Reading List, for "The Army Profession," March 2012. Selected by General James F. Amos, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, as required reading for all senior enlisted men and all Majors and Lieutenant-Colonels, January 2013.Selected by Major General H.R. McMaste Selected by General Raymond Odierno, 38th Army Chief of Staff, for the U.S. Army Chief of Staff's Professional Reading List, for "The Army Profession," March 2012. Selected by General James F. Amos, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, as required reading for all senior enlisted men and all Majors and Lieutenant-Colonels, January 2013.Selected by Major General H.R. McMaster at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, for the Leader Development Study Program, December 2013.   Winner of the Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award, 2012.   In Command Culture, Jörg Muth examines the different paths the United States Army and the German Armed Forces traveled to select, educate, and promote their officers in the crucial time before World War II. Muth demonstrates that the military education system in Germany represented an organized effort where each school and examination provided the stepping stone for the next. But in the United States, there existed no communication about teaching contents or didactical matters among the various schools and academies, and they existed in a self chosen insular environment. American officers who finally made their way through an erratic selection process and past West Point to the important Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, found themselves usually deeply disappointed, because they were faced again with a rather below average faculty who forced them after every exercise to accept the approved “school solution.” Command Culture explores the paradox that in Germany officers came from a closed authoritarian society but received an extremely open minded military education, whereas their counterparts in the United States came from one of the most democratic societies but received an outdated military education that harnessed their minds and limited their initiative. On the other hand, German officer candidates learned that in war everything is possible and a war of extermination acceptable. For American officers, raised in a democracy, certain boundaries could never be crossed. This work for the first time clearly explains the lack of audacity of many high ranking American officers during World War II, as well as the reason why so many German officers became perpetrators or accomplices of war crimes and atrocities or remained bystanders without speaking up. Those American officers who became outstanding leaders in World War II did so not so much because of their military education, but despite it.


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Selected by General Raymond Odierno, 38th Army Chief of Staff, for the U.S. Army Chief of Staff's Professional Reading List, for "The Army Profession," March 2012. Selected by General James F. Amos, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, as required reading for all senior enlisted men and all Majors and Lieutenant-Colonels, January 2013.Selected by Major General H.R. McMaste Selected by General Raymond Odierno, 38th Army Chief of Staff, for the U.S. Army Chief of Staff's Professional Reading List, for "The Army Profession," March 2012. Selected by General James F. Amos, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, as required reading for all senior enlisted men and all Majors and Lieutenant-Colonels, January 2013.Selected by Major General H.R. McMaster at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, for the Leader Development Study Program, December 2013.   Winner of the Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award, 2012.   In Command Culture, Jörg Muth examines the different paths the United States Army and the German Armed Forces traveled to select, educate, and promote their officers in the crucial time before World War II. Muth demonstrates that the military education system in Germany represented an organized effort where each school and examination provided the stepping stone for the next. But in the United States, there existed no communication about teaching contents or didactical matters among the various schools and academies, and they existed in a self chosen insular environment. American officers who finally made their way through an erratic selection process and past West Point to the important Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, found themselves usually deeply disappointed, because they were faced again with a rather below average faculty who forced them after every exercise to accept the approved “school solution.” Command Culture explores the paradox that in Germany officers came from a closed authoritarian society but received an extremely open minded military education, whereas their counterparts in the United States came from one of the most democratic societies but received an outdated military education that harnessed their minds and limited their initiative. On the other hand, German officer candidates learned that in war everything is possible and a war of extermination acceptable. For American officers, raised in a democracy, certain boundaries could never be crossed. This work for the first time clearly explains the lack of audacity of many high ranking American officers during World War II, as well as the reason why so many German officers became perpetrators or accomplices of war crimes and atrocities or remained bystanders without speaking up. Those American officers who became outstanding leaders in World War II did so not so much because of their military education, but despite it.

30 review for Command Culture: Officer Education in the U.S. Army and the German Armed Forces, 1901-1940, and the Consequences for World War II

  1. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    An okay book, providing a good overview of late 19th and early 20th century education models in the US and Prussian/German armies, but perhaps a bit too onerous in its conclusions. The author seeks to understand why the US Army’s model of Officer education adapted in the late 19th century from the Prussian model did not “churn out” the same quality of tactical leaders during WWII that were seen in the German Army. In this the author adopts a version of the “materialistic dominance” concept for t An okay book, providing a good overview of late 19th and early 20th century education models in the US and Prussian/German armies, but perhaps a bit too onerous in its conclusions. The author seeks to understand why the US Army’s model of Officer education adapted in the late 19th century from the Prussian model did not “churn out” the same quality of tactical leaders during WWII that were seen in the German Army. In this the author adopts a version of the “materialistic dominance” concept for the US victory: that America won not because of her leaders but despite of them. The author does point out that there were glimmers of professionalism in the US Army, namely Fort Benning’s Infantry School under George Marshall and various senior leaders with decent performance whose character’s were strong enough to overcome an otherwise negative career education system. But overall he paints a decrepit picture of the continuum of education in the US Army, from West Point through to senior colleges; which in turn affected the performance of most of the leadership during their big combat test. His main thesis concentrated of the theory that American military reformers adopted a Prussian framework of education but failed to adapt the cultural concepts (namely “Mission Command”) which made up the foundational curriculum of the German Army. The author, however, is not sparring of the Germans, lauding the more junior education and promotion process, but showing that senior leaders lacked a foundation for higher strategic thought. Though well researched I think the book strung out the same thesis without much in the way of multiple angles of attack. It is also onerous in its conclusions - I’m not quite sure what the author would say “right looked like.” I certainly learned a lot about the Prussian military education system and how their mission command culture was inculcated very early in an Officer’s career path, which, if nothing else, makes the book very useful and unique. Highly recommended for those wanting to learn more about the way a continuum of professional education interacts with the cultural traits of a military force.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jared

    'Command Culture' is a fascinating book that I ran across one day while perusing the titles at Barnes & Noble. The subject is one I found to be quite novel. The author compares the US and German militaries during the first half of the 20th century. The scope of the book is largely the officer selection process, service academies, and approaches towards leadership. As mentioned, the time frame is during the 20th century, but the author slips back in time even further in order to provide additiona 'Command Culture' is a fascinating book that I ran across one day while perusing the titles at Barnes & Noble. The subject is one I found to be quite novel. The author compares the US and German militaries during the first half of the 20th century. The scope of the book is largely the officer selection process, service academies, and approaches towards leadership. As mentioned, the time frame is during the 20th century, but the author slips back in time even further in order to provide additional context and supporting information. I enjoyed the book much more than I thought I would and I learned a lot more than I anticipated. * "The sharpest and most devastating weapon the U.S. Army could possess today in the War against Terror is not a new computer system, a sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicle, or a smart artillery shell; it is rather a carefully selected, aggressive hard-core battalion or brigade commander who was exposed to a large dose of military history, is trusted by his superiors to conduct his own operations, and oversees them wherever the bullets fly." * Note: Although this book finds fault in the US and German armies, these characteristics can be found in just about any military organization to one degree or another. In addition, it may appear that the book speaks more critically of the US Army but the book was quite balanced. It just so happens to look more critical of the US side simply based on the selections I highlight. AGGRESSION "Weigley noted that American commanders often complained about the lack of aggressiveness of their soldiers yet he never made explicit the connection with the lack of aggressive leadership in the U.S. Army. Troops fight the way they are led." TACTICAL PROWESS "He generally noted “a tactical inferiority vis-à-vis the Germans” and that “even when all that was required was a modicum of speed and determination, to finish off a distinctly groggy opponent” the Allied commanders, and specifically the Americans, showed themselves as being “incapable” of doing so." OPERATIONAL PROWESS "In Millet’s opinion, “the American armed forces often compensated for their operational flaws,” caused by a below average officer corps, “with logistical abundance.” He asserts that “army ground combat divisions depended on the advantage of numbers” and that attacks against the Germans were generally only successful if a 4: 1 “local infantry superiority” was in place." STRATEGIC PROWESS (In Germany in WWII) "Above the corps level and in the higher staffs, excellence was no longer common." PRIDE/ESTIMATION OF ENEMY "The German high-ranking officers’ continuous historical underestimation of the U.S. military would cause the most serious consequences in two world wars." "The other main reason for the defeat of the Wehrmacht is the sheer boundless arrogance of its officer corps." TRUST "German cadets—being five or more years younger than their American counterparts—were entrusted with regular leave and holidays." "All the others first had to show that they could hack it in real life before becoming lieutenants and they would remain officer aspirants for some time." AUTONOMY OF ACTIONS BY SUBORDINATES "As early as 1858 he remarked at the annual Great General Staff war games, which were traditionally held in a different part of Germany every year, that “as a rule an order should contain only what the subordinate for the achievement of his goals cannot determine on his own.” Everything else was to be left to the commander on the spot." "The exercise assumed the officer was out of contact with higher headquarters and had now to decide whether to follow the original order or create an entirely new mission for himself and his unit because the circumstances had changed. It shows clearly that initiative and decisiveness were hallmarks of the education of a German officer." "The German military culture put—in contrast to the American—a high value on young officers." "Whereas in the United States the officer was one cog among others in the huge machine, one member of the vast team, in Germany the officer was considered the switch to the machine or its whole power source." AUFTRAGSTAKTIK??! "The whole German professional military educational system paved the way for the famous Auftragstaktik. The entire concept is inappropriately translated in American English into “mission-type orders.” "The discussion about an ongoing revolution in command philosophy—the Auftragstaktik—completely escaped the attention of visiting American officers, as did other important traits that made the German officer corps the efficient group it was." "The basic concept of Auftragstaktik means that there is direction by the superior but no tight control. “Task tactics,” or “mission tactics,” may be a closer but still insufficient translation. The best version seems to be “mission-oriented command system" "The Auftragstaktik became an “essential factor” in the tactical superiority of the German Army." "It was the chief of staff of the army, Generaloberst Franz Halder, who took away the German field commanders’ traditional right to lead by Auftragstaktik long before Hitler considered such a course." "That they “did not get enough chance to learn the ‘reason why’ of orders” proved to be one of the GIs’ foremost problems with army authority." JUST SAY NO "The German and Prussian officer corps are the officer corps with the greatest culture of disobedience—with maybe the exception of the French." (Seydlitz refused the King's order during a battle in the Seven Years War...) "When the Flügel-Adjutant showed up the next time, he told the young cavalry general that the king would have his head if he did not attack immediately. Seydlitz answered, “Tell the King that after the battle my head is at his disposal, but meanwhile I will make use of it.” "During a high level war game, he gave a young major of the Great General Staff an order to test his abilities. Following the order would bring the young officer into a perilous situation...When the major unhesitatingly relayed the order, a general stopped the officer and reminded him: “His Majesty has made you a Major of the General Staff so that you know when to disobey an order.” LEAD FROM THE FRONT "It was the place of a German officer—no matter the rank—to die in front of his men, fighting with them if necessary, and it was exactly this knowledge that inspired the German soldiers in desperate situations. They were literally led in battle and not managed from behind." RESPECTIVE KEY AREAS OF EMPHASIS "manage” and “doctrine” for the U.S. Army and führen (lead) and Angriff (attack) for the Wehrmacht." SUCCESSFUL OFFICERS BECAUSE OF GOOD UPBRINGING "...their upbringing in solid families already had formed personalities that gave them the means to survive the harsh military academy regime without doing them intellectual harm." "...the officer of an earlier era had to train himself. And for this he needed a belief in himself, an intense desire to know, the capacity to grow, the trait of self-discipline, and a compulsion to excel in his chosen field.” Many of these traits originated from a solid upbringing rather than from any army education." INSIDE THE BOX THINKING / COOKIE CUTTER PROBLEMS George S. Patton has put it—that “no one is thinking if everyone is thinking alike.” "But in a staged maneuver with a predetermined outcome, the performance of the leaders and their units can no longer be properly assessed; it also undermines the trust of younger officers in their senior leadership." (Future Gen Clarke as a student: Clarke was successful in war doing the same thing thing that he was told in a map exercise to be 'unsatisfactory')..."Just as in the map maneuver, the battalion broke into the town located in the rear area and overran the German headquarters responsible for coordinating the defense of the region. Clarke became a four-star general and commanded U.S. Army Forces Europe. He retired in 1962, considered an expert in leadership and armored warfare. His career, which was nearly destroyed by inept instructors at Leavenworth, was saved by the war." "The famous social-psychological study of Samuel Stouffer about the U.S. Army in World War II describes the existing ambience as “rewarding of conformity and the suppression of initiative.” Stouffer and his colleagues proved that “conformity to the officially approved military mores” was one consideration for the promotion of an officer and “those officers who were conformists “were the most likely to have been promoted.” "As a young officer, Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote an article favoring mechanization of the cavalry. The article displeased the chief of infantry greatly and Ike was commanded not only to cease such heretical activities but also to publicly reverse his opinion." DOCTRINE "During his professional military education, doctrine played a far less important role for German officers than it did for their American counterparts...In fact, the word Doktrin hardly shows up at all in German Army manuals, training papers, or the letters and diaries of German officers. For them, doctrine was discerned as an artificial guideline that could be violated anytime, even by junior officers, when the situation demanded it." "At Leavenworth, the principle of doctrine reigned, whereas it was the principle of creativity at the Kriegsakademie." "There is no place in war for doctrine because it harnesses the mind of an officer. The German officer left the Kriegsakademie with leadership capabilities and as an excellent tactician. Those were the areas where the German officer corps excelled and that is the reason the German Army was such a formidable enemy. The post-war literature of the German General Staff officers portraying themselves as strategic geniuses is pure fiction." "The heavy reliance of the U.S. Army on doctrine has historically caused nothing but setbacks because new developments on the battlefield are always faster than the creation of new doctrine to combat them." (In US) "The officers wanted to prepare for the new war, “but resources and doctrine remained rooted firmly in the former.” FOCUS OF RESPECTIVE SERVICE ACADEMIES "The four years of engineering and mathematical training rarely played a role in the martial world of the cadet graduates and any skills in those sectors would often be forgotten because they were hardly ever used....Yet, these technical skills were weighted at West Point more heavily than leadership abilities, an obvious flaw in the system." "Correct behavior at a Kadettenschule did not mean the absence of punishment as at West Point, but the gaining of rewards, which were important for teenagers." "...young (German) man who excelled in leadership but was weak on the scholarly side would be eligible for promotion or even promoted ahead of one with better grades in mathematics or French." CONTINUING EDUCATION "A career officer is going to school as long as he lives.” - GENERAL MATTHEW BUNKER RIDGWAY "(Gen George C. Marshall) had realized, and tried to demonstrate to his flock, that reading is one of the most important acts of an officer." "The intense desire to grow” manifested itself in avid readership. Rather than relying on the mediocre education the U.S. Army offered, “talented, gifted officers could and did see to their own professional educations.” PROGRESSIVE/REALISTIC SCHOOLS? "When the applicatory method reached its high point at Leavenworth, it had already been phased out at the German war academy and replaced by extensive role-playing and war games." "the reformers at Fort Leavenworth remained surprisingly ambivalent and at times even hostile to technical knowledge and technological solutions.” "Whereas in Germany students “fought” through a whole engagement, including sudden changes of assignments and tactical surprises, the American students’ task would end after the main forces had made contact." "Officers who solve map problem after map problem will gain the false confidence of thinking that the map will reveal to them all that they need to know...Map exercises, map maneuvers, and map problems, however, constituted “seventy percent of the total instruction time” at the CGSS." "One can do in war only what one has learned in peace.” - HAUPTMANN (LATER GENERALLEUTNANT) ADOLF VON SCHELL DESIRABLE ATTRIBUTES IN AN OFFICER (German 'character') "They did not look for a “standard officer person” but for an individual who was able to use his personal character traits in an officerlike manner and for accomplishments in war and battle. 66 Paramount among the capabilities were Willenskraft—willpower—which covered the will to become a role model of an officer, the will to succeed in any given task, the will to force a tactical decision, the will to speak his mind, and the will to remain steady under pressure." "...the inadequacy of many American officers came from their advanced ages, inflexibility of mind, and lack of modern and practical training." Gen George C. Marshall "It is no coincidence that two of the greatest chiefs of staff ever, Moltke the Elder and George C. Marshall, were lauded for a trait they shared—common sense." INTERESTING FACTOIDS Hauptmann is a German word usually translated as captain when it is used as an officer's rank in the German, Austrian and Swiss armies. While "haupt" in contemporary German means "main", it also has the meaning of "head", i.e. Hauptmann literally translates to "head man", which is also the etymological root of "captain" (from Latin caput head). (During Revolutionary War) "The Hessian soldiers were not mercenaries as is so frequently incorrectly claimed. Often conscripts and regular members of the Hessian Army, they do not fit a historical understanding of the definition of mercenaries or a modern one." "In a later interview, Moltke laid the groundwork for the fame of a book that would become equally a curse and a boon for officers and military historians alike. When asked from which books he had profited the most and which would he consider the most important, he named as one of them Carl von Clausewitz’s Vom Kriege ('On War') Clausewitz had been director of the Kriegsschule—the then Prussian War College—when Moltke attended it as a junior officer from 1823 to 1826." "The Germans acquired the other nickname, “Hun,” from the British, after Emperor Wilhelm II’s infamous “Hunnenrede” (Hun speech), which he delivered in Bremerhaven on July 27, 1900, when sending off the Ostasiatische Expeditionskorps (East Asian Expeditionary Corps) to quell the Boxer Rebellion in China." "The United States Military Academy at West Point, founded in 1802, was intended particularly to equip the army with engineer officers." "For those advancing to higher classes despite lacking scholarly skills, the term on the graduating paper carried the Latin phrase propter barbaram—“ close to being uneducated.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    TheF7Pawn

    This book is a cautionary tale about the dangers of converting Ph.D. dissertations into books. Muth, whose native tongue is German, takes on a worthy topic but his committee, which was probably not conversant in military history, lets him down. Similarly, his publisher (the same university) could have sprung for a good copy editor with salutary effect. Whether he wrote in German and suffered from a poor translator, or he wrote in English using German idiom and structure, the result is disappoint This book is a cautionary tale about the dangers of converting Ph.D. dissertations into books. Muth, whose native tongue is German, takes on a worthy topic but his committee, which was probably not conversant in military history, lets him down. Similarly, his publisher (the same university) could have sprung for a good copy editor with salutary effect. Whether he wrote in German and suffered from a poor translator, or he wrote in English using German idiom and structure, the result is disappointing. Paragraphs often begin with an excellent thematic sentence and end with perplexing non-sequiturs. A pity because Muth goes where most angels fear to tread and asks how the world's most notorious totalitarian regime could produce a command philosophy (Auftragstaktik) that granted unprecedented latitude to its subordinate commanders while the world's most egalitarian democracy produced its opposite - a risk-averse way of war governed by a reflexive need to "check with higher" before proceeding. This paradoxical dichotomy produced a Wehrmacht which, in the opinion of many military analysts and historians was the most tactically and operationally proficient armed force in the 20th Century. Fortunately for freedom-loving people everywhere, the Germans failed to complement the Wehrmacht's excellence with a similar strategic vision. Muth's case is strong that the German system of officer education was the key to this difference. He describes in both German and American armies the officer education process in great detail and arrives at generally fair conclusions for the era he's discussing. Although I think he discounts the contextual role of culture in our respective societies (the German officer corps was beloved and embraced, ours, even after WWI, was feared and ostracized), his phase by phase description of an officer's path from cadet to commissioning and beyond paints a stark picture of why our WW II-era leadership was often found wanting. In an example of overreach, Muth attempts to stretch these shortcomings into the present but with unsatisfactory results. Using the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 3d Infantry Division's run into Baghdad as a case study, he scores the US Army for being overly cautious in the operation and for the failure of the V Corps leadership to be at the point of the action. Muth's description is incomplete, however, not only because he fails to take into account the operations of the rest of the Corps (notably the 1st Marine Division), but he again underplays the important aspect of US military culture; to wit, no tactical level commander wants a two or three-star general "helping" with the operation. In fact, the two division commanders involved in the fight were brimming with aggressiveness (the other one was a guy named Mattis) and would have regarded the JTF commander's presence as an intrusion, if not an insult. In short, command presence is a double-edged sword that must be wielded intelligently by seasoned commanders. More importantly, it’s very easy to give wide latitude to a junior officer when one is not concerned with collateral damage, civilian casualties, and the non-blinking eye of the 24-hour news cycle. WWII-era commanders on both sides (especially the Germans) could downplay these factors with relative impunity. And yet, there is little doubt that today's officer training can be improved by more emphasis on leadership, history, and cognitive psychology. Muth rightfully applauds the passing of ritualistic hazing at the US Military Academy but avoids the obvious follow up. If it was so influential in hobbling the majority of WWII-era American officers, why has its decline not produced a salutary effect on the performance of US Army officers who were commissioned in the 1980s and beyond? Even as the Army's stature in society has grown since its post-Vietnam nadir, toxic, narcissistic, self-absorbed leadership remains a troubling issue. To this end, another recommendation (one not offered by the author) would be to psychologically evaluate officers being nominated for battalion command and higher. The evaluation would not be disqualifying, but those officers who scored poorly in it would be subject to additional climate surveys and so-called 360-degree evaluations. In sum, although I recommend this book and applaud the author's detailed description of officer recruiting and education practices, I found the conclusions not fully convincing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Martin Samuels

    In this fascinating book, Muth presents a relentless attack on the US Army's system of officer education, constantly contrasting it negatively with the equivalent approaches in the German Army. In essence, Muth argues that the system at both West Point (and similar officer cadet institutions such as VMI) and Fort Leavenworth was based on the twin beliefs that the best education for officers was through a mathematical / engineering paradigm, coupled with rigid peer discipline and total submission In this fascinating book, Muth presents a relentless attack on the US Army's system of officer education, constantly contrasting it negatively with the equivalent approaches in the German Army. In essence, Muth argues that the system at both West Point (and similar officer cadet institutions such as VMI) and Fort Leavenworth was based on the twin beliefs that the best education for officers was through a mathematical / engineering paradigm, coupled with rigid peer discipline and total submission to hierarchy. This led to a reliance on rote learning of 'school solutions', with any alternative solution to a problem being by definition incorrect, and vicious 'hazing' of junior cadets by their seniors. This reliance on rote learning led to there being minimal pressure for instructors to be experts in their subjects or for the syllabus to reflect modern trends in warfare. Muth contrasts this model with the cadet schools and war academy in the German Army. Here, he argues, great efforts were made to prevent bullying and to promote flexibility of thought. Instructors were selected on the basis of their educative and professional skill, there was an emphasis on the need for each unique tactical problem to have its own unique solution, with the solutions of the students treated as seriously as those of the instructor, and students were given responsibility based on their professional development, rather than simply their time seniority. A particular contrast, resulting from these different traditions, Muth suggests, is that US Army officers tended to see battlefield problems as technical challenges, to be solved through mechanical application of staff doctrine, with minimal engagement with the troops, usually from the rear, whereas German officers sought to identify the crux of the situation, place themselves personally at that point and lead their men from the front. While the book is relentlessly once-sided, Muth emphasises that he has had a love of the US Army since childhood and that current practice is very different from that he describes. The work has several flaws. First, despite the title, the focus of the assessment of the German Army is largely based on the Reichswehr period between the two world wars, whereas much of the US evidence is taken from the period up to the First World War. Second, there might have been value in comparing the West Point experience with that of a British public school, where the emphasis on discipline and logical thinking (through the study of Classics rather than maths) may have led to similar narrowness of thinking, but which it can be argued did produce generations of subalterns demonstrating enormous personal bravery and commitment to their men. Third, the examples of combat performance feel somewhat limited, such the Muth's sweeping statements are not always fully evidenced. Finally, the limited evidence for the German Army prior to 1914, and the limited treatment of the negative perspectives of the cadet schools, suggest that the superiority of the German system may be overstated at times. The Reichswehr was an exceptional force, in a very special context. In summary, a challenging and thought-provoking work, unlikely to win many friends in the US, but a very welcome investigation of a key area of performance that has previously been explored to only a limited extent.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    A great book that gives leaders a better understanding of the origins of Mission Command. It also provides insight into what a command climate should look like within our units.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Over the course of six chapters, the author makes the argument that prior to WWII Germany had a superior system of education for it's army officers-- a system that resulted in true leaders who were taught to think creatively, improvise and lead from the front. By contrast, the author details how the American army officer education system was mired in a stiff legacy that expected army officers to 'manage' their subordinates and adhere to strict doctrine while leading from a tent far from the batt Over the course of six chapters, the author makes the argument that prior to WWII Germany had a superior system of education for it's army officers-- a system that resulted in true leaders who were taught to think creatively, improvise and lead from the front. By contrast, the author details how the American army officer education system was mired in a stiff legacy that expected army officers to 'manage' their subordinates and adhere to strict doctrine while leading from a tent far from the battle. Where the German officer education system would resemble a liberal education, the American officer education system revolved around rote memorization, hazing and the notion that in tactical situations there was only one true solution (the school solution). As a result, in WWII, the German military was far more effective in seizing initiative and sweeping through Europe. However, only owing to a huge (unmolested) industrial base the Allies were able to gradually steam-roll the Axis. There is no doubt that the author believes that the German officer education system is clearly superior. However, this argument is undercut by one wildly obvious question... one that you may already be thinking about: how could officers educated to think independently and ethically be sucked into the Nazi party? How could the atrocities of WWII occur at the hands of such an educated group? Where the author should have dedicated at least a chapter to this clearly important question, he instead dedicates approximately 3 paragraphs (page 202-203). If there were three important points to be made in this book-- this should have been one. From this book I found myself learning a few leadership lessons: lead from the front, hire smart then make your directions contain objectives and boundaries and that's it, there is no value in hazing in education at all, value independent thinking and creativity in education and leadership. Overall, not a bad book, but could have been shortened to a third the length. If you are going to read this book you will likely enjoy it but also likely find it getting repetitive around chapter 4 and beyond. Do not skip the prelude... it sets the stage and without it you would miss a lot of context. Further, the author's notes at the end of the book should likely be read first as it also adds some context.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shrike58

    In some ways a rather odd and polemical work, as the author examines the ways in which the U.S. Army tried to apply what they thought the Prussian army had to teach about officer development, and mostly got it wrong. Muth, who professes a great admiration for American arms, makes the old structures of hazing at West Point his prime target and essentially argues that the inmates had taken over the asylum, comparing this to the German system of schools that found more positive ways of inculcating In some ways a rather odd and polemical work, as the author examines the ways in which the U.S. Army tried to apply what they thought the Prussian army had to teach about officer development, and mostly got it wrong. Muth, who professes a great admiration for American arms, makes the old structures of hazing at West Point his prime target and essentially argues that the inmates had taken over the asylum, comparing this to the German system of schools that found more positive ways of inculcating character and building group identity. From there, Muth further goes on to demonstrate how for the German company-and-field grade officer military education was a continuing process, as opposed to the pre-WWII U.S. Army where professional schooling was seen mostly as a distraction from day to day soldiering; the more widely-read student of American military history will notice the lingering influence of the dead hand of the 19th-century seniority system into World War II. This is not to say that Muth has no criticisms about the culture of the German army; far from it. Just as the saving grace of the pre-1939 U.S. Army was George C. Marshall, the real monument to the greatness of German arms was Moltke the Elder, as the German military culture never produced another equivalent in Muth's opinion. Muth goes so far as to suggest that for all the official emphasis on meritocracy, the Reichswehr of Hans von Seekt represented a last effort to entrench the social position of the old German military caste in stone (after the expansion of the German officer corps of the Great War), and they were weighed in the balance and found wanting in Second World War. Perhaps the lesson that Muth doesn't emphasize is that it's always hard for a given military to transcend the limitations of its culture, which for the U.S. Army represented how the professionals were seen, at best, as a necessary evil, and, for the various iterations of the German military 1870-1945, how regime maintenance and suppression of social conflict was always in the mission mix. It does speak well of the current U.S. Army that this monograph hit a nerve and has been taken seriously.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    This is an interesting comparison of officer selection and training in the United States and Germany in the interim years between the World Wars. The author is harshly critical of the American system of officer education, in which military academies produced conformist, cautious leaders with little knowledge of tactics and even less understanding of actual soldiers. At West Point, cadets were taught to memorize the numbers of windows in their buildings but not how to maneuver a platoon or call fo This is an interesting comparison of officer selection and training in the United States and Germany in the interim years between the World Wars. The author is harshly critical of the American system of officer education, in which military academies produced conformist, cautious leaders with little knowledge of tactics and even less understanding of actual soldiers. At West Point, cadets were taught to memorize the numbers of windows in their buildings but not how to maneuver a platoon or call for artillery. There were tactical problems, but each had an official solution. By contrast, German officer candidates participated in a system that was competitive and deeply grounded in practical learning along with theoretical learning. German lieutenants regularly performed sand table exercises acting as division commanders, and learned to exercise aggressiveness and initiative that far exceeded American officers. There are some claims in this book that do not seem to be fully backed by the endnotes, but overall I really enjoyed this read. The myth of American invincibility in WWII is thoroughly debunked in this book, and one comes away thinking that many lives were probably lost by insufficient American leadership at the tactical level. If it were not for excellent, self-driven leaders like George Marshall, Hap Arnold, and Dwight Eisenhower, those failures might have continued at the strategic levels.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    In Command Culture, Jorg Muth, a German scholar of the American military, compares the officer education systems of the U.S. Army and the German Armed forces from 1901 to 1940 and explains the consequences of those systems for officer performance in battle in World War II. Command culture is Muth’s useful term for how an officer corps collectively understands its roles and options on the battlefield, solves tactical and strategic problems, and interacts with people above or below in the chain of In Command Culture, Jorg Muth, a German scholar of the American military, compares the officer education systems of the U.S. Army and the German Armed forces from 1901 to 1940 and explains the consequences of those systems for officer performance in battle in World War II. Command culture is Muth’s useful term for how an officer corps collectively understands its roles and options on the battlefield, solves tactical and strategic problems, and interacts with people above or below in the chain of command. In Chapter 1, Muth reviews the relationship between the German and American armies. He establishes that the U.S. Army, like many armies in this era, saw the German Army as the cutting edge of military strategy management and tried to imitate many institutions from the Germans, such as the General Staff. However, he argues that cultural blinders caused the Americans to deeply misread what made the German system successful and fail to incorporate crucial concepts like Aufstragtaktik or the German officer education system. The bulk of the book describes the officer education systems in the American and German and evaluates how these systems created distinct command cultures. Muth uses (SOURCES) In Part 1, he unfavorably compares American education of cadets at West Point to German cadet education at the Kadettenschulen. Muth finds that West Point did a poor job educating cadets for leadership. He identifies myriad shortcomings: an undemanding admissions process, a curriculum that was narrowly focused on math, science, and engineering at the expense of leadership training, rote and unimaginative pedagogy, unskilled and detached instructors, a prevalent culture of hazing that corroded leadership abilities, and obsolete military training. In contrast, Muth argues that the Kadettenschulen did a far better job cultivating leadership qualities in German cadets. These schools had higher admissions standards, a broader and more modern curriculum that included advanced language training, more personal relationships between instructors and students, greater emphasis on developing the character of cadets, more effective regulation of hazing, and realistic military training. Even though German cadets did not receive commissions upon graduating and Americans did, Muth believes that the young Germans were vastly more prepared for leadership than their American counterparts. In Part 2, Muth compares advanced military education in the U.S. and Germany to see how they further cultivated command cultures in officers. He sees many West Point’s flaws being replicated at the Command and General Staff School (CGSS) in Fort Leavenworth. He criticizes the CGSS for its simplistic training exercises and narrow-minded practice of teaching officers to seek the approved “school solution” to complex tactical problems (165). Muth finds some redemption for advanced American officer education at The Infantry School in Fort Benning, Georgia. In contrast to the CGSS, the Infantry School encouraged officers to think critically and creatively and gave them more hands-on training in weapons, tactics, and leadership. Nevertheless, Muth shows that the Infantry School mainly excelled because of George Marshall’s excellent leadership there starting in the late 1920’s, not because the US military education system had fundamentally reformed by this time. Once again, Muth finds American advanced officer education inferior in compared to the German Kriegsakademie. The Kriegsakademie built on the principles and practices of the Kadettenschulen, but it particularly excelled at getting officers to think flexibly about tactical problems and develop a sense of independence from doctrine that would allow them to adapt to the various frictions of combat. Muth’s thesis, explored in Part 3, is that the German officer education system contributed to a command culture whose prototypical officer independently and creatively solved tactical problems, led his soldiers from the front, and acted effectively in the chaos of war. German command culture, for example, prepared its officers to execute Aufstragstaktitk in battle, which was “an ‘essential factor’ in the tactical superiority of the German Army” (183). In contrast, the American system contributed to a command culture marked by inflexible doctrinal thinking, poor adaptation to changing conditions, and passive and ineffective leadership. Muth argues that these command cultures led to German tactical superiority in World War II. Excellent American officers did arise in American military in World War II, but they did so as a result of their own efforts and largely in spite of their outdated and ineffective education. Muth achieves two goals in this book. First, in historiographical terms, he adds to consensus of scholars like Russell Weigley and Martin van Creveld that the U.S. officer corps performed poorly in World War II and added little to Allied victory. Muth supports this thesis but contends that examining the American military education system is crucial for understanding why the officer corps performed so inadequately. Second, Muth contends that the positive German example and negative American example offer much usable material for the modern U.S. military’s training of officers. Although he admits that the U.S. has certainly improved its educational system since World War II, he finds many of the same problems in a brief account of the armored thrusts into Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, including excessive hesitance to delegate command decision to local levels and too much reliance on “school solutions” over creative improvisation. Although readers should question the extent to which standards of effective leadership from World War II still apply in 21st century counterinsurgencies, military historians and professionals will benefit greatly from Muth’s critique of the U.S. Army’s past and present command cultures.

  10. 5 out of 5

    THOMAS M VIOTTI

    Army leadership training. This book was very clear on the attention that needs to be focused on during the initial education of officers at any academy.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Frank A.

    Well written book. I could not put it down. I find some holes with his argument but he makes sense in some aspect.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    So far, a fascinating read that examines the American and German officer education systems from 1901-1940. Muth compares approaches towards officer education in both countries from pre-commissioning through the Command and General Staff/Kriegsakademie school through senior military schooling such as the War College. Muth highlights the general reluctance of American officers to go to school in the first place. In many cases, such as Creighton Abrams, he did not go to a single school from when he So far, a fascinating read that examines the American and German officer education systems from 1901-1940. Muth compares approaches towards officer education in both countries from pre-commissioning through the Command and General Staff/Kriegsakademie school through senior military schooling such as the War College. Muth highlights the general reluctance of American officers to go to school in the first place. In many cases, such as Creighton Abrams, he did not go to a single school from when he was commissioned in 1936 through the introduction of US ground forces in North Africa in 1942. In many cases, individual officers were sent because they were deemed excess to their regiment, or were simply viewed as the Regimental Idiot. About half way through the book at this point. The two countries took extremely different approaches to commissioning officers, to developing and educating officers, and to develop leadership traits. Highly recommended at this point.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fred Leland

    I thought this was a fantastic book not only the historical analysis of United States and German Armies during WWII and what made them execute in combat but how the training, eduction and selection of officers effected their performance. The books explains the importance of things like mutual trust and auftragstaktik (mission oriented command system) that led to an understanding and acceptance of the need for decision thresholds to be fixed as far down the hierarchy as possible, and for freedom I thought this was a fantastic book not only the historical analysis of United States and German Armies during WWII and what made them execute in combat but how the training, eduction and selection of officers effected their performance. The books explains the importance of things like mutual trust and auftragstaktik (mission oriented command system) that led to an understanding and acceptance of the need for decision thresholds to be fixed as far down the hierarchy as possible, and for freedom of action at the front line so needed for an effective and fluid observation, orientation , decision and action cycles. With a little thought on how the concepts can be adapted and applied, this book would help shape and reshape any organizational culture needing to be able to make decisions in rapid and evolving situations. Would be a great resource for developing police and first responders organizations with a culture to deal with crisis situations. I highly recommend this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mark Eickhoff

    Dr. Muth completely flips over the apple cart in this thought-provoking comparison and contrast of the officer education systems of the U.S. and German armies prior to WWII. He demonstrates that American officer education--as exemplified by West Point and the Command and General Staff School--was based on rank, conformity, rigid adherence to doctrine, and school solution approaches to military problems. This contrasted with the Prussian/German system that was based far more on individual merit, Dr. Muth completely flips over the apple cart in this thought-provoking comparison and contrast of the officer education systems of the U.S. and German armies prior to WWII. He demonstrates that American officer education--as exemplified by West Point and the Command and General Staff School--was based on rank, conformity, rigid adherence to doctrine, and school solution approaches to military problems. This contrasted with the Prussian/German system that was based far more on individual merit, initiative, and out-of-the box creative thinking to solving military problems. In other words, their professional education and training systems were completely opposite to what most people would have expected.

  15. 4 out of 5

    George

    Comparative analyses are frequently useful as in this book that examines both the US and German officer education processes and institutions between 1901-1940. It provides a useful history as precursor to contemporary analyses of professional military education. History may not repeat itself, but it certainly echoes, and it is not hard to see that some of the issues in military education that were problematic in the early 1900s remain suggesting they are deeply rooted in military culture. I reco Comparative analyses are frequently useful as in this book that examines both the US and German officer education processes and institutions between 1901-1940. It provides a useful history as precursor to contemporary analyses of professional military education. History may not repeat itself, but it certainly echoes, and it is not hard to see that some of the issues in military education that were problematic in the early 1900s remain suggesting they are deeply rooted in military culture. I recommend this book to those who are interested in the education and development of military officers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    T.D. Krupp

    Overall an excellent book. Where Dr. Muth is lacking is an equal glimpse into today's Bundeswehr as he did for the U.S. Army's opening maneuvers in Iraq in the last chapter. Overall an excellent book. Where Dr. Muth is lacking is an equal glimpse into today's Bundeswehr as he did for the U.S. Army's opening maneuvers in Iraq in the last chapter.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Zhifei Ge

    A book good comparing military cadet education between USA and Germany. It touches the cultural aspects with in-depth thoughts. The only thing lacking is quantitative comparisons.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rob Humphrey

    A very interesting comparison of the U.S. And German officer education systems.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

  20. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Armitage

  21. 5 out of 5

    John

  22. 4 out of 5

    『(ARJUN REDDY™)』(^_^)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

  24. 5 out of 5

    jordan mcknight

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Twigg

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kolya

  28. 4 out of 5

    James Byrn

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Downes

  30. 4 out of 5

    NK Finney

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