Topic: Soldiers' Load
U.S. Said Sending Men to Death by Overloading Them in Battle
The Montreal Gazette, 5 March 1951
Washington, March 4.—(AP)—Out of the United States Army's studies of the Second World War has come a long overdue disclosure that some military commanders sent soldiers to certain death by piling too much weight on their backs.
"In fact," the report says, "we have always done better by a mule than a man."
And there is a warning that overloading of combat troops has cut down the striking power of the American Army in the firing line—while the Russians are stripping weight off their fighting men to give them more mobility in battle.
This report, gleaned from the battlefields of the last war, says:
1. Men were killed unnecessarily because staff officers failed to realize that overloading a soldier cuts down his chances for survival.
2. Too much weight probably caused more deaths on bloody "Omaha Beach" in Normandy than enemy fire.
3. Men have been called before a firing squad for cowardice when perhaps they were guilty of nothing more than extreme fatigue which could have been cured by a few salt tablets.
4. The Army has become so engrossed with machines of war that it has neglected the human machine—the weary old infantryman who carries the real burden of combat.
5. The Army must strip down its supply services—because oversupply can bog down an Army as surely as shortages of gasoline and ammunition.
This expert study of the American Army in action comes from Col. S.L.A. Marshall, a First World War veteran who did battlefield research in the last war and then became a theatre historian on the staff of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
In peacetime, Marshall is an editorial writer for the Detroit News. But he is now in Korea making other battlefield studies for the Army.
Marshall has condensed part of his studies in a booklet "The Soldier's Load and the Mobility of a nation" published by the Combat Forces press of Washington.
Marshall's main argument is that the army may move swiftly on wheels—but true mobility in battle is the key to winning, and this can be achieved only by having strong troops who can move swiftly.
The accepted theory for years has been that 65 pounds on a soldier's back is a fair weight for marches and for combat. That's about what the Roman legionaries carried 2,000 years ago.
But Marshall contends from first-hand study that fear and fatigue make it impossible for most soldiers to carry such weights into a fight.
He thinks the weight limit should be about 40 pounds.
Canadian Load Lighter
Ottawa, March 4.—CP—An army official said today Canadian infantrymen are "stripped to the essentials" in combat.
"I believe we don't load our men as heavy as the Americans," he said.
The spokesman said Canadians carry ":nothing like 65 pounds_—a weight considered for years a "fair" soldier's carry. The Army didn't enforce any standard load.
A commanding officer decided what a Canadian soldier wore and it depended on the type of operation. There would be heavier gear in an approach to a battle area than in an attack.