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The Combat SoldierInfantry Tactics and Cohesion in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries$
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Anthony King

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199658848

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199658848.001.0001

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Mass Tactics

Mass Tactics

(p.98) 5 Mass Tactics
The Combat Soldier

Anthony King

Oxford University Press

Precisely because citizen soldiers were inadequately prepared for combat, the armies of the twentieth century tended to rely on simple tactical manoeuvres to sustain their attacks. Despite its apparent obsolescence on the industrial battlefield, the bayonet charge had evident advantages especially for a poorly trained infantry: it was easy to organize and very difficult to shirk. In addition, citizen armies relied on the individual initiative of junior combat leaders to lead attacks on their own when collective inertia threatened to take over. The chapter gives numerous examples of this leadership and explores how individual heroism is best understood as an institutional adaption to the distinctive social dynamics of the mass army rather than as a reflection of the innate personal characteristics of combat leaders.

Keywords:   overcoming battlefield inertia, bayonet charge, heroism

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