The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Doctrine after Vietnam

 Lieutenant General John H. Cushman, Combined Arms Center (CAC)Commander 1973-1976, and General William E. DePuy, US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Commander 1973-1976, had dyametrically opposed views of the purpose and nature of army doctrine. Ultimately, General Depuy’s view won out, resulting in the ineffective 1976 FM 100-5 focused on the concept of the “Active Defense.” General Cushman’s opposing view which included a nuanced view of war-fighting; emphasized education over training; and focused on creative thinking over predictable solutions, was the loser. Depuy’s view is largely credited with setting the conditions for the transformation to the successful “Airland Battle” doctrine of the 1980s. Did the army make an error following Depuy’s doctrinal view, and how does this debate provide insights into the on-going doctrinal transformation of the 21st Century? Was Depuy just “Lucky” that his active defense doctrine was never tested in battle?  Should doctrine be focused solely on its warfighting utility or should it be a multi-demensional tool of the institutional army that facilitiates training, force development, procurement, and leader development as well as warfighting?

March 7, 2013 - Posted by | H300, leadership, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I think that for its time, Depuy’s strategy served its purpose. We have to remember that at this time, the Army was so disorganized that the most critical point was to find a way to get it back on its feet. When you have various units either outright or on the verge of conducting mutiny, it was a bridge too far to try to inculcate the type of critical thinking that Cushman envisioned. While Cushman’s ideas were sound, they were more suited to a highly-disciplined force versus the one that existed at the time. Conscription may have been over but the vestiges of that process were still around. I think that Depuy was mainly looking for a way to reverse the downward trend that had been steadily developing within the Army during the previous few years. That training strategy was able to do that, and essentially get the Army moving back towards being a fighting force.

    Comment by Bradley | March 15, 2013

  2. While doctrine gives us a standardized “way” of fighting a war, it can also serve to organize the force both in task organization and in training standards. Having grown up in the Army of Airland Battle, I appreciated the clear standards for training Soldiers it spelled out. I could take comfort in knowing that Soldiers throughout the Army were being trained on the same tasks and the standards of performance were the same. No matter what installation I went to, I could immediately contribute to the unit based on the training I recieved at my last post. While doctrine can also be used to shape the procurement process, I think it is vital that the development of new systems must meet the legitimate threats identified on the world stage. We should never develop and buy weapons systems and platforms then seek threts to match our new gear. That would be a significant violation of the trust the American people have for us.

    Comment by Vincent Amerena | March 20, 2013

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