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Scapegoats and heroes

Posted June. 11, 2019 07:30,   

Updated June. 11, 2019 07:30


The “Operation Market Garden,” which was masterminded by British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, was the largest airborne operation involving the best airborne troops from both the Britain and the U.S. The plan was to have airborne troops take over the key bridges in the Netherlands, a country with many canals and narrow roads, and have ground troops led by armored forces pass through the country into Germany.

Although it was full of imagination, this operation, which seems impracticable even in a computer game, ended up as a tragedy. In particular, the British 1st Airborne Division, which spearheaded the plan, was nearly put to rout.

The Field Marshal Montgomery was accountable for the failure but got off the hook. It was Major-General Roy Urquhart who took all the blame. He was a passionate and great general but did not have any experience with airborne troops. Polish General Sosabowski was made a scapegoat for the failure as well. He had predicted that the operation would fail and sacrificed half of his men to rescue the British 1st Airborne Division but was discharged from the army against his wishes.

The movie “A Bridge Too Far,” which depicts the story of the failed operation, suggested that Urquhart and Sosabowski were not guilty by casting Sean Connery, who always plays a heroic role, as Urquhart and Gene Hackman as Sosabowski.

Finding a scapegoat has been common across the ages and in all countries of the world. Leaders are often made a scapegoat for something he or she is not responsible for. But a narrow-minded leader often turns a hero into a scapegoat in order to conceal his or her mistakes. More seriously, they neither want to analyze the reasons for the failure nor come up with solutions.

Similar incidents have occurred in our history as well. During the Qing invasion of Joseon in 1636, a defense general took all the blame for the loss of the Uiju Fortress. The problems revealed were not dealt with and countermeasures were not established. What if similar tragedies happen again? There is always someone to blame for. Finding a scapegoat prevents the birth of new heroes. Maybe that is why we do not see heroes nowadays.