Platoon Leadership vs. NCO Efficiency

Combat lessons from the troops on platoon leadership and NCO efficiency from Combat Lessons No. 9:

Platoon Leadership vs. NCO Efficiency

Orders Must Be Clear

NCO efficiency and squad accomplishment are materially reduced when combat orders fail to give full information and to specify clearly each assignment. Says an Okinawa report: “Junior officers often complicate combat orders. They forget about intermediate objectives which should be the next terrain feature, whether it be a hill, road, or an edge of a rice paddy. They neglect to tell each squad specifically what to do. They take on the responsibilities of NCO’s and scouts and then, finding it impossible to remain continuously in a control position, encourage bunching which results in needless casualties.

Orders must be Clear

Junior officers often complicate orders.

Leaders Are Not Scouts.

“In one regiment, five platoon leaders were killed because their scouts were not out. The platoon leader must realize that he is not a scout and that if he attempts to do that work, it will be at the expense of his control responsibility.

“Invariably, when trying to do their own scouting, the platoon leaders allowed their support squads to get too close to the leading squads and thus sacrificed the platoon’s maneuverability.”


Don’t Scare Replacements

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.

Do Not Scare Replacements: WW2 Combat Lessons

Don't Scare Hell out of Replacements

“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.