Ground troops are key to wartime success, says S&T historian

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On September 15, 2014

Air strikes never fully succeed in winning a war, says military historian John C. McManus, a professor of history and political science at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He says American troops on the ground have proven throughout recent history to be the crucial difference between victory and defeat.

President Barack Obama ruled out the possibility of U.S. troops fighting on the ground against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in his Sept. 10, 2014, address. Obama, instead, called for an expanded U.S. air campaign.

McManus says that despite the U.S. military’s reliance on technology in modern warfare, the foot soldier has been the most indispensable – and most overlooked – factor in wartime victory. In his 2010 book Grunts: Inside the American Infantry Combat Experience, World War II Through Iraq, McManus examined 10 pivotal battles over the past six decades – from the 1944 fight on the island of Guam to the counterinsurgency combat in Iraq – and concluded that the skills and courage of American troops were the deciding factor in each.

“The true difference makers in wars will be the soldiers on the ground,” McManus says. “Now, they need a lot of support, and the technology makes a difference. But in the end, who tips the balance? The guy on the ground.”

McManus is the author of 11 books on military history and is the historical advisor for a forthcoming PBS documentary titled “The American Road to Victory.” A member of the Missouri S&T faculty since 2000, McManus is considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the history of Americans in combat. His book Grunts: Inside the American Infantry Combat Experience, World War II Through Iraq was named to the U.S. Army Chief of Staff’s recommended professional reading list.

A member of the editorial advisory board at World War II magazine and Global War Studies, McManus received the 2012 Missouri Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and was named the 2012 Research Fellow by the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park. In 2007, he was named to History News Network’s list of Top Young Historians in 2007 and in 2008 he received the Missouri Conference on History Book Award for Alamo in the Ardennes: The Untold Story of the American Soldiers Who Made the Defense of Bastogne Possible.

McManus’ latest book, The Dead and Those About to Die, D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach, was published in April.

McManus is available to discuss the history of ground troops plan for strategic actions to combat ISIS. To arrange for an interview, contact the Missouri S&T Communications Department at 573-341-4328 or email

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On September 15, 2014. Posted in Department of History and Political Science, Featured, News

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