Unit cohesion
Unit cohesion is a military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 concept, defined by one former United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Chief of staff
Chief of Staff
The title, chief of staff, identifies the leader of a complex organization, institution, or body of persons and it also may identify a Principal Staff Officer , who is the coordinator of the supporting staff or a primary aide to an important individual, such as a president.In general, a chief of...

 in the early 1980s as "the bonding together of soldiers in such a way as to sustain their will and commitment to each other, the unit, and mission accomplishment, despite combat or mission stress". However the concept lacks a consensus definition among military analysts, sociologists and psychologist
Psychologist is a professional or academic title used by individuals who are either:* Clinical professionals who work with patients in a variety of therapeutic contexts .* Scientists conducting psychological research or teaching psychology in a college...



Unit cohesion is a military concept dating back to at least Carl von Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

, if not to antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...


Several scholars have cited the influence of Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

's thinking on theories of unit cohesion. A number of them noted that Freud wrote of cohesion
Cohesion may refer to:* Cohesion , the intermolecular attraction between like-molecules* Cohesion , a measure of how well the lines of source code within a module work together...

 breakdown among soldier
A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

s, asserting that it leads to panic
Panic is a sudden sensation of fear which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking, replacing it with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and frantic agitation consistent with an animalistic fight-or-flight reaction...

, insubordination
Insubordination is the act of willfully disobeying an authority. Refusing to perform an action that is unethical or illegal is not insubordination; neither is refusing to perform an action that is not within the scope of authority of the person issuing the order.Insubordination is typically a...

, self-interested rather than cooperative
A cooperative is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit...

 reactions to threats, and "a gigantic and senseless dread".

Prior to US Executive Order 9981
Executive Order 9981
Executive Order 9981 is an executive order issued on July 26, 1948 by U.S. President Harry S. Truman. It expanded on Executive Order 8802 by establishing equality of treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services for people of all races, religions, or national origins."In 1947, Randolph, along...

, issued on July 26, 1948 by President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

, the American military
United States armed forces
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...

 was segregated
Racial segregation in the United States
Racial segregation in the United States, as a general term, included the racial segregation or hypersegregation of facilities, services, and opportunities such as housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation along racial lines...

. Opponents of integration
- Sociology and economy :*Social integration*Racial integration, refers to social and cultural behavior*Economic integration, refers to trade unification between different states*Educational integration of students with disabilities*Regional integration...

 frequently alleged that integrating the armed forces would have detrimental effects on unit cohesion.

The later development of the concept is strongly informed by the work of Morris Janowitz
Morris Janowitz
Morris Janowitz, was an American sociologist and professor who made major contributions to sociological theory, the study of prejudice, urban issues, and patriotism. He was one of the founders of military sociology and made major contributions, along with Samuel Huntington, to the establishment of...

, who, with Edward Shils
Edward Shils
Edward Shils was a Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and in Sociology at the University of Chicago and reputedly an influential sociologist. He was known for his research on the role of intellectuals and their relations to power and public policy...

, began writing on the topic in the late 1940s. Janowitiz continued to work in this area in his sociological work, as the disruptive policy of frequently rotating individual soldiers and officer
Officer (armed forces)
An officer is a member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position...

s during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 came under scrutiny as a large factor behind low morale
Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used to describe the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others...


WWII and the Korean War era

Following the studies of several World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 armies, sociologists concluded that comrade
Comrade means "friend", "colleague", or "ally". The word comes from French camarade. The term is frequently used by left-wing organizations around the globe. "Comrade" has often become a stock phrase and form of address. This word has its regional equivalents available in many...

ly ties between small combat units is a decisive factor in providing good morale, cohesion, and organization framework.

The defeat of the Western forces by the poorly equipped Chinese
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...

 in the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 in 1950 further generated interest on the role of "human elements" on modern battlefields
Battlefields is a settlement in Mashonaland West province in Zimbabwe....

. Although Western armies traditionally created ties between soldiers through informal means such as teamwork
Teamwork is action performed by a team towards a common goal. A team consists of more than one person, each of whom typically has different responsibilities....

 or shared hardship
A hardship may mean:*hardship clause in contract law*undue hardship in employment law and other areas*extreme hardship in immigration law*hardship post in a foreign service*hardship in life...

s instilled by discipline
In its original sense, discipline is referred to systematic instruction given to disciples to train them as students in a craft or trade, or to follow a particular code of conduct or "order". Often, the phrase "to discipline" carries a negative connotation. This is because enforcement of order –...

, the Chinese army relied on formal methods to assimilate recruits into their units. The assimilation process involved features such as coercive persuasion, surveillance
Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people. It is sometimes done in a surreptitious manner...

, and political control, while military rank
Military rank
Military rank is a system of hierarchical relationships in armed forces or civil institutions organized along military lines. Usually, uniforms denote the bearer's rank by particular insignia affixed to the uniforms...

s and physical punishments were abolished to allow closer relations between officers and soldiers. The stringent assimilation methods allowed the Chinese to create high morale and cohesion compared to the Western forces, but the lack modern equipment and high casualty rates later resulted in a significant erosion of morale and cohesion as the Korean War dragged on. One of the worst cases of this erosion was the partial disintegration of the Chinese army during the spring offensive in May 1951.

The post-Vietnam War era

In the late 1980s, one researcher stated that, regardless of whether unit cohesion was an actual motivator
Motivation is the driving force by which humans achieve their goals. Motivation is said to be intrinsic or extrinsic. The term is generally used for humans but it can also be used to describe the causes for animal behavior as well. This article refers to human motivation...

 or merely a stabilizer, what mattered was that unit cohesion "enhanced fighting power", because it reduced "combat inhibitors (stress, fear, isolation)" and promoted "esprit de corps, morale and teamwork". Other research has, however, concluded that there is value in distinguishing the components of social cohesion and "[t]ask cohesion ... the commitment to working together on a shared goal", since some studies conclude that unit effectiveness
Effectiveness is the capability of producing a desired result. When something is deemed effective, it means it has an intended or expected outcome, or produces a deep, vivid impression.-Etymology:...

 correlates strongly with task cohesion, not with social cohesion.

One US military researcher has drawn a distinction between teamwork and unit cohesion—claiming teamwork as being merely "collaboration
Collaboration is working together to achieve a goal. It is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals, — for example, an intriguing endeavor that is creative in nature—by sharing...

", while unit cohesion involves a bond that can sustain mutual commitment, not just to the mission, but to each other, and to the group as a whole. This added bond, he argued, enabled teamwork under conditions under which an organization might otherwise break down.

Brian Mitchell, in his article "Women Make Poor Soldiers" (excerpted from his 1989 book "Weak Link: The Feminization of the American Military"), expressed concern that placing women in combat lowers unit cohesion, either due to sexual relationships taking priority over group loyalty, or because men would feel obliged to be more protective of women than other men. Mitchell's view was harshly criticized in a New York Times review, which stated the book was "spoiled by intemperate allegations and a supercilious tone" and lacked sourcing for statements.

Unit cohesion and the "Don't ask, don't tell" controversy

Conservative commentary in the U.S. tends toward the view that the service of gays in the military is deleterious to essential components of unit cohesion, such as moral and discipline.

External links

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