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COLD WAR READINGAs many of you know the UK Command & Staff Course in Shrivenham is really the hub of Higher Level Professional Military Education in the UK military and many other countries who attend. Reading professional Military material especially Senior Commanders Memoirs is without doubt one of the most enlightening and valuable things a Junior Officer can do. No military situation is truly unique, it has all been done before and learning the same lessons the hard way over and again is a waste of Blood and Sweat and will save a river of tears. So study hard and learn all that you can!
One of the books that had a Profound effect on me about 13 years ago is the following.
(it is NON-FICTION despite TOM CLANCY being plastered all over it and it is about Frederick M Franks)
Principally this man...
Probably the most underrated and most overlooked US Commander of all time, to me he is as good as Slim (I'm not kidding! This man, is just like Slim, he took massive personal defeats and tragedies and is so tough he never took it lying down or kowtowed to life). This book is his book, not Tom Clancy's despite what the cover says. (Clancy writes a fore-word, gets a huge title and a few bits but ignore that guff, the really good stuff is what Frederick Franks writes with both eloquence and a dose of humility - a rare trait ).
Okay in essence....
1, Gets wounded in Vietnam in 11th ACR (yup the Blackhorse no less!) as a Major (Squadron Commander!), losses a foot and has a prosthetic. Loses 4 children at Birth or just after birth.
2, Convalesces, somehow through determination manages to stay in the Army.
3, Feels the betrayal over Vietnam and how his Forces through no fault of their own, have had to suffer society turning its back on them.
4, Ends up in the US Army at the lowest Ebb in its history (Drugs, Racism, poor fitness, ill discipline and it's great enemy the Red Army in the ascendancy).
5, Begins to turn it around, helps to build a Professional Army now the Draft Law is over. Focusing on training, professional development, getting great clay in through the recruitment pipeline that he could mould into superb Professional Soldiers.
6, Works on the Big 5 Project (Abrams, Bradley, Apache, Blackhawk, Patriot).
7, Helps change the US Army Doctorine post Yom Kippir ("How to fight Outnumbered and Win") and builds the idea of feeding off the chaos, taking the initiative, attacking in depth and disrupting the enemy through breakthroughs and general Rear Echelon based mayhem.
7, Rises to Command 11th ACR, He is Cavalry to the Core.
8, Rises to Divisional Command,
9, Cold War ends, But in his career he has built the US Army into the Best Army on the face of the Earth.
9, Rises to Command VII Corp 1991 Desert Storm. His 5 Divisions vs 14 Iraqi - Kicks the crap out of them, even against mediocre troops you shouldn't be able to defeat 3 times your number that quickly!
10, Annihilates the Iraqi units in his way by maneouvre proving the Doctorine, Training, Morale and above all his instinct or Fingerspitzengefühl for the art of Command
It then goes on to describe the organisation of a Division and a Corps, and how the Cavalry are different and would form a Screen or even the tip of the spear depending on the Situation. He then goes into a meticulous, detailed and chronological blow by blow account of Desert Storm... It's 522 pages and the print is small - So there is a huge amount of detail, I would say more than any other book of it's genre.
Well, anyway his detail in the book is amazing to any Cold War Wargamer, the tactics, methodolgies, anecdotes, the mentality but also the view of the Soviet Enemy to locally take Advantage and fight "Close and Deep" at the same time to defeat Soviet "Echelon Tactics". He is a manoeuvarist Commanders dream, a real Rommel type without the ego or the self aggrandizing and the self realisation not to overstretch. A true Scholar and Soldier, what I would call a Hector character - Professional to the end. He is Competent, Humble, determined, tough, Professional and a believer in training and study.
In ever way he is the successor to Field Marshall Slim, and is not really comparable with Slim because Slim fought much more than 4 days. I have no doubt that Franks would have been a Key Commander a real thorn in the side of the Soviets if the worst had come to the worst in 1986 as per the timeline I work too.
This Book is in my top 5 books on conflict, and Franks is my top ten Commanders of modern time (20th Century onwards).
1. VON MANSTEIN
3. ZHUKOV / VATUTIN
5. CARL GUSTAF MANNERHEIM
6. ARIEL SHARON
7. FERDINAND FOCH
8. VO NGUYEN GIAP
10. FRANKS / RIDGWAY
Honourable mention - Ahmad Shah Massoud....Too many to count but I have my reasons for all of the above.