More Re­flec­tions On The War In North Africa

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - OPINION - DAVID WIL­SON, EDD, OF SPRING­DALE, IS A WRITER AND TEACHER AT HEART. HIS BOOK, LEARN­ING EVERY DAY, IN­CLUDES SEV­ERAL OF HIS COLUMNS AND IS NOW AVAIL­ABLE ON AMA­ZON, ITUNES AND BARNES AND NO­BLE. YOU MAY E-MAIL HIM AT DWNOTES@HOT­MAIL.COM. THE OPIN­IONS EX­PRESS

Au­thor Pa­trick Len­cioni, an ex­pert in es­tab­lish­ing healthy dy­nam­ics at work, wrote in his book The Ad­van­tage that busi­nesses, or­ga­ni­za­tions, and in­di­vid­u­als must make ad­just­ments in the face of set­backs.

“Peo­ple in a healthy or­ga­ni­za­tion, be­gin­ning with the lead­ers,” he wrote, “learn from one an­other, iden­tify crit­i­cal is­sues, and re­cover quickly from mis­takes.”

And as you may have read here last week, that is ba­si­cally what hap­pened with Amer­i­can mil­i­tary forces who were fight­ing on the other side of the At­lantic 75 years ago.

Amer­i­cans suf­fered a ter­ri­ble de­feat at the hands of Ger­many at Kasser­ine Pass in North Africa, but the lead­er­ship — un­der Gen­eral Dwight D. Eisen­hower, Gen­eral Omar Bradley, and Gen­eral Ge­orge S. Pat­ton — quickly de­ter­mined what was wrong and set out im­me­di­ately to make changes.

We can­not al­ways make the as­sump­tion that prin­ci­ples that work in a busi­ness in the 21st cen­tury worked equally as well 75 years ago and brought suc­cess on bat­tle­fields on the other side of the world.

It’s just not that sim­ple. But there are some par­al­lels.

In the 1970 movie en­ti­tled Pat­ton, ac­tors Ge­orge C. Scott (who played Pat­ton) had a telling conversation with ac­tor Karl Malden (who played Gen­eral Bradley).

Pat­ton: Tell me Brad, what hap­pened at Kasser­ine?

Bradley: Ap­par­ently ev­ery­thing went wrong.

Pat­ton: I un­der­stand we had trou­ble co­or­di­nat­ing the air cover.

Bradley: The trou­ble was no air cover. There’s one other thing I put in my Kasser­ine re­port. Some of our boys were just plain scared.

Pat­ton: That’s un­der­stand­able. Even the best fox hounds are gun-shy the first time out.

Pat­ton: You wanna know why this out­fit got the hell kicked out of ‘em? A blind man could see it in a minute. They don’t look like sol­diers, they don’t act like sol­diers, why should they be ex­pected to fight like sol­diers?

Bradley: You’re ab­so­lutely right. The dis­ci­pline is pretty poor.

Pat­ton: Well, in about 15 min­utes we’re gonna start turn­ing these boys in to fa­nat­ics. They’ll lose their fear of the Ger­mans. I only hope to God they never lose their fear of me.”

Af­ter that, Pat­ton went to work, and while he shouldn’t get all of the credit for turn­ing things around, at the very least, he was a strong cat­a­lyst.

The Amer­i­cans had been beaten soundly at Kasser­ine, but no mat­ter what the rea­sons were for the de­feat, there rested within most sol­diers a fierce de­ter­mi­na­tion to come back strong.

Ernie Pyle was a Pulitzer prize win­ning jour­nal­ist who wrote sto­ries about the com­mon sol­dier in World War II.

He was in North Africa and knew all about Kasser­ine, but he still be­lieved in the Amer­i­can ef­fort.

“You need feel no shame nor con­cern about their abil­ity,” he wrote. “There is noth­ing wrong with the com­mon Amer­i­can sol­dier. His fight­ing spirit is good. His morale is okay. The deeper he gets into a fight, the more of a fight­ing man he be­comes.”

The mod­i­fi­ca­tions in the Al­lied ef­fort brought great re­sults.

The Amer­i­cans — along with the Bri­tish — would even­tu­ally run the Ger­man armies com­pletely out of the con­ti­nent of Africa.

Af­ter that, the Al­lies took Si­cily, and then Italy, and then be­gan gear­ing up for a mas­sive in­va­sion of the main­land of Europe.

Dur­ing the early days of Amer­ica’s in­volve­ment in World War II, Ger­many con­trolled al­most all of Europe, but the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary had learned much from its open­ing de­feat 75 years ago.

And while there were many bat­tles still to be fought, Amer­i­cans had gained valuable bat­tle­field ex­pe­ri­ence. Fur­ther­more, Amer­ica it­self was pour­ing more men and ma­te­ri­als into the fight.

They wouldn’t stop fight­ing in Europe un­til Hitler was dead and all of Ger­many ca­pit­u­lated.

Er­win Rom­mel, pos­si­bly the best of Ger­many’s gen­er­als, wrote that the Amer­i­can re­sponse at Kasser­ine was cru­cial.

“In Tu­nisia,” he said, “the Amer­i­cans had to pay a stiff price for their ex­pe­ri­ence, but it brought rich div­i­dends.”

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