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Battlefield Leadership


Lt Gen Harold G. Moore, US Army (Retired)

Posted here courtesy of Lt Gen Moore, 16 Dec 03

These are some comments, based on my limited experience, on a Leader's:
- Preparations for battlefield leadership
- My own philosophy on the conduct of a leader in battle

Preparations: Could fill a book. Only a few items:

  1. Read military history. Read small unit actions. Personality of a big battle is often formed by a small unit action
  2. Visit historic battlefields with maps, books in hand.
  3. Install the WILL TO WIN in your unit. No 2nd place trophies in trophy cases.
  4. Build unit discipline, teamwork. A team of fighters
  5. Prepare your unit for your death (or being gravely wounded and evacuated) and for your subordinate leader's loss also. A Squad Leader must be ready to command a platoon or the company. PRACTICE THIS!
  6. Squad leaders and Fire Team leaders must know how to adjust artillery/mortar fire. Live fire is not always necessary. You can do this with marbles and a sandtable; or golf balls and a small piece of ground.
  7. Prepare for wounded men yelling for "Medic" or screaming for "Mom". Practice reducing the enemy fire and neutralizing it BEFORE going out for the wounded. Train for this. It will happen.

Next, Conduct in battle, Four Principles:

  1. The first is "Three strikes and you're NOT out!". Two things a leader can do. Either contaminate his environment and his unit with his attitude and actions, or he can inspire confidence.
  2. And the corollary principle which is inter-reactive with that one is:
  3. The third principle is: "When there is nothing wrong - there's nothing wrong except - THERE'S NOTHING WRONG! That's exactly when a leader must be most alert.

  4. And finally #4. "Trust your instincts." In critical, fast moving battlefield situations, instincts and intuition amount to an instant Estimate of the Situation. Your instincts are the product of your education, training, reading, personality, and experience.


    When seconds count, instincts and decisiveness come into play. In quick-developing situation, the leader must act fast, impart confidence to all around him, must not second guess a decision - MAKE IT HAPPEN! In the process, he cannot stand around slack-jawed when he's hit with the unexpected. He must face up to the facts, deal with them, and MOVE ON.