Sunday, December 14, 2008

Military History and Warfare: 19th Military History Blog Carnival

Hello and welcome to the 19th Military History Blog Carnival!

This month we have a variety of interesting submissions.

First up we have an interesting article from Ross Mahoney's Thoughts on Military History blog which examines some of the economic and operational issues that faced the Royal Air Force during the inter-war years. By explaining these problems Ross shows the role of the RAF in helping to develop Combined Operations doctrine.

Mark Grimsley at War Historian presents an excellent article examining the possible consequences for prolonging the Pacific war had a Japanese military coup against the Emperor been successful just days before the surrender.

Penny Richards' brings us the story of World War II vetern Bob Metcalf. Penny reflects on Mr. Metcalf's time in the seventy-sixth infantry division and later civilian life.

On a similar theme of personal histories, we a have a new blog from Rich Landers entitled Soldier's Mail. The blog features the writings home of Sgt. Samuel Avery during the time of the First World War from 1916-1919 while first serving with the 8th Mass. Infantry during the Mexican Border Campaign (1916) and then with the 103rd U.S. Infantry (26th Division) in France as part of the American Expeditionary Force (1917-1919).

This World War I blog is publishing the letters of William Lamin exactly 90 years after they were written. Read each posting week by week to follow his life.

Not so much a blog but an archive, Kimberley Linder's The Flight Officer brings us the life of Joseph H Noyes. Joseph participated in the aerial campaign against Germany before being shot down and killed at the age of 22. His story and personal history provides a window into World War II.

This month Airminded brings us an interesting discussion (and map) of Britain's air defence network during the First World War when Zepplins and Gotha Bombers pounded London.

Terry Tucker draws on his own experiences in the field of counterinsurgency bringing us a fascinating article on the Lessons of History

For something a little different, we have a review of the the film Passchendale. The writer is pleasantly surprised that a big screen epic featuring the story of Canadian soldiers has finally made it to cinemas! You might also like to look at a trailer for the film on the official site.

History is Elementary examines the film 1968 film 'Beach Red' and tells the story of the battle for the island of Tarawa when US marines took heavy casualties attempting to dislodge the Japanese. The article looks at the number of dead and recent efforts to locate their remains.

From me, we have an article on the American Civil War. I've tried to explore the various strengths and weaknesses of the Union and Confederacy at the outbreak of the war.

Lastly, we have an article looking at the Welsh castle of Aberystwyth. There are some great pictures as well as interesting facts!

Unfortunately, this is it for submissions for December.

We are also looking for a host for January's blog. Please contact Gavin Robinson (saber'at'

I hope you have enjoyed this month's carnival. Please continue to support the carnival by writing and submitting your articles. Until January, have a good Christmas and New Year.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Military History and Warfare: Notices: Upcoming Military History Blog Carnival

As Christmas approaches, I'm pleased to announce that 'Military History and Warfare' will be hosting the 19th Military History Blog Carnival.

If you would like to submit an article, please e-mail me at alexanderclark999'at' Alternatively, use this handy tool to submit your article.

I have decided to leave the carnival theme open to all submissions. However, given that we have just marked the 90th Anniversary of the end of World War I, it would be good to see some articles on the subject.

The Carnival will be up and running on Sunday 14th December. Join the blog mailing list (box on the right hand side of this page) to ensure that you don't miss this edition!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Military History and Warfare: American Civil War: Logistics, Railroads and Strategy

Commanders throughout history have grappled with the problems of integrating logistics and strategy. A witty little military logistician dictum known to particularly rile those in the combat branches goes: “If logistics’ was easy it would be called tactics”. With all of our modern technology, scalable processes, and mass transportation it is easy to forget the difficulty with which armies of the past had to struggle in order to provide the right amount of men and material at precisely the right time.

Let us consider the following. Up until about 1830, armies either marched on foot or rode on horses and wagons. Every weapon, round of ammunition, pound of food and sack of oats was carried by man, beast, or both. Roughly, half of the supplies carried were used to sustain the horses themselves. For much of the nineteenth century, North America remained largely wild, undeveloped, and lacking in infrastructure. However by 1861 important developments had been made with the advent of railroad.

For comparison, a six mule team drawing a wagon of 1.5 tons of food could travel approximately 500 miles on that 1.5 ton of food; a locomotive carrying a ton of fuel could only travel about 30 or 35 miles but could carry a payload of 150 tons.

Soldiers traveling by train could arrive at their destination in better shape physically and materially. Logistical difficulties were now reduced to maneuvering this quantity of men and material any distance from the railhead. The improved speed of movement allowed supplies to arrive in better, condition.

By surveying a map of the United States the sheer scale of the battles and campaigns of the Civil War becomes fully apparent:

As an example, Sherman’s 1864 Atlanta Campaign essentially followed a logistical life line of 473 miles of rail line from Louisville, Nashville, Chattanooga and then Atlanta. The campaign included approximately 100,000 men and 35,000 animals. Sherman estimated that the rail line did the work of approximately 36,000 wagons and 220,000 mules; the use of the railroad not only expanded the scale of warfare it is also hotly debated that it may also have contributed to prolonging the war as well.

One of the foremost Napoleonic concepts of war, modeled by the Commanders of the Civil War, was the concept of “Interior Lines”; simply meaning that, a group of units or armies cooperating on the inside of a curved front could mass and maneuver more quickly than there opponents on the outside, or “Exterior Lines” of the curve because they had less far to travel.

As an example, in 1863 at the Battle Chickamauga, LTG Longstreet moved 12,000 men, 800 miles in 12 days from Virginia to Tennessee to reinforce Braxton Bragg. Two weeks later the Union XI and XII Corp’s moved 25,000 men, 1200 Miles in 12 days, from Virginia to Chattanooga to reinforce the Army of the Cumberland. Union forces moved twice as many troops in the same number of days using exterior lines of communication. Seemingly, the concept of Interior lines had been nullified and railroads seem to make geographical disposition a lot less relevant.

In 1863, fighting revolved mainly around the Culpepper Court House and Fredericksburg primarily because those were the two main Union Army Railheads; the union was averaging approximately 800 tons of material supplies a day to the Falmouth Railhead opposite Fredericksburg.

In essence railroad technology would drive the strategic considerations of war planning, and, intrusions and interdictions of rail lines would impact operations. The railroad expanded the scale of warfare materially and geographically. But most clearly, the railroad logistics shaped the strategies of Civil War Commanders and became a vital element of Military Science; some scholars have argued that railroad science was no longer an element of strategy; it had become the strategy and would thus change the face of war.

- Terry Tucker

Monday, November 3, 2008

The American Civil War: The Military Balance sheet of 1861: Strengths and Weaknesses of the Union and Confederacy

With the benefit of historical hindsight, it seems almost impossible to think that the Confederacy could have won the war against the Union. By surveying the balance sheet of both sides, it is possible to assess how far the Confederacy lagged behind the Union in both resources and economic development.

In terms of population, for every inhabitant of the Confederate States there were more than two Americans who lived in the Union. In addition, the Confederacy had more than three and half million slaves and 130,000 freed blacks. Slave labour also allowed white men to serve in the Confederate army, allowing for more than 80% of the military age population to be mobilised.

Economically, the North surpassed the South in almost every measure. Prior to the war, the South had relied upon the northern states and Britain for the iron and steel imports necessary for railroad construction. The North possessed 110,000 some factories and workshops of various sizes. By comparison, the South possessed barely a tenth of that number. Statistics for industrial workers further demonstrate that the American industrial basin was clearly concentrated in the Northern states. 1,300,000 workers in the North were employed in industry. By comparison, the south had only 110,000 workers. The predominance of manufacturing in the northern states gave the Union a huge advantage. In 1860, the North produced fifteen times the level of iron manufactured in the South. The arms industry was also concentrated in the North with 97% of all firearms produced north of the Mason-Dixie line.

Despite these massive material advantages, the war would be won by the side that could best concentrate their resources overwhelmingly against the enemy. Total war is only possible with the support of a banking and credit system to support the costs of war. It was in this field that the North excelled over the Confederacy. With 85% of all capital and 80% of all bank deposits, the North had a banking and credit system vastly more developed than anything in the South. The Federal government was therefore able to draw upon loans from private financiers in quantities which was simply impossible for the Confederacy.

Although many Southern politicians believed they had a predominance in agriculture (especially cotton, which they attempted to leverage to gain diplomatic recognition from Britain and France), the reality was that here too, the North had a clear advantage. The failure of Missouri and Kentucky to secede had deprived the Confederacy of another important agricultural basin that could have supplied the Confederate army. The South had also hoped to use cotton exports to obtain credit on the European markets. However, New Orleans, the largest port in the Confederacy fell into Union hands early in the war. The remaining important cities of Charleston, Galveston, Mobile and Wilmington were all vulnerable to naval and land attack.

Despite these inherent disadvantages, the South possessed strengths that they hoped would ultimately win them the war. In order to conquer the South, Federal armies would have to subdue an area the size of Western Europe. In 1860, the Federal army was only 14,000 strong. Those few troops were scattered across various parts of the continental United States. Both North and South would therefore have to start from scratch in raising the large armies that would ultimately be required to fight the war. It was hoped that the Confederacy would therefore have sufficient time to make allies and involve international powers such as Britain to turn the tide against the Union. Furthermore, Federal troops advancing into the South would have to deal with the problems of over-extended lines of communication and the estimated thirty or so supply wagons required for every thousand troops. Countryside and enemy strongholds would need to be pacified, drawing yet more troops away from the front. If the Confederacy could drag out the fighting for long enough, they hoped to be able to tire out the Union, just as the American colonists had tired out a militarily superior British force ninety years before. Although the North had a larger population, one in five (four million people) were foreign immigrants. Such a large diverse population might be more difficult to keep together in comparison to the more homogeneous Southern population.

Given the weaknesses of the South, the historian must ask how the Confederates could have rationally believed that they could make and win a war against the Union?
The answer lies perhaps in the fact that many of the technologies and tactics of Total War later seen in the US Civil War were not immediately apparent to commanders on both sides. The potential of railway to change the nature of battlefield logistics had yet be discovered. It is important to remember that many of the relative strengths and weaknesses of both sides were only fully realised later in the war.

Adam I.P. Smith, ‘The American Civil War’, (New York, 2007)

Mark E. Neely, ‘Was the Civil War a Total War?’, Civil War History 37 (1991)

Ronald N. Current, ‘God and the Strongest Battalions’ in David Hubere Donald, ed, ‘Why the North won the Civil War’ (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1960)

James M. McPherson, ‘Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction’ (New York 1982)

James Huston, ‘Calculating the value of the Union: Slavery, Property Rights and the Economic Origins of the Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Military History and Warfare: Counter-insurgency: Lessons of History

Counter-insurgency: How Do We Choose Which Lessons of History are Applicable?

This brief essay attempts to address the problems of identifying relevant historical lessons to countering an insurgency.

The illustrations most often used to describe success in counterinsurgency are the British experience in Malaya and the American experience in the Philippines. Conversely, the French experiences in Vietnam and Algeria, aside from some tactical innovations, are considered to be cautionary tales in how not to conduct counterinsurgency operations.

When one reads the myriad of news reports and analysis, it is easy to get the impression that by making (what we believe to be) correct historical similarities, we can therefore correctly identify and isolate both the components of the insurgency and the correct methodology for countering it (as opposed to “combating” it).

The British example in Malaya is clear example of precision labeling in identifying the “kind of war” that one is fighting (notice the inference to Clausewitz?). The British used the term “Emergency” to mobilize the desired government agencies, police and military organizations to prosecute the counterinsurgency effort. ‘Prosecute’ appears to be the best description of events because of the British emphasis on the rule of law and the heavy use and primacy of police in all its operations and engagement strategies. This is not to say that the military was not used, on the contrary, they were; however, they played a secondary role and were subordinate in many cases to other agencies and departments.

The American experience in the Philippines can primarily be attributed to Magsaysay through his effective leadership, military and governmental reforms. Military operations were subordinate to the goal of winning the support of the people, not only in tactics, but in behavior. A detail often overlooked by US analysts, is the fact that the Philippine Army had not been created entirely in the image of the US Army. Thus it was not indoctrinated with conventional US solutions, tactical doctrine and organizations. All of these “force multipliers” were never fully understood by US Commanders that believed in large full scale military operations that depended heavily on the use of superior firepower and felt that the best model for success was the historical examples of WW II.

What does this mean for those that intend to use the historical lessons learned? The first question that must be asked is what is unique about the kind of insurgency being faced? What kind of insurgency is this? Where is the “white noise” that seemingly distracts one’s ability to root out and identify the root cause? Once both the kind of war that being fought and the factors that make the particular counterinsurgency unique have been identified, questions can be asked of what lessons are transferable from previous experiences to this new situation.

In essence, some general lessons of success from the Malayan Experience and the Philippine experience can be articulated as follows:

· Military operations are subordinate to and dominated by political objectives; this includes behavior and tactics

· Solid intelligence from the civilian sources that is vetted and validated by multiple sources drives military operations if those operations support political objectives

· Small unit tactics reign supreme; small unit night patrols, ambushes, long range reconnaissance and commando squads, combined with a careful targeting of psychological warfare and information operations based on solid intelligence.

· Live with and mingle with the population; leaders must constantly review the element of risk to the force. “Going Native” early and quickly will mitigate that risk.

· Avoid the pitfalls’ of “do-goodism”; throwing resources and “largess” at a problem without participation and support of the people/government/population in the entire decision making process creates no confidence or support in the reforms or programs.

Lastly, remember that these are general historical lessons and estimates. How and if these lessons can be applied to say Iraq or Afghanistan needs to be carefully weighed against the questions we posed earlier: What is unique about this new and particular situation? What experience and lessons can be transferred? How do we adapt the appropriate general lessons to a unique situation?

Terry Tucker

The Bone Yard. Old Afghan Army equipment. There are many such bone yards like this throughout the country. Left center in this picture is a BM-21, 122mm Rocket launcher and just to the right of it is a piece of towed artillery.

For comparison; the two tanks in the middle are cold war era soviet tanks. The tank facing you on the right is a Soviet T54/55 series tank. The bore evacuator is at the end of the gun tube. The tank on the left is a soviet T-62. There are many variants of both vehicles and sometimes the location of the bore evacuator is not a good indication that you have correctly identified the tank. Other considerations include road wheel spacing, machine gun type mounted on the turret, location of infra-red lights, search lights and other equipment fixed on the hull or turret

Friday, October 17, 2008

Military History and Warfare: Counter-insurgency: Urban Operations

Counterinsurgency, Urban Operations and Lessons Learned

Urban operations are an increasing aspect of modern day conflicts. Urban operations are also essential because of the many considerations that result in the decision to conduct an urban operation, for instance; Political considerations, Psychological considerations, Operational Considerations, Potential Center of gravity. The 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah conflict reflects at least two of the above considerations, as does the decision of US Forces to seize Kabul and Kandahar early in the Afghan war.

If one assumes that doctrine is the key element of training and that this training is the key to a unit's ability to execute an operation, and successful execution in turn results in a succession of operational successes, and even perhaps a decisive strategic success, then there are two predominate themes that are linked.
First the basic tactic’s techniques and procedures (TTP’s) remain unchanged: these are to Suppress, Breach, Attack/Assault and Defend. Second, a defender and attacker make critical assumptions about the population when they make the decision to conduct urban operations. This decision and the size of the force to use are directly dependent on the commander’s mission analysis. The operation is then conducted by a number of units; the key factor being each squad, platoon and company and how well trained they are to conduct urban operations; the training is derived from an understanding of doctrine and an emphasis placed on that doctrine.
Three key failures across the spectrum of urban operations include:

· Complacency
· A lack of specialization of units and Techniques, Tactics and Procedures or (Drills)
· Refugee’s and Internally Displaced Persons.

Cities are resilient and infrastructure generally continues to operate despite conflict. The 2006 Hezbollah-Israeli conflict demonstrates that urban combat is still crucial and will be a center of gravity that will disrupt operations and affect political and operational considerations. An analysis of urban operations between WW II and 1998 for urban operations in Stalingrad, Aachen, Manilla, Hue, Singapore, Beirut, Mogadishu, Grozny and Sarajevo, reveals a number of themes and lessons learned. These themes and lessons that are recurrent include:
· Complacency of your enemies resolve – Stalingrad, Mogadishu, Grozny (Iraq)
· Overestimating your ability
· No contingency planning –Stalingrad, Grozny
· Destruction/turning the city into rubble - Stalingrad, Aachen, Grozny
· Coalition soldiers operationally weak - Stalingrad, Hue, Mogadishu (Iraq and Afghanistan)
· Casualty rates high
· Misuse of armor- Stalingrad, Grozny,
· Chicanery/Deception/Ruses (Tactical) Seek to devise tactics and methods that put your opponent at a disadvantage
· AdHoc Task Organization (Small mobile teams work best) (3 x 25 man teams) squad composition is also changed NO COMPOSITE UNITS
· Improvisation of weapons and tactics (hugging techniques, weapon for multiple uses, ie RPG’s or Recoiless Rifles)
· Infantry team re-organizations
· Specialized urban training and specialized training to work with armor.
· Published doctrine is of little help except for pointers on defense
· Methodical and firepower intensive operations
· Battlefield is not linear and clean
· Snipers, mines and communications are your most important assets
· Urban structure and architecture is important
· ROE/ROI (Rules of Engagement/ Rules of Interaction
· Units do not plan or implement security measures
· No logistics plan
· Information/Psyops war: Discrepancies between Official sources and News Media (Public Opinion is extremely important; prepare provocations to destabilize along ethnic lines) Grozny, Israeli-Hezbollah, Iraq, Afghanistan
· Extensive use of Electronic Counter Measures and satellite blocking
· Assaults uncoordinated; Lack of coordination between units, agencies and police.
· Technology is ineffective when the soldier or user is untrained, confused and afraid to use it.
· The capacity of clans, culture and social traditions goes far beyond surface discipline
· Force ratios not adhered to
· The decision to fight in successive cities (this is a critical failure in decision making)
· Preparation for urban combat has to begin in peacetime

Increasingly, urban operations are a requirement of counterinsurgency. Generally speaking the area known as the Middle East is comprised of 18 Nations; is 4.3 million square miles, had a population of 326 million in 2002and 57% of this population resides in urban areas. For comparison, 25% of the population was urban in 1960 and current projections indicate that by the year 2015 that 70% of the population will be urban.[ii] Increasingly, military operations and or counter-insurgency operations within urban areas means that operations will increasingly include a succession of urban operations that literally will cross ethnic and cultural boundaries from one street to the next and will increase the complexity of operations. Of particular importance is the fact that Middle Eastern cities are unique and different from Western and European urban design. Despite the fact that some Middle Eastern cities are changing and may begin to resemble Western design as a result of sprawl and growth, the city center in Middle Eastern cities still has a significant religious, political and social influence and Middle Eastern urban design is also a physical reflection of tribal, clan and community separation that only the locals will know and understand, thus adding another layer of complexity to the hearts and minds campaign.

- Terry Tucker

[i] Sharp Corners: Urban Operations at Century’s End, Roger J. Spiller, US Army Command and General Staff College Press; Block by Block: The Challenge of Urban Operations, William G Robertson, Lawrence A. Yates, US Army Command and General Staff College Press.
[ii] Population Resource Center;

A View from the Rampart: A mine clearing training session south of our camp. French and US Demolition Experts train Afghan students the art and science of mine clearance.

Urban Terrain: Every alley, door, window and crevice offers defensible advantage and can become a dangerous trap. Rubble and city composition can also add to the complexity.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Military History and Warfare: Counter-insurgency: Classical or Modern Counterinsurgency

Tactical Lessons, Strategic Success and Counterinsurgency Operations Classical or Modern Counterinsurgency?

Counterinsurgency has not received this much attention since the 1960’s and President Kennedy’s implementation of the US Army Special Warfare Center. Our renewed interest in the art of insurgency and counterinsurgency has sparked fierce debate over the kind of war we are fighting: terrorism, irregular warfare or an asymmetrical war. When we label a war a counterinsurgency, by definition, it means that we are fully aware of the type of insurgency we are fighting; do we really? Is terrorism a type of war or a tactic? What do we really mean when we use the term irregular warfare? And What exactly is an Asymmetrical War?

My education in military studies began with a healthy dose of Clausewitz, Jomini, and Mahan. I studied Patton, Guderian, Rommel, and a host of other famous conventional war practitioners. As my warrior education progressed, I was taught the “classics”; T.E. Lawrence, C.E. Callwell, David Galula, and, Frank Kitson. I also became familiar with, Mao Zedong and Che Guevara.

The US Army released its new counterinsurgency manual in Dec 2007. It is heavily steeped in the theories of classical counterinsurgency (COIN). Classical counterinsurgency places a heavy emphasis on maximizing the legitimacy of the Host Government; US Army Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, also does the same. Yet as a trainer and practitioner of counterinsurgency attempting to implement the newest doctrine, something is amiss between the classical textbook approach and what appears to be actually happening on the ground.

Classical counterinsurgency is based on lessons learned between the 1940’s and the 1970’s. These lessons were gleaned from places like Algeria, Malaysia, Central America, and Vietnam. Most of the insurgencies during this period were based on either Nationalism, Anti-Colonialism or both. As a result, the strategies and lessons learned focused on how an already established, legitimate, yet, weak government could re-assert itself and maintain the status quo; including the minority or opposition group backed by a Western Power.

The counterinsurgency we are experiencing in Afghanistan is not nationalistic or anti-colonial. Insurgents today are following in failed States or States bordering between weak and failed. In classical counterinsurgency the insurgent takes the initiative and initiates the campaign. Some examples include: Algeria, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Columbia, and Rhodesia. Over the last couple of years Coalition forces or weak governments have initiated the campaign and the insurgent is now in a position to be strategically reactive, think Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the covert war for sanctuary and financial support in places like Saudi Arabia, Europe, and the Arab Emirates.

Today the paradox of modern counterinsurgency might be explained as: Classical insurgencies usually were started to disrupt the status quo and to overthrow existing governments. The insurgents had a strategy and a political agenda that was Nationalistic in its nature. Modern insurgents, on the other hand, are now attempting to preserve the status quo where a weak government or foreign invaders represent revolutionary change. Today’s insurgent does not always seek to gain control of the State. Think Kurds and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area of the North West Territories and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

The modern insurgent does not always want to succeed from the State but rather control portions of it; they could care less if the State collapses, as long as they are in control of their area of interest. Modern insurgents, unlike the Nationalists of yore, really have not stipulated how and what would replace the existing structure or government, or, articulated a “National” Strategy. Even bin Laden’s alleged strategy is more akin to the structure of the Pasha’s and Bey’s of the Ottoman Empire, a strategy that espouses an adherence to an ideology subject to local interpretation, refinement and enforcement, and, no real unified plan on how to implement it.Consequently, counterinsurgency becomes very dynamic and very complex, especially when the insurgent you’re fighting only cares about curing God’s favor through countless individual acts with the hope of eventually gaining paradise and ultimate victory.

The modern insurgent is fighting a “resistance” type of war and seeks to wear down the effort by constantly attacking soft targets. He thinks that we will just leave if he can continue this tactic. On the other hand, Coalition Forces collateral damage and mis-managed information operations continue to erode Coalition credibility, create a wave of new recruits and, more importantly, erode world and general public opinion of our ability to wage a successful counterinsurgency.Thus, the lessons learned here include: Understanding that cultural differences define Jus in Bello. Western Standards are not necessarily agreed to by all others. Understanding these cultural differences in “who” is defining the “just war” will help us understand the domestic and local origins of what constitutes defiance and how it might escalate. Understanding this process helps to define the political-military engagement strategy and process. Remember, diplomacy and politics first.

Other lessons include: Countermeasures designed to fight the enemy strategy and not his ideology; carefully managing the use of force and insuring that your media message is precise and attains the moral high ground in the language of the local cultural area. In essence you have to develop the media message for the local and not just your audience at home. Furthermore this message “branding” so to speak, must be precise for the regional area. Messages devised for Afghanistan might not be well received in Egypt or Saudi Arabia. Information operations are complex and need to be “Targeted”. Think commercial branding here. A commercial message designed for an English speaking audience may fail miserably with your French or German speaking audience, same goes for the Middle East and Golden Crescent. Syrian and Saudi audiences are not the same as Egyptian, Afghani or Turkish audiences. One size does not fit all and the only real commonality among them all is the religion of Islam, and even that is further divided by those that adhere to a particular branch. Despite the fact that popular or unpopular domestic support will either make or break your strategy; information operations must be layered to target specific audiences.

Patrolling and raiding are still critical, but, this technique, tactic and procedure (TTP) has required adjustment and we are finding that more snipers, more observation posts and more surveillance must be increasingly incorporated into the intelligence plan to pre-empt the insurgent’s intentions.

Lastly, at risk of sounding cliché, Intelligence is critical to operations. It is especially critical in counterinsurgency because intelligence drives operations, but, intelligence preparation of the battlefield is also being modified to account for the complex dynamics of modern insurgencies

Terry Tucker

Convoy: A convoy heads towards downtown Mazer-e-Sharif. You can see the “Blue Mosque” faintly in the background

The Blue Mosque: The Blue Mosque in the heart of Mazar-e-Sharif; This is a very famous and historical landmark in Afghan History.

Rockets; After we received an evening shelling, search teams look for the point of origin and attempt to track down the guilty. Here are two rockets that were recovered that did not ignite. This is an example of how primitive, yet effective some of the enemy techniques can be

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Military History and Warfare: Counter-insurgency: The Birth of Air Assault: LZ X-Ray, Ia Drang 1965

Counterinsurgency and The Development of Airmobility Doctrine

The US Army defines the gestation of Airmobility as the mid 1950’s. A tactical doctrine manual, Field Manual 57-35, "Army Transport Aviation-Combat Operations” was written and a provisional sky cav platoon was formed which essentially, through extensive experimentation, eventually became the nucleus of the 792d Aerial Combat Reconnaissance Company (Provisional).[i] One of the first official steps to transformation occurred on 15 January 1960 with the formation of the Rodgers Board. The Rodgers board made several recommendations regarding helicopter type, design, funding and policy. One of its most important recommendations was the recommendation to “prepare an in depth study to determine whether the concept of air fighting units was practical and if an experimental unit should be activated to test its feasibility”. [ii] Although the scope of review of the Rodgers Board was limited, it provided the beginning’s of essential guidance for development and procurement and was indicative of the vision of transformation that was in its embryonic stage. [iii] As airmobility experimentation proceeded, the Howze board was officially appointed on 25 April 1962 [iv]. The board had an extremely demanding schedule and was required to submit its final report by 24 Aug 1962. General Howze, was given wide latitude in which to convene the board to include dealing directly with the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, other military services, government agencies, civilian industry and to convene the board at other installations as he saw fit[v].

The Howze Board final report was submitted on 20 August 1962, 4 days ahead of schedule, and the formation of the “air assault division was the principal tactical innovation”[vi]. Although many had recognized that change was essential, the recommendations from the Rodgers report, the interim field testing and subsequent Howze Board Report, was, that the Army would enhance combat effectiveness in both conventional and counter-guerrilla actions and could accomplish other tasks with smaller forces in shorter campaigns.[vii] The new tactical innovations, by inference and implication, were supposed to support operational and strategic objectives and were focused on combining all the elements of combat power, maneuver forces, reconnaissance, communications and service support. The formation of the air assault division and the air cavalry combat brigade was to combine the classical functions of cavalry operations with the air assault division’s role of closing with and destroying the enemy on the ground. 

In essence the new innovations provided the mobility to move maneuver forces quickly, provide organic and immediate fire power through aerial weapons platforms to provide and perform the traditional indirect fire role that had previously been dominated by the Artillery and Air Forces close air support roles. Additionally, the aerial weapons platforms provided enhanced standoff, and, support by fire positions from the realm of the 2nd dimension; the air. 

In hindsight, although these tactical innovations provided an enormous amount of mobility and inherent firepower, they also contributed to the idea that tasks and campaigns could be effectively shorter and or shortened, and again, by implication, the speed of which maneuver delivers superior firepower would be the capstone of doctrine.[viii] Although the innovation of airmobility was to enhance the counter-guerrilla operations in Vietnam, the development of doctrine proceeded along conventional thinking and the doctrine of airmobility received its baptism by fire in the Ia Drang Valley at LZ X-RAY when the 1st Battalion 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division conducted air assault operations into the area with the specific mission of Search and Destroy Operations.[ix] LTC Moore, would change his tactics, techniques and procedures slightly based on the intelligence estimate he received and directed that all units use the same landing zone instead of separate landing zones for each company. Further, the timing and synchronization of the air assault with the artillery was timed to within H -1 minute, not much room for error.

The United States Army would continue to emphasize that airmobility doctrine was nothing short of a doctrine that was a subset of conventional warfighting, albeit adapted to the Vietnam War. Additionally, US Army Capstone Doctrine essentially remained unchanged from the 1941 version of Field Manual 100-5, Operations; and Airmobility doctrine helped to further reinforce the notions of short sharp campaigns of short duration that were characterized by overwhelming firepower and an increase in mobility. It is extremely hard not to draw the correlation or similarity that American Airmobility doctrine was looking at ways to emulate and exceed the “gold standard” of maneuver warfare in the integration of firepower and mobility; the German experience of WW II, or more specifically, the German campaigns in Poland, France and the Low Countries. Never the less, US Army doctrine would experience its next major change 10 years later in 1976.

- Terry Tucker -[i] Airmobility in Vietnam, 1961-1971, pgs 3-8[ii] Ibid page 8-9[iii] Ibid[iv] Ibid page 20; Secretary McNamara, much like Donald Rumsfeld of today, had serious reservations about the Army’s ability to produce a reexamination of the transformation or modernization concepts that would produce fresh, unorthodox concepts. See page 19 of Airmobility, 1961-1971[v] Ibid[vi] Ibid page 22[vii] Authors Italics[viii] Ibid, page 20-24[ix] The source documents for this are the US Army, Center for Military History; Seven Firefights in Vietnam and Airmobile Operations. Increasingly, the US Army used helicopters in its missions and mission support. The largest airmobile operation in the early years occurred in June of 1964 with the airlift of 1300 Vietnamese Marines. In June 1965, 2000 Vietnamese marines used helicopters to Air Assault positions. The 1/7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division would conduct search and destroy mission in the Ia Drang less than 6 months later in Nov 1965. In the words of the Center for Military History;1/7 Cav was going to Air Assault in to “develop there targets” based on intelligence estimates. The new Air Assault techniques gave them a “quick strike” capability. Airmobility operation was adapting the use of conventional infantry tactics and was primarily a weapons platform and a movement platform.

A CH-53 Heavy Lift Helicopter making a sling load.

A team on board the aircraft waiting to take off, The aircraft is a UH-1H Model and was commonly called a Huey or a Slick

Captured enemy equipment: a 51 caliber MG and a two recoilless rifles, compliments of the Special Forces and 75th Ranger Battalion, Republic of Vietnam

Pictures courtesy of Earl S. Wemple III, Major, US Army Special Forces, Retired

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Military History and Warfare: Counter-insurgency: Counter-insurgency Operations

This week I'm very pleased to introduce a brand new series of articles written by a new guest writer, Terry Tucker. Terry is currently on the ground in Afghanistan and will be writing on the topic of counter-insurgency operations based upon both his own experiences and the study of military history.

The Global War on Terror offers a glimpse of how the lessons of insurgency and counterinsurgency are problematic. [i] Building the operational capacity and capabilities of a counterinsurgent security force, to include police, offer lessons in how difficult it is to develop an integrated civil-military approach to combating an insurgency.

Likewise a study of the problems associated with how insurgencies arise is also important and prudent in understanding the lessons of the past. Some might believe that the past is only intelligible from the present. This gives short shrift to the lessons of history and how the present conditions are a result of that past.

In attempting to overcome these problematic conditions, there are several components that affect the overall civil-military engagement strategy that are used to integrate this approach. Some examples of these components include training the indigenous force, and, of course, the elements of politics, diplomacy, geo-politics, global opinion and fully integrated civil-military operations under a unified command.

Lessons can be learned from any type of war, conflict or military operation but assuming that those lessons will also be similar in the next conflict is a serious mistake. Sometimes these lessons learned can constrain thinking about the future, especially when one assumes that past lessons will be similarly duplicated. In this same regard combining lessons learned with planning usually has more to do with what happened in the past rather than how one can affect the future.
With this in mind, how does one determine if the past is an adequate guide for the future?

After seven years the United States is still involved in a global counterinsurgency effort; a counterinsurgency against fundamentalists that adhere to a particularly violent strain of religious ideology. The tone and tempo of news reports from the myriad news sources would lead one to believe that 5 years is an extraordinarily long time to secure a victory. The history of insurgency indicates that 5 years is just the beginning[ii]. Likewise the global war on terror has been classified as a war against ideas, religion and ideology.

[iii] How is one to determine if there are lessons learned from the past if there is a lack of consensus on the type of conflict we are waging? This is rather problematic as diversity of the origin of the problem does not obstruct the singularity of the mission for the insurgent; for instance, look at the uneasy yet cooperative alliance of Iran/Hezbollah and Syria/Fatah Their brand of radical Islam preaches a complete intolerance and all that is antithetical to Western values; they seek to completely replace Western codes with an extreme code of Islam. There current uneasy alliance is more like a temporary marriage of convenience.

The diversity of these sects does not detract them (relatively speaking) from the singularity of their mission; to use violence and terrorism to achieve there ultimate aims. The mixture of subversion, propaganda and violent pressure coupled to an ideological strategy is there idea of a recipe to success.

The First Intifada was a great case of exploiting these principles, the 2nd Intifada was a disaster and the Aug 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah conflict ended with both sides declaring victory, yet the general consensus seems to be that Hezbollah gained the upper hand. In both cases, as insurgent or counterinsurgent, it is the management of the narrative with moral attributes (think David vs Goliath here) tied to the strategy. In essence it requires more than just an adherence to the traditional principles of war when defining the strategy.

Increasingly, there must be complete integration of multiple military and non military agencies to the strategy and more importantly a corresponding change in mindset within these players as well.[iv] This is not easy considering that most militaries are taught that victory comes through the pursuit of aggressive offensive operations. Sometimes in a counterinsurgency it might be better to do nothing at all.

With this in mind, here is a sample of a few of the military historical lessons learned from past counterinsurgency and stability operations.

1) Politics and diplomacy must have primacy
2)Discipline, firepower and organization coupled with small unit tactics are key to military success
3) Centralized planning, decentralized execution within the commanders mission intent or end state must be tied to the political/diplomatic effort Draw distinction between bandits, rebels, thieves, and insurgents, etc, etc.
4) Creation of special units such as recon and tracking units
5) Doctrine and techniques, tactics and procedures are codified thru lessons learned; this pseudo doctrine fills emerging and existing gaps in methodology.
6) Learning to fail fast and adapt quickly.
7) Public critical of operations; so manage the information war ahead of the press and be sure that your “message” has the “moral” high ground.
8) Good deeds insufficient to counteract collateral damage, mistrust or other stupid actions by self

Watch for the continuation of this topic in the next issue as we briefly examine other critical elements such as urban operations and civil considerations critical to success.

[i] The term problematic was used in a conversation by an US Army Officer to describe the difficult conditions in accomplishing training with the Afghan National Army and Police.[ii] Consider such examples as Vietnam, Algeria, Rhodesia, Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, The Arab-Israeli conflict and The Maccabees[iii] See Countering a Global Insurgency A Strategy for the War on Terrorism, LTC (Dr.) David Kilcullen; Waging the War of Idea’s, William Rosenau, Ph.D, RAND Corp; Terrorism in the Name of Religion, Dr. Magnus Ranstorp, St Andrews University, Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence.[iv] My personal observations of Police and Army Mentors in the Kunduz and Northern Region area of Afghanistan confirm this when we attended a meeting at the Konduz Provincial Reconstruction Team HQ’s on Thursday morning the 3rd of April. In attendance where the German Police mentors, American Police mentors and a US State Department Representative to the PRT. The US Army Major that led the meeting was ill-equipped to lead the meeting; the meeting devolved to a finger pointing session; in one case a German police team had been on the ground more than 17 days and still had not received its orders for its training mission to train the Afghan Police.

Afghan sand storm just moments before it hits the camp. The Afghan’s call It “the wind of 120 days” the wind is roughly a constant 22 knots from May to Sept.

The airfield at Feyzabad; cargo and people are lifted in and out; for this trip it was a US Air National Guard Unit from Baltimore Maryland providing the Heavy lift.

German Provincial Reconstruction Team in Feyzabad, soldiers stop to watch a German CH-53, Heavy Lift Helicopter take off

Terry Tucker retired from the US Army after 23 years of active duty. He has served in Long Range Reconnaissance, Infantry, Cavalry, Staff and various leadership positions. His civilian and military experience and assignments include US Fortune 50’s and the US Department of Defense. He has over 10 years experience in the Middle East and has trained soldiers and clients in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Afghanistan. He is currently in Afghanistan on a training team that is training the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. He has contributed articles in the US Army Infantry Magazine, a professional journal of the US Army Infantry School and he is the author of a book; U.S. Counterinsurgency Methods and The Global War on Terror.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Military History and Warfare: Castles: Hadrian's Wall

This week, a trip to Scotland gave me the opportunity to have a look at the remnants of the mighty Hadrian’s wall. In 122AD the Emperor Hadrian visited Britain. Finding the northern border ill-defined and under almost continuous attack, he ordered a wall to be built across England from the Tyne estuary to the Solway Firth. This covered a distance of 73 miles (117km) and represents a massive feat of Roman engineering and design skill.

Although these pictures no longer convey the original size of the wall, it was built of stone 10ft (3m) wide and 15ft (5m) high with a protective ditch 4m deep in front. Garrisons across the wall would be stationed in castles set at one mile intervals and in turrets and towers in between. A further set of forts located behind the wall would reinforce and support the garrisons as and when required. The whole project involved quarrying some 27 million cubic feet of stone. Amazingly, construction was completed in just seven years. The skill and speed of the wall’s construction had much to do with its building force. Hadrian’s wall was not built by slave labour, but by legionaries of the Roman army.

However, when completed the wall was manned by auxiliary troops who garrisoned its 79 milecastles and 16 forts. The auxiliaries acted as both guard troops and frontier police. The fully-fledged legions (of which there were three stationed in Roman Britain consisting of 5000 men each) were used only in major campaigns or to repel invaders.


During my visit to Hadrian’s wall, I got to survey the remains of ‘Banna’, known today as ‘Birdsowald’. The site contains a semi-excavated Roman fort positioned on the wall.

When the Roman builders arrived they had found a wooded area on a boggy piece of land. The wood had to be cleared and the bog drained before construction of the fort could begin. When completed, it would have housed 1,000 Roman soldiers. The fort was originally built from turf and timber. Soon the foundations were laid for a permanent stone fort with six gates. It is these outlines that remain today. When completed, the fort had consisted of towers, barracks, officer’s quarters and a storeroom. In the centre lay the command headquarters for the area.

A reconstruction of the fort.

The above picture shows the remains of the only known drill and exercise hall to be found in any auxiliary fort of the Roman Empire.

The Roman Empire came under increasing attack in the fourth and fifth centuries. From 155AD to 410AD, Hadrian's Wall was breached four times by invading Barbarians. Towards the beginning of the fifth century, Rome's power began to wane and troops were pulled out of Britain. With no one left to maintain it, sections of the wall began to fall into disrepair. Much of the stone from both the wall and its forts were later removed and reused in the early medieval period.

Nonetheless, enough remains of the wall for it rightly to be considered one of the great engineering projects of pre-modern Britain.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Military History and Warfare: 17th Military History Blog Carnival

Welcome to September's edition of the Military History Blog Carnival.

One of the great things that I love about the military history carnival is the broad range of topics that are covered by bloggers throughout the blogosphere. This month is no exception.

Beginning with a boyhood hero of my own, Naomi Stevens' Diary from England blog tells us that Admiral Nelson has been named the greatest British military hero of all time. She also briefly outlines the background to Nelson's fame.

Staying with the nautical theme, Rich over at Chronologi Cogitatones presents an interesting article on an joint Anglo-Dutch naval battle against the Spanish in 1602. Its worth pointing out that this is the third post in a series following the career of Sir Robert Mansell. The other two articles can also be found on Rich's blog.

A very interesting and slightly unusual post can be found on Here, the Emperor Napoleon's career is analysed in the context of his leadership skills. The article is well worth a read.

Over at The Whited Sepulchre, Allen describes the French 'Maginot line'. He also manages to throw in a quick cost comparison to the US/Mexico border fence which makes the Maginot line look like a bargain!

Covering similar ground, I too have submitted a post on the Maginot line. This can be found here

Gavin at Investigations of a Dog presents us with a very interesting comparison of the careers of Cromwell and Balfour. Both where cavalry commanders who made a major impact on the English Civil War. Whilst Cromwell went on to run England as Lord Protector, Balfour faded into obscurity. Gavin argues that Balfour's career is worthy of a little more attention.

Gabriele at The Lost Fort has some great pictures and material on a medievel German castle which used the natural rocky landscape as the bulk of its structure.

Finally, Ken Reynolds gives us a collection of biographies of soldiers from the 38th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary force during the First World War. Ken has clearly spent a great deal of time researching these biographies and it is well worth having a look around the blog.

I hope you have enjoyed this month's edition of the Military History carnival.

If you are interested in hosting October's edition (or any other month), please drop an e-mail here

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Military History and Warfare: The Thirty Years War: The 'Vasa' Part II

This week, due to popular demand, I shall be taking another look at the recovered warship 'Vasa' with more pictures of the ship and its museum. However, before that I would like to remind you about the 17th Military History Carnival being hosted on this site on the 14th September.

The handy submission form can be accessed here .

In my previous post on the Vasa, I examined some of the historical background to the ship and the events leading up to its sinking. This week, I shall be focusing on the recovery operation and some of the archaeological finds discovered in the wreckage.

In the decades that followed after the sinking of the ship in 1628, efforts were begun to salvage the valuable cannons and provisions that could still be recovered and reused. This explains why out of the original complement of sixty-four cannons, only three were recovered with the wreckage in 1961.

Knowledge of the ship's location was then lost for three hundred years. In the twentieth century, it was thanks to the determination of a Swedish marine technican, Anders Franzen that the ship was again located Using a homemade coring probe, he found a large wooden object near Beckholmen in Stockholm. After identifying the ship, the Swedish navy was brought in (along with National Heritage Board) to form the Vasa committe. Together, they made plans to raise the Vasa.

In order to even have a chance to raise the ship, divers were required to use pressure hoses to dig six tunnels underneath the wreck. This was dangerous work. There was a strong possibility that the wreck could shift as the mud was being excavated, trapping the diver. Fortunately, no one was injured in the process. Once the tunnels were complete, steel cables were run underneath and attached to a pair of lifting pontoons on the surface. The ship was then raised in a series of eighteen lifts bringing her from a depth of 33 metres to 16. Over the next year and a half, debris and mud were cleared from the ship in the hopes of lightening the load. The gunports were temporally plugged and iron bolts that had rusted away were replaced.

On the morning of April 24th 1961, the Vasa broke surface and once again floated in Stockholm harbour. She was then towed to a dry dock and works were begun. Although a museum was established for members of the public to visit whilst the ship was being excavated, it was not until 1990 that the Vasamuseet we see today was completed.

Unlike the old museum, Vasa museet has three levels of viewing galleries. This allows us to view the ship from above:

Having learnt valuable lessons from the Vasa's maiden voyage these cannon ports were sealed as the ship was raised to the surface.

Thirty to fifty men, women and children died during the sinking in 1628. Some were below decks when the ship keeled over trapping them, others may have been unable to swim. As a result, several skeletons have been recovered from the site.

Using DNA tests on the remains, scientists have been able to determine the age, sex and relative health of crew. The ability to gather this vast amount of detail, gives the historian an incredible insight into the lives of ordinary people in the seventeenth century. Look here for some reconstructions of how the crew may have looked.

It is important to remember that although the Vasa has been largely reconstructed, large parts of the ship were originally painted in bright decorative colours.

The Vasa was as much a work of art as she was a warship.

I hope you have enjoyed this series of posts on the Vasa! I strongly encourage you to go to Stockholm and take a look for yourselves.

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