Best Defense

Why do officers carry sidearms?

A book I read recently states that it is for controlling one’s own soldiers.

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This had never occurred to me. I had without thinking accepted the term “for personal defense,” and assumed that meant against the enemy.

But think of it: A pistol is not going to help most of the time on a battlefield. So what is it for? A book I read recently states that it is for controlling one’s own soldiers. Not pleasant, but it makes sense. “The threat to kill men who broke ranks was always present,” Cathal Nolan writes in his new book, The Allure of Battle. “Usually the threat alone sufficed, but not always. That’s when pistols were drawn and sometimes even used.”

I had never heard this before. Anyone else?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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