The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

My Doctrine Right or Wrong

The results of flawed doctrine: Unescorted Daylight Strategic Bombing

The focus of H200 was an analysis of how useful doctrine developed in peace time, based on previous war experience, proved to be in the conduct of operations in World War II.

 The history of interwar transformation and doctrine development process provides insights into the relationship of peacetime visions of future wars and the actual conduct of war.  In World War II the German army, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Army Air Force all attempted to execute doctrine developed in the years after WWI, on the battlefields of WWII.

 In some cases, blitzkrieg doctrine for example, the doctrine proved remarkably effective.  In other cases, the primacy of the battleship in navy doctrine for example, the doctrine failed to meet the requirements of modern war.   Were there organizational characteristics that permitted a particular service (the German army) to have an accurate understanding of tactical ground warfare, and another (the U.S. navy) fail to understand the importance of key technologies?

 Some observers believe that writing doctrine in peace time is a futile exercise because the lessons of history are such that the conditions of the next war will be completely different from the last war and impossible to predict.  Getting doctrine right is more luck than genius.  Thus only very multi-functional formations are of any use to the army of the future, and only vague, general and generic doctrine is appropriate for the current and future operating environment.  Do you agree or disagree?

 Are there doctrinal issues which our current military refuses to recognize because we have invested too much in organization, training, and equipment to change the doctrine at this point?  If so what are they and why are they flawed?


January 31, 2010 - Posted by | H200 | , , , , , , , ,


  1. I disagree that writing doctrine in peacetime is a futile effort. If you don’t take the time to develop doctrine when you have the time you sure won’t have the doctrine when you have no time like in war. I realize that many doctrines developed during the inter-war years were proven bad such as the Navy’s or some are at least suspect like the Air Force’s precision daylight bombing. But from these doctrinal developments evolved FRAGOs if you will to doctrine that led more quickly to TTPs on the fly that eventually led to success and ultimate victory on the battlefield. You have to wonder if we went into a conflict without any established doctrine would we have survived long enough on the battlefield to have developed doctrine that was proven under fire?

    Comment by Major Christopher "Kit" Johnson | February 1, 2010

  2. I don’t think that writing doctrine in peacetime is futile. However i beleive that writing precise docrtine is futile. The US Army Air force ended the war successful because it also had resources to adapt its doctrine. As a result of adapting, strategic bombing has stood the test of time. The US Marines had amphibious doctrine that I would classify as developing doctrine. If they did not know that it ws flawed, they found out soon. They continued to refine their doctrine until it was perfected. If the doctine had been used successfuly as it was written, its first failure may have been its last use. As for battleship doctrine, almost all countries found themselves with very expensive warships that were suddenly obsolete, and were not adaptable to the new doctrine. Today we are seeing many weapon systems cancelled or not even feilded due to cost combined with changing doctrine. Some examples are the Commanche and the F-22. I beleive that doctrine needs to be a working product and that needs to be written to be adaptable.

    Comment by MAJ Michael Roe | February 3, 2010

  3. Writing doctrine for the future is a futile exercise; it can only ever be a best guess. Less than ten years ago western armed forces organized themselves for large scale MCO and small scale limited intervention expeditionary warfare. One day in September nine years ago changed all that. My point is that although we must focus our doctrinal development on what the soothsayers forecast for the future threats we face, it’s not set in stone. As a result our doctrine should be broad based and far reaching. Good doctrine is developed after the event, when we know what the threat is and, more importantly, what we need to do to defeat it. To say that there isn’t time to write doctrine when at war is short sighted. Just look at all the work being spewed forth by CAC at the moment…

    Comment by Maj S E A Cates British Army | February 14, 2010

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