From “Combat Lessons” No. 7 comes the following notes on leadership and replacement orientation:
Replacement Instruction—the Wrong Kind
A Lieutenant comments on his ominous introduction to front-line existence: “On my way to the front as an officer replacement, I met several individuals who had come back from the line. Invariably they recounted to me their hair-raising experiences—their outfits had been ‘wiped out,’ or ‘pinned down for days’; ‘officers didn’t have a dog’s chance of survival,’ etc. One platoon sergeant went statistical on me; he said his platoon had lost 16 officers in one 2-week period. I expected confidently that I would be blown to bits within 15 minutes after my arrival at the front.
“Later experience has shown me that enlisted men who come in as replacements are subjected to similar morale-breaking tales. I have tried to get my old men to give the new replacement a break by being careful not to exaggerate their battle experiences or in any way distort the picture of front-line existence. Give the new men a common-sense introduction to the combat zone and there will be fewer men going on sick call before an attack.”
Noncoms and privates of Company “K,” 11th Infantry, ETO, draw attention to the same problem: “Our replacements come to us filled with tenseness and dread caused by stories they have heard in the rear. Special instructors from the front should be used at replacement centers to talk the new men out of this unnecessary panic. Of course, the soundest remedy is to have the replacements occupy a defensive position for a time, but even then the kind of treatment they are given upon arrival at the front makes a big difference in the amount of good they will do their new outfit.”
Comment: Company commanders and platoon leaders should meet, orient, and indoctrinate all replacements so that they gain an authentic picture of current battle conditions. This should be done even though battle indoctrination has been started in replacement centers. Knowing what to expect, even when the expected is bad, is better than not knowing and consequently imagining the worst.