"[In World War II] the best showing that could be
made...was that one man in four had made at least some use of his
FORTY-ONE YEARS LATER...
"Marshall's ratio of fire...appears to have been
Roger J. Spiller
Source: Roger J. Spiller, "S.L.A. Marshall and the Ratio of Fire", The RUSI Journal, Winter 1988, pages 63-71. The article is copyright © RUSI Journal.
The author's bio in this article read as follows: "Professor Roger J. Spiller is Deputy Director of the Combat Studies Institute, US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas."
Since then, Dr. Spiller authored "Not War But Like War: The American Intervention in Lebanon" (Combat Studies Institute, US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, January 1981). He also served as an editor for the American Library's World War II journalism volumes.
S.L.A. Marshall as he appeared on his book Sinai Victory in 1958.
In 1947, a slim book entitled Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command in Future War made the reputation of S.L.A. Marshall.
During the war, Marshall was employed as a popular historian with a newspaperman's talent for getting a story through interviews. Indeed, the best parts of Men Against Fire are soldier's folk wisdom about staying alive.
But that aspect of his book did not make Marshall's reputation as a social scientist of the battlefield. The book's central argument did. Marshall stated:
Marshall's claims certainly raised eyebrows in disbelief. Significantly, his "ratio of fire" does not appear in the official history series, The United States in World War II. Nonetheless, Marshall found many followers among the gullible. It wasn't until 1988 that a scholarly article set the record straight.
The article, "S.L.A. Marshall and the Ratio of Fire," appeared in the British journal, The Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies. The author was professor Roger J. Spiller, and his task was an unpleasant one because he believed that Marshall was basically right about the primacy of ground combat. Nonetheless, Spiller pulled no punches. He writes:
What of Marshall's claims for his research in the field during World War II? Spiller writes:
Puncturing the Marshall legend was Dr. Spiller's duty rather than his pleasure. He ended his piece this way:
DR. SPILLER'S BIBLIOGRAPHY AND SOURCES
The S.L.A. Marshall Military History Collection at the University of Texas at El Paso is the main repository for Marshall's official and personal correspondence, draft manuscripts, and ephemera.
A considerable body of correspondence between Marshall and B.H. Liddell Hart is collected at the B.H. Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College, London.
The US Army Military History Institute, US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA, holds several of Marshall's field notebooks.
For Marshall on Marshall, see almost anything he wrote but specifically: S.L.A. Marshall, "Genesis to Revelation," Military Review, Vol. 52, No. 2 (February 1972); "The Human Equation in Combat", in S.L.A. Marshall at Fort Leavenworth: Five Lectures at the US Army Command and General Staff College, ed. by Roger J. Spiller (US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, KS, 1980).
Dale L. Walker, interview with S.L.A. Marshall, 18 May 1972, typed transcript, in S.L.A. Marshall Military History Collection, Library of the University of Texas at El Paso, Texas.
For more on John Westover, see: John G. Westover, "Describing the Colonel," Newsletter of the S.L.A. Marshall Military History Collection, No. 11 (Summer 1985), pp. 1-4 ; "The Colonel Goes Interviewing," ibid., No. 12 (Winter 1985-1986), pp. 1-3; and "Marshall's Impact," ibid., No. 13 (Summer 1986), pp. 1-3.
For a colleague's assessment (pre-Spiller) the "the ratio of fire" was probably hokum see: Hugh M. Cole, "S.L.A. Marshall (1900-1977): In Memoriam", Parameters, Vol. 8 (March 1978, p. 4).
To understand the intellectual climate when Men Against Fire was published, see: Bernard Brodie, ed., The Absolute Weapon: Atomic Power and the World Order (Brace Harcourt, New York, 1946), p. 76. Brodie's axiom on deterrence was stated: "Thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on, its chief purpose must be to avert them. It can have almost no other purpose."