War is a fallen human thing, and it is also a fascinating thing. There are no rules in war. Nothing defines victory or defeat. The Egyptians still celebrate their victory in the Yom Kippur War (yes, they lost.) Nothing defines the way in which you are allowed to fight (lying is de rigeur.) The stronger force usually wins, but not always. At Thermopylae, 300 Spartans led 7,100 Greeks to withstand 150,000 Persians for 3 days, giving the whole war to the Greeks.
War is fascinating to study because in it you see men stretched to their utter limits for an often worthy cause. They are stretched to the limits of their cunning, courage, endurance, and love for their brothers. This also gives me a decent excuse to relate it to the church. We should be so committed.
I want to talk about the tactics men used in war over the years.
There have been evolutions and leaps in how wars were fought, but I am going to contend that no leap was greater than that taken by the Germans in World War 2. I am then going to suggest that the church would be well served to emulate that evolution.
The key to war has always been, "Get there the firstest with the mostest." The objective of any general has been to get his army to the battlefield first, and to have the most people at the critical place. If you get there first, you can determine where that critical place will be. You can then place your strongest force at that point, and drive to victory.
At that critical place, you force a hole in the enemy lines through which your force can get behind your enemy, create confusion, and rapidly force panic. Once the panic begins, the battle ends and a slaughter takes place. The great generals used dozens of ad hoc and deliberate means to decide where to break through, and to make it happen.
This was true for Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Joan of Arc, and Napoleon. Whether the battle was fought with spears, swords, or muskets nothing changed. Choose the critical place, mass your most confident troops there, force a breakthrough, and exploit the panic.
World War 1 held every seed of change, and tragically it did not happen. The machine gun was introduced in WW1. The machine gun changed everything (and the tank would have too, if anyone had figured out what to do with it.)
The machine gun gave one man the ability to stop dozens. It could not be used in attack, because it needed to be firmly emplaced, but it made defence almost omnipotent. Hence WW1 became the horrid trench war that it was.
The generals were still massing their troops at the critical point, and trying to force a breakthrough. They would send a tightly bunched mass of soldiers across the "no-man's land" between the trenches in an attempt to create the all-important breakthrough. That tightly bunched mass of troops would have turned the battle against Napoleon. Napoleon had only cannon.
These generals had machine guns.
Those masses of boys died without hope. They were never going to make it to the other trenches, and they were never going to break through to create that panic. The generals were still fighting as they had all through history, but that history was over. Everything was different.
Germany was not defeated in WW1. They surrendered because they were running out of supplies and saw defeat coming, but they had not even pushed out of France when they surrendered. They surrendered because the war had broken everyone's hearts.
(The armistice they were handed after they surrendered was evil. They could not bear the burden that was laid on them after that war. Everyone says that, and doggone if I don't have to agree with everyone. Hitler was an evil half-wit, but he was given the keys to the kingdom by the evil built into that "peace".)
When World War 2 was brewing, the Allied generals planned how to win it. They took the lessons of WW1, and refined them so that they would be ready for anything. And they were ready for anything. The French Maginot Line was truly an impressive piece of defense work. It really was unassailable.
When the French created the Maginot Line, they created a living perfection of the machine gun as a defensive weapon. Every machine gunner could safely protect every other machine gunner while stopping all advancing enemies. It really was the perfect expression of the purpose of the machine gun as demonstrated in WW1.
That's why the Germans went around it.
But the Germans did not win because they went around the Maginot Line.
The Germans conquered the better part of Europe in 2 years because they re-invented the Sergeant, and the sergeant invented a new way to use the machine gun.
French decisions during battle were made at the level of the "company" and above. That is a group of 100-200 men, or even 500-800 men at the battalion level.
German decisions were made at the squad and even "fire team" level. That is a group of 10-12, or even 5-6 men. A sergeant was in charge of a squad, and his corporal was in charge of half the squad when it was split into fire teams.
And each squad had a machine gun.
This was not a machine gun like had been used in WW1. Those machine guns needed water to keep them cool enough to fire, so they weighed 120+ pounds when ready for use and were far too unwieldy to tote around during an attack. The Germans built machine guns that weighed 25 pounds, and required no water when firing.
Before the battle, the French generals, colonels, majors and captains would review the battle plan. When they understood everything, they went out to position their troops. At the same time, the German generals, colonels, majors, and captains would review their battle plans. Then they did something the French never thought of. The German captains would go back to their troops and review the whole battle plan with their sergeants.
In the French army, ~1% of the soldiers in the battle knew the plan. In the German army over 10% of the troops knew the battle plan.
The French army lost in 20 days because they were out-thought by the German sergeants at the grass-roots level of battle. German squads would work together to set up crossfires with their machine guns that kept the French from moving while the Germans circled around behind them.
The strategy of battle had not changed. It was still pick the critical place, mass your troops there, create a breakthrough, and exploit the panic. The Germans just shrunk the scale from the army and division level down to the squad level. The Germans would achieve micro-breakthroughs all over a battlefield, and combine them into the macro-breakthrough the allies had always wanted in WW1.
They embraced the new battlefield and overcame their enemies on it.
The Lord stopped the German advance. He then turned the tide, and ended the Third Reich's reign of terror. The crimes of Germans against all of humanity during those 6 years are appalling if you actually take the time to read up on them, and praise the Lord, He did not let them triumph. My son read me some stuff last week that curdled my blood.
Practically, the Germans lost because Hitler was a half-wit, because they bit off more than they could chew, and because the British and Americans were quick learners. We learned in Africa and Italy how to turn their tactics back against them. We also adapted to the new battlefield - to the battlefield the Germans had created. We learned how to pin them down, and create our own micro-breakthroughs.
Our boys were green when they got "over there", but they took everything the Germans could throw at them, learned from it, and turned it back on them better than they got. We learned to work in small teams exercising initiative to exploit tiny advantages as they happened. By the end of the war, American tactics were as refined as anything Germany ever deployed.
(The Russians used up all the German bullets with warm bodies, then killed them with whoever was left. We won't learn much from them except the horrors of evil leaders.)
In the church today, I see us as being led at the 500 person level, like the French. I believe we need to move leadership down the chain, to the 10 person level.
There are so very many reasons to do this.
- Responsibility given breeds responsibility acted. Put a man in a position of responsibility, and he is many times more likely to grow responsible.
- Small teams can react to small problems. Many small teams reacting to similar small problems can make a big impact.
- Small teams look to each other for brotherhood. Large teams look to an organization for brotherhood.
I had never thought of that last one before. I think I am going to end on it, because it is potent.
The French army was highly proud of being the glorious French army. They were proud of all their beautiful uniforms, glorious history, dashing leaders, and eternal dedication to France. 20 days later they were defeated.
Our boys fought in squads of 12. The other 11 soldiers in your squad depended on you. Sure, America was a great idea, but Jones over there was in trouble, and if you didn't get your head out of that foxhole and start laying down some lead, Jones had no hope at all.
I cannot be loyal to a church the way I can be loyal to brothers.
Thank you to all the men and boys who paid the price for each other and for America.