Small Unit Cohesion



The motivation of soldiers for combat has been a constant preoccupation of armies. In ancient times, for example, Xenophon emphasised the important role of leadership. The Spartans emphasised strict discipline and comradeship. During the Napoleonic wars, the soldiers of France (drawn largely from the citizenry) were imbued with the notion of nationalism. Empirical research beginning in the Second World War, meanwhile, has largely emphasised the role of the primary group in sustaining fighting spirit.1 Although much has been written on this topic, it is worth reviewing some of the more salient characteristics of small unit cohesion.


Polish Officer Polish Force Unfair Treatment Israeli Defence Force Military Organisation 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    See for example Edward Shils and Morris Janowitz, ‘Cohesion and Disintegration in the Wehrmacht in World War II’, Public Opinion Quarterly (Summer 1948) pp.280–315.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    John Keegan, The Face of Battle (New York: The Viking Press, 1976) p. 114.Google Scholar
  3. 11.
    Roger W. Little, ‘Buddy Relations and Combat Performance’ in Morris Janowitz (ed.) The New Military (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1964) pp. 195–223.Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    See William Darryl Henderson, Why the Vietcong Fought: A Study of Motivation and Control in a Modern Army in Combat, Contributions in Political Science, no. 31 (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1978).Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    Charles C. Moskos Jr, ‘The American Combat soldier in Vietnam’, Journal of Social Issues, vol. 31 (1975) no. 4, p. 35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Edmund Walendowski 1988

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