June 2012 Discount! During the month of June, Command Culture is being offered at a 30% discount by Texas A & M University Press.
Please visit the New Books Network website to listen to an interview with the author.
Command Culture examines the different paths the United States Army and the German Armed Forces traveled to select, educate, and promote their officers in the crucial time before World War II. While previous scholarship explores either the officer corps of the German army or their American counterparts, and rarely touches on a comparison in depth, Jörg Muth has done extensive studies on both armies and societies.
In contrast to previous studies, Command Culture is less concerned with the number of years officers stayed at schools or the hours they were taught in a certain discipline. Rather, Muth explores teaching philosophies at the respective military schools and academies in Germany and the United States, the selection of the faculty and the officer students, and what the respective armies thought an officer ought to be and how he was supposed to command.
Muth demonstrates that the military education system in Germany represented an organized effort where each school and examination provided the stepping stone for the next. In the United States there existed no communication about teaching contents or didactical matters among the various schools and academies, and they existed in a self chosen insular environment. American officers who finally made their way through an erratic selection process and past West Point to the important Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, found themselves usually deeply disappointed, because they were faced again with a rather below average faculty who forced them after every exercise to accept the approved school solution. This narrow-minded approach to the teaching of officers would have severe repercussions for the U.S. Army's command culture in World War II and explains much about the conduct of war on the American side.
Muth explores the paradox that in Germany officers came from a closed authoritarian society but received an extremely open minded military education, whereas their counterparts in the United States came from one of the most democratic societies but received an outdated military education that harnessed their minds and limited their initiative. On the other hand, because the youngest German officer candidate learned that in war everything is possible and feasible, he accepted the new doctrine of a war of extermination easily and helped to execute it from 1939 to 1945. For the American officers, raised in a democracy, certain boundaries could never be crossed.
This work for the first time clearly explains the lack of audacity of many high ranking American officers during World War II, as well as the reason why so many German officers became perpetrators or accomplices of war crimes and atrocities or remained bystanders without speaking up. Those American officers who became outstanding leaders in World War II did so not so much because of their military education, but despite it. While the U.S. Army did revise major aspects of its officer education program, many of its shortcomings are cultural and historical and still have an impact on the conduct of the War against Terror.
"To the best of my knowledge there is nothing in print in either English or in German that offers the kind of analytical comparison Muth offers. The text is based on a truly exemplary coverage of published literature and very substantial work in relevant archives. The general message, though controversial and certain to lead to arguments, is buttressed by substantial evidence. His topic has immediate present-day relevance and will certainly appeal to those interested in military history and the conflicts in which the United States is currently engaged."—Gerhard Weinberg, author of A World at Arms and Visions of Victory
"I can't remember the last work I read that I enjoyed as much as this one. Command Culture is an important and long-lasting contribution to the debate over officer training in the United States. It is at once a study of the U.S. officer corps before World War II, a valuable analysis of U.S. and German officer training and education, and a stinging comparison of the two armies' military cultures."—Robert Citino, author of The German Way of War and Path to Blitzkrieg
"This work is a very useful counterpoint to Martin van Creveld's Fighting Power in that it develops the fundamental differences in officer training between the U.S. and the Prussian/German armies in a context of military effectiveness, as opposed to the more usual approach of contrasting a democratic civilian system with autocratic militarism. Muth makes a strong case that effective command at all levels has a set of elements that do not depend on wider social, cultural, and political matrices. His challenge to the 'new military history' will generate controversy but cannot be dismissed."—Dennis Showalter, author of Hitler's Panzers and Patton and Rommel
"Jörg Muth's book is about an interesting and significant topic. Although I disagree in some respects with his thesis, I recognize that it is well argued. Based on extensive research in primary and secondary sources, it is also well written."—Edward M. Coffman, author of The Regulars: The American Army, 1898-1941