The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H205: By Land or By Sea!


The transformation model proposed by miltiary historians Allan Millet and Williamson Murray proposes a number of different factors that can influence an organization’s ability to be innovative and transform itself.  What factors do you think most influenced the USMC’s adoption of amphibious warfare doctrine in the interwar years?  In particular, was the USMC more driven by war plans and the nature of the threat than it was by the very real possibility that budget constraints might eliminate it as an organization?  In an era of real budget restrictions that the US military will face in the future, what core capability does the modern USMC bring to the table?  Does that capability warrant a USMC that is 25% the size of the army?  Will there be a future fight over the USMC and its mission or is the USMC so much of a part of the American military tradition that it doesn’t have to justify its mission?

December 16, 2016 - Posted by | H200, Uncategorized


  1. The doctrine published by the USMC in 1938 served to provide a detailed list of required capabilities for amphibious operations. During the interwar years, the USMC had to be prepared for amphibious operations at any location around the world and their incredible foresight in their doctrine provided them minimal lag time when requesting capabilities. When the U.S. entered WWII, there were some capabilities already in place but it took several years before the USMC possessed the capability to conduct a purely opposed amphibious landing. The modern USMC still battles with budget constraints with particular emphasis on their air capabilities. They had a valid argument when they began USMC aviation, but now based upon their decisions with the F-35B, the entire service is once again at risk due to cost overruns. There is absolutely a valid need for the USMC but based upon today’s capabilities in aircraft, especially from the USN, it becomes more difficult to make the same argument for their aviation assets that they have in the past.

    Comment by Justin Reddick | January 4, 2017

  2. Amphibious assault is a special skill that has been mastered by the USMC. They are a smaller force with a specific skillset that will be needed at all times because the earth is nearly 75% water meaning there is a lot of coastline. The marines are not the Army; they do not have the logistics to stay in country for months to years on end. They are built to figuratively “kick the door in” by storming the beach. Getting a foothold on land and moving out once the Army is in place. This necessitates that they be a smaller fighting force. What the Marines do takes extensive training and due to that, their numbers do not need to be as high as the Army. In a budget-constrained environment, I would recommend that the Marines stay the same and if any service needs to downsize (not that any should) it could be the Army. .

    Comment by Jeffery Hoover | January 27, 2017

  3. The USMC’s assumption of amphibious warfare doctrine was borne primarily out of a necessity to fight for its survival during the drawdown that characterized the interwar period after WWI. LTG John Lejeune, himself a USMC veteran or WWI where he had served with distinction and forged relationships with many prominent Army leaders, led the charge for the USMC to adopt amphibious warfare largely because he was personally dissatisfied with the typical missions associated with the USMC prior to WWI (limited ground presence during the Veracruz landing, embassy missions, etc.) and because he wanted to carve out a niche for the Corps to secure its future/relevancy. His motivations were driven foremost by these desires as opposed to the presence of an actual threat. Consequently, it fell on Lejeune to “message” the requirement and socialize/advertise his ideas with the military elite (many of whom were friends from WWI or knew of his distinguished service). These motivations established the USMC as the proponent for amphibious warfare during the interwar period.

    Comment by Scott Harr | January 28, 2017

  4. Scott, I agree with you.The necessity, the military culture, and the nature of the threat were the main factors that influenced the USMC’s adoption of amphibious warfare doctrine the most in the interwar period. The USMC was driven by the limited budget which decreased its capability as an organization, however, this limited budget did not stop its innovation, but it actually increased it. The USMC necessity to fight for its survival during the drawdown that occurred during the interwar period pushed them to find a solution to accomplish their mission. The modern USMC is still has a great capability, however, if the USMC has a bigger budget it will increase these capabilities. There are many examples of the capabilities that the USMC brings to the US military to date, like its prompt ability to employ, the massing firepower, and in addition, it is considered one of the agilest forces in the US military. These capabilities warrant a USMC that is 25% the size of the army, and if USMC does not exist to this size or even bigger the US military will not be able to accomplish its strategic mission with the same efficiency. If there is a need to decrease the size of the US military, it should happen to any of the other services especially the Army but not the USMC under any circumstance. In my perceptive, there will be a future fight over the USMC and its mission especially if we track the current crisis that is happening now, we will find why the USMC is very important. In addition, and as Jeffery Hoover said the water occupy 71% of the total size of the Earth, so a lot of amphibious missions will be needed. That is why the US military should think in increasing the size of the USMC not decreasing it.

    Comment by mohamed ibrahim | January 30, 2017

  5. The USMC have 3 elements assuring its being that would preclude its decommission as a force.
    1. The American public likes the Marines for multiple reasons but specially for their historical contributions on the battle field.
    2. Even during budget restrictions, it seems that the USMC always have a great commercial in the airwaves showcasing the “Marine” and his/her interconnection with an American society that sees their reflection in each of these individuals. The propaganda machine of the USMC is very successful.
    3. Finally, the Marine Corps have something that no other service has… the United States Navy. This historical partnership has created a symbiotic relationship that has formed capacity since its inception. The Navy expends millions of dollars refitting old amphibious ships to ensure the Marines maintain that unique capability. Furthermore, the sea going service has approved additional budgets to construct another LPD-17 San Antonio Class ship to replace older models of the LPD-4 Austin Class ship. In addition, the Navy has transfer older F-18 models planes to the Marines to improved their CAS capacity. Finally, the Navy has bypass the F-22 in order to procure more F-35 that can be utilize onboard carriers because Marine pilots are Naval aviators.
    At the end, the USMC will adapt and overcome any changes to the current fiscal environment and once more will create a partnership with the Navy to offer a flexible and agile deployable force that can react to any crisis by building on pre-established combat packages (MAGTF, MEU, MEB and MEF).

    Comment by Diego Alvarado | February 4, 2017

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: