Small Wars Journal

The U.S. Army Culture is French!

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The U.S. Army Culture is French!

Donald E. Vandergriff

When taken in its entirety, the American Army had a simple and extremely consistent intellectual framework for war and the battlefield from its inception in 1814 through its replacement in 1940-1941. This intellectual framework provided the Army with a consensus on the nature of war, of organization, and of technology, so that for over a century the American Army had a distinctive way of war. This way of war was, at its heart, based on the elements and intellectual framework of the French Combat Method.[i]

-- Michael A. Bonura, French Influence on the American Way of War from 1814-1941 (2008)

The U.S. Army spills the words Mission Command everywhere from its literature, PowerPoint briefings, doctrine manuals, and professional journals that now seem to include an article on Mission Command in every issue.[ii] The U.S. Army culture, while it aspires to adopt a concept originating in German military thought, has in reality cultivated a culture that more closely emulates the French Army culture during the interwar period (1918-1939). The state of our culture today falls far short of Auftragstaktik, the command culture prevalent in the German armed forces from the time of Prussia to the outbreak of the Second World War. We have a culture of complete control (via endless, laws, regulations and polices) rather than one that trusts individuals. We seem to undertake reform only after institutional failings or misdeeds, responding with knee-jerk reactions, top-down models of change, and “Kindergarten Leadership” that talks down to our Soldiers rather than challenging them to improve. Rather than the mass punishment "timeouts" of our childhood days, but instead of we get endless mandatory training based on the lowest common denominator delivered through meaningless PowerPoint presentations.[iii]

It is a culture that lives and dies on attention to trivia. It is a culture that focuses inward on process instead of outward on its current or potential enemies. The U.S. Army culture rests upon an out-of-date personnel system that forces officers to focus on competition instead of team work, on self-preservation instead of professionalism.[iv] Until the U.S. Army is realistic about the shortcomings of our institutional culture, it will never be able to embrace and practice Mission Command. [v]

For example, the “crawl-walk-run” or “lecture-demonstration-practical application” methods used in the military’s leader development curriculums today is a holdover from a bygone era. This approach was born out of necessity in World War I. The U.S. Army, arriving on the field of battle unprepared for large-scale war, followed the French military approach to education based on the philosophy of René Descartes.[vi]

Descartes was a famous mathematician who broke down engineering problems in sequence, making it easier to teach formulas to engineering students. This approach was translated into French military training, where the French found it easy to break down military problem solving into processes (checklists) to educate their officers and their awaiting masses of citizen soldiers upon mobilization.[vii]

The Cartesian approach allowed the French (and later the United States) to easily teach a common, fundamental doctrinal language to many new to the military and significantly reduced the time it took to master basic military skills. The inherent weakness of this approach, however, is that it reduces war (complex problems) into a series of processes where the enemy is only a template, not a dynamic, free-thinking adversary playing very important role in determining a plan’s execution.[viii]

The Cartesian approach also slows down the decision cycle by turning the planners’ focus inward to its own processes rather than outward on the enemy. Military planners end up spending far too much time creating proper-looking paperwork to please their bosses rather than actually solving the problem at hand. It is the same thing with operations research, a powerful tool for solving certain well-defined problems. Military officers, a majority heavily educated in mathematics and engineering, try to apply the Cartesian approach to all sorts of inappropriate problems.[ix] The French, relying on a massed citizen army in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, used it to instruct many citizen officers quickly in military doctrine.[x]

The horrendous casualties of World War I and the lethal advancements of modern weaponry forced the French to find a way to teach its officers how to manage these resources properly. They compensated for their lack of unit skills on the battlefield by concentrating firepower. Their orderly and systematic approach to planning was the forerunner to the current US Army’s Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) and the USMC’s Marine Corps Planning Process.[xi]

When the United States Army arrived in Europe in 1917, led largely by citizens transformed into officers almost overnight, it needed to rapidly learn the fundamentals of the profession of arms. All U.S staff officers and commanders attended French schools in planning and controlling forces in combat. When the United States and France emerged as the perceived victors in World War I, they saw that as a validation of their training process.

After the French developed Methodical Battle in the interwar years, the United States copied it and its accompanying process-focused education. The analytical approach to leader development inherent in such a system supported the nation’s mobilization doctrine, and it worked well for the Army in World War I & II.[xii] The attrition doctrine used by the United States in World War II was based on the French style of intense supporting firepower, called “fire and movement tactics.” It relies on one unit firing while another one moves, supported by massed indirect fires (very much in keeping with the French doctrine of Methodical Battle). These fire-and-movement tactics are linear—Napoleonic on an operational level. The doctrine focuses on closely tying in the flank of one unit with its neighbors, rigidly adhering to detailed map graphics, and centrally controlling nearly every aspect of the operation at a higher headquarters. A doctrine of this type forces officers, educated to rely on rote procedures, to focus inwards on themselves rather than outwards on the enemy.[xiii]

This French-based doctrine was already institutionalized when George C. Marshall became commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1929. Marshall countered the doctrine’s demand for strict obedience in the way he altered the curriculum at Benning to align more with the progressive approaches employed by the German army. As soon as Marshall left Benning, the school reverted back to its linear system of leader development. Both the Army's infantry school and the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, drilled their officer students in tactics devised by the French in the latter part of World War I and during the interwar years. Marshall seems to have been a rare exception, who tried to get away from this top-down, rote dogma being taught throughout the U.S. Army.[xiv]

As Marshall was one of the few to contradict the conventional approach, he advanced many methods similar to German officer education of the same period. He took students to different locations and then changed their assigned missions, forcing them to adapt to a changing situation. He even allowed officer students to challenge the "school solution" with their own courses of action. Marshall’s practices in education were advanced for the day but were also an aberration to the norm in all other Army courses and schools.[xv] Also significant was that Marshall attempted to move away from long, formal, written operations orders in favor of shorter versions or verbal orders. This was also similar to what the Germans were practicing in all levels of their schooling.[xvi]

Although a great doctrinal debate existed in the interwar years among officers, the French way of war was deemed the correct way. It helped that the industrial warfare methods were more easily explained than the German approach. American doctrine called for a systematic approach—from strategy, at the highest level, to tactics, at the lowest level—so coherent and so simple that even an army of semi-trained amateurs could quickly learn to fight effectively.

To properly gauge the French influence on army doctrine, one must go beyond formally promulgated doctrine. The 1930 manual for large-unit commanders was never raised to the full status of "permanent doctrine," but it was extremely influential. Put another way, what a general stamped "official" is far less important than what resonated in the minds of captains, majors, and colonels of that period.[xvii]

One reason that the Manual for Commanders of Large Units was so popular was that it was familiar. It fit well into the military mentality instilled in our officer corps. It was adopted at West Point (which emphasized a Cartesian approach to education), in the writings of Baron Antoine Henri de Jomini, in the extensive study of the French language, in the use of French translations as a means to study German methods, in the influences of the centralized corporate culture of the Progressive Era, and, most powerful of all, in the experience of World War I.[xviii]

As Dr. Bruce Gudmundsson describes, “This does not mean that most American officers were slavish imitators or even enthusiastic admirers of the French army. Indeed, most American officers who served during the interwar period would deny that they practiced anything but a uniquely ‘American way of war.’ This was particularly true where infantry tactics and the "spirit of the offensive" were concerned.” Yet, at a time when maneuvers involving forces larger than a regiment were rare, the U.S. Army needed a means of making sense of the tactics of divisions and corps. The French approach in general, and the Manual for Commanders of Large Units in particular, promised to fill that need. The dependence on the trained amateur also institutionalized the doctrine of centralized command and control and authoritarian leadership that began in World War I.[xix]

Other military schools, like the Command and Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, were not held in high regard by their graduates for the style of teaching. U.S. Army professional journals at the time carried articles criticizing the poor quality of instruction, as well as more weighty concerns. One writer complained that the instructors were “insufferably boring.” He counted a third of the officer-students who were “frankly and openly asleep” before the writer “himself succumbed.” A more serious criticism appeared in a 1937 Infantry Journal issue. The writer pointed out that the practical problems might last “two or three hours” but in combat the decision-maker might have only minutes to identify and implement a solution.[xx]

Students and journal writers criticized the “school solution” as a basis for evaluating performance. The school solution was the “correct” answer to a map exercise, or a tactical problem, as defined by the instructors. Many recognized that the school solution grading method, which relied on inflexible grade sheets, prevented many students from presenting innovative solutions to complex problems. The Leavenworth faculty took these concerns seriously and devised a system of student appeals, recognizing the school solutions might not be the only possible solutions. The system of appeals fostered an environment in which students could experiment with ideas many of them would soon apply in World War II, but it was too late to be of significant impact to an Army that saw doctrine as rigid dogma, and this was reflected (with exceptions) in the campaigns of World War II.[xxi]

Centrally controlled, attrition-based doctrine attempted to make up in discipline and control what the military lacked in expertise and cohesion. The doctrine also fit into the culture begun by Elihu Root. The Army's (and society's) culture liked the idea of imposing an artificial order on war, refusing to acknowledge the disorderly nature of war.. Army officers were comfortable with this type of doctrine because they were trained to think analytically. Exceptions were few, as in the case of the famed 4th Armored Division commander, John Shirley Wood, who knew better and taught his officers how to integrate different combat arms and to think holistically.[xxii]

Doctrine vs Mission Command

Ideas conceived before and during World War I dominated the thinking of American military leaders through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and even today in the 21st Century. The disastrous experience in Vietnam prompted some within the defense establishment to reevaluate the way United States forces should fight. American military leaders recognized that the single-enemy focus of2nd Generation Warfare or 2GW (linear warfare) would not be relevant in a 4GW (non-state warfare) world.[xxiii]

Transformation to a more deployable, adaptive, and agile force began. Information dominance across the tactical and operational levels, enabled by technology, formed the basic assumption about how the United States would fight. However, the models for designing, testing, and evaluating new concepts remained tied to 2GW types of mathematical and linear threat models used by General William DePuy, the first commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, to justify force development funding in the 1970s. This model needed definitive assumptions about how the Army would fight that could be mathematically modeled on the linear battlefield.[xxiv]

Even though the nature of conflicts in which the military would engage was changing, the assumptions about threat models used to create change did not. After 30 years and a decisive victory in Desert Storm, it could not question them without calling into question the basis upon which the size, composition, and required capabilities of the force were justified in terms of budgetary requirements. The evolving face of war into the Fourth Generation through new world situations in which non-state groups were becoming more powerful, combined with technological advances on which the DoD was spending development funds, led many to conclude that the military would be able to “do more with less.”[xxv]

This was and is a troubling paradox for a large institution. Its inability to reconcile the desire to operate in an efficient, businesslike manner, in a world in which the desired results cannot be defined quantitatively, persists. The DoD had firmly attached itself to a force development model in which doctrine was not “how we will fight” the nation’s wars, but “how we will justify acquiring and managing resources” on a macro-level. Doctrine no longer was the engine of change, because the extensive bureaucratic systems built in the post-World War II 2GW world now held doctrine captive to process. Doctrine became overly dogmatic, which defeated the purpose of the entire concept![xxvi]

Not only did assumptions about how the military must be developed remain stagnant, but many 1970s assumptions about how forces should train remained unchallenged. No one would now argue against the idea that accepted methods used to train soldiers for World War I did not apply to the new battlefield realities of World War II a mere 23 years later. Oddly enough, there are many in uniform today who passionately argue that training methods developed for winning a first battle in Central Europe in the 1970s and 1980s are still unquestionably valid for 21st century battles with state and non-state actors.[xxvii]

The success of Desert Storm exacerbated the problem by apparently validating General William DePuy’s training philosophy of “task/conditions/standards.” It was no longer merely recognized as one leaders' philosophy, but instead firmly embedded as culture across the services. Leaders raised under that philosophy chose not to question it—even in the light of Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and other 4GW conflicts around the globe. Tactical problems are viewed as either the failure of subordinates to understand doctrine, failure to develop detailed standard operating procedures applying the doctrine, or political failures resulting in the improper (non-doctrinal) employment of military forces. They are almost never viewed as indicative of a need to critically examine Army assumptions and doctrine.[xxviii]

Commanders determine training priorities based on their analysis of the missions they may have to conduct by devising a Mission Essential Task List (METL). METL development has evolved from a tool for commanders to focus efforts to their mission, to a very broad listing of approved task words related to larger and centralized higher headquarters’ use of certification as the primary method for assessing readiness.[xxix]


Mission Essential Task List (METL)[xxx]

While the direct connection between how to train doctrine and how to fight doctrine was unhinged by the emergence of 4GW, Army leaders’ attempts to retain 2GW training methods remain strong. To challenge the rationale of the methods used to train was to challenge the doctrine itself. This was professional behavior increasingly less desired by a military still celebrating the leaders and successes of Desert Storm.[xxxi]

A concurrent event at the time helped entrench organizational conservatism in the military. The dramatic drawdown of the 1990s shrank the Army by half and the other services to lesser degrees. The effect of the drawdown on people who remained was to instill a strong professional conservatism and group-think. In the 1980s, internal Army debates about how to fight and how to train that had accompanied evolving Army doctrine were supported indirectly by robust resources.[xxxii]

The drawdown and resource crises of the 1990s slowed and almost stopped doctrinal innovation. Because the defense establishment is biased towards designing and building expensive weapons systems, when budgets conflicts arise, military personnel and training suffer first. This should not be taken as a blanket call for perpetually high defense budgets, but rather better prioritization in the minds of all involved in making decisions about national security. The priorities should always be people, ideas, and hardware … in that order.[xxxiii] When defense dollars are limited, decision-makers should first look to cut spending on weapons acquisition programs, not in how people train.

Training became increasingly centralized as commanders attempted to husband resources. Junior leaders were not allowed to squander limited resources learning their craft. Instead, most were taught “what right looks like” by their seniors, because there was too much risk in allowing junior officers and NCOs to develop professionally the same way their seniors did. Innovative training methods such as those employed by Special Forces were considered inappropriate for conventional forces. Junior leaders emulated the behaviors of their seniors, centralizing and directing the “task/condition/standards” activities-driven subordinate activities, and held doctrinal correctness as an essential measure of leader competence.[xxxiv] Junior officers should be trusted to train their troops as they see fit rather than merely executing a one-size-fits-all training program.

In the Army and Marine Corps, training as a measure of leader competency was also replaced by training resource management, which is quite unrelated to the actual execution of training. Careful stewardship of resources, and the satisfactory completion of resourced events, took precedence over the actual effectiveness of training. Training itself changed from experiential training (proficiency gained through realistic experiences) to event-driven training, following strategies determined by TRADOC.[xxxv]

These strategies determined the approved methods and allocated resources and external “trainers” for unit commanders. The Army’s Combat Training Centers (CTCs) changed from an environment in which leaders trained their units to fight, to a place where outsiders told leaders to follow approved doctrinal methods. The same occurred at the Marine Corps’ Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, CA. The fundamental training methods remained unchallenged by critical analysis and became the hallmark of leader risk mitigation. Leaders who survived the drawdown ended up following doctrinal methods precisely and evaluating others by how well they followed the same methods.[xxxvi]

The gap between intentions and reality became public in 2000 as officers and NCOs began voting with their feet. The volunteer professional service lost staff sergeants, captains, lieutenant colonels, and colonels faster than even a smaller military could handle and still fulfill its requirements. Command climate surveys showed wide and deep dissatisfaction with senior leaders, formal schools, training methods, and overly restrictive command climates. “Highlighting the disconnect, it is interesting to note that while General Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff from 1999 to 2003, commissioned a series of Army Training and Leader Development Panels to try to understand why the gulf existed, the TRADOC commander continued to insist (in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee (HASC)) that training and leader development were the strengths of TRADOC and that there were no issues requiring fundamental change.”[xxxvii]

By 2003, with the Army CSA, General Schoomaker engaged in changing the Army, not only to help win an ongoing war but to prepare for future security needs, still found he was hamstrung by a generation of subordinate leaders in the institutional Army who survived and thrived by not changing any systems unless they were first given the approved answer. Army leaders—officers and NCOs—became victims of goal displacement. Faced with uncertainty and ambiguity, they transformed what their cultural experience told them they could do (and could not do), into what they believed they should do. It only became worse when the broader organizational and senior leader culture did the same, misusing methods such as quarterly training briefings to measure events as if they were measures of effective training.[xxxviii]

Until recently, the Army used training methods for wartime readiness as if it were still the 2nd Generation Warfare, Volunteer Army of General DePuy’s day, expecting to be told what to do, how to do it, and what the standard is. Everyone was assumed to know nothing until trained and certified by an outsider. Indeed, in the operational Army there is still a reliance on TRADOC doctrinal products (and the hierarchy of multitudes of quality assurance inspectors) as a substitute for commanders’ vision, concepts of operation, and innovative training strategies.[xxxix]

When the United States found itself thrust into the murky waters of the post-9/11 world, the military found itself with new operational requirements and many new technologies, but a professional officer and NCO corps that did not really know how to train to and fight 4GW. (As....Says) “It could execute published tasks, under defined conditions, to simulated standards, but the culture imposed upon the Army caused it to struggle with how to fight and how to train to fight when conditions or requirements did not conform to officially approved assumptions.” The DoD had, through its own behaviors in the 1990s, taught itself what to think, not how to think.[xl]

As a result, a great deal of training today does not encourage independent thinking and decision making. In fact, it often discourages it. Although the best instructors—especially those recently returned from combat—take great efforts to explain to their students why things were done a certain way, the program itself stressed only the mechanical application of tasks. Worse, the atmosphere established during some courses emphasized “total control.” In some units, particularly basic training units extended beyond the point of usefulness, that atmosphere sometimes remained nearly until graduation. Drill sergeants yell, while instructors at leader courses assume the “know and be all” stance that prevented anyone from questioning their authority. Cadets, candidates, and junior officers, as well as the troops, ask few questions. Infractions are answered by mass punishment, while education techniques remain rote and boring.[xli]

The process for training mobilized Guardsmen and Reservists is even more obsolete and narrow. Guardsmen and Reservists, many of whom had active component experience, were treated as if they had never trained their units, and training at the mobilization centers has continued to be lock step in compliance with First Army’s, FORSCOM, HQDA, and CENTCOM training requirements for theater. Many Guardsmen and Reservists have stated, “I’ll deploy again, but I never want to go through another mobilization center run by First Army.”[xlii]

Young leaders and soldiers are not forced to work things out for themselves or to learn to be individually responsible. Not understanding why tasks are performed a certain way, they often fail to adapt properly to changed circumstances. Fortunately, thousands of leaders at the officer, NCO, and retired levels have recognized the downfalls of today’s training and education doctrine and are moving from the bottom up to fix it, better preparing tomorrow’s military for the changing face of war and an ability to succeed in a culture of Mission Command.[xliii]

End Notes

[i] Michael A. Bonura, Under the Shadow of Napoleon: French Influence on the American Way of Warfare from the War of 1812 to the Outbreak of WWII, (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2012). 1-174.

[ii] For a thorough review of the history of mission command principles in US Army doctrine see Clint J. Anker, “The Evolution of Mission Command in U.S. Army Doctrine: 1905 to the Present,” Military Review 93, no. 2 (February 2013): 42.

[iii] Department of the Army, ALDTF, 16-17. The US Army uses survey instruments like the CAL Annual Survey of Army Leadership to assess leader effectiveness in demonstrating principles of mission command philosophy and the extent to which operational climates in units are organizations are supportive of mission command. Specifically, they are concerned with whether Army leaders understand and practice the mission command philosophy. In this survey, each of the six principles was analysed: 37% believed that their headquarters could build cohesive teams, 46% encouraged mutual trust, 47% provided clear commander’s intent, 49% allowed disciplined initiative, and only 37% believed that headquarters underwrote prudent risk in garrison operations. 

[iv] Josh Hatfield, Ryan Riley, Tyler Freeman, John Fallesen, and Katie M. Gunther, 2013 Center for Army Leadership Annual Survey of Army Leadership (CASAL): Main Findings. CAL Technical Report 2014-01 (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Center for Army Leadership, 2014), 46. This is true particularly with regard to job latitude, learning from honest mistakes, and empowerment to make decisions. Junior NCOs hold the least favourable perceptions about these factors within the working environment. 

[v]Bonura, Under the Shadow of Napoleon: French Influence on the American Way of Warfare, p. 1-174.

[vi]Jack C. Lane, Armed Progressive: General Leonard Wood, (S Rafael, CA: Presidio Press, 1978), 150. Emory Upton, The Military Policy of the United States, (Washington, D.C.: General Publishing Office, 1904), 1-101. The manuscript remained unpublished until Secretary of War Elihu Root had made public in 1904 during his last year in office. Its contents then were familiar to reformers, and most of the ideas appeared Peter S. Michie, The Life and Letters of Emory Upton, (New York: D. J Appleton, 1885). Also see, Andrew J. Bacevich, "Progressivism, Professionalism, and Reform," Parameters 5, No. 1, March 1975, p. 4.

[vii] Interviews with Capt. Robert Bateman, USA, 13 Aug. 1998, and Bruce I. Gudmundsson, 21 Aug. 2000. See also interview with COL Robert Doughty, 2 April 1999. One of the best arguments for French influence exists in the publication of the French manual A Manual for Commanders of Large Units (1930). This manual filled the gap between the 1923 Field Service Regulations and later tactical manuals published in 1942. It was a translation of the French manual of the same name. However, it was never accepted as official doctrine retained as a "narrative" publication until the Field Service Regulations were updated on the eve of World War II.

[viii] Robert Doughty, The Seeds of Disaster: The Development of French Army Doctrine, (Hamden, CT: Archon, February 1986), 2-9. One need only compare the 1930 edition of A Manual for Commanders of Large Units to U.S field manuals written in 1942 to see the close resemblance.  William Whewell, On The Philosophy of Discovery, (London: J.W. Parker & Sons, 1860). Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, (New York: Basic Books, 1959). Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolution, (Chicago: University of Chicago ress, 1962). Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).

[ix] Michael A. Bonura, French Thought and the American Military Mind: A History of French Influence on the American Way of Warfare from 1814 through 1941, (Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University Libraries, 2008).

[x] Walter Willis, Arms and Men: A Study in American Military History reprint, (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1986), 158-162. See also John M. Gates, "The Alleged Isolation of U.S. Army Officers in the Late 19fh Century," Parameters 10, no. 3, autumn 1980, p. 14.

[xi] John R. Maass, “Benning Revolution,” in Jon T. Hoffman, editor, A History of Innovation: U.S. Army Adaptation in War and Peace, (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 2009), 28-33. Also see Daniel Bolger, "Zero Defects: Command Climate in First U.S. Army, 1944-1945," Military Review 73, no. 4, 1993, pp. 66-67. Marshall would always have a bitter view of the education officers received at Leavenworth.

[xii] U.S. War Department, Office of the Chief of Staff,  A Manual for Commanders of Large Units (Provisional), Vol. 1, Operations, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1930).

[xiii] V. Ney, Evolution of the U.S. Army Division, 1939-1968 Fort Belvoir, VA: Combat Operations Research Group, January 1969, D-41,90, p. 112; This study emphasizes the influence of French Army doctrine and education from the inter war and WWI years.  Infantry School Study, "The History of the Infantry School," The Mailing List 21 (1941): 277.

[xiv] Forrest Pogue, Education of a General, 1880-1939, (New York: King Press, 1963), 252, 347. Command and General Service School, "Digest of Selected Articles," Instructor's Summary of Military Articles 2, no. 9 (1923), i. Ecole Superieure de Guerre, “Translations from a Series of Conferences,” Instructor’s Summary of Military Articles 2, no. 9 (1923): 16-17.

[xv] Timothy K. Nenninger, The Leavenworth Schools and the Old Army: Education, Professionalism, and the Officer Corps of the United States Army, 1881-1918, (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1978), 22. Edward Bruce Hamley, The Operations of War Explained and Illustrated (London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1878), v. The historical examples ranged from the great campaigns and battles of the Eighteenth Century, to the American Civil War, and the Franco-Prussian War while the topics included theaters of war, lines of communication, central position, bases of operations, and even restated Jomini’s great principle of war that “the object of modern battles is to bring to a certain point on the battlefield a superior number of troops to bear upon the enemy.”

[xvi] Ibid. 358, 425.

[xvii] Email to author from Dr. Bruce Gudmundsson, Historian Case Method, USMC TECOM, and 24 April 2009.

[xviii] Robert Doughty, The Seeds of Disaster: The Development of French Army Doctrine, 2-9. The 1930 edition of A Manual for Commanders of Large Units to U.S field manuals written in 1942 to see the close resemblance of French manuals.

[xix] U.S. War Department, Office of the Chief of Staff,  A Manual for Commanders of Large Units (Provisional), Vol. 1, Operations, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1930. Jack C. Lane, Armed Progressive: General Leonard Wood, (S Rafael, CA: Presidio Press, 1978), 155.

[xx] Otto F. Griepenkerl, Letters on Applied Tactics: Problems dealing with the operations of detachments of the three arms, trans. C. H. Barth, (Kansas City: Hudson Press, 1906), ix. Junius Brutus Wheeler, A course of instruction in the elements of the art and science of war. For the use of the cadets of the United States Military Academy, (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1878) title page. Instructor’s notes for Lesson 2 entitled “Notes on Combat maneuvers,” National Archives, Group 404, Series 70, 5A, Box 2. Department of Military Art and Engineering, Notes on Combat Maneuvers (West Point: United States Military Academy press, 1943), 3-4.

[xxi] Kenneth Finlayson, An Uncertain Trumpet: The Evolution of U. S. Army Infantry Doctrine, 1919-1941, (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2001), 41. Command and General Service School, Tactical Problems and Decisions, (Fort Leavenworth: Command and General Service School Press, 1920), 4-8. Command and General Service School, Problems: The First Year Course, (Fort Leavenworth: Command and General Service School Press, 1931), MH 35. Command and General Service School, Problems, (Fort Leavenworth: Command and General Service School Press, 1926).

[xxii] Mark Grotelueschen’s The AEF Way of War, is a new and extremely important work in the military history of the AEF in WWI. He not only looks in depth at AEF training and doctrine, but examines several divisions and formations throughout the war to examine exactly what the Americans learned during the war. He concludes that while American senior leaders learned very little from the war that American doctrine changed significantly from their past and embraced new concepts of firepower. Grotelueschen, The AEF Way of War, 347.

[xxiii] William S. Lind, “Understanding Fourth Generation Warfare,” assessed from the internet 15 JAN 2004,

[xxiv] John C. Tillson, Merle L. Roberson and Stanley A. Horowitz, Alternative Approaches to Organizing, Training and Assessing Army and Marine Corps Units, (Alexandria, VA: Institute for Defense Analysis, November 1992), p. 23: A band of excellence resembles a roller coaster of training ups and downs with the band representing the mean average of the surges of training that occur with constant inflow and outflow of personnel

[xxv] General Paul F. Gorman, The Secret of Future Victories, (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, June 18, 1979), 56-57.

[xxvi] Robert A. Doughty, "The Evolution of U.S. Army Tactical Doctrine, 1946-1976," Leavenworth Papers 1 (Fort Leavenworth, (KS: Combat Studies Institute, August 1979).

[xxvii] Major Paul Herbert, “Deciding What Has to Be Done: General DePuy and the Creation of FM 100-5, Operations,” p. 4.

[xxviii] United States Army, Field Service Regulations United States Army 1923, (Washington D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1923), iii.

[xxix] James G. Pierce, Is the Organizational Culture of the U.S. Army Congruent with the Professional Development of its Senior Level Officer Corps?, (Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army War College, 2010), iii. Herbert, “What Needs to be done…” p. 23.

[xxx] Herbert, “What Needs to be Done…” p. 23.

[xxxi] Based on numerous discussions with Kevin McEnery (US Army retired), 2007-2012. Also see Kevin McEnery, “Changing Army Culture,” unpublished paper (Fort Meade, MD: Asymmetric Warfare Group, OCT 2007), p. 6. Department of the Army, Army Capstone Concept, iii–11. For the past several decades, the Army’s doctrine consistently referenced the vital nature and essential element of “adaptability” both organizationally and operationally. A review of historical documents and Army Field Service Manuals, FM 100–5 and FM 3–0 (Operations), as well as FM 22–100 and FM 6–22 (Leadership), for the past 50 years, demonstrate and reference the imperative that doctrine, strategy, operations, tactics, organizations, and leaders must be flexible and adaptable in the face of fluid, changing environments, missions, requirements, and adversaries, as circumstances may require, yet the culture creates the opposite, mainly because of the systems put in place by the personnel system force inward and selfish focus of the officer and Soldier.

[xxxii] Robert W. Komer, "Strategy and Military Reform," Defense Reform Debate, ed. Asa A. Clark IV and others (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), 14 (in footnote 1).

[55] McCormick, p. 120-156; Dave McCormick talks about the selections for early retirement boards used to help accomplish the Army’s drawdown.

[xxxiii] James Corum, The Fighter Pilot that Changed the Art of War, p. 210.

[xxxiv] Pierce, Is the Organizational Culture of the U.S. Army Congruent with the Professional Development of its Senior Level Officer Corps? 23-24.

[xxxv] Asymmetric Warfare Group, “Outcome Based Training and Education: Fostering Adaptability in Full-Spectrum Operations,” briefing, December 2008, slide 7.

[xxxvi] General Peter Schoomaker, “The Future of the United States Army.” Remarks given at the American Enterprise Symposium, “The Future of the United States Army,” April 11, 2005.

[xxxvii] Kevin McEnery, “Changing Army Culture,” p. 10-11.

[xxxviii] From discussions with Command Sergeant Major William “Morgan” Darwin (USA ret.) December 2007 through March 2009.

[xxxix] McEnery, “Changing Army Culture,” p. 13-14.

[xl] Ibid, p. 21.

[xli] Colonel Casey Haskins, “Commander’s Mid-tour Assessment, 198th Infantry Brigade,” unpublished memorandum (Fort Benning, GA: U.S. Army Infantry Center, August 13, 2007).  Memorandum from LTC R. Townsend Heard to the Editor of Military Review (previously the RML) in the front cover, 3 February 1940, Military Review 20, no. 76 (1940).

[xlii] Colonel Mike Galloucis, “Changing the Army Culture,” unpublished memorandum. Army CSA Staff group (Washington, DC: Department of Army, February 13, 2005).

[xliii] William M. Darwin, “Adaptability Learning Symposium,” Asymmetric Warfare Group (Fort Meade, VA: AWG, December 11, 2007), slide 3.

About the Author(s)

Donald E. Vandergriff, United States Army (Ret.), is a teacher, writer and lecturer who specializes in military leadership education and training. Vandergriff served with the United States Marine Corps and United States Army. He retired after 24 years of service. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Tennessee and a Master’s degree in military history from American Military University. He was the first major from the Army to lecture at the Naval War College. He is a frequently published authority on the U.S. Army personnel system, Army culture, leadership development, soldier training, and the emergence of Fourth Generation Warfare.  He has authored many articles and briefings, as well as four books.