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United States Marine Corps, 1989

This is the original version of the US Marine Corps' basic militaryphilosophical manual, Warfighting. It was drafted by Captain John Schmittunder the direction of the USMC Commandant, General Alfred M. Gray. It isessentially a tight summary of Carl von Clausewitz's On War, with astrong flavoring from the Chinese military sage Sun Tzu, a heavy bias towardmaneuver warfare, and many reflections of Marine Corps culture. It was replacedin 1997 by its direct descendant, MCDP 1:Warfighting, also drafted by John Schmitt. The original remainsvaluable, 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 howwe prepare to fight.

By design, this is a small book and easy to read. It is not intended as areference manual, but is designed to be read from cover to cover. There is anatural progression to its four chapters. Chapter 1 describes our understandingof the characteristics, problems, and demands of war. Chapter 2 derives a theoryabout war based on that understanding. This theory in turn provides thefoundation for how we prepare for war and how we wage war, chapters 3 and 4respectively.

You will notice that this book does not contain specific techniques andprocedures for conduct. Rather, it provides broad guidance in the form ofconcepts and values. It requires judgment in application.

I expect every officer to read--and reread--this book, understand it, andtake its message to heart. The thoughts contained here represent not justguidance for actions in combat, but a way of thinking in general. This manualthus describes a philosophy for action which, in war and in peace, in the fieldand in the rear, dictates our approach to duty.

General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commandant of the Marine Corps

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Nature ofWar

War Defined - Friction - Uncertainty - Fluidity - Disorder -TheHuman Dimension - Violence and Danger - Moral and Physical Forces - TheEvolution of War - Art and Science of War

Chapter 2. The Theory ofWar

War as an Instrument of Policy - Means in War - The Spectrum ofConflict - Levels of War - Offense and Defense - Styles of Warfare - CombatPower - Concentration and Speed - Surprise and Boldness - ExploitingVulnerability and Opportunity

Chapter 3. Preparing forWar

Planning - Organization - Doctrine - Leadership - Training -Professional Military Education - Equipping

Chapter 4. The Conduct ofWar

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


"Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. Thedifficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that isinconceivable unless one has experienced war."
--Carl von Clausewitz

"In war the chief incalculable is the human will."
--B. H. LiddellHart

"Positions are seldom lost because they have been destroyed, but almostinvariably because the leader has decided in his own mind that the positioncannot be held."
--A. A. Vandegrift

To understand the Marine Corps' philosophy ofwarfighting, we first need an appreciation for the nature of war itself--itsmoral and physical characteristics and demands. A common view among Marines ofthe nature of war is a necessary base for the development of a cohesivedoctrine.


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 violentclash between two hostile, independent and irreconcilable wills, each trying toimpose itself on the other.
Thus, the object of war is to impose our will onour enemy. The means to that end is the organized application or threat ofviolence by military force.
     When significantdisagreements 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 atpeace. However, absolute war and peace rarely exist in practice. Rather, theyare extremes between which exist the relations among most nations. The need toresort to military force of some kind may arise at any point within theseextremes, even during periods of relative peace. Thus, for our purposes war mayrange from intense clashes between large military forces--backed by an officialdeclaration of war--to covert hostilities which barely reach the threshold ofviolence.


So portrayed, war appears a simple enterprise. But in practice, because ofthe countless factors that impinge on it, the conduct of war becomes extremelydifficult. These factors collectively have been called friction, whichClausewitz described as "the force that makes the apparently easy so difficult."Friction is the force that resists all action. It makes the simple difficult andthe difficult seemingly impossible.
     The veryessence of war as a clash between opposed wills creates friction. It is criticalto keep in mind that the enemy is not an inanimate object but an independent andanimate 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 difficultand 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 effectiveenemy fire or a terrain obstacle that must be overcome. Friction may beexternal, imposed by enemy action, the terrain, weather, or mere chance. Orfriction may be self-induced, caused by such factors as lack of a clearlydefined goal, lack of coordination, unclear or complicated plans, complex taskorganizations or command relationships, or complicated communication systems.Whatever form it takes, because war is a human enterprise, friction will alwayshave a psychological as well as a physical impact.
While we should attemptto minimize self-induced friction, the greater requirement is to fighteffectively within the medium of friction. The means to overcome friction is thewill; we prevail over friction through persistent strength of mind and spirit.While striving to overcome the effects of friction ourselves, we must attempt atthe same time to raise our enemy's friction to a level that destroys his abilityto fight.
     We can readily identify countlessexamples of friction, but until we have experienced it ourselves, we cannot hopeto appreciate it fully. Only through experience can we come to appreciate theforce of will necessary to overcome friction and to develop a realisticappreciation for what is possible in war and what is not. While training shouldattempt to approximate the conditions of war, we must realize it can never fullyduplicate the level of friction of real combat.


The next attribute of the environment of war is uncertainty. We might arguethat uncertainty is just one of many sources of friction, but because it is sucha 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 theenvironment, and even about the friendly situation. While we try to reduce theseunknowns by gathering information, we must realize we cannot eliminate them. Thevery nature of war makes absolute certainty impossible; all actions in war willbe based on incomplete, inaccurate, or even contradictory information.
Atbest, we can hope to determine probabilities. This implies a certain standard ofmilitary judgment: what is probable and what is not? Through this judgment ofprobability 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 falloutside the realm of probability that often have the greatest impact on theoutcome of war.
     We must learn to fight in anenvironment of uncertainty, which we can do by developing simple, flexibleplans; planning for contingencies; developing standing operating procedures; andfostering initiative among subordinates.
     By itsnature, uncertainty invariably involves the estimation and acceptance of risk.Risk is inherent in war and is involved in every mission. Risk is also relatedto gain; normally, greater potential gain requires greater risk. Further, riskis equally common to action and inaction. The practice of concentrating combatpower at the focus of effort necessitates the willingness to accept prudentrisk. However, we should clearly understand that the acceptance of risk does notequate to the imprudent willingness to gamble the entire likelihood of successon a single improbable event.
     Part of risk is theungovernable element of chance. The element of chance is a universalcharacteristic of war and a continuous source of friction. Chance consists ofturns of events that cannot reasonably be foreseen and over which we and ourenemy have no control. The uncontrollable potential for chance along createspsychological friction. We should remember that chance favors neitherbelligerent exclusively. Consequently, we must view chance not only as a threatbut also as an opportunity, which we must be ever ready to exploit.


Like friction and uncertainty, fluidity is an integral attribute of thenature of war. Each episode in war is the temporary result of a uniquecombination of circumstances, requiring an original solution. But no episode canbe viewed in isolation. Rather, each merges with those that precede and followit -- shaped by the former and shaping the conditions of the latter -- creatinga continuous, fluctuating fabric of activity replete with fleeting opportunitiesand unforeseen events. Success depends in large part on the ability to adapt toa constantly changing situation.
     It is physicallyimpossible to sustain a high tempo of activity indefinitely, although clearlythere will be times when it is advantageous to push men and equipment to thelimit. Thus, the tempo of war will fluctuate--from periods of intense activityto periods in which activity is limited to information gathering, replenishment,or redeployment. Darkness and weather can influence the tempo of war but neednot halt it. A competitive rhythm will develop between the opposing wills, witheach belligerent trying to influence and exploit tempo and the continuous flowof events to suit his purposes.


In an environment of friction, uncertainty, and fluidity, war gravitatesnaturally toward disorder. Like the other attributes of the environment of war,disorder is an integral characteristic of war; we can never eliminate it. In theheat of battle, plans will go awry, instructions and information will be unclearand misinterpreted, communications will fail, and mistakes and unforeseen eventswill be commonplace. It is precisely this natural disorder which creates theconditions ripe for exploitation by an opportunistic will.
     Each encounter in war will usually tend to growincreasingly disordered over time. As the situation changes continuously, we areforced to improvise again and again until finally our actions have little, ifany, resemblance to the original scheme.
By historical standards, the modernbattlefield is particularly disorderly. While past battlefields could bedescribed by linear formations and uninterrupted linear fronts, we cannot thinkof today's battlefield in linear terms. The range and lethality of modernweapons has increased dispersion between units. In spite of communicationstechnology, this dispersion strains the limits of positive control. The naturalresult of dispersion is unoccupied areas, gaps, and exposed flanks which can andwill be exploited, blurring the distinction between front and rear and friendly-and enemy-controlled areas.
     The occurrences of warwill not unfold like clockwork. Thus, we cannot hope to impose precise, positivecontrol over events. The best we can hope for is to impose a general frameworkof order on the disorder, to prescribe the general flow of action rather than totry to control each event.
     If we are to win, wemust be able to operate in a disorderly environment. In fact, we must not onlybe able to fight effectively in the face of disorder, we should seek to generatedisorder for our opponent and use it as a weapon against him.


Because war is a clash between opposing human wills, the human dimension iscentral in war. It is the human dimension which infuses war with its intangiblemoral factors. War is shaped by human nature and is subject to the complexities,inconsistencies, and peculiarities which characterize human behavior. Since waris an act of violence based on irreconcilable disagreement, it will invariablyinflame and be shaped by human emotions.
     War is anextreme trial of moral and physical strength and stamina. Any view of the natureof war would hardly be accurate or complete without consideration of the effectsof danger, fear, exhaustion, and privation on the men who must do the fighting.However, these effects vary greatly from case to case. Individuals and peoplesreact differently to the stress of war; an act that may break the will of oneenemy may only serve to stiffen the resolve of another.
     No degree of technological development orscientific calculation will overcome the human dimension in war. Any doctrinewhich attempts to reduce warfare to ratios of forces, weapons, and equipmentneglects the impact of the human will on the conduct of war and is thereforeinherently false.


War is among the greatest horrors known to mankind; it should never beromanticized. The means of war is force, applied in the form of organizedviolence. 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 todo our will. In either event, violence is an essential element of war, and itsimmediate result is bloodshed, destruction, and suffering. While the magnitudeof violence may vary with the object and means of war, the violent essence ofwar will never change. Any study of war that neglects this characteristic ismisleading and incomplete.
     Since war is a violententerprise, danger is a fundamental characteristic of war. And since war is ahuman phenomenon, fear--the human reaction to danger--has a significant impacton the conduct of war. All men feel fear. Leadership must foster the courage toovercome fear, both individually and within the unit. Courage is not the absenceof fear; rather, it is the strength to overcome fear.
     Leaders must study fear, understand it, and beprepared to cope with it. Like fear, courage takes many forms, from a stoiccourage born of reasoned calculation to a fierce courage born of heightenedemotion. Experience under fire generally increases courage, as can realistictraining by lessening the mystique of combat. Strong leadership which earns therespect and trust of subordinates can limit the effects of fear. Leaders shoulddevelop unit cohesion and esprit and the self-confidence of individuals withinthe unit. In this environment a Marine's unwillingness to violate the respectand trust of his peers will overcome personal fear.


War is characterized by the interaction of both moral and physical forces.The physical characteristics of war are generally easily seen, understood, andmeasured: hardware, technology, physical objectives seized, force ratios, lossesof material or life, terrain lost or gained, prisoners or materiel captured. Themoral characteristics are less tangible. (The term moral as used here is notrestricted to ethics--although ethics are certainly included--but pertains tothose forces of psychological rather than tangible nature, to include the mentalaspects of war. Moral forces are difficult to grasp and impossible to quantify.We cannot easily gauge forces like national and military resolve, national orindividual conscience, emotion, fear, courage, morale, leadership, or esprit.Yet moral forces exert a greater influence on the nature and outcome of war thando physical. This is not to lessen the importance of physical forces, for thephysical 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 ofphysical destruction they cause, but the effect of that physical destruction onhis moral strength.
     Because the moral forces of warare difficult to come to grips with, it is tempting to exclude them from ourstudy of war. However, any doctrine or theory of war that neglects these factorsignores the greater part of the nature of war.


War is both timeless and ever changing. While the basic nature of war isconstant, the means and methods we use evolve continuously. These changes may begradual in some cases and drastic in others. Drastic changes in the nature ofwar are the result of developments that dramatically upset the equilibrium ofwar, such as the rifled bore and the railroad.
One major catalyst of changesis the advancement of technology. As the physical hardware of war improvesthrough technological development, so must the tactical, operational, andstrategic usage of those means adapt to the improved capabilities-- both tomaximize our capabilities and to counteract our enemy's.
     We must stay abreast of this process of change, forthe belligerent who first exploits a development in the art and science of wargains a significant, if not decisive, advantage. Conversely, if we are ignorantof the changing face of war, we will find ourselves unequal to its challenges.


From the discussion to this point, we can conclude that war demonstratescharacteristics of both art and science. Various aspects of war, particularlyits technical aspects, fall principally in the realm of science, which we willdescribe as the methodical application of the empirical laws of nature. Thescience of war includes those activities directly subject to the laws ofphysics, 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 wholephenomenon. Owing to the vagaries of human behavior and the countless otherintangible factors which contribute to it, there is far more to the conduct ofwar than can be explained by science. The science of war stops short of the needfor military judgment, the impact of moral forces, the influence of chance, andother similar factors. We thus conclude that the conduct of war is ultimately anart, an activity of human creativity and intuition powered by the strength ofthe human will. The art of war requires the intuitive ability to grasp theessence of a unique battlefield situation, the creative ability to devise apractical solution, and the strength of purpose to execute the act.


At first glance, war seems a rather simple clash of interests. But at closerexamination, it takes shape as one of the most demanding and trying of man'sendeavors. Fog, friction, and chaos are its natural habitat. Each episode is theunique product of the dynamic interaction of myriad moral and physical forces.While founded on the laws of science, war demands, ultimately, the intuition andcreativity of art.


"The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, andthe means can never be considered in isolation from their purposes."
--Carl von Clausewitz

"Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in theattack. One defends when his strength is inadequate; he attacks when it isabundant."
--Sun Tzu

"Battles are won by slaughter and manoeuvre. The greater the general, themore he contributes in manoeuvre, the less he demands in slaughter."
--Winston Churchill

Having arrived at a common view of the nature ofwar, we proceed to develop from it a theory of war. Our theory of war will inturn be the foundation for the way we prepare for and wage war.


War does not exist for its own sake. It is an extension of policy withmilitary force. The policy aim that is the motive for war must also be theforemost determinant for the conduct of war. The single most important thoughtto understand about our theory is that war must serve policy. As the policy aimsof war may vary from resistance against aggression to complete annihilation ofthe enemy, so must the application of violence vary in accordance with thoseaims. Of course, we may also have to adjust our policy objectives to accommodateour means; we must not establish goals outside our capabilities.
     When the policy motive of war is intense, such asthe annihilation of an enemy, then policy and war's natural military tendencytoward destruction will coincide, and the war will appear more military and lesspolitical in nature. Onthe other hand, the less intense the policy motive, themore the military tendency toward destruction will be at variance with thatmotive, and the more political and less military the war will appear.
     The aim in war is to achieve our will. Theimmediate requirement is to overcome our enemy's ability to resist us, which isa product of the physical means at his disposal and the strength of his will. Wemust either eliminate his physical ability to resist or, short of this, we mustdestroy his will to resist. In military terms, this means the defeat of theenemy's fighting forces, but always in a manner and to a degree consistent withthe national policy objective.


At the national level, war involves the use of all the elements of nationalpower, including diplomacy, military force, economics, ideology, technology, andculture. Our primary concern is with the use of military force as an instrumentof policy. But while we will focus on the use of military force, we must notconsider it in isolation from the other elements of national power. The use ofmilitary force may take any number of forms, from intense warfare withsophisticated weaponry to mere demonstrations. The principal means for theapplication of military force is combat--violence in the form of armed conflictbetween military or paramilitary forces.


Conflict can take a wide range of forms, constituting a spectrum whichreflects the magnitude of violence involved. At one end are those conflicts oflow intensity in which the application of military power is restrained andselective. 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 onseveral factors. Among them are policy objectives, military means available,national will, and density of fighting forces or combat power on thebattlefield. In general, the greater the density, the more intense the conflict.As a result, we may witness relatively intense actions within a low- intensityconflict or relatively quiet sectors or phases in an intense war.
     Low-intensity conflicts are more probable thanhigh-intensity conflicts. Many nations simply do not possess the military meansto wage war at the high end of the spectrum. And, unless national survival is atstake, nations are generally unwilling to accept the risks associated with warsof high intensity. However, a conflict's intensity may change over time.Belligerents may escalate the level of violence if the original means do notachieve the desired results. Similarly, wars may actually de-escalate over time;for example, after an initial pulse of intense violence, the belligerents maycontinue to fight on a lesser level, unable to sustain the initial level ofintensity.
     The Marine Corps, as the nation's forcein readiness, must have the versatility and flexibility to deal with militaryand paramilitary situations across the entire spectrum of conflict. This is agreater challenge than it may appear; conflicts of low intensity are not simplylesser forms of high-intensity war. A modern military force capable of waging awar of high intensity may find itself ill-prepared for a "small" war against apoorly equipped guerilla force.


War takes place simultaneously at several correlated levels, each withdiffering ends, means, characteristics, and requirements.
Activities at thestrategic level focus directly on national policy objectives. Strategy appliesto peace as well as war. Within strategy we distinguish between nationalstrategy, which coordinates and focuses all the components of national power toattain the policy objective, and military strategy, which is the application ofmilitary force to secure the policy objective. Military strategy thus issubordinate to national strategy. Strategy can be thought of as the art ofwinning wars. Strategy establishes goals in theaters of war. It assigns forces,provides assets, and imposes conditions on the use of force. Strategy derivedfrom national policy must be clearly understood to be the sole authoritativebasis of all operations.
     Activities at the tacticallevel of far focus on the application of combat power to defeat an enemy incombat at a particular time and place. Tactics can be thought of as the art andscience of winning engagements and battles. It includes the use of firepower andmaneuver, the integration of different arms, and the immediate exploitation ofsuccess to defeat the enemy. Included within the tactical level of war is thesustainment of forces during combat. The tactical level also includes thetechnical application of combat power, which consists of those techniques andprocedures for accomplishing specific tasks within a tactical action. Thesetechniques and procedures deal primarily with actions designed to enhance theeffects of fires or reduce the effects of enemy fires--methods such as the callfor fire, techniques of fire, the technical operation of weapons and equipment,or tactical movement techniques. There is a certain overlap between tactics andtechniques. 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 strategicand tactical levels. It is the use of tactical results to attain strategicobjectives. The operational level includes deciding when, where, and under whatconditions to engage the enemy in battle--and when, where, and under whatconditions to refuse battle--with reference to higher aims. Actions at thislevel imply a broader dimension of time and space than do tactics. As strategydeals with wars and tactics with battles and engagements, the operational levelof war is the art of winning campaigns. It means are tactical results, and itsend is the military strategic objective.


Regardless of its type and nature of the level at which it is fought, combatmanifests itself in two different but complementary forms: the offense and thedefense. The offense and defense are24 neither mutually exclusive nor clearlydistinct; as we will see, each includes elements of the other.
     The offense contributes striking power. The offensegenerally has its aim some positive gain; it is through the offense that we seekto impose some design on the enemy. The defense, on the other hand, contributesresisting power, the ability to preserve and protect oneself. Thus, the defensegenerally has a negative aim, that of resisting the enemy's will.
     The defense is inherently the stronger form ofcombat. Were this not the case, there would be no reason ever to assume thedefensive. The offense, with its positive aim, would always be preferable. Butin fact, if we are weaker than our enemy, we assume the defensive to compensatefor 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'sdefense.
     At least one party to a conflict must havean offensive intention, for without the desire to impose upon the other therewould be no conflict. Similarly, the second party must at least possess adefensive desire, for without the willingness to resist there again would be noconflict. We can imagine a conflict in which both parties possess an offensiveintention. But after the initial clash one of them must assume a defensiveposture out of weakness until able to resume the offensive.
     This leads us to the conclusion that while thedefense is the stronger form of combat, the offense is the preferred form, foronly through the offense can we truly pursue a positive aim. We resort to thedefensive when weakness compels.
     While opposingforms, the offense and defense are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they cannotexist separately. For example, the defense cannot be purely passive resistance.An effective defense must assume an offensive character, striking at the enemyat the moment of his greatest vulnerability. It is "not a simple shield, but ashield made up of well-directed blows." The truly decisive element of thedefense is the counterattack. Thus, the offense is an integral component of theconcept of the defense.
     Similarly, the defense isan essential component of the offense. The offense cannot sustain itselfindefinitely. At some times and places, it becomes necessary to halt the offenseto replenish, and the defense automatically takes over. Furthermore, therequirement to concentrate forces at the focus of effort for the offense oftennecessitates assuming the defensive elsewhere. Therefore, out of necessity wemust include defensive considerations as part of our concept of the offense.
     This brings us to the concept of the culminatingpoint, without which our understanding of the relationship between the offenseand defense would be incomplete. Not only can the offense not sustain itselfindefinitely, it generally grows weaker as it advances. Certain moral factors,such as morale or boldness, may increase with a successful attack, but thesegenerally cannot compensate for the physical losses involved in sustaining anadvance in the face of resistance. We advance at a cost--lives, fuel,ammunition, physical and sometimes moral strength--and so the attack becomesweaker over time. Eventually, the superiority that allowed us to attack andforced our enemy to defend in the first place dissipates and the balance tips infavor of our enemy. We have reached the culminating point, at which we can nolonger sustain the attack and must revert to the defense. It is precisely atthis point that the defensive element of the offense is most vulnerable to theoffensive element of the defense, the counterattack.
     This relationship between offense and defenseexists simultaneously at the various levels of war. For example, we may employ atactical defense as part of an offensive campaign, availing ourselves of theadvantages of the defense tactically while pursuing an operational offensiveaim.
     We conclude that there exists no cleardivision between the offense and defense. Our theory of war should not attemptto impose one artificially. The offense and defense exist simultaneously asnecessary components of each other, and the transition from one to the other isfluid and continuous.


Just as there are two basic forms of combat, there are two essentialcomponents: fire and movement. Of all the countless activities in combat, we candistill them to these.
     It would seem in theory thatfire and movement represent opposite ends of a spectrum. But in reality, onecannot exist without the other, for fire and movement are complementary andmutually dependent. It is movement that allows us to bring our fires to bear onthe enemy just as it is the protection of fires that allows us to move in theface of the enemy. It is through movement that we exploit the effects of fireswhile 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: anattrition 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 amaneuver campaign comprising a series of attrition battles.
     Warfare by attrition seeks victory through thecumulative destruction of the enemy's material assets by superior firepower andtechnology. An attritionist sees the enemy as targets to be engaged anddestroyed systematically. Thus, the focus is on efficiency, leading to amethodical, almost scientific, approach to war. With the emphasis on theefficient application of massed, accurate fires, movement tends to be ponderousand tempo relatively unimportant. The attritionist gauges progress inquantitative terms: battle damage assessments, "body counts," and terraincaptured. He seeks battle under any and all conditions, pitting strength againststrength to exact the greatest toll from his enemy. Results are generallyproportionate to efforts; greater expenditures net greater results--that is,greater attrition. The desire for volume and accuracy of fire tends to leadtoward centralized control, just as the emphasis on efficiency tends to lead toan inward focus on procedures and techniques. Success through attrition demandsthe willingness and ability also to withstand attrition, because warfare byattrition is costly. The greatest necessity for success is numericalsuperiority, and at the national level war becomes as much an industrial as amilitary problem. Victory does not depend so much on military competence as onsheer superiority of numbers in men and equipment.
    In contrast, warfare by maneuver stems from a desire to circumvent a problem andattack it from a position of advantage rather than meet it straight on. The goalis the application of strength against selected enemy weakness. By definition,maneuver relies on speed and surprise, for without either we cannot concentratestrength against enemy weakness. Tempo is itself a weapon--often the mostimportant. The need for speed in turn requires decentralized control. Whileattrition operates principally in the physical realm of war, the results ofmaneuver are both physical and moral. The object of maneuver is not so much todestroy physically as it is to shatter the enemy's cohesion, organization,command, and psychological balance.      Successfulmaneuver depends on the ability to identify and exploit enemy weakness, notsimply on the expenditure of superior might. To win by maneuver, we cannotsubstitute numbers for skill. Maneuver thus makes a greater demand on militaryjudgment. Potential success by maneuver--unlike attrition--is oftendisproportionate to the effort made. But for exactly the same reasons, maneuverincompetently applied carries with it a greater chance for catastrophic failure,while attrition is inherently less risky.
     Becausewe have long enjoyed vast numerical and technological superiority, the UnitedStates has traditionally waged war by attrition. However, Marine Corps doctrinetoday 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 enemyat a given time. Some factors in combat power are quite tangible and easilymeasured, such as superior numbers, which Clausewitz called "the most commonelement in victory." Some may be less easily measured, such as the effects ofmaneuver, tempo, or surprise; the advantages established by geography orclimate; the relative strengths of the offense and defense; or the relativemerits of striking the enemy in the front, flanks, or rear. And some may bewholly intangible, such as morale, fighting spirit, perseverance, or the effectsof leadership.
     It is not our intent to try to listor categorize all the various components of combat power, to index theirrelative values, or to describe their combinations and variations; eachcombination is unique and temporary. Nor is it even desirable to be able to doso, since this would lead us to a formulistic approach to war.


Of all the consistent patterns we can discern in war, there are two conceptsof such significance and universality that we can advance them as principles:concentration and speed.
     Concentration is theconvergence of effort in time and space. It is the means by which we developsuperiority at the decisive time and place. concentration does not apply only tocombat forces. It applies equally to all available resources: fires, aviation,the intelligence effort, logistics, and all other forms of combat support andcombat service support. Similarly, concentration does not apply only to theconduct of war, but also to the preparation for war.
     Effective concentration may achieve decisive localsuperiority for a numerically inferior force. The willingness to concentrate atthe decisive place and time necessitates strict economy and the acceptance ofrisk elsewhere and at other times. To devote means to unnecessary efforts orexcessive means to necessary secondary efforts violates the principle ofconcentration 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 onlyat the decisive location, but also at the decisive moment. Furthermore, physicalconcentration--massing--makes us vulnerable to enemy fires, necessitatingdispersion. Thus, a pattern develops: disperse, concentrate, disperse again.
Speed is rapidity of action. Like concentration, speed applies to both timeand space. And, like concentration, it is relative speed that matters. Speedover 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 sourcesof combat power. In other words, speed is a weapon. Superior speed allows us toseize the initiative and dictate the terms of combat, forcing the enemy to reactto us. Speed provides security. It is a prerequisite for maneuver and forsurprise. Moreover, speed is necessary in order to concentrate superior strengthat the decisive time and place.
     Since it isrelative speed that matters, it follows that we should take all measures toimprove our own tempo and velocity while degrading our enemy's. However,experience shows that we cannot sustain a high rate of velocity or tempoindefinitely. As a result, another pattern develops: fast, slow, fast again. Acompetitive rhythm develops in combat, with each belligerent trying to generatespeed when it is to his advantage.
     The combinationof concentration and speed is momentum. Momentum generates impetus. It adds"punch" or "shock effect" to our actions. It follows that we should strike thedecisive blow with the greatest possible combination of concentration and speed.


     We must now acknowledge two additionalconsiderations that are significant as multipliers of combat power: surprise andboldness.
     By surprise we mean striking the enemy ata time or place or in a manner for which he is unprepared. It is not essentialthat we take the enemy unaware, but only that he become aware too late to reacteffectively. 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 genuinemultiplier of strength in its own right because of its psychological effect.Surprise can decisively affect the outcome of combat far beyond the physicalmeans at hand.
     Surprise is the paralysis, if onlypartial and temporary, of the enemy's ability to resist. The advantage gained bysurprise depends on the degree of surprise and the enemy's ability to adjust andrecover. Surprise is based on speed, secrecy, and deception. It means doing theunexpected thing, which in turn normally means doing the more difficult thing inhopes that the enemy will not expect it. In fact, this is the genesis ofmaneuver- -to circumvent the enemy's strength to strike him where he is notprepared. Purposely choosing the more difficult course because it is lessexpected necessarily means sacrificing efficiency to some degree. The questionis" Does the anticipated advantage gained compensate for the certain loss ofefficiency that must be incurred?
     While the elementof surprise is often of decisive importance, we must realize that it isdifficult to achieve and easy to lose. Its advantages are only temporary andmust be quickly exploited. Friction, a dominant attribute of war, is theconstant enemy of surprise. We must also recognize that while surprise is alwaysdesirable, 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--hisexpectations and preparedness. Our ability to achieve surprise thus rests on ourability 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 themargin of victory.
     Boldness is a multiplier ofcombat power in much the same way that surprise is, for "in what other field ofhuman activity is boldness more at home than in war?" Boldness "must be granteda certain power over and above successful calculations involving space, time,and magnitude of forces, for wherever it is superior, it will take advantage ofits 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 onlyin the face of nervy, calculating patience which allows the enemy to commithimself irrevocably before striking--a form of boldness in its own right.Boldness must be tempered with judgment lest it border on recklessness. But thisdoes not diminish its significance.


It is not enough simply to generate superior combat power. We can easilyconceive of superior combat power dissipated over several unrelated efforts orconcentrated on some indecisive object. To win, we must concentrate combat powertoward a decisive aim.
     We obviously stand a betterchance of success by concentrating strength against enemy weakness rather thanagainst strength. So we seek to strike the enemy where, when, and how he is mostvulnerable. This means that we should generally avoid his front, where hisattention 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 greatestpsychological damage. We should also strike at that moment in time when he ismost vulnerable.
     Of all the vulnerabilities wemight choose to exploit, some are more critical to the enemy than others. Itfollows that the most effective way to defeat our enemy is to destroy that whichis most critical to him. We should focus our efforts on the one thing which, ifeliminated, will do the most decisive damage to his ability to resist us. Bytaking this from him we defeat him outright or at least weaken him severely.
     Therefore,we should focus our efforts against acritical enemy vulnerability. Obviously, the more critical and vulnerable, thebetter. But this is by no means an easy decision, since the most critical objectmay not be the most vulnerable. In selecting an aim, we we thus recognize theneed for sound military judgment to compare the degree of criticality with thedegree of vulnerability and to balance both against our own capabilities.Reduced to its simplest terms, we should strike our enemy where and when we canhurt him most.
     This concept applies equally to theconflict 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 appliesequally to the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. At the highest levela critical vulnerability is likely to be some intangible condition, such aspopular opinion or a shaky alliance between two countries, although it may alsobe some essential war resource or a key city. At the lower levels a criticalvulnerability is more likely to take on a physical nature, such as an exposedflank, a chokepoint along the enemy's line of operations, a logistics dump, agap in enemy dispositions, or even the weak side armor of a tank.
     In reality, our enemy's most critical vulnerabilitywill rarely be obvious, particularly at the lower levels. We may have to adoptthe tactic of exploiting any and all vulnerabilities until we uncover a decisiveopportunity.
     This leads us to a corollary thought:exploiting opportunity. Decisive results in war are rarely the direct result ofan initial, deliberate action. Rather, the initial action creates the conditionsfor subsequent actions which develop from it. As the opposing wills interact,they create various, fleeting opportunities for either foe. Such opportunitiesare often born of the disorder that is natural in war. They may be the result ofour own actions, enemy mistakes, or even chance. By exploiting opportunities, wecreate in increasing numbers more opportunities for exploitation. It is oftenthe ability and the willingness to ruthlessly exploit these opportunities thatgenerate decisive results. The ability to take advantage of opportunity is afunction of speed, flexibility, boldness, and initiative.


The theory of war we have described will provide the foundation for thediscussion of the conduct of war in the final chapter. The warfighting doctrinewhich we derive from our theory is one based on maneuver. This represents achange since, with a few notable exceptions--Stonewall Jackson in the Valley,Patton in Europe, MacArthur at Inchon--the American way of war traditionally hasbeen one of attrition. This style of warfare generally has worked for usbecause, with our allies, we have enjoyed vast numerical and technologicalsuperiority. But we can no longer presume such a luxury. In fact, anexpeditionary force in particular must be prepared to win quickly, with minimalcasualties and limited external support, against a physical superior foe. Thisrequirement mandates a doctrine of maneuver warfare.


"The essential thing is action. Action has three stages: the decision bornof 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, andfor 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 thissaves unnecessary casualties"
--Erwin Rommel

"Untutored courage (is) useless in the face of educated bullets."
--George S. Patton, Jr.

During times of peace the most important task ofany military is to prepare for war. As the nation's rapid-response force, theMarine Corps must maintain itself ready for immediate employment in any climeand place and in any type of conflict. All peacetime activities should focus onachieving combat readiness. This implies a high level of training, flexibilityin organization and equipment, qualified professional leadership, and a cohesivedoctrine.


Planning plays as important a role in the preparation for war as in theconduct of war. The key to any plan is a clearly defined objective, in this casea required level of readiness. We must identify that level of readiness and plana campaign to reach it. A campaign is a progressive sequence of attainable goalsto gain the objective within a specified time.
     Theplan must focus all the efforts of the peacetime Marine Corps, includingtraining, education, doctrine, organization, and equipment acquisition. Unity ofeffort is as important during the preparation for war as it is during theconduct of war. This systematic process of identifying the objective andplanning a course to gain it applies to all levels.


The Fleet Marine Forces must be organized to provide forward deployed orrapidly-deployable forces capable of mounting expeditionary operations in anyenvironment. This means that, in addition to maintaining their unique amphibiouscapability, the Fleet Marine Forces must maintain a capability to deploy bywhatever means is appropriate to the situation.
     Theactive Fleet Marine Forces must be capable of responding immediately to mosttypes of conflict. Missions in sustained high-intensity warfare will requireaugmentation from the Reserve establishment.
     Foroperations and training, Fleet Marine Forces--active and Reserve--will be formedinto Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs). MAGTFs are task organizationsconsisting of ground, aviation, combat service support, and command components.They have no standard structure, but rather are constituted as appropriate forthe specific situation. The MAGTF provides a single commander the optimumcombined-arms force for the situation he faces. As the situation changes, it mayof course be necessary to restructure the MAGTF.
     Tothe greatest extent practicable, Fleet Marine Forces must be organized forwarfighting and then adapted for peacetime rather than vice versa. Tables oforganization of Fleet Marine Force units should reflect the two centralrequirements of deployability and the ability to task- organize according tospecific situations. Units should be organized according to type only to theextent dictated by training, administrative, and logistic requirements. Further,we should strealine our headquarters organizations and staffs to eliminatebureaucratic delays in order to add tempo.
    Commanders should establish habitual relationships between supported andsupporting units to develop operational familiarity among those units. This doesnot preclude nonstandard relationships when required by the situation.


Doctrine is a teaching advanced as the fundamental beliefs of the MarineCorps on the subject of war, from its nature and theory to its preparation andconduct Doctrine establishes a particular way of thinking about war and a way offighting, a philosophy for leading Marines in combat, a mandate forprofessionalism, and a common language. In short, it establishes the way wepractice our profession. In this manner, doctrine provides the basis forharmonious actions and mutual understanding.
     MarineCorps doctrine is made official by the Commandant and is established in thismanual. Our doctrine does not consist of procedures to be applied in specificsituations so much as it establishes general guidance that requires judgment inapplication. Therefore, while authoritative, doctrine is not prescriptive.


Marine Corps doctrine demands professional competence among its leaders. Asmilitary professionals charged with the defense of the nation, Marine leadersmust be true experts in the conduct of war. They must be men of action and ofintellect both, skilled at "getting things done" while at the same timeconversant 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 warat all levels--tactical, operational, and strategic--with a solid foundation inmilitary theory and a knowledge of military history and the timeless lessons tobe gained from it.
     Leaders must have a strong senseof the great responsibility of their office; the resources they will expend inwar are human lives.
     The Marine Corps' style ofwarfare requires intelligent leaders with a penchant for boldness and initiativedown to the lowest levels. Boldness is an essential moral trait in a leader, forit generates combat power beyond the physical means at hand. Initiative, thewillingness to act on one's own judgment, is a prerequisite for boldness. Thesetraits carried to excess can lead to rashness, but we must realize that errorsby 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 continueto encourage both traits in spite of mistakes. On the other hand, we should dealseverely with errors of inaction or timidity. We will not accept lack of ordersas justification for inaction; it is each Marine's duty to take initiative asthe situation demands.
     Consequently, trust is anessential trait among leaders--trust by seniors in the abilities of theirsubordinates and by juniors in the competence and support of their seniors.Trust must be earned, and actions which undermine trust must meet with strictcensure. Trust is a product of confidence and familiarity. Confidence amongcomrades results from demonstrated professional skill. Familiarity results fromshared experience and a common professional philosophy.
     Relations among all leaders--from corporal togeneral--should be based on honesty and frankness, regardless of disparitybetween grades. Until a commander has reached and stated a decision, eachsubordinate should consider it his duty to provide his honest, professionalopinion--even though it may be in disagreement with his senior's. However, oncethe decision has been reached, the junior then must support it as if it were hisown. Seniors must encourage candor among subordinates and must not hide behindtheir rank insignia. Ready compliance for the purpose of personaladvancement--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 effortof a peacetime military. However, training should not stop with the commencementof war; training must continue during war to adapt to the lessons of combat.
     All officers and enlisted Marines undergo similarentry-level training which is, in effect, a socialization process. This trainingprovides all Marines a common experience, a proud heritage, a set of values, anda common bond of comradeship. It is the essential first step in the making of aMarine.
     Basic individual skills are an essentialfoundation for combat effectiveness and must receive heavy emphasis. AllMarines, regardless of occupational specialty, will be trained in basic combatskills. At the same time, unit skills are extremely important. They are notsimply an accumulation of individual skills; adequacy in individual skills doesnot automatically mean unit skills are satisfactory.
     Commanders at each echelon must allot subordinatessufficient time and freedom to conduct the training necessary to achieveproficiency at their levels. They must ensure that higher-level demands do notdeny subordinates adequate opportunities for autonomous training and thatoversupervision does not prevent subordinate commanders from training theirunits as they believe appropriate.
     In order todevelop initiative among junior leaders, the conduct of training--likecombat--should be decentralized. Senior commanders influence training byestablishing goals and standards, communicating the intent of training, andestablishing a focus of effort for training. As a rule, they should refrain fromdictating how the training will be accomplished.
    Training programs should reflect practical, challenging, and progressive goalsbeginning with individual and small-unit skills and culminating in a fullycombined-arms MAGTF.
     In general, the organizationfor 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.
Collectivetraining consists of drills and exercises. Drills are a form of small unittraining which stress proficiency by progressive repetition of tasks. Drills arean effective method for developing standardized techniques and procedures thatmust be performed repeatedly without variation to ensure speed and coordination,such as gun drill or immediate actions. In contrast, exercises are designed totrain units and individuals in tactics under simulated combat conditions.Exercises should approximate the conditions of battle as much as possible; thatis, 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 theessence of combat.
     Critiques are an important partof training because critical self-analysis, even after success, is essential toimprovement. Their purpose is to draw out the lessons of training. As a result,we should conduct critiques immediately after completing the training, beforethe memory of the events has faded. Critiques should be held in an atmosphere ofopen and frank dialogue in which all hands are encouraged to contribute. Welearn as much from mistakes as from things done well, so we must be willing toadmit and discuss them. Of course, a subordinate's willingness to admit mistakesdepends on the commander's willingness to tolerate them. Because we recognizethat no two situations in war are the same, our critiques should focus not somuch on the actions we took as on why we took those actions and why they broughtthe results they did.


Professional military education is designed to develop creative, thinkingleaders. A leader's career, from the initial stages of leadership training,should be viewed as a continuous, progressive process of development. At eachstage of his career, he should be preparing for the subsequent stage.
     Whether he is an officer or enlisted, the earlystages of a leader's career are, in effect, his apprenticeship. While receivinga foundation in professional theory and concepts that will serve him throughouthis career, the leader focuses on understanding the requirements and learningand applying the procedures and techniques associated with his field. This iswhen he learns his trade as an aviation, infantryman, artilleryman, orlogistician. As he progresses, the leader should have mastered the requirementsof his apprenticeship and should understand the interrelationship of thetechniques and procedures within his field. His goal is to become an expert inthe tactical level of war.
     As an officer continuesto develop, he should understand the interrelationship between his field and allthe other fields within the Marine Corps. He should be an expert in tactics andtechniques and should understand amphibious warfare and combined arms. He shouldbe studying the operational level of war. At the senior levels he should befully capable of articulating, applying, and integrating MAGTF warfightingcapabilities in a joint and combined environment and should be an expert in theart of war at all levels.
     The responsibility forimplementing professional military education in the Marine Corps isthree-tiered: it resides not only with the education establishment, but alsowith the commander and the individual.
     Theeducation establishment consists of those schools-- administered by the MarineCorps, subordinate commands, or outside agencies--established to provide formaleducation in the art and science of war. In all officer education particularly,schools should focus on developing a talent for military judgment, not onimparting knowledge through rote learning. Study conducted by the educationestablishment can neither provide complete career training for an individual norreach all individuals. Rather, it builds upon the base provided by commandersand by individual study.
     All commanders shouldconsider the professional development of their subordinates a principalresponsibility of command. Commanders should foster a personal teacher-studentrelationship with their subordinates. Commanders are expected to conduct acontinuing professional education program for their subordinates which includesdeveloping military judgment and decision making and teaches generalprofessional subjects and specific technical subjects pertinent to occupationalspecialties.      Useful tools for general professionaldevelopment include supervised reading programs, map exercises, war games,battle studies, and terrain studies. Commanders should see the development oftheir subordinates as a direct reflection on themselves.
     Finally, every Marine has a basic responsibility tostudy the profession of arms on his own. A leader without either interest in orknowledge of the history and theory of warfare--the intellectual content of hisprofession--is a leader in appearance only. Self-study in the art and science ofwar is at least equal in importance--and should receive at least equal time--tomaintaining physical condition. This is particularly true among officers' afterall, an officer's principal weapon is his mind.


Equipment should be easy to operate and maintain, reliable, and interoperablewith other equipment. It should require minimal specialized operator training.Further, equipment should be designed so that its usage is consistent withestablished doctrine and tactics. Primary considerations are strategic andtactical lift--the Marine Corps' reliance on Navy shipping for strategicmobility and on helicopters and vertical/short takeoff and landing aircraft fortactical mobility from ship to shore and during operations ashore.
     Equipment that permits overcontrol of units inbattle is in conflict with the Marine Corps' philosophy of command and is notjustifiable.
     In order to minimize research anddevelopment costs and fielding time, the Marine Corps will exploit existingcapabilities--"off-the-shelf" technology--to the greatest extent possible.
     Acquisition should be a complementary, two-wayprocess. Especially for the long term, the process must identify combatrequirements and develop equipment to satisfy these requirements. We should basethese requirements on an analysis of critical enemy vulnerabilities and developequipment specifically to exploit those vulnerabilities. At the same time, theprocess should not overlook existing equipment of obvious usefulness.
     Equipment is useful only if it increases combateffectiveness. Any piece of equipment requires support: operator training,maintenance, power sources or fuel, and transport. The anticipated enhancementsof capabilities must justify these support requirements and the employment ofthe equipment must take these requirements into account.
As much aspossible, employment techniques and procedures should be developed concurrentlywith equipment to minimize delays between the fielding of the equipment and itsusefulness to the operating forces. For the same reason, initial operatortraining should also precede equipment fielding.
     Wemust guard against overreliance on technology. Technology can enhance the waysand means of war by improving man's ability to wage it, but technology cannotand should not attempt to eliminate man from the process of waging war. Betterequipment is not the cure for all ills; doctrinal and tactical solutions tocombat deficiencies must also be sought. Any advantages gained by technologicaladvancements are only temporary, for man will always find a countermeasure,tactical or itself technological, which will lessen the impact of thetechnology. Additionally, we must not become so dependent on equipment that wecan no longer function effectively when the equipment becomes inoperable.


There are two basic military functions: waging war and preparing for war. Anymilitary activities that do not contribute to the conduct of a present war arejustifiable only if they contribute to preparedness for a possible future one.But, clearly, we cannot afford to separate conduct and preparation. They must beintimately related because failure in preparation leads to disaster on thebattlefield.


"Now an army may be likened to water, for just as flowing water avoids theheights and hastens to the lowlands, so an army avoids strength and strikesweakness."
--Sun Tzu

"Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy'sunpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken noprecautions."
--Sun Tzu

"Many years ago, as a cadet hoping some day to be an officer, I was poringover the `Principles of war,' listed in the old Field Service Regulations, whenthe Sergeant-Major came up to me. He surveyed me with kindly amusement. `Don'tbother your head about all them things, me lad,' he said, `There's only oneprinciple of war and that's this. His the other fellow, as quick as you can, andas hard as you can, where it hurts him most, when he ain't lookin'!'"
--Sir William Slim

The sole justification for the United StatesMarine Corps is to secure or protect national policy objectives by militaryforce when peaceful means alone cannot. How the Marine Corps proposes toaccomplish this mission is the product of our understanding of the nature andthe 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 consistentwith our understanding of the nature and theory of war and the realities of themodern battlefield. What exactly does this require? It requires a concept ofwarfighting that will function effectively in an uncertain, chaotic, and fluidenvironment--in fact, one that will exploit these conditions to advantage. Itrequires a concept that, recognizing the time-competitive rhythm of war,generates and exploits superior tempo and velocity. It requires a concept thatis consistently effective across the full spectrum of conflict, because wecannot attempt to change our basic doctrine from situation to situation andexpect to be proficient. It requires a concept which recognizes and exploits thefleeting opportunities which naturally occur in war.
     It requires a concept which takes into account themoral as well as the physical forces of war, because we have already concludedthat moral forces form the greater part of war. It requires a concept with whichwe can succeed against a numerically superior foe, because we can no longerpresume a numerical advantage. And, especially in expeditionary situations inwhich public support for military action may be tepid and short-lived, itrequires a concept with which we can win quickly against a larger foe on hishome soil, with minimal casualties and limited external support.


The Marine Corps concept for winning under these conditions is a warfightingdoctrine based on rapid, flexible, and opportunistic maneuver. But in order tofully appreciate what we mean by maneuver we need to clarify the term. Thetraditional understanding of maneuver is a spatial one; that is, we maneuver inspace to gain a positional advantage. However, in order to maximize theusefulness of maneuver, we must consider maneuver in time as well; that is, wegenerate a faster operational tempo than the enemy to gain a temporal advantage.It is through maneuver in both dimensions that an inferior force can achievedecisive superiority at the necessary time and place.
     Maneuver warfare is a warfighting philosophy thatseeks to shatter the enemy's cohesion through a series of rapid, violent, andunexpected actions which create a turbulent and rapidly deteriorating situationwith which he cannot cope.
From this definition we see that the aim inmaneuver warfare is to render the enemy incapable of resisting by shattering hismoral and physical cohesion--his ability to fight as an effective, coordinatedwhole--rather than to destroy him physically through incremental attrition,which is generally more costly and time-consuming. Ideally, the components ofhis physical strength that remain are irrelevant because we have paralyzed hisability to use them effectively. Even if an outmaneuvered enemy continues tofight as individuals or small units, we can destroy the remnants with relativeease 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 ourability to maneuver. Nor do we means to imply that we will pass up theopportunity to physically destroy the enemy. We will concentrate fires andforces at decisive points to destroy enemy elements when the opportunitypresents itself and when it fits our larger purposes. But the aim is not anunfocused application of firepower for the purpose of incrementally reducing theenemy's physical strength. Rather, it is the selective application of firepowerin support of maneuver to contribute to the enemy's shock and moral disruption.The greatest value of firepower is not physical destruction--the cumulativeeffects of which are felt only slowly--but the moral dislocation it causes.
     If the aim of maneuver warfare is to shatter theenemy's cohesion, the immediate object toward that end is to create a situationin which he cannot function. By our actions, we seek to pose menacing dilemmasin which events happen unexpectedly and faster than the enemy can keep up withthem. The enemy must be made to see his situation not only as deteriorating, butdeteriorating at an ever-increasing rate. The ultimate goal is panic andparalysis, an enemy who has lost the ability to resist.
     Inherent in maneuver warfare is the need for speedto seize the initiative, dictate the terms of combat, and keep the enemy offbalance, thereby increasing his friction. Through the use of greater tempo andvelocity, we seek to establish a pace that the enemy cannot maintain so thatwith each action his reactions are increasingly late--until eventually he isovercome by events.
Also inherent is the need for violence, not so much as asource of physical attrition but as a source of moral dislocation. Toward thisend, we concentrate strength against critical enemy vulnerabilities, strikingquickly and boldly where, when, and how it will cause the greatest damage to ourenemy's ability to fight. Once gained or found, any advantage must be pressedrelentlessly and unhesitatingly. We must be ruthlessly opportunistic, activelyseeking out signs of weakness, against which we will direct all available combatpower. And when the decisive opportunity arrives, we must exploit it fully andaggressively, committing every ounce of combat power we can muster and pushingourselves to the limits of exhaustion.
     The finalweapon in our arsenal is surprise, the combat value of which we have alreadyrecognized. By studying our enemy we will attempt to appreciate his perceptions.Through deception we will try to shape his expectations. Then we will dislocatethem by striking at an unexpected time and place. In order to appearunpredictable, we must avoid set rules and patterns, which inhibit imaginationand initiative. In order to appear ambiguous and threatening, we should operateon axes that offer several courses of action, keeping the enemy unclear as towhich we will choose.


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 andto best cope with the uncertainty, disorder, and fluidity of combat, commandmust be decentralized. That is, subordinate commanders must make decisions ontheir own initiative, based on their understanding of their senior's intent,rather than passing information up the chain of command and waiting for thedecision to be passed down. Further, a competent subordinate commander who is atthe point of decision will naturally have a better appreciation for the truesituation than a senior some distance removed. Individual initiative andresponsibility are of paramount importance. The principal means by which weimplement decentralized control is through the use of mission tactics, which wewill discuss in detail later.
     Second, since we haveconcluded that war is a human enterprise and no amount of technology can reducethe human dimension, our philosophy of command must be based on humancharacteristics rather than on equipment or procedures. Communications equipmentand command and staff procedures can enhance our ability to command, but theymust not be used to replace the human element of command. Our philosophy mustnot only accommodate but must exploit human traits such as boldness, initiative,personality, strength of will, and imagination.
     Ourphilosophy of command must also exploit the human ability to communicateimplicitly. We believe that implicit communication--to communicate throughmutual understanding, using a minimum of key, well-understood phrases or evenanticipating each other's thoughts--is a faster, more effective way tocommunicate than through the use of detailed, explicit instructions. We developthis ability through familiarity and trust, which are based on a sharedphilosophy and shared experience.
     This concept hasseveral practical implications. First, we should establish long-term workingrelationships to develop the necessary familiarity and trust. Second, keypeople--"actuals"--should talk directly to one another when possible, ratherthan through communicators or messengers. Third, we should communicate orallywhen possible, because we communicate also in how we talk; our inflections andtone 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. Thisallows him to see and sense firsthand the ebb and flow of combat, to gain anintuitive appreciation for the situation which he cannot obtain from reports. Itallows 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 influencethe situation so that he can observe them directly and circumvent the delays andinaccuracies that result from passing information up the chain of command.
     Finally, we recognize the importance of personalleadership. Only by his physical presence--by demonstrating the willingness toshare danger and privation--can the commander fully gain the trust andconfidence of his subordinates.
We must remember that command from the frontdoes not equate to oversupervision of subordinates.
    As part of our philosophy of command we must recognize that war is inherentlydisorderly, uncertain, dynamic, and dominated by friction. Moreover, maneuverwarfare, with its emphasis on speed and initiative, is by nature a particularlydisorderly style of war. The conditions ripe for exploitation are normally alsovery 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 theirplans is to deny the very nature of war. We must therefore be prepared tocope--even better, to thrive--in an environment of chaos, uncertainty, constantchange, and friction. If we can come to terms with those conditions and therebylimit their debilitating effects, we can use them as a weapon against a foe whodoes not cope as well.
     In practical terms thismeans that we must not strive for certainty before we act for in so doing wewill surrender the initiative and pass up opportunities. We must not try tomaintain positive control over subordinates since this will necessarily slow ourtempo and inhibit initiative. We must not attempt to impose precise order to theevents of combat since this leads to a formulistic approach to war. And we mustbe prepared to adapt to changing circumstances and exploit opportunities as theyarise, rather than adhering insistently to predetermined plans.
     There are several points worth remembering aboutour command philosophy. First, while it is based on our warfighting style, thisdoes not mean it applies only during war. We must put it into practice duringthe preparation for war as well. We cannot rightly expect our subordinates toexercise boldness and initiative in the field when they are accustomed to beingoversupervised in the rear. Whether the mission is training, procuringequipment, administration, or police call, this philosophy should apply.
     Next, our philosophy requires competent leadershipat all levels. A centralized system theoretically needs only one competentperson, the senior commander, since his is the sole authority. But adecentralized system requires leaders at all levels to demonstrate sound andtimely judgment. As a result, initiative becomes an essential condition ofcompetence among commanders.
     Our philosophy alsorequires familiarity among comrades because only through a shared understandingcan we develop the implicit communication necessary for unity of effort. And,perhaps most important, our philosophy demands confidence among seniors andsubordinates.


Since our goal is not just the cumulative attrition of enemy strength, itfollows that we must have some scheme for how we expect to achieve victory. Thatis, 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, thenecessary unity of effort is inconceivable. We must identify that critical enemyvulnerability which we believe will lead most directly to accomplishing ourintent. Having done this, we can then determine the steps necessary to achieveour intent. That is, we must shape the battle to our advantage in terms of bothtime and space. Similarly, we must try to see ourselves through our enemy's eyesin order to identify our own vulnerabilities which he may attack and toanticipate how he will try to shape the battle so we can counteract him.Ideally, when the moment of engagement arrives, the issue has already beenresolved: 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 thoughtsforward in time and space. This does not mean that we establish a detailedtimetable of events. We have already concluded that war is inherentlydisorderly, 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 generalconditions of war; we try to achieve a certain measure of ordered disorder.Examples include canalizing enemy movement in a desired direction, blocking ordelaying enemy reinforcements so that we can fight a piecemealed enemy ratherthan a concentrated one, shaping enemy expectations through deception so that wecan exploit those expectations or attacking a specific enemy capability to allowus to maximize a capability of our own--such as launching a campaign to destroyhis air defenses so that we can maximize the use of our own aviation. We shouldalso try to shape events in such a way that allows us several options so that bythe time the moment of encounter arrives we have not restricted ourselves toonly one course of action.
     The further ahead wethink, the less our actual influence becomes. Therefore, the further ahead weconsider, the less precision we should attempt to impose. Looking ahead thusbecomes less a matter of influence and more a matter of interest. As eventsapproach and our ability to influence them grows, we have already developed anappreciation for the situation and how we want to shape it.
     Also, the higher our echelon of command, thegreater is our sphere of influence and the further ahead in time and space wemust seek to impose our will. Senior commanders developing and pursuing militarystrategy look ahead weeks, months, or more, and their areas of influence andinterest will encompass entire theaters. Junior commanders fighting the battlesand engagements at hand are concerned with the coming hours, even minutes, andthe immediate field of battle. But regardless of the spheres of influence andinterest, it is essential to have some vision of the final result we want andhow 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 theresult of decisions--or of nondecisions. If we fail to make a decision out oflack of will, we have willingly surrendered the initiative to our foe. If weconsciously postpone taking action for some reason, that is a decision. Thus, asa basic for action, any decision is generally better than no decision.
Sincewar 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 andcounteractions, recognizing that while we are trying to impose our will on ourenemy, he is trying to do the same to us.
     Whoevercan make and and implement his decisions consistently faster gains a tremendous,often decisive advantage. Decision making thus becomes a time-competitiveprocess, and timeliness of decisions becomes essential to generating tempo.Timely decisions demand rapid thinking, with consideration limited to essentialfactors. We should spare no effort to accelerate our decision-making ability.
     A military decision is not merely a mathematicalcomputation. Decision making requires both the intuitive skill to recognize andanalyze the essence of a given problem and the creative ability to devise apractical 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. Thatis, we act on a keen appreciation for the essential factors that make eachsituation unique instead of from conditioned response.
     We must have the moral courage to make toughdecisions in the face of uncertainty--and accept full responsibility for thosedecisions--when the natural inclination would be to postpone the decisionpending more complete information. To delay action in an emergency because ofincomplete information shows a lack of moral courage. We do not want to makerash decisions, but we must not squander opportunities while trying to gain moreinformation.
     We must have the moral courage to makebold decisions and accept the necessary degree of risk when the naturalinclination is to choose a less ambitious tack, for "in audacity and obstinacywill be found safety."
     Finally, since all decisionsmust be made in the face of uncertainty and since every situation is unique,there is no perfect solution to any battlefield problem. Therefore, we shouldnot agonize over one. The essence of the problem is to select a promising courseof action with an acceptable degree of risk, and to do it more quickly than ourfoe. In this respect, "a good plan violently executed now is better than aperfect plan executed next week."


Having described the object and means of maneuver warfare and its philosophyof 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 thename implies: the tactic of assigning a subordinate mission without specifyinghow the mission must be accomplished. We leave the manner of accomplishing themission to the subordinate, thereby allowing him the freedom--and establishingthe duty--to take whatever steps he deems necessary based on the situation. Thesenior prescribes the method of execution only to the degree that is essentialfor coordination. It is this freedom for initiative that permits the high tempoof operations that we desire. Uninhibited by restrictions from above, thesubordinate can adapt his actions to the changing situation. He informs hiscommander what he has done, but he does not wait for permission.
     It is obvious that we cannot allow decentralizedinitiative without some means of providing unity, or focus, to the variousefforts. To do so would be to dissipate our strength. We seek unity, not throughimposed control, but through harmonious initiative and lateral coordination.


We achieve this harmonious initiative in large part through the use of thecommander's intent. There are two parts to a mission: the task to beaccomplished and the reason, or intent. The task describes the action to betaken while the intent describes the desired result of the action. Of the two,the intent is predominant. While a situation may change, making the taskobsolete, the intent is more permanent and continues to guide our actions.Understanding our commander's intent allows us to exercise initiative in harmonywith the commander's desires.
     In order to maintainour 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? Thismay not be possible in all cases, but it is true in the vast majority. Theintent should convey the commander's vision. It is not satisfactory for theintent to be "to defeat the enemy." To win is always our ultimate goal, so anintent like this conveys nothing.
     From thisdiscussion, it is obvious that a clear explanation and understanding of intentis 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 seniormust make perfectly clear the result he expects, but in such a way that does notinhibit initiative. Subordinates must have a clear understanding of what theircommander is thinking. Further, they should understand the intent of thecommander two levels up. In other words, a platoon commander should know theintent of his battalion commander, or a battalion commander the intent of hisdivision commander.


Another tool for providing unity is through the focus of effort. Of all theefforts going on within our command, we recognize the focus of effort as themost critical to success.
     All other efforts mustsupport it. In effect, we have decided: This is how I will achieve a decision;everything else is secondary.
     We cannot takelightly the decision of where and when to focus our efforts. Since the focus ofeffort represents our bid for victory, we must direct it at that object whichwill cause the most decisive damage to the enemy and which holds the bestopportunity of success. It involves a physical and moral commitment, althoughnot an irretrievable one. It forces us to concentrate decisive combat power justas it forces us to accept risk. Thus, we focus our effort against critical enemyvulnerability, exercising strict economy elsewhere.
    Normally, we designate the focus of effort by assigning one unit responsibilityfor accomplishing that effort. That unit becomes the representation of the focusof effort. It becomes clear to all other units in the command that they mustsupport that unit in its efforts. Like the commander's intent, the focus ofeffort becomes a harmonizing force. Faced with a decision, we ask ourselves:"How can I best support the focus of effort?"
     Eachcommander should establish a focus of effort for each mission. As the situationchanges, the commander may shift the focus of effort, redirecting the weight ofhis combat power in the direction that offers the greatest success. In this wayhe exploits success; he does not reinforce failure.


Put simply, surfaces are hard spots--enemy strengths--and gaps are softspots--enemy weaknesses. We avoid enemy strength and focus our efforts againstenemy weakness, since pitting strength against weakness reduces casualties andis more likely to yield decisive results. Whenever possible, we exploit existinggaps. Failing that, we create gaps.
     Gaps may infact be physical gaps in the enemy's dispositions, but they may also be anyweakness in time or space: a moment in time when the enemy is overexposed andvulnerable, a seam in an air defense umbrella, an infantry unit caughtunprepared 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 replenishedand consolidated his position or an integrated air defense system.
     An appreciation for surfaces and gaps requires acertain amount of judgment. What is a surface in one case may be a gap inanother. For example, a forest which is a surface to an armored unit because itrestricts vehicle movement can be a gap to an infantry unit which can infiltratethrough it. Furthermore, we can expect the enemy to disguise his dispositions inorder to lure us against a surface that appears to be a gap.
     Due to the fluid nature of war, gaps will rarely bepermanent and will usually be fleeting. To exploit them demands flexibility andspeed. We must actively seek out gaps by continuous and aggressivereconnaissance. Once we locate them, we must exploit them by funneling ourforces through rapidly. For example, if our focus of effort has struck a surfacebut another unit has located a gap, we shift the focus of effort to the secondunit 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 fromthe rear. Commanders must rely on the initiative of subordinates to locate thegaps and must have the flexibility to respond quickly to opportunities ratherthan following predetermined schemes.


In order to maximize combat power, we must use all the available resources tobest advantage. To do so, we must follow a doctrine of combined arms. Combinedarms is the full integration of arms in such a way that in order to counteractone, the enemy must make himself more vulnerable to another. We pose the enemynot just with a problem, but with a dilemma--a no-win situation.
     We accomplish combined arms through the tactics andtechniques we use at the lower levels and through task organization at higherlevels. In so doing, we take advantage of the complementary characteristics ofdifferent types of units and enhance our mobility and firepower. We use each armfor missions that no other arm can perform as well; for example, we assignaviation a task that cannot be performed equally well by artillery. An exampleof the concept of combined arms at the very lowest level is the complementaryuse of the automatic weapon and grenade launcher within a fire team. We pin anenemy down with the high-volume, direct fire of the automatic weapon, making hima vulnerable target for the grenade launcher. If he moves to escape the impactof the grenades, we engage him with the automatic weapon.
     We can expand the example to the MAGTF level: Weuse assault support to quickly concentrate superior ground forces for abreakthrough. We use artillery and close air support to support the infantrypenetration, and we use deep air support to interdict enemy reinforcements.Targets which cannot be effectively suppressed by artillery are engaged by closeair support. In order to defend against the infantry attack, the enemy must makehimself vulnerable to the supporting arms. If he seeks cover from the supportingarms, 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 ourdeep air support, he must stay off the roads, which means he can only moveslowly. If he moves slowly, he cannot reinforce in time to prevent ourbreakthrough. We have put him in a dilemma.


We have discussed the aim and characteristics of maneuver warfare. We havediscussed 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 itshould be clear that maneuver warfare exists not so much in the specific methodsused--we eschew formulas--but in the mind of the Marine, In this regard,maneuver warfare--like combined arms--applies equally to the Marineexpeditionary force commander and the fire team leader. It applies regardless ofthe nature of the conflict, whether amphibious operations or sustainedoperations ashore, of low or high intensity, against guerrilla or mechanizedfoe, in desert or jungle.
     Maneuver warfare is a wayof thinking in and about war that should shape our every action. It is a stateof mind born of a bold will, intellect, initiative, and ruthless opportunism. Itis a state of mind bent on shattering the enemy morally and physically byparalyzing and confounding him, by avoiding his strength, by quickly andaggressively exploiting his vulnerabilities, and by striking him in the way thatwill hurt him most. In short, maneuver warfare is a philosophy for generatingthe greatest decisive effect against the enemy at the least possible cost toourselves--a philosophy for "fighting smart."



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 MarineDivision, 1944) p. 7.

4. For the definitive treatment of the nature and theory of war, see theunfinished classic, On War, by Clausewitz. All Marine officers shouldconsider this book essential reading. Read the Princeton University Pressedition, the best English translation available. This version also includesseveral valuable essays on the book and author and a useful guide to readingOn War.

5. In the strict legal sense, the United States enters a state of war only byformal declaration of Congress, which possesses the sole constitutional power todo 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 actionwithout a declaration of war when the circumstances do not warrant or permittime for such a declaration. Militarily there will be little if any distinctionbetween war and military action short of war. Within this context, this bookwill focus on the military aspects of war, and the term war as discussed herewill apply to that state of hostilities between or among nations regardless ofthe 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, readGuy Sajer's The Forgotten Soldier (Annapolis, MD: Nautical and AviationPublishing Co., 1988), a powerful account of the author's experience as a Germaninfantryman on the eastern front during the Second World War and ultimately atribute to the supremacy of the human will.

8. Clausewitz: "Kind-hearted people might, of course, think there was someingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy without too much bloodshed, and mightimagine this is the true goal of the art of war. Pleasant as it sounds, it is afallacy that must be exposed: war is such a dangerous business that the mistakeswhich come from kindness are the very worst. . . "This is how the matter must beseen, It would be futile--even wrong--to try to shut one's eyes to what warreally 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.,1983).

11. In his often-quoted maxim, Napoleon assigned an actual ratio: "In war,the moral is to the material as three to one."


1. Clausewitz, On War, p. 87.

2. Sun Tzu, The Art of War, trans. S.B. Griffith (New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1981) p. 85. Like On War, The Art of War shouldbe on every Marine officer's list of essential reading. Short and simple toread, The Art of War is every bit as valuable today as when it was written about400 B.C.

3. Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis (New York: CharlesScribner's Sons, 1923) vol. II, p. 5. The passage continues: "Nearly all battleswhich are regarded as masterpieces of the military art, from which have beenderived the foundation of states and the fame of commanders, have been battlesof manoeuvre in which the enemy has found himself defeated by some novelexpedient or device, some queer, swift, unexpected thrust or stratagem. In manybattles, the losses of the victors have been small There is required for thecomposition of a great commander not only massive common sense and reasoningpower, not only imagination, but also an element of legerdemain, an original andsinister touch, which leaves the enemy puzzles as well as beaten. It is becausemilitary leaders are credited with gifts of this order which enable them toensure victory and save slaughter that their profession is held in such highhonour . . .
     "There are many kinds of manoeuvre inwar, some only of which take place upon the battlefield. There are manoeuvresfar to the flank or read. There are manoeuvres in time, in diplomacy, inmechanics, in psychology; all of which are removed from the battlefield, butreact 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 forcerather than by military force as translated since military force does notreplace 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 moraland economic example, military strength, economic vitality, alliancerelationships, public diplomacy, security assistance, development assistance,science and technology cooperation, international organizations, and diplomaticmediation.

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 andusing the political, economic, and psychological powers of a nation, togetherwith its armed forces, during peace and war, to secure national objectives."

9. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Military Strategy--(DOD, IADB) The art and science ofemploying the armed forces of a nation to secure the objectives of nationalpolicy 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 whichbattles and engagements are planned and executed to accomplish militaryobjectives assigned to tactical units or task forces. Activities at this levelfocus on the ordered arrangement and maneuver of combat elements in relation toeach other and to the enemy to achieve combat objectives."

11. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Operational Level of War--(DOD) The level of war at whichcampaigns and major operations are planned, conducted, and sustained toaccomplish strategic objectives within theaters or areas of operations.Activities at this level link tactics and strategy by establishing operationalobjectives needed to accomplish the strategic objectives, sequencing events toachieve the operational objectives, initiating actions, and applying resourcesto bring about and sustain these events. These activities imply a broaderdimension of time or space than do tactics; they ensure the logistic andadministrative support of tactical forces, and provide the means by whichtactical 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 integralcomponent of the concept of defense, the offense is conceptually complete initself. The introduction of the defense into the concept of the offense, heargued, 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 Manual100-5, Operations (1986).

17. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Combat Power--(DOD, NATO) The total means of destructiveand/or disruptive force which a military unit/formation can apply against theopponent 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 ColonelJohn 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 thesituation. On the basis of the observation, he orients; that is, he makes anestimate of the situation. On the basis of the orientation, he makes a decision.And, finally, he implements the decision--he acts. Because his action hascreated a new situation, the process begins anew. Boyd argued that the partythat consistently completes the cycle faster gains an advantage that increaseswith each cycle. His enemy's reactions become increasingly slower by comparisonand 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.

26. Ibid.

27. We should note that this concept is meaningless in attrition warfare inits purest form, since the identification of critical vulnerability bydefinition is based on selectivity, which is a foreign thought to theattritionist. In warfare by attrition, any target is as good as any other aslong as it contributes to the cumulative destruction of the enemy.

28. Sometimes known as the center of gravity. However, there is a danger inusing 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 concentratedthe most densely. It presents the most effective target for a blow; furthermore,the heaviest blow is that struck by the center of gravity." Clearly, Clausewitzwas advocating a climactic test of strength against strength "by daring all towin all" (p. 596). This approach is consistent with Clausewitz' historicalperspective. 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'scenter of gravity we do not mean a source of strength, but rather a criticalvulnerability.


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 relatedmilitary operations aimed to accomplish a common objective, normally within agiven time and space." As defined, a campaign plan pertains to militaryoperations, but the thought applies equally to preparations.

5. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Doctrine--(DOD, IADB) Fundamental principles by which themilitary forces or elements thereof guide their actions in support of nationalobjectives. 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 asothers. Happy the army where ill-timed boldness occurs frequently; it is aluxuriant weed, but indicates the richness of the soil. Even foolhardiness--thatis, boldness without object--is not to be despised: basically it stems fromdaring, which in this case has erupted with a passion unrestrained by thought.Only when boldness rebels against obedience, when it defiantly ignores anexpressed command, must it be treated as a dangerous offense; then it must beprevented, not for its innate qualities, but because an order has beendisobeyed, and in war obedience is of cardinal importance." On War, pp.190- 191.


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 thebattlefield through movement in combination with fire, or fire potential, toachieve a position of advantage in respect to the enemy in order to accomplishthe mission."

5. Boyd introduces the idea of implicit communication as a command tool inhis 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 isdirectly capable of influencing operations, by maneuver or fire support systemsnormally under his comand or control." "Area of Interest--(DOD, NATO, IADB) Thatarea of concern to the commander, including the area of influence, areasadjacent thereto, and extending into enemy territory to the objectives ofcurrent or planned operations. This area also includes areas occupied by enemyforces who could jeopardize the accomplishment of the mission."

7. Much of the material in this section is adapted from John F. Schmitt'sarticle, "Observations on Decisionmaking in Battle," Marine CorpsGazette, March 1988, pp. 18-20.

8. Napoleon Bonaparte, "Maxims of War," Napoleon and Modern War; HisMilitary Maxims, annotated C. H. Lanza (Harrisonburg, PA: Military ServicePublishing Co., 1953) p. 19.

9. George S. Patton, Jr., War As I Knew It (New York: HoughtonMifflin, 1979) p. 354.

10. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Mission Type Order==(DOD, IADB) . . . 2. Order to a unitto perform a mission without specifying how it is to be accomplished."

11. JCS Pub. 1-02: "Mission--(DOD, IADB) 1. The task, together with thepurpose, which clearly indicates the action to be taken and the reasontherefore."

12. The well known Soviet fire-sack defense, for example.

13. Hence the terms reconnaissance pull and command push respectively. SeeWilliam 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


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