American foreign and military affairs underwent revolutions at the turn of the 20th century, but the country's Army, Navy, and Marine leaders failed to fully comprehend the nature of the changes. During its first 125 years of independence, the United States had largely focused its attention on North America and adjacent areas. American expeditionary operations in the Mexican War and Civil War took place close to U.S. ports and bases and were therefore far easier to execute and sustain than operations outside North American waters. In 1898, however, the United States declared war against Spain and U.S. troops crossed the Pacific Ocean to fight in the Philippines.
From that moment, overseas expeditionary warfare began taking root. It would grow so common that in time it became the norm in U.S. warfare. American military leaders, however, continued for more than 40 years to consider its execution an anomaly, and thus did not systematically plan or prepare for it or develop doctrine for its execution as they did for other forms of warfare.
The humanitarianism that precipitated the Spanish-American War-the desire to save Cuba from the misrule of Spain-constituted the first element of the foreign relations revolution. Previous U.S. wars were motivated by self-interest, either a desire to defend national rights or honor, or to obtain a concrete objective. Ever since the war with Spain, U.S. policy makers have at least partially cast all wars in moral terms. The revolution"s second element-the highly popular acquisition of the Philippines-also had moralistic motives but was in itself revolutionary because it brought the United States' first commitment to defend a territory outside the Western Hemisphere. The third element was the U.S. government committing the country, however vaguely, to a goal-the protection of China from foreign interference-that the United States could not achieve. The Open Door Notes, which bracketed U.S. participation in the suppression of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion in 1900, enunciated this element.
The revolution in U.S. foreign affairs inevitably led to a change of similar proportion in U.S. military and naval affairs. Prior to 1898, the Army had been charged with defending the nation against invasion, maintaining peace and order within its borders, and, during wars with Great Britain and Mexico, invading neighboring territories. In addition to sharing a responsibility for coastal defense with the Army and supporting Army operations against Canada and Mexico, the Navy was charged with defending U.S. lives and property and Americans' right to conduct commerce overseas. The May 1898 dispatch of troops to Manila Bay, however, marked the emergence of a "new" U.S. expeditionary warfare: sustained transoceanic operations against an opposing military force. The roles of the Army and Navy expanded greatly as the new warfare's frequency, scale, and distance from North America increased during the 20th century.1
"New" Expeditionary Warfare
Relations between U.S. troops and Filipinos led by Emilio Aguinaldo deteriorated into open warfare by February 1899. U.S. military operations in the Philippines differed significantly from the dozens of earlier landing operations because of the great distance from the continental United States, the large number of troops involved, and the long duration of the campaign and because the quality of the antagonists' weapons was more equal.
The next case of new expeditionary warfare was U.S. participation in the multinational intervention in the Boxer Rebellion. The U.S. contingent of troops eventually numbered 2,500 out of an international force of 18,600 that relieved the embattled foreign legations in Beijing in early August. Nagasaki, Japan, was used as a support base, but the China Relief Expedition, as it was known, still had to rely on allies for most of its logistical support until its withdrawal in October 1900.2 The expedition marked the first time since the Revolutionary War that U.S. forces had conducted joint operations with forces from another nation.
During World War I, the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) was dispatched to France in what was the first full-fledged execution of the new form of warfare. The number of U.S. forces in Europe reached more than 2 million men, requiring establishment of the Naval Overseas Transportation Service to support them logistically.3 In May 1918, two months after Russia withdrew from the war, 55 Americans from the cruiser Olympia (CA-15) joined British forces in occupying Murmansk and Archangel to guard stockpiles of arms and ammunition shipped there for the czarist army. For most of their time in northern Russia, Olympia crewmen lived on reduced rations of "two little slices of bread, . . . one spoon of stew, and one cup of coffee" per day. Despite the almost monthly arrival of supply ships, soldiers of the North Russian Expeditionary Force who reinforced men of the Olympia resorted at times to stealing food from British troops, who were far better supplied-perhaps because Britain had a long history of expeditionary warfare and thus developed the infrastructure needed to sustain it.4
At the other end of Russia, U.S. Marines from the cruiser Brooklyn (CA-3) landed in Vladivostok on 29 June 1918 and remained there until relieved by Army troops who stayed in the region until April 1920. Between the landing of the Marines and the arrival of the soldiers, the Navy's Planning Committee of Operations noted in the minutes of its 20 August 1918 meeting that "nothing was decided [regarding the transport of supplies to Vladivostok because] nothing was known as to the plans for sending troops."5 A rudimentary system of supply was established before the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
After the AEF returned home, the organizations developed to support its deployment were reduced to the size needed to support peacetime deployments only, probably because few leaders believed that war was likely in the foreseeable future. Interventions continued around the Caribbean for another decade, but none involved significant forces or lasted long. Perhaps most significant for the history of expeditionary warfare-like the failure of Sherlock Holmes' dog to bark in the night-is the lack of evidence that either the Army or the Navy studied the problems that beset the forces sent to Russia in order to find lessons for the conduct of similar expeditionary warfare in the future.
Navy leaders continued to ignore most of the elements of expeditionary warfare during the 1920s and '30s, though the experience of the Army in 1917 and '18 and a continued belief that intervention might be needed in China did pique a modicum of interest within that service. In 1904 the Army General Staff had instructed the staff of its Philippines Division to design a plan for organizing and sending a seven-regiment expeditionary force to China. The following year, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the Army to organize an expeditionary force that could be sent to China, should a boycott on foreign goods turn violent. Considering a proposed 8,000-man force inadequate, President Roosevelt instructed that it be enlarged to 15,000. Neither that force nor ones planned during similar situations after World War I was ever formed; however, 5,700 troops were sent to protect the international settlement at Shanghai in 1927.
Indicative of the lack of planning for such interventions, much less for expeditionary warfare, the 3d Marine Brigade sailed from the Philippines to China that year with neither provisions nor ammunition. While a reduced number of U.S. troops remained in China until 1941, no preparations were made to support them other than by purchasing supplies on the local market.6
By the mid-1930s, plans for intervening in China had evolved from sending troops to protect Americans to operating with Russia and Britain as part of a coalition to counter Japanese aggression.7 Typical of the limited nature of the "plans" for transporting troops to China and supporting them was a terse statement in one war plan: "Vessels for the movement [of troops] will be obtained by hire. Conversions of vessels will be restricted to such as can be effected without delaying the departure of troops." A cover memorandum admitted that "the feasibility of the movement is dependent on the availability of ships . . . and their prompt procurement." Neither estimates of the number of ships required nor instructions for maintaining a registry of ships for requisitioning was included.8
Planning for Defense
Limited as these plans for China were, they formed the exception rather than the rule because they anticipated offensive action. Most war planning and large-scale Navy exercises, or "fleet problems," focused on protecting the continental United States, the Panama Canal, and Hawaii against naval raids; defending the Philippines against invasion; and preventing a European nation from establishing a naval base in the Caribbean from which it could raid the United States or Panama. The first extensive maneuvers, during the winter of 1902-3, were designed to test defenses in the Caribbean. They included landings by Marines and bluejackets on Puerto Rico, but, as was typical of the fleet problems and maneuvers of the era, much greater emphasis was placed on the U.S. defending forces, and no provision was made for logistical support of "enemy" forces once they got ashore.
The Militia Act of 1903 and the work of the National Coast Defense Board, formed in 1905, reflected the essentially defensive outlook of U.S. military planners and did not include the projection of power through expeditionary warfare.9 Recognizing that the Army could not defend U.S. possessions without naval support, its leaders accepted the defense of naval bases as their primary mission. In addition, Navy and Marine Corps leaders believed that it would be necessary to seize and garrison additional bases in the Pacific as part of defensive operations there, but what they envisioned had little in common with expeditionary warfare.
All Marine Corps advance base force plans focused on the capture of bases from relatively weak garrisons, rapid construction of base facilities and land-based fortifications, landing and positioning of naval guns for use as coast artillery, laying of minefields, and establishment of communication systems. None of the plans anticipated extended operations ashore, and the Corps did not believe it needed "weapons (like heavy artillery) for an extended land campaign, because its attacks would begin and end within the range of naval gunfire."10
The exception involved stationing of 1,000 Marines at Subic Bay in the Philippines, from where they were supposed to be ready to move rapidly to seize a port on the coast of China and hold it for two months or until relieved by Army troops. But by the eve of World War I, the Marine garrison had been reduced to fewer than 200 men.
Military planners, meanwhile, studied defense of the Panama Canal even before its 1914 completion. In May 1913, the Joint Army-Navy Board recommended holding maneuvers to determine the best way to defend the Canal Zone. That same year the Army created the Hawaiian Department to provide defense for Pearl Harbor and the rest of Oahu.11
Even World War I failed to lead to development of contingency plans that devoted significant attention to the vital sinews of expeditionary warfare-to logistical support and protection of communications sea-lanes. While U.S. troops were still at Vladivostok, the Joint Board adopted a policy statement, "Strategy in the Pacific," that called for the defeat of Japan by imposing a naval blockade on its home islands that would compel it to "acknowledge defeat." To achieve the naval superiority needed to execute such a blockade, the Navy required fleet bases in Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines, all of which, the report stated, could be defended by Army troops, fortifications, and, in the case of the Philippines, a force of submarines. Expeditionary warfare had no role to play in this strategy, except in the proposal that if Japan captured Guam prior to the arrival of the U.S. fleet, the island should be recaptured. When the General Board of the Navy endorsed the basics of the Joint Board paper, however, it stated that the fleet could sail from Hawaii to the Philippines even if Guam remained in Japanese hands.12
Expeditionary warfare, by definition, involves overseas operations and must include a naval component, so it is ironic that the Navy showed so little interest in it. The records of the General Board contain few references to expeditionary warfare per se, and naval war plans focused either on defending the United States and its possessions from raids conducted by an enemy or on defeating an enemy fleet at sea. Naval officers' lack of interest in the subject rested, at least in part, on the fact that they considered U.S. participation in a war in Europe or on the Asian continent highly unlikely. The Navy also considered a war with Great Britain improbable; therefore, unlike the Army, it did little to develop plans for such a conflict (War Plan Red) and instead focused its attention on fighting Japan, which it considered the most likely opponent in any war.
Navy War Plans and Fleet Problems
Two schools of thought developed among naval officers concerning the best strategy to pursue against Japan. The "Thrusters" called for immediate dispatch of the battle fleet to the Philippines in order to precipitate a climactic action in which the Japanese fleet could be destroyed; the "Cautionaries" advocated accepting the temporary loss of the Philippines while the United States built up its fleet before launching a staged advance across the Pacific, seizing en route a string of island bases. Each school's version of War Plan Orange, the strategy to defeat Japan, required destruction of the Japanese battle fleet before the U.S. fleet and any troops would be sent to support forces already in the Philippines. But neither version contemplated an invasion of Japan, relying instead on a naval blockade to starve the country into submission.13
The Navy's fleet problems conducted during the 1920s and '30s provide further evidence of the service's lack of interest in expeditionary warfare. Six of the large exercises were designed to prepare the fleet for combat with enemy naval forces. This emphasis on naval battle tactics comes as no surprise, given the ghost of naval strategist Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan and the insistence of naval leaders that the first priority of naval operations should be establishment of naval supremacy.14
Four fleet problems concerned the defense of the Panama Canal against a "raid by fast surface craft or by air plane carriers with the object of temporarily disabling the canal and thereby dividing our naval force."15 Three fleet problems were designed to test various plans or components of plans designed to defend Hawaii or the Philippines. Six fleet problems contained multiple "motives," some of which could be placed in more than one of the previously mentioned groups.
Only a single fleet problem-number XVIII (1937), designed to "exercise the fleet in the seizure of advanced fleet bases"-revolved solely around what is today termed expeditionary warfare, and it did so in the context of defending U.S. possessions in the Pacific, not in a context such as those in the China, Russia, and Western Europe interventions. Similarly, only a single fleet problem-number III (1924), one of the exercises designed to test defenses of the Panama Canal-included any Army forces.
The assessment conducted after each of the problems was largely phrased in terms of the motive identified for holding the exercise. None of the reports submitted by commanders or umpires addressed expeditionary warfare per se or even placed the topics being reported on and evaluated in the context of expeditionary warfare. Its concept simply did not enter their minds.
Naval doctrine, as codified in United States Navy War Instructions of 1924, was equally silent on the topic. That publication contained five parts: organization, mission, and tactical command; general instructions; fleet cruising; scouting operations; and the fleet battle. The 1934 edition had a similar table of contents but added the function of the Navy in war, and night operations by aircraft, and was augmented by 14 pages of "Current Doctrine."16
Regardless of the Navy's belief about expeditionary warfare, one would expect to find it addressed in the exercises the service conducted jointly with the Army. But again, virtually nothing of the sort occurred. Those exercises were based on principles, scenarios, and plans drawn by the Plans Division of the General Board of the Navy and endorsed by the Joint Board. The first important post-war joint exercises, the winter maneuvers of 1925, were conducted in Hawaii immediately after the Pacific Fleet completed Fleet Problem V. The object was less to test methods of defending Hawaii, and more to test plans for joint operations, especially the seizure of enemy territory. 17
In many ways, the 1925 joint exercises paralleled the Navy's Fleet Problem IV of the previous year. That had featured an amphibious attack by Marines, with Culebra in the Caribbean representing an island needed for an advance base in a trans-Pacific campaign against Japan. In both cases, the main concern was getting men and supplies ashore as rapidly as possible. After the two sets of maneuvers, Army Chief of Staff John Hines told students at the Army War College that there was "no doubt that highly-trained, well-led infantry can establish a beachhead once the troops are ashore-but getting ashore, there's the rub."18 Much attention was paid to the role of aircraft in landing operations, but nothing was included concerning logistical support (beyond the chain from ship to shore while troops established the beachhead) or other requirements of expeditionary warfare. In other words, both Fleet Problem IV and the 1925 joint exercises focused almost exclusively on landing operations-the "rub," as planners saw it-with no consideration of logistical support for follow-on operations.
Amphibious, But Not Expeditionary Warfare
During the same period, the Marine Corps was developing a doctrine for conducting amphibious warfare. The Corps had begun building an advanced base force in 1900 that it tested in winter maneuvers in the Caribbean beginning in 1903 and institutionalized by establishment of the Advanced Base School at New London, Connecticut, in 1910. In 1920 Chief of Naval Operations Robert E. Coontz wrote to Marine Commandant George Barnett outlining the "Functions of Marine Corps in War Plans." Coontz recommended that the Corps maintain a pair of expeditionary forces of 6,000 to 8,000 men on the East and West coasts of the United States, one for service in the Caribbean and the other for a campaign against the Japanese-held Marshall and Caroline islands. Each needed to be ready to embark within two days.19
About the same time, the Marines developed a plan for "Advanced Base Force Operations in Micronesia."20 The 30,000-word document formed the basis of Marine Corps doctrine for the execution of amphibious warfare, a process that in 1934 produced the Tentative Manual for Landing Operations, which was adopted, with only minor changes, four years later by the Navy as Fleet Training Publication 167. These works laid the foundation for the Central Pacific drive the Marines spearheaded in World War II.21
The Marine Corps' study of amphibious operations is well known, but such operations represent only a single component of multifaceted expeditionary warfare. Like the joint Army-Navy maneuvers of the era, Marine doctrine focused on amphibious assault-getting men and material ashore on a defended coast-but did not address long-term logistical support, composition of forces needed after the initial assault succeeded, command structure of forces ashore, or even when command authority should shift from the landing-force commander to the commander ashore. In short, Marine doctrine was limited to the title of its publication: Landing Operations.
Another measure of the attention accorded expeditionary warfare is the amount of funding and planning devoted to Army and Navy transport services. The predecessors of both organizations were hard-pressed to bring the AEF home from France in 1919, and afterward both services languished. Between 1923 and '30, the Army Transport Service operated only eight to ten transports a year, with none kept in ready reserve. Such ships were crucial. The Army's failure to maintain more transports, or to seek funding for an enlarged fleet of transports, implies that the service did not expect to conduct expeditionary warfare in the near future, or that when the need occurred it would have enough time to greatly expand its capabilities or to lease civilian shipping. Likewise, after 1920 the Navy maintained only enough transports to meet peacetime needs.22
The conclusion to be drawn from this survey of war planning, fleet problems, joint exercises, and service doctrine is that early 20th-century military leaders did not believe overseas expeditionary warfare was likely enough to occur in the foreseeable future to devote time to systematically plan for it. While today's military theorists and historians may easily deduce that expeditionary warfare will become the rule rather than the exception in the 21st century-perhaps even a third "American Way of War"-this was clearly not apparent to military and naval leaders of the early 20th century. Few, if any, of them would have understood the nuances of the term expeditionary warfare as it is used today.
Expeditionary warfare requires its practitioner to devote as much effort to planning and preparation to support its forces logistically as it does to getting them to the theater of operations and using them once they get there. There is no sign that U.S. military and naval leaders understood that or planned for adequate logistical support in the early part of the 20th century. Logistical problems encountered during the intervention in the Boxer Rebellion received some attention. But the far more serious problems U.S. forces faced in Murmansk and Vladivostok were subsequently ignored. No systematic study was conducted to learn lessons from those interventions to guide future expeditionary warfare operations.
Navy planners focused on winning surface battles that would confer command of the seas on them and, to a lesser degree, conducting amphibious warfare as it pertained to the capture of bases required to support the battle fleet as it crossed the Pacific to win the climactic battle or to get reinforcements to Army garrisons in the Philippines. Significant study was also accorded integration of aircraft into the battle fleet and development of doctrine for carrier aviation, but the same officers who honored Mahan's principles concerning strategy and tactics ignored his counsel that "logistics is as vital to military success as daily bread is to daily work."
The Marine Corps developed doctrine for amphibious warfare, but that is only one facet of expeditionary warfare, and planning by the Marines virtually ignored operations once enemy defenses were breached and a beachhead established. Expeditionary warfare did appear in Army plans for intervention in China, but the nature of that planning was very limited. Operational doctrine was never codified for expeditionary warfare to the level the Marines developed it for amphibious assault, the Army Air Corps for strategic bombing, the Navy for fleet engagements or the employment of naval aviation, or the Army for conduct of armored warfare. The Joint Board was established to coordinate between the Army and Navy, but neither service developed the institutional structures needed to support expeditionary warfare logistically.
During World War II, the United States quickly dispatched forces to defend Iceland and various islands in the Pacific, but it did not begin executing expeditionary warfare until the Marines landed on Guadalcanal in August 1942 and the Army in North Africa the following November. This gave military planners several months to acquire the shipping and develop the skills to prosecute overseas expeditionary warfare successfully, a process not accomplished without difficulties-witness those experienced by Marines in Wellington, New Zealand, who had to empty and reload the ships carrying supplies for the attack on Guadalcanal. Twenty-first-century logisticians are not likely to have such a luxury of time and must depend on doctrine and plans developed prior to a crisis situation requiring the execution of expeditionary warfare.
If there is any truth to the old adage that armchair generals talk strategy and military professionals discuss logistics, none of U.S. military planners of the early 20th century look very professional. The commanders who executed interventions of the early 1900s viewed the operations as irritating diversions from their real work. If intervening in the Caribbean turned violent, ad hoc operations could be undertaken, whereas serious matters-the defense of the United States and its possessions and the defeat of an enemy fleet-were the proper subjects for war colleges, doctrine, and fleet problems. Since each case of expeditionary warfare was viewed as an anomaly, not likely to be repeated, developing doctrine or a system for executing such operations seemed a waste of time. To paraphrase another old adage, "Inaction speaks as loudly as words."
1. Brian McAllister Linn, The U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War, 1899-1902 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989); Vernon L. Williams, "The U.S. Navy in the Philippine Insurrection and Subsequent Native Unrest, 1898-1906" (Ph.D. diss., Texas A&M University, 1985); Allan R. Millett, Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps (New York: Macmillan, 1980), 150-155.
2. Diana Preston, The Boxer Rebellion (New York: Walker and Co., 1999); Anson Daggett, America in the China Relief Expedition (Kansas City, 1903); Michael H. Hunt, "The Forgotten Occupation: Peking, 1900-1901," Pacific Historical Review, vol. 48. No. 4 (1979), 501-529; Millett, Semper Fidelis, 155-163.
3. Lewis P. Clephane, History of the Naval Overseas Transportation Service in World War I (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, Naval History Division, 1969), 210-211.
4. Lloyd Thomas O'Kelly, "Shipboard Diary," quoted in Benjamin Franklin Cooling, USS Olympia: Herald of Empire (Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press, 2000), 190. Benjamin D. Rhodes, The Anglo-American Winter War with Russia, 1918-1919: A Diplomatic and Military Tragicomedy (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1988). Chapter 8, "A Crisis of Morale," discusses the problems faced by American troops in northern Russia.
5. Meeting in Planning Division, 20 August 1918, Classified Records of the Secretary of the Navy, 1919-1920, PD 100, Record Group 80: General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1798-1947, NARA.
6. Stephen T. Ross, American War Plans, 1890-1939 (London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2002), 130; Millett, Semper Fidelis, 220-235.
7. Steven T. Ross, American War Plans, 128-130. Henry G. Gole, The Road to Rainbow: Army Planning for Global War, 1934-1940 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2003), 118-119.
8. "Special Plan Yellow War [1927 with 1931 revisions]," Steven T. Ross, American War Plans, 1919-1941, vol. 1 (New York: Garland Pub., 1992), 181-211.
9. John K. Mahon, History of the Militia and the National Guard (New York: Macmillan, 1983), 138-140; Emanuel Raymond Lewis, Seacoast Fortifications of the United States (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1970), 73-114; Robert S. Browning III, Two if by Sea: The Development of American Coastal Defense Policy (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983), 183-191; Brian McAllister Linn, Guardians of Empire: The U.S. Army and the Pacific, 1902-1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 79.
10. Marine Corps Commandant B. H. Fuller to Chairman, Executive Committee, General Board, 8 September 1931, quoted in Millett, Semper Fidelis, 329.
11. Senior Member, Joint Board to the Secretary of War, 6 May 1913, Records of the Joint Board, 1903-1947 (microfilm, 21 reels, NARA, 1987), reel 12.
12. William Reynolds Braisted, The United States Navy in the Pacific, 1909-1922 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971), 474-475, 482-485.
13. Edward S. Miller, War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1991).
14. Records Relating to United States Navy Fleet Problem I to XXII, 1923-1942 (Washington. D.C.: NARA, 1975).
15. Capt George C. Day to Capt Thomas Craven, Sept. 20, 1920, Records of the Joint Board, 1903-1947 (microfilm, 21 reels, NARA, 1987), reel 12.
16. U.S. Navy, Fleet Tactical Pub (FTP) 43: United States Navy War Instructions of 1924 (Washington, D.C., 1924); U.S. Navy, Fleet Tactical Pub (FTP) 43: United States Navy War Instructions of 1934 (Washington, D.C., 1934).
17. [Joint Board], Regulations for Joint Army and Navy Exercises, 1924 (Washington, D.C., 1924). For a manuscript copy of the regulations and cover letters from Joint Board members to the secretaries of War and the Navy see J.B. No. 3550, Serial No. 236, Records of the Joint Board, NARS, reel 15.
18. Quoted in Leo J. Daugherty III, "Away All Boats: The Army-Navy Maneuvers of 1925," Joint Forces Quarterly, (Autumn/Winter 1998-99), 111.
19. CNO Adm R. E. Coontz to MGen Cmdt., 28 January 1920, cited in Millett, Semper Fidelis, 320-321.
20. Dirk A. Ballendorf and Merrill L. Bartlett, Pete Ellis: An Amphibious War Prophet, 1880-1923 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996), 119-122.
21. Millett, Semper Fidelis, 319-343.
22. Charles Dana Gibson with K. Kay Gibson, Over Seas: U.S. Army Maritime Operations, 1898 through the Fall of the Philippines (Camden, ME: Ensign Press, 2002), 163-170.