Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, who was assassinated at Qargha Camp in Kabul on August 5 at the age of 55, belonged to a great American military tradition that the public, media and our beloved political class and pontificating pundits remain totally ignorant of – the engineer generals.
The astonishing success of the U.S. Armed Forces through two world wars and a host of smaller ones over the past 70 years was due in enormous part to the achievements of technical “engineer generals” like Greene.
They included tough, ruthless, Gen. “Hap” Arnold of the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, Gen. Curtis LeMay who helmed the U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command during the Cold War, Admiral Hyman Rickover, who created America’s nuclear Navy and Gen. Bernard Schriever who helmed the Minuteman ICBM program. Such men, like Gen. Greene today, are now a lot harder to find than they were half a century ago.
From the 1940s through the 1960s men like Gen. Schriever, the driving genius behind the Air Force’s amazingly successful and even cost-effective Minuteman solid-fuel inter-ballistic missile program in the 1950s and early 60s, seemed to grow on trees.
A reader tipped me off to this interesting article.
The military has a long, long history of engineering, particularly the Army Corps of Engineers, which tends to focus on civil engineering projects. This article tends to look beyond that and at the large cohort of general officers who were educated as engineers in a wide range of disciplines.
To some extent, a large portion of the US victory was a tale of construction and engineering. Fielding an army is far more than putting men in uniforms and teaching them to shoot. The huge numbers of men, and the mountains of materiel involved had to be deployed to areas that either had no infrastructure, or what there was had been pounded by our very own bombers. That’s to say nothing of the massive project needed simply to build the camps where the fighting forces were trained.
Admittedly, many of the engineering challenges our services face today are far more complex than those of the past. The Lockheed F-35 is a good deal more complex than the Lockheed P-38. Of course it entails a greater engineering challenge.
But much of the difficulty today is a result of the sclerotic nature of our bureaucracy, which, like silt in a river, has added layer after layer over time to choke the flow of progress.