Victory Principles: Leadership Lessons from D-Day

Victory Principles: Leadership Lessons from D-Day

by Leonard Kloeber


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VICTORY Principles is written in the three part format of a Staff Ride, the same technique used to train army officers. A Staff Ride focuses the study of history on leadership "lessons learned" that can be applied in the future. Part one of this book is the fascinating story of D-Day itself. Part two describes seven universal leadership lessons, the VICTORY Principles. Part three is a guide to the battlefield sites on the northern coast of France. In VICTORY Principles, Colonel Kloeber uses his extensive experience from a thirty year career in the military and as a corporate executive to relate the lessons learned from military history to contemporary business and personal leadership.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781600375910
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Publication date: 06/01/2009
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Col. Leonard Kloeber, Jr. has hands-on practical experience as a leader in both military and business organizations. A 1971 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and honor graduate of the U.S. Army General Staff Officer Course, Colonel Kloeber has over thirty years experience in command and staff positions in small and large military organizations. He has commanded units at the company, battalion, and brigade level and also held senior general staff positions. His business experience includes leadership positions in a broad range of private and public organizations. He has led and managed start-up businesses and also held leadership positions with large public companies. His line and staff assignments include over twenty years of line management experience and nine years as a senior human resources executive for a large multinational company.

Len also has an MBA from Boston University and a JD from William Mitchell College of Law. He and his wife, Jevne, live in Prior Lake, Minnesota.

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Context, early war years

When the Germans invaded Poland in September of 1939, the war in Europe turned into a shooting war. After staging what appeared to be an unprovoked attack by Poland, the Germans retaliated with an army of over a quarter of a million soldiers and airmen crossing the Polish border. Efforts by the European Allies to deter Adolph Hitler from invading his neighbors did not work. He had continued his quest to expand the German Reich and restore national pride following their ignominious defeat in World War I. The British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, had led an effort to contain Germany through negotiations in Munich the previous year, but under Hitler's leadership Germany annexed Austria, the Sudetenland, and Alsace Loraine. Britain and France pledged to draw the line in Poland. So when the German Army crossed the Polish border, the time had come for Britain and France to take their stand. The Allies were officially at war with Germany. The Polish Army was no match for the Nazi juggernaut. Eventually, the Germans had poured over 1.5 million men into the effort. In a matter of weeks, the German Army quickly consolidated their position by overrunning Poland and negotiating a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union. As winter approached, the "hot war" cooled down for awhile. There was a short period over the winter months when no actual fighting took place. This was to change in the spring of 1940.

In April the German Army occupied Denmark. Simultaneously, the German Navy moved against Norway by attacking multiple ports and landing troops to march on the Norwegian capital, Oslo. The Norwegians resisted, but they were not prepared to defend against the powerful German war machine. The Germans subsequently claimed that they were moving into Norway and Denmark to prevent a British expansion of the war into those territories. This was their version of preemptive warfare.

With the eastern border secured by his pact with Russia, Hitler ordered the German Army to assemble on the western front. On May 10, 1940, he launched what would be known as the blitzkrieg against the combined French and British Armies. The Allies had not anticipated that the Germans would strike through the Ardennes Forest in Belgium or the Low Countries. By doing so, they bypassed the French fortifications of the Maginot Line that were built along the German border to protect France against an attack from the east. The German attack was launched using airborne forces to assault key fortifications and secure bridges needed by the advancing armored formations. The concept of airborne assaults was an untested concept developed during the interwar years by the German Air Force, also known as the Luftwaffe. Specially trained volunteers were parachuted into battle ahead of the main assault. They used the element of surprise to overcome the defenses of key installations. It worked very well, and the paratroops were quickly followed by the main assault force. The German blitzkrieg was now unleashed against Western Europe. In less than a week, the Dutch had capitulated and the Germans were moving through Belgium and on to France.

The Germans also pioneered the tactics of a combined arms team led by armor (panzer) forces that were supported by mechanized infantry, artillery, and air forces. Their speed and shock action quickly threw the Allied defenders off balance as they tried to consolidate a defense. Many of the French Army units were swiftly overrun. The remaining French forces and their British Allies were forced to retreat to the port of Dunkirk on the English Channel to make a stand. By May 26, the new British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, realized that the Germans had succeeded in achieving their objectives and that the soldiers in the Dunkirk pocket would be wiped out if they continued to fight. While France negotiated a separate peace, he ordered the evacuation of the British Army and surviving Allies so that they could live to fight another day.

A makeshift fleet of civilian and military ships was quickly organized under the leadership of Admiral Bertram Ramsey. When the evacuation commenced, the British only expected to recover 20,000 to 30,000 troops, but miraculously, the Royal Navy was able evacuate over 338,000 soldiers back to England. About two-thirds of the evacuees were British, and the balance of the survivors was a mix of Dutch, Belgium, Polish, and French troops. The evacuation had been possible not only because of the skill of the British Navy but also because Hitler had surprisingly halted the German army before they could deliver the final death blow to the surrounded Allied force. Instead, he directed the Luftwaffe to finish the job while the army completed the conquest of France, but weather prevented the Luftwaffe from operating for several days. Hitler's direct intervention would set a precedent for his personal influence in future operations with similar unfavorable results for the Germans. As what was left of the Allied armies evacuated the European continent for England, they either destroyed or abandoned their equipment. Now the British Empire stood virtually alone against the German war machine, but they had to lick their wounds before they could continue the fight.

The next phase of the war would be the Battle of Britain, a desperate fight to the death for air superiority in anticipation of a German invasion of the British Isles. Although the Germans had been bombing England in June and July, the Luftwaffe commander, Field Marshal Herman Goering, ordered the full onslaught of his attacks to begin in August. The German Air Force outnumbered the British four to one. As the attacks increased on English ports, cities, and airfields, the Fighter Command of the Royal Air Force valiantly resisted. They skillfully used emerging radar technology to respond to the incoming attacks and shepherd their resources. With advance warning, the anti-aircraft batteries and fighter squadrons scrambled to meet the aggressors or to avoid being hit on the ground. The Nazi attacks grew in intensity over the coming months. During September they concentrated their bombing runs on London, but the German losses continued to mount as the attacks proceeded. Although many casualties were inflicted on the British population and facilities, the Germans eventually recognized that they were not going to succeed in destroying the Royal Air Force. By October 1940, the Battle of Britain ended and the air raids were less frequent. The Royal Air Force had prevailed.

After losing the Battle of Britain, the German invasion of England, called Operation Sea Lion, was no longer viable. So once again, Hitler personally intervened to cancel the operation. The Germans then tried to isolate the British Isles using submarine warfare. Groups of submarines known as U-boats operated in the North Atlantic as "wolf packs" to interdict the convoys carrying troops and war materials from America to Britain. The Germans operated over one hundred submarines from ports along the Continent. Until the Allies were able to develop countermeasures with surface ship escorts, sonar, and evasive maneuvers, they sustained significant losses from torpedo attacks on the shipping lanes. Eventually, this threat, too, was contained as the Allies learned through experimentation how to counter the U-boats.

Hitler next turned his attention again to the East. In June of 1941, he broke the nonaggression pact with Soviet Russia and launched Operation Barbarossa. Another blitzkrieg of panzer-led forces made quick progress toward Moscow. Three massive German armies of over three million men stretched across a front from the Baltic states to the Crimea and the Black Sea. As this powerful force smashed everything in its path, the Russians skillfully delayed the advance in a series of bloody battles while they scorched the earth as they retreated. By December, the Germans would eventually fight their way to within several miles of Moscow, but then the Russian winter assisted the Soviet Army in halting their advance. Moscow was saved.

Meanwhile, Germany's partner, Italy, had moved into North Africa. The Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, had visions of reinventing the Roman Empire's domination of the Mediterranean. At the same time as they were coming off their defeat at Dunkirk, the British appealed to their colonial empire for support. The British Eighth Army in Egypt was joined by Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, and Indians to blunt the Italians in the desert. Hitler and his generals were concerned that the Italians would be overrun. Fearing the worst, Germany sent additional forces to support their ally, along with one of their best commanders. General Erwin Rommel would now lead the combined German–Italian Africa Corps against the British.

Then, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese Combined Fleet made a preemptive attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Until this time, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had tried to maintain the appearances of neutrality; however, he had been discreetly providing some material support to Britain and Russia through a program known as Lend–Lease. Now with the preemptive Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the President asked the U.S. Congress for a declaration of war on Japan, which was quickly approved. Two days later Germany declared war on the United States. When Japan quickly joined the Axis alliance with Germany and Italy, the Tripartite military alliance was formed. A pact was signed on December 27, 1941, in Berlin to make it official. The United States was now in the shooting war but was not militarily prepared to strike back.

In the fall of 1939, the strength of the United States Army was only 190,000 men. This included the First Cavalry division and its six thousand horses. Raising and training a modern army capable of fighting the war would require skillful leadership and mobilization of the entire nation in the months and years ahead.

General Marshall and the American Army

The task of quickly building the American Army fell to General George Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff. The meager American force would eventually grow to seven million soldiers in eighty-nine combat divisions at its peak. General Marshall was the right man in the right job at the right time. He had attended the Virginia Military Institute and was commissioned in the U.S. Army in 1902 as an infantry officer. His first assignment was in the Philippines, but in 1906 he was sent to the Army Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, where he graduated first in his class. After an assignment as an instructor at the school, he completed a series of command and staff assignments in a variety of infantry units. This gave him a broad range of experiences and he gained a reputation as an outstanding officer.

When the United States entered the First World War in 1917, Marshall was posted to France with the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). He eventually worked directly for the AEF commander, General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, as an aide-de-camp, where he put all his experience to work. It was this experience that showed him how difficult it was to conduct coalition warfare with other Allied nations. After the war, Marshall was promoted through a series of jobs, including instructor at the Army War College and assistant commandant at the Infantry School, where he was able to observe many junior officers as they studied to enhance their professional education. In other assignments, he was an advisor to the National Guard and helped to organize the Civilian Conservation Corps. All of these jobs would provide valuable experience for him, including understanding the citizen soldiers and gaining organization skills that would be needed to win the war.

Throughout his career, General Marshall developed the habit of keeping notes on officers with whom he had served or who worked for him in a variety of capacities. Many of the officers who would be advanced to general officer rank had languished in the peacetime army with promotions coming slowly and only after many years of service. General Marshall knew many of them. He had a keen sense of who was the most promising among them, and this was a critical factor in his ability to quickly identify capable officers and promote them immediately into key assignments. His philosophy was to give them responsibility and guidance for a task and then get out of their way. He placed many of them in critical assignments to organize and train the forces necessary for the upcoming campaigns. In fact, one of the qualities that he prized most among his subordinates was their willingness to take charge and make decisions without always checking back with higher commands. One such officer who exhibited this skill was a Lt. Colonel, Dwight D. Eisenhower, known to his friends as Ike.

Eisenhower graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the Class of 1915. He was commissioned as an infantry officer but also had experience with the fledging tank corps after World War I. American tanks had made their debut in France under the leadership of another future general, George Patton. During the interwar years, Patton and Eisenhower were stationed together. They teamed up to develop and promote new tactics for the employment of tanks. Although their suggestions were not readily accepted by most of the Army hierarchy, they were favorably received by General Fox Conner, who was a leading military thinker at the time. When Conner was commander of the forces guarding the Panama Canal Zone, Eisenhower accepted a request from Conner to serve as his deputy. Conner mentored his protégé on tactics and how the Army worked. After that assignment Eisenhower attended the Army Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, where, like Marshall, he graduated first in his class.

Just before the outbreak of the war in the Pacific, Eisenhower had been serving in the Philippines as an assistant to General Douglas Mac-Arthur. Eisenhower had previously been MacArthur's assistant when MacArthur was the Chief of Staff of the Army in the 1930s. This gave him an opportunity to observe the workings of the War Department at the highest levels. After MacArthur retired from active duty to accept a job from the Philippine president to build and train the Philippine Army, he insisted that Eisenhower accompany him. Although Eisenhower respected MacArthur as a soldier, their relationship became more contentious over time. Eisenhower was eventually reassigned back to stateside units, where he served as a regimental executive officer and later as the Chief of Staff for the Third Army. It was at the Third Army where he showed his expertise for strategy and planning during war games known as the Louisiana Maneuvers. This was one of the large scale maneuver exercises that the Army conducted to train and evaluate units in preparation for overseas deployments. His skill caught the attention of General Marshall who was now Army Chief of Staff and always scouting for talented officers.

After the hostilities with Japan broke out, General Marshall brought Eisenhower to work at the War Department in Washington, D.C. Eisenhower was assigned to the Army Staff in the War Plans Division (WPD). He once again quickly proved his abilities as a strategist and planner. General Marshall relied on his expertise to organize the war effort by writing strategy papers and plans on how to win the war. He was eventually promoted to head up an expanded War Plans Division that was renamed the Operations Planning Division (OPD). Here Ike directly assisted Marshall in defining the American global war plan that was approved by President Roosevelt. In the process, he established his reputation with Marshall and Roosevelt as a visionary. As noted by historian Mark Perry, "for Marshall that was an essential quality for any officer aspiring to high command." Eisenhower would become the Supreme Allied Commander for the D-Day invasion of Europe, but it was in the War Department assignment that he established his credentials with senior leaders.

Eisenhower genuinely regretted that he had not seen combat experience during the First World War. He was always disappointed when he saw his peers being promoted to command assignments. More than any other assignment he desired a troop command. Although he proved to be an extremely capable administrator, his most important skill was an ability to navigate the politics of the institutions of government. The rivalry between the War Department and the Navy Department was intense and very competitive for resources. Also contentious were the relations with the American and British Chiefs of Staff, otherwise known as the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Eisenhower proved to be adept at dealing with the strong personalities of the senior officers who filled these positions. It was this skill and his talent as a visionary that led Marshall to believe that Eisenhower had the talent needed for a high-level command.


Excerpted from "Victory Principles"
by .
Copyright © 2009 Leonard Kloeber, Jr..
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Part One The Greatest Invasion in History,
Chapter One Prelude: The World at War,
Chapter Two Operation Overlord: Planning and Preparation,
Chapter Three Jump into the Night: D-Day Airborne Assault,
Chapter Four Courage under Fire: D-Day Beach Assault,
Chapter Five Determined Resistance: Surviving the Longest Day,
Chapter Six The Breakout, the Falaise Gap, and the Liberation of Paris,
Part Two VICTORY Principles,
Chapter Seven Vision,
Chapter Eight Innovation and Learning,
Chapter Nine Capabilities: People and Resources,
Chapter Ten Timely Decisions: AIME Decision Model,
Chapter Eleven Operating Principles and Values,
Chapter Twelve Resilience,
Chapter Thirteen Your Team and Team Building,
Part Three The Staff Ride: Touring the Battlefields,
Chapter Fourteen Battlefields: Yesterday and Today,
Command Structure and Order of Battle,
Maps of Normandy, France, and Invasion Sites,
About the Author,
Bonus Offers and Information,

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