By Major Single List
This series of articles was published in the Infantry Journal by The United States Infantry Association, Washington, D.C. Parts One and Two are found in Volume XVIII, January, 1921, to June 1921. Parts Three through Six are found in Volume XIX, July 1921, to December. 1921.
June 2002 - I have been informed that this series of articles was written by Brigadier General William A. Mitchell (US Army). This information was confirmed by the General's son, Col. Joseph B Mitchell, and passed to me by his grandson J.B. Mitchell.
This is a series of six solutions to the same problem, each solution starting with the lessons learned by the errors in the previous solution. The six solutions are designed to teach the application of the principles as developed in the World War, showing the best methods of using the combined arms. Naturally, it is impossible to include every principle in these six solutions, but it is thought that the most important are shown.
The reader will at once see that the general plan of these six solutions is the same as in "The Defense of Duffer’s Drift," a story of the troubles of a platoon commander in defending a stream crossing during the British-Boer War.
The Blues (east) and the Reds (west) were at war. This was nothing new. The Blues and the Reds are always at war. They have been at war since the beginning of wars. It is said that in the time of Augustus Caesar the Temple of Janus closed its doors because the Romans were no longer at war; but this cannot be applied to the Blues and Reds. They are still at war and, in my opinion, they will always be at war. The Reds seem to have remarkable recuperative powers, because although they are invariably defeated by General A, commander of the Blues and the most remarkable military genius of all time, yet we always find them ready to tackle General A again at the first opportunity. Sometimes they are assisted and sometimes opposed by the Browns, a neutral nation, but generally they are alone in their unsuccessful efforts to hamper General A. Truly, one cannot help admiring the morale of those poor Reds; always they are defeated, always they come forward again. Defeat never lessens their morale. They hope that they will win out next time. Possibly, they have hopes that a stray bullet may kill General A, or possibly they are fighting with the courage of despair and want to end it all. At any rate, they are always ready for the next fight.
However, this time it was real war, and I, Major Single List, was in actual command of the First Battalion of Colonel R's Regiment, which had just relieved another regiment on the line and was now going into battle for the first time. For years, I had heard of the campaigns of General A, and had hoped that if I ever was lucky enough or unlucky enough to go into battle I would have him as commander. And now it had happened. We, the Blues, had driven the Reds steadily westward until they were holding a line along the Monocacy River to somewhere near the mouth of Booby’s Creek, thence northward along the general line of Booby’s Creek. Their line was not clearly defined, but we knew that they were making a last stand to hold General A east of the passes of South Mountain, so that when their expected reinforcements materialized they could advance safely through these passes and deploy in the open country to the eastward. Naturally, General A had decided that this must be prevented. We were to make a final attack and drive the Reds back into South Mountain, capture and destroy as many of them as possible, and block the exits of the passes.
By daybreak of this day, June 19, our Regiment had finished relieving the other Regiment, and my battalion was now in a fairly concealed position somewhat east of the road running north south about on coordinate 345. My battalion command post was established in the cellar of the farmhouse at 345.8-729.4. I visited my companies in position, found everything O.K., then returned to my command post and tried to sleep. I was not very successful. This was my first battle, and I was somewhat excited over the prospect. My troops were likewise somewhat excited, as shown by the fact that many useless inquiries were made of me; so many in fact that I was unable to sleep before noon. After noon I managed to sleep a little, but was wakened about 3 o’clock by an orderly from Colonel R with orders and maps, and with a message directing me to report to regimental headquarters at 6 o’clock for a conference of the regimental field and staff officers.
Immediately I looked at the maps and orders received, and saw that they were the plans for an attack the next day. Evidently we were to report to Colonel R’s headquarters for a conference on the subject. A glance at the orders showed that Colonel R had decided to make the assault in column of battalions; and that mine was to be the leading battalion. We were to attack due west, the northern boundary being coordinate 730 and the southern boundary coordinate 729, making my area a strip 1,000 yards wide and of such depth as I could force the Reds to give up. The attack was to commence at sunrise June 20 (4.30 o’clock).
The orders and plans were plain enough, but I did not know just what to do about them. I gazed at the map and orders until my eyes were weary and the whole thing became a blur. I was very tired, the weather was hot, and I was very sleepy. So, to make a long story short, I went to sleep. In thus going to sleep I had three reasons: First, I was sleepy and needed the sleep; second, I was to report to Colonel R at 6 o'clock and he would explain the whole scheme of attack to us, and I wanted to be fresh and clear-headed when I was at his headquarters; third, I wanted to give my subconscious mind a chance to work out the solution to my real war problem. Many times I have found it best to let my body rest and my subconscious mind work. Others have told me that they also find that their subconscious minds can work out problems which they cannot work out in moments of real wakefulness. So I went to sleep and my subconscious mind evolved a series of solutions, each of which impressed me at the beginning as entirely satisfactory; events showed that, although I learned something by each solution, yet all of the solutions were not by any means such as would have been approved by General A.
Each is given just as it was evolved by my subconscious mind. The reader will notice that each solution was begun with the utmost confidence in its ultimate effectiveness. That is one thing about my subconscious mind, it is always satisfied with what it has evolved until it comes to grief, then with remarkable alacrity it evolves something else. At any rate I slept, and my subconscious mind evolved many consecutive solutions.