The benefit of hindsight

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RF
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The benefit of hindsight

Postby RF » Wed Sep 25, 2013 8:50 am

A number of threads in this forum have concerned matters relating to the decisions of military officers which long after they were made can now be criticised for allegedly being wrong or in breach of service traditions or at worst negligent. For example the actions of Captain Leach of HMS Prince of Wales in disengaging from Bismarck at the end of the Battle of Denmark Strait.

Such criticism, often from a narrow context, sometimes from journalistic considerations such as the ''angle of the story'' only comes to light so long after the event that the person criticised is long dead and the war in question over by more than a generation. This is the problem of hindsight.

So my question is this: does hindsight make us a better decision maker than the person criticised?

Could we as forum members have made a better job of commanding and making better decisions in battle in the shoes of the actual commanders without the benefit of hindsight??

Or are we only good commanders purely because of the hindsight?
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

Byron Angel
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Re: The benefit of hindsight

Postby Byron Angel » Thu Sep 26, 2013 1:45 pm

RF wrote -
" ... my question is this: does hindsight make us a better decision maker than the person criticised?
Could we as forum members have made a better job of commanding and making better decisions in battle in the shoes of the actual commanders without the benefit of hindsight??
Or are we only good commanders purely because of the hindsight?"

- - -

In America, "hindsight" is colloquially termed "Monday morning quarterbacking" - i.e., the critics always would have selected a better play or strategy in the game/match played on the previous day.

Most of us, had we been standing in Captain Leach's place on the compass platform at the moment of the hit, would probably have soiled ourselves in paralyzed terror. Sitting in comfort before one's PC screen ..... well ..... it's just not the same thing. As to the value of hindsight, all one can reliably point to is the broad outcome of the event. There is IMO no guarantee that the "hindsight" we draw upon is in all respects either complete, correct, or properly weighted in terms of relative importance. It has all been selected, processed, interpreted, misinterpreted, ignored, suppressed, omitted, etc, etc. by others ..... and sometimes even by ourselves.

FWIW, this Monday morning quarterback considers Capt Leach's decision to disengage a wise move on several levels.


B

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Dave Saxton
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Re: The benefit of hindsight

Postby Dave Saxton » Sun Sep 29, 2013 2:33 am

Good point. Luetjens, and Bey, and Phillips, and Holland, and Callaghan, Goto.... among others receive a lot of flak by us arm chair admirals, but we must remember that not only did they not have the benefit of hind sight but they sacrificed their lives in the service of their country. That should humble us all.

Some criticism is rooted in some officer's peers though. This is the case with Adm Fletcher. Morison's critic of Fletcher comes partly from Adm Lee.

And Morison was an historian. He has responsibility to call it as he sees it- wrong or right- agree or disagree. The same applies to Roskill or Bekker and so forth.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

ede144
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Re: The benefit of hindsight

Postby ede144 » Sun Sep 29, 2013 8:23 pm

The criticism on Leach is really Monday morning quarterbacking. He took a decision in a very serious moment if the battle and it turned out favourable for his ship and the RN.
One could wonder about the comments in this or similar forum when he would have re-engaged got some additional crippling hits, the cruisers try to support and get sunk. BS and PG vanishing into the Atlantic and show up at the next convoy


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