Ernst Jünger on the Infantry Training Manual of 1922 (Part II)
Ausbildungsvorschrift für die Infanterie
The following post is the second half a verbatim translation of an article, written by Ernst Jünger, that was published, under the title The Infantry Training Manual [Die Ausbildungsvorschrift für die Infanterie] in the issue of the Military Weekly [Militärwochenblatt] published on 10 August 1923. The translation of the first part of this article can be found below.
Now, let’s look at the squad leader. The manual shows him how to drill his squad, which commands to give, and how to give them in a brief and uniform manner. It then explains how he can handle this disciplined, responsive body when it is deployed in the field. It describes for him the many foundational forms of the open order, the ways in which they can be adapted to various kinds of ground and the effects of different weapons. In this way, he discovers how to regulate the forward movement of his squad, to influence and focus its fire.
In battle, he leads his squad, within the framework of the platoon, towards the enemy. He influences his men, makes use of the ground, seeks to increase the effectiveness of friendly forces and diminish that of the enemy, pays attention to the platoon commander and neighboring units. He seeks to harmonize the fire and movement of his squad with the web of different weapons [Kampfmittel] spins itself around his squad. Whether his break in succeeds, he enters a camouflaged, or he prepares himself for a new mission, the manual points out to him that battle is a complex and highly complicated process, the framework for problems that present themselves to him and that he must solve independently.
In this way, the two central booklets [of the Training Manual for Infantry] present the demands, the logic, and the incidents of battle. Although the manual provides six (seven if you include the section of light machine guns) descriptions of combat, it manages to avoid any redundancy. It keeps formalities to a minimum, focusing instead on ways of fighting. While providing clear tactical guidelines, it provides broad scope [Spielraum] to self-directed action. The latter presumes first-class men, first-class leaders, and lengthy training. In the event that training has to be curtailed, we will have to make use of a small number of short, well-chosen portions of the manual.
Apart from the introduction to the work, the Training Manual for Infantry pays little attention to psychological [seelische] motivation. However, I find myself wondering whether it is possible for a training manual, even one written by people aware of such things, to address all of the particulars of combat, whether the inner experience [innere Erlebnis] of the individual or the psychological [seelische] influence of the leader.1 At the very least, dealing with these matters, which are questions of nurture and nature [Taktes und Blutes] and develop invisibly in the body of an army, requires a great deal of caution.2
These matters are of capital importance, but are hard to explain in manuals. It is, for example, dangerous to imply that a soldier can be overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety. It is better to limit oneself to the iron requirement that the moral forces upon which such matters rest depend upon the spirit of the army and the personal influence of his leader.
Booklets III and IV, which deal with the training of heavy machine gun and trench mortar companies (the employment of which are frequently mentioned in other parts of the manual), build upon the foundation provided by the two central booklets [II and V]. Booklet I lays out the basics. An appendix concludes the manual with discussions of the rendering of honors, parades, the duties of soldiers holding defensive positions, and the like.
In conclusion, the Training Manual for Infantry is a comprehensive but clearly structured work, which enables every member of a regiment to quickly resolve any doubts that might arise, whether on the parade ground or in the field.
The architecture of the manual, both in terms of text and organization, can easily accommodate new weapons and new lessons. The spirit that animates it, undiminished by specifics, imbues the work with the bold will to attack which gave us our greatest and most beautiful triumphs.
Still, there remains much to be said about the individual sections.
(To be continued)
Despite the promise appended to the end of the article, no sign of subsequent portions of the article can be found in the pages of the Military Weekly. This absence may have something to do with Jünger’s decision to resign his commission, which was announced in the issue of the Military Weekly published on 10 September 1923.
The use of the phrase “inner experience” echoes the title of Jünger’s second book Battle as an Inner Experience [Der Kampf als Inneres Erlebnis.]
This sentence suggests that the breakdown of discipline in the German Army at the end of the First World War took Jünger by surprise.