Tuesday, May 31, 2005

# Posted 9:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A DEFENSE OF THE LEG MAN: In response to my praise of the airborne soldier as the best of the best, army vet DA reminds us all that the leg infantry sometimes had it tougher than their "elite" brethren:
In defense of leg infantry, my father's division was in the line for approximately seven months. The only break was moving from Holland out of the British Army's command, to the Third Army farther south. A military road march on trucks was a "break" only if the alternative was worse--which, of course, it was.

The Airborne units had hard fights. They also had a good deal of time at the rear. They did return to England after D-Day, only not as soon as they had thought they would. The leg outfits didn't return, nor had anybody planned that they should. They would stay in the line until the war was over, unless circumstances made that impossible. The paratroopers made their rush to Bastogne from a rear-area encampment.

The dirty little secret about "elite" units is that they don't fight all that much. When they do, they usually have advantages.The British outfit that took Pegasus bridge trained for years. (Hard training, but safer than fighting in North Africa or Italy.) After they completed their coup, they stayed in the line and eventually became as run-down as any other outfit. When commandos do a raid, they know everything including the enemy sentry's mother's maiden name. The Infantry simply advances, looking for the enemy who generally announces his presence by killing some of your people. The commandos go on a full stomach and expect more of the same in a couple of days, along with showers and a real bunk. The grunts are living in the mud, being attrited by enemy snipers and artillery, in between real fights.

My father was a platoon leader, frequently filling in for company commanders as they were killed. He thinks the American Infantryman is God's noblest creation. They never quit, he's said several times, nor has he mentioned any difficulty getting them to follow him east.

His division, the 104th Infantry Division (Timberwolves) was known for accomplishing its missions with relatively few casualties. I believe the OIF's casualties only recently exceeded those of the Timberwolves. Now, were the OIF guys--or the paratroopers--to swap horror stories, they could try the Fourth ID which had, I believe, 250% casualties in WW II. That probably considers only the line battalions.Anyway, the paratroopers think well of themselves, which they've earned. But that does not mean the less-self-promoting units had any less courage and perseverance.
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