U.S. Armed Forces: Fit to fight? Or, fit to sit?
A recent re-reading of William L. Shirerís Berlin Diary -- jotted down as Shirer reported for CBS Radio News on the rise of Nazi Germany and the invasions of Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France -- brought to mind the current state of our Armed Forces.
As Hitlerís armies advanced westward through Belgium in 1940, Hitlerís propaganda ministry wanted a group of foreign war correspondents to observe the German Army in action. Shirer was among the group.
When they stopped at the University of Leuven, they found that the Germans burned down the famous library once again, just as they had done in World War I. Post World War I, American school children and universities donated the funds to rebuild and restock the Leuven Library. Falsely, the Germans said the Brits did it.
The correspondents were allowed to talk with a small group of British POWs. Some were wounded. But all were able to talk. When the German guards werenít looking the correspondence slipped them American cigarettes. In civilian life, the POWs had been office clerks in Liverpool and London. Before being sent to Belgium, they had only a few months of military training.
Shirer was struck by the frailty of the British soldiers. They were pale, hollow-chested, stoop-shouldered, with scrawny arms. Just then, a German infantry company came marching toward the battlefront. The German soldiers were tanned, broad-chested and erect, with muscular arms and carried their field packs, weapons, and ammo with ease.
Shirer wondered how the British, between World War I and World War II, could produce such poorly conditioned soldiers while the Germans produced young men who looked so fit.
The answer: From age ten to 17, the German boys belonged to the Hitler Youth which was somewhat like a combination of the British and American Boy Scouts and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) that did so much outdoor labor during the Great Depression of the 1930s. At age 17, the German boys were conscripted for at least two years of military training.
And that brings us to the current state of the U.S. Armed Forces which have seen a consistent lowering of their physical testing standards for Basic Training and even to make it possible for more trainees to complete Airborne, Ranger, and other physically challenging and career-enhancing training.
Moreover, a great deal of rigorous, outdoor field training time is given over to sit-down, indoor training on non-combat subjects appropriate to a force whose top priorities -- according to its top generals and the service academies -- are: Climate Change, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
While some of todayís military experts may think the era of hypersonic missiles, smart bombs, drones, and AI will have little need for rugged and fit land forces, history tells us that shooting wars are not truly decided until the army of the victorious nation occupies the capital city of the defeated nation. Kick-butt boots on the ground.
Granted, we still have U.S. Army Special Forces, the Delta Force, and Navy SEALs full of "toxic males" trained to kill people and break things. But major wars are not won by Special Forces. We fall for the foolish fantasies of the Progressive Left at our national peril.
Suggested reading: Berlin Diary by William L. Shirer, 1941.
©2023. William Hamilton.
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