This html article is produced from an uncorrected text file through optical character recognition. Prior to 1940 articles all text has been corrected, but from 1940 to the present most still remain uncorrected. Artifacts of the scans are misspellings, out-of-context footnotes and sidebars, and other inconsistencies. Adjacent to each text file is a PDF of the article, which accurately and fully conveys the content as it appeared in the issue. The uncorrected text files have been included to enhance the searchability of our content, on our site and in search engines, for our membership, the research community and media organizations. We are working now to provide clean text files for the entire collection.
By Lieutenant Commander Terry C. Pierce, U.S. Navy
The failed British amphibious operation at Gallipoli in 1915 taught the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps about unity of command. The rules changed during World War II— but with the LCAC’s 50-knot ship-to-shore potential, is it not now time to reestablish them?
Of all military endeavors, amphibious operations are among the most complex. Doctrine dictates that a Navy officer serve as overall commander of any amphibious operation. Recently, planners have begun to question this command relationship, as the Marine Corps continues to adopt a maneuver warfare approach to amphibious operations. Commanding a maneuver warfare amphibious assault would require that the Navy commander have a military education in land as well as sea warfare. At present, however, this challenge is beyond the scope of the Navy’s amphibious education system. The Navy must recognize that if command relationships with the Marine Corps are to remain unchanged, it must revise its current approach to training and educating its amphibious commanders.
By default, the Navy is in danger of returning to the
command relationships of the Gallipoli campaign in World |
War I. Amphibious operations there foundered at the very |
outset because of conflicts in command jurisdiction be- i
tween naval and landing forces. The questions of who did |
what—and who was in command over whom, and when, 2
and where—created many of the difficulties that led to the 2
Gallipoli disaster. As the Marine Corps shifts from attri- |
tion warfare to maneuver warfare, similar jurisdictional |
controversies will arise. The Navy can preclude much f
confusion if it gets in the new game early. |
Gallipoli Lesson Learned |
After the British failure at Gallipoli, the study of that £ amphibious campaign became a regular part of the Naval i War College course at Newport, Rhode Island.1 One of s the many amphibious lessons was that there should have I
Unity of command was exercised by Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner (below, sitting) at Guadalcanal—perhaps to a fault. Marines (left to right, MajGen A. A. Vande- grift, LtCols G. C.
Thomas and R. McC.
Pate, and Col F. B.
Goettge) chafed under the Navy’s unawareness of the tactical situation ashore, and argued successfully for later changes in doctrine.
rethought the issue of command. While generally maintaining the principle of command unity, they agreed that after the landing force commander had concluded the landing phase of the operation, control of the troops ashore would revert to him. From the CATF’s perspective, his all-encompassing power as a tactical commander would begin to weaken as the troops landed. Eventually, it would disappear completely when the land commander took control ashore. Thus, they compromised away from the theoretical approach of a single commander with complete tactical responsibility throughout the operation. At some point, near the end of the deployment of the landing force from ships to designated landing areas, also known as the ship-to-shore movement, control of tactics ashore would transfer from the Navy to the Marines.
A principal shortcoming in this modified doctrine was that it did not specify when the ship-to-shore portion of the amphibious operation would end. A question remained: At what point should the landing force commander become free to conduct operations ashore as he sees fit, tactically independent of the naval attack force commander?4
Transfer of tactical command has depended upon certain conditions being met during the ship-to-shore movement. The primary condition has been, traditionally, that the landing force has secured a beachhead. The necessity for a beachhead is a result of amphibious tactics remaining essentially linear, a heritage that can be traced all the way back to World War I.
Boat waves, assembled into lines and maintaining formation as they proceed to the beach, reflect linear techniques applied to amphibious operations. For the landing force to continue to apply linear tactics on the battlefield, it must have a substantial amount of supplies and troops ashore. Thus, establishing a force beachhead to ensure the continuous landing of troops and material is very important. During this period of stabilizing operations, while supplies are pouring ashore, the CATF will most likely transfer control ashore.
The maneuver approach to warfighting adopted by the Marine Corps is most different from the attrition style of warfare used in past amphibious operations, because the tactics are nonlinear.5 The attack relies on infiltration to bypass and collapse the enemy’s combat forces rather than seeking to close with and destroy them.6
In an essentially linear attritional style of warfare no action at all occurs at the operational level.7 The only two ' levels of war important in attrition warfare are the strategic and tactical, because warfare by attrition seeks strategic success directly through the accumulation of tactical victories. In nonlinear maneuver warfare, however, the operational level is of central importance. Each style calls for a different command approach. And command relations must be defined for both of them.
The question that doctrine writers have not addressed is how to command an amphibious operation with the CATF and CLF using attrition and maneuver styles, respectively and simultaneously. This problem has yet to become a major issue for two reasons. First, the Marine Corps has yet to demand that the Navy’s CATF understand and conduct maneuver warfare in amphibious operations. This is partly because—even in the Marine Corps—not everyone has a complete understanding of maneuver warfare. Second, the Navy has yet to recognize that its World War H approach will no longer work. This is a result of the Navy not keeping pace with Marine Corps developments. The real danger is that in an amphibious situation, we may I have two commanders using opposite and incompatible styles of warfare and we will re-live the prospect of command jurisdictional controversies that hark back to the fi' asco at Gallipoli. Clearly, the reform of doctrine is not ye1 complete.
Alternatives in Command Relations________
As the Marine Corps begins to accept maneuver war- it will understand why others are advocating some niajor changes in command relationships. These changes center upon the question of who exercises authority over the senior Marine and his forces. Proposed changes expressed in military periodicals include a requirement that amphibious ship captains come temporarily under the control of the landing force commander.8 Another recommendation suggests that the CATF and CLF assume the status °t functional warfare commanders. Each would be co- phibious campaign is for the CATF to give strategic meaning to each of the CLF’s tactical successes. Because the higher level of war dominates the lower, maneuver warfare places less priority on the traditional tactical link between the CATF and CLF. Binding the sea and land maneuver elements, the CATF must provide operational level planning and command. This operational requirement places a higher premium on the CATF and CLF operational relationship, a connection that did not exist before.
Maneuver warfare depends on the CATF’s ability to use as well as understand the operational level in exercising command. It is at the operational level that the CATF has
eclual, and command would no longer shift. The final Proposal is for the Marine Corps to unhitch its wagon from the Department of the Navy and hitch it to the Department °f the Army. With Army backing, amphibious doctrine Would change to reflect the CATF and CLF as coequals, with both reporting to a unified commander. The advance for the Marines would be that they would finally be taking orders from other Marines.10
Command Relationships in Maneuver Warfare__
In maneuver warfare, the existing chain of command that links CATF and CLF will not change; the CATF retains overall responsibility for the operation. Except in the Planning phase where they are coequals, the CLF is subordinate to the CATF. Subject to the overall authority of the CATF, the CLF is responsible for the operations ashore. The CLF will remain subordinate to the CATF until termination of the amphibious operation.
What will change is the requirement for the CATF and CLF to display a greater degree of command flexibility, decentralized control of widely dispersed landing points through which the landing force will project and then be reinforced or redeployed at sea—requires a keen appreciation of the tactical art. Even more important to the CATF and CLF are the changes required to apply maneuver warfare at the operational level.11
The operational level of war exists above and distinct from the realm of tactics. The concept of the operational art involves choosing when, where, for what purpose, and Under what conditions to give battle and to refuse battle. Operationally, the aim throughout all phases of the amthe most important impact. The entire amphibious team depends upon his ability to mesh all phases of the operation. If the CATF is unable to articulate an effective operational employment of the landing force, he will not be able to employ the full capabilities of the amphibious task force. No matter how brilliant the CLF may be in maneuver warfare at all levels, incompetence from the CATF may prove insurmountable.
The key here is that the CLF is the expert in land tactics and is therefore responsible for the tactical operations ashore subject to the overall authority of the CATF, who must be competent to participate in this process. A CLF commander’s responsibilities will be operational in some situations and largely tactical in others. His responsibilities will shift between these two levels as the amphibious assault develops. Because the CATF’s responsibilities have their source in the operational realm, this is where the CATF and CLF will do most of their interacting.
When the CATF is making decisions within the guidelines of operational policy, he will not limit his thinking of the sea and ground operations to tactical concepts. Rather, he will strive always to visualize the entire amphibious operation. The result of this mental commitment to the
operational art demands a major change in command relations concerning the transfer of control. Contrary to earlier doctrine, the CATF will often have reason to continue to command the landing force operations ashore, well beyond the ship-to-shore movement.
Because the operational level of war is central to maneuver warfare, the CATF will determine at this level when to pass control ashore. However, the CATF and CLF cannot set conditions beforehand, because conditions will differ for each situation. The CATF will not have a mental checklist but will have a feeling for the situation and the opportunities in it.
In maneuver warfare, however, it is quite possible that securing a force beachhead may not be an immediate priority to either the CATF or the CLF. We can no longer use the establishment of the force beachhead as an indicator that responsibility should be passed ashore to the CLF. For example, it is unsound for the CATF to take away the advantage of a surprise amphibious landing by making the CLF dependent upon the transfer of tactical control before he can maneuver. In maneuver warfare, the operational objective in the ship-to-shore phase is not to dump command and control, aviation, and logistics facilities ashore. Though it may be necessary to establish some fixed installations in the rear, a guiding principal in the interest of mobility is to keep them small and minimal.
Also, operationally, during the ship-to-shore phase the CATF may have the CLF conduct a backload of some probing efforts, to reprobe again or reinforce success. This tactical concept has not been used before in amphibious operations.
Operationally, however, the CATF’s seaborne amphibious mobility is important. A seaborne force can shift its operational point of main effort faster than a dug-in land- based force. Uncommitted units could immediately reinforce successful probes, and committed units withdrawn quickly from unsuccessful probes could be shifted as reinforcements, as well. In many situations, the advantage in operational mobility the CATF has from having the landing force seabased may be more important than the forcible entry capability.12
When seabased Marines are no longer operationally critical to conducting the land phase of the war, and primary tactical and operational considerations have shifted ashore, the CATF will be in a good position to shift control ashore.
A smooth transfer of control will remain critical to the success of maneuver warfare amphibious operations. How and when the CATF accomplishes the transfer of control ashore depends upon the situation. This is because command relationships are now based on CATF’s operational mission, which itself influences CLF’s tactical situation. However, until control is passed, maneuver warfare requires the CATF to be more involved in giving operational direction to the job the landing force is performing ashore.
Maneuver Warfare for the Navy
Most Navy officers’ professional development is in sea warfare, leaving land warfare to our Army and Marine
Corps counterparts. Unfortunately, few students or experts can address the military history and lessons learned that deal strictly with combined land-and-sea warfare.
The amphibious Navy must believe sincerely that its role in amphibious warfare is more combatant than transport—its current image. We are sending good officers into the amphibious community. The problem is that the system does not expect these capable officers to be warriors, but merely skilled transport officers. Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf, U.S. Navy (Retired), summed up the problem by stating, “In many ways, the surface Navy has [left] amphibious tactical thinking to the Marines. That’s terrible- We haven’t kept up our professionalism, and we really haven’t influenced the amphibious tactics from the ship to the shore the way we should have.”13 The system should be able to produce a CATF who is a unique warrior, capable of fighting both at sea and ashore.
That we have any excellent amphibious commanders at all is a testimony to the quality of the people who choose this way of life, not to the system that educates them. The Navy’s system is antiquated.
Education the Key
The primary emphasis at naval schools continues to be on the mastery of planning sequences and documents. The study of amphibious warfare by the Navy is almost nonexistent. Few Navy officers assigned to amphibious ships receive any in-depth training in amphibious maneuver warfare.
Using an attrition warfare approach, the focus of the Navy’s amphibious schools is primarily on internal tactical processes; This has become a substitute for tactical skill. An attrition education teaches that the commander should engage and destroy the enemy systemically. The focus is upon achieving efficiency, which derives from a methodical, almost scientific, approach to war. Victory does not depend so much on military judgment as on sheer superiority of numbers in men and equipment.
On the other hand, maneuver warfare is judgment warfare. It requires sailors and marines at every level to exercise independent military judgment. To win by maneuver does not depend on the expenditure of superior might but instead requires military judgment in identifying and exploiting enemy weakness.
The core of the Navy’s amphibious education should be combat history, which is the tool for developing military judgment. Combat history is studying how others judged— rightly and wrongly—in the past, and why. The goal of the system is to develop a foundation that will serve that Navy officer throughout his amphibious career, in enhancing his warfighting judgment, skills, and knowledge.
Naval War College
The curriculum at the Naval War College presents amphibious warfare as one of many topical courses within its operations program. The course is useful to students who need only an introduction and overview, but it is of little use to career amphibious officers whom the Navy expects
Someday to command sailors and Marines. For amphibious officers, the instruction in amphibious warfare is neither dynamic nor responsive. Little, if any, new tactical thought about amphibious doctrine arises from the instruction given there. The college does not place a premium on amphibious operational thought, and it is not graduating officers who are creative thinkers in the art of amphibious Airfare. If the Navy does not correct this, tactical thought and competence in the art of amphibious warfare will continue to languish, and amphibious warrior preparation will remain nonexistent.
. While the Naval War College devotes three months of its curriculum to the study of the operational level, its effect upon the amphibious community has been minimal. Few graduates understand the operational level of war and its relationship to maneuver warfare. This does not stem from a lack of emphasis on the operational level at the college. Rather, it reflects the Navy’s dependence on an attrition-style approach to war.
Marine Corps Study of Maneuver Warfare
The Marine Corps advanced military studies course is Probably where CATFs should receive their amphibious education. Quantico is where the future CATFs will learn about the unique warfighting character of the Marine Corps. There, the emphasis would be on developing military judgment and decisionmaking, especially at the operational level of war and combined-arms theory.
For example, amphibious officers would receive special training to command at the operational level. Their education would include planning and supervising Marines ashore, at that level.
At Quantico, CATFs would follow the full course of a Civil War campaign. For example, Union Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864-65 Virginia campaign against Confederate General Robert E. Lee would provide an excellent study of the operational level. In the roles ol opposed staffs, students would begin by visiting the Wilderness, end up at Appomattox, and understand how Grant, despite several tactical defeats and draws, achieved operational success. During these staff rides, students would Sain a better understanding of the command problems facing the Marines ashore. The experience would also give the Navy students a better feel for the logistical support essential to a successful maneuver campaign. The aim of these staff rides is to increase the amphibious officer’s
We must draw new lessons from the Guadalcanal campaign. Maneuver warfare requires that the overall commander become as involved in the operations ashore as Admiral Turner did. The Marines will not consider this as interfering with their operations, as they did on Guadalcanal, because maneuver warfare requires that the overall commander perform at the operational level of war. The Marines expect strong naval leadership if maneuver warfare is to succeed. Using mission-type orders and commander’s intent, the CATF will direct the amphibious campaign just as Admiral Turner did. The difference is that the CATF will command at the operational—not the tactical—level of war.
In the land phase of Guadalcanal, we can find fault with the poor tactical decisions Admiral Turner made because of his deficiencies in understanding the art of land warfare. We cannot, however, find fault in his authority to direct the operation. CATFs today have the same authority as Admiral Turner. Unfortunately, they also have the same deficiencies in knowledge of land warfare. The Navy’s responsibility is to ensure that future CATFs understand both sea and land tactics, and are able to link them at the operational level of war.
'VAdm George C. Dyer, The Amphibians Came To Conquer, (U.S. Navy, 1969), p. 207.
2History of the U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II (U.S. Marine Corps, 1968), p. 659.
3Dyer, p. 218.
4LtCol. Merrill L. Bartlett, USMC (Ret.), Assault From the Sea (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1985), p. 179.
5See Capt. John F. Schmitt, USMC, “Understanding Maneuver as the Basis for a Doctrine,” Marine Corps Gazette, August 1990, pp. 91-99. Here Schmitt explains maneuver and dispels some of the misconceptions associated with it. His analysis applies directly to understanding maneuver warfare.
6William S. Lind, “Light Infantry Tactics,” Marine Corps Gazette, June 1990, p. 46.
7Edward N. Luttwak, “Operational Level of War,” International Security, Winter 1980-81, p. 61.
8Capt. Richard Moore, USMC, “Blitzkrieg from the Sea,” Naval War College Review, Novcmbcr-December 1983, p. 44.
9Col. William Rakow, USMC, “MAGTF Operations With the Fleet in the Year 2000,” Marine Corps Gazette, July 1990, p. 18.
l0Maj Michael Andriani, USMC, “Every Marine a Rifleman,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, 11 August 1990, pp. 205-206.
"William S. Lind, Maneuver Warfare Handbook (Westvicw Press, 1985), p. 40. ,2William S. Lind, “The Operational Art,” Marine Corps Gazette, April 1988, p. 46.
13VAdm Joseph Metcalf, “Surface Warfare and Surface Warriors,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, October 1985, pp. 74-75.
Lieutenant Commander Pierce, a graduate of the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, is the Executive Officer, USS Dubuque (LPD-8).