Amidst the generally poor battlefield performance on the Allied side in the Second World War, there was one unit that positively
distinguished itself: the American 88th Infantry Division. This division achieved a battlefield performance of 1.14 and came ninth
in a top ten otherwise made up of German divisions. This was in Operation Diadem, the offensive aimed at Rome in May/June 1944, and the table is led by the Fallschirm-Panzer Division 1. Hermann Göring, with a battlefield performance of 1.49. The quality of the 88th Division was acknowledged by both the Allies and the Germans, but at first glance its composition appeared no different to any other’s. Closer examination, however, reveals differences in leadership and training, and the man responsible was Major General John Emmit Sloan, the division’s commander. He was educated at the US Naval (!) Academy in Annapolis and at fifty-five was technically too old for active service. However, he was appointed divisional commander after distinguishing himself as an instructor at the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, and by consistently implementing his vision of leadership, demonstrating exemplary behaviour and dedicating himself to the training of his officers and men, he managed to lift his division to a higher level. According to Dupuy, the characteristic features of his approach were:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Attention to detail
  • Strict discipline
  • Inspirational talks and messages
  • Personal presence in the front line
  • Being sure subordinates had what they needed to do the job
  • Making sure every assignment was carried out properly, including those not immediately related to military procedures
  • Requiring strict adherence to established standards for military courtesy and proper uniform
  • Prompt relief of any subordinate who could not or would not do his job
  • Making friendly gestures to establish rapport with subordinate commanders
  • Grasping and communicating the ‘big picture’ and role of each unit in overall objectives 


In short, his style of leadership complied with all the elements of the German command concept of Auftragstaktik, but there was no follow up. After the war, the veterans of this division saw the main reasons for their success as: ‘Personal presence in the front line, discipline, courage and aggressiveness . . . They were proud to be in a division that they now knew to be an excellent, outstanding unit, and they realized that the man primarily responsible was Sloan.’


Read all about this division and other examples in the Allied armies in my book 'The German Way of War. A lesson in tactical management' published by Pen & Sword.