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SLA Marshall vs. Reality

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Cosmoline, Jul 31, 2005.

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  1. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    One source that most antis and even some RKBA advocates have in common is SLA Marshall. His early sociological studies of soldiers in combat has been used to support the premise that the ordinary citizen does not have the "hard heart" needed to kill. I know the military changed some of its basic training to try to instill the "killer instinct" in soldiers. The sources get thrown in my face over and over again by antis to support the notion that ordinariy citizens would not be able to use a firearm in a pinch because they do not have the "killer instinct." Even some on the pro-RKBA side seem to subscribe to the notion that the world is divided into sheep and wolves, and the sheep can't be expected to defend themselves.

    I'm very skeptical of Marshall's methodology. As far as I can tell, he simply interviewed soldiers and found out who had fired and how much they shot. He then ASSUMED that those who did not fire did so because they could not muster the will to fire. In reality, of course, they may have simply not gotten a clear shot and not wanted to waste ammunition. I have never seen any research from SLA or anyone else that soldiers WHO HAVE A CLEAN SHOT at an enemy are unable to pull the trigger.

    The findings also run counter to the reality I have seen here, where mild-mannered people from all different backgrounds have been able to put slugs in those who are posing an imminent threat. I know a little Korean fellow who put six rounds into a young man pulled a gun and demanded money. Most folks here have heard of the preacher who shot two intruders. There are many other instances.

    What I'd like to see is to clear out the SLA Marshall ideology from at least our side of the fence. It is BAD MEDICINE.
     
  2. Texian Pistolero

    Texian Pistolero member

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    When I was on active duty in 1974-78 as a U.S. Army infantry officer, SLA Marshall's work was accepted as gospel. Since, it has been widely questioned.

    SLA Marshall's work was basically interviews of soldiers in the rear, after they were pulled out of combat. There is some anecdotal evidence that some soldiers felt is was a big joke and gave false or humorous answers. (Like I did with intrusive personal questions in applying for college.)

    The fact is that in WWII, a lot of of civilians were hastily thrown into uniform, and existing leadership was spread extremely thin. Somehow, those kids made it happen. The average officer was probably not really qualified. Again, it was muddle through.

    Everybody had a learning curve, and highly proficient combat teams emerged, only to be decimated by combat, the cycle repeating until it was over.

    Many of the soldiers who ran at Kasserine Pass had been in the Army for only six months. Montgomery, while expressing frustration, noted that the event reminded him of the learning curve of the British Eighth Army.

    One reason that SLA Marshall's theory did not apply to Vietnam is that much of fighting was small unit patrolling. You either fought or died, there was no place to run.

    The draft system also functioned to select the most aggressive young men.
     
  3. hillbilly

    hillbilly Member

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    John Lott on Guntalk radio today said that the refutation to SLA Marshall can be found in the National Crime Victim Survey statistics, or whatever the survey is called.

    Basically, the survey interviews over 100,000 victims of violent crime every year, and the safest response to violent confrontation is to do so armed with a gun.

    Look around. You should be able to find the link.

    hillbilly
     
  4. hillbilly

    hillbilly Member

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  5. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    Marshall is controversial, but for embellishing his WWI combat record. You cite some anecdotal evidence that may seem to disprove his theories, but the other side can also provide anectdotal evidence that proves them. So should we throw the baby out with the bath water because you're worried the antis may use some of the best scientific work on what drives humans to fight each other to further a pacifist agenda?

    Would you also discredit John Keegan's work?

    The fact is, that many people will not fight, even when confronted with the classic fight or flight situation. Many of them won't even flee, but will stand there dumbfounded while their world disintigrates around them.

    Yes there are people, who with no training can rise to the occasion and successfully use deadly force to defend themselves or others. But can they do it every time? Many heros on the battlefield weren't consistant heros, other times they may have been nearly paralyzed by fear. If you read a lot of history you'll find many cases where they will admit there were times they couldn't act.

    You have to train your mind to fight and win consistantly. Just like any other skill some people are naturals. But some of the naturals are also sociopaths.

    I spent a big part of my military career preparing citizen soldiers to fight and face the realities of the battlefield. Many soldiers, even in Infantry units have trouble actually accepting what it is they really do, when it's time to do it for real. That's where the training and desensitivation comes in. It's one thing to put on all the kewl-guy gear and run through the woods killing the enemy with MILES or to make a fast run through the shoot house with ball ammo, it's something else to do it for real.

    The physical skills involved with shooting fast and accurately, or maneuvering your fire team, squad, platoon, etc. are important, but you have to have the right mindset to do it for real.

    Since retiring from the Army and going full time into law enforcement, Ive discovered that the it can't happen to me mindset lives there too. From officers who won't wear their body armor because no one has ever been shot on duty around here, to I don't need to shoot regularly, it's been 15 years since an officer in my county ever had to shoot anyone, to that's just Joe Smith over there with the shotgun and he's upset with his wife, I've known him since high school, we can talk this out as he leaves cover to approach good old Joe....

    Have you read Grossman's books, On Killing and On Combat? Grossman draws heavily on Marshall, but he also draws from Keegan and others who've studied the issue.

    The antis may take these works and try to use them to promote their theories that the public isn't capable of bearing arms. So what. They twist everything to fit their agenda. That doesn't make them right.

    Why should we throw out the science that is allowing us to train our professional weapons carriers to be more effective? because someone could use it to promote a political agenda? Isn't that like the medieval church declaring Galelio a heretic?

    The work of Marshall, Keegan, Grossman and others has enabled us to create the finest armed professionals the world has ever seen. I don't see us throwing it out because the antis twist it for their own use.

    Jeff
     
  6. hillbilly

    hillbilly Member

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    Here's one point Jeff makes.


    "Yes there are people, who with no training can rise to the occasion and successfully use deadly force to defend themselves or others. But can they do it every time? Many heros on the battlefield weren't consistant heros, other times they may have been nearly paralyzed by fear. If you read a lot of history you'll find many cases where they will admit there were times they couldn't act."


    And yes, I've read Grossman's book, twice.

    This is where SLA Marshall and Grossman don't apply to the vast majority of civilian self-defense situations.

    Combat killing is not the same as using deadly force in a civilian self-defense situation.

    Killing in combat oftentimes means killing enemy soldiers who may be armed, but who aren't in the act of actively trying to kill you at the time you kill them.

    Killing in combat often means ambush.

    It means killing enemy troops who are sitting down to lunch, or doing their laundry, or sharing a cigarette with their buddies in the shade. It means killing soldiers in their sleep, or while they are repairing an engine, or doing any numbers of activities that don't represent a real immediate threat to your life right then and there.

    Killing in combat means all sorts of other things that simply won't apply in 99.99999% of civilian self-defense situations.

    Jeff wonders if civilians can "successfully use deadly force to defend themselves or others. But can they do it every time?"

    The vast, and I do mean vast majority of civilians will, if they ever have to at all, use deadly force once or twice in their entire lives to defend themselves.

    And even out of those civilians who have to rely on the use of deadly force, most of those situations are resolved with either only the scaring off or wounding of the bad guy. All sorts of studies and stats bear those results out.

    And sometimes, there is no choice for the civilian but to kill a person who is a direct and immediate threat.

    But in no cases of legitimate civilian self-defense will it mean killing somebody unless that person is in the active role of trying to severely injure or kill the victim.

    Or in other words, civilians will not, under any legitimate self-defense circumstance, launch suprise offensive raids on sleeping enemies at 0300 hours with the express intent of killing them all in their beds.


    Killing the man with the butcher knife who is in your hallway and trying to kill you so he can rape your wife is one thing.

    Killing the man who's sound asleep his shelter half is something else.

    So no, don't throw SLA Marshall out.

    But realize when SLA Marshall's ideas might be valid and where they might not be valid at all.

    hillbilly
     
  7. Texian Pistolero

    Texian Pistolero member

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    Actually, the NRA has been answering the anti's argument for years.

    Their repeated mantra has been, "often the MERE PRESENCE of a firearm ends the confrontation", (or similiar words.)

    That's not the whole story (and lousy tactics, DANGEROUS to rely on bluff) , but an effective response.

    For the record, I believe that the number of true natural warriors is very small. There are not enough of them to get the job done, so you need Plan B.
     
  8. Elmer

    Elmer Member

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    I'm aware of a number of instances where police officers, even highly trained ones, were killed because they didn't fire when they could have, and should have. I don't think anyone can be sure of how they'll react, until they're faced with the situation. I think Marshall may have been at least partially right.



    On the other hand, I prefer not to work on cars anymore, but I don't think they should take your socket set away...... :rolleyes:
     
  9. NMshooter

    NMshooter Member

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    Please keep in mind Marshall was discussing soldiers in battle, not Joe Citizen defending himself from armed robbers.

    As a civilian in peacetime you are responsible for each and every round you fire.

    As a soldier in wartime you are responsible for accomplishing your mission in accordance with the principle of economy of force.

    These are two completely different ways of thinking and doing.

    If you are hunting deer in thick brush you are irresponsible for not clearly identifying your potential target as an actual deer, and one you are allowed to shoot.

    If you are hunting enemy soldiers in thick brush you might use machine gun fire, grenades, and mortar fire to saturate the general area you spotted movement in.

    There are military ways of thinking and doing, and non-military ways of thinking and doing, you use each for some problems but not for all.

    Otherwise you end up with things like command economies, five year plans, and "peace in our time".
     
  10. Brasso

    Brasso Member

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    "I'm aware of a number of instances where police officers, even highly trained ones, were killed because they didn't fire when they could have, and should have. I don't think anyone can be sure of how they'll react, until they're faced with the situation. I think Marshall may have been at least partially right."


    For the most part, soldiers don't have to worry about being sued if they shoot someone for pulling a cellphone out of their pocket and pointing it at you. An officer I know had a grand jury called over a shooting he was involved in. He wasn't indicted, but one of the jurers actually asked why he didn't shoot the gun out of the other persons hands instead of killing them. :rolleyes: That kind of thing doesn't exactly give one a confidence boost.
     
  11. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    Hillbilly,
    No where in my post did I suggest that civilians were unable to react when faced with a deadly force encounter. And nowhere in my post would you find even the suggestion that we should have any kind of training standard as a prerequisite for the legal ability to bear arms.

    I am merely saying that Marshall's work is valid. And I think it's just as valid for the private citizen as it is for the soldier or SWAT officer.

    If anyone, soldier, peace officer, private citizen who decides to take personal responsibility for his/her own safety chooses to think they are ready for an armed encounter because they own a firearm, then that is their own business. Those who wish to increase their odds of winning the armed encounter would be well served to study mindset and the dynamics of conflict.

    There are plenty of incidents that disprove the anti's claims that guns are only for trained professionals. All one has to do is read The Armed Citizen column in any of the NRA publications or google the web. I disagree with Cosmoline's assertion that we should publically discount Marshall's work because the antis would use it to further their agenda.

    Jeff
     
  12. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    Marshall's work has been questioned for two good reasons.

    First of all, when an attempt to duplicate it was tried by someone other than Marshall (in Viet Nam), his theories didn't pan out.

    Secondly, when taking his claims at face value (that he interviewed in depth some 600 rifle companies) the mass of data that would produce simply didn't exist -- you can calculate the most efficient questionnaire that would yield the results he claimed, and the mass of paper would have required shipping records -- and there are none.

    And, in those pre-computer days, we cannot find anyone who helped tabulate all his "data."

    In other areas -- not just his WWI record, Marshall has been found to embellish the record. It appears to be his standard method of operation, not a one-time slip.
     
  13. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Member

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    Ok, I thought that SLA Marshall's work had been thoroughly and authoritatively debunked some time ago... Something along the lines of Marshall's conclusions being based on interviews that weren't performed in some cases, couldn't have been performed in others and that were very poorly documented in all cases. Also, isn't it true that when he died, his papers were found to contain very little evidence of extensive interviews to support his claims.

    I'll see if I can find some references, can't remember them at the moment.
     
  14. Hkmp5sd

    Hkmp5sd Member

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    In his autobiography, About Face, David Hackworth tells of escorting Marshall to Vietnam and assisting in his interviews. Hackworth did not speak highly of Marshall and comments he didn't even try to do any valid research, but was intent only in getting enough info to generate another book solely for monetary gain.
     
  15. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    David Hackworth and SLA Marshall -- THERE'S a marriage made in Heaven! ;)
     
  16. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    Vern,
    Who tried to duplicate Marshall's work in Vietnam? I am unaware of any published works that discredited his WWII and Korean work. The Army changed a lot of training methodolgies in the '50s based on Marshall's WWII and Korean work. The Army that you and I served in was in a large part molded my Marshall's Men Against Fire.

    I have no idea if the methodology was up to today's standards. But we can't argue with the results.

    As for his time in Vietnam, most of his work there was published commercially and by the US Army Center for Military History. I don't think his mission was to conduct research as he did in WWII and Korea, but to write history. I am pretty sure that the commercial publishing deal was cut with CMH before the trip was made.

    I don't think anyone has accused Marshall of just making up his data.

    Jeff
     
  17. NMshooter

    NMshooter Member

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    :neener:

    I was wondering who was going to make a comment like that.

    (edit: in response to Mr. Humphrey's comment above)

    Even if I might question his numbers I think there is some truth to some of what Marshall had to say.

    I do know he was responsible for some changes in how the Army trains troops, and the squad structure he recommended in Korea is what we use now. He had some valid things to say about a number of subjects.

    I find myself caught somewhere in the middle.
     
  18. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    The actual study design and number-crunching was done by HumRRO, the Army's in-house study organization. As a company commander, I can recall filling out questionnaries for them.

    I was brought up on Marshall's work, and like the rest of the Army thought it was the Fifth Gospel. As a company commander I was astonished that I DIDN'T see the things Marshall saw, and that my problems were completely different from the ones he predicted.

    It took a long time for it to sink in that Marshall's work shouldn't be used to shape our training and tactics -- for years after the war was over, there were people who still believed in Marshall.
     
  19. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Member

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    Actually that's pretty much what I recall. Maybe not all of it, but certainly a good bit of it--maybe even the majority of it. If you do a web search on "SLA Marshall" and 'debunked' you'll get some pretty interesting reading. I'll see if I can get the name of the book I was thinking of.
     
  20. GLOCK19XDSC

    GLOCK19XDSC Member

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    Grossman cited Marshall's work in both "On Killing" and in "On Combat," AS WELL AS observations made during the Civil War and throughout history. Bear in mind that military training leading up to Vietnam was shaped, in part, as a result of work done by Marshall, and that the Vietnam experience MAY (note, MAY) have resulted from training that was modified due to that work.
     
  21. Rebar

    Rebar member

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    http://www.warchronicle.com/us/combat_historians_wwii/marshallproblem.htm
    http://www.warchronicle.com/us/combat_historians_wwii/marshallfire.htm

    I found it hard to credit when I first read Marshall that, even under life or death situations, only one in four men used their weapons. Just looking at combat footage from WWII, where the men didn't know they were being filmed, you can see almost everyone firing. After reading the above sites, I'm not in the least surprised that he basically made it up.
     
  22. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Member

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    http://pages.slc.edu/~fsmoler/grossman.html
    "As it happens, Marshall proved nothing of the kind. By the late nineteen eighties Marshall’s statistical argument for his “ratio of fire” had been debunked as a fantastic fraud. I should declare an interest: I was one of the people—by far the least distinguished, and certainly the one who performed the least original research--who discovered this fact."

    http://www.warchronicle.com/us/combat_historians_wwii/marshallfire.htm
    "John Westover, usually in attendance during Marshall's sessions with the troops, does not recall Marshall's ever asking this question. Nor does Westover recall Marshall ever talking about ratios of weapons usage in their many private conversations. Marshall's own personal correspondence leaves no hint that he was ever collecting statistics. His surviving field notebooks show no signs of statistical compilations that would have been necessary to deduce a ratio as precise as Marshall reported later in Men Against Fire. The "systematic collection of data" that made Marshall's ratio of fire so authoritative appears to have been an invention."
     
  23. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    Vern,
    Your company wasn't trained the same way the WWII Infantry was trained. As you stated, you didn't see the same problems Marshall's work led you to expect.

    Isn't it possible that the changes in training methodology that Marshall's work brought about fixed many of the problems?

    In the early 80s when the light Infantry divisions were created there was another Marshall book that was popular and led to the creation of doctrine. The Soldier's Load and the Mobility of a Nation is another slim volume that speaks volumes.

    It hardly matters if Marshall kept good notes or used methodology that no researcher would find acceptable in todays world, when the results were so striking.

    You can't deny that much of the training methodology we use today were a direct result of Marshall's work. And for all the faults we still have in the way we train, we still produce the finest trained soldier in the world.

    So if Marshall was a total fraud in that he made up all of his data, wouldn't the results make him some sort of genius? You really can't argue with the results.

    If we decide that Marshall was wrong...what's right? And how would you judge since his work has guided our post WWII training strategies. Should we dust off the 1940 vintage manuals and train a unit that way to compare?

    Have we built the post WWII Army on a lie?

    Jeff
     
  24. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Jeff, I really think you need to look back at Marshall's work. His methodology was about as reliable as a newspaper reporters'. He just say down and interviewed people, using very primitive sociological techniques that were a long, long, long ways from good science. I have also never understood how people can draw this kind of conclusion:

    ...from data which ONLY SUGGESTS that most front line soldiers never got a good shot off at the enemy. The dots don't connect.

    There were an average of 20,000 murders PER YEAR in the US during the 1990's. The killers were in some cases sociopaths, but in many cases they had reasons--albeit ones the law does not recognize as valid. Most of these killers had never gone through a boot camp.

    Plus, you claim there is antecdotal evidence on the other side--WHERE? Other than Sillywood movies, I don't know any cases where people have been unable to fire in life-or-death situations. When it hits the fan, your killer ape kicks in. It's the reason we've survived as a species for so long and become the most lethal animal in the history of the world. I know nice, religious guys with no military training who have never even gotten into a fist fight who have been able to blow young men away at point blank range when they saw a threat. How do you explain this?

    Outside of movies, I've just never seen this IRL. In a crisis, people may be unreasonable and wild-eyed, but they don't just stand around and die. Indeed it takes a lot of training to overcome the fight or flight instinct, not the other way around. The pilots on planes doomed to crash tend to be cool and collected, for example, precisely because their training overrides their instinct to run back and look for a parachute.
     
  25. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    This proves none of SLA's points. You'd have to show that our military's "killer heart" training gives our soldiers an edge over untrained insurgents or soldiers from other nations that don't put recruits through the same training. I don't believe anyone has made such a comparison, but judging from the slaughter the completely untrained insurgents in Iraq are doing to our troops and their fellow citizens, I'd say the training isn't really necessary.
     
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