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Command Culture

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

Jörg Muth

Publication Year: 2011

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whereas their counterparts in the United States came from one of the most democratic societies but received an outdated military education that harnessed their minds and limited their initiative.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.

Published by: University of North Texas Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-x

Even after finishing my master’s with an outstanding grade and publishing a successful book, support or advancement was denied me in Germany. All kinds of specious reasons were given to me at that time. The real reason for the rejections was most likely that the academic system in Germany, just like..

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pp. 1-13

During the course of World War II, the supreme commander of the Allied forces, General Dwight David Eisenhower, USMA 1915, had already resolved that he would not write his account of the events but leave that to historians and those who were compelled to justify themselves. Directly after the war’s conclusion, however, various Allied command­ers stepped into the limelight and criticized in interviews and publications ...

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1. Prelude: Military Relations between the United States and Germany and the Great General Staff Fantasy

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pp. 15-40

It has been stated that “no other army in history has ever known its enemy as well as the American army knew the German army when the Amer­icans crossed the Rhine River and began their final offensive.”3 While the U.S. Army might have known a lot, it understood little..

Part One: The Selection and Commissioning of Officers

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2. No “Brother Officers”: Cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point

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pp. 43-84

Despite some “structural” similarities of both armies discussed in chap­ter 1, the route to becoming an officer differed dramatically in both nations. Young Germans who sought to become officers, either via a position in a military academy or in an existing regiment, pursued this goal with the intent of becoming regulars for a lifetime.3 In contrast, the majority of young Americans who applied to West Point saw a military ...

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3. “To Learn How to Die”: Kadetten in Germany

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pp. 85-112

The pursuit of a free education via the military academies sharply distinguishes the American officers from their German counterparts. To become one of the emperor’s, or the Weimar Republic’s, finest, a young German usually had to come from one of the “Offizier fähigen Schichten”—officer-capable classes. In general, mid- to high-level officials, professors, the whole nobility, and current or former officers belonged to those strata, the sons of ...

Part Two: Intermediate Advanced Education and Promotion

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4. The Importance of Doctrine and How to Manage: The American Command and General Staff School

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pp. 125-147

Another cornerstone of the American professional military education system was founded by General William Tecumseh Sherman, USMA 1840, in May 1881 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Then known as “School of Application for the Infantry and Cavalry,” it went—even in later years—through several name changes, which proves the point that it “initially lacked a clearly defined purpose.”2 The problem of lacking a ...

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5. The Importance of the Attack and How to Lead: The German Kriegsakademie

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pp. 149-178

A s a supposed threat to Europe, the German Great General Staff was forbidden by the Versailles Treaty, as was the education of General Staff officers. But, with a little ingenuity, the Germans just renamed the General Staff into Truppenamt (troop office), whose section T4 dealt with the education of the General Staff officers. The staff officers them

Part Three: Conclusions

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6. Education, Culture, and Consequences

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pp. 181-211

After the overwhelmingly successful wars of German unification, the U.S. Army switched its focus completely from the French to the vic

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Author’s Afterword

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pp. 213-217

My book deals nearly exclusively with the time from 1901 to the end of World War II. However, because I have studied the U.S. Army—and especially its officer corps—throughout its existence, I could not avoid making observations that stretch into the closer past or even the present. This work is very closely based on my Ph.D. dissertation that was submitted at the University of Utah in 2010. At the defense of the man­...

Officers’ Rank Index

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pp. 218-219


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pp. 221-316

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 317-354


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pp. 355-366

E-ISBN-13: 9781574413649
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574413038

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 31 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011