It was September 5, 1885. As the commission pennant came down on the Wachusett at Mare Island, Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan stood at the turning point of his life. He had been, as he said, drifting aimlessly “on the lines of simple respectability.” His orders to the newly established Naval War College at Newport as lecturer on strategy and tactics and naval history now changed all that.
At the age of 45, Mahan faced a task of great difficulty. Within the short span of his active service, he had watched the United States Navy shift from sail to steam. His own war experience was confined to the Civil War, where the Union Navy so completely outclassed the Confederate Navy that the only recourse of the Union was to blockade and the Confederacy to commerce raiding. He' had seen a few interesting innovations in his time—the armored turret of the Monitor, the ironclading of the sides of the Confederate ram Virginia, the rifled gun, and the first employment in war of the submarine torpedo.
Yet, Mahan approached his task with confidence. Pacing the quarterdeck of the Wachusett as it steamed slowly through tropical seas, he had pondered long and seriously the problem which confronted him. “There dawned on me,” he later wrote, “one of those concrete perceptions which turned darkness into light, gave substance to shadow, ... He who seeks finds, if he does not lose heart; and to me, continuously seeking, came from within the suggestion that control of the sea was a historic factor which had never been systematically appreciated and expounded.”
Early in his research, Mahan came upon the writings of Henri Jomini, the great French military critic of the early nineteenth century. Jomini set him to studying naval history not as “pedantic precedents but as illustrations of living principles.” Of his problem, Mahan wrote:
My difficulty lies in the fact that all naval history hitherto has been made by ships and weapons wholly different from those now in use. I strive to view the lessons in the past so I can mould them into lessons for the future. My object is to wrest something out of the old wooden- sides and twenty-four pounders that will throw light on the combinations to be used with ironclads, rifled guns and torpedoes.
From his study of the important military campaigns, sea battles and general political struggles from 1648 down through 1783, Mahan was able to deduce underlying principles applicable to his time and to project them as guides for the future. His most important contribution was the principle of Command of the Sea and the development of the elements of a nation’s strength which contributed to Sea Power—Geographic Position, Physical Conformation, Extent of Territory, Number of Population, and Character of the Government.
In all of his writings, Mahan illuminated and illustrated the classic principles of war which had proved valid on land and sea all through the long course of history. He concurred with earlier theories that the proper military objective in war is the armed forces of the enemy but he went beyond “the sterile glory of fighting battles merely to win them” and early recognized Von Clausewitz’ principle that war is not an end unto itself. It is an extension of national policy. To win a war and the peace which follows, even before the onset of war a nation must establish a proper national objective, not only with respect to its most probable enemy but also on a worldwide basis, a fundamental truth that has been all too generally ignored down to the present day.
From this national object quite naturally flowed the supporting objectives of the armed forces. Mahan realized that “a strategic mistake is more serious and far-reaching in its effects than an error in tactics.” He demonstrated with great clarity that the principal object of naval warfare must be early and continuing security of the vital sea lanes.
Security must be accomplished by control of essential areas of the sea in order to destroy the enemy’s power on the sea, cut off communications with his outlying possessions, close up his ports, and dry up his sources of strength by denying him commerce with the rest of the world. While recognizing the nuisance value of blockade and commerce destruction, Mahan taught that the prime objective of every attack in the conduct of naval warfare must always be the enemy’s organized military forces afloat-—-his fleet.
In the field of tactics, by examining naval battle after naval battle, Mahan illustrated the employment of those classic principles of war—mobility, concentration, surprise, and economy of force. And in many an unsuccessful battle, he showed how a leader had ignored one or another principle with ultimate disaster to his forces.
It is unnecessary to dwell upon the tremendous impact of his ideas upon the world. Lessons drawn from his studies of battles, campaigns, and wars fought with sailing ships armed with smooth-bore cannon have stood the test of time—in the Sino-Japanese and Spanish-American Wars in the late nineteenth century, in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 and in two World Wars. For half a century statesmen, leaders, and dictators, accepting or distorting his teachings, have based their national strategy, naval strategy, and much of their tactics upon his doctrines.
New weapons and devices have arisen to challenge his teachings, to contradict the principles of war, to cry out for new principles of war to employ the new weapons or to meet changed conditions. Now comes the most fantastically destructive military explosive projectile in all history—the atomic bomb.
The lessons of World War II are hardly in. There has not been time enough to study them adequately—yet on all sides, in books and articles, in major addresses and on national radio hookups, in statements before Committees of Congress by distinguished military leaders of the recent war, we hear that—
The lessons of historical warfare are no longer applicable;
This or that principle of war is no longer valid;
Some new combination of weapon and carrier is so invulnerable and destructive that all other forms of warfare have been relegated to limbo.
Mahan always hailed enthusiastically the advent of any new weapon. He was eager to see it tested and accepted into the arsenal of current weapons. But he was also zealous to rebuke the extravagant claims of its proponents. And he always expected a defense to be developed as a counter to any new weapon.
Mahan lived to see the enthusiasm of the French Navy for fast torpedo boats, tested in the Russo-Japanese War, countered by faster torpedo boat destroyers employed to protect the fleet of battleships and cruisers they had been expected to destroy. Since Mahan’s death in December, 1914, we have seen the submarine, in two World Wars a dangerous threat to security of communications, efficiently controlled, and effectively employed in conjunction with surface fleets. We have seen the fighter airplane, used in conjunction with improved gunnery installations and new warning devices, make virtually invulnerable to air attack large surface fleets and slow moving amphibious task forces, the further employment of which the coming of the air age was expected to make impossible.
In and between World Wars, we have seen the principles of war condemned, denied, ignored, defended, and attacked. Not that we should ever regard the principles of war as sacred or immutable. Although they have proven themselves throughout centuries of land and sea warfare, they are far from that. Confronted by a new philosophy of total war, ideological conspiracy, and the greater effectiveness of new weapons, the old axioms may or may not retain their validity. If better new ones can be found by the study of World War II, the old ones certainly should be abandoned. Yet we must always remember that a true principle is a natural law because it expresses a fact of nature and therefore it provides a reliable basis for action.
Which brings us to the basic questions—
Are the lessons of history no longer valid?
Are the Principles of War no longer a proper guide for future military action?
To discover answers to these questions, let us consider briefly some aspects of the employment and disregard of these principles during World War II.
The fundamental military principle is the objective—the end toward which action is to be directed. A nation must have a sound national objective. Its armed forces and every unit of its military services must each have its own contributing objective. What Mahan taught, and probably the most important thing to remember, is that, if the major or minor objective of any echelon of the armed services or of one of its units does not contribute to the national objective, then it is not a proper objective.
Said Von der Goltz in discussing the result to be obtained:
The mistake consisted in putting the aim of 'var in the carrying out of carefully planned maneuvers and not in the destruction of the enemy forces.
Napoleon and many another great leader has firmly believed that destruction of an enemy’s armed forces constituted the highest objective of warfare. This probably came about because, in those earlier days, the sovereign of the state exercised absolute authority and therefore determined without consultation the national objective. Much the same situation existed with regard to such dictators as Hitler and Mussolini and still exists for Stalin and Mao Tze-tung. Our own Army Staff College at Leavenworth continues to teach that the proper objective of warfare is always the destruction of the enemy’s armed forces.
Some military men of all services both in America and abroad disagree with this narrow concept and hold that the proper objective of all war is destruction of the enemy’s ability and will to resist. Even that concept does not go far enough. Our national objective must be defined even more clearly than to have as a war aim the imposition of our national will upon our enemy. Long before the first blow is struck in a war, we must select a sound national objective in the event that war should come and for the peace which will follow that war. This objective must be long term, firm, decided upon the highest civilian level of government and promulgated to the armed services for implementation.
This has not usually been done in the past —it is not being done now. The armed services too often have to make assumptions as to what the national policy will be in event of war under certain conditions. This is not good enough. Only with the selection of a suitable and practicable national objective after full consideration of the circumstances of the situation can the various armed services establish supporting objectives and proceed to make effective war plans.
Let us consider some national objectives in our most recent wars. In World War I, the objective of the Allies and of the United States was to overthrow the German government and to set up a democratic regime in its place. To accomplish this, the Allies set about the destruction of the enemy armed forces and the weakening of the enemy morale by what we now call psychological warfare—principally the dissemination of President Wilson’s Fourteen Points.
The objectives of belligerents in World War II are less clear. Unquestionably, Hitler aimed at German hegemony over Europe and over as much of the rest of the world as he could conquer, together with territorial expansion to the East at the expense of Russia. The Russian aims were “to hold aloof from the conflict, while remaining ready to intervene when the powers engaged therein are weakened by war, in the hope of securing a social revolution.”
Despite Winston Churchill’s statement before the House of Commons on September 3, 1939 that “We are fighting to save a whole world from the pestilence of Nazi tyranny and in defense of all that is most sacred to man,” the British Government’s real war aim was not the complete annihilation of Germany which resulted but the reduction of her strength to the point where the European balance of power could be restored.
Although the Four Freedoms declaration was a masterful propaganda document, it provided no practical objective. At the first Combined Chiefs of Staff Conference in Washington on December 23, 1941, with Winston Churchill in attendance, President Roosevelt offered no better objective than a statement that there would be no peace without the concurrence of all the United Nations until we had obtained a complete victory. This had to suffice as a national objective until the Casablanca Conference when “Unconditional Surrender” became both a slogan and a war aim. The objective of Unconditional Surrender seems to have been selected rather haphazardly. President Roosevelt said that it “popped into his mind” as he was about to go to the Casablanca press conference. Churchill said, “I would not myself have used those words, but I immediately stood by the President and have frequently defended the decision.”
Thus so very casually were the United States and the British Empire saddled with the unfortunate objective of Unconditional Surrender, which has helped to cause so much grief and distress in the postwar world.
From these national objectives, however diverse and imperfect they may have been, the armed forces of most of the belligerents assumed supporting objectives of destruction or containment of the enemy armed forces. In some theaters and campaigns, this objective was magnificently pursued with firm tenacity of purpose and a minimum of dispersion of force, as in the Pacific War where destruction or immobilization of the Japanese Navy, Air Forces and Army was the mission which General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz kept ever in the forefront of their minds.
Still, all through the War, some elements of the belligerent armed services pursued objectives which did not contribute to its national objective. Such was the case when the Luftwaffe, after the fall of France, having failed to obtain air superiority over the British Isles, abandoned aerial bombardment of military objectives in preparation for the invasion of England, and took up mass area terror bombing without ensuring security of its bomber formations by adequate fighter escort. So also during the Battle of the Atlantic, when vital minimum security of the sea lanes into Britain should have been the immediate objective of all British armed forces, the major effort of the Royal Air Force was expended in area bombardment of Germany. As a result, Great Britain very nearly lost the Battle of the Atlantic to the German U-boats and aircraft. And the Japanese in any number of minor engagements supported lost causes on occupied islands of little strategic value when their naval ships and carrier pilots should have been conserved for a decisive engagement looking to destruction of the United States Pacific Fleet.
Many students of warfare put other principles ahead of Security in importance. War cannot be fought by following a list of axioms. However valid, they can never replace the employment of logical thought. Observing one principle of war often leads to abandonment for the moment of another. The art of conducting war consists of knowing which principles to employ under certain circumstances—and which to ignore.
We are considering Security next because, in the future, at the onset of war, security of communications, of the sea lanes, and even security of the home land is most apt to be vigorously challenged. Great Britain and the United States in both World Wars have seen vital minimum security of sea communications severely threatened by a submarine campaign against shipping right at their very doorsteps. With the large fleet of vastly improved submarines now available to Russia, we can anticipate an even more serious contest for the control of the seas at the beginning of any future war. And, with inter-continental bombers capable of delivering the atomic bomb and subversive elements existing within our borders with an announced program extending from non-cooperation to sabotage and revolt, security at home in the early days of a war may constitute the most serious danger of the whole war. It seems quite probable that the prime objective of the armed forces in the early days of a future war will be security.
Security is often called the full partner of surprise. Security can also give us freedom of action by preventing us from being surprised by our enemy, within or without our borders. Without the maximum possible security of sea lanes essential to us and to our allies and full security at home, we may be set back so badly at the first onslaught of the enemy that we may never be able to build up and go onto the offensive.
Not that security should consist only of defensive measures. Security should be prosecuted in a vigorously offensive manner against threatening enemy forces, which will contribute to our long range objective- destruction of the enemy armed forces.
The fighter plane in shooting down attacking bombers acts offensively and also helps to weaken the enemy air force. The strategic bomber and the carrier task force attacking enemy air fields, submarine pens, building yards, and submarines leaving port or approaching our essential sea lanes are acting offensively.
Early in World War II, as has been indicated, the security of the British Isles was threatened by the Nazi U-boat campaign against shipping. The dispersion of force to unessential bombing operations instead of concentration of all force against this serious challenge very nearly cost Great Britain the War. Off our own Atlantic Coast immediately after our entry into the War, we saw our vital coastwise and overseas shipping virtually stopped at the source by unacceptably high losses of ships to Nazi submarines operating with impunity in our coastal and Gulf waters.
For their operations in the far Pacific, the Japanese early assured so well the security of their forces by destruction or immobilization of Allied naval and air forces at Pearl Harbor, Manila, Singapore and in the Java Sea that they could not be seriously challenged until the Battle of Midway in June of 1942. In this air battle, moreover, the Japanese let a superior force be defeated because they ignored the principle of security, dispersed instead of concentrated their forces, forgot the prime objective of destruction of the enemy fleet, and thus made possible the American concentration of superior force against inferior units to their disaster.
Victory can never be gained by the defensive, no matter how vigorously prosecuted. To win a decision, a military unit or a nation must take the offensive. To be offensive means to carry the war to the enemy. And this as well is the most effective sort of defense—offensive action keeps the enemy occupied, prevents him from attacking our own forces and permits us to seize the initiative or regain it if lost.
Not that the defensive should never be assumed. Occasions will arise when the defense is the only possible measure short of defeat, while awaiting reinforcement or early in a war while building up strength to go onto the offensive. But a defense does not need to be passive—it can be offensive, with the thought always foremost to attack, attack, attack, to put the enemy off balance and keep him from attacking.
This does not mean a headlong attack against all odds but rather attack with limited objectives and conservation of force until the offensive can be taken. An illustration of the improper use of the offensive- defensive was the Japanese defense of the Southern Solomons, where the Japanese Navy threw force after force into attacks to defend a position that was not vital. The heavy losses the Japanese Navy and Air Arm suffered in the defense of the Solomons prevented her from defending the vital Gilbert and Marshall positions and led directly to her decisive defeat in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
Splendid examples of the offensive spirit are evident all through the campaigns of World War II. The Japanese had it from Pearl Harbor through the Battle of Midway in a most aggressive form. They lost it only after the Solomons when they were forced by an overwhelming concentration of power against them to take the offensive-defensive. But they retained the will and determination to attack long after they lost the ability to do so effectively.
In the dramatic campaigns of the Nazis in Poland, Norway, France, and the Low Countries, the Germans showed not only an understanding of the advantages of the offense but consummate skill in combining all arms for a tremendous concentration of force at the point of impact.
One of the best examples of the offensive spirit was the signal which the British Admiral commanding the Mediterranean sent to his force as he stood northward to engage an Italian task force. “It is my intention to act offensively in the Ionian Sea.”
The United States forces had the offensive spirit to a marked degree, even in the dismal days after Pearl Harbor. The aggressive assault on the Nazi U-boats, the Halsey raids, and finally the first amphibious attack for which we weren’t really ready—Guadalcanal.
Concentration, Mobility and Surprise
Concentration, sometimes called Mass, has often been said to be the vital principle of war. Yet it is hard to achieve without mobility and still attain surprise.
The great change in the conduct of war since the beginning of this century has been in the ability to achieve rapid concentration of force. This has come about largely because of vastly improved and more rapid transportation on sea and land and, since 1914, in the air. This has given to the armed forces of all nations an increased, and still increasing, mobility that in operation after operation during World War II accomplished strategical or tactical surprise.
Mobility is a vehicle—-the carrier that gets a concentration of force to the point of impact with a maximum economy of dispersed force. Mobility in World War II made possible the employment of the same force here today and five hundred to a thousand miles away the next day, week or month, a condition undreamed of when the principles of war were new. The resultant surprise, which has often been called the greatest weapon in war, created a shock effect upon the enemy defenders which was out of all proportion to the force of the blow struck.
And mobility contributed to security. As witness the preliminary carrier air raids in the Pacific which preceded each amphibious assault and destroyed or tied down the Japanese aircraft which might otherwise have been sent to the defense of the outpost assaulted.
In amphibious operation after operation, we witnessed a concentration of landing forces from all over the Pacific against a selected beachhead, usually with some element of surprise to the enemy as our preliminary operations always left him in doubt as to which beach would be assaulted. For example, at Okinawa a “beach jumper” task group pretended to land on the southern tip of the island on L-l Day so realistically that the real target, the Hagushi Beaches to the north, were virtually undefended on L-Day.
Consider Hitler’s position before D-Day at Normandy. He knew that massive forces had been concentrated in the British Isles and another force was training and nearly ready for assault in the Mediterranean. He had to defend all the length of his Fortress Europe everywhere and so could be strong enough to resist the assault nowhere. Where would the blow fall? The wonderful mobility of the RAF and American Air Forces made it possible to strike at widely separated targets and keep up the suspense. The mobility of the naval forces made it possible to land at a number, of places along the French and Low Countries’ coastlines. Hitler seems to have thought that the blow might fall in the Bay of Biscay. With transportation disrupted by air strikes, he was unable to concentrate his force rapidly enough to meet the assault when its location was finally revealed. The element of surprise kept him from repulsing the landing.
Economy of Force
The principle that makes possible a massing of resources at the decisive time and place is economy of force. In a sense, this principle stems from a wise observance of all the principles previously examined. The objective must be kept constantly in mind, the offensive spirit maintained, concentration achieved, and yet security and surprise accomplished. Good intelligence as to the enemy’s activities and intentions reduces the requirements for security of communications. The great mobility of modern warfare makes possible the rapid reenforcement of any threatened flank and thus reduces the dispersion of force from the primary objective, for dispersion of force is the antithesis of economy of force.
It might be thought that, with the mass of forces available to all belligerents in the recent war, economy of force would certainly be the one old principle which might be disregarded. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was a global war. Certainly until the surrender of Germany, there were never enough of planes, tanks, ships and guns to fill all the demands everywhere. Economy of force was a most vital need—not the economy of the miser who hates to part with anything but the economy of wise disbursement of resources to accomplish the over-all objective.
This conflict between concentration and dispersion continued throughout the war. It was a serious conflict, particularly for the land powers. To return to the illustration used above, to defend Fortress Europe, Hitler had to disperse his forces to oppose landings and resist air raids in every locality. The Allied powers, on the contrary, held their large forces concentrated in a few areas with the ability that sea-air power gave them to concentrate quickly overwhelming superiority at any point along the whole coast of Europe.
So likewise with Japan, which had to disperse her army air forces at dozens of fields in many areas to defend each area against attack, while the great mobility of carrier air striking power enabled the United States Navy to concentrate the same overpowering force against successive targets from Tokyo to Indo-China and defeat their defenders in detail with remarkable economy of force.
Cooperation and Simplicity
The objective determines the common aim. Cooperation implies singleness of purpose, unity of command, the union of many minds to produce a common understanding in order to accomplish that aim.
Simplicity promotes cooperation. Employed in plans and directives, it facilitates understanding. Simplicity also demands that organization be clear, that the chain of command be direct and comprehensible.
Together, at the national level, cooperation and simplicity help to bring the full force of our military power to bear against the enemy. In more limited fields, unity of command, cooperation of all elements, and simple and direct methods are fundamentals which make possible the effective application of the other principles.
Cooperation and simplicity must extend from the highest echelons down to the individual soldier, sailor, and airman in the field. The splendid functioning of the Combined Chiefs of Staff of Britain and America furnishes one of the finest illustrations in history of the effective cooperation of allies with understanding and forbearance. With unity the international command under General Eisenhower functioned well not only because of the fine cooperation of his subordinates but also because of the simple naturalness and humility of the man.
Not that stark simplicity was always served in this past war. As the operations increased in size and complexity with greater numbers of partially trained units to coordinate, plans, directives, and operation orders grew in number and expanded in detail. When a small command in an amphibious task force received all of its orders, plans, and instructions for an operation just before departure for the objective, they often filled a five-foot bookshelf. With the problems of passage and the tension of submarine and air attack, a subordinate commander was fortunate if he could read all of his directives before the assault.
While such verbosity was far from admirable, each commander down through the echelons of command seemed to feel that he had to say what, where, when, and how or his job wouldn’t get done. The result was often confusing to the minds of the men who had to go out and do it. The job got done both because of the detailed instructions and in spite of them.
Nor was excellent cooperation always obtained. For instance, command in the Pacific was divided between Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur. Almost from the start, their operations overlapped. As General H. H. Arnold has said,
I was more convinced than ever that there must be unity of command in our Pacific operations. . . . There was no doubt in my mind that the axis of advance of Ghormley’s South Pacific force would intersect the axis of MacArthur’s advance somewhere near Rabaul. Accordingly, long before that time, both sides would be using their long-range bombers against the same objective, without coordinated effort. Similarly, the time was coming when Nimitz’ axis of advance would intersect MacArthur’s axis of advance, and then we would have two commanders operating over the same area with their airplanes, and probably with their ships. In time their troops must meet at some point.
General Arnold gave this division of command as his reason for retaining command of the B-29 bombing squadrons in Washington —and thus he introduced yet another independent command into the Pacific.
General Arnold went on to say:
I could find no one out there who wanted unity of command, seemingly, unless he himself was made Supreme Commander.
General Arnold’s prediction came true at the Battle for Leyte Gulf, where Halsey’s Third Fleet with its fast carrier task force was sent to “cooperate” with MacArthur but was not placed under his command or under Vice Admiral Kinkaid, MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific Fleet Commander.
Admiral Halsey’s air support of the Leyte landing was spectacularly good, but cooperation would have been better served had there been one naval command under General MacArthur in this and the subsequent Lingayen Operations. Coordination by one naval commander on the spot would have served simplicity of organization and would have made possible telling Vice Admiral Mitscher’s carriers what to do. Instead, Admiral Kinkaid had to ask Admiral Halsey where he was and what he was doing about the Japanese Central Attack Force. With unity of naval command, the unfortunate delays in communications between Kinkaid and Halsey which contributed to misunderstandings between them would have been avoided by the better coordination and greater simplicity of one communication plan.
Fortunately, the Japanese naval forces at Leyte Gulf exhibited even less evidence of cooperation and coordination. Their unity of command resided in Admiral Toyoda, who had his headquarters on shore in Japan. The four Japanese Attack Forces converging on Leyte Gulf that night and morning of October 24-25 under four different admirals had no master plan for cooperation, no unity of command in the Philippines, and a complexity of organization and diversity of purpose that could only have happened by accident, not by design. Inadequate communications also plagued them. Lack of information as to the other commanders’ locations and present intentions prevented proper timing and concentration of all forces for simultaneous attack on the American shipping in Leyte Gulf. This lack of coordination brought the Japanese one by one against a stronger American force, with the exception of the Central Attack Force, which fell upon the American escort carriers with terrible effect but lacked the offensive spirit to pursue their advantage and destroy them. While the series of engagements called the Battle for Leyte Gulf resulted in the virtual destruction of Japanese sea power, it came about because of a fundamental spirit of cooperation among American commanders and in spite of complexity of organization and lack of unity of command.
Disregard of these principles was not necessary. The Battle for Leyte Gulf beautifully illustrates the point that the principles of war must be used with understanding. Ambition, jealousy, resentment, spite-—all of the human frailities enter into the prosecution of war. The human element, so often disregarded, is probably the most important of all.
Perhaps Admiral Halsey, being senior to Vice Admiral Kinkaid, could not be assigned to his command and General MacArthur, being well pleased with Kinkaid as his Fleet Commander, wanted no other. At this stage of the war, there was no other reason than the human element why unity of naval command in the Philippines could not have been achieved. With tolerance, understanding and good will, and better cooperation between the Area Commanders, either Halsey could have been assigned temporarily to the Seventh Fleet Command, Kinkaid could have been put under the Third Fleet Command or Mitscher and his carrier task forces could have been assigned to Kinkaid’s command for the duration of the operations. Coordination of all naval forces by one naval commander might have produced the cooperation that was lacking at Leyte Gulf.
Of the American naval command structure, The Strategic Bombing Survey reported:
Even though the United States did not achieve unity of command in the Pacific as a whole, each theater of command used the air, ground and sea forces assigned to him as an integrated team. Coordination and compromise among theater commanders was largely achieved in all major respects.
Association, coordination, cooperation, and compromise are fine words which describe military attributes necessary to a successful military organization, but they are not, in themselves, enough-—in a war of great mobility, the full exercise of these attributes does not remove the vital necessity for command authority. Only with unity of command in a theater of war, on a campaign or on an operation can cooperation and simplicity be fully served.
Such were the vagaries of the human element that not even for the projected invasion of Kyushu could unity of command be achieved. On April 6, 1945, General Mac- Arthur was assigned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to command all United States Army Forces and Admiral Nimitz to command all Naval Forces in the Pacific. On July 10, the Eighth and Twentieth Air Forces (B-29 outfits) were combined into the U. S. Strategic Air Force with General Spaatz in command but control of this Force was retained in Washington by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Thus General Arnold’s prediction more than came true—in the final aerial assault upon the Japanese homeland, the airplanes of not two, but three, commanders were operating against the same enemy areas.
From the above we can only conclude, with The Strategic Bombing Survey, that
. . . the basic principles of war, when applied to include the field of the new weapons, will be found to remain. If such be the case, atomic weapons will not have eliminated the need for ground troops, for surface vessels, for air weapons, or for the full coordination among them, the supporting services and the civilian effort, but will have changed the context in which they are employed to such a degree that radically changed equipment, training and tactics will be required.
When observed by a commander, the principles of war contributed to success in battle but flagrant violations brought quick and certain disaster. This proved to be as inevitable in the air as on land and sea. This is so because the principles of war were not invented, like a new kind of machine, or derived, like a new formula in electronics. They were discovered by careful study of warfare through centuries of trial and error.
If the foregoing be true, if the illustrations of the principles examined and a mass of others available for examination substantiated their validity during World War II, then we can more confidently study the strategy and tactics of that war, on land, on sea, under the sea and in the air, for the lessons which they have to teach. If the basic principles have survived a change in warfare as drastic as the coming of age of the airplane during the past war, it is unlikely that any new weapon of the present or development of the near future will operate to change them.
But we must be careful not to accept the principles of war as axioms or as rules to be followed slavishly by memory or by rote. We must avoid making of them a dogma or a cant which would restrict our originality. They must be applied only after the deepest thought, most careful consideration of changed circumstances, and with intelligence and artistry.
When the north American continent was made with its three large oceans bordering it—the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Arctic -—it gave to the North Americans the only true insularity now remaining in this troubled world. In two World Wars, Command of the Sea has kept from our country the destruction and desolation of war. Regardless of the new weapons of today or tomorrow, control of those selfsame seas by whatever means may be necessary to accomplish it would still seem to be as valid a lesson from history as it was in the time of Mahan.