United States Marine Corps, 1989
This is the original version of the US Marine Corps' basic military
philosophical manual, Warfighting. It was drafted by Captain John Schmitt
under the direction of the USMC Commandant, General Alfred M. Gray. It is
essentially a tight summary of Carl von Clausewitz's On War, with a
strong flavoring from the Chinese military sage Sun Tzu, a heavy bias toward
maneuver warfare, and many reflections of Marine Corps culture. It was replaced
in 1997 by its direct descendant, MCDP 1:
Warfighting, also drafted by John Schmitt. The original remains
valuable, and it is interesting to compare it with its successor.
This book describes my philosophy on warfighting. It is the Marine Corps'
doctrine and, as such, provides the authoritative basis for how we fight and how
we prepare to fight.
By design, this is a small book and easy to read. It is not intended as a
reference manual, but is designed to be read from cover to cover. There is a
natural progression to its four chapters. Chapter 1 describes our understanding
of the characteristics, problems, and demands of war. Chapter 2 derives a theory
about war based on that understanding. This theory in turn provides the
foundation for how we prepare for war and how we wage war, chapters 3 and 4
You will notice that this book does not contain specific techniques and
procedures for conduct. Rather, it provides broad guidance in the form of
concepts and values. It requires judgment in application.
I expect every officer to read--and reread--this book, understand it, and
take its message to heart. The thoughts contained here represent not just
guidance for actions in combat, but a way of thinking in general. This manual
thus describes a philosophy for action which, in war and in peace, in the field
and in the rear, dictates our approach to duty.
A.M. GRAY General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commandant of the Marine Corps
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. The Nature of
War Defined - Friction - Uncertainty - Fluidity - Disorder -The
Human Dimension - Violence and Danger - Moral and Physical Forces - The
Evolution of War - Art and Science of War
Chapter 2. The Theory of
War as an Instrument of Policy - Means in War - The Spectrum of
Conflict - Levels of War - Offense and Defense - Styles of Warfare - Combat
Power - Concentration and Speed - Surprise and Boldness - Exploiting
Vulnerability and Opportunity
Chapter 3. Preparing for
Planning - Organization - Doctrine - Leadership - Training -
Professional Military Education - Equipping
Chapter 4. The Conduct of
The Challenge - Maneuver Warfare - Philosophy of Command -
Shaping the Battle - Decision Making - Mission Tactics - Commander's Intent -
Focus of Effort - Surfaces and Gaps - Combined Arms
Ask Any Marine
Chapter 1. THE NATURE OF WAR
"Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The
difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is
inconceivable unless one has experienced war."
--Carl von Clausewitz
"In war the chief incalculable is the human will."
--B. H. Liddell
"Positions are seldom lost because they have been destroyed, but almost
invariably because the leader has decided in his own mind that the position
cannot be held."
--A. A. Vandegrift
To understand the Marine Corps' philosophy of
warfighting, we first need an appreciation for the nature of war itself--its
moral and physical characteristics and demands. A common view among Marines of
the nature of war is a necessary base for the development of a cohesive
War is a state of hostilities that exists between or among nations,
characterized by the use of military force. The essence of war is a violent
clash between two hostile, independent and irreconcilable wills, each trying to
impose itself on the other.
Thus, the object of war is to impose our will on
our enemy. The means to that end is the organized application or threat of
violence by military force.
disagreements cannot be settled through peaceful means, such as diplomacy,
nations resort to war. Nations not at war with one another can be said to be at
peace. However, absolute war and peace rarely exist in practice. Rather, they
are extremes between which exist the relations among most nations. The need to
resort to military force of some kind may arise at any point within these
extremes, even during periods of relative peace. Thus, for our purposes war may
range from intense clashes between large military forces--backed by an official
declaration of war--to covert hostilities which barely reach the threshold of
So portrayed, war appears a simple enterprise. But in practice, because of
the countless factors that impinge on it, the conduct of war becomes extremely
difficult. These factors collectively have been called friction, which
Clausewitz described as "the force that makes the apparently easy so difficult."
Friction is the force that resists all action. It makes the simple difficult and
the difficult seemingly impossible.
essence of war as a clash between opposed wills creates friction. It is critical
to keep in mind that the enemy is not an inanimate object but an independent and
animate force. The enemy seeks to resist our will and impose his own will on us.
It is the dynamic interplay between his will and ours that makes war difficult
and complex. In this environment, friction abounds.
Friction may be mental,
as in indecision over a course of action. Or it may be physical, as in effective
enemy fire or a terrain obstacle that must be overcome. Friction may be
external, imposed by enemy action, the terrain, weather, or mere chance. Or
friction may be self-induced, caused by such factors as lack of a clearly
defined goal, lack of coordination, unclear or complicated plans, complex task
organizations or command relationships, or complicated communication systems.
Whatever form it takes, because war is a human enterprise, friction will always
have a psychological as well as a physical impact.
While we should attempt
to minimize self-induced friction, the greater requirement is to fight
effectively within the medium of friction. The means to overcome friction is the
will; we prevail over friction through persistent strength of mind and spirit.
While striving to overcome the effects of friction ourselves, we must attempt at
the same time to raise our enemy's friction to a level that destroys his ability
We can readily identify countless
examples of friction, but until we have experienced it ourselves, we cannot hope
to appreciate it fully. Only through experience can we come to appreciate the
force of will necessary to overcome friction and to develop a realistic
appreciation for what is possible in war and what is not. While training should
attempt to approximate the conditions of war, we must realize it can never fully
duplicate the level of friction of real combat.
The next attribute of the environment of war is uncertainty. We might argue
that uncertainty is just one of many sources of friction, but because it is such
a pervasive trait of war we will treat it singly.
All actions in war take place in an atmosphere of uncertainty- -the fog of war.
Uncertainty pervades battle in the form of unknowns about the enemy, about the
environment, and even about the friendly situation. While we try to reduce these
unknowns by gathering information, we must realize we cannot eliminate them. The
very nature of war makes absolute certainty impossible; all actions in war will
be based on incomplete, inaccurate, or even contradictory information.
best, we can hope to determine probabilities. This implies a certain standard of
military judgment: what is probable and what is not? Through this judgment of
probability we make an estimate of our enemy's designs and act accordingly. But,
having said this, we also realize that it is precisely those actions which fall
outside the realm of probability that often have the greatest impact on the
outcome of war.
We must learn to fight in an
environment of uncertainty, which we can do by developing simple, flexible
plans; planning for contingencies; developing standing operating procedures; and
fostering initiative among subordinates.
nature, uncertainty invariably involves the estimation and acceptance of risk.
Risk is inherent in war and is involved in every mission. Risk is also related
to gain; normally, greater potential gain requires greater risk. Further, risk
is equally common to action and inaction. The practice of concentrating combat
power at the focus of effort necessitates the willingness to accept prudent
risk. However, we should clearly understand that the acceptance of risk does not
equate to the imprudent willingness to gamble the entire likelihood of success
on a single improbable event.
Part of risk is the
ungovernable element of chance. The element of chance is a universal
characteristic of war and a continuous source of friction. Chance consists of
turns of events that cannot reasonably be foreseen and over which we and our
enemy have no control. The uncontrollable potential for chance along creates
psychological friction. We should remember that chance favors neither
belligerent exclusively. Consequently, we must view chance not only as a threat
but also as an opportunity, which we must be ever ready to exploit.
Like friction and uncertainty, fluidity is an integral attribute of the
nature of war. Each episode in war is the temporary result of a unique
combination of circumstances, requiring an original solution. But no episode can
be viewed in isolation. Rather, each merges with those that precede and follow
it -- shaped by the former and shaping the conditions of the latter -- creating
a continuous, fluctuating fabric of activity replete with fleeting opportunities
and unforeseen events. Success depends in large part on the ability to adapt to
a constantly changing situation.
It is physically
impossible to sustain a high tempo of activity indefinitely, although clearly
there will be times when it is advantageous to push men and equipment to the
limit. Thus, the tempo of war will fluctuate--from periods of intense activity
to periods in which activity is limited to information gathering, replenishment,
or redeployment. Darkness and weather can influence the tempo of war but need
not halt it. A competitive rhythm will develop between the opposing wills, with
each belligerent trying to influence and exploit tempo and the continuous flow
of events to suit his purposes.
In an environment of friction, uncertainty, and fluidity, war gravitates
naturally toward disorder. Like the other attributes of the environment of war,
disorder is an integral characteristic of war; we can never eliminate it. In the
heat of battle, plans will go awry, instructions and information will be unclear
and misinterpreted, communications will fail, and mistakes and unforeseen events
will be commonplace. It is precisely this natural disorder which creates the
conditions ripe for exploitation by an opportunistic will.
Each encounter in war will usually tend to grow
increasingly disordered over time. As the situation changes continuously, we are
forced to improvise again and again until finally our actions have little, if
any, resemblance to the original scheme.
By historical standards, the modern
battlefield is particularly disorderly. While past battlefields could be
described by linear formations and uninterrupted linear fronts, we cannot think
of today's battlefield in linear terms. The range and lethality of modern
weapons has increased dispersion between units. In spite of communications
technology, this dispersion strains the limits of positive control. The natural
result of dispersion is unoccupied areas, gaps, and exposed flanks which can and
will be exploited, blurring the distinction between front and rear and friendly-
and enemy-controlled areas.
The occurrences of war
will not unfold like clockwork. Thus, we cannot hope to impose precise, positive
control over events. The best we can hope for is to impose a general framework
of order on the disorder, to prescribe the general flow of action rather than to
try to control each event.
If we are to win, we
must be able to operate in a disorderly environment. In fact, we must not only
be able to fight effectively in the face of disorder, we should seek to generate
disorder for our opponent and use it as a weapon against him.
THE HUMAN DIMENSION
Because war is a clash between opposing human wills, the human dimension is
central in war. It is the human dimension which infuses war with its intangible
moral factors. War is shaped by human nature and is subject to the complexities,
inconsistencies, and peculiarities which characterize human behavior. Since war
is an act of violence based on irreconcilable disagreement, it will invariably
inflame and be shaped by human emotions.
War is an
extreme trial of moral and physical strength and stamina. Any view of the nature
of war would hardly be accurate or complete without consideration of the effects
of danger, fear, exhaustion, and privation on the men who must do the fighting.
However, these effects vary greatly from case to case. Individuals and peoples
react differently to the stress of war; an act that may break the will of one
enemy may only serve to stiffen the resolve of another.
No degree of technological development or
scientific calculation will overcome the human dimension in war. Any doctrine
which attempts to reduce warfare to ratios of forces, weapons, and equipment
neglects the impact of the human will on the conduct of war and is therefore
VIOLENCE AND DANGER
War is among the greatest horrors known to mankind; it should never be
romanticized. The means of war is force, applied in the form of organized
violence. It is through the use of violence--or the credible threat of violence,
which requires the apparent willingness to use it--that we compel our enemy to
do our will. In either event, violence is an essential element of war, and its
immediate result is bloodshed, destruction, and suffering. While the magnitude
of violence may vary with the object and means of war, the violent essence of
war will never change. Any study of war that neglects this characteristic is
misleading and incomplete.
Since war is a violent
enterprise, danger is a fundamental characteristic of war. And since war is a
human phenomenon, fear--the human reaction to danger--has a significant impact
on the conduct of war. All men feel fear. Leadership must foster the courage to
overcome fear, both individually and within the unit. Courage is not the absence
of fear; rather, it is the strength to overcome fear.
Leaders must study fear, understand it, and be
prepared to cope with it. Like fear, courage takes many forms, from a stoic
courage born of reasoned calculation to a fierce courage born of heightened
emotion. Experience under fire generally increases courage, as can realistic
training by lessening the mystique of combat. Strong leadership which earns the
respect and trust of subordinates can limit the effects of fear. Leaders should
develop unit cohesion and esprit and the self-confidence of individuals within
the unit. In this environment a Marine's unwillingness to violate the respect
and trust of his peers will overcome personal fear.
MORAL AND PHYSICAL FORCES
War is characterized by the interaction of both moral and physical forces.
The physical characteristics of war are generally easily seen, understood, and
measured: hardware, technology, physical objectives seized, force ratios, losses
of material or life, terrain lost or gained, prisoners or materiel captured. The
moral characteristics are less tangible. (The term moral as used here is not
restricted to ethics--although ethics are certainly included--but pertains to
those forces of psychological rather than tangible nature, to include the mental
aspects of war. Moral forces are difficult to grasp and impossible to quantify.
We cannot easily gauge forces like national and military resolve, national or
individual conscience, emotion, fear, courage, morale, leadership, or esprit.
Yet moral forces exert a greater influence on the nature and outcome of war than
do physical. This is not to lessen the importance of physical forces, for the
physical forces in war can have a significant impact on the moral. For example,
the greatest effect of fires on the enemy is generally not the amount of
physical destruction they cause, but the effect of that physical destruction on
his moral strength.
Because the moral forces of war
are difficult to come to grips with, it is tempting to exclude them from our
study of war. However, any doctrine or theory of war that neglects these factors
ignores the greater part of the nature of war.
THE EVOLUTION OF WAR
War is both timeless and ever changing. While the basic nature of war is
constant, the means and methods we use evolve continuously. These changes may be
gradual in some cases and drastic in others. Drastic changes in the nature of
war are the result of developments that dramatically upset the equilibrium of
war, such as the rifled bore and the railroad.
One major catalyst of changes
is the advancement of technology. As the physical hardware of war improves
through technological development, so must the tactical, operational, and
strategic usage of those means adapt to the improved capabilities-- both to
maximize our capabilities and to counteract our enemy's.
We must stay abreast of this process of change, for
the belligerent who first exploits a development in the art and science of war
gains a significant, if not decisive, advantage. Conversely, if we are ignorant
of the changing face of war, we will find ourselves unequal to its challenges.
ART AND SCIENCE OF WAR
From the discussion to this point, we can conclude that war demonstrates
characteristics of both art and science. Various aspects of war, particularly
its technical aspects, fall principally in the realm of science, which we will
describe as the methodical application of the empirical laws of nature. The
science of war includes those activities directly subject to the laws of
physics, chemistry, and like disciplines; for example, the application of fires,
the effects of weapons, and the rates and methods of movement and resupply.
However, these are among the components of war; they do not describe the whole
phenomenon. Owing to the vagaries of human behavior and the countless other
intangible factors which contribute to it, there is far more to the conduct of
war than can be explained by science. The science of war stops short of the need
for military judgment, the impact of moral forces, the influence of chance, and
other similar factors. We thus conclude that the conduct of war is ultimately an
art, an activity of human creativity and intuition powered by the strength of
the human will. The art of war requires the intuitive ability to grasp the
essence of a unique battlefield situation, the creative ability to devise a
practical solution, and the strength of purpose to execute the act.
At first glance, war seems a rather simple clash of interests. But at closer
examination, it takes shape as one of the most demanding and trying of man's
endeavors. Fog, friction, and chaos are its natural habitat. Each episode is the
unique product of the dynamic interaction of myriad moral and physical forces.
While founded on the laws of science, war demands, ultimately, the intuition and
creativity of art.
Chapter 2. THE THEORY OF WAR
"The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and
the means can never be considered in isolation from their purposes."
--Carl von Clausewitz
"Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the
attack. One defends when his strength is inadequate; he attacks when it is
"Battles are won by slaughter and manoeuvre. The greater the general, the
more he contributes in manoeuvre, the less he demands in slaughter."
Having arrived at a common view of the nature of
war, we proceed to develop from it a theory of war. Our theory of war will in
turn be the foundation for the way we prepare for and wage war.
WAR AS AN INSTRUMENT OF POLICY
War does not exist for its own sake. It is an extension of policy with
military force. The policy aim that is the motive for war must also be the
foremost determinant for the conduct of war. The single most important thought
to understand about our theory is that war must serve policy. As the policy aims
of war may vary from resistance against aggression to complete annihilation of
the enemy, so must the application of violence vary in accordance with those
aims. Of course, we may also have to adjust our policy objectives to accommodate
our means; we must not establish goals outside our capabilities.
When the policy motive of war is intense, such as
the annihilation of an enemy, then policy and war's natural military tendency
toward destruction will coincide, and the war will appear more military and less
political in nature. Onthe other hand, the less intense the policy motive, the
more the military tendency toward destruction will be at variance with that
motive, and the more political and less military the war will appear.
The aim in war is to achieve our will. The
immediate requirement is to overcome our enemy's ability to resist us, which is
a product of the physical means at his disposal and the strength of his will. We
must either eliminate his physical ability to resist or, short of this, we must
destroy his will to resist. In military terms, this means the defeat of the
enemy's fighting forces, but always in a manner and to a degree consistent with
the national policy objective.
MEANS IN WAR
At the national level, war involves the use of all the elements of national
power, including diplomacy, military force, economics, ideology, technology, and
culture. Our primary concern is with the use of military force as an instrument
of policy. But while we will focus on the use of military force, we must not
consider it in isolation from the other elements of national power. The use of
military force may take any number of forms, from intense warfare with
sophisticated weaponry to mere demonstrations. The principal means for the
application of military force is combat--violence in the form of armed conflict
between military or paramilitary forces.
THE SPECTRUM OF CONFLICT
Conflict can take a wide range of forms, constituting a spectrum which
reflects the magnitude of violence involved. At one end are those conflicts of
low intensity in which the application of military power is restrained and
selective. The other end of the spectrum represents conflicts of high intensity,
such as nuclear war. The place on the spectrum of a specific conflict depends on
several factors. Among them are policy objectives, military means available,
national will, and density of fighting forces or combat power on the
battlefield. In general, the greater the density, the more intense the conflict.
As a result, we may witness relatively intense actions within a low- intensity
conflict or relatively quiet sectors or phases in an intense war.
Low-intensity conflicts are more probable than
high-intensity conflicts. Many nations simply do not possess the military means
to wage war at the high end of the spectrum. And, unless national survival is at
stake, nations are generally unwilling to accept the risks associated with wars
of high intensity. However, a conflict's intensity may change over time.
Belligerents may escalate the level of violence if the original means do not
achieve the desired results. Similarly, wars may actually de-escalate over time;
for example, after an initial pulse of intense violence, the belligerents may
continue to fight on a lesser level, unable to sustain the initial level of
The Marine Corps, as the nation's force
in readiness, must have the versatility and flexibility to deal with military
and paramilitary situations across the entire spectrum of conflict. This is a
greater challenge than it may appear; conflicts of low intensity are not simply
lesser forms of high-intensity war. A modern military force capable of waging a
war of high intensity may find itself ill-prepared for a "small" war against a
poorly equipped guerilla force.
LEVELS OF WAR
War takes place simultaneously at several correlated levels, each with
differing ends, means, characteristics, and requirements.
Activities at the
strategic level focus directly on national policy objectives. Strategy applies
to peace as well as war. Within strategy we distinguish between national
strategy, which coordinates and focuses all the components of national power to
attain the policy objective, and military strategy, which is the application of
military force to secure the policy objective. Military strategy thus is
subordinate to national strategy. Strategy can be thought of as the art of
winning wars. Strategy establishes goals in theaters of war. It assigns forces,
provides assets, and imposes conditions on the use of force. Strategy derived
from national policy must be clearly understood to be the sole authoritative
basis of all operations.
Activities at the tactical
level of far focus on the application of combat power to defeat an enemy in
combat at a particular time and place. Tactics can be thought of as the art and
science of winning engagements and battles. It includes the use of firepower and
maneuver, the integration of different arms, and the immediate exploitation of
success to defeat the enemy. Included within the tactical level of war is the
sustainment of forces during combat. The tactical level also includes the
technical application of combat power, which consists of those techniques and
procedures for accomplishing specific tasks within a tactical action. These
techniques and procedures deal primarily with actions designed to enhance the
effects of fires or reduce the effects of enemy fires--methods such as the call
for fire, techniques of fire, the technical operation of weapons and equipment,
or tactical movement techniques. There is a certain overlap between tactics and
techniques. We make the point only to draw the distinction between tactics,
which are the product of judgment and creativity, and techniques and procedures,
which are generally performed by repetitive routine.
The Operational level of war links the strategic
and tactical levels. It is the use of tactical results to attain strategic
objectives. The operational level includes deciding when, where, and under what
conditions to engage the enemy in battle--and when, where, and under what
conditions to refuse battle--with reference to higher aims. Actions at this
level imply a broader dimension of time and space than do tactics. As strategy
deals with wars and tactics with battles and engagements, the operational level
of war is the art of winning campaigns. It means are tactical results, and its
end is the military strategic objective.
OFFENSE AND DEFENSE
Regardless of its type and nature of the level at which it is fought, combat
manifests itself in two different but complementary forms: the offense and the
defense. The offense and defense are24 neither mutually exclusive nor clearly
distinct; as we will see, each includes elements of the other.
The offense contributes striking power. The offense
generally has its aim some positive gain; it is through the offense that we seek
to impose some design on the enemy. The defense, on the other hand, contributes
resisting power, the ability to preserve and protect oneself. Thus, the defense
generally has a negative aim, that of resisting the enemy's will.
The defense is inherently the stronger form of
combat. Were this not the case, there would be no reason ever to assume the
defensive. The offense, with its positive aim, would always be preferable. But
in fact, if we are weaker than our enemy, we assume the defensive to compensate
for our weakness. Similarly, if we are to mount an offensive to impose our will,
we must develop enough force to overcome the inherent superiority of the enemy's
At least one party to a conflict must have
an offensive intention, for without the desire to impose upon the other there
would be no conflict. Similarly, the second party must at least possess a
defensive desire, for without the willingness to resist there again would be no
conflict. We can imagine a conflict in which both parties possess an offensive
intention. But after the initial clash one of them must assume a defensive
posture out of weakness until able to resume the offensive.
This leads us to the conclusion that while the
defense is the stronger form of combat, the offense is the preferred form, for
only through the offense can we truly pursue a positive aim. We resort to the
defensive when weakness compels.
forms, the offense and defense are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they cannot
exist separately. For example, the defense cannot be purely passive resistance.
An effective defense must assume an offensive character, striking at the enemy
at the moment of his greatest vulnerability. It is "not a simple shield, but a
shield made up of well-directed blows." The truly decisive element of the
defense is the counterattack. Thus, the offense is an integral component of the
concept of the defense.
Similarly, the defense is
an essential component of the offense. The offense cannot sustain itself
indefinitely. At some times and places, it becomes necessary to halt the offense
to replenish, and the defense automatically takes over. Furthermore, the
requirement to concentrate forces at the focus of effort for the offense often
necessitates assuming the defensive elsewhere. Therefore, out of necessity we
must include defensive considerations as part of our concept of the offense.
This brings us to the concept of the culminating
point, without which our understanding of the relationship between the offense
and defense would be incomplete. Not only can the offense not sustain itself
indefinitely, it generally grows weaker as it advances. Certain moral factors,
such as morale or boldness, may increase with a successful attack, but these
generally cannot compensate for the physical losses involved in sustaining an
advance in the face of resistance. We advance at a cost--lives, fuel,
ammunition, physical and sometimes moral strength--and so the attack becomes
weaker over time. Eventually, the superiority that allowed us to attack and
forced our enemy to defend in the first place dissipates and the balance tips in
favor of our enemy. We have reached the culminating point, at which we can no
longer sustain the attack and must revert to the defense. It is precisely at
this point that the defensive element of the offense is most vulnerable to the
offensive element of the defense, the counterattack.
This relationship between offense and defense
exists simultaneously at the various levels of war. For example, we may employ a
tactical defense as part of an offensive campaign, availing ourselves of the
advantages of the defense tactically while pursuing an operational offensive
We conclude that there exists no clear
division between the offense and defense. Our theory of war should not attempt
to impose one artificially. The offense and defense exist simultaneously as
necessary components of each other, and the transition from one to the other is
fluid and continuous.
STYLES OF WARFARE
Just as there are two basic forms of combat, there are two essential
components: fire and movement. Of all the countless activities in combat, we can
distill them to these.
It would seem in theory that
fire and movement represent opposite ends of a spectrum. But in reality, one
cannot exist without the other, for fire and movement are complementary and
mutually dependent. It is movement that allows us to bring our fires to bear on
the enemy just as it is the protection of fires that allows us to move in the
face of the enemy. It is through movement that we exploit the effects of fires
while it is the destructive force of fires that adds menace to our movements.
Although all warfare uses both fire and movement,
these components provide the foundation for two distinct styles of warfare: an
attrition style, based on firepower, and a maneuver style, based on movement.
The different styles can exist simultaneously at different levels. For example,
the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific during the Second World War was a
maneuver campaign comprising a series of attrition battles.
Warfare by attrition seeks victory through the
cumulative destruction of the enemy's material assets by superior firepower and
technology. An attritionist sees the enemy as targets to be engaged and
destroyed systematically. Thus, the focus is on efficiency, leading to a
methodical, almost scientific, approach to war. With the emphasis on the
efficient application of massed, accurate fires, movement tends to be ponderous
and tempo relatively unimportant. The attritionist gauges progress in
quantitative terms: battle damage assessments, "body counts," and terrain
captured. He seeks battle under any and all conditions, pitting strength against
strength to exact the greatest toll from his enemy. Results are generally
proportionate to efforts; greater expenditures net greater results--that is,
greater attrition. The desire for volume and accuracy of fire tends to lead
toward centralized control, just as the emphasis on efficiency tends to lead to
an inward focus on procedures and techniques. Success through attrition demands
the willingness and ability also to withstand attrition, because warfare by
attrition is costly. The greatest necessity for success is numerical
superiority, and at the national level war becomes as much an industrial as a
military problem. Victory does not depend so much on military competence as on
sheer superiority of numbers in men and equipment.
In contrast, warfare by maneuver stems from a desire to circumvent a problem and
attack it from a position of advantage rather than meet it straight on. The goal
is the application of strength against selected enemy weakness. By definition,
maneuver relies on speed and surprise, for without either we cannot concentrate
strength against enemy weakness. Tempo is itself a weapon--often the most
important. The need for speed in turn requires decentralized control. While
attrition operates principally in the physical realm of war, the results of
maneuver are both physical and moral. The object of maneuver is not so much to
destroy physically as it is to shatter the enemy's cohesion, organization,
command, and psychological balance. Successful
maneuver depends on the ability to identify and exploit enemy weakness, not
simply on the expenditure of superior might. To win by maneuver, we cannot
substitute numbers for skill. Maneuver thus makes a greater demand on military
judgment. Potential success by maneuver--unlike attrition--is often
disproportionate to the effort made. But for exactly the same reasons, maneuver
incompetently applied carries with it a greater chance for catastrophic failure,
while attrition is inherently less risky.
we have long enjoyed vast numerical and technological superiority, the United
States has traditionally waged war by attrition. However, Marine Corps doctrine
today is based on warfare by maneuver, as we will see in the fourth chapter,
"The Conduct of War."
Combat power is the total destructive force we can bring to bear on our enemy
at a given time. Some factors in combat power are quite tangible and easily
measured, such as superior numbers, which Clausewitz called "the most common
element in victory." Some may be less easily measured, such as the effects of
maneuver, tempo, or surprise; the advantages established by geography or
climate; the relative strengths of the offense and defense; or the relative
merits of striking the enemy in the front, flanks, or rear. And some may be
wholly intangible, such as morale, fighting spirit, perseverance, or the effects
It is not our intent to try to list
or categorize all the various components of combat power, to index their
relative values, or to describe their combinations and variations; each
combination is unique and temporary. Nor is it even desirable to be able to do
so, since this would lead us to a formulistic approach to war.
CONCENTRATION AND SPEED
Of all the consistent patterns we can discern in war, there are two concepts
of such significance and universality that we can advance them as principles:
concentration and speed.
Concentration is the
convergence of effort in time and space. It is the means by which we develop
superiority at the decisive time and place. concentration does not apply only to
combat forces. It applies equally to all available resources: fires, aviation,
the intelligence effort, logistics, and all other forms of combat support and
combat service support. Similarly, concentration does not apply only to the
conduct of war, but also to the preparation for war.
Effective concentration may achieve decisive local
superiority for a numerically inferior force. The willingness to concentrate at
the decisive place and time necessitates strict economy and the acceptance of
risk elsewhere and at other times. To devote means to unnecessary efforts or
excessive means to necessary secondary efforts violates the principle of
concentration and is counterproductive to the true objective.
Since war is fluid and opportunities fleeting,
concentration applies to time as well as to space. We must concentrate not only
at the decisive location, but also at the decisive moment. Furthermore, physical
concentration--massing--makes us vulnerable to enemy fires, necessitating
dispersion. Thus, a pattern develops: disperse, concentrate, disperse again.
Speed is rapidity of action. Like concentration, speed applies to both time
and space. And, like concentration, it is relative speed that matters. Speed
over time is tempo--the consistent ability to operate fast Speed over distance,
or space, is velocity- -the ability to move fast. Both forms are genuine sources
of combat power. In other words, speed is a weapon. Superior speed allows us to
seize the initiative and dictate the terms of combat, forcing the enemy to react
to us. Speed provides security. It is a prerequisite for maneuver and for
surprise. Moreover, speed is necessary in order to concentrate superior strength
at the decisive time and place.
Since it is
relative speed that matters, it follows that we should take all measures to
improve our own tempo and velocity while degrading our enemy's. However,
experience shows that we cannot sustain a high rate of velocity or tempo
indefinitely. As a result, another pattern develops: fast, slow, fast again. A
competitive rhythm develops in combat, with each belligerent trying to generate
speed when it is to his advantage.
of concentration and speed is momentum. Momentum generates impetus. It adds
"punch" or "shock effect" to our actions. It follows that we should strike the
decisive blow with the greatest possible combination of concentration and speed.
SURPRISE AND BOLDNESS
We must now acknowledge two additional
considerations that are significant as multipliers of combat power: surprise and
By surprise we mean striking the enemy at
a time or place or in a manner for which he is unprepared. It is not essential
that we take the enemy unaware, but only that he become aware too late to react
effectively. The desire for surprise is "more or less basic to all operations,
for without it superiority at the decisive point is hardly conceivable." But,
while a necessary condition for superiority, surprise is also a genuine
multiplier of strength in its own right because of its psychological effect.
Surprise can decisively affect the outcome of combat far beyond the physical
means at hand.
Surprise is the paralysis, if only
partial and temporary, of the enemy's ability to resist. The advantage gained by
surprise depends on the degree of surprise and the enemy's ability to adjust and
recover. Surprise is based on speed, secrecy, and deception. It means doing the
unexpected thing, which in turn normally means doing the more difficult thing in
hopes that the enemy will not expect it. In fact, this is the genesis of
maneuver- -to circumvent the enemy's strength to strike him where he is not
prepared. Purposely choosing the more difficult course because it is less
expected necessarily means sacrificing efficiency to some degree. The question
is" Does the anticipated advantage gained compensate for the certain loss of
efficiency that must be incurred?
While the element
of surprise is often of decisive importance, we must realize that it is
difficult to achieve and easy to lose. Its advantages are only temporary and
must be quickly exploited. Friction, a dominant attribute of war, is the
constant enemy of surprise. We must also recognize that while surprise is always
desirable, the ability to achieve it does not depend solely on our own efforts.
It depends at least as much on our enemy's susceptibility to surprise--his
expectations and preparedness. Our ability to achieve surprise thus rests on our
ability to appreciate and then dislocate our enemy's expectations. Therefore,
while surprise can be decisive, it is a mistake to depend on it alone for the
margin of victory.
Boldness is a multiplier of
combat power in much the same way that surprise is, for "in what other field of
human activity is boldness more at home than in war?" Boldness "must be granted
a certain power over and above successful calculations involving space, time,
and magnitude of forces, for wherever it is superior, it will take advantage of
its opponent's weakness. In other words, it is a genuinely creative force."
Boldness is superior to timidity in every instance and is at a disadvantage only
in the face of nervy, calculating patience which allows the enemy to commit
himself irrevocably before striking--a form of boldness in its own right.
Boldness must be tempered with judgment lest it border on recklessness. But this
does not diminish its significance.
EXPLOITING VULNERABILITY AND OPPORTUNITY
It is not enough simply to generate superior combat power. We can easily
conceive of superior combat power dissipated over several unrelated efforts or
concentrated on some indecisive object. To win, we must concentrate combat power
toward a decisive aim.
We obviously stand a better
chance of success by concentrating strength against enemy weakness rather than
against strength. So we seek to strike the enemy where, when, and how he is most
vulnerable. This means that we should generally avoid his front, where his
attention is focused and he is strongest, and seek out his flanks and rear,
where he does not expect us and where we can also cause the greatest
psychological damage. We should also strike at that moment in time when he is
Of all the vulnerabilities we
might choose to exploit, some are more critical to the enemy than others. It
follows that the most effective way to defeat our enemy is to destroy that which
is most critical to him. We should focus our efforts on the one thing which, if
eliminated, will do the most decisive damage to his ability to resist us. By
taking this from him we defeat him outright or at least weaken him severely.
Therefore,we should focus our efforts against a
critical enemy vulnerability. Obviously, the more critical and vulnerable, the
better. But this is by no means an easy decision, since the most critical object
may not be the most vulnerable. In selecting an aim, we we thus recognize the
need for sound military judgment to compare the degree of criticality with the
degree of vulnerability and to balance both against our own capabilities.
Reduced to its simplest terms, we should strike our enemy where and when we can
hurt him most.
This concept applies equally to the
conflict as a whole--the war--and to any episode of the war--any campaign,
battle, or engagement. From this we can conclude that the concept applies
equally to the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. At the highest level
a critical vulnerability is likely to be some intangible condition, such as
popular opinion or a shaky alliance between two countries, although it may also
be some essential war resource or a key city. At the lower levels a critical
vulnerability is more likely to take on a physical nature, such as an exposed
flank, a chokepoint along the enemy's line of operations, a logistics dump, a
gap in enemy dispositions, or even the weak side armor of a tank.
In reality, our enemy's most critical vulnerability
will rarely be obvious, particularly at the lower levels. We may have to adopt
the tactic of exploiting any and all vulnerabilities until we uncover a decisive
This leads us to a corollary thought:
exploiting opportunity. Decisive results in war are rarely the direct result of
an initial, deliberate action. Rather, the initial action creates the conditions
for subsequent actions which develop from it. As the opposing wills interact,
they create various, fleeting opportunities for either foe. Such opportunities
are often born of the disorder that is natural in war. They may be the result of
our own actions, enemy mistakes, or even chance. By exploiting opportunities, we
create in increasing numbers more opportunities for exploitation. It is often
the ability and the willingness to ruthlessly exploit these opportunities that
generate decisive results. The ability to take advantage of opportunity is a
function of speed, flexibility, boldness, and initiative.
The theory of war we have described will provide the foundation for the
discussion of the conduct of war in the final chapter. The warfighting doctrine
which we derive from our theory is one based on maneuver. This represents a
change since, with a few notable exceptions--Stonewall Jackson in the Valley,
Patton in Europe, MacArthur at Inchon--the American way of war traditionally has
been one of attrition. This style of warfare generally has worked for us
because, with our allies, we have enjoyed vast numerical and technological
superiority. But we can no longer presume such a luxury. In fact, an
expeditionary force in particular must be prepared to win quickly, with minimal
casualties and limited external support, against a physical superior foe. This
requirement mandates a doctrine of maneuver warfare.
Chapter 3. PREPARING FOR WAR
"The essential thing is action. Action has three stages: the decision born
of thought, the order or preparation for execution, and the execution itself.
All three stages are governed by the will. The will is rooted in character, and
for the man of action character is of more critical importance than intellect.
Intellect without will is worthless, will without intellect is dangerous."
--Hans von Seekt
"The best form of welfare for the troops is first-class training, for this
saves unnecessary casualties"
"Untutored courage (is) useless in the face of educated bullets."
--George S. Patton, Jr.
During times of peace the most important task of
any military is to prepare for war. As the nation's rapid-response force, the
Marine Corps must maintain itself ready for immediate employment in any clime
and place and in any type of conflict. All peacetime activities should focus on
achieving combat readiness. This implies a high level of training, flexibility
in organization and equipment, qualified professional leadership, and a cohesive
Planning plays as important a role in the preparation for war as in the
conduct of war. The key to any plan is a clearly defined objective, in this case
a required level of readiness. We must identify that level of readiness and plan
a campaign to reach it. A campaign is a progressive sequence of attainable goals
to gain the objective within a specified time.
plan must focus all the efforts of the peacetime Marine Corps, including
training, education, doctrine, organization, and equipment acquisition. Unity of
effort is as important during the preparation for war as it is during the
conduct of war. This systematic process of identifying the objective and
planning a course to gain it applies to all levels.
The Fleet Marine Forces must be organized to provide forward deployed or
rapidly-deployable forces capable of mounting expeditionary operations in any
environment. This means that, in addition to maintaining their unique amphibious
capability, the Fleet Marine Forces must maintain a capability to deploy by
whatever means is appropriate to the situation.
active Fleet Marine Forces must be capable of responding immediately to most
types of conflict. Missions in sustained high-intensity warfare will require
augmentation from the Reserve establishment.
operations and training, Fleet Marine Forces--active and Reserve--will be formed
into Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs). MAGTFs are task organizations
consisting of ground, aviation, combat service support, and command components.
They have no standard structure, but rather are constituted as appropriate for
the specific situation. The MAGTF provides a single commander the optimum
combined-arms force for the situation he faces. As the situation changes, it may
of course be necessary to restructure the MAGTF.
the greatest extent practicable, Fleet Marine Forces must be organized for
warfighting and then adapted for peacetime rather than vice versa. Tables of
organization of Fleet Marine Force units should reflect the two central
requirements of deployability and the ability to task- organize according to
specific situations. Units should be organized according to type only to the
extent dictated by training, administrative, and logistic requirements. Further,
we should strealine our headquarters organizations and staffs to eliminate
bureaucratic delays in order to add tempo.
Commanders should establish habitual relationships between supported and
supporting units to develop operational familiarity among those units. This does
not preclude nonstandard relationships when required by the situation.
Doctrine is a teaching advanced as the fundamental beliefs of the Marine
Corps on the subject of war, from its nature and theory to its preparation and
conduct Doctrine establishes a particular way of thinking about war and a way of
fighting, a philosophy for leading Marines in combat, a mandate for
professionalism, and a common language. In short, it establishes the way we
practice our profession. In this manner, doctrine provides the basis for
harmonious actions and mutual understanding.
Corps doctrine is made official by the Commandant and is established in this
manual. Our doctrine does not consist of procedures to be applied in specific
situations so much as it establishes general guidance that requires judgment in
application. Therefore, while authoritative, doctrine is not prescriptive.
Marine Corps doctrine demands professional competence among its leaders. As
military professionals charged with the defense of the nation, Marine leaders
must be true experts in the conduct of war. They must be men of action and of
intellect both, skilled at "getting things done" while at the same time
conversant in the military art. Resolute and self-reliant in their decisions,
they must also be energetic and insistent in execution.
The military profession is a thinking profession.
Officers particularly are expected to be students of the art and science of war
at all levels--tactical, operational, and strategic--with a solid foundation in
military theory and a knowledge of military history and the timeless lessons to
be gained from it.
Leaders must have a strong sense
of the great responsibility of their office; the resources they will expend in
war are human lives.
The Marine Corps' style of
warfare requires intelligent leaders with a penchant for boldness and initiative
down to the lowest levels. Boldness is an essential moral trait in a leader, for
it generates combat power beyond the physical means at hand. Initiative, the
willingness to act on one's own judgment, is a prerequisite for boldness. These
traits carried to excess can lead to rashness, but we must realize that errors
by junior leaders stemming from overboldness are a necessary part of learning.
We should deal with such errors leniently; there must be no "zero defects"
mentality. Not only must we not stifle boldness or initiative, we must continue
to encourage both traits in spite of mistakes. On the other hand, we should deal
severely with errors of inaction or timidity. We will not accept lack of orders
as justification for inaction; it is each Marine's duty to take initiative as
the situation demands.
Consequently, trust is an
essential trait among leaders--trust by seniors in the abilities of their
subordinates and by juniors in the competence and support of their seniors.
Trust must be earned, and actions which undermine trust must meet with strict
censure. Trust is a product of confidence and familiarity. Confidence among
comrades results from demonstrated professional skill. Familiarity results from
shared experience and a common professional philosophy.
Relations among all leaders--from corporal to
general--should be based on honesty and frankness, regardless of disparity
between grades. Until a commander has reached and stated a decision, each
subordinate should consider it his duty to provide his honest, professional
opinion--even though it may be in disagreement with his senior's. However, once
the decision has been reached, the junior then must support it as if it were his
own. Seniors must encourage candor among subordinates and must not hide behind
their rank insignia. Ready compliance for the purpose of personal
advancement--the behavior of "yes-men"-- will not be tolerated.
The purpose of all training is to develop forces that can win in combat.
Training is the key to combat effectiveness and therefore is the focus of effort
of a peacetime military. However, training should not stop with the commencement
of war; training must continue during war to adapt to the lessons of combat.
All officers and enlisted Marines undergo similar
entry-level training which is, in effect, a socialization process. This training
provides all Marines a common experience, a proud heritage, a set of values, and
a common bond of comradeship. It is the essential first step in the making of a
Basic individual skills are an essential
foundation for combat effectiveness and must receive heavy emphasis. All
Marines, regardless of occupational specialty, will be trained in basic combat
skills. At the same time, unit skills are extremely important. They are not
simply an accumulation of individual skills; adequacy in individual skills does
not automatically mean unit skills are satisfactory.
Commanders at each echelon must allot subordinates
sufficient time and freedom to conduct the training necessary to achieve
proficiency at their levels. They must ensure that higher-level demands do not
deny subordinates adequate opportunities for autonomous training and that
oversupervision does not prevent subordinate commanders from training their
units as they believe appropriate.
In order to
develop initiative among junior leaders, the conduct of training--like
combat--should be decentralized. Senior commanders influence training by
establishing goals and standards, communicating the intent of training, and
establishing a focus of effort for training. As a rule, they should refrain from
dictating how the training will be accomplished.
Training programs should reflect practical, challenging, and progressive goals
beginning with individual and small-unit skills and culminating in a fully
In general, the organization
for combat should also be the organization for training. That is,
units--including MAGTFs--should train with the full complement of assigned,
reinforcing, and supporting forces they require in combat.
training consists of drills and exercises. Drills are a form of small unit
training which stress proficiency by progressive repetition of tasks. Drills are
an effective method for developing standardized techniques and procedures that
must be performed repeatedly without variation to ensure speed and coordination,
such as gun drill or immediate actions. In contrast, exercises are designed to
train units and individuals in tactics under simulated combat conditions.
Exercises should approximate the conditions of battle as much as possible; that
is, they should introduce friction in the form of uncertainty, stress, disorder,
and opposing wills. This last characteristic is most important; only in opposed,
free-play exercises can we practice the art of war. Dictated or "canned"
scenarios eliminate the element of independent, opposing wills that is the
essence of combat.
Critiques are an important part
of training because critical self-analysis, even after success, is essential to
improvement. Their purpose is to draw out the lessons of training. As a result,
we should conduct critiques immediately after completing the training, before
the memory of the events has faded. Critiques should be held in an atmosphere of
open and frank dialogue in which all hands are encouraged to contribute. We
learn as much from mistakes as from things done well, so we must be willing to
admit and discuss them. Of course, a subordinate's willingness to admit mistakes
depends on the commander's willingness to tolerate them. Because we recognize
that no two situations in war are the same, our critiques should focus not so
much on the actions we took as on why we took those actions and why they brought
the results they did.
PROFESSIONAL MILITARY EDUCATION
Professional military education is designed to develop creative, thinking
leaders. A leader's career, from the initial stages of leadership training,
should be viewed as a continuous, progressive process of development. At each
stage of his career, he should be preparing for the subsequent stage.
Whether he is an officer or enlisted, the early
stages of a leader's career are, in effect, his apprenticeship. While receiving
a foundation in professional theory and concepts that will serve him throughout
his career, the leader focuses on understanding the requirements and learning
and applying the procedures and techniques associated with his field. This is
when he learns his trade as an aviation, infantryman, artilleryman, or
logistician. As he progresses, the leader should have mastered the requirements
of his apprenticeship and should understand the interrelationship of the
techniques and procedures within his field. His goal is to become an expert in
the tactical level of war.
As an officer continues
to develop, he should understand the interrelationship between his field and all
the other fields within the Marine Corps. He should be an expert in tactics and
techniques and should understand amphibious warfare and combined arms. He should
be studying the operational level of war. At the senior levels he should be
fully capable of articulating, applying, and integrating MAGTF warfighting
capabilities in a joint and combined environment and should be an expert in the
art of war at all levels.
The responsibility for
implementing professional military education in the Marine Corps is
three-tiered: it resides not only with the education establishment, but also
with the commander and the individual.
education establishment consists of those schools-- administered by the Marine
Corps, subordinate commands, or outside agencies--established to provide formal
education in the art and science of war. In all officer education particularly,
schools should focus on developing a talent for military judgment, not on
imparting knowledge through rote learning. Study conducted by the education
establishment can neither provide complete career training for an individual nor
reach all individuals. Rather, it builds upon the base provided by commanders
and by individual study.
All commanders should
consider the professional development of their subordinates a principal
responsibility of command. Commanders should foster a personal teacher-student
relationship with their subordinates. Commanders are expected to conduct a
continuing professional education program for their subordinates which includes
developing military judgment and decision making and teaches general
professional subjects and specific technical subjects pertinent to occupational
specialties. Useful tools for general professional
development include supervised reading programs, map exercises, war games,
battle studies, and terrain studies. Commanders should see the development of
their subordinates as a direct reflection on themselves.
Finally, every Marine has a basic responsibility to
study the profession of arms on his own. A leader without either interest in or
knowledge of the history and theory of warfare--the intellectual content of his
profession--is a leader in appearance only. Self-study in the art and science of
war is at least equal in importance--and should receive at least equal time--to
maintaining physical condition. This is particularly true among officers' after
all, an officer's principal weapon is his mind.
Equipment should be easy to operate and maintain, reliable, and interoperable
with other equipment. It should require minimal specialized operator training.
Further, equipment should be designed so that its usage is consistent with
established doctrine and tactics. Primary considerations are strategic and
tactical lift--the Marine Corps' reliance on Navy shipping for strategic
mobility and on helicopters and vertical/short takeoff and landing aircraft for
tactical mobility from ship to shore and during operations ashore.
Equipment that permits overcontrol of units in
battle is in conflict with the Marine Corps' philosophy of command and is not
In order to minimize research and
development costs and fielding time, the Marine Corps will exploit existing
capabilities--"off-the-shelf" technology--to the greatest extent possible.
Acquisition should be a complementary, two-way
process. Especially for the long term, the process must identify combat
requirements and develop equipment to satisfy these requirements. We should base
these requirements on an analysis of critical enemy vulnerabilities and develop
equipment specifically to exploit those vulnerabilities. At the same time, the
process should not overlook existing equipment of obvious usefulness.
Equipment is useful only if it increases combat
effectiveness. Any piece of equipment requires support: operator training,
maintenance, power sources or fuel, and transport. The anticipated enhancements
of capabilities must justify these support requirements and the employment of
the equipment must take these requirements into account.
As much as
possible, employment techniques and procedures should be developed concurrently
with equipment to minimize delays between the fielding of the equipment and its
usefulness to the operating forces. For the same reason, initial operator
training should also precede equipment fielding.
must guard against overreliance on technology. Technology can enhance the ways
and means of war by improving man's ability to wage it, but technology cannot
and should not attempt to eliminate man from the process of waging war. Better
equipment is not the cure for all ills; doctrinal and tactical solutions to
combat deficiencies must also be sought. Any advantages gained by technological
advancements are only temporary, for man will always find a countermeasure,
tactical or itself technological, which will lessen the impact of the
technology. Additionally, we must not become so dependent on equipment that we
can no longer function effectively when the equipment becomes inoperable.
There are two basic military functions: waging war and preparing for war. Any
military activities that do not contribute to the conduct of a present war are
justifiable only if they contribute to preparedness for a possible future one.
But, clearly, we cannot afford to separate conduct and preparation. They must be
intimately related because failure in preparation leads to disaster on the
Chapter 4. THE CONDUCT OF WAR
"Now an army may be likened to water, for just as flowing water avoids the
heights and hastens to the lowlands, so an army avoids strength and strikes
"Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy's
unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no
"Many years ago, as a cadet hoping some day to be an officer, I was poring
over the `Principles of war,' listed in the old Field Service Regulations, when
the Sergeant-Major came up to me. He surveyed me with kindly amusement. `Don't
bother your head about all them things, me lad,' he said, `There's only one
principle of war and that's this. His the other fellow, as quick as you can, and
as hard as you can, where it hurts him most, when he ain't lookin'!'"
--Sir William Slim
The sole justification for the United States
Marine Corps is to secure or protect national policy objectives by military
force when peaceful means alone cannot. How the Marine Corps proposes to
accomplish this mission is the product of our understanding of the nature and
the theory of war and must be the guiding force behind our preparation for war.
The challenge is to identify and adopt a concept of warfighting consistent
with our understanding of the nature and theory of war and the realities of the
modern battlefield. What exactly does this require? It requires a concept of
warfighting that will function effectively in an uncertain, chaotic, and fluid
environment--in fact, one that will exploit these conditions to advantage. It
requires a concept that, recognizing the time-competitive rhythm of war,
generates and exploits superior tempo and velocity. It requires a concept that
is consistently effective across the full spectrum of conflict, because we
cannot attempt to change our basic doctrine from situation to situation and
expect to be proficient. It requires a concept which recognizes and exploits the
fleeting opportunities which naturally occur in war.
It requires a concept which takes into account the
moral as well as the physical forces of war, because we have already concluded
that moral forces form the greater part of war. It requires a concept with which
we can succeed against a numerically superior foe, because we can no longer
presume a numerical advantage. And, especially in expeditionary situations in
which public support for military action may be tepid and short-lived, it
requires a concept with which we can win quickly against a larger foe on his
home soil, with minimal casualties and limited external support.
The Marine Corps concept for winning under these conditions is a warfighting
doctrine based on rapid, flexible, and opportunistic maneuver. But in order to
fully appreciate what we mean by maneuver we need to clarify the term. The
traditional understanding of maneuver is a spatial one; that is, we maneuver in
space to gain a positional advantage. However, in order to maximize the
usefulness of maneuver, we must consider maneuver in time as well; that is, we
generate a faster operational tempo than the enemy to gain a temporal advantage.
It is through maneuver in both dimensions that an inferior force can achieve
decisive superiority at the necessary time and place.
Maneuver warfare is a warfighting philosophy that
seeks to shatter the enemy's cohesion through a series of rapid, violent, and
unexpected actions which create a turbulent and rapidly deteriorating situation
with which he cannot cope.
From this definition we see that the aim in
maneuver warfare is to render the enemy incapable of resisting by shattering his
moral and physical cohesion--his ability to fight as an effective, coordinated
whole--rather than to destroy him physically through incremental attrition,
which is generally more costly and time-consuming. Ideally, the components of
his physical strength that remain are irrelevant because we have paralyzed his
ability to use them effectively. Even if an outmaneuvered enemy continues to
fight as individuals or small units, we can destroy the remnants with relative
ease because we have eliminated his ability to fight effectively as a force.
This is not to imply that firepower is unimportant.
On the contrary, the suppressive effects of firepower are essential to our
ability to maneuver. Nor do we means to imply that we will pass up the
opportunity to physically destroy the enemy. We will concentrate fires and
forces at decisive points to destroy enemy elements when the opportunity
presents itself and when it fits our larger purposes. But the aim is not an
unfocused application of firepower for the purpose of incrementally reducing the
enemy's physical strength. Rather, it is the selective application of firepower
in support of maneuver to contribute to the enemy's shock and moral disruption.
The greatest value of firepower is not physical destruction--the cumulative
effects of which are felt only slowly--but the moral dislocation it causes.
If the aim of maneuver warfare is to shatter the
enemy's cohesion, the immediate object toward that end is to create a situation
in which he cannot function. By our actions, we seek to pose menacing dilemmas
in which events happen unexpectedly and faster than the enemy can keep up with
them. The enemy must be made to see his situation not only as deteriorating, but
deteriorating at an ever-increasing rate. The ultimate goal is panic and
paralysis, an enemy who has lost the ability to resist.
Inherent in maneuver warfare is the need for speed
to seize the initiative, dictate the terms of combat, and keep the enemy off
balance, thereby increasing his friction. Through the use of greater tempo and
velocity, we seek to establish a pace that the enemy cannot maintain so that
with each action his reactions are increasingly late--until eventually he is
overcome by events.
Also inherent is the need for violence, not so much as a
source of physical attrition but as a source of moral dislocation. Toward this
end, we concentrate strength against critical enemy vulnerabilities, striking
quickly and boldly where, when, and how it will cause the greatest damage to our
enemy's ability to fight. Once gained or found, any advantage must be pressed
relentlessly and unhesitatingly. We must be ruthlessly opportunistic, actively
seeking out signs of weakness, against which we will direct all available combat
power. And when the decisive opportunity arrives, we must exploit it fully and
aggressively, committing every ounce of combat power we can muster and pushing
ourselves to the limits of exhaustion.
weapon in our arsenal is surprise, the combat value of which we have already
recognized. By studying our enemy we will attempt to appreciate his perceptions.
Through deception we will try to shape his expectations. Then we will dislocate
them by striking at an unexpected time and place. In order to appear
unpredictable, we must avoid set rules and patterns, which inhibit imagination
and initiative. In order to appear ambiguous and threatening, we should operate
on axes that offer several courses of action, keeping the enemy unclear as to
which we will choose.
PHILOSOPHY OF COMMAND
It is essential that our philosophy of command support the way we fight.
First and foremost, in order to generate the tempo of operations we desire and
to best cope with the uncertainty, disorder, and fluidity of combat, command
must be decentralized. That is, subordinate commanders must make decisions on
their own initiative, based on their understanding of their senior's intent,
rather than passing information up the chain of command and waiting for the
decision to be passed down. Further, a competent subordinate commander who is at
the point of decision will naturally have a better appreciation for the true
situation than a senior some distance removed. Individual initiative and
responsibility are of paramount importance. The principal means by which we
implement decentralized control is through the use of mission tactics, which we
will discuss in detail later.
Second, since we have
concluded that war is a human enterprise and no amount of technology can reduce
the human dimension, our philosophy of command must be based on human
characteristics rather than on equipment or procedures. Communications equipment
and command and staff procedures can enhance our ability to command, but they
must not be used to replace the human element of command. Our philosophy must
not only accommodate but must exploit human traits such as boldness, initiative,
personality, strength of will, and imagination.
philosophy of command must also exploit the human ability to communicate
implicitly. We believe that implicit communication--to communicate through
mutual understanding, using a minimum of key, well-understood phrases or even
anticipating each other's thoughts--is a faster, more effective way to
communicate than through the use of detailed, explicit instructions. We develop
this ability through familiarity and trust, which are based on a shared
philosophy and shared experience.
This concept has
several practical implications. First, we should establish long-term working
relationships to develop the necessary familiarity and trust. Second, key
people--"actuals"--should talk directly to one another when possible, rather
than through communicators or messengers. Third, we should communicate orally
when possible, because we communicate also in how we talk; our inflections and
tone of voice. And fourth, we should communicate in person when possible,
because we communicate also through our gestures and bearing.
A commander should command from well forward. This
allows him to see and sense firsthand the ebb and flow of combat, to gain an
intuitive appreciation for the situation which he cannot obtain from reports. It
allows him to exert his personal influence at decisive points during the action.
It also allows him to locate himself closer to the events that will influence
the situation so that he can observe them directly and circumvent the delays and
inaccuracies that result from passing information up the chain of command.
Finally, we recognize the importance of personal
leadership. Only by his physical presence--by demonstrating the willingness to
share danger and privation--can the commander fully gain the trust and
confidence of his subordinates.
We must remember that command from the front
does not equate to oversupervision of subordinates.
As part of our philosophy of command we must recognize that war is inherently
disorderly, uncertain, dynamic, and dominated by friction. Moreover, maneuver
warfare, with its emphasis on speed and initiative, is by nature a particularly
disorderly style of war. The conditions ripe for exploitation are normally also
very disorderly. For commanders to try to gain certainty as a basis for actions,
maintain positive control of events at all times, or shape events to fit their
plans is to deny the very nature of war. We must therefore be prepared to
cope--even better, to thrive--in an environment of chaos, uncertainty, constant
change, and friction. If we can come to terms with those conditions and thereby
limit their debilitating effects, we can use them as a weapon against a foe who
does not cope as well.
In practical terms this
means that we must not strive for certainty before we act for in so doing we
will surrender the initiative and pass up opportunities. We must not try to
maintain positive control over subordinates since this will necessarily slow our
tempo and inhibit initiative. We must not attempt to impose precise order to the
events of combat since this leads to a formulistic approach to war. And we must
be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances and exploit opportunities as they
arise, rather than adhering insistently to predetermined plans.
There are several points worth remembering about
our command philosophy. First, while it is based on our warfighting style, this
does not mean it applies only during war. We must put it into practice during
the preparation for war as well. We cannot rightly expect our subordinates to
exercise boldness and initiative in the field when they are accustomed to being
oversupervised in the rear. Whether the mission is training, procuring
equipment, administration, or police call, this philosophy should apply.
Next, our philosophy requires competent leadership
at all levels. A centralized system theoretically needs only one competent
person, the senior commander, since his is the sole authority. But a
decentralized system requires leaders at all levels to demonstrate sound and
timely judgment. As a result, initiative becomes an essential condition of
competence among commanders.
Our philosophy also
requires familiarity among comrades because only through a shared understanding
can we develop the implicit communication necessary for unity of effort. And,
perhaps most important, our philosophy demands confidence among seniors and
SHAPING THE BATTLE
Since our goal is not just the cumulative attrition of enemy strength, it
follows that we must have some scheme for how we expect to achieve victory. That
is, before anything else, we must conceive our vision of how we intend to win.
The first requirement is to establish our intent;
what we want to accomplish and how. Without a clearly identified intent, the
necessary unity of effort is inconceivable. We must identify that critical enemy
vulnerability which we believe will lead most directly to accomplishing our
intent. Having done this, we can then determine the steps necessary to achieve
our intent. That is, we must shape the battle to our advantage in terms of both
time and space. Similarly, we must try to see ourselves through our enemy's eyes
in order to identify our own vulnerabilities which he may attack and to
anticipate how he will try to shape the battle so we can counteract him.
Ideally, when the moment of engagement arrives, the issue has already been
resolved: through our orchestration of the events leading up to the encounter,
we have so shaped the conditions of war that the result is a matter of course.
We have shaped the action decisively to our advantage.
To shape the battle, we must project our thoughts
forward in time and space. This does not mean that we establish a detailed
timetable of events. We have already concluded that war is inherently
disorderly, and we cannot expect to shape its terms with any sort of precision.
We must not become slaves to a plan. Rather, we attempt to shape the general
conditions of war; we try to achieve a certain measure of ordered disorder.
Examples include canalizing enemy movement in a desired direction, blocking or
delaying enemy reinforcements so that we can fight a piecemealed enemy rather
than a concentrated one, shaping enemy expectations through deception so that we
can exploit those expectations or attacking a specific enemy capability to allow
us to maximize a capability of our own--such as launching a campaign to destroy
his air defenses so that we can maximize the use of our own aviation. We should
also try to shape events in such a way that allows us several options so that by
the time the moment of encounter arrives we have not restricted ourselves to
only one course of action.
The further ahead we
think, the less our actual influence becomes. Therefore, the further ahead we
consider, the less precision we should attempt to impose. Looking ahead thus
becomes less a matter of influence and more a matter of interest. As events
approach and our ability to influence them grows, we have already developed an
appreciation for the situation and how we want to shape it.
Also, the higher our echelon of command, the
greater is our sphere of influence and the further ahead in time and space we
must seek to impose our will. Senior commanders developing and pursuing military
strategy look ahead weeks, months, or more, and their areas of influence and
interest will encompass entire theaters. Junior commanders fighting the battles
and engagements at hand are concerned with the coming hours, even minutes, and
the immediate field of battle. But regardless of the spheres of influence and
interest, it is essential to have some vision of the final result we want and
how we intend to shape the action in time and space to achieve it.
Decision making is essential to the conduct of war since all actions are the
result of decisions--or of nondecisions. If we fail to make a decision out of
lack of will, we have willingly surrendered the initiative to our foe. If we
consciously postpone taking action for some reason, that is a decision. Thus, as
a basic for action, any decision is generally better than no decision.
war is a conflict between opposing wills, we cannot make decisions in a vacuum.
We must make decisions in light of the enemy's anticipated reactions and
counteractions, recognizing that while we are trying to impose our will on our
enemy, he is trying to do the same to us.
can make and and implement his decisions consistently faster gains a tremendous,
often decisive advantage. Decision making thus becomes a time-competitive
process, and timeliness of decisions becomes essential to generating tempo.
Timely decisions demand rapid thinking, with consideration limited to essential
factors. We should spare no effort to accelerate our decision-making ability.
A military decision is not merely a mathematical
computation. Decision making requires both the intuitive skill to recognize and
analyze the essence of a given problem and the creative ability to devise a
practical solution. This ability is the produce of experience, education,
intelligence, boldness, perception, and character.
We should base our decisions on awareness rather than on mechanical habit. That
is, we act on a keen appreciation for the essential factors that make each
situation unique instead of from conditioned response.
We must have the moral courage to make tough
decisions in the face of uncertainty--and accept full responsibility for those
decisions--when the natural inclination would be to postpone the decision
pending more complete information. To delay action in an emergency because of
incomplete information shows a lack of moral courage. We do not want to make
rash decisions, but we must not squander opportunities while trying to gain more
We must have the moral courage to make
bold decisions and accept the necessary degree of risk when the natural
inclination is to choose a less ambitious tack, for "in audacity and obstinacy
will be found safety."
Finally, since all decisions
must be made in the face of uncertainty and since every situation is unique,
there is no perfect solution to any battlefield problem. Therefore, we should
not agonize over one. The essence of the problem is to select a promising course
of action with an acceptable degree of risk, and to do it more quickly than our
foe. In this respect, "a good plan violently executed now is better than a
perfect plan executed next week."
Having described the object and means of maneuver warfare and its philosophy
of command, we will next discuss how we put maneuver warfare into practice.
First is through the use of mission tactics. Mission tactics are just as the
name implies: the tactic of assigning a subordinate mission without specifying
how the mission must be accomplished. We leave the manner of accomplishing the
mission to the subordinate, thereby allowing him the freedom--and establishing
the duty--to take whatever steps he deems necessary based on the situation. The
senior prescribes the method of execution only to the degree that is essential
for coordination. It is this freedom for initiative that permits the high tempo
of operations that we desire. Uninhibited by restrictions from above, the
subordinate can adapt his actions to the changing situation. He informs his
commander what he has done, but he does not wait for permission.
It is obvious that we cannot allow decentralized
initiative without some means of providing unity, or focus, to the various
efforts. To do so would be to dissipate our strength. We seek unity, not through
imposed control, but through harmonious initiative and lateral coordination.
We achieve this harmonious initiative in large part through the use of the
commander's intent. There are two parts to a mission: the task to be
accomplished and the reason, or intent. The task describes the action to be
taken while the intent describes the desired result of the action. Of the two,
the intent is predominant. While a situation may change, making the task
obsolete, the intent is more permanent and continues to guide our actions.
Understanding our commander's intent allows us to exercise initiative in harmony
with the commander's desires.
In order to maintain
our focus on the enemy, we should try to express intent in terms of the enemy.
The intent should answer the question: What do I want to do to the enemy? This
may not be possible in all cases, but it is true in the vast majority. The
intent should convey the commander's vision. It is not satisfactory for the
intent to be "to defeat the enemy." To win is always our ultimate goal, so an
intent like this conveys nothing.
discussion, it is obvious that a clear explanation and understanding of intent
is absolutely essential to unity of effort. It should be a part of any mission.
The burden of understanding falls on senior and subordinate alike. The senior
must make perfectly clear the result he expects, but in such a way that does not
inhibit initiative. Subordinates must have a clear understanding of what their
commander is thinking. Further, they should understand the intent of the
commander two levels up. In other words, a platoon commander should know the
intent of his battalion commander, or a battalion commander the intent of his
FOCUS OF EFFORT
Another tool for providing unity is through the focus of effort. Of all the
efforts going on within our command, we recognize the focus of effort as the
most critical to success.
All other efforts must
support it. In effect, we have decided: This is how I will achieve a decision;
everything else is secondary.
We cannot take
lightly the decision of where and when to focus our efforts. Since the focus of
effort represents our bid for victory, we must direct it at that object which
will cause the most decisive damage to the enemy and which holds the best
opportunity of success. It involves a physical and moral commitment, although
not an irretrievable one. It forces us to concentrate decisive combat power just
as it forces us to accept risk. Thus, we focus our effort against critical enemy
vulnerability, exercising strict economy elsewhere.
Normally, we designate the focus of effort by assigning one unit responsibility
for accomplishing that effort. That unit becomes the representation of the focus
of effort. It becomes clear to all other units in the command that they must
support that unit in its efforts. Like the commander's intent, the focus of
effort becomes a harmonizing force. Faced with a decision, we ask ourselves:
"How can I best support the focus of effort?"
commander should establish a focus of effort for each mission. As the situation
changes, the commander may shift the focus of effort, redirecting the weight of
his combat power in the direction that offers the greatest success. In this way
he exploits success; he does not reinforce failure.
SURFACES AND GAPS
Put simply, surfaces are hard spots--enemy strengths--and gaps are soft
spots--enemy weaknesses. We avoid enemy strength and focus our efforts against
enemy weakness, since pitting strength against weakness reduces casualties and
is more likely to yield decisive results. Whenever possible, we exploit existing
gaps. Failing that, we create gaps.
Gaps may in
fact be physical gaps in the enemy's dispositions, but they may also be any
weakness in time or space: a moment in time when the enemy is overexposed and
vulnerable, a seam in an air defense umbrella, an infantry unit caught
unprepared in open terrain, or a boundary between two units.
Similarly, a surface may be an actual strongpoint,
or it may be any enemy strength: a moment when the enemy has just replenished
and consolidated his position or an integrated air defense system.
An appreciation for surfaces and gaps requires a
certain amount of judgment. What is a surface in one case may be a gap in
another. For example, a forest which is a surface to an armored unit because it
restricts vehicle movement can be a gap to an infantry unit which can infiltrate
through it. Furthermore, we can expect the enemy to disguise his dispositions in
order to lure us against a surface that appears to be a gap.
Due to the fluid nature of war, gaps will rarely be
permanent and will usually be fleeting. To exploit them demands flexibility and
speed. We must actively seek out gaps by continuous and aggressive
reconnaissance. Once we locate them, we must exploit them by funneling our
forces through rapidly. For example, if our focus of effort has struck a surface
but another unit has located a gap, we shift the focus of effort to the second
unit and redirect our combat power in support of it. In this manner we "pull"
combat power through gaps from the front rather than "pushing" it through from
the rear. Commanders must rely on the initiative of subordinates to locate the
gaps and must have the flexibility to respond quickly to opportunities rather
than following predetermined schemes.
In order to maximize combat power, we must use all the available resources to
best advantage. To do so, we must follow a doctrine of combined arms. Combined
arms is the full integration of arms in such a way that in order to counteract
one, the enemy must make himself more vulnerable to another. We pose the enemy
not just with a problem, but with a dilemma--a no-win situation.
We accomplish combined arms through the tactics and
techniques we use at the lower levels and through task organization at higher
levels. In so doing, we take advantage of the complementary characteristics of
different types of units and enhance our mobility and firepower. We use each arm
for missions that no other arm can perform as well; for example, we assign
aviation a task that cannot be performed equally well by artillery. An example
of the concept of combined arms at the very lowest level is the complementary
use of the automatic weapon and grenade launcher within a fire team. We pin an
enemy down with the high-volume, direct fire of the automatic weapon, making him
a vulnerable target for the grenade launcher. If he moves to escape the impact
of the grenades, we engage him with the automatic weapon.
We can expand the example to the MAGTF level: We
use assault support to quickly concentrate superior ground forces for a
breakthrough. We use artillery and close air support to support the infantry
penetration, and we use deep air support to interdict enemy reinforcements.
Targets which cannot be effectively suppressed by artillery are engaged by close
air support. In order to defend against the infantry attack, the enemy must make
himself vulnerable to the supporting arms. If he seeks cover from the supporting
arms, our infantry can maneuver against him. In order to block our penetration,
the enemy must reinforce quickly with his reserve. But in order to avoid our
deep air support, he must stay off the roads, which means he can only move
slowly. If he moves slowly, he cannot reinforce in time to prevent our
breakthrough. We have put him in a dilemma.
We have discussed the aim and characteristics of maneuver warfare. We have
discussed the philosophy of command necessary to support this style of warfare.
And we have discussed some of the tactics of maneuver warfare. By this time it
should be clear that maneuver warfare exists not so much in the specific methods
used--we eschew formulas--but in the mind of the Marine, In this regard,
maneuver warfare--like combined arms--applies equally to the Marine
expeditionary force commander and the fire team leader. It applies regardless of
the nature of the conflict, whether amphibious operations or sustained
operations ashore, of low or high intensity, against guerrilla or mechanized
foe, in desert or jungle.
Maneuver warfare is a way
of thinking in and about war that should shape our every action. It is a state
of mind born of a bold will, intellect, initiative, and ruthless opportunism. It
is a state of mind bent on shattering the enemy morally and physically by
paralyzing and confounding him, by avoiding his strength, by quickly and
aggressively exploiting his vulnerabilities, and by striking him in the way that
will hurt him most. In short, maneuver warfare is a philosophy for generating
the greatest decisive effect against the enemy at the least possible cost to
ourselves--a philosophy for "fighting smart."
Chapter 1. THE NATURE OF WAR
1. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, trans. and ed. M. Howard and P. Paret
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984) p. 119.
2. B. H. Liddell Hart, as quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica, 1919.
3. A. A. Vandergrift, "Battle Doctrine for Front Line Leaders," (Third Marine
Division, 1944) p. 7.
4. For the definitive treatment of the nature and theory of war, see the
unfinished classic, On War, by Clausewitz. All Marine officers should
consider this book essential reading. Read the Princeton University Press
edition, the best English translation available. This version also includes
several valuable essays on the book and author and a useful guide to reading
5. In the strict legal sense, the United States enters a state of war only by
formal declaration of Congress, which possesses the sole constitutional power to
do so. The United States has declared war on five occasions: with Britain
(1812); with Mexico (1846); with Spain (1898); with Germany and Austria-Hungary
(1917); and with Japan, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary and Rumania (1941-2).
A President, as commander in chief, may commit U.S. Forces to military action
without a declaration of war when the circumstances do not warrant or permit
time for such a declaration. Militarily there will be little if any distinction
between war and military action short of war. Within this context, this book
will focus on the military aspects of war, and the term war as discussed here
will apply to that state of hostilities between or among nations regardless of
the existence of a declaration of war.
6. Clausewitz, On War, p. 121.
7. For a first-hand description of human experience and reaction in war, read
Guy Sajer's The Forgotten Soldier (Annapolis, MD: Nautical and Aviation
Publishing Co., 1988), a powerful account of the author's experience as a German
infantryman on the eastern front during the Second World War and ultimately a
tribute to the supremacy of the human will.
8. Clausewitz: "Kind-hearted people might, of course, think there was some
ingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy without too much bloodshed, and might
imagine this is the true goal of the art of war. Pleasant as it sounds, it is a
fallacy that must be exposed: war is such a dangerous business that the mistakes
which come from kindness are the very worst. . . "This is how the matter must be
seen, It would be futile--even wrong--to try to shut one's eyes to what war
really is from sheer distress at its brutality." On War, pp. 75-76.
9. For an insightful study of the reaction of men to combat, see S.L.A.
Marshall's Men Against Fire (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1961).
10. The American Heritage Dictionary, (New York: Dell Publishing Co.,
11. In his often-quoted maxim, Napoleon assigned an actual ratio: "In war,
the moral is to the material as three to one."
Chapter 2. THE THEORY OF WAR
1. Clausewitz, On War, p. 87.
2. Sun Tzu, The Art of War, trans. S.B. Griffith (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1981) p. 85. Like On War, The Art of War should
be on every Marine officer's list of essential reading. Short and simple to
read, The Art of War is every bit as valuable today as when it was written about
3. Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis (New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons, 1923) vol. II, p. 5. The passage continues: "Nearly all battles
which are regarded as masterpieces of the military art, from which have been
derived the foundation of states and the fame of commanders, have been battles
of manoeuvre in which the enemy has found himself defeated by some novel
expedient or device, some queer, swift, unexpected thrust or stratagem. In many
battles, the losses of the victors have been small There is required for the
composition of a great commander not only massive common sense and reasoning
power, not only imagination, but also an element of legerdemain, an original and
sinister touch, which leaves the enemy puzzles as well as beaten. It is because
military leaders are credited with gifts of this order which enable them to
ensure victory and save slaughter that their profession is held in such high
honour . . .
"There are many kinds of manoeuvre in
war, some only of which take place upon the battlefield. There are manoeuvres
far to the flank or read. There are manoeuvres in time, in diplomacy, in
mechanics, in psychology; all of which are removed from the battlefield, but
react often decisively upon it, and the object of all is to find easier ways,
other than sheer slaughter, of achieving the main purpose."
4. Clausewiz, On War, p. 87. We prefer the phrase with military force
rather than by military force as translated since military force does not
replace the other elements of national power, but supplements them.
5. Ibid., pp. 87-88.
6. Clausewitz, On War, p. 77.
7. The National Security Strategy of the United States (Washington:
The White House, 1988), pp. 7-8, lists the elements of national power as moral
and economic example, military strength, economic vitality, alliance
relationships, public diplomacy, security assistance, development assistance,
science and technology cooperation, international organizations, and diplomatic
8. Also referred to as grand strategy or the policy level. From JCS Pub.
1-02: "National Strategy--(DOD, IADB) The art and science of developing and
using the political, economic, and psychological powers of a nation, together
with its armed forces, during peace and war, to secure national objectives."
9. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Military Strategy--(DOD, IADB) The art and science of
employing the armed forces of a nation to secure the objectives of national
policy by the application of force or the threat of force."
10. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Tactical Level of War--(DOD) The level of war at which
battles and engagements are planned and executed to accomplish military
objectives assigned to tactical units or task forces. Activities at this level
focus on the ordered arrangement and maneuver of combat elements in relation to
each other and to the enemy to achieve combat objectives."
11. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Operational Level of War--(DOD) The level of war at which
campaigns and major operations are planned, conducted, and sustained to
accomplish strategic objectives within theaters or areas of operations.
Activities at this level link tactics and strategy by establishing operational
objectives needed to accomplish the strategic objectives, sequencing events to
achieve the operational objectives, initiating actions, and applying resources
to bring about and sustain these events. These activities imply a broader
dimension of time or space than do tactics; they ensure the logistic and
administrative support of tactical forces, and provide the means by which
tactical successes are exploited to achieve strategic objectives."
12. Clausewitz, On War, pp. 84, 357-359.
13. Ibid., p. 357.
14. Clausewitz argued (p. 524) that while the offense is an integral
component of the concept of defense, the offense is conceptually complete in
itself. The introduction of the defense into the concept of the offense, he
argued, is a necessary eveil and not an integral component.
15. Clausewitz, On War, p. 528.
16. The United States Army has also adopted a doctrine based on maneuver,
called "AirLand Battle," The principal doctrinal source is Field Manual
100-5, Operations (1986).
17. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Combat Power--(DOD, NATO) The total means of destructive
and/or disruptive force which a military unit/formation can apply against the
opponent at a given time."
18. Clausewitz, On War, p. 194.
19. Ibid., p. 617.
20. Tempo is often associated with a mental process known variously as the
"Decision Cycle," "OODA Loop," or "Boyd Cycle," after retired Air Force Colonel
John Boyd who pioneered the concept in his lecture, "The Patterns of Conflict."
Boyd identified a four-step mental process: observation, orientation, decision,
and action. Boyd theorized that each party to a conflict first observes the
situation. On the basis of the observation, he orients; that is, he makes an
estimate of the situation. On the basis of the orientation, he makes a decision.
And, finally, he implements the decision--he acts. Because his action has
created a new situation, the process begins anew. Boyd argued that the party
that consistently completes the cycle faster gains an advantage that increases
with each cycle. His enemy's reactions become increasingly slower by comparison
and therefore less effective until, finally, he is overcome by events.
21. From basic physics, momentum is the product of mass and velocity: M=mv.
22. Clausewitz, On War, p. 198
23. Edward N. Luttwak, Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace
(Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1987) p. 8.
24. Luttwak, Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, pp. 8-10.
25. Clausewitz, On War, p. 190.
27. We should note that this concept is meaningless in attrition warfare in
its purest form, since the identification of critical vulnerability by
definition is based on selectivity, which is a foreign thought to the
attritionist. In warfare by attrition, any target is as good as any other as
long as it contributes to the cumulative destruction of the enemy.
28. Sometimes known as the center of gravity. However, there is a danger in
using this term. Introducing the term into the theory of war, Clausewitz wrote
(p. 485): "A center of gravity is always found where the mass is concentrated
the most densely. It presents the most effective target for a blow; furthermore,
the heaviest blow is that struck by the center of gravity." Clearly, Clausewitz
was advocating a climactic test of strength against strength "by daring all to
win all" (p. 596). This approach is consistent with Clausewitz' historical
perspective. But we have since come to prefer pitting strength against weakness.
Applying the term to modern warfare, we must make it clear that by the enemy's
center of gravity we do not mean a source of strength, but rather a critical
Chapter3. PREPARING FOR WAR
1. Hans von Seekt, Thoughts of a Soldier, trans. G. Waterhouse
(London: Ernest Benn Ltd.,1930) p. 123.
2. Erwin Rommel, The Rommel Papers, ed. B. H. Liddell Hart, trans. P.
Findlay (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1985) p. 226.
3. George S. Patton, Jr., Cavalry Journal, April 1922, p. 167.
4. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Campaign Plan--(DOD, IADB) A plan for a series of related
military operations aimed to accomplish a common objective, normally within a
given time and space." As defined, a campaign plan pertains to military
operations, but the thought applies equally to preparations.
5. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Doctrine--(DOD, IADB) Fundamental principles by which the
military forces or elements thereof guide their actions in support of national
objectives. It is authoritative but requires judgment in application."
6. Field Manual 100-5, Tentative Field Service Regulations
(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1939) p. 31.
7. Clausewitz: "In a commander a bold act may prove to be a blunder.
Nevertheless it is a laudable error, not to be regarded on the same footing as
others. Happy the army where ill-timed boldness occurs frequently; it is a
luxuriant weed, but indicates the richness of the soil. Even foolhardiness--that
is, boldness without object--is not to be despised: basically it stems from
daring, which in this case has erupted with a passion unrestrained by thought.
Only when boldness rebels against obedience, when it defiantly ignores an
expressed command, must it be treated as a dangerous offense; then it must be
prevented, not for its innate qualities, but because an order has been
disobeyed, and in war obedience is of cardinal importance." On War, pp.
Chapter 4. THE CONDUCT OF WAR
1. Sun Tzu, The Art of War, p. 101.
2. Ibid., p. 134.
3. Sir William Slim, Defeat into Victory (London: Cassell and Co.
Ltd., 1956) pp. 550-551.
4. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Maneuver--(DOD, NATO) . . . 4. Employment of forces on the
battlefield through movement in combination with fire, or fire potential, to
achieve a position of advantage in respect to the enemy in order to accomplish
5. Boyd introduces the idea of implicit communication as a command tool in
his lecture, "An Organic Design for Command and Control."
6. Hence the terms area of influence and area of interest. JCS Pub. 1-02:
"Area of Influence--(DOD, NATO) A geographical area wherein a commander is
directly capable of influencing operations, by maneuver or fire support systems
normally under his comand or control." "Area of Interest--(DOD, NATO, IADB) That
area of concern to the commander, including the area of influence, areas
adjacent thereto, and extending into enemy territory to the objectives of
current or planned operations. This area also includes areas occupied by enemy
forces who could jeopardize the accomplishment of the mission."
7. Much of the material in this section is adapted from John F. Schmitt's
article, "Observations on Decisionmaking in Battle," Marine Corps
Gazette, March 1988, pp. 18-20.
8. Napoleon Bonaparte, "Maxims of War," Napoleon and Modern War; His
Military Maxims, annotated C. H. Lanza (Harrisonburg, PA: Military Service
Publishing Co., 1953) p. 19.
9. George S. Patton, Jr., War As I Knew It (New York: Houghton
Mifflin, 1979) p. 354.
10. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Mission Type Order==(DOD, IADB) . . . 2. Order to a unit
to perform a mission without specifying how it is to be accomplished."
11. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Mission--(DOD, IADB) 1. The task, together with the
purpose, which clearly indicates the action to be taken and the reason
12. The well known Soviet fire-sack defense, for example.
13. Hence the terms reconnaissance pull and command push respectively. See
William S. Lind's Maneuver Warfare Handbook (Boulder, CO: Westview Press,
1985) pp. 18-19.
Esprit de Corps
By Daniel E. Sims
GySgt, USMC (Ret.)
Ask a Marine what's so special about the Marines and the answer would be "esprit de corps", an unhelpful French phrase that means exactly what it looks like - the spirit of the Corps. But what is that spirit, and where does it come from?
The Marine Corps is the only branch of the U.S. armed forces that recruits people specifically to fight. The Army emphasizes personal development (an army of one), the Navy promises fun (let the journey begin), and the Air Force offers security (it's a great way of life). Missing from all of these advertisements is the hard fact that it is a soldier's lot to suffer and perhaps to die for his people, and to take lives at the risk of his own. Even the thematic music of the services reflects this evasion. The Army's Caisson Song describes a pleasant country outing over hill and dale, lacking only a picnic basket. Anchors Aweigh, the Navy's celebration of the joys of sailing, could have been penned by Jimmy Buffet. The Air Force song is a lyric poem of blue skies and engine thrust. All is joyful and invigorating, and safe. There are no landmines in the dales nor snipers behind the hills, no submarines or cruise missiles threaten the ocean jaunt, no bandits are lurking in the wild blue yonder.
The Marines’ Hymn, by contrast, is all combat. We fight our country's battles, first to fight for right and freedom, we have fought in every clime and place where we could take a gun, in many a strife we've fought for life.
The choice is made clear. You may join the Army to go to adventure training, or join the Navy to go to Bangkok, or join the Air Force to go to computer school. You join the Marines to go to war.
But the mere act of signing the enlistment contract confers no status in the Corps. The Army recruit is told from his first minute in uniform that "you're in the Army now, soldier". Navy and Air Force enlistees are sailors or airmen as soon as they get off the bus at the training center. The new arrival at Marine Corps boot camp is called recruit, or private, or worse (much worse), but not Marine. Not yet; maybe not ever. He or she must earn the right to claim the title, and failure returns you to civilian life without hesitation or ceremony.
My recruit platoon, Platoon 2210 at San Diego, California, trained from October through December of 1968. In Vietnam the Marines were taking two hundred casualties a week, and the major rainy season operation, Meade River, had not even begun. Yet our drill instructors had no qualms about winnowing out almost a quarter of their 112 recruits, graduating eighty-one. Note that this was post- enlistment attrition; every one of those who were dropped had been passed by the recruiters as fit for service. But they failed the test of boot camp, not necessarily for physical reasons (at least two were outstanding high-school athletes for whom the calesthenics and running were child's play). The cause of their failure was not in the biceps nor the legs, but in the spirit. They had lacked the will to endure the mental and emotional strain, so they would not be Marines. Heavy commitments and high casulties notwithstanding, the Corps reserves the right to pick and choose.
But the war had touched boot camp in one way. The normal twelve-week course of training was shortened to eight weeks. Deprived of a third of their training time, our drill instructors hurried over, or dropped completely, those classes without direct relevance to Vietnam. Chemical warfare training was abandoned. Swimming classes shrank to a single familiarization session. Even hand-to-hand combat was skimped. Three things only remained inviolate: close order drill, the ultimate discipline builder; marksmanship training, the heart of combat effectiveness; and classes on the history, customs and traditions of the Corps.
History classes in boot camp? Stop a soldier on the street and ask him to name a battle of World War One. Pick a sailor at random to describe the epic fight of the Bon Homme Richard. Everyone has heard of McGuire Air Force Base, so ask any airman who Major Thomas B. McGuire was, and why he is so commemorated. I am not carping, and there is no sneer in this criticism. All of the services have glorious traditions, but no one teaches the young soldier, sailor or airman what his uniform means and why he should be proud to wear it.
But ask a Marine about World War One, and you will hear of the wheatfield at Belleau Wood and the courage of the Fourth Marine Brigade. Faced with an enemy of superior numbers entrenched in tangled forest undergrowth, the Marines received an order to attack that even the charitable cannot call ill-advised. It was insane. Artillery support was absent and air support hadn't been invented yet, so the Brigade charged German machine guns with only bayonets, grenades and indomitable fighting spirit. A bandy-legged little barrel of a gunnery sergeant, Daniel J. Daly, rallied his company with a shout. "Come on, you sons a bitches! Do you want to live forever?" He took out three of those machine guns himself, and they would have given him the Medal of Honor except for a technicality. He already had two of them. French liaison officers, hardened though they were by four years of trenchbound slaughter, were shocked as the Marines charged across the open wheatfield under a blazing sun and directly into enemy fire. Their action was so anachronistic on a twentieth-century battlefield that they might as well have been swinging cutlasses. But the enemy was only human; they couldn't stand up to this. So the Marines took Belleau Wood.
Every Marine knows this story, and dozens more. We are taught them in boot camp as a regular part of the curriculum. Every Marine will always be taught them. You can learn to don a gas mask anytime, even on the plane en route to the war zone, but before you can wear the emblem and claim the title you must know of the Marines who made that emblem and title meaningful. So long as you can march and shoot and revere the legacy of the Corps, you can take your place in the line.
And that line is unified in spirit as in purpose. A soldier wears branch of service insignia on his collar, and metal shoulder pins and cloth sleeve patches to identify his unit. Sailors wear a rating badge that identifies what they do for the Navy. Marines wear only the eagle, globe and anchor, together with personal ribbons and their cherished marksmanship badges. There is nothing on a Marine's uniform to indicate what he or she does, nor (except for the 5th and 6th Regiments who wear a French fourragere for Belleau Wood) what unit the Marine belongs to. You cannot tell by looking at a Marine whether you are seeing a truck driver, a computer programmer, or a machine gunner. The Corps explains this as a security measure to conceal the identity and location of units, but the Marines penchant for publicity makes that the least likely of explanations. No, the Marine is amorphous, even anonymous (we finally agreed to wear nametags only in 1992), by conscious design. Every Marine is a rifleman first and foremost, a Marine first, last and always. You may serve a four-year enlistment or even a twenty-year career without seeing action, but if the word is given you'll charge across that wheatfield. Whether a Marine has been schooled in automated supply, or automotive mechanics, or aviation electronics, is immaterial. Those things are secondary - the Corps does them because it must. The modern battle requires the technical appliances, and since the enemy has them, so do we. But no Marine boasts mastery of them. Our pride is in our marksmanship, our discipline, and our membership in a fraternity of courage and sacrifice.
"For the honor of the fallen, for the glory of the dead", Edgar Guest wrote of Belleau Wood, "the living line of courage kept the faith and moved ahead." They are all gone now, those Marines who made a French farmer's little wheatfield into one of the most enduring of Marine Corps legends. Many of them did not survive the day, and eight long decades have claimed the rest. But their action has made them immortal. The Corps remembers them and honors what they did, and so they live forever. Dan Daly's shouted challenge takes on its true meaning - if you hide in the trenches you may survive for now, but someday you will die and no one will care. If you charge the guns you may die in the next two minutes, but you will be one of the immortals. All Marines die, in the red flash of battle or the white cold of the nursing home. In the vigor of youth or the infirmity of age all will eventually die, but the Marine Corps lives on. Every Marine who ever lived is living still, in the Marines who claim the title today. It is that sense of belonging to something that will outlive your own mortality that gives people a light to live by and a flame to mark their passing.
Marines call it esprit de corps