Army Heritage and Military History
(for Senior Leaders above Brigade)
Carl von Clausewitz. On War. Ed. and trans Peter Paret and Michael Howard,. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1984. (732 pages) (paperback and hardcover)
The classic study of the art of war. Although much of the work represents timeless lessons, one must remember that it was completed prior to the Industrial Revolution. However, On War is the most significant attempt in Western history to understand war, both its internal dynamics and as an instrument of policy. Since first published in 1832, it has been read throughout the world, and it has stimulated generations of soldiers, statesmen, and intellectuals. A must for all claiming to be professional soldiers.
Kent Roberts Greenfield (ed.) Command Decisions. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1960. (565 Pages)
Soldiers seek to study the lessons of war in order to fit themselves for command. What, they ask, were the concerns and considerations that bore down upon captains and policy makers of the past when they made the historic decisions that determined, for better or for worse, the course and shape of our own times? Analyzing key decisions of Allied, German, and Japanese commanders in World War II, the authors of this book–all participants in the U.S. Army's monumental, multi-volume effort to chronicle its role in that conflict– seek to provide at least some of the answers.
All but one of the episodes recounted deal with military issues and means, but– reflecting the nature of wars waged by democracies, particularly in the well-wired 20th Century–all are not made by military commanders. Instead, national governments (Japan, the United States) make some, chiefs of state (Adolf Hitler, Franklin Delano Roosevelt) or Washington-based generals such as George C. Marshall make others. The rest, however, draw examples from all levels of command, going from theater through army group to army and corps. In a number of the most important cases, neither the exercise of authority nor the assumption of responsibility was personal, but even so, a major decision occurred in each, great risks arose, and the course of history changed.
The decisions themselves cover a spectrum of possibilities, ranging from matters of supreme strategic importance–whether to put Germany or Japan down first–to issues of civil-military relations heavy with meaning for the post-war future–the decision to evacuate Japanese Americans from the Pacific Coast. The decision to withdraw from Bataan is here. So are Lucas' to hold at Anzio and Mark Clark's to drive on Rome. There are also chapters on why Normandy became the site for Overlord rather than a location on the Mediterranean, the reasoning that led to the Market Garden disaster, the decision to halt the Allied advance at the Elbe, and Harry Truman's conclusion that it would be necessary to employ the atomic bomb. In all, some twenty-three command decisions are covered. In a world where human nature remains a constant and history all too often repeats itself, each has a bearing on the present.
Michael Howard, War in European History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976. (165 pages)
In this slim volume, Sir Michael Howard, one of the English-speaking world's leading military historians, summarizes the evolution of war as an institution in European society from the end of the Roman Empire to the Cold War and the nuclear age. His purpose is "to attempt to trace, not simply the development of warfare itself, but its connection with, and effect on, technical, social, and economic change." Howard divides the military history of the European world into eight epochs: the wars of the knights, the wars of the mercenaries, the wars of the merchants, the wars of the professionals, the wars of the revolution, the wars of the nations, the wars of the technologists, and the nuclear age. For each epoch, he traces the influence of economics, society, and technology on the conduct of warfare, and the influence of warfare upon economics, society, and technology. This is not a detailed account of battles and campaigns. Instead, it is an overview of the tactics, operational art, and strategy of each period. Major themes include the rise of the professional officer since the late Seventeenth Century in counterpoint with the development of mass total warfare driven by nationalism and ideology and made possible by modern science and industry. The work is punctuated throughout by striking insights. For example, Howard suggests that in some respects World War I, bloody as it was, was less grim for the individual soldier than previous conflicts due to advances in supply and medical science that reduced the toll of disease and physical hardship. This fact, he argues, helps account for the attractiveness of various militaristic fascist movements to veterans in the social and economic confusion after 1918.
This volume is an excellent introduction to what is often called the "new military history," which deals with military forces in the context of the societies from which they spring and which they serve. For the serving soldier, it provides a concise overview, without excessive and confusing detail, of the evolution of the military institution of which he is a part, in the context of the history of western civilization.
Paul Kennedy. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. New York: Random House, 1987. (677 pages) (paperback and hardcover)
An irresistible book that has become a classic in terms of educating the masses to the dangers of failing to link a vibrant economy with military power. The book is written with great style and power, contains large quantities of historical material, and all this is presented in a very contemporary thesis. The thesis is that over the past five centuries the great empires (Spanish, Dutch, French, British) have risen and flourished and won their wars because their effective military power was backed by a superior economic force. The author goes on to explain that a downward shift in vital economic indices has signaled a similar shift in the nation's status as a great power, with predictable military defeat in time of war. A must read for the senior commander and strategist seeking the linkage between military and economic power in an ever-changing global environment.
Henry Kissinger. Diplomacy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994. (912 pages) (paperback and hardcover)
The author draws heavily on his vast reservoir of historical knowledge and experience with statecraft and foreign policy to provide the reader with an understanding of the analytical tools of his trade. He emphasizes the importance of such concepts as geopolitics, ideology, realpolitik, the balance of power, the search for equilibrium, and the nation-state. The subject matter stretches from Richelieu's raison d'tat to the triumph of conservative nationalism and the configuration of international power following the First and Second World Wars. The author's examination of the most critical of diplomatic and military concepts and crises serves a primer for the more advanced student of strategy and world politics.
Williamson Murray and Alan R. Millett, eds. Military Innovation in the Interwar Period. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. (428 pages)
The authors examine seven areas of innovation during the 1919-1939 interwar period: armored warfare, amphibious warfare, strategic bombing, tactical bombing, submarine warfare, carrier aviation, and radar. In treating each, the authors compare and contrast the experiences of three or more national military institutions. The seven case studies are followed by three summary chapters which derive a number of characteristics of innovation. Peacetime innovation is found to be highly non-linear, not at all a predictable progression from primitive stages to breakthroughs. Rather than reliable "lessons learned," the interwar period suggests three implications contributing to successful innovation: the institutional commitment to an evolving vision of future war, processes for testing and refining a concept of future war, and service-wide acceptance of institutionalization of the vision of future war. A successful innovative process integrates technical choices into a combination of systems. For example, the blitzkrieg innovation integrated new means of communication, advances in armor and engines, and close air support techniques. This examination of innovation is relevant not only as useful preparation for understanding and contributing to periodic processes such as the Quadrennial Defense Review and the current "Joint Vision 2010." Additionally, the editors view the United States as in the initial stages of a revolution in military affairs, a post-Cold War period in which a new vision of future war will present new technical options demanding the careful and informed consideration of leaders.
Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May. Thinking in Time. New York: Free Press, 1986. (321 pages) (paperback)
The authors offer the broader public a primer on a way to use historical experience "in the process of devising what to do today about the prospect of tomorrow." They propose certain techniques for the proper employment of history in decision- making. This work is of tremendous value to the commander and senior staff member faced with decision overload and the necessity to plan for the future.
Peter Paret, ed. Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986. (941 pages)
This anthology updates the classic work of the same name published in 1943 that originated in a Princeton University seminar on American foreign policy and security issues. The concept and some of the substance of the current version derive from that earlier work. What was novel about the original was its advocacy of the proposition that the history of strategic thought deserved serious attention and that a clear understanding of the role of armed force in international society was important to durable peace. These ideas have gained wide currency and no longer need to be highlighted. The current volume offers the reader a historical guide to strategic theory and the use of organized violence from the renaissance to the atomic era. Comprising twenty-eight essays grouped chronologically in five parts, this anthology's broad sweep resists summary. The focus is on American and European military history. Individual chapters survey the contributions of key historical figures such as Napoleon, Clausewitz, and Frederick the Great and topics such as the economic foundations of military power, the role of doctrine, air power, nuclear strategy, and revolutionary war. An acknowledged authority has written each essay. The book's value is in providing in a single volume a substantial introduction to a wide range of topics in military history. Even when read selectively, Makers of Modern Strategy, with its notes and bibliography opens the gateway for further study and deeper understanding.
William B. Skelton, An American Profession of Arms: The Army Officer Corps, 1784-1861. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1992. (481 pages)
In this volume, William B. Skelton traces the development of a professional officer corps in the U.S. Army between the founding of the republic and the onset of the Civil War. He argues that during this period, Army officers took on the characteristics of a distinct social and professional group. After a chaotic beginning in the decades leading up to the War of 1812, the profession consolidated itself after that conflict. Educated at West Point and spending most of their lives in service, officers developed a common set of ideas and values concerning their role in American society, civil-military relations, foreign affairs, Indians, and other matters. They constituted a distinct subculture rooted in frontier and seaboard garrison communities and linked by ties of kinship and marriage. Conservative in views, they saw themselves as to some degree alienated from the society around them, yet at the same time they loyally accepted civilian supremacy over the military. While they engaged in politics, they avoided partisanship and concentrated on questions of institutional and professional concern. Although spending most of their time in frontier constabulary work, they saw their principal mission as preparation for war against European powers and sought to keep up with the latest developments in military science. The new officer corps proved itself in battle in the war with Mexico. The Civil War divided the officers along sectional lines and diverted many of them into civilian politics. Nevertheless, after the end of Reconstruction, the profession reconstituted itself on the foundation well established before the firing on Fort Sumter, and a new generation of officers animated by the old values and attitudes laid the foundations of the twentieth century Army. For the Army officer, Skelton's study constitutes an introduction to the roots of his profession as an institution and system of ideas and values. Especially today, as the military officer again becomes a distinct minority in a society largely divorced from soldierly concerns, he or she can profit from understanding that this is not a new development and observing how their counterparts in the past attempted, with varying success, to deal with it.
Harry Summers. On Strategy. Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1982. (225 pages) (paperback)
A critical examination of the military in Vietnam. The author suggests that the military and political strategists might have fared better had they adhered more closely to the preeminent theorist of strategy, Carl von Clausewitz. The author contrasts timeless theory with American practice in selecting war goals, employing the principles of war, and allocating resources. Summers concludes that the US failed to employ her armed forces so as to secure US national objectives. He explains how Clausewitz can be used as a tool for analyzing wars and campaigns, but not as a "template" for determining the "approved solution." An excellent tool for educating the future commander. More important, the work can serve as a guide for selfeducation about a critical period in American military, political, and social history.
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War. Trans. Rex Warner. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1972. (648 pages)
This is the classic account of the great power struggle in the Mediterranean world before the coming of the Roman Empire, written by perhaps the first true historian in the modern sense of the word. Thucydides clear and unsparing account of the rise and fall of the Athenian empire and its life and death struggle with the grim militarist state of Sparta grabs the reader and enthralls him by this tale of pride, power, arrogance and war. Athens is all that a great empire wants to be: supreme in its alliance, all-powerful at sea, fresh from leading a victory (against all odds) over the Persians, wealthy, and culturally dominant. Its rival, Sparta, is a culturally negligible state based solely on the military power necessary to keep its neighbors (and majority slave population) in a constant state of fear. Yet the Athens lose what little "moral high ground" it had (it was, after all, a state also built on a reliance on slavery) by turning its Persian alliance into an empire directed from Athens. It corralled its allies/subjects into a war with Sparta based on flimsy pretexts, in part to settle with its long-standing rival and in part to keep its own subject states in line. The result was a long struggle which ended, after the disastrous expedition to Syracuse and a decimating plague, with the destruction of the Athenian state and the coming of tyranny.
The story of the Peloponnesian War has many lessons that continue to be valid today: the destructive "imperialization" of an all-powerful democratic state, the arrogance of great power politics, the lure of conquest even when reason dictates otherwise, the cult of personality in a military at war (Pericles and Alcibiades), and the always delicate balance of power between the military and the political structures of a state. It was, after all, the almost fratricidal conflict between the Greek states that ultimately weakened them to the point that these city-states fell first to the forces of Alexander the Great of Macedonia and finally to the all-conquering Romans. It is a timeless lesson in the perils and bankruptcy of a polity built upon endless conflict.