The information presented in your March issue can hardly fail to damage S. L. A. Marshall’s reputation. I feel that despite the editors’ obvious wish to be considerate, the article made far too much of the lapses that have come to light, unless there is more damning evidence elsewhere.
Over the years Marshall offered numerous generalizations, large and small, that put him at odds with received U.S. military ideas. He said bayonets were obsolete, called individual rotation a bad idea, held that GIs were sent into combat overloaded, called our trench works in Korea ill-engineered, and explained why headlong assaults got nowhere against Vietcong villages. Was everything he said fabricated out of whole cloth? If not, why should his fire-ratio statements, based upon an unrivaled breadth of observation, be singled out for attack? Clearly only because they are perceived as disparaging by some ex-GIs. But Marshall nowhere presented them as peculiar to American troops. His book is called Men Against Fire, not Americans Against Fire . Anyone reading it without prejudice can see that Marshall viewed himself as presenting findings generally applicable to Western citizen armies. That is how they are understood by most military historians. An attempt to discredit Marshall in the name of rescuing the honor of the American GI is ludicrously off target. With exceptions for some particular units, friend and foe alike—the Germans, Japanese, and British in World War II, the Chinese in Korea, the Vietnamese and Australians in Vietnam, and the Marines throughout—have consistently viewed the U.S. Army infantry as mediocre in individual and unit performance. Such professional esteem as it still enjoys is very largely the work of S. L. A. Marshall.