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It is the infantry section that still decides who wins and who loses and the section commander is the fulcrum of battle, the ultimate weapon in the hi-tech war of the 21st century, much as he has been since the linear tactics of the Napoleonic age broke on the back of the barbed wire and machine guns of the Somme. The adoption of the light weight machine gun, along with the light mortar and grenade which brought a decentralized command to formations, has left the section and its commander the pivotal tool of war ever since. War makes the Army more experienced at its core business of killing the enemy but it can be damaging as well.

That damage comes from the higher level where saving money saps the morale of the soldiers. Penny pinching at home destroys unit cohesion faster than an enemy IED. The mythical character of Achilles is fine for Hollywood blockbusters featuring Brad Pitt but the soldier who wants to get the job done and done well is often at odds with the bean counters who while cutting his pay waste billions of pounds elsewhere.

In peace or war the military experience is rewarding and sometimes dangerous but for most young men their combat experience will remain the high point of their lives, nothing is as intense or as exciting, and the comradeship of a well trained section is without equal on or off the battlefield.

The evolution of U.S. Army tactical doctrine, | Imperial War Museums

The fire-team is our modern-day version of the Hoplites heavily-armed foot soldiers of ancient Greece , half a dozen men who, even as they redistribute ammunition and water before the next patrol, know danger is only a few yards away. Battles and skirmishes are usually won by casting aside what did not work and improving Tactics, Techniques and Procedures TTPs. At some point the infantryman will have to cross open ground and clear buildings with the enemy having the best fields of fire.

Staff college graduates may argue the merits of manoeuvre warfare over attrition, but the section commander has no such luxury. The section commander operates at the tactical level and will always emphasize firepower over movement, since firepower enables movement. The section commander is concerned with finding, fixing, fighting, and finishing the enemy. To do this, the section commander moves his firepower to gain an advantage over the enemy and destroy him.

At the tactical level of war, therefore, there is only fire, manoeuvre and attrition. In the challenge that is the Contemporary Operational Environment COE , the soldier on the ground is as good as he is has ever been. While we may waste money at the corporate level buying planes that never fly or ships that will never see an enemy the infantryman makes every pound spent on training count. For all the money wasted in Defence budgets, we still need to provide our troops with the essentials: body armour light enough to operate in , armour vehicles, and 21st Century quality Helicopters.

The rest is down to training, training by section commanders or ex-section commanders for members of the sections and fire teams and the commanders that follow. This can be illustrated by the unprecedentedly low number of casualties compared with previous historical campaigns. Meanwhile, early in , an advisory panel on armor reported that the U. Army had no tank on production or in development capable of defeating the types possessed by the country's potential enemies. The panel considered this situation critical. Unless the Army's tank development situation was improved, the panel reported, the United States would not have enough tanks to support a major ground war for a least two and a half years after the beginning of hostilities.

One solution suggested was to take advantage of America's great industrial capabilities and the mechanical aptitudes of its people. A field manual emphasized the importance of the offensive role of armor, noting that the faster armor moves and the quicker it accomplishes its offensive mission of penetration and envelopment, the fewer the losses and more effective the gains. Exploitation was considered a continuation of penetration and envelopment.

Tankers were expected to plan boldly and execute their missions with aggressiveness and violence, employing firepower, mobility, and speed. Hodge, the post-World War II Army corps commander in Korea - stated that armor was more effective when employed as part of the combined arms team of tank, infantry, artillery, combat engineers, and tactical air power. Armor's mission with the combined arms team was destruction of enemy forces with firepower, mobility, and shock action. The report added that attacking towards deep objectives in pursuit and exploitation over considerable distances was the role for armor at the operational level.

In the design of tanks, the report stated, firepower, maneuverability, and mobility were more important than armor protection, although armor remained important. Like the Stilwell Board, it recommended tanks be organic to infantry regiments and divisions, and that three types of functional tanks be developed.


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Disheartened, the Hodge Report noted that Army research and development had been curtailed and would likely be further reduced. By , Army doctrine had been revised in many ways; however, it was basically a refinement of World War II experience. This was especially true of the four occupation divisions stationed in Japan. That congested country and its road conditions did not permit extensive training exercises, especially for medium and heavy tanks.

The evolution of U.S. Army tactical doctrine, 1946-76

Moreover, because of the military austerity program, these divisions were deficient in authorized tank strength. On the eve of the Korean War, the Army had approximately 3, M24 light tanks in the inventory, most of them unserviceable. In addition, there were available approximately 3, M4A3E8 Sherman medium tanks of World War II vintage, of which only a few more than half were serviceable.

They were not tactically capable of head-to-head engagement with German tanks. Their battlefield success was due more to superior numbers and the ability of U. However, the first three M26s that were rushed to Korea from the Tokyo Ordnance Depot had chronic problems, especially overheating engines and defective fan belts. Also introduced to Korea was the M46 Patton.

Fielded in , the M46 was an M26 upgraded in engine reliability and cooling. Accordingly, tankers went to war in Korea with equipment mostly left over from World War In the beginning, the Korean War was a war of movement. No large armor units - regiments, brigades or divisions - saw service in Korea.

After the counter-invasion by the Chinese Communist forces and what was left of the North Korean People's Army, the conflict became a defensive war of attrition and increased firepower to support infantry forces. Despite mountainous terrain and restricted trafficability, tanks proved to be potent adjuncts in support of infantry. Often they were used for indirect fire missions or deployed in fixed defensive positions.

Though most armor action was infantry- and artillery-driven, Korea demonstrated the value of tanks as infantryaccompanying weapons, and on occasion, achieved spectacular results in executing fairly deep mechanized task force operations despite mountainous terrain and trafficability restrictions. It noted that American tanks destroyed about 25 percent of the enemy tank force, largely due to higher first-round engagements and hits.

Army, one all-purpose tank, like their Centurion, was more suitable for armor operations.

Tanks and the Korean War: A case study of unpreparedness

In spite of various armor policy recommendations following the Stilwell Board Report, battlefield dynamics in a limited war changed the relationship between maneuver and firepower, emphasizing increased use of air power and artillery. At the Armor Conference, the question of armor mobility was positioned within the national strategy of nuclear air power.

WWII Factions: The U.S. Army

It rationalized that mobility and flexibility would become more decisive on a nuclear battlefield. The conference concluded that armor was more capable of attaining relatively superior mobility that could provide a decisive advantage in a European-style battle. The conference accepted the concept of firepower and attrition but suggested it be integrated with the freedom of action that armor provided.

Summarizing, the conference noted that firepower was the decisive factor, and that armor doctrine be based on the fundamental concept that power coupled with an unexcelled ability to maneuver firepower at the decisive time to the decisive place. Yet for the decades following the Korean War, firepower systems and attrition warfare doctrine dominated.

This doctrine finally gave way to the visionary AirLand Battle doctrine for warfighting at the operational level that characterized Allied operations during the Gulf War. Concluding, there are a number of historical observations to consider.

First are the country's political objectives. Until the war in Korea, Congress and the President were more prone to political and economic containment of the Soviet Union and collective security through the United Nations rather than promoting a combat-ready ground force to deal with contingencies, as suggested by the Stilwell board. This situation again demonstrated that the country's leadership failed to adopt a national defense policy that took advantage of technological changes brought about as a result of World War IL Congress and the President also lacked the vision to fully understand the importance of the conventional component of a national military policy.

The outcome was that traditional military heritage once again came in conflict with postwar domestic and political demands, causing a serious gap between foreign policy and a suitable military policy. The second observation deals with the issue of military strategy, which is how to win the next war. The post-World War II military austerity invoked by the White House and Congress had a ripple effect, stifling Army research and development necessary for innovation with a mobile strike force trained and equipped to fight and win the first and succeeding battles.

At top of page, M46 tanks of the 64th Tank Battalion undergo final inspection before an operation supporting the 3rd ID in July, At left, an M46 rolls down one of country's few high-speed roads. The M at lower right slowly moves into a village. The knocked-out North Korean vehicle at center, above, is a 76mm self-propelled field gun.

The Army's post-war doctrine on how to organize and fight its next war was not in agreement with required modern equipment assets necessary to execute its mission. Consequently, the strategic, operational, and tactical links for winning the first battle never materialized. This was due to a national strategy that did not take into consideration the relationship between threats and the need for technological advances.

As a result, the Army had a force structure and equipment that did not fit its future warfighting doctrine that became outmoded in spite of the Stilwell Board's recommendations. Instead the national defense strategy of the country relied on nuclear weapons and intercontinental airpower capabilities and the exercise of coercion called deterrence, America's Maginot Line. Third, when the U. Army entered the Korean War, an innovative tank program and a visionary mobile combined arms doctrine - suggested by the Stilwell Board and endorsed by the Hodge Report - were all but forgotten.

As revolutionary as the tank was in World War II, its future full potential was not to be realized with a ground force whose mission began to change as a result of America's expanding international commitments to contain communism.

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The neglect of armor research and development and a makeshift organization led to many frustrations for tankers in Korea, who fought and died there while employing, in most cases, wornout, World War II equipment. This experience was a clear example of the importance of readiness and the need to modernize organization, training, and equipment to deal with the ever-changing threats and technical advances of warfighting.

Unfortunately, funds that did trickle down for armor research and development degraded the health of the armor force, a legacy that continued long after the "Forgotten War" in spite of the changes in warfighting from a World War II concept of total war to the dynamics of a limited war. The Sherman "Easy-8" was outclassed in tank-to-tank combat by the early '50s, but was still formidable in its main Korean War role, supporting infantry. This scene shows an M4 accompanying U.