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  1. HaraKiriBlade's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Korean
      • Home Country:
      • South Korea
      • Current Location:
      • South Korea

    • Join Date: Apr 2005
    • Posts: 449
    #1

    men are not ciphers

    No staff and command college in the world teaches that a military force with not quite two-to-one numerical superiority has any assurance of success. An attacking force needs heavy superiority in numbers. But staff and command colleges teach also that men are not ciphers. Fighting against great odds, American fighting men have proved that fact time and again. Again and again they have defeated foes vastly superior in manpower.
    But in Korea in July 1950, before Taejon, the American 24th Division was on the brink of disaster, and not because of the enemy's numbers.
    Taken from This Kind of War, T. R. Fehrenbach, 1963.

    I have looked up the word cipher and it means either nothing (as in nothing of significance) or numerical numbers. I can't quite figure out in this context whether 'men are not ciphers' means they are not insignificant and their presence actually matters or it means they are not just numerical figures.

    I hope you all had a merry Christmas / holiday.

    - HKB

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Portuguese
      • Home Country:
      • Brazil
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Jun 2009
    • Posts: 1,517
    #2

    Re: men are not ciphers

    Quote Originally Posted by HaraKiriBlade View Post
    Taken from This Kind of War, T. R. Fehrenbach, 1963.

    I have looked up the word cipher and it means either nothing (as in nothing of significance) or numerical numbers. I can't quite figure out in this context whether 'men are not ciphers' means they are not insignificant and their presence actually matters or it means they are not just numerical figures.

    I hope you all had a merry Christmas / holiday.

    - HKB
    Numerical numbers!
    Men are not ciphers means here that you cannot decide who will win a battle by simply relying in which side has a more numerous army. There are other factor to be considered, not only mere the number of soldiers envolved.

    PS Not a native speaker


    • Join Date: Oct 2006
    • Posts: 19,434
    #3

    Re: men are not ciphers

    In this context, "cipher" has nothing to do with numerals. It is this: cipher - Definition of cipher noun (PERSON) from Cambridge Dictionary Online: Free English Dictionary and Thesaurus

    It means that these men cannot be discounted as of no importance.

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