The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H205: By Land or By Sea!

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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?

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December 16, 2016 Posted by | H200, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

H204: The Naval Air Force

During the years 1919 to 1941 Naval Aviation carved out a place for itself in the Navy by being a member of the battleship team.  Naval aviation supported the battleship-centric fleet by finding the enemy fleet, fixing and harassing the enemy fleet through air attack, and defending the fleet from enemy air.  WWII forced navies around the world to recognize that airpower at sea had become the dominant capability of naval forces.  As a result, the aircraft carrier became the center of naval strategy, operations, tactics and force development.   However, the rise of the aircraft carrier in the US miltiary during WWII occured in an enviroment in which a US Air Force did not exist.  How did the absence of a US Air Force help the development of Naval Aviation in the US in the interwar years?

The first clash between the US Air Force and Naval Aviation over roles, missions, and most importantly, budget, occured after the draw-down of the US miltiary after WWII and was known as the “Revolt of the Admirals.”  Are we destined for another revolt of the Admirals?  What is the core capability of Naval Aviation today and is it worth the cost in the budget of maintaining a fleet built around aircraft carriers?  What does the aircraft carrier provide the US military that is unique and different from what the Air Force is capable of?  Should todays US Navy be built around a unique naval capability such as the submarine, rather than the aircraft carrier which seems to perform a similar role as the US Air Force?

December 16, 2016 Posted by | H200, military history, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

H203: The Advocate and Air Power

The transformation case study of the US Army Air Corps in the interwar years focused largely on the personality of BG William “Billy” Mitchell.  He has since then been considered one of the “fathers” of the modern US Air Force.  Was he really a positive  force for the transformation of the Air Force?  Could his efforts have been more effective if he had worked inside the structure of the military as did his superior, Major General Mason Patrick, the Chief of the Air Service?

Air power doctrine as advocated by Italian theorist Giulio Douhet, Hugh Trenchard, and Billy Mitchell predicted essentially that decisive strategic effects could be achieved from air.  In other words, air power was capable of winning wars without the assistance of the other services.  This theory has been echoed by modern US Air Force leaders such as Air Force Chiefs of Staffs Michael J. Dugan and Merrill A. McPeak.  These ideas have been detailed in such popular discussions of air strategy as The Air Campaign and Shock and Awe.  Can air power win wars decisively and at low cost in some cases?  If it can not, what capability justifies a separate Air Force?  If it can, does that argue against jointness as central component of US military doctrine?

December 16, 2016 Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , | 5 Comments

H202: Tanks for the Memories

One of the most dramatic transformation that occurred in the interwar years was the transformation of ground combat.  The attrition focused stalemate of the trenches evolved into a new dramatic form of maneuver warfare developed primarily in Germany.  When it was executed during the opening months of WWII it was popularly called blitzkrieg and military professionals and the general public alike associated the technology of the main battle tank with this new form of warfare.  Was the main battle tank the key enabling technological component of blitzkrieg or was it something else?  Was technology really the most important aspect of blitzkrieg?  How would you describe the importance of doctrine and leadership, including the idea of mission command,  to the blitzkrieg concept.    Finally, was blitzkrieg really a new way of war, or simply a better way to prosecute an old way of war?

December 16, 2016 Posted by | H200, military history, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

H201 Driving Transformation

A variety of factors influence transformation. Usually, however, one factor is the initiator. For example and obvious dangerous threat which has defeated a country in the past could be the factor which initiates the transformation process. Once that initiator is successful in “kick-starting” the transformation process the remaining factors interact with each other dynamically to eventually achieve the end result product of transformation. Which of the factors was the most important for starting the transformation process during the interwar years? In some countries and military services transformation did not occur, or failed to transform into a successful form. In the interwar years what factor was the most important to inabling or preventing successful transformation? The dynamics that effected transformation in the interwar years continue to effect transformation today. Which is the most important factor effecting transformation in the U.S. military today?

November 30, 2016 Posted by | H200, leadership, military history, Professional Military Education, 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?

February 9, 2016 Posted by | H200, military history, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

H209 Doctrine Vs 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?

February 9, 2016 Posted by | H200, military history, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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?

February 9, 2016 Posted by | H200, military history, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 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?

February 9, 2016 Posted by | H200, Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments

Doctrine versus Technology H209

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?

February 13, 2015 Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment