S.L.A. Marshall

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We are reluctant to admit that essentially war is the business of killing, though that is the simplest truth in the book.

Samuel Lyman Atwood Marshall (July 18, 1900December 17, 1977) was a chief U.S. Army combat historian during World War II and the Korean War. He authored some 30 books about warfare, including Pork Chop Hill: The American Fighting Man in Action, which was made into a film of the same name.


Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command (1947)[edit]

  • The enemy, no more willing to be shot than was his opponent, was rarely seen, only fleetingly if at all.
    • Introduction. p. 3.
  • ....most of our textbooks and commentaries on leadership and the mastery of the moral problem in battle are written by senior officers who are either wholly lacking in combat experience or have been for long periods so far removed from the reality of small arms action that they have come to forget what were once their most vital convictions and impressions.
    • Author's note. p. 9-10.
  • War must always start with imperfect instruments.
    • The Illusion of Power. p. 20.
  • A few of them fire their pieces. At first they do so almost timidly, as if fearing a rebuke for wasting ammunition when they do not see the enemy. Others do nothing. Some fail to act mainly because they are puzzled what to do and their leaders do not tell them; others are wholly unnerved and can neither think nor move in sensible relation to the situation.
    • Combat Isolation. p. 48.
  • We are reluctant to admit that essentially war is the business of killing, though that is the simplest truth in the book.
    • Fire as the Cure. p. 67.
  • The rifleman in training is usually under close observation and the chief pressure upon him is to give satisfaction to his superior, whereas the rifleman engaging the enemy is of necessity pretty much on his own, and the chief pressure on him is to remain alive, if possible.
    • Fire as the Cure. p. 71.
  • Undue emphasis on conservation is as great a danger to fire power as is an excess expenditure of ammunition.
    • Fire as the Cure. p. 81.
  • The first effect of fire is to dissolve all appearances of order.
    • The Multiples of Information. p. 90.
  • The familiar and always popular warnings against the dangers of a growth of militarism among our people are raised anew by leaders who never having served in their country's uniform, are loath to recognize that those who do so may have a devotion to the nation's welfare and a love of its free institutions quite equal to their own.
    • The Aggressive Will. p. 167.
  • Truly then, it is killing men with kindness not to insist upon physical standards during training which will give them maximum fitness for the extraordinary stresses of campaigning in war.
    • The Aggressive Will. p. 174.
  • With respect to the effect of "friendly fire" hitting among troops. however, it is to be observed that if the circumstances leave any room for doubt as to the source, the men will jump to the conclusion that they are being victimized by their own guns.
    • Men Under Fire. p. 193.

The Soldier's Load and the Mobility of a Nation (1950)[edit]

  • The basic theme is elementary and should be beyond argument: No logistical system is sound unless its first principal is enlightened conservation of the power of the individual fighter. The second theme, in 1949 a radically new idea, as yet unsupported by incontrovertible scientific proof, is that sustained fear in the male individual is degenerative as prolonged fatigue exhausts body energy no less.
  • The first duty of the officer is to challenge whatever seems illusory.

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