Wednesday, 24 July 2013

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As 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...,_Jr.

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 Fingerspitzengef├╝hl 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). 


Honourable mention - Ahmad Shah Massoud....Too many to count but I have my reasons for all of the above.


  1. Immediately ordered on amazon uk!! Thanks for advice!

  2. Marfac if you are interested there are several others in that range.. One being "every man a Tiger" by General Chuck Horner about the Air War in the Gulf. I found this good, but a little staid in places maybe because I'm not a fan of flyboy's and their general self-aggrandizing natures.

    1. Thanks for the advice .promptly ordered via amazon uk two used but perfect books. Battle ready and armoured warfare!!

  3. Franks was a terrific GO (general officer). Everyone treated him with kid gloves because ole "Stormin' Norman' Schwarzkopf hated him but he was a fighter.
    He handled his Corps with distinction in Desert Storm. I wish we had commanders like him now.

  4. So why was there a conflict between him and Schwarzkopf? The only anecdote I am aware of between them is during the Gulf War when Schwarzkopf ordered Franks to move faster because he didn't think he was being aggressive enough. I don't know the validity of the anecdote, but it was in one of the Gulf War books that came out after the conflict.

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  5. Essentially the one and only time Schwartzkopf got all of them together to unveil his strategy, Franks was impressed VII Corps was going to do exactly what it was trained for e.g Aggressive Attack, up close and in depth, simultaneously using maneouvre and fighting outnumbered. Frankly it was a perfect mission and he was pleased. Unfortunately because his he is a scholar and a Gentlemen, he doesn't "Whoop and Holler or Swear or Talk out of his ass, he has a balanced mien and isn't a sycophant". He was thinking 20 steps ahead, so he said "Yup, we can do this, we can make this happen". Where as Schwarzkopf wanted a "AMERICAN F**K YEAH!" type response and so interpreted his words as non-committal and negative rather than a Consummate Professional, mentally running at a 1000mph at multiple levels because he takes himself, his profession, his men and his mission 100% Seriously. As a CORPS Commander Details matter.

    Schwarzkopf was hands off for the rest of the War, except on the last day when he started interfering and producing revised instructions twice in the morning, when he should have let things be. The "Long Handled Screw Driver" and micro-management came in and he tried to put his own embarrassment onto Franks by blaming him. He ordered the Corps to Stop, then 2 hours later sent another Signal saying you have to Capture x,y,z by 08:00, and the Signal was sent at 07:00. It was never gonna happen, you don't move an entire CORPS after 96hours of Combat 20km in an Hour, especially if you've just managed to get them to stop.

    Honestly Schwarkopf was a Self-Aggrandizing Douchebag, good but a Prima Donna, and Prima Donna's get men killed for VainGlory, like Lord Lovat. You should never respect Officers who use their Men for their own Political Goals, or want to secure their place in History, it is probably the greatest betrayal or sin a Commander can commit, to throw away the lives of his men for the Sin of Pride (Lovat condemned 12 Commando's to die by Marching his men across Pegasus Bridge in Formation, each was Sniped in the Head, because he wanted to show the Enemy he was Fearless - Prize Twat!).

  6. Sorry I didn't chime in sooner on this! Been busy at work - Schwarzkopf also committed a grave sin of speaking out against Franks in his memoirs, calling him "plodding and cautious." US officers over the years like to refight their battles or conduct intellectual retrogrades with the pen, in order to ensure their place in history is remembered as they want it to be.

    Calling a cavalryman cautious is a sin of the greatest degree in the annals of both our Armies. (US and UK). You can call a cavalryman many, many things, but cautious is never one of them. It's insulting. General Schwarzkopf did it on purpose and yes, Mwnciboo's assessment is correct - Franks was an intellectual, thinking commander and not the hard-mouthed, hard drinking, tobacco spitting general that Schwarzkopf was.

    I can't tell you the reason he hated him, but it was there.

    I know many officers who served under or worked for ole' Stormin Norman and they all say the same thing - great guy to command an Army, bad bad guy to work for.

  7. Well, I have always had a real deep respect for the US Armoured Cav, especially the way they organise and fight, they have real combat power. Whereas in the UK we use our Cav in aggressive Recce but not as an Armoured Fist. Therein lies the power of the US Cavalry, able to spread out and screen, duck and evade, agile and lithe, then they can Mass and drive through cracks or holes. They are like Water hitting a defence line, finding the cracks and leaking through, before the tidal wave of the Heavy Divisions follow behind. I don't think we will see Armoured Division Manouevre in our lifetime, Brigade Combat Teams seems to be as large as formations get and Divisions are Ad Hoc at best.

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