War Instructions United States Navy 1944


Chapter 1. The Human Element in Naval Strength

100. As wars are fought by men, the human element is a basic factor in naval warfare. It is treated in this publication, because tactical publications and type doctrines, in setting forth ways of accomplishing tasks or performing maneuvers, do not cover it in proportionate detail.

101. The understanding of the capabilities and limitations of man, and the comprehension of how best to apply this knowledge in warfare, are basic requirements for the commander's success.

102. In the transition from the era of sail to an era of war in three dimensions, great importance, and often inordinate value, has been attached to material developments. Material represents the means, but not the end. A nineteenth century sailor would be bewildered in a modern warship, but regardless of the appearance of ships, there is one element, the most important of all, that remains unchanged--the man himself. Human nature in all the changing years has altered but little. It is the human element in warfare which may, if understood by the commander, prove to be the only way of converting an impossibility into a successful reality. With trained men and proper materials, the commander's task is reduced to the preparation of good plans. A force of inferior material potency may, due to the moral resources, of its men, prove superior in naval strength.

103. In evaluating the human factor, the commander does not neglect to evaluate himself, considers the reliability and the capabilities of his subordinate officers, and the morale and physical condition of his force as a whole. He then uses all these to the best advantage. Besides considering the potentialities of his own force, the commander estimates that of the enemy. He sizes up his opponent's efficiency, morale and racial traits, and lastly the character and ability of known opposing commanders.

104. In the understanding of men, the problem is complicated by the fact that the commander is dealing not with an individual, but with men in the mass--men differing among themselves to an unknown degree governed by heredity, previous environment, and teaching. The extent to which the commander succeeds in solving the problem of how best to use the known manifestations and reactions of human nature may be the measure of his success.

105. By training, discipline and consideration of the men's welfare, the commander obtains fighting strength--a strength so great that it will take its toll against an opposing force superior in numbers and equipment.

106. The commander strives to have his men at their greatest moral and physical strength at the moment when their utmost capabilities are demanded. The personal honor and glory victory may bring to a commander do not come to his men in the same degree. When opposition is great, men can be driven just so far in battle; for them to exceed normal expectations and accomplish the seemingly impossible, they must be led. Whatever the importance of men and subordinate officers, it is overshadowed by that of the commander.

107. The commander is trained to approach perfection in the following military virtues, which by example and by methods of his own he instills in his subordinates:

    (a) Responsible courage, both moral and physical--the moral courage to do the right thing and the physical courage to face any personal danger.

    (b) Decision of character, ability to select the essential, weed out the nonessentials and fix the mind on the objective to be reached. This implies foresight and an imagination that can see all the advantages, all the chances, all the obstacles, in their true proportion and can decide firmly what is to be done.

    (c) Sound judgment, which in its application may be called common sense, though it is not a common but a rare quality, and is based on possession of all available facts.

    (d) Initiative, the ability to understand and take advantage of new situation.

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108. There is a distinction between ability as a leader of men and ability as a strategist or tactician. The commander may be a great leader, a natural leader, and fail through lack of knowledge. Leadership is the art of inspiring, guiding, and directing bodies of men so that they ardently desire to do what the leader wishes. But the wishes of the leader will not bring victory unless as a commander he has the strategical knowledge and the tactical skill to make a good plan.

109. The human element is a combination of instincts plus intelligence. The military virtues necessary for success are made instinctive by training. The commander strives for unity of effort, which implies leadership, training, loyalty, and initiative; for continuity of effort, which calls for decision of character, perseverance, and fortitude; and for vision, which implies knowledge of war, skill, and judgment. The commander combines and coordinates the various military virtues into a strong, well balanced whole.

110. There is no substitute for actual battle experience for the commander in acquiring knowledge of his own ability and the capabilities and the limitations of his subordinates. Once a victorious battle has been fought, confidence in material and in leaders become definitely established. Mutual reliance between the men and their leaders and confidence in the material at their disposal are requisites of a winning force. Confidence increases proportionately with the number of successful missions completed, until the point is reached where overconfidence may lead to carelessness. The commander avoids this extreme by understanding it as an inherent danger, and watching for evidences of unstability due to overconfidence.

111. In an engagement where the opposing forces are equal in material strength, the victor should be the force having the superior strength by virtue of the human element.

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