S. L. A. Marshall’s Men
New Evidence Regarding Fire
© 2003 John Whiteclay Chambers II
Parameters, Autumn 2003
The findings of journalist-soldier S. L. A. Marshall about combat fire
ratios -particularly that in World War II less than 25 percent of American combat
infantrymen in battle fired their weapons—have been controversial since Marshall
published them in his 1947 book, Men Against Fire. He continued to apply his
methodology—the after-action, group interview with enlisted men—during the Korean
War, where he concluded that more than half the front-line soldiers were firing
their weapons. In the past 20 years, Marshall’s controversial figures have come
under more intensive attack, in part because, after his death in 1977, his
papers did not include statistical analyses or more than a couple of the field
notebooks produced during group interviews.
Yet Marshall continues to have supporters as
well as detractors, and the controversy rages on, fueled by emotional beliefs,
individual vested interests, missing documents, and absent statistics.
One of the key questions concerns where Marshall obtained his figures about the
ratio of fire, the proportion of a rifle unit firing its weapons in battle.
Marshall claimed it was derived from his group after-action interviews, a method
he developed as a field historian in World War II and which as a civilian
journalist, Reserve officer, and military consultant, he employed and advocated
for use by the US Army and later by the Israeli Defense Force. Although the
ratio-of-fire figure was his most famous product, Marshall was proudest of his
methodology—informal, open-ended, group interviews of enlisted personnel, as
soon as possible after a particular combat action, to learn about the actual
behavior of the soldiers in battle.
Timing was sometimes but not always on
his side. In the Pacific in November 1943, he was with G.I.’s when a forward
unit at Makin Island in the Gilberts sustained a Japanese counterattack at
night, and Marshall could interview American survivors the next day. But in the
European Theater of Operations the following year, he was not able to interview
the combat troops involved in the Normandy Invasion in June 1944 until several
weeks afterward. In each case, however, he would interview the men and, he said,
take contemporaneous notes and later write up his report on the action.
The following oral history provides some
fresh insights into Marshall’s methodology and findings. It also raises
troubling questions about the reliability of Marshall’s statistics on fire
ratios. The oral history comes from a citizen-soldier, Frank J. Brennan, Jr.,
now a retired high school and community college history instructor and
As a young junior officer in Korea in 1953, Brennan accompanied S. L. A.
Marshall on some of the journalist’s after-action group interviews along the
Main Line of Resistance, including the Battle of Pork Chop Hill.
A native of New Brunswick, New Jersey,
Brennan graduated from Rutgers in the spring of 1951 with a B.A. in journalism.
Having completed ROTC, he received a commission as a second lieutenant in the
infantry. After additional training, including Infantry School at Fort Benning,
Georgia (where Marshall’s Men Against Fire was among the required reading), and
in Japan, he arrived in Korea in May 1952, assigned to the 7th Infantry
Division, a Regular Army division that had been fighting in Korea since
September 1950. Lieutenant Brennan was sent to the front line with the 32d
Infantry Regiment in the 7th Infantry Division’s central sector near the 38th
Parallel. For six weeks on the line, he served as a rifle platoon leader. His
unit was engaged in patrols and in repelling attacks on its position along the
Main Line of Resistance.
Perhaps partly because of his journalism
degree, Brennan was assigned to G-3 (Operations) at Headquarters, 7th Infantry
Division, in late July 1952. He was subsequently promoted to first lieutenant.
At G-3, Brennan’s main responsibility was to prepare the monthly reports of the
division’s activity and send them directly to Washington, D.C. Periodically he
also served as a liaison officer with John Whiteclay Chambers II
is Distinguished Professor and former Chair of the History Department at Rutgers
University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. His study of conscription, To Raise an
Army: The Draft Comes to Modern America (Free Press/Macmillan, 1987), won the
Distinguished Book Award from the Society for Military History, and his most
recent book, The Oxford Companion to American Military History (Oxford Univ.
Press, 1999), of which he is the editor-in-chief, won the Society’s
Distinguished Reference Book Award. Among his numerous other publications are
The North Atlantic Engineers: A History of the North Atlantic Division and Its
Predecessors in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1775-1975 (Corps of Engineers,
1980), and Major Problems in American Military History (Houghton Mifflin, 1998).
He also serves as Chair of the Advisory Board of the Rutgers Oral History
Archives of World War II.
He performed these functions under Major
General Wayne C. Smith and subsequently under Smith’s successor, Major General
Arthur S. Trudeau. During his tour of duty in Korea, Brennan was twice awarded
the Bronze Star for meritorious service.
In April 1953, there arrived at 7th Infantry
Division a distinguished visitor: renowned military writer and analyst S. L. A.
Marshall, syndicated columnist for the Detroit News and brigadier general in
the Army Reserve. This was Marshall’s second visit to Korea. Between
December 1950 and April 1951, he had conducted after-action group interviews for
the Army’s Operations Research Office.
Consequently, he concluded that in contrast to the 25 percent combat fire ratio
he had reported in World War II, in Korea, more than half of the combat
infantrymen were firing their weapons. Now, in the spring of 1953, on his
second trip to Korea, he came as a war correspondent, his visit cleared by the
Pentagon and more directly by Eighth Army headquarters. But while most of the
correspondents went to the truce talks at Panmunjom, Marshall hurried to the 7th
Division to visit an old friend, General Trudeau. Thus Marshall was there
when the Chinese Communists initiated a series of combat actions, including the
Battle of Pork Chop Hill, 16-18 April 1953, as they tested the resolve of the
United Nations forces during the peace negotiations. At 7th Division
Headquarters, First Lieutenant Frank Brennan was assigned to take Marshall
wherever he wanted to go to talk to enlisted men who had just been in combat
engagements. As an escort officer, Brennan accompanied Marshall on several of
these group interviews and remembers them clearly.
The following are his recollections of S. L.
A. Marshall’s after-action interviews.
AUTHOR: You told me that you knew who General S. L. A. Marshall was
because of his writings, but you were not prepared for what you saw when you
first met him. Would you explain that?
BRENNAN: I can remember his general
appearance vividly, because it was a shock to me. He was unique. His shirt was
hanging out of his trousers, his field jacket not buttoned in a military
fashion, his combat boots dirty and unshined. Haircut? Shave? No one believed he
was a general officer! He didn’t even have a helmet. We gave him a helmet. He
had to have a helmet in a combat zone. The first one we gave him had no star on
it. He did have his star on his epaulet or on his fatigue jacket. And he
certainly had status. He was a brigadier general, and he had been sent by Eighth
AUTHOR: Describe what you did with
BRENNAN: When he arrived at the
division, he was assigned to me at one point to escort him to locations that he
selected. He would have a general idea of where some of the serious action had
taken place. At that point, it was not a flexible or fluid action, but it was
off the Main Line of Resistance. There were a number of actions, including Pork
Chop Hill. I know I got him to Pork Chop Hill either during or immediately after
the battle. He would say exactly the type of thing he wanted, and he would be
escorted to the geographical area, where these things had taken place. My job
was to get him to these areas—and I remained with him until he was finished—and
then get him back safely to division headquarters.
AUTHOR: How long would all this take?
BRENNAN: We would leave division headquarters in a jeep. Sometimes I
would drive, sometimes we had a motor pool driver. Usually we would get there in
less than an hour. We would go to the unit. He would talk with the men involved.
Usually not more than one to two hours. When he was finished, we would go back
to division headquarters. He would go to the commanding general’s trailer—these
were very large trailers with private offices and quarters—and they talked.
AUTHOR: Give me a picture of what
happened when you and Marshall arrived in an area where there had just been
BRENNAN: I brought him to the area.
Then we would go to a unit involved in a recent action. We would check through
the company commander as a kind of bureaucratic courtesy. The general said he
wanted to see a group of men involved in an action. They are gathered together
in a bunker, and he and I go into it.
AUTHOR: Were there any local
BRENNAN: When I was there, he only
talked to the enlisted men and NCOs. No officers. It was probably a mutual
feeling. When a general comes into an area and tries to find out what happened
after an action, there is naturally the suspicion by the officers involved in
the action. “What is this general doing here?” They avoided each other. He only
talked to the NCOs and the enlisted men.
AUTHOR: You say the interviews were
held in bunkers. Describe such a
bunker and the look of the men.
BRENNAN: It’s a sandbag bunker. It’s
built with sandbags and the top is covered. It’s located on the back of a ridge
or hill. Inside are about half a dozen enlisted men, sitting in a group. They’re
haggard, perhaps sleepy. They probably haven’t had a good night’s sleep. They’re
probably relieved that they got out of the action in one piece, and they must be
wondering what this is all about.
AUTHOR: Did General Marshall interview
BRENNAN: No, he did not, just the men
who were still on the line.
AUTHOR: Give me some details about how
he went about his interviews
with those men.
BRENNAN: What he would do is request
general information about the military action and then he would interview—I
accompanied him—interview small groups of enlisted men who were involved in the
action. Normally, I was the only other person present with the men except him. I
can vividly recall the setting in a bunker area proximate to an action area. His
questions were very informally done. They were open-ended questions. He had a
pad, a steno pad, and a pencil, and he would jot things down. He
asked: “What did you see? Where were you? What did others do?” Eliciting answers
from them. These guys had been away from the particular action for only a matter
of hours, a day at most. His approach, I found to be very effective. The
question I asked him was: “Is the information they’re providing really objective
information, or are they telling what they think a general officer wants to
hear?” He said something like “It’s the best we can do.” I was struck by the
objectivity. And the men were so close to the action themselves.
AUTHOR: How would he explain what he
BRENNAN: He would say: “We’re just
trying to find out what happened.” He was non-accusatory. He always reassured
them of anonymity. He would say to me in front of them: “No names.” I said,
“Yes, Sir.” Then he would begin: “Where were you?” “What did you see?” What did
you do?” “Did you see any North Koreans or Chinese?”
AUTHOR: What kind of answers did the
men give him?
BRENNAN: It’s difficult for me to
recapture that part. I do recall his trying to take an answer from one man and
put it together with an answer from another G.I. and trying to get a
comprehensive answer from the whole. He was trying to reconstruct the battle.
What about the issue of men
firing their weapons?
I remember he brought up the
question but that he did not push it in regard to the amount of firing.
came up incidentally rather than as a result of a specific question from him. He
asked mostly open-ended questions to elicit information about what really
AUTHOR: You said you knew his book and
its assertions about limited firing. Did you and he discuss it?
BRENNAN: I know we discussed the
conclusions in his book, Men Against Fire. I asked him specifically whether
those percentages of his—25 or 30 per cent of the men firing their weapons—were
supportable. He assured me that they were supportable, talking to the soldiers
at the time.
AUTHOR: What did you mean by supportable?
BRENNAN: I meant was there
any attempt to quantify the percentage that he presented in his book, and he
said . . . [Brennan paused for thought, then continued].
You know, John, I’m not sure that I
got a definite answer from him. I’m just not sure.
AUTHOR: You were a rifle platoon
leader in combat in Korea. What did you observe about your own men firing?
BRENNAN: The people I had out on
patrol, where most of the firing occurred, they fired pretty consistently after
they were told to. It is difficult for me to put a percentage on it, but it was
significant. I certainly remember that the first time I tried to fire, I had a
carbine, and it wouldn’t fire. It jammed. After that, I brought a regular M-1
with me. In front of the Main Line of Resistance, we had barbed wire, booby
traps, and when you heard noise out there, that attracted fire from us, but the
main firing was out on patrol. They did need more ammunition when they returned,
so they must have been firing their weapons.
AUTHOR: When Marshall interviewed the
men, was he taking notes?
The general had a steno pad
and pencil. He took down cryptic notes. Not lots of notes. Not verbatim. He’d
listen to them, and he’d take a few notes occasionally. I do recall he was
pushing very hard to have this type of reporting incorporated in the reports,
and I think the general [Marshall] wanted to know what was being done with his
after-action reports after he wrote them. I am not very clear about what was
done with these. He tried to emphasize to me that these after-action reports
that he was so known for should be included in our monthly reports sent from
division. They would be valuable. He must have talked to the division commander
about this, because the division commander [General Trudeau] talked to me too.
The end result was that we sometimes did include these things. I went down [to
the front] and did what he did and included some of this. But the problem was
the time and the difficulty of incorporating these things, which had to be
signed off by the division commander. The end result was that only from time to
time on a limited extent were they done and included.
AUTHOR: What happened to those
after-action reports that General
Marshall wrote after you and he went to the attack areas?
BRENNAN: I don’t know. After I left
him with the commanding general
of the division, I never found out. He did not show me the reports he wrote. I
never did see any.
AUTHOR: How long were you with General
BRENNAN: Well, it was not weeks. There
were at least two or three specific
occasions in which I was involved.
AUTHOR: After you left Korea in July
1953 where did you go?
BRENNAN: I rotated back to the states.
I was mustered out through Camp Kilmer . . . in July 1953. I went back to
Rutgers on the G.I. Bill and earned a master’s degree in history. I taught
history at South Brunswick High School and Ocean County Community College [both
in New Jersey] and later became business administrator for the South Brunswick
[End of Interview]
Considering the Comments
In regard to the controversy over Marshall’s
methods and findings, Frank Brennan’s recollections, while supporting the
effectiveness of the journalist’s method for recreating the battle experiences
of small groups of enlisted men, cast doubt about the validity of Marshall’s
controversial assertions about fire ratios.
Brennan’s oral history indicates that
Marshall’s interviews typically occurred during daylight hours in bunkers,
lasted for one or two hours, never included unit officers or casualties, and
that Brennan believed Marshall’s interviews were very effective at recreating
the engagement. Brennan’s account provides support to Marshall’s own assertion
that he made contemporaneous notes in field notebooks as a part of his
after-action group interviews with soldiers.
But as Brennan recalls, these were at most sporadic, cryptic notes, not detailed
accounts. In fact only a few of Marshall’s notebooks have been found. There may
not be any more. Frank Brennan’s memory of the nature of the military
journalist’s questioning also suggests that Marshall, at least by the Korean
War, was primarily trying to recreate the battle experience of the common
soldier rather than to elicit any single piece of data such as the fire ratio. Brennan’s account also reinforces the contention of critics of Marshall’s
use of statistics, who conclude that Marshall was unscientific in his
methodology and that his figures about the percentage of troops firing their
weapons were either sloppy, fabricated, or simply guesswork. During the
interviews, Marshall took only minimal notes, which suggests that the journalist
was mainly putting the reconstruction of the battle together initially in his
mind rather than on paper. How much time elapsed before he wrote a full
description of the combat action remains unknown, but it could easily have been
long enough for some details to be misremembered or lost entirely.
Nor does Brennan’s account of Marshall’s
questions offer reason to put much faith in the journalist’s judgments about the
percentages of men firing their weapons. It was not a question he asked of every
soldier. Instead, it emerged rather incidentally in the open-ended discussion
among the group as Marshall sought primarily to reconstruct what had happened in
the engagement, rather than who fired and who did not. Nevertheless, unlike the
recollection of the Army captain who accompanied Marshall in Europe in World War
II that he could not recall Marshall ever asking who had fired his weapon,
Brennan does recall the journalist occasionally asking that question directly in
his interviews in Korea.
While Marshall defended his findings from Men Against Fire to Brennan as what he
had learned from talking to front-line soldiers, Marshall himself seems to have
realized the questionable objectivity of much of the information he acquired.
The journalist’s written accounts of his experiences, such as at Pork Chop Hill,
tended to exaggerate portions of the actual events for dramatic effect.
Unquestionably, Marshall’s claims that many
soldiers were not firing their rifles brought the attention of the public and
the Army to this issue. Those claims contributed to analysis and improvements in
infantry training designed to increase rates of fire. As Roger J. Spiller of the
Army’s Combat Studies Institute has written, the variables in when and why
troops fire or do not fire their weapons in certain combat situations involve
the kind of terrain, the nature of particular circumstances, the types of
weapons, and the trajectory of a soldier’s time in combat. But without further
corroboration, the source of Marshall’s contentions about shockingly low fire
ratios at least in some US Army divisions in World War II appears to have been
based at best on chance rather than scientific sampling, and at worst on sheer
It seems most probable that Marshall, writing as a journalist
rather than as a historian, exaggerated the problem and arbitrarily decided on
the one-quarter figure because he believed that he needed a dramatic statistic
to give added weight to his argument. The controversial figure was probably a
guess. If First Lieutenant Frank Brennan’s experience accompanying Marshall on
after-action, group interviews in Korea in 1953 is typical, however, even if
more of Marshall’s field notebooks are found, they probably will not contain the
kind of data necessary to substantiate the controversial assertions of Men
1. S. L. A. Marshall, Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command in Future
War (Washington: Infantry Journal; New York: William Morrow, 1947), a compendium
of a series of articles on “Battle Command in Future War,” that Marshall began
in the May 1947 issue of the Infantry Journal. Samuel Lyman Atwood Marshall used
his initials in his writings; but he was known to his friends as “Sam” or,
because of those initials and his early career as a sportswriter, as “SLAM”
Marshall. On the controversy over Marshall’s conclusions, see F. D. G. Williams,
SLAM: The Influence of S.L.A. Marshall on the United States Army, TRADOC
Historical Monograph Series (Fort Monroe, Va.: Office of the Command Historian,
US Army Training and Doctrine Command, 1994, original edition, 1990), pp. viii,
2-4, and passim.
2. Marshall claimed to have filled some 800
field notebooks with his notes from his after-action group interviews, but
except for some interview notes located among the 15 boxes of the S. L. A.
Marshall Papers, 1918-1970, at the US Army Military History Institute at
Carlisle Barracks, Pa., most have not been located. They are apparently not in
the 122 boxes of his papers, 1900-1977, at the S. L. A. Marshall Military
History Collection, C. L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department, University
of Texas at El Paso Library, El Paso, Texas. The Finding Guide to that
collection reports that “Marshall donated the bulk of his field notes and
working papers made during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the
Sinai Campaign of 1956, and the Six-Day War of 1967 to the US Army Military
History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pa.”
3. Among Marshall’s critics are Harold P. Leinbaugh and John D. Campbell, The Men of Company K: The Autobiography of a
World War II Rifle Company (New York: William Morrow, 1985); Philip Gold, “Flak
for a Man and His Claim that Few Soldiers Open Fire,” Insight, 27 March 1989,
pp. 18-19; Fredric Smoler, “The Secret of the Soldiers Who Didn’t Shoot,”
American Heritage, 40 (March 1989), 40-45; Roger J. Spiller, “S. L. A. Marshall
and the Ratio of Fire,” RUSI Journal, 133 (Winter 1988), 63-71; and John C.
McManus, The Deadly Brotherhood: The American Combat Soldier in World War II
(Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1998), pp. 99-103. In contrast, Marshall’s
supporters include Hugh M. Cole, “S. L. A. Marshall (1900-1977): In Memoriam,”
(March 1978), 2-7; Thomas A. Horner, “Killers, Fillers, and Fodder,” (September 1982), 27-34; William E. DuPuy, “Insights,” Military Review, 69
(July 1989), 96-98; Marshall’s grandson, John Douglas Marshall, Reconciliation
Road: A Family Odyssey of War and Honor (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse Univ. Press,
1993); and Dave Grossman, “Aggression and Violence,” The Oxford Companion to
American Military History, editor-in-chief, John Whiteclay Chambers II (New
York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999), pp. 9-10. The most recent account accepts
Marshall’s figures for the Korean War but attributes them to reduced squad size
and additional automatic weapons rather than improved training measures based on
Marshall’s findings. Kelly C. Jordan, “Right for the Wrong Reasons: S. L. A.
Marshall and the Ratio of Fire in Korea,” Journal of Military History, 66
(January 2002), 135-62.
4. Williams, SLAM, p. 25. In the Korean War,
during his first visit in the winter of 1950-51, Marshall was not able to
interview troops until two or three weeks after an operation, but in his second
trip to Korea in the stabilized situation of the spring of 1953, he could
generally interview the combatants within a few hours after the action.
5. Except for his military service in World
War II, when he served most of the time with the Army’s Historical Branch,
Marshall was a columnist for the Detroit News for most of his career. From 1927
to 1961, his articles, particularly those on the military, were syndicated in
newspapers around the country. He had served with the American Expeditionary
Forces in France in World War I and received a commission at the end of the war.
Thereafter, he had returned to his native Texas, beginning his journalistic
career on the El Paso Herald from sportswriter to city editor, before moving to
6. Williams, SLAM, pp. 63-67. On Marshall’s
assertion that most infantrymen on a defensive perimeter at night in Korea fired
their weapons, see S. L. A. Marshall, “Commentary on Infantry Operations and
Weapons Usage in Korea, Winter of 1950-51,” The U.S. Army’s Operations Research
Office R-13, 27 October 1951, p. 27.
7. Williams, SLAM, pp. 67-68; see also
Marshall’s autobiography published posthumously, S. L. A. Marshall, Bringing Up
the Rear: A Memoir, ed. Cate Marshall (San Rafael, Calif.: Presidio Press,
1979), pp. 218-19.
8. The Battle of Pork Chop Hill, so-called
because of its geographical configuration, took place 16-18 April 1953, in the
7th US Infantry Division sector in advance of the main UN line, approximately 50
miles north of Seoul. While the hill itself was of no great tactical importance,
the Chinese seized the hill in a surprise attack by two companies that
overwhelmed the two American platoons defending the position. During the two-day
battle to capture the position, nine artillery battalions of the US 7th and 2d
Infantry Divisions fired more than 77,000 rounds at the Chinese troops, and the
equivalent of two US infantry battalions retook the hilltop entrenchments,
overcoming the Chinese defenders who had been reinforced to the equivalent of a
full battalion. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. Subsequently each army
reinforced its position, so that by the time the armistice was signed on 27 July
1953, there were five US battalions holding the hill and a full Chinese division
arrayed against them. S. L. A. Marshall’s account of the battle is in his Pork
Chop Hill: The American Fighting Man in Action, Korea, 1953 (New York: William
Morrow, 1956). United Artists, Inc., turned Marshall’s book into a motion
picture, Pork Chop Hill, directed by Lewis Milestone and starring Gregory Peck,
released in 1959.
9. Frank J. Brennan, Jr., interviewed by John
Whiteclay Chambers II, 10-11 February 2001, in Cranbury, New Jersey. Transcript
of the interview is in the possession of the interviewer; copies are to be
deposited with the Rutgers Oral History Archives of World War II, Department of
History, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, and the S. L. A.
Marshall Military History Collection, C. L. Sonnichsen Special Collections
Department, University of Texas at El Paso, Texas.
10. This anonymity represented a change in
the practice Marshall had advocated during World War II. When he explained his
after-action group interview method to Army field historians in Europe in 1944,
he recommended that the names and rank of each “witness” should be identified in
full (e.g. “‘S/Sgt. John J. Smith’ not ‘Sgt. Smith.’”), S. L. A. Marshall,
“Company Interview after Combat,” 28 June 1944, Headquarters, European Theater
of Operations, rpt. as Appendix A in Williams, SLAM, pp. 99-108, quotation at p.
11. Frank J. Brennan, Jr., was commissioned a
second lieutenant in the US Army in June 1951, he served on active duty from 11
August 1951 through 24 July 1953; he then remained a member of the US Army
Reserve until 1958. Certificate of Service, Honorable Discharge, and other
original documents in his possession, copies are in the possession of John
Whiteclay Chambers II. Among Frank Brennan’s personal papers concerning his
military service are these official documents, the published history of the 7th
Infantry Division, his personal photograph album of his service in Korea, and an
original newspaper clipping of S. L. A. Marshall’s obituary from The New York
Times, 18 December 1977, p. 44.
12. Those few are at the US Army Military
History Institute, Carlisle, Pa.
13. Even some of those who respect Marshall’s
development of the after-action interview idea doubt his claim for a reliable
“systematic collection of data.” See Spiller, “S. L. A. Marshall and the Ratio
of Fire,” p. 68; Richard Holmes, Acts of War: The Behavior of Men in Battle (New
York: Free Press/Macmillan, 1986), p. 13.
14. Frank J. Brennan, Jr., telephone response
to a question by John Whiteclay Chambers II, 27 February 2002. The officer
assigned in 1944 as military assistant to then-Colonel S. L. A. Marshall and who
accompanied him on many his after-action interviews in the European Theater of
Operations was Captain John G. Westover. See Westover’s published recollections,
including “The Colonel Goes Interviewing,” Newsletter of the S. L. A. Marshall
Military History Collection, No. 12 (Winter 1985-1986), pp. 1-3; and Westover’s
15 June 1987 interview with Roger J. Spiller quoted in Spiller, “S. L. A.
Marshall and the Ratio of Fire,” p. 68.
15. Spiller, “S. L. A. Marshall and the Ratio
of Fire,” pp. 68-69.
16. Marshall’s propensity to exaggerate for
dramatic effect plagues his autobiography. For example, in regard to his visit
to the 7th Infantry Division in Korea in the spring of 1953 (Marshall, Bringing
Up the Rear, pp. 218-20), his autobiography over inflates his role and the
amount of assistance put at his disposal. As one example, Marshall’s contention
that “I was given a military staff, a van, a chopper, and three sergeant
assistants” is disputed by Frank Brennan, who said it was instead a lieutenant,
a jeep, and sometimes a motor pool driver. In the same account, Marshall claims
he did his interviewing “from around midnight until 0500 or so,” but interviews
that Brennan observed took place from late morning to early afternoon. Nor did
Brennan see the three psychiatrists, two of them lieutenant colonels, who
Marshall says “followed me around for two weeks listening in on the group
critiques” and expressed awe at his ability to get the troops to “open up for
you in a way that they never do for us.” Brennan, follow-up phone interview with
John Whiteclay Chambers II, 27 February 2002. In accounts of his military
service in World War I, Marshall seems to have gone beyond exaggeration. He
claimed to have participated in the 1918 campaigns at St. Mihiel, Soissons, and
the Meuse-Argonne and won a battlefield commission, when in fact he was a
sergeant in the 315th Engineers constructing roads behind the lines. It was not
until several months after the armistice that he was commissioned as a second
lieutenant in the reserves. Marshall, Bringing Up the Rear, pp. 11-23; Susan
Canedy, Introduction, in Williams, SLAM, p. 3.