What goes around…

So, I’ve been poking around in some old World War II infantry field manuals, just because I could. What I found interesting was that they were far more specific in terms not only of tactics, but of specific techniques and procedures than the manuals in use when I was in during the 80’s and 90’s.  FM’s in my era tended to lay down guidelines, with the specific implementation left more to the local units Standard Operating Procedure.

But when I looked at the latest edition of The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad (FM 3-21.8) I noticed that in addition to adding coverage of things we didn’t have to worry about (IEDs, suicide bombers, presence patrols, etc.) it had reverted to a far more detailed format.

Theoretically, when units are being evaluated prior to certification as ready for deployment, they have to fully comply with the applicable FM for a given task. With the more general guidelines, units had more leeway to tailor their procedures to their expected missions, their available troops and training resources, and just generally go with what worked for them.

I’m wondering what the impetus was to change to the more specific instruction.

Incidentally, I’m amused that a fair amount of the doctrine for infantry units hasn’t changed a whit. You could lift paragraphs from the 1944 manuals and drop them in the new manual and no one would notice. And in other instances, while the nomenclature has  changed, the underlying concepts are identical. Some things never change.