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The Ground Pounders
on August 10, 2010
My father was a sergeant in the army and flew 63 missions in WWII. To the end of his long career when anyone raised their eyebrows in awe at his decorations and wanted to hear tales of glory; he said we just helped the ground pounders win the war - always has been them - always will.
John McManus illustrates and reiterates this philosophy throughout Grunts; he gives, many times the examples of how the infantry moves, occupies, touches and influences the population. Yet with any improved weaponry, even as far back as chariots and the longbows of England the thought has been that the new technology would sweep the need for foot soldiers off of the battlefield. Time and time again, even in the battles of today it has been shown that victory comes from the ground pounders not machines.
`Grunts' describes 10 battles: Guam, Peleliu, Aachen, the Bulge, Operation Masher- Vietnam, Marine Combined Action Patrols, Dak To, Infantry in the Gulf War, Fallujah, counterinsurgency in Iraq. It is a selected history; these are specific battles and units that sometime miss the big picture, but does give good examples once you have read through them. The mistakes, of higher command, which are many and sometimes infuriating are told. There are many truths that are usually overlooked in historical accounts, such as the fact that naval bombardments do not really kill the enemy waiting for the invasion force.
Much of what has been told to and investigated by McManus should be fascinating to readers interested in warfare and military history. For example, the army had no published doctrine on urban warfare in WWII - the infantry was on its own; but as is astutely pointed out; the ability of the American combat soldier to improvise in the stress of combat was and is his best strength; most of whom believe that their unit has a harder, more dangerous job than any other unit; but they accept it and do their job. True grunts take a perverse pride in their misery. If you are, or know one, this will ring true, as many of the observations will throughout this reading.
The fighting philosophies and methods are honed in on. This has some of the best descriptions of combat in Vietnam I have ever read. The observations of fighting in Iraq and comparisons to Vietnam are interesting, including political and economic reasons. There are some hard truths about vacillating political and military strategies and ideas. For the body of the work, which ends in Iraq in 2006 the analysis and historical points are fascinating. There are appropriate maps of the battles and a photograph section. The epilogue is a bit weak, especially comparing these valiant men to protective sheepdogs. I shudder to think what any of the ones I know would say to that; but the points are well taken including the plea for more combat brigades.
This indeed would be of interest to those who want to learn more of the military, it's history and the men who serve