Review: Super-Squad

Super-Squad: The Now Missing Component

It’s time to look at one of the most prolific military theorists: Vietnam veteran H. John Poole. Poole’s recent Super-Squad is a detailed call for improved light infantry tactics and a different squad organization, along with a historical study of various opponents from World War I to the present.

I may have never, ever encountered a “mean 51%” nonfiction book like this one. Poole is an infantry veteran who’s walked the walk. His desires are sincere and heartfelt, and many of his goals are valid or at least understandable. Yet there’s just so much else wrong in presentation and even theory here.

The book could probably be around half of its length and work with a concise message of “This is my proposed squad organization. This is how various limited-resource opponents across history used maneuver and skill to counter their lack of direct resources. You cannot always assume superior resources, so this is vital.”

Instead, it’s a long rambling bunch of anecdotes and illustrations, often from old field manuals. Anything that shows the “eastern army” succeeding is trumpeted. Anything that shows them failing is quickly glossed over. The writing lacks humility, to put it mildly. There are statements like “no combined infantry/tank attack has succeeded except on open terrain”, which is simply untrue. The ridiculous lumping of every possible Asian opponent into generalized “eastern armies”, combined with an obsession with ninjas (really!) doesn’t exactly help much. Neither does (especially if you want change) the constant bashing of the existing American military, something that will put most people on the defensive.

This has to be understood as being like Curtis Lemay calling for a giant fleet of super-bombers dropping souped-up nuclear weapons. If your experience involves a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Everything. It gets kind of repetitive and even a little annoying at places.

I don’t regret getting this book. As an “OPFOR light infantry tactics and case studies as written by your kooky old granddad who’s convinced he can save the economy through multi-level marketing” book, it (and many of Poole’s other books, given their similarities) works for what it is. Just don’t really expect it to be anything more.