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America's School for War: Fort Leavenworth, Officer Education, and Victory in World War II

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When the United States entered World War II, it took more than industrial might to transform its tiny army--smaller than even Portugal's--into an overseas fighting force of more than eight and a half million. Peter Schifferle contends that the determination of American army officers to be prepared for the next big war was an essential component in America's ultimate triump When the United States entered World War II, it took more than industrial might to transform its tiny army--smaller than even Portugal's--into an overseas fighting force of more than eight and a half million. Peter Schifferle contends that the determination of American army officers to be prepared for the next big war was an essential component in America's ultimate triumph over its adversaries. Crucial to that preparation were the army schools at Fort Leavenworth. Interwar Army officers, haunted by the bloodshed of World War I's Meuse-Argonne Offensive, fully expected to return to Europe to conclude the unfinished business of that conflict, and they prepared well. Schifferle examines for the first time precisely how they accomplished this through a close and illuminating look at the students, faculty, curriculum, and essential methods of instruction at Fort Leavenworth. He describes how the interwar officer corps there translated the experiences of World War I into effective doctrine, engaged in intellectual debate on professional issues, conducted experiments to determine the viability of new concepts, and used military professional education courses to substitute for the experience of commanding properly organized and resourced units. Schifferle highlights essential elements of war preparation that only the Fort Leavenworth education could provide, including intensive instruction in general staff procedures, hands-on experience with the principles and techniques of combined arms, and the handling of large division-sized formations in combat. This readied army officers for an emerging new era of global warfare and enabled them to develop the leadership decision making they would need to be successful on the battlefield. But Schifferle offers more than a recitation of curriculum development through the skillful interweaving of personal stories about both school experiences and combat operations, collectively recounting the human and professional development of the officer corps from 1918 to 1945. Well crafted and insightful, Schifferle's meticulously researched study shows how and why the Fort Leavenworth experience was instrumental in producing that impressive contingent of military officers who led the U.S. Army to final victory in World War II. By the end of the book, the attentive reader will also fully comprehend why the military professionals at Fort Leavenworth have come to think of it as the Intellectual Center of the Army.


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When the United States entered World War II, it took more than industrial might to transform its tiny army--smaller than even Portugal's--into an overseas fighting force of more than eight and a half million. Peter Schifferle contends that the determination of American army officers to be prepared for the next big war was an essential component in America's ultimate triump When the United States entered World War II, it took more than industrial might to transform its tiny army--smaller than even Portugal's--into an overseas fighting force of more than eight and a half million. Peter Schifferle contends that the determination of American army officers to be prepared for the next big war was an essential component in America's ultimate triumph over its adversaries. Crucial to that preparation were the army schools at Fort Leavenworth. Interwar Army officers, haunted by the bloodshed of World War I's Meuse-Argonne Offensive, fully expected to return to Europe to conclude the unfinished business of that conflict, and they prepared well. Schifferle examines for the first time precisely how they accomplished this through a close and illuminating look at the students, faculty, curriculum, and essential methods of instruction at Fort Leavenworth. He describes how the interwar officer corps there translated the experiences of World War I into effective doctrine, engaged in intellectual debate on professional issues, conducted experiments to determine the viability of new concepts, and used military professional education courses to substitute for the experience of commanding properly organized and resourced units. Schifferle highlights essential elements of war preparation that only the Fort Leavenworth education could provide, including intensive instruction in general staff procedures, hands-on experience with the principles and techniques of combined arms, and the handling of large division-sized formations in combat. This readied army officers for an emerging new era of global warfare and enabled them to develop the leadership decision making they would need to be successful on the battlefield. But Schifferle offers more than a recitation of curriculum development through the skillful interweaving of personal stories about both school experiences and combat operations, collectively recounting the human and professional development of the officer corps from 1918 to 1945. Well crafted and insightful, Schifferle's meticulously researched study shows how and why the Fort Leavenworth experience was instrumental in producing that impressive contingent of military officers who led the U.S. Army to final victory in World War II. By the end of the book, the attentive reader will also fully comprehend why the military professionals at Fort Leavenworth have come to think of it as the Intellectual Center of the Army.

36 review for America's School for War: Fort Leavenworth, Officer Education, and Victory in World War II

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gary Klein

    This book outlined the essence of how the Army educated and trained its officers for WWII based on its experience at the end of WWI. The author argues how this foundation was the key that enabled the success of the US Army in WWII. Leavenworth was the proving grounds for most DIV-Corps-level commanders and chiefs of staff. No other place in the Army prepared the US Army for these large unit maneuvers. This argument stands in contrast for other authors who have given most credit for success to th This book outlined the essence of how the Army educated and trained its officers for WWII based on its experience at the end of WWI. The author argues how this foundation was the key that enabled the success of the US Army in WWII. Leavenworth was the proving grounds for most DIV-Corps-level commanders and chiefs of staff. No other place in the Army prepared the US Army for these large unit maneuvers. This argument stands in contrast for other authors who have given most credit for success to the US' industrial might and mobilization of men. The book goes into great detail about the various courses at Leavenworth in the interwar period including what they taught, who the students and instructors were, the impact of their instruction, etc. FYI: The applicatory method still lives on today in modern tactical decision exercises (TDEs), tactical decision games (TDGs), etc.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Jeckell

    Most credit for the US performance in World War II has been given to material production and US's incredible industrial might, "the Arsenal of Democracy." However, the US would not have been able to mobilize and organize this effort towards strategic ends if it hadn't been for competent and confident staff work and leadership. World War I had a profound impact on the officers who lived through it and they were determined to see future generations better prepared. Their efforts were constrained b Most credit for the US performance in World War II has been given to material production and US's incredible industrial might, "the Arsenal of Democracy." However, the US would not have been able to mobilize and organize this effort towards strategic ends if it hadn't been for competent and confident staff work and leadership. World War I had a profound impact on the officers who lived through it and they were determined to see future generations better prepared. Their efforts were constrained by post-war drawdowns that made traditional readiness impossible. The Army rarely had the funds to maneuver units larger than regiments, and even those were infrequent. The Army conducted experiments with motorization and mechanization, but also to a very small extent. When war came, the Army expanded from 200,000 soldiers to 8.3 million, and from 14,000 officers to 600,000. Moreover, this was a period of technological and doctrinal turmoil, with rapid advances in everything from armor to aircraft, with commensurate prophesies about how each would revolutionize warfare. Yet when American soldiers entered the war, they defeated their seasoned opponents regularly and American leaders were already familiar with fighting maneuver warfare. The schools at Fort Leavenworth played a key role in America's readiness, keeping doctrine focused on fundamentals, while nurturing vigorous and open debate among all grades of officers. The education focused on problem solving, fundamentals principles, and building confidence, while avoiding fixation on rote learning or single-best "school solutions." This formed a culture across the Army (and other services who participated) of collaboration, innovation and problem solving. This is a book leaders in the American military services need to be reading right now.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    The American Army reached a nadir between the World Wars. It was smaller than the army of Portugal (although larger than that of Bulgaria) and was starved for equipment, such as the latest tanks or aircraft. Yet from 1939-1944, the army expanded to a force of 9 million officers and men; 89 well-equipped divisions. How was this expansion possible? Who was capable of running this new, massive army? The answer is the generally excellent Army school system for its officers, especially the Command an The American Army reached a nadir between the World Wars. It was smaller than the army of Portugal (although larger than that of Bulgaria) and was starved for equipment, such as the latest tanks or aircraft. Yet from 1939-1944, the army expanded to a force of 9 million officers and men; 89 well-equipped divisions. How was this expansion possible? Who was capable of running this new, massive army? The answer is the generally excellent Army school system for its officers, especially the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth. This and other schools educated a large group of officers who would become the effective leaders of the army with which America fought the Second World War. What was really remarkable is that their training for running and fighting division and corps-sized formations was totally theoretical, as almost none existed in the between-the-war army. Schifferle's excellent account shows how the school functioned, how students were chosen, what their curriculum was and the overall effect of the GSC School on the army. A must-read for those interested in the history of leadership training or in the general history of the US Army.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Re-read in preparation for welcoming the author to campus, this is a study of 20 years at Leavenworth (1920-1940) in which the US Army worked with a far from perfect system (low-budget, lack of air power awareness) to train a large body of officers in lessons learned from WWI as well as possibilities for the future. The success, measured in the production of men who had solid professional knowledge, had thought through large-scale command and who had been allowed to come up with innovative solut Re-read in preparation for welcoming the author to campus, this is a study of 20 years at Leavenworth (1920-1940) in which the US Army worked with a far from perfect system (low-budget, lack of air power awareness) to train a large body of officers in lessons learned from WWI as well as possibilities for the future. The success, measured in the production of men who had solid professional knowledge, had thought through large-scale command and who had been allowed to come up with innovative solutions "outside the box", when harnessed to American industrial might, proved a key factor in the Second World War (and to getting a division moving in the middle of the night during a sleet storm). I was interested in a couple of small sidelines also mentioned--the relationship of pre-WWII CCC training camps to the 1941 mobilization and the efforts to understand adult learning processes (after what point can you not teach "nerve"?)

  5. 5 out of 5

    S.L.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wilson

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andy Morgado

  9. 5 out of 5

    John Nimmons

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steve Leonard

  11. 4 out of 5

    John F.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  13. 5 out of 5

    Frank A.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mike Nicholson

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nathanks

  16. 4 out of 5

    Liam

  17. 5 out of 5

    Al Jones

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tia

  19. 4 out of 5

    m

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rich

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Monaco

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jim

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gary

  24. 5 out of 5

    Samuel

  25. 4 out of 5

    Todd Moe

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gordon Sullivan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nate Hill

  28. 4 out of 5

    David

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chad Wyancko

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kelley

  31. 4 out of 5

    Krzysztof Mathews

  32. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Dambro

  33. 4 out of 5

    Bull

  34. 5 out of 5

    Io

  35. 5 out of 5

    WW2 Reads

  36. 5 out of 5

    Hayden Daryle

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