Any other Stephen Ambrose fans out there? I would challenge that some of his books, while pleasantly devoid of life in the cube, still offer some excellent insight into true leadership. I strongly recommend everything he took the time to author.

Mark's picture
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I've read them all, and they're all brilliant. I am looking forward to visiting the WWII museum the next time I am in NOLA.

You're right - shot through and through with leadership.


pinzraider's picture

D-Day Museum in NOLA at the old Higgins Boat factory well worth your time. I walked through by myself a few years ago. I had chill bumps all the way back to the Hotel . . . in June.

jasdf's picture

It's not management per se, but Belton Cooper's Deathtraps takes a detailed look at the plight of managing (well, I guess it *is* a little bit about management after all) a U.S. armored division in France in 1944-45.

It is harrowing, but not in a bullets-whiz-by sort of way. Rather, it's the tales of how the oft-ill-fated M4 Sherman variations were employed, supported and returned to service after being hit by German anti-tank guns. I don't know that there are any Drucker-level lessons it it, but it sure does deal directly with consequences.

scbioengineer's picture

I collect tank books and have read a lot about the M4. Does the book look at the issue from the top-side decision making at all?

It seems to me like such a failure of the military leadership to not acknowledge the shortcomings of the tank when EVERYONE who actually had first-had experience was painfully aware of of them.

I know that, to paraphrase another military leader, you go to war with the tanks you have, not the ones you wish you had. However, that sounds like an excuse (especially for the leadership who decides what type of army you employ) when you consider what the British were able to do with the "Firefly." That evidence puts the lie to the notion that a relatively simple modification could not have been made to dramatically improve performance to make it an outstanding weapon.

Mark's picture
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The Sherman wasn't great, but the German's 88's were a formidable opponent for all of our armor. The German commander was often Irwin Rommel, so brilliant as to be unbeatable in many situations.

War is a terrible thing, fought by the young waged by the old, many of whom have forgotten their youth. It is a dirty, vicious harrowing thing for which there is no preparation and no gentle exit. Equipment is never good enough.

If you take a flat map
And move wooden blocks upon it strategically,
The thing looks well, the blocks behave as they should.
The science of war is moving live men like blocks.
And getting the blocks into place at a fixed moment.
But it takes time to mold your men into blocks
And flat maps turn into country where creeks and gullies
Hamper your wooden squares. They stick in the brush,
They are tired and rest, they straggle after ripe blackberries,
And you cannot lift them up in your hand and move them.
It is all so clear in the maps, so clear in the mind,
But the orders are slow, the men in the blocks are slow
To move, when they start they take too long on the way -
The General loses his stars, and the block-men die
In unstrategic defiance of martial law
Because still used to just being men, not block parts.

There is little to be gained in arguing men's failures during war, as they are too many to count. Go to Carthage, where the American cemetery takes up 27 acres. Even counting acres - ACRES - is sorrowful, and best left to clergy and family.

AND: [i]War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. [/i] ~John Stewart Mill


pneuhardt's picture

I just found this thread. I'm glad I did. The poster is from Lubbock, where I lived from the ages of 5 to 16 and where I went to college and spent the first 3 years of my married life afterwards. I will probably never live there again, but it will always be home.

And there was the subject of the WW II museum in NOLA. Guess where I lived in the 2 years between my stints in Lubbock? In fact, my mother only recently moved back to Texas from New Orleans (she JUST beat Katrina, thank goodness.) My copy of "Band Of Brothers" is a gift from my mother and is signed by Ambrose after she hunted him down at the museum and asked him to inscribe it.

And somewhere as part of that museum is a brick with my grandfather's name on it. When the museum was being built they were using these bricks as a fund-rasier, and I sent my mother the money and she had one inscribed with his name. I believe he would have liked that.

He used to tell me stories about his 3+ years as the commander of a joint Army Air Corps/U.S. Marine supply base in Fiji and later service as a JAG lawyer in Korea. When I was growing up he would regale me with stories of the interesting and funny things that happened, and a Fijian tribal war club he once traded his silk bathrobe for adorns the wall of my bedroom. He was very proud of his service, was a career officer and retired as a Colonel from the U.S. Air Force. He felt that the all volunteer military was a bad thing both for the country and for those that never served.

It was only when he knew he was dying of cancer in 1983 that he ever told anyone about the 3 weeks of direct combat he faced during the war. It was war and Fiji had been overrun by Japanese forces. The soldiers at the base went in to the woods, doing their best to evade the enemy and reach friendly forces. Evasion wasn't always possible and fighting always ensued. It was war, this was the enemy and it was kill or be killed, but the memory of the 3 men he knew that he killed and those he suspected he might have during that time haunted him every day for the rest of his life. We won't even mention his feelings about the men under his command that died during that time.

The last time I saw him I remember him telling me "War is a necessary evil. But never forget that it truly needs to be necessary and it is always an evil, even when done for the right reasons." I never have forgotten. I hope nobody else does either.

dmbaldwin's picture

The First Heroes: The Extraordinary Story of the Doolittle Raid by Craig Nelson. This is a book I found fascinating. I couldn't put it down. Neslon traces each person (80) in the sixteen planes that took off from the Yorktown in April of '42.

Once again, not a book on leadership, but a lot one can learn about problem solving, leadership, and just plain good fortune.