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

Overview

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 ...

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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

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Overview

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whereas their counterparts in the United States came from one of the most democratic societies but received an outdated military education that harnessed their minds and limited their initiative.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

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Editorial Reviews

blurb

“Jörg Muth’s book is about an interesting and significant topic. Although I disagree in some respects with his thesis, I recognize that it is well argued. Based on extensive research in primary and secondary sources, it is also well written.”—Edward M. Coffman, author of The Regulars: The American Army, 1898-1941

— Coffman

Parameters: US Army War College Quarterly - Henry G. Gole

"Command Culture is a provocative book. It will probably elicit shrieks of outrage from some readers and grudging praise from others intimately familiar with both the US Army and the German Armed Forces. . . . Muth has done his homework. His impressive research ranged widely and deeply into German and American archives and secondary sources. . . . [Y]our reviewer strongly recommends the careful study of Command Culture."
From the Publisher
“To the best of my knowledge there is nothing in print in either English or in German that offers the kind of analytical comparison Muth offers. The text is based on a truly exemplary coverage of published literature and very substantial work in relevant archives. The work is highly original in both its research design and its presentation. The general message, though controversial and certain to lead to arguments, is buttressed by substantial evidence. His topic has immediate present-day relevance and will certainly appeal to those interested in military history and the conflicts in which the United States is currently engaged.”--Gerhard Weinberg, author of A World at Arms and Visions of Victory

“Muth has written a fascinating book here. Command Culture is an important and long-lasting contribution to the debate over officer training in the United States. What Muth is able to bring to the debate is a vast knowledge of the archival resources and historiography of the modern German army. The book is at once a study of the U.S. officer corps before World War II, a valuable analysis of U.S. and German officer training and education, and a stinging comparison of the two armies' military cultures.”--Robert Citino, author of The German Way of War and Path to Blitzkrieg

“Muth makes a strong case that effective command at all levels has a set of elements that do not depend on wider social, cultural, and political matrices. His challenge to the ‘new military history’ will generate controversy but cannot be dismissed.”--Dennis Showalter, author of Hitler's Panzers and Patton and Rommel

“Jörg Muth’s book is about an interesting and significant topic. Although I disagree in some respects with his thesis, I recognize that it is well argued. Based on extensive research in primary and secondary sources, it is also well written.”--Edward M. Coffman, author of The Regulars: The American Army, 1898-1941

"Muth's analysis of the U.S. Army is a hard one, but he backs it up with extensive research. This is one of the most important books about the German and American armies in many years."--Major-General (ret) David T. Zabecki, Military History

"This is a very important book with serious contemporary as well as historical implications. It should be read widely by students of the Second World War and by anyone interested in questions of service culture, institutional learning, doctrine, and officer training."--Journal of Military History

“Muth is, or soon will be, a member of that small group of historians whose first major contribution to the field is regarded as a very significant one. Command Culture is an important book in that it confronts a controversial and emotionally charged issue in military history, and does so on the basis of solid research, and without hyperbole. . . . It is a significant work, providing an important new perspective on the 'performance controversy.'"—New York Journal of Books

"A leader of men who is uneducated isn't much of a leader at all. Command Culture analyzes how the U.S. and German armies educated their officers and how the two compare, and what this meant on the battlefield. German officers, while in a controlled society, received a vast education while it could be argued that American officers received the polar opposite of an open society and a dated and limited military education. These comparisons make for a very different and intriguing way to look at the battles of the war, making Command Culture an excellent addition to military history collections."--Midwest Book Review

“This is an important book that disputes the triumphalist literature about officer education in the US Army and recommends a more honest educational approach to achieve an effective command culture, at least at the tactical level. Command Culture has received much critical attention and is shaping an ongoing debate about American officer education.”--John T. Kuehn, Michigan War Studies Review

 

From the Publisher

“To the best of my knowledge there is nothing in print in either English or in German that offers the kind of analytical comparison Muth offers. The text is based on a truly exemplary coverage of published literature and very substantial work in relevant archives. The work is highly original in both its research design and its presentation. The general message, though controversial and certain to lead to arguments, is buttressed by substantial evidence. His topic has immediate present-day relevance and will certainly appeal to those interested in military history and the conflicts in which the United States is currently engaged.”--Gerhard Weinberg, author of A World at Arms and Visions of Victory

“Muth has written a fascinating book here. Command Culture is an important and long-lasting contribution to the debate over officer training in the United States. What Muth is able to bring to the debate is a vast knowledge of the archival resources and historiography of the modern German army. The book is at once a study of the U.S. officer corps before World War II, a valuable analysis of U.S. and German officer training and education, and a stinging comparison of the two armies' military cultures.”--Robert Citino, author of The German Way of War and Path to Blitzkrieg

“Muth makes a strong case that effective command at all levels has a set of elements that do not depend on wider social, cultural, and political matrices. His challenge to the ‘new military history’ will generate controversy but cannot be dismissed.”--Dennis Showalter, author of Hitler's Panzers and Patton and Rommel

“Jörg Muth’s book is about an interesting and significant topic. Although I disagree in some respects with his thesis, I recognize that it is well argued. Based on extensive research in primary and secondary sources, it is also well written.”--Edward M. Coffman, author of The Regulars: The American Army, 1898-1941

"Muth's analysis of the U.S. Army is a hard one, but he backs it up with extensive research. This is one of the most important books about the German and American armies in many years."--Major-General (ret) David T. Zabecki, Military History

“Muth’s book is a must-read for senior policy makers of the Army making strategic decisions about the philosophy, curriculum, and pedagogical methods in use in the current Army’s officer education system.”--Army History

"This is a very important book with serious contemporary as well as historical implications. It should be read widely by students of the Second World War and by anyone interested in questions of service culture, institutional learning, doctrine, and officer training."--Journal of Military History

"Muth's book raises important issues, many of which are still being hotly debated today in military circles. . . . Muth's work is valuable to both academics and military professionals alike. In particular, it should be discussed in American PME institutions at all levels."--Richard DiNardo, H-German, H-Net Reviews

“Muth is, or soon will be, a member of that small group of historians whose first major contribution to the field is regarded as a very significant one. Command Culture is an important book in that it confronts a controversial and emotionally charged issue in military history, and does so on the basis of solid research, and without hyperbole. . . . It is a significant work, providing an important new perspective on the 'performance controversy.'"—New York Journal of Books

"A leader of men who is uneducated isn't much of a leader at all. Command Culture analyzes how the U.S. and German armies educated their officers and how the two compare, and what this meant on the battlefield. German officers, while in a controlled society, received a vast education while it could be argued that American officers received the polar opposite of an open society and a dated and limited military education. These comparisons make for a very different and intriguing way to look at the battles of the war, making Command Culture an excellent addition to military history collections."--Midwest Book Review

“This is an important book that disputes the triumphalist literature about officer education in the US Army and recommends a more honest educational approach to achieve an effective command culture, at least at the tactical level. Command Culture has received much critical attention and is shaping an ongoing debate about American officer education.”--John T. Kuehn, Michigan War Studies Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781574413038
  • Publisher: University of North Texas Press
  • Publication date: 6/10/2011
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

 JÖRG MUTH received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Utah. He is the author of Flucht aus dem militärischen Alltag: Ursachen und individuelle Ausprägung der Desertion in der Armee Friedrichs des Großen, a study of desertion in the Prussian army during the era of Frederick the Great.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1 Prelude: Military Relations between the United States and Germany and the Great General Stall Fantasy 15

Part 1 The Selection and Commissioning of Officers

2 No "Brother Officers": Cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point 43

3 "To Learn How to Die": Kadetten in Germany 85

Part 2 Intermediate Advanced Education and Promotion

4 The Importance or Doctrine and How to Manage: The American Command and General Staff School and the Overlooked Infantry School 115

5 The Importance of the Attack and How to Lead: The German Kriegsakademie 149

Part 3 Conclusions

6 Education, Culture, and Consequences 181

Author's Afterword 213

Officers' Rank Index 218

Endnotes 221

Selected Bibliography 317

Index 355

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