Go Back   DefenceTalk Forum - Military & Defense Forums > Global Defense & Military > Military Strategy and Tactics

Defense News
Land, Air & Naval Forces






Military Photos
Latest Military Pictures
Defense Reports
Aerospace & Defence


Generals on the Front Lines

This is a discussion on Generals on the Front Lines within the Military Strategy and Tactics forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; ...


Closed Thread
 
LinkBack Thread Tools Rate Thread
Old August 4th, 2013   #1
Banned Member
Private
Dragoon95's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 16
Threads:
Generals on the Front Lines

I have been thinking about this for a long time and thought I would share it with everybody out there.

Basically I've been thinking that if I were a General in command of an Army I would personally prefer to be with my men. In today’s wars, unless you are a General in a guerrilla force, you tend to stay at a base, directing your troops by radio and only going to the front lines on morale boosting visits when there is no shooting. Some Generals aren't even in the same continent as the men they lead.

Now I'm not saying I would be leading from the front because in today’s wars where Generals are leading more than 100,000 men trying to direct everyone would be a nightmare. A General nowadays has to be somewhere behind the lines where he has access to a radio and can receive updates from runners etc.

But do they really have to be as far back as they are nowadays. Generals would always lead from the front (or relatively close) but with the advent of gunpowder and rifles being able to shoot longer distances generals have been pushed further back.
The longest confirmed sniper kill was around 2,400m so you would have to be back around three or four kilometres. But they don't have to be back so far that they don't experience the same conditions as their troops. I'm talking about Generals been so close that they are at considerable risk of dying from artillery or bombing, so close that when the army is starving, miserable and cold they are too, so close that any decision (surrender) that affects the Army affects them too.


Examples in modern history where Generals have been put in situations like this are;

General Anthony McAuliffe who was the acting division commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge became surrounded with the division and had to suffer the same appalling conditions that his men did. When the Germans asked him to surrender he declined. If he had surrendered he would have gone into captivity along with his men.

Jonathan Wainwright was the temporary general who was captured by the Japanese after surrendering Corregidor. Douglas MacArthur wanted to stay in the Philippines and suffer the same fate as his men but was ORDERED to retreat to Australia by President Roosevelt.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was famous for leading from the front (which apparently annoyed his staff). He conducted many night time raids during the war in North Africa riding in his own tank.

Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus was the highest ranked German to surrender during WW2 and the only German Field Marshal too surrender. He along with another 30 German Generals were surrounded during the Battle of Stalingrad and had to endure the same conditions as his men and eventually surrendered with them.

Some of these Generals and Field Marshals chose to be in these situations and/or stay in them and others were forced into them.
Is there any place in Modern Warfare, perhaps if there was to be WW3 but it was fought similar to WW2 (Forget Nuclear Weapons), for Generals to either be put in this situation or choose to fight alongside (or as close as they can get) to their men.
There is always the possibility that they are killed or captured which could lower morale but for a soldier who’s sheltering from an artillery bombardment and sees a four-star General also sheltering and getting pelted with shrapnel, it could be a strong morale booster.

Do you think Generals should be closer to the front lines or are they fine where they are?

And if you were a General today would you lead from the front?
Dragoon95 is offline  
Old August 4th, 2013   #2
Grumpy Old Man
General
gf0012-aust's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 17,997
Threads:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dragoon95 View Post
Do you think Generals should be closer to the front lines or are they fine where they are?
in ancient times generals/commanders led from the front primarily for morale reasons as it was the nature of warfare

in modern times it was due to an issue of the commander having locational situational awareness

modern combat has SA through other capabilities - there is no need for the force commander to lead from the front

in fact its disparagingly referred to as the "disease of the 1000okm screwdriver"

the local commander is better placed to make decisions than have someone overmanage events. The theatre commander needs to deal with big picture issues
________________
A corollary of Finagle's Law, similar to Occam's Razor, says:

"Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity"
http://au.linkedin.com/pub/gary-fairlie/1/28a/2a2
http://cofda.wordpress.com/

gf a.k.a. ROBOPIMP T5C
gf0012-aust is offline  
Old August 4th, 2013   #3
Super Moderator
Lieutenant General
No Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Australia
Posts: 2,874
Threads:
Using examples from World War II is hardly "modern" when it comes to the advances in military technology that have happened over the last sixty years and have enabled revolutionary changes in how the military does business. A modern war would not be fought like WWII, as you suggested, because too much has changed. It would look nothing like WWII.

My advice would be to refine your thinking with a lot of reading. Saying "if I were a general I would do X" is all well and good but unless you understand (in some depth, which is why I suggest research) the roles and responsibilities of the various positions in a chain of command, the statement is irrelevant.
Bonza is offline  
Old August 4th, 2013   #4
Potstirrer
General
Todjaeger's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: not in New England anymore...
Posts: 3,844
Threads:
To add to what GF and Bonza have already posted.

What is/what are 'the front lines' now? If one really drills down and looks at engagements, they tend to be relatively small, confined tactical events. A general or other flag officer's role is to coordinate the activities and response of a large unit or groups of units. Going by some of the older TO&E's used by the US during the 60's, a division which might be deployed in combat in the field would comprise ~21,000 officers and men. Of these, there would typically be three generals, the CO would be a Major General, the ADC would be a Brigadier General, and then the Division Artillery Officer would be another Brigadier General.

However, unless something went seriously wrong (or the opponent did something very good/right) then a general should not be directly engaging or engaged by the enemy. Field and company grade officers and noncoms can direct who should engage and with what, while the general(s) in broad strokes direct the types of formations which would be in a given area and ensure the logistical support the engaged forces require is sufficient and where it needs to be.

-Cheers
________________
Beware of Mr. Grumpy...
Todjaeger is offline  
Old August 4th, 2013
Dragoon95
This message has been deleted by OPSSG. Reason: Spam like replies - reflecting an inability to process basic info
Old August 5th, 2013   #5
Potstirrer
General
Todjaeger's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: not in New England anymore...
Posts: 3,844
Threads:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dragoon95 View Post
Trust me I do a lot of reading (I own over 100 books on the Military and thats in five years). I guess I wouldn't be good as a General then cause the point I guess I'm trying to make is the decisions a General makes don't affect him.

For example if a Lieutenant gives orders to attack a position which is heavily fortified and the attack fails, the lieutenant would be killed along with his men. A General gives the same order and he sits at base snug as a bug while his men die.

All I'm saying is if I were a General I wouldn't be able to give said order without being there myself to also suffer from the consequences if I am wrong.


Also, use your imagination, I am well aware of the technological changes that have occured since WW2 and I am well aware that any future wars and even a WW3 would not be fought like WW2.
By your statements then either A. you would not be an effective general, if you were able to advance in rank that far, B. there have been changes in (both technological and conops/doctrine) how battles/wars are fought of which you are ignorant, or C. which is a mix of A & B.

A general's role is not to involve themselves in a tactical environment, but to make decisions on larger or broader scale. In many respects it might be best to consider the difference between a battle and its outcome vs. a campaign and its outcome.

The battle being the tactical environment which you seem to want a general's involvement in, as opposed to allocating a general's oversight to the campaign, which would in essence be the series of battles fought over NN.

Something else which seems to be getting overlooked is what a realistic span of control is. Best practices have the max number of people who can be directly led by someone to be on average 5 - 7 people. In effect a squad or fire team sized formation (depending on service and country of origin). The fire team leader (if there is a fire team) reports to the squad leader, and then the squad leader reporting to the platoon leader who reports to the company commader, who reports to the battalion commander who reports to the regimental or brigade commander who then reports to the division commander, etc. Again, depending on service and country of origin, some of the unit formations might be different, and/or how they are arranged. A prime example is that in many cases there might not be an actual deployed battalion or larger unit formation, instead a battlation-sized (or larger) task force composed of an amalgamation of different type sub units based upon availability and need. An example of such a battalion-sized task force could have two companies of infantry supported by a tank company and an artillery battery, again with the potential for very different arrangements.

Now in normal circumstances, someone who has been promoted as high as a general of some flavour are usually able to lead, coordinate and manage a large number of personnel/assets. Not directly mind you (remember span of control limits) but by utilizing the chain of command with a general issuing orders to subordinates who are usually field grade officers, who then relay those orders to their subordinates at the company grade officer level, who then relay the orders to the squad and fire team leaders who are actually directly leading the troops.

However, the ability to command personnel directly does not mean that the same person is able to handle command on a larger scale. By having a general lead in such a direct fashion, one not only limits the scope of their ability to command by essentially fufilling the role of a colonel or lower on the battlefield, but also exposing the general to a greater risk of injury, death or capture than is necessary.

And there is still the need for someone to coordinate the actions of larger units and campaigns.
________________
Beware of Mr. Grumpy...
Todjaeger is offline  
Old August 5th, 2013
Dragoon95
This message has been deleted by OPSSG. Reason: Spam like replies - reflecting an inability to process basic info
Old August 5th, 2013   #6
Super Moderator
Lieutenant General
No Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Australia
Posts: 2,874
Threads:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dragoon95 View Post
Trust me I do a lot of reading (I own over 100 books on the Military and thats in five years). I guess I wouldn't be good as a General then cause the point I guess I'm trying to make is the decisions a General makes don't affect him.

For example if a Lieutenant gives orders to attack a position which is heavily fortified and the attack fails, the lieutenant would be killed along with his men. A General gives the same order and he sits at base snug as a bug while his men die.

All I'm saying is if I were a General I wouldn't be able to give said order without being there myself to also suffer from the consequences if I am wrong.


Also, use your imagination, I am well aware of the technological changes that have occured since WW2 and I am well aware that any future wars and even a WW3 would not be fought like WW2.
Then you would probably be an awful general. I don't know what else there is to discuss, although I very much doubt you do as much reading as you say. You wouldn't have the questions and preconceptions you've repeatedly displayed on these forums if you had.

On what am I "using my imagination"? Contemplating that another world war would be different to WWII? Isn't that exactly what I pointed out in my post to you in the first place? And it was due to you specifically saying "perhaps if there was to be WW3 but it was fought similar to WW2" in your first post. So you say that, now a post later you're saying you know that wouldn't happen. You tell me you've done all this reading, then in the next post to Tod you admit you haven't thought about the modern chain of command, which is a clear indicator you haven't read about it either.

The quality of your contributions needs to start moving up in a pretty serious way if you want to keep participating on here. Contradicting yourself and expecting people to act as your personal google isn't a good way to start.
Bonza is offline  
Old August 5th, 2013   #7
Super Moderator
General
OPSSG's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Singapore
Posts: 3,299
Threads:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dragoon95 View Post
I don't think I quite thought about the modern command chain and how that would affect things.
Again factually wrong. The chain of command from section to platoon, to company, to battalion, to brigade, to division and to corps, pre-dates World War I (in some similar form). The idea of a chain of command, as discussed by Todjaeger is pretty old and its continued usage has evolved, as the assets available to a modern army continues to evolve.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dragoon95 View Post
Trust me I do a lot of reading (I own over 100 books on the Military and thats in five years).
Trust you? I really don't know what you have been reading but our patience with you (living in your imaginary world), is not unlimited.

A broken clock tells the correct time of day, at least twice a day but you are not even at that level. Think through what you are saying and at least do a little research before posting or starting threads again.

Learn or leave. You choose.

Thread closed.
________________
“Terrorism is the tactic of demanding the impossible, and demanding it at gunpoint.”
Christopher Hitchens

Last edited by OPSSG; August 5th, 2013 at 02:09 AM.
OPSSG is offline  
Closed Thread

Thread Tools
Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 09:56 PM.