The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H208: Feel Lucky?

The title of a famous book on the battle of Midway Island is “Miracle at Midway,” indicating the degree to which “luck” played a role in the US victory in the battle. How do you feel about luck in military operations? Clausewitz called it chance –and recognized that it had a role in determining the outcome. Jomini might have said that things like luck and chance play on both sides and cancel each other out and therefore are irrelevant. Where do you stand? Also, how do you think the role of chance or luck should be addressed in PME or should it be addressed at all?

January 30, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

H210: 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?

In the case of airpower doctrine, the US Air Force strategic bombing campaign in Europe achieved great results by forcing the destruction of the Luftwaffe. However, it did not achieve its primary doctrinal objective –force the German government to surrender. On the other hand, strategic airpower, armed with atomic weapons, did cause the Japanese to surrender. Did WWII prove that airpower doctrine, as advocated by Generals Billy Mitchell and Douhet, was effective?

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 30, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

H209: Doctrine versus Technology

In the video above, virtually none of the technology, or even the tactics techniques and procedures used to attack Iwo Jima were available seven years earlier when the Marines issued their 1938 manual on landing operations.

In the interwar years the Germans and the U.S. Marine Corps developed concepts for operations (doctrine) before they developed the enabling technology.  Ultimately, the doctrine would not have been successful without the technologies that were added later.  However, without the initial doctrine the technologies may  not have ever been developed, or may have been utilized in a different way.  Is this the right way to transform?  Should doctrine always precede technology?  Are there situations where technology should precede doctrine?   Which comes first in the U.S. military today?

January 30, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

H207: The Failure of Barbarossa

Russland-Süd (Don, Stalingrad), Panzer IIIGerman army doctrine in World War II, famously known as Blitzkrieg, contributed to rapid and decisive victory in Poland and France, 1939-1940.  Encouraged by the validation of their doctrine, German leaders embarked on a campaign to conquer the Soviet Union in 1941:  Operation Barbarossa.  Begun in June 1941, the campaign to defeat the USSR was a failure by December 1941 when the Soviet counterattack drove the Germans back from the approaches to Moscow.  A number of reasons are cited for the failure of the campaign:  lack of a clear strategic end state; lack of a clear military objective; failures of intelligence to understand the size and adaptability of the Soviet Army; the logistics failure to support the troops rapid movement, bridge the geographic distances, and support winter operations; a cultural inability of the German high command to think in global strategic terms; and the ability of the Red Army to trade space for time to replenish losses of the opening months of the war.  Which reason do you think is the single most important to the failure of the German campaign and why?

January 30, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

H207: Is There a Strategist in the House?

russia 1941One of the reasons why the German offensive into Russia in 1941, Operation Barbarossa, failed, may have been the cultural inability of the German high command to think in terms of, and visualize strategic warfare on a global scale.  The German military, prior to WWII, had very little experience with warfare outside of Europe.  Their major war experience was WWI and the primary focus of the German military in that war was in the relatively small geographic area of western Europe.  Thus, many students of World War II see the German military as experts at battle, experts at operational warfare, and complete failures as global strategists.  Today’s American army is similarly considered expert at battle and joint warfare.  Does the modern American military have a similar weakness when it comes to strategy?

January 30, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

H206: The French are Falling! The French are Falling!

       In May 1940 the German military conquered France in a matter of weeks. The new blitzkrieg doctrine was able to accomplish what they had been unable to do despite hundreds of thousands of lives lost in four years of World War I.   Was the new German military doctrine that good? Or, was the French internal political disunity, inability to exercise military command and leadership, poor understanding of new technologies and sub-standard small unit training so profound that they “lost” the battle for France more than the Germans won it?

January 30, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments