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“Principles of Organization for War and Organizing for War in the Carreraverse”1
(Part One of a Series) by Thomas P. Kratman


Part I


Introduction:

In the “history” of the Carreraverse and of what eventually became the Timocratic Republic of Balboa, there are six models of organization seen. The first of these was the creation model, by which Patricio Carrera built out of the previously defeated and disbanded scraps of the Balboan armed forces the second model, a brigade of auxiliaries to wage conventional war, in order to begin to avenge the murders of his wife and children, as well as to earn money to continue that program of revenge.

The second model was flux, and little but, wherein the Legio del Cid, expanded from that single brigade-sized organization to the third model, a corps-sized force, able to keep one legion, their name for a division, in action, in counter-insurgency, continuously.

The third model was the rapid, ad hoc reorganization of the corps to once again fight a more or less conventional war, this time to re-invade Pashtia and retrieve the waning fortunes of the alliance there, before reverting back to the third model.

The fourth model was a still expanding reversion to the third.

The fifth, following the taking over of the nation, was the expansion of the corps to a national defense organization, the size of a large, multi-corps army, capable of waging total war in defense of the nation, against the likely enemies, the Tauran Union and the Zhong, predictably aided by the United Earth Peace Fleet, as well as waging war in Balboa’s “near abroad,” along with a very limited ability to wage both kinetic and propaganda/memetic war anywhere on the planet of Terra Nova.

The fifth model, itself, can be subdivided into two further models, 5a, the unmobilized, largely hidden, and in part only diplomatically valid, nation-in-arms, and 5b, the fully mobilized force, with allies.

Although I don’t think it’s anywhere stated within the series, in building these different models Carrera was either consciously adhering to, or consciously violating, certain long-standing, albeit often unstated, principles of military organization.

So what are some of those principles of organization:


Principles of Organization (a non-exhaustive list):

  1. Social cohesion: Organize your sub-organization for maximum feasible affection and group emotional attachment within and among the officers and men.
  2. Flexibility and maneuver: Organize the number of sub-units to give options, to allow left and right, but also forward and rear.
  3. Span of control: Organize with no more subunits than the man responsible can supervise in action and, pre-action, no more than he can professionally develop, rate, and know, so that the leadership can retain integrity and personal honor.
  4. Combined Arms: Organize to achieve and employ combined arms.
  5. Purity: Organize so that the commander or leader knows and understands every job of his subordinates.
  6. Discipline: Organize to ensure that all ranks are supervised, and improper conduct identified and punished.
  7. Rest: Organize to relieve and allow rest for the sub-organizations and men who comprise them.
  8. Leadership: Organize to make it easily and instantly recognizable who is responsible and in charge. Organize to keep leadership quality high.
  9. Simplicity: Do not add needless complexity; balance necessary complexity.
  10. Logistics: Organize for effective logistic support.
  11. Attrition: Organize for anti-fragility and ability to endure losses.
  12. Mass: Organize to allow massing of combat power, and especially to give artillery “maximum feasible centralized control.”
  13. Support: Organize for supporting arms to provide support.
  14. Range and weapons’ effects: Organize to place weapons at the right echelon.
  15. Environment: Organize to meet the demands of the physical environment in which you will wage war.
  16. Specialization: Organize to avoid overspecialization and gain appropriate specialization.
  17. State Circumstances: In organizing, remember the industrial, population, and other resource limits of the state and society.
  18. Officers: Organize to limit the need for officers.
  19. Fad resistance: Organize to ignore or resist fads and especially left wing, politically motivated fads.
  20. Expansion: Organize to be able to rapidly expand the existing force in the event of war.
  21. Frugality. Don’t waste manpower and other resources.
  22. Compatibility: Organize so that everything fits together reasonably well.
  23. Politics: Organize for leaders and staff to have a voice equal to their military value and use, organize to preserve two -way communications. Match responsibility to relative rank within the organization.


Considerations of Organization:

  1. No one principle is dominant.
  2. The principles can be, and often are, contradictory or even mutually exclusive.
  3. There is NO ideal organization; it is all compromise.
  4. Good officers are rare, generally at or under three percent of total strength.
  5. Bad officers do damage (even when they have good intentions and are, personally, good people).
  6. The positive difference between three percent and the percent of officers you actually have are probably bad officers.

Also, note well, I’ll explain those principles on more depth after we have a small history lesson.


History of Early Military Organization (bear with me; this will take a bit)


Historical Example One, the primitive mob:

It’s worth distinguishing between organizing for war and organizing for battle. They’re different in many ways. Among these is that one typically organizes a society for war, but one organizes an army of a part of an army for battle. We are mostly concerned with the latter, at this stage.

Though it may be called “an army,” the primitive mob really isn’t, nor is it organized to wage war. Instead, war is a game and battle is play, not too serious, mostly an opportunity for young men to show off under circumstances that are not too risky. It exists in a state British historian John Keegan referred to as being “below the military horizon.”

This was the form of battle amongst the Bantu tribes of Southern Africa until the advent of Shaka, and it was also to be seen, at least until rather recently, amongst the primitive tribes of New Guinea.2

Although it had long term aspects of survival or extinction, war was a game for the mob. Typically, they engaged in ambush and raid, as a more or less continuing activity. Often the objective of the raid was to kill women and children, thus militarily disadvantaging the neighbors for the future. Stealing women, an important form of movable personal property of the day, was also highly regarded in many circles.3

There was, however, another kind of war our ancestral mobs engaged in, a more formal war, with something like declarations of war and the massing of “armies.” These, however, were laughable, with war still being more of a boys’ game cum sporting event, an exercise in showing manliness where the risks were minimal.4 Decisive action was impossible. Indeed, to have actually won the war would have ruined the future fun for everyone.

Our distant ancestors, when it came to war, were fundamentally unserious.

And then God, or at least the god of war, whispered into someone’s ear, “Look, dumbass; if you can just get your friends and neighbors to march in step . . . ”


Historical Example Two, the Phalanx

The phalanx, the massed formation of spearmen, armored or, at least, bearing large shields, who marched in step and fought in close order, certainly didn’t begin with the Greeks. Indeed, we have graphic evidence of Sumerian use of a phalanx going back to the twenty-fifth century BC:


Image courtesy Wikicommons.5


The phalanx did, however, take a large step forward with the Greeks, who added very heavy personal defenses to it in the form of bronze helmet, torso armor, greaves, plus a heavy wooden shield, and coupled these to a culturally imbued attitude that demanded decisive action, close combat in a fight to the finish.


Image courtesy Wikicommons.6


Against the Greek phalanx, a solid hedgehog of bronze armor and iron-tipped spears, more lightly equipped, less disciplined, less closely ordered foes rarely stood a chance. This was so despite the phalanx’s many, oh, many, failings and weaknesses.

What were those? It was slow and unwieldy. It depended on good order in the ranks but was easily disordered by, even broken up by, rough terrain. The prime weapon, the thrusting spear, was good against cavalry and other spears, but a poor dueling instrument when facing a highly maneuverable sword. The troops, being human, would push to the right to get as much of themselves behind their right-hand comrades’ shields as possible, which tended to drive the phalanx off side and to the right. (Be it noted, however, that they made a virtue of this vice. Indeed, they eventually came to rely on the effect.)

Note that the phalanx didn’t use much in the way of organization. The members of it might be united or grouped by tribe, or by mess, as with the Spartans, or on some other basis, but the power and responsibilities of the leadership, such as it was, appear to have been highly limited. The whole thing was so simple to operate that not much in the way of organization was even useful.

Even the Romans used the phalanx, right up until its weaknesses were made manifest to them in a glaring and humiliating fashion.


Historical Example Three, the Macedonian Phalanx

Two battles rather shook the Greek reliance on their standard phalanx, fighting eight ranks or twelve ranks deep. These were Delium, of Socratic fame, where Pagondas of Thebes massed his right flank twenty-five men deep to defeat the left flank of his Athenian opponents, and Leuctra where Epaminondas, also of Thebes, regularized massing on one flank with the cream of his army, and massing to the tune of fifty men deep.

Philip of Macedon, held as a hostage at Thebes, had an excellent and close up opportunity to study the military operations of Epaminondas. These lessons he took and applied to his own kingdom’s army, upon his return to Macedon. The big differences Philip imposed included doubling the depth of the phalanx to sixteen ranks deep, which increased its endurance in the line of battle, dropping the eight or so foot thrusting spear in favor of a pike of up to twenty feet in length, which allowed up to five ranks of spearpoints to be presented to the enemy, professionalizing the army, which allowed fairly complex maneuvers, and dumping most of the armor, while decreasing the size and weight of the shield, both of which added speed at the cost of some security.

In addition, Philip made his army a combined arms team, which included heavy cavalry, lighter cavalry, elite infantry, skirmishers and other missile troops, and regular phalangists. Moreover, he subdivided the line into regiments, composed of syntagmata, those being battalion blocks of two hundred and fifty-six men, sixteen by sixteen, under the command of a syntagmatarch.

One suspects that the syntagmatarch was not a position of mere prestige without much authority; the complex maneuvers of which the Macedonian phalanx was capable suggests a degree of independence in command, and responsibility for training, that was likely unique in the Hellenic world at the time.

Note, however, that one thing the combined Macedonian army was not was simple. This tended to show up as weakness, later on, under the Successors, as the various supporting arms were neglected or disbanded, leaving the phalanx rather vulnerable.


Willful Digression:

I am skeptical of Hanson’s theory on the physical push of a phalanx for four reasons. One is that, facing a Roman legion, the physical pushing of massed ranks should have simply rolled over the Romans, who fought in a much more open order and could never have mustered sufficient counterpush to have held the line. The classical phalanx was so simple to train men to, and the vulnerability of the legion to physical pushing so complete, that one would expect someone to have readopted the phalanx to face the legions. Yet this never happened.

“Ah, but what about the pili, the Romans heavy javelins? Wouldn’t those stop the push?” Doubt they’d get through the Greek shields, frankly.

Secondly, “you are what you were back then.” The Macedonian phalanx, as mentioned, derived from the tactics of Pagondas at Delium and Epaminondas at, among other fields of battle, Leuctra, completely abandoned any chance of physical pushing by massed ranks in favor of a lot of stabbing by massed pike. That, if massed pushing had been routine previously, would represent a suspiciously revolutionary change. Moreover, the pikes weren’t actually that strong. A classical hoplite phalanx, had it been using push, should have been able to physically break the pikes and then roll over the then disarmed, barely armored Macedonians. This, too, never happened.

Thirdly, much of the evidence driving the belief in the pushing phalanx is based on the inexplicability of deepening ranks—massing combat power, in other words—unless it was to push. There is, however, an alternative explanation. The ancient battle tended to be won or lost via the mechanism of desertion. In other words, the side that ran last won. Battlefield desertion, however, could not take place from the front, where to turn was to die. Neither could it take place from the middle, because there were people behind those men blocking escape. Rather, desertion began from the rear, where men couldn’t see much, but could hear screaming, smell perforated guts, choke on dust, and exist in trembling terror for each step closer to the front they advanced. How to fix this? Simple, make the phalanx deep enough that the rear ranks didn’t have to worry about ever reaching the front until a decision had been reached. This would have kept the rear in place, hence the middle blocked from running.

“Ah, I hear, “but what about the Spartans? Surely they never ran or surrendered?” Think so? Check out the Battles of Sphacteria (425 BC) and the Battle of Lechaeum (391 BC).

Fourthly and finally, has anyone done a test to see if a standard bronze breastplate of the day could endure that kind of pressure without warping inward, suffocating its wearer? Was there any chance of the bronze’s replacement, the linothorax (layers of linen cloth held together by glue) holding out for a second against that kind of pressure? One is skeptical, very skeptical.


Historical Example Four, the Manipular Legion

“Never do an enemy a small injury” was the core of the advice from his father to Sabine general Gaius Pontius, following his entrapment of the Roman legion—just another phalanx—at Caudine Forks.7

The details don’t much matter of how the Romans found themselves boxed in in a narrow, steep walled canyon, with a fortified and defended barrier to their front and their Sabine enemy likewise in possession of the quickly barricaded pass by which they’d entered the canyon. Suffice to say they did find themselves in this most unfortunate position.

The phalanx was uniquely ill-suited either to fight its way over the defended barriers and fortifications or to ascend the pass walls to either side; the nature of the ground would have instantly converted—or reverted—the phalanx back into a mob. Thus, the Romans were stuck, facing starvation, and forced to surrender.

That’s when Pontius—oh, most unwisely—decided to do them a small injury; he made the entire army, consuls first, pass under the yoke in token of submission.

Impelled by the humiliation (which could have gone a lot worse for them, a fact they were surely aware of), and possibly in imitation of the Sabine military practice of using small units to maneuver about their rough terrain8, the Romans dumped the phalanx in favor of a different formation.

To see a diagram of a Roman manipular legion, go here: https://sites.psu.edu/successoftheromans/organization-of-the-roman-army/. (Note that I find those lines about the centuries of hatasti and princeps being twenty files in three ranks to be most improbable and suspect strongly that the triarii were in ten and three, not ten and six, and all centuries within a maniple were side by side, as the illustration shows. Also, you should increase the gaps to equal the size of the units.)

It’s with the Roman manipular legion that we start to see a number of the principles of organization listed above in clear form. Before we get to that, though, a word or two of explanation is required. Those blocks in the front ranks, the hastati, were the youngest heavy infantry in the legion. Each square is a century, maddeningly not composed of one hundred men but of sixty, while each rectangle composed of two squares is a maniple—we would call it a “company,” though, in keeping with our overarching theme, in the Balboan legions company-sized units are called “maniples.” The second line, the princeps, were older men, with a fair amount of experience in battle and on campaign. The last line, the triarii, were the oldest, experienced campaigners in their forties and fifties. While the least fit, they were also presumptively the steadiest.

The three classes were mostly armed the same, and armed at their own expense, but the triarii, for some centuries, retained a spear, the hasta, echoing back to the legion’s days as a phalanx. Presumably it was kept as a hedge—more or less a literal one—against a cavalry charge.

Though it occasionally happened, the triarii rarely had to fight. Instead, the bulk of their job was battlefield police and what we now call straggler control. In other words, they were there largely to prevent desertion from the rear of the engaged maniples, and perhaps secondarily to ward off cavalry with their spears. We should not presume, however, that the fear of being killed by the triarii was what actually motivated the hastati and, when their turn came, the princeps to fight. Instead, we should imagine something like the following going on in the minds of the typical soldier of an engaged maniple:

Dad and Uncle Marcus are back there in the triari maniple behind mine . . . can’t let them down or embarrass the family name . . . Gods, I’m afraid though . . . I can hear the fighting up ahead . . . was that just my friend Publius who screamed like his balls were cut off? What the fuck just went by? A spear? A javelin. Got no armor on my face . . . I’m worried about a javelin...I smell shit . . . did someone crap themselves or is there a punctured gut up ahead? Shit, Spurius on my right and Titus on my left look as terrified as I feel. What if they run? What if everybody runs and I’m left alone here to die uselessly or get run down and stabbed in the back? I wish I could stop these shakes. Damn, is that Rufus they’re carrying back? He’s so pale. And I had no idea that human entrails were that color. The maniples . . . they’re going to run; I can feel it . . .

No, wait a second. They’re not going to run because someone has to run first, while Dad and Uncle Marcus will kill that first deserter deader than Aunus and Seius, the Etruscans. They’re not going to run because they know beyond a doubt that they’re dead if they do. Tartarus, everyone in the maniple knows that. So nobody’s going to run. So what was I worried about? We’ll stand and I won’t get left to die alone. Life is good . . . I can hardly wait for my turn up at the front.

Thing is, every soldier in an engaged maniple was probably thinking much the same thing, thus, the confidence that no one would run became a self-fulfilling prophecy. And that was how the triarii kept men from deserting.

Of course, I’d be terribly unsurprised if occasionally they did have to summarily execute this Brutus or that Drusus. But one doubts it was common.

Another feature of the manipular legion was that it was also essentially a reserve system, one where the loss of a legion, or, say, sixteen of them, as at Cannae, meant relatively little, except to weeping mothers. “Plenty more where those came from.” Moreover, as a reserve system, it was possible to rapidly expand the serving forces from the four Roman and four allied legions of routine and peace, to . . . well . . . they lost twice the numbers of their prewar army in a single battle, Cannae, 216 BC, and were still ready for more, ultimately having mobilized the equivalent of perhaps ninety or one hundred legions (not simultaneously) over the course of the seventeen-year long war.

In any case, we can see at least eleven of those principles in the manipular legion. How so?

They have organized their units into a size that promotes social cohesion by making them no larger than would allow a man to know every other man, to care each at least somewhat, and to value the good opinion of each and of the whole, and to be spoken well of.9 They have adopted a formation and tactical system that allows them to not only maneuver around manmade and natural obstacles without losing cohesion, but also to take advantage of opportunities.10 They’ve organized with enough junior (even if aged) leadership to ensure training, discipline, and cohesion in the field. They had, with the velites, the poorly equipped, because poor, light infantry skirmishers, and the cavalry, combined arms sufficient to need. They’ve got the triarii to prevent desertion. The gaps11 allowed the maniples of the hastati and princeps to pass through each other, allowing rest. The maniple “officers”12, one per century, hence two per maniple, are responsible for training and leading an independent command, one of a size where their actions matter.

The thing is actually very simple to operate, from the march, to the encampment, to deploying for battle, to engaging, to pursuing.

Moreover, with the bulk of the legion being heavy infantry, and really only three MOS’s, as we would tend to think of them, with some additional skill identifiers and slaves for the scut work, there is no overspecialization. As mentioned, too, the system allows for mobilization from a massive base of reservists/militia.

One has to ask why the opponents of Rome didn’t penetrate into the gaps left between maniples. The answer, I think, is that for some centuries most were afraid to try, that being a sort of voluntarily letting oneself be outflanked, but that, eventually, someone did.


Historical Example Five, the Marian Legion

The Marian Legion, the Legions formed by the reforms of Gaius Marius, dispensed with the independent maniples, instead forming the legion into ten cohorts. Nine of these contained six centuries forming three maniple each, and numbered, at full strength, four-hundred and eighty men. The First Cohort, however, was different, having five centuries of one hundred and sixty men, each, or eight hundred in total.

Nobody really knows why the Romans changed from the manipular legion to the Marian version. There are a number of theories, none of which have ever struck me as especially persuasive, beyond that there was a shortage of manpower that could buy its own equipment. Here are my best thoughts on the matter; if they don’t persuade you, send me a list of those you like better.

  1. With the early losses to the Cimbri and Teutons at Noreia, Burdigla, and Arausio, possibly amounting to the equivalent of as many as thirty legions, which is to say roughly two Cannaes, there was a shortage of both trained manpower and, perhaps worse, centurions to train and lead any new troops who might be raised.13
  2. Shortages of manpower of the pertinent socio-economic classes (you had to be able to buy your own equipment to serve in the Roman army, before Marius) meant that the only source of replacements were the Roman and Italian poor who previously couldn’t serve as heavy infantry.
  3. The social and economic distance between the survivors of the battles mentioned above and the poor allowed men who might not have been A, Number One centurion material to serve as centurions,14 since they were above the new rank and file in social class. However,
  4. Precisely because those men were not necessarily great centurion material, yet, they had to be more closely supervised by those remnants who were. This was aided by the new organization, where nine or ten or eleven newly minted centurions could be placed under one or two or three in a cohort who knew what they were doing and could supervise and train them.
  5. Because, unlike earlier armies fielded by Rome, these legions would stay together, long term, they could be expected to have greater social cohesion than the old manipular legions, hence didn’t really need triarii to keep them from deserting.
  6. The gaps15 between maniples had to be left open to allow maneuver and prevent shocks from being transmitted across the line. They could be left open because civilized, sensible troops would hesitate to enter then, which would have exposed them to instant outflanking or, at best, being pelted with deadly missiles from three sides. The Teutons and Cimbri, however, were not civilized, neither were they sensible. They were the someones, mentioned above, who did. Indeed, they probably ignored the apparent risk—if it was even apparent to them—and charged right through. In the process, they could and would have outflanked and, because maniples were small, obliterated the hastati more or less quickly, then turned on the princeps and then the triarii. Conversely, being four times bigger (Marian legions had bigger centuries, again, perhaps because centurion material had become in short supply), the cohorts of the Marian legions could not quickly be overwhelmed (they had staying power, in other words, the ability to soak up losses) and could even reorient their flanking centuries to keep from being outflanked. This last was probably aided by the newly found ability to drill professional troops numb.
  7. Although Caesar mentions that he preferred the acies triplex, the triple line of battle based on the old manipular legions, he doesn’t say why. They are unlikely to have served well as battlefield police, as the old triarii did, because the spaces between cohorts were so much broader than the spaces between maniples in the older legion. It may have had something to do with the ability to exploit a breakthrough. In any case, since the triarii as battlefield police were not needed, the Marian legion could simply cover a lot more frontage per man than the older legions could.

The Marian Legion was pretty much the ultimate in the ancient world. When Europe went through the Renaissance, a part of the movement was the rediscovery of the ancient pike phalanx, by the Swiss and German Landsknechte, while the Spanish adopted the tercio, a regiment of three thousand men, to integrate the newly ascendant firearms. Still, one can see some echoes of the old legion even there.


Historical Example Six, The Corps d’Armee:

The really—you should pardon the expression—great leap forward came with the creation of the corps d’armee, we would say, “the corps.” What was a corps? It was, simply:

  1. An all arms formation—infantry, cavalry, artillery, and generally some engineers and support troops,
  2. That could be commanded by one man with the aid of a modest staff,
  3. Of a sufficient size and depth that it could fight on its own, even against severe odds, and survive until help arrived, and was
  4. Capable of marching up a single road while finding enough to eat and subsist the horses to one side of the road or the other.

That lasted and worked fairly well, most places (I am unconvinced that the U.S. and C.S. Armies ever really understood what a corps was supposed to be; not with the changes from corps to “grand division” and back again, as well as the varying sizes which appeared to be as much as anything about the degree of confidence the army commander felt he could place in a given corps commander), right up to about 1914. That’s when something very interesting happened.

You see, the corps was still an all arms formation that could be commanded by one man with the aid of a small staff, and which could fight independently for a period of time. It was not, however, capable of finding enough to eat or, most critically, to feed the horses which dragged its generally quite large and heavy artillery park.

Thus, the key factor in corps size became that it could be no greater a size, and form no lengthier a column on the road, than would allow wagons to move from the tail of the corps to the very point, to resupply the men and horses. That size meant that every corps of the armies that really mattered in 1914 consisted of—along with artillery, cavalry, engineers, and other supporting arms and branches—two divisions, each of two brigades, each of two regiments. (The British Army was an exception to this, but was a fairly tiny force on the scale of the war.)

I am sure that every army did most careful calculations to arrive at this form of organization, said calculations no doubt aimed at maximizing both combat power and staying power. But there was a big problem. With only two divisions, the corps commander had only a right and a left. That made maneuver extremely problematic. Yes, he could put one division forward, and then try to maneuver with the other, but the enemy also had two divisions, and would be doing exactly the same thing. In effect, under the totality of the circumstances, not least to include the density of troops on all sides in the west, every corps was a bludgeon and not much more. This, along with the breakdown of logistics and especially logistics to support the horses, led directly to the stalemate and four year slaughterfest that started the process of ruining western civilization.


Historical Example Seven, Idiocy Triumphant: The Pentomic Division16

It’s difficult, really, to do justice to the Pentomic Division. A major reason for this is that the division doesn’t really deserve justice, but only a lynching. It was a horrible idea, and an indictment of the general officer corps, the officer corps at large, the airborne community, the generals of which pushed this monstrosity,17 and the Army as a whole. It lasted less than two years but did damage that the Army not only never has overcome; it never will, either.

In the first place, the Pentomic Division was intended to fight on the nuclear battlefield. That’s where the “tomic” comes in. To do this, the basic triangular infantry division was restructured away from three maneuver regiments, each of three maneuver battalions, each of three maneuver companies, each of three maneuver platoons, to five “battlegroups.” These were a sort of intermediary organization, between regiment and battalion. The battlegroups, in turn, had five companies each, each of five platoons.

Thus, there were eighty-one platoons in the old division, but one hundred and twenty-five in the new. This aspect mattered little, generals aren’t usually concerned with platoons.18 More importantly, there were nine in the old battalion, plus specialty and support, but twenty-five in the new battlegroup, plus even more specialty and support. Note, too, that battlegroups were generally commanded by colonels, just as regiments had been.

Pushed as forward thinking, the Pentomic Division actually harked back to the great artillery battles of the Great War. The division wasn’t intended to maneuver, as such, but to endure, via dispersion, huge—in this case nuclear—bombardments and then assemble to attack only frontally and through gaps created by our own nuclear deluging of the enemy.

There is essentially nothing, no test, no field exercise, no credible body of theory, to suggest that the Pentomic Division ever could have worked on the battlefield. That’s only one of the reasons it was done away with. There is another one; it was a personnel and moral disaster.

Go back a few paragraphs and reread those numbers on platoons. An old style, H series battalion commander, a lieutenant colonel, with perhaps twenty-two lieutenants to senior rate, five company execs, nine line platoon leaders, three weapons platoon leaders, and five specialty platoon leaders (mortars, scouts, anti-tank, supply and transport, and medical) can spend enough time with each of them19—maybe a dozen or more days and nights a year, with them or with their company—to know them and to develop them. Moreover, his memory of being a lieutenant is not so very old, after all. Conversely, the pentomic battlegroup commander, generally speaking a colonel, had, as near as I can tell, seven or eight company execs, twenty-five line platoon leaders, five weapons and at least two heavy mortar platoon leaders, plus still scouts, anti-tank, medical, and—I think—Davy Crocket nuclear recoilless rifles. In other words, the number of platoons that had leaders needing rating and mentoring doubled, even as the rank of the commander shot up to a level not notable for listening to and having patience with lieutenants, even if he’s had time and inclination, the former of which he most certainly did not.

And that, friends, is how you get leadership that leads by demanding statistics, and followership that will eventually become leadership, that survives by fudging statistics.



1) A good portion of this piece comes from a presentation given my myself at Libertycon XXXI, Chattanooga, TN, in June of 2018.

2) (No, you don’t get to laugh about the black dudes. You can be as white as a lily and still, I assure you, go back far enough and your lily-white ancestors, militarily, were exactly the same.)

3) Notwithstanding the highly amusing fantasies of Kam Hurley, no, women really were, overwhelmingly, cattle and slaves, with the added advantage of being available, unlike stolen sheep, for rape without the neighbors looking at you funny. No, there’s no record of Shaka’s incalculably dreadful impi of women combatants, incalculable because non-existent. They, like the impis of boys, carried the cooking pots, sleeping mats, and spare food. Some old Zulu apparently had a fine time pulling Sister Hurley’s leg.

4)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BzqwOBneC4. Don’t take the sequence of events too seriously, as the film was heavily edited, but the general organizational and tactical manner of the “war” is accurate enough.

5) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phalanx#/media/File:Stele_of_Vultures_detail_01a.jpg

6) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phalanx#/media/File:Greek_Phalanx.jpg

7) Generally called “the Battle of Caudine Forks,” but there was little, or perhaps no, fighting. The small injury was causing the Roman army to pass under the yoke, a humiliating token of submission, rather than either letting them go or obliterating them.

8) Truth in advertising, I’ve long suspected that Xenophon, the Athenian writer and student of Socrates, may have been at the core of the legion. Look to his Anabasis and Cyropaedia and you will see just about every feature of the manipular legion on display. There was also plenty of time for his writings to have migrated from Greece proper to Southern Italy to Rome.

9) Go look up “Dunbar number.” Though I take a certain limited pride in having figured the principle behind the number, and the same general range of the number, on my own, but based on infantry organization through the ages, I suspect it’s long been understood.

10) For example, when, at the Battle of Cynoscephalae, the triarii on the flank where the Romans were winning turned and attacked into the flank and rear of the side where the opposing Macedonians were winning.

11) And why I think the gaps were maintained during battle and not just the approach march can be found here: https://www.baen.com/decisioncycles. Scroll down to the section on Cannae.

12) They’re more senior non-coms as we think of them.

13) There was a kind of an echo to this phenomenon in the Great War, when we entered it with a pitifully small army. In order to stretch out the available military leadership, the U.S. Army and, for the moment its auxiliary, the Marine Corps, fielded what were perhaps the largest divisions ever seen, with a strength of some twenty-eight thousand, sixty-one men. http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/services/dropoff/schilling/mil_org/milorgan_99.html

14) Note, here, a parallel in more modern times where black officers usually had a terrible time of it commanding black troops, who resented them deeply, in the old segregated regiments, where white officers, probably often inferior in ability, did not. Although black troops apparently resented the hell out of black officers, they willingly subordinated themselves to whites because of that social and economic distance. One may wonder why the racist, reactionary U.S. Armed Forces of the day didn’t interpose more resistance to Truman’s integration of the services. It becomes much more understandable when you consider that roughly twelve percent of potential military manpower, for what was expected to be an existential war with communism, was for the most part unusable; they wouldn’t listen to or obey most black officers and whites who had the knack and the willingness were few and far between.

15) Yes, there had to have been gaps between maniples or the Battle of Cannae could not have unfolded as it did. See the brief analysis on this in Indirectly Mistaken Decision Cycles, https://www.baen.com/decisioncycles.

16) You can find the Pentomic Division excoriated in Tony Herbert’s Soldier. For a more thorough treatment, look here: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a956178.pdf.

17) And, by the way, the generals of which also had a major hand in pushing the almost equally idiotic brigade combat team, early in this century. This suggests to me that either there is something about jumping out of airplanes that damages the brain, or that those who go in for that sort of thing as a career choice are already brain-damaged.

18) K.C. Leuer was a notable exception to this rule.

19) Provided that, unlike the least effective battalion commander I’ve ever seen – Oh, hi, Tuffy—he actually cares about commanding his battalion.



Copyright © 2018 Tom Kratman


Tom Kratman’s latest entry in the Carerra series is November’s A Pillar of Fire by Night. Tom Kratman was a Regular Army infantryman much of his adult life. After the Gulf War, and with the bottom dropping completely out of the anti-communist market, Tom decided to become a lawyer. Every now and again, when the frustrations of legal life and having to deal with other lawyers got to be too much, Tom would rejoin the Army (or a somewhat similar group, say) for fun and frolic in other climes. He no longer practices law, but instead writes full time. His novels for Baen include A State of Disobedience, Caliphate, and the series consisting of A Desert Called Peace, Carnifex, The Lotus Eaters, The Amazon Legion, Come and Take Them, The Rods and the Axe, and A Pillar of Fire by Night, as well as three collaborations with John Ringo, Watch on the Rhine, Yellow Eyes, and The Tuloriad. Also for Baen, he has written the first three volumes of the modern-day military fiction Countdown series.