Throwback Thursday: Marksmanship and National Defense

by
posted on December 4, 2014

First published in American Rifleman, October 1960

Marksmanship training for all American citizens who would be subject to service in the event of war is a valuable contribution to national defense.

To prepare ourselves for the variety of military engagements in which we might become involved, we are obliged to maintain a corresponding variety of capabilities within our defense establishment. We must have a stable and continuing defense program because we canot rely on "crash programs" in the future. We require the capability to meet any challenge promptly, vigorously and effectively. National defense is an immediate requirement. What we do today vitally affects our success in any future emergency.

In any type of military operations, one thing that has not changed is the importance of the soldier's mastery of his individual weapons, fundamentally the rifle. In fact, this importance has increased. One of the basic requirements of modern warfare is the greatly increased dispersion of units. In order to minimize the effectiveness of an enemy's firepower, our units will be dispersed over a much larger area than ever before. As a result, they will have to be more completely self-sustained and their members will be called upon to exercise an even higher degree of individual self-reliance. Cannoneers, cooks, and clerks must be ready and able to defend themselves against sudden enemy raids.

As for the infantrymen himself, the rifle is still his basic weapon. We must not forget that the military purpose of war is to achieve control over land and the people who live on it. The ultimate measure of the control which has been attained is the area dominated by the infantrymen with the fire of his individual weapon. In the final analysis, the success with which that domination is established, maintained, and extended depends in large part on the soldier's mastery of his rifle.

The marksmanship programs conducted by the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and the National Rifle Association of America for military personnel and civilians are important to our national defense. Qualification firing is excellent training for military and civilians alike. Formal competition plays an important part in encouraging the development of marksmanship. The Small Arms Firing Schools and the National Rifle and Pistol Matches conducted each year at Camp Perry help to maintain the American tradition of a prepared citizenry, trained to do a soldier's job with a soldier's skill when necessity calls.

Because of my responsibilities in the Department of Defense and because of my personal lifetime interest in fine marksmanship, I commend those individuals and organizations that promote marksmanship training in time of peace as vital contribution to preparedness in case of war. I urge continued efforts by our leaders in the Armed Forces and in civilian life to develop better training methods, to improve equipment, and to encourage greater participation in this important activity.

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