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School of Hard Knocks

Combat Leadership in the American Expeditionary Forces

Richard S. Faulkner

Publication Year: 2012

This important new history of the development of a leadership corps of officers during World War I opens with a gripping narrative of the battlefield heroism of Cpl. Alvin York, juxtaposed with the death of Pvt. Charles Clement less than two kilometers away. Clement had been a captain and an example of what a good officer should be in the years just before the beginning of the war. His subsequent failure as an officer and his redemption through death in combat embody the question that lies at the heart of this comprehensive and exhaustively researched book: What were the faults of US military policy regarding the training of officers during the Great War? In The School of Hard Knocks, Richard S. Faulkner carefully considers the selection and training process for officers during the years prior to and throughout the First World War. He then moves into the replacement of those officers due to attrition, ultimately discussing the relationship between the leadership corps and the men they commanded. Replete with primary documentary evidence including reports by the War Department during and subsequent to the war, letters from the officers detailing their concerns with the training methods, and communiqués from the leaders of the training facilities to the civilian leadership, The School of Hard Knocks makes a compelling case while presenting a clear, highly readable, no-nonsense account of the shortfalls in officer training that contributed to the high death toll suffered by the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: C. A. Brannen Series


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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List of Illustrations and Tables

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

Growing up in northern Georgia on land crisscrossed with the trenches of the Atlanta Campaign of 1864, I, perhaps understandably, developed an interest in the Great War. Although I cannot remember when I first became fascinated with the First World War, I know that my love of history came from my parents, Larry Faulkner and Gloria Nan Faulkner. To them...

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1. Combat Leadership in the AEF: A Tale of Alvin and Charles

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pp. 1-9

The day was not going well for the 82nd Division’s 328th Infantry. As the regiment attempted to seize the Decauville railroad in the early morning of 8 October 1918, German riflemen, snipers, and machine gunners on Hill 233 and Champrocher Ridge caught the Americans in a vicious crossfire that quickly halted the momentum of the assault as the doughboys sought shelter from the defenders’ remorseless firepower....

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2. “To Be Instructed in the Dark Art and Mystery of Managing Men”: Junior Officers in the Old Army

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pp. 10-25

In his 1888 short story “Only a Subaltern,” Rudyard Kipling wrote of his young subject: “He became an officer and a gentleman, which is an enviable thing.” In the story Kipling also noted that the subaltern was expected to sit at the feet of his veteran captain “to be instructed in the dark art and...

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3. “We Find Ourselves in Need of a Vast Army of Officers”: The Stateside Selection and Training of Officers

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pp. 26-67

After the United States had been at war for more than eight months, the editor of the Infantry Journal had grown tired of the constant carping in the officer corps about the training of officer candidates for the wartime army. He rebuked his readers by reminding them, “We find ourselves in need of a vast army of officers. Two alternatives...

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4. “By Improvised and Uncoordinated Means”Officer Selection and Training in 1918

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pp. 68-98

In his annual report to Congress for 1918, Chief of Staff Peyton March accurately noted that the army’s efforts to build a wartime cadre of officers was accomplished only “by improvised and uncoordinated means.”1 Creating the first OTCs had been a monumental undertaking, and despite their great inadequacies in training, they generally succeeded...

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5. “Ninety- Day Wonders” and “Jumped-up Sergeants”: Stateside Mobilization and the Challenges of Small-Unit Leadership

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pp. 99-139

Until the creation of the COTSs, most of the graduates from the officer training camps went directly from school into leadership or staff positions in units in the process of mobilizing or training. As these officers reported to their new units, most Regular Army officers realized that the OTCs were but a bare beginning in the graduates’ overall military education. Following the traditions of the Old Army, the novice...

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6. “My God! Th is Is Kitchener’s Army All Over Again”: Leader Training in the American Expeditionary Forces in France

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pp. 140-182

A soldier in the 105th Infantry recalled that aft er seeing his unit arrive at a British training area in France, one of the British instructors noted with tears in his eyes, “My God! Th is is Kitchener’s army all over again.”1 While the American chose to interpret the remark as a comment on the poor state of the British army in 1918, the statement...

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7. “Gone Blooey” The AEF’s Systems for Addressing Officer Incompetence and Inefficiency

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pp. 183-194

John J. Pershing was a hard man. He was exacting in his 183 expectations of efficiency and discipline and strictly weighed the ability of his subordinates to achieve results on and off the battlefield. He had an unbending concept of duty and was seldom swayed by friendship or long- standing personal relationships when it came to accomplishing missions....

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8. Noncoms, Doughboys, and the Sam Brownes: The Relations between the Leader and the Led in the US Army

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pp. 195-232

On 20 August 1917, General Pershing issued General Order 23 establishing the standards for the wearing of uniforms in the AEF. Th e order stipulated that “when in uniform outside of their own quarters all officers will wear the Sam Browne belt except when actually serving in the...

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9. Combat Physics and the Ugly Realities of Attritional Warfare

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pp. 233-256

Before examining the combat performance of the AEF’s junior leaders and the challenges they faced in battle, it is important to discuss the nature of combat that they faced on the Western Front. In describing the conditions under which the AEF’s junior leaders operated, it is possible...

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10. The School of Hard Knocks

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pp. 257-286

The French marshal Ferdinand Foch is said to have remarked that it took fi ft een thousand casualties to train a major general. Although this assertion sounds rather cold- blooded to modern ears, Foch was off ering an honest assessment of the grim internal logic of combat in the Great War. None...

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11. Combat Leadership and the Attritional Battlefield

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pp. 287-317

Ultimately, the outcome of the various and assorted lapses in small- unit leadership examined in the previous chapter was the line of dead and wounded they left in their wake. The AEF suffered over 256,000 battle casualties during the war. Of these, slightly less than 50,000 were killed in action or died of their wounds. While these statistics pale in comparison to the losses...

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12. Conclusions: A Tale of George and Henry

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pp. 318-327

Serving in the Great War had given the two men a shared experience that had helped to grease the wheels of their working relationship. Henry, the elder of the two, had risen to the rank of colonel and had commanded an artillery regiment during the war. George had been promoted to the rank of temporary colonel and had served as a corps chief of staff. Both men...

APPENDIX: Organization of AEF Infantry Rifle Companies and Platoons

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pp. 329-331


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pp. 333-363


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pp. 365-384


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pp. 385-392

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781603446983
E-ISBN-10: 1603446982
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603442978
Print-ISBN-10: 1603442979

Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 14 b&w photos. 4 line art. Map. 6 tables. App. Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: C. A. Brannen Series
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OCLC Number: 794003433
MUSE Marc Record: Download for School of Hard Knocks

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Subject Headings

  • Command of troops -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States. Army -- Officers -- Training of.
  • United States. Army -- Non-commissioned officers -- Training of.
  • United States. Army. American Expeditionary Forces -- Unit cohesion.
  • United States. Army. American Expeditionary Forces -- Mobilization.
  • Military morale -- United States.
  • United States. Army. American Expeditionary Forces -- Operational readiness.
  • United States. Army. American Expeditionary Forces -- History.
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- United States.
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