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Does Conscription Produce Mediocre Soldiers?

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  • #16
    Does a conscripted military produce better citizens and thus indirectly contribute to a stronger nation prepared to defend itself?

    There are three major components to national defense in the post industrial age. First the military itself, the economy and industrial complex, and the willingness of the general population to support military objectives. Weakness in any of these areas can be fatal. The advantage of a volunteer military in providing qualified personnel in an increasingly technical military is seldom questioned. A volunteer military however does not address the issue of transforming the national culture from one of entitlement to one in which obligation to society balance rights.

    The argument that a conscripted army will not build a stronger citizenry is presented most often under the cynical assertion that the transformation to a society of entitlement is irreversible. That may be the case but even if it is not it is not clear that a conscripted military builds national character. If anyone is interested I may lay out the various arguments.

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    • #17
      The British had a lot of ammo plant workers volunteer in 1914. A lot of the Pal Battalions also had a lot of artisans and specialists carrying rifles. They were eventually able to go back and remove some from the firing line. Usually it was Industry asking for certain people back. Women workers were not so good at their jobs. Finding Coal Miners became a problem as well. One of George MacDonald Fraser's men in his Platoon told him he wanted to go into the mines instead of serving!

      A problem in the US was underage teenagers volunteered giving false ages. Calvin Graham was 12 when he got a forged permission slip and joined the Navy. He was wounded off Guadalcanal and was discharged after going home. It was not an Honorable Discharge. Some troops were identified as too young and kind Sergeants did their best to keep them in camp until they were old enough. There were no Young Soldier Battalions in the US Army.

      Pruitt
      Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

      Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

      by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Pruitt View Post

        The US Draft did not sort Draftees for occupations.

        Pruitt
        The local draft boards did.
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        • #19
          For the UK, conscription in war time came to mean the maximum reserve the nation could bear, in what amounted to wars of national survival. The sheer numbers involved will have meant a huge range in quality, from the mediocre to the natural warriors. The filter from that point might come with elite units creaming off the best recruits, just a reinforcement of a process that happens now anyway with the Royal Marines, the Paras etc.
          Ne Obliviscaris, Sans Peur

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          • #20
            Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
            The British had a lot of ammo plant workers volunteer in 1914. A lot of the Pal Battalions also had a lot of artisans and specialists carrying rifles. They were eventually able to go back and remove some from the firing line. Usually it was Industry asking for certain people back. Women workers were not so good at their jobs. Finding Coal Miners became a problem as well. One of George MacDonald Fraser's men in his Platoon told him he wanted to go into the mines instead of serving!



            Pruitt
            Not quite correct - the big problem in 1914 was miners enlisting rather than munitions workers as expansion of the munitions plants had not yet begun

            The women not good at their jobs was a myth promoted by the trade unions who were mortally afraid of soldiers coming back after the war and finding themselves replaced by women and out of work, In fact in almost every area where the unions were forced to accept women after training they did very well including jobs like lath and milling machine operation, bus and tram driving, railway police and many more. The railway unions to the end refused to allow women to be trained to fire and drive locomotives and Belgian refugee railway men were used in some numbers. A good number of railway workers volunteer and conscripted were used to run the British Army run railways in Northern France.

            In WW2 men were conscripted as miners - known as Bevan Boys - it was not liked either by regular miners or those so conscripted.
            Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
            Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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            • #21
              Originally posted by MarkV View Post
              I think the reference was to selecting people for the draft (or exempting them) based on the value to the war economy of their skills and occupation. The British likewise did not sort after conscription for most (simply too many and take too long) but did for some for example a lot of painters and decorators and theatre stage hands got packed off to a special camouflage and deception unit in Egypt to do things like move Alexandria harbour up the coast, make the Suez canal vanish etc,
              Electricians, pipe-fitters, welders, and just about anyone who could work in a shipyard received a deferment from Selective Service: that's how my stepfather's stepfather spent WW2 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard: he got himself listed as a journeyman electrician.
              I was married for two ******* years! Hell would be like Club Med! - Sam Kinison

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              • #22
                When I was in boot camp as "national service" soldier in the Brit Army we had an influx of "old" guys..25 years old to our 18...anyway as it turned out, these guys did basic boot camp but because they were "differed" due to attending college during their "call up years' so the army made them do basic but then shipped them off to the Education Corp I guess so they could teach the officers how to read and write...

                If your were a "regular" you could enlist in your trade, but as a NS soldier you went where you were sent, usually Infantry Battle school......

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                • #23
                  I'm interested in what the Israelis think about this question.
                  "Shoot for the epaulets, boys! Shoot for the epaulets!" - Daniel Morgan

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Escape2Victory View Post
                    For the UK, conscription in war time came to mean the maximum reserve the nation could bear, in what amounted to wars of national survival. The sheer numbers involved will have meant a huge range in quality, from the mediocre to the natural warriors. The filter from that point might come with elite units creaming off the best recruits, just a reinforcement of a process that happens now anyway with the Royal Marines, the Paras etc.
                    And yet the Royal Marines on active service in various ways in Europe, were almost totally Conscripts. Also they were the equal of the professionals, not on the parade grounds perhaps but most definitely in action. And no we were not 'creamed off' as you say, we were trained into being Royal Marines. lcm1
                    'By Horse by Tram'.


                    I was in when they needed 'em,not feeded 'em.
                    " Youuu 'Orrible Lot!"

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by lcm1 View Post
                      And yet the Royal Marines on active service in various ways in Europe, were almost totally Conscripts. Also they were the equal of the professionals, not on the parade grounds perhaps but most definitely in action. And no we were not 'creamed off' as you say, we were trained into being Royal Marines. lcm1
                      It was obviously as painful agreeing with me as it looked.
                      Ne Obliviscaris, Sans Peur

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                      • #26
                        I'd say no it doesn't. That's not to say, as as already been pointed out, that it doesn't produce staggering differences in quality. But what conscription/draft primarily does, is produce A LOT of soldiers, FAST — relatively speaking.

                        Now, if you want to fight some kind of "colonial" campaigns in far off places, with no actual threat to your homeland, against numerically relatively small (and for preference less sophisticated) adversaries, OF COURSE you shouldn't need conscription. Instituting it probably means you're getting something wrong.

                        If however your objective is to build a decent defense capable of realistically deterring a larger, equally sophisticated, potential adversary close by and threatening your actual country, then screw professionals. There will never be enough of them to even begin with.

                        As for motivation, if there is a credible threat to your nation, and national defense can mitigate it, that tends to tone it up a treat. Depends a bit of how much citizens value their nation in order to make soldiers as well of course. (US inexperience with these kinds of situations is not an invalidating factor, just an apparent lack of imagination.)

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                        • #27
                          Some very good responses here to which I can add very little, so I'll only add an anecdote. I did the French Para course at Pau in 1986 with a training company from the old 6th Colonial Para Bn, then the 6th Marine Parachute Infantry Regiment. Unlike it "Regular" RPIMa counterparts, it was a draftee unit.

                          The unit was formed within the Regiment (a six company battalion plus) by taking in conscript volunteers and matching them up with potential, junior, and senior NCOs from the Regiment. The officers were likewise from the Regiment. The unit was slated to do a six month "Guepard" rotation into Central Africa which might involve combat. So the conscripts were all volunteers for that Africa deployment.

                          Some had done the Parachute pre-induction course, a sort of Para High School ROTC type training that consisted of a certain number of days basic military indoctrination, followed by a week's pre-para training as a regional parachute training facility, during which they made four jumps. The rest were merely volunteers. After seven weeks training at a military training center, receiving their instruction from the same NCOs who would command them in Africa, they arrived at Pau.

                          Their Para instruction lasted two weeks, from 0800 in the AM until 1700 in the PM they were under the control of the French "Black Hats" who showed then what had to be done during each phase of a jump, then talked them through it, then put them through their paces, stopping instruction whenever a violation was committed and emphasizing the proper procedures. There was not useless harassment. But, the Unit NCOs who got them up in the morning drove them hard, and at 1700, those same unit NCOs returned to remind them that they had to get in shape to deploy. The first week was a standard airborne jump pre-week, and the second week included six jumps to earn their parachute wings. That short weekend may have been a respite for the Parachute School personnel, but the training company of the 6th RPIMa stayed very busy with inspections, reminders of unit history, and physical fitness tests. I accompanied them on their six training jumps (1 with equipment, and 1 deploying the reserve), and not a man refused. Come graduation only the very best were called forward and presented with their "Bicycle license plates", slang for the Para badge. The rest received their badges back in the unit.

                          The entire company would now return to a unit training area to complete what we would call Infantry Advanced Individual and Unit training, minus a few trainees who had been earmarked for specialized or technical training, but the majority of those too would return to the unit for deployment.

                          In short, the French professionals did not really like this short term use of draftees, but they had developed a means for incorporating such volunteers into legendary Para units. In those days, draftees were called up for a year, with an absolute right to 45 days leave and free public transportation. Draftee volunteers for overseas deployment had their six months overseas service added to that year.

                          By training and deploying as companies, they managed to instill a cohesion and sense of pride in the regimental history that gave the conscripts a sense of purpose and place that conscript elements of the US Army lacked in the 1960s. I had seen the lackadaisical discipline of French draftee units at Baden Baden in Germany, but the draftees who marched out to mark their graduation from Airborne training in Pau that day marched as sharply as any paratroop unit in the French Army. And I firmly believe that they would have (and perhaps did) fought as hard as any Para unit in French history.
                          Last edited by lirelou; 01 Apr 17, 12:02.
                          dit: Lirelou

                          Phong trần mi một lưỡi gươm, Những loi gi o ti cơm s g!

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                          • #28
                            LIRELOU....

                            As a follow up in regards French draftee Paras....I used to jump at Strasbourg with the local jump club and many times we would have a load of draftee jumpers who were still on static line, this was added income for the Para Club as the French Army paid for them.....they were a dedicated bunch and I never saw anybody refuse to go out the door....this was all in 1970's.. I could tell you some tales of the antics these guys got up tp...

                            Near Toulun France

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                            • #29
                              The old line from conscripts vs volunteers in the Australian Army (and doubtless elsewhere) in the 60s was that the conscripts were there to do a job, and the volunteers were there because they needed a job.
                              One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions - Admiral Grace Hopper

                              "The eunuch should not take pride in his chastity."
                              Wu Cheng'en Monkey

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                              • #30
                                Chukka, visited Townsville in 2005 to attend the RAR Assn annual dinner and watch WO1 (Ret) Barry Tolley receive the Bronze Star Medal with "V" Device for his actions at Duc Lap in August 1968. Anyway, while Barry was giving me a tour of the area, we happened upon some Reservists doing patrols, and they were certainly patrolling by the book. Quite serious about their work, and quite impressive.
                                dit: Lirelou

                                Phong trần mi một lưỡi gươm, Những loi gi o ti cơm s g!

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