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August 28, 2010



I'd be curious to see statistics on this, but I would assume that the AEF would have consisted of newly-assigned draftees, who had less than a year in service before being sent to Europe. That might also explain the initial difficulties of fielding such a force.


The doctrine for large-unit operations on the European scale simply also did not exist. Even the Civil War, the largest land conventional battle that America fought prior to World War I, was pitifully small by European standards.

Paddy Griffith also makes the argument in "Battle Tactics of the Civil War" that the Civil War was the last major Napoleonic war, but historians consider it a "modern" war (in the sense of World War I) because most troop commanders below the strategic-operational level were so hopelessly inept at tactical operations that American historians confused the tragic effects of mediocrity with new and changed conditions.

All of that being said, the AEF adapted to the conditions of European warfare by the end of its short time in Europe. Without intervention in Europe and the doctrinal change it spurred, we might have been totally unprepared for the even more dynamic combat twenty years later.

Joseph Fouche

The best argument I've heard that the Civil War was the first modern war was the sheer size of the armies. You had to be a real dolt to get your army destroyed in the Civil War. Lee kept trying fancy Napoleonic kung fu only to find that them there Yankees and their Army of the Potomac was too big to swallow. Even Burnside wasn't dumb enough to destroy the Army of the Potomac, though he gave his all trying to do so.

Grant was the only general to destroy an army during the Civil War and he managed to do it three times: Fort Donelson, Vicksburg, and Appomattox. The first two times he was blessed with Confederate commanders who managed to maneuver themselves into traps. At Appomattox, the Army of the Potomac may have finally been so much larger than the Army of Northern Virginia that it could just swallow it whole.


The one thing that I think the Civil War was revolutionary for was the distributed campaigns, as James J. Schneider argues. The battle no longer was the centerpiece of the thing.


The Royal Navy in the Age of Sail really had two Fleets and two doctrines. One Fleet designed for general fleet actions, and the other designed for single ship or small squadron actions. The Channel fleet generally kept to Europe and was comprised of their 4th through (scarce) 1st rates. The other squadron was comprised of mostly Frigates up to 6th and 5th rates. Generally these types of ships were used for commerce raiding and protection of their own commerce in their far off colonies.

More or less this arrangement was maintained up to Jutland, where the dreadnought and their insane tonnage and main battery caliber in addition to the advent of naval aviation changed the dynamics of war at sea.

However, it illustrates your point. That there needs to be two doctrines, and even to an extent two mindsets in the military towards the equipment and systems it buys.

Phil Ridderhof

I agree that the debate isn't necessarily COIN vs. conventional, but I do believe there is a case to be made that irregular experience did not support understanding the "science" of handling large formations to include logisitically supporting them as well as coordinating their maneuver over the greater time and distances required. This was a definite shortfall of US Generals entering into the Civil War, and in WWI (and even North Africa in WWII).
In COIN or other irregular ops, leaders never had to manage these types of large formations in the same manner and this type of competence was difficult to achieve outside of having to do it.


Call this the Naive question of a squid:

Why go back to division/corps design for battle? Why not keep the operational focus at the brigade level? Being with the Army for the last year it's quite apparent that they haven't figured out this arrangement at all. Lofty words are often used for describing the operational level of war. But, in reality the 'operational art' is really more like making sausages.

However, much of the mess the Army is today is because they do not know how to give brigade sized units organic capabilities--their version of brigade plug-and-play doesn't work very well. Heaping another level of 'coordination' between units won't fix what is the real issue here.

I am a much bigger fan of the Marine way of war fighting. The Marine way of war, even on a continent, is very capable; and all bias as a member of the Navy and Marine Corps Combat Team aside, way more capable (pound for pound) than anything I've seen come from the Army.


I think the question is also whether or not the meaning of a BDE's (or a overweighted BDE) combat power and efficiency has changed as well due to advances in weaponry and resources.

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as you describe you need at least understand the moral component of this concept, as it is described above, and that really you lay in its meaning

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