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Scraping the Barrel: The Military Use of Sub-Standard Manpower

Scraping the Barrel: The Military Use of Sub-Standard Manpower

Edited by Sanders Marble
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Fordham University
Pages: 372
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  • Book Info
    Scraping the Barrel: The Military Use of Sub-Standard Manpower
    Book Description:

    Scraping the Barrel covers ten cases of how armies have used sub-standard manpower in wars from 1860 to the 1960s. Dennis Showalter and Andre Lambelet look at the changing standards in Germany and France leading up to World War I, while Peter Simkins chronicles what happened with the 'Bantams,' special units of short men used by Britain in WWI. Often the use of substandard men was to answer the sheer need for manpower in brutal, lasting conflicts, as Paul A. Cimbala writes of the U.S. Veteran Reserve Corps in the Civil War, or to keep war-damaged men active; sometimes this ethos was used to include men who wanted to fight but who otherwise would have been excluded, as Steven W. Short writes of the U.S. Colored troops in WWI. In WWII it was to answer more dire exigencies, as David Glantz relates how the USSR, having suffered enormous losses, threw away many pre-war standards, reaching for women, ethnic/national minorities, and political prisoners alike to fill units. Likewise, Nazi Germany, facing many fronts and a finite manpower pool, was compelled to relax both physical and racial standards, and Walter Dunn and Valdis Lumans look at these changing policies as well as the battlefield performance of these men. In relating the stories of the sub-standard (for the military), Scraping the Barrel is also a humanist history of the military, of the more average men who have served their country and how they were put to use. It throws light on how militaries' ideas of fitness reflect the underlying views of their societies. The idea of "disability" has been constructed based on a variety of physical, yes, but also social standards: as a value judgment on groups viewed as lesser--the aged, the lower classes, and those of different races and ethnic identities. From the American Civil War, through World Wars I and II, through the U.S. Project 100,000 in the Cold War, sub-standard men have been mobilized, served, and fought for their countries. These men are the inverse of the elites that get the lion's share of our attention. This is their untold history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4846-9
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction (pp. 1-4)
    Sanders Marble

    Using less-able men in the military is an ancient tradition, but it is one almost ignored by scholars. A Roman law of a.d. 372 provided that men who were too short or weak for service with field armies should be assigned to auxiliary military units, such as river patrol troops.¹ Clearly, the Romans saw some military utility in weaker men, yet their definition of weaker was purely physical and did not involve age or race.

    This book is both military history and disability history. It is obviously military history, since it comprises case studies of how armies have used various...

  4. 1 Federal Manpower Needs and the U.S. Army’s Veteran Reserve Corps (pp. 5-27)
    Paul A. Cimbala

    In April 1863, the War Department established the Invalid Corps, later known as the Veteran Reserve Corps, as part of the United States’ Civil War army.¹ The purpose of the organization, as Secretary of War Edwin Stanton explained, was to put to work enlisted men and officers who “have been disabled for active service who are yet able to perform duty in garrison, or as depot and prison guards, military police, and in the arrest of skulkers and deserters.” Furthermore, the corps would “give honorable employment to this meritorious class, who have suffered in the service of their country” and...

  5. 2 A Grand Illusion? German Reserves, 1815–1914 (pp. 28-53)
    Dennis Showalter

    At first glance, the German reserve system of World War I seems anomalous in this volume. Most of the other chapters address marginal elements of societies or armies, brought under arms out of desperation. The German army, by contrast, is generally credited with developing a system of organization, training, and command that by 1914 not only could fill its active units to war strength but also form entire divisions and corps effective enough to take the field on the same footing as troops of the line from the campaign’s beginning.

    But like all historical constructions, this impression of the German...

  6. 3 Manifestly Inferior? French Reserves, 1871–1914 (pp. 54-78)
    André José Lambelet

    Among the many sins of the French army in preparing for what would become the Great War was the sin of omission: it failed to envision Germany’s massive use of reserves from the start and to adequately plan the use of its own reserves. In his memoirs, Marshal Joseph Joffre explained,

    Up to this time we had been convinced that the Germans would assign to their reserve troops only tasks of secondary importance, very much in the way we expected to use ours. “No fathers in the front line,” as William II had put it, and his words had been...

  7. 4 “Each One a Pocket Hercules”: The Bantam Experiment and the Case of the Thirty-fifth Division (pp. 79-104)
    Peter Simkins

    Few episodes in the massive expansion of the British Army in 1914–1915 more graphically illustrate the haphazard, improvised, and often reactive nature of that process than the story of the “Bantam” experiment and, in particular, the experience of the Thirty-fifth (Bantam) Division.¹ It began as a well-intentioned attempt to harness the patriotic spirit of men who, because of their diminutive stature, would otherwise have been denied the chance to serve their country. However, it led to disappointment and tragedy, principally because no one at the outset appears to have carefully considered the full implications of the scheme they had...

  8. 5 Scraping the Barrel: African American Troops and World War I (pp. 105-131)
    Steven Short

    African Americans have served in U.S. military institutions since the colonial period, in many cases playing very prominent and gallant roles in fighting the enemies of the United States. Although the army did not offer complete equality, it did offer many blacks the opportunity to prove their worth to themselves and their country. Many hoped that loyal service in the U.S. Army would help bring about social improvements and equality in the nation. Opportunities in the army did not always present themselves, however, with African Americans finding themselves facing many obstacles, including poor assignments, a lack of job choices, and...

  9. 6 Below the Bar: The U.S. Army and Limited Service Manpower (pp. 132-150)
    Sanders Marble

    In 1918, the U.S. Army adopted Limited Service (LS) as an efficient way to use men with physical shortcomings. The United States was not in World War I long enough for problems to develop, and LS was written into future mobilization plans. The World War II mobilization started without using LS, and when the policy was implemented, it overlapped other developments in the army and became an administrative problem. In 1944, the army abolished the LS category in favor of a more sophisticated system of physical standards, trying but largely failing to implement that in wartime.

    The army had long...

  10. 7 Soviet Use of “Substandard” Manpower in the Red Army, 1941–1945 (pp. 151-178)
    David Glantz

    The size, nature, and composition of the Soviet Union’s Red Army changed fundamentally in the mid-1930s, as the clouds of war began forming across Europe. The worsening international situation, characterized by increasingly dangerous crises in Europe and the Far East, increased the perceived threats to the Soviet Union. In early 1935, this prompted Soviet leaders to alter the way they raised and organized their military forces and made the transition from peace to war. Ten years before, Soviet People’s Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs M. V. Frunze had implemented the so-called territorial/cadre system for manning the Red Army. Frunze’s...

  11. 8 German Bodenstandig Divisions (pp. 179-196)
    Walter Dunn

    Germany, Britain, and France all suffered heavy casualties in World War I. Between 1914 and 1918, millions of potential fathers were either killed, wounded, made prisoners of war, or kept at the front lines for long periods. The result was a low birth rate in all three nations from 1915 to 1919 and, as a result, the number of males reaching the age of eighteen from 1933 to 1937 was much lower than normal. The German military called those years the “white years,” when the average number of potential recruits was smaller than usual. Although this trend ended in 1938,...

  12. 9 Recruiting Volksdeutsche for the Waffen-SS: From Skimming the Cream to Scraping the Dregs (pp. 197-224)
    Valdis O. Lumans

    By all appearances, Franzfeld was a small farming town somewhere in southwestern Germany. Its cobblestone town square centered on a weathered statue of a local hero of long ago, the clock outside the Rathaus chimed time as it had for some two hundred years, and the buildings around the square had the traditional German half-timbered look, painted in pastels and colorful murals. Horses and wagons from outlying farms stood hitched to watering troughs. A larger-than-normal crowd had assembled; perhaps it was a market day, or some celebration, though the muted atmosphere presaged nothing festive. Those gathered were overwhelmingly women, along...

  13. 10 The Ethnic Germans of the Waffen-SS in Combat: Dregs or Gems? (pp. 225-253)
    Valdis O. Lumans

    The armed formations of the Nazi Schutzstaffel SS, the Waffen-SS, earned a reputation as the toughest and most effective of all German forces in World War II. Its soldiers sported an esprit de corps comparable to that of elite American units such as the Marines and Army Airborne. The principles of voluntarism and elitism prevailed.¹ The most ardent promoter of Germany’s Waffen-SS was the Führer himself, Adolf Hitler, who extolled its praises and nicknamed it his “fire brigade,” capable of plugging holes in front lines, seizing impregnable targets, and halting enemy offensives. Hitler once confided to a group of generals:...

  14. 11 Project 100,000 in the Vietnam War and Afterward (pp. 254-270)
    Thomas Sticht

    In August 1966, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara stood before the Veterans of Foreign Wars and announced that in addition to fighting the war in Vietnam, the military services were also going to help fight President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty at home.¹ They would start taking in hundreds of thousands of under-educated, disadvantaged young men who were being rejected for service because their mental aptitude scores were at the lower end of the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). Because the plan was to enlist about one hundred thousand lower aptitude recruits a year, it was called Project...

  15. Conclusions (pp. 271-276)
    Sanders Marble

    We have looked at how five different countries have used different groups of substandard men in their armies at different times. Given the span of a century between the first and last examples, the limited number of examples, and the various cultural factors at play, it would be rash to draw definitive conclusions. Yet it is fair to say that substandard men can play a useful and at times important role in an army. German reservists in 1914 not only fought well, but their presence in the ranks was crucial for German strategy; the Veteran Reserve Corps held the forts...

  16. Notes (pp. 277-348)
  17. List of Contributors (pp. 349-352)
  18. Index (pp. 353-360)