THE APPLICATION OF THE FUNDAMENTAL MILITARY PRINCIPLE
I. MAJOR COMPONENTS OF MILITARY PROBLEMS.
In the two preceding chapters, the
study of the natural mental processes has brought
to notice that, to meet the requirements of suitability,
feasibility, and acceptability as to consequences in
the proper solution of a military problem, it is first
necessary to establish a sound basis for that solution.
Such a basis involves an understanding of the appropriate
effect desired and of relative fighting strength.
In each situation an understanding
of the appropriate effect desired, from the standpoint
of suitability, requires:
A grasp of the salient features of the situation,
favorable and unfavorable,
including the perplexity inherent
A recognition of the incentive to solution of the
problem, i.e., a realization
of the desire or need for
attaining a certain effect,
an objective which will
be the maintenance or creation
of a favorable military
An appreciation of this objective in its relationship
to the next further result
to be accomplished by its
An understanding of relative fighting
strength involves consideration of the means available
and opposed, as influenced by the characteristics
of the theater of operations. With this understanding
there is provided a sound basis for the determination,
later, of the feasibility of courses of action and
of their acceptability with respect to consequences
as to costs.
In the premises, the ability to understand
the nature of a military problem is dependent on the
knowledge, experience, character, and professional
judgment of the commander. These qualities enable
him to grasp the significance of the salient features
of the situation. The same personal characteristics
are instrumental in the recognition of the incentive.
Analysis indicates that an incentive may arise (1)
by reason of a directive issued by higher authority,
or (2) from the fact that a decision already reached
by the commander has introduced further problems,
or (3) because of the demands of the situation.
However, the primary consideration in understanding
the nature of the problem is the appreciation of the
objective from which the problem originates, i.e.,
the just estimation or accurate evaluation of this
objective. Such consideration is primary because
appreciation of this objective involves, as necessary
concomitants, a grasp of the salient features of the
existing situation (to be maintained or changed) and
a recognition of the incentive.
Correct appreciation of this objective, in its relationship
to the further effect to be produced, is thus the principal consideration in
reaching an understanding of the appropriate effect desired. It is, to repeat,
through an understanding of this factor and of the factors of relative fighting
strength that the commander establishes the basis for the solution of his
The Solution of a Military Problem.
When the commander has thus obtained an understanding
of the basis of his problem, the actual procedure
of solution is undertaken through the consideration
of the factors involved in their influence on the
various plans for the attainment of the appropriate
effect desired, as thus established. The best
plan, selected and embodied in outline in the decision,
can then be further developed, if necessary, into
a general plan for the commander’s force and,
finally, into a detailed plan, as the solution of
The Major Components of a Military
Problem. Each plan considered by the commander
will involve two major considerations:
namely an effect to be produced and the
action required to produce it; or, in military terms,
a correct military objective (or objectives) and effective
operations for its attainment. The selection
of correct military objectives and the determination
of effective operations for their attainment are therefore
the two major components of a military problem, because
they are the principal considerations on which depends
the soundness of military decision. To meet these
requirements is a prime function of command, one which
demands professional judgment of the highest order.
The major components of a military
problem are of course intimately connected, because
a purposeful action, accomplished, is equivalent to
an objective, attained. Furthermore, the attainment
of an objective involves the accomplishment of effective
Because of the importance of the subject,
the relationship between these two major components
deserves very careful analysis. As has been observed, the action to be taken depends, in the first
instance, on the effect to be produced. Therefore,
the objective is, as compared to the action to attain
it, the paramount matter. Moreover, there is
necessarily included, in the procedure of selecting
a correct objective, a consideration as to whether
the action to that end will be feasible and as to
whether the consequences involved will be acceptable
on the basis of the costs which will be exacted.
If, then, the objective has been correctly selected
in any situation, this procedure will have included,
as a necessary incidental, the determination also,
in the proper detail, of the operations required for
Of the two major components involved
in the selection of the best plan, the primary relates,
therefore, to correct objectives. Accordingly,
this consideration is most aptly expressed in terms
of the “selection” of objectives.
The “determination” of necessary operations
is a proper expression of the procedure therein involved,
because this procedure, though also involving a major
component of the problem is dependent on the primary
consideration of objectives.
A valid guide for practical use during
the process of solving military problems will therefore
provide a basis, primarily, for the selection of correct
objectives. However, the procedure for such selection,
though requiring consideration of the action involved
in attaining objectives, will seldom call for a complete
analysis of such operations. Therefore, it is
also desirable, for the solution of military problems,
to provide a valid guide for the determination of
effective operations, in detail. This guide may
be used on occasions when, the correct objective having
been selected, the only remaining problem is to work
out the detailed operations involved.
The Fundamental Military Principle,
developed in the preceding chapter, has been formulated
to fulfill the requirements described in the preceding
paragraph. Through the exhaustive analysis of
the elements involved, there has been provided, in
the form of a single fundamental principle, a valid
guide for the selection of correct military objectives
and for the due determination of effective operations
for their attainment.
This arrangement of the subject matter
has been adopted for two reasons. First, discussion
of fundamental considerations, thus taken up at the
present point, immediately follows the formulation
of the principle. Furthermore,
a fundamental treatment, prior to Chapters VI and
VII, permits maximum brevity in the discussion, therein.
The commander, having mastered the fundamentals dealt
with here, can later follow the detailed procedure
with minimum distraction due to reference to the preceding
Essential Elements Involved.
As previously stated, the problems of war differ from
those of other human activities with respect, only to the specialized character of the factors
The final outcome is dependent on ability to isolate, occupy, or otherwise control
the territory of the enemy. The sea, though it
supplements the resources of land areas, is destitute
of many essential requirements of man, and affords
no basis, alone, for the secure development of human
activities. Land is the natural habitat of man.
The sea provides routes of communication between land
areas. The air affords routes of communication
over both land and sea.
These facts inject into military operations
certain factors peculiar to movement of military forces
by land, sea, and air. There are also
involved the specialized demands of a technique for
the imposition of and the resistance to physical violence.
In addition there appear those factors related to
the psychology of human reactions to armed conflict.
In any situation involving opposing
armed forces, the problem, as in any human activity, is, from the standpoint of each opponent,
a matter of maintaining existing conditions or of bringing
about a change. The method employed, if the action
is to be effective, will follow lines calculated to
shape the ensuing progressive changes in circumstances
toward the attainment of the end in view. The
action to be taken will be ineffective if it does
not support the calculated line of endeavor, i.e.,
if it is not suitable or adequate forcibly to shape
the course of events either toward the creation of
a desired new and more favorable situation, or the
maintenance of the original conditions.
The analysis of the principal components
of a military problem i.e., the military
objectives and the military operations appropriate
to the effort for their attainment therefore
requires a study of such objectives and operations
in terms, respectively, of a favorable military situation
and of a favorably progressing military
operation. As has been observed, the
salient features of such a situation or operation
are, from the abstract viewpoint, identical, as are
also the factors which determine the character of
such features. As a covering word for
such features and factors, alike, the term “elements”
appears especially suitable, inasmuch as it properly
comprises the constituent parts of any subject, as
well as the factors which may pertain thereto.
Accordingly, the analysis, following, of the procedure for
selection of correct military objectives is made in terms of the essential
elements of a favorable military situation. For like reasons, the analysis of
the procedure for determining the character of the detailed operations required
is made in terms of the essential elements of a favorably progressing military
II. SELECTION OF CORRECT MILITARY OBJECTIVES.
Nature of Military Objectives.
In the previous discussion, the military
objective has been defined as the end toward which
action is being, or is to be, directed. As such
it has been noted as an objective in mind. The
tangible focus of effort, the physical objective toward
which the action is directed, has been observed to
be an objective in space. The physical objective
is always an object, be it only a geographical point,
while the objective, being a mental concept, is a
situation to be created or maintained.
The term “objective” requires
circumspection, not only in the manner of its expression, but in its use. The latter is true
because the purport of the objective under consideration
will vary with the viewpoint of the echelon concerned.
For instance, the proper visualization of an objective,
as an “effect desired”, calls
for a correct answer to the question, “Who desires
this effect to be produced?”
A variety of viewpoints is thus a
natural characteristic of the chain of command, whose functioning creates what may be called
a “chain of objectives”.
Necessary exceptions aside, the commander
expects to receive, from his immediate superior, an
assigned objective, which that superior thus enjoins
the commander to attain. The commander, in turn,
through the use of the natural mental processes already
explained, decides on an objective, for the general
effort of his own force, to attain the objective assigned
by his immediate superior.
As a subordinate, a commander to whom
an objective has been assigned is responsible to his
immediate superior for its attainment. The commander
may, however, also occupy the position of an immediate
superior to one or more commanders on the next lower
echelon. In such capacity, he may assign objectives
to these immediate subordinates. By attaining
such an assigned objective, each of these subordinates
thus contributes to the success of the complete effort
planned by his immediate superior, to the extent represented
by his own assigned share of the effort.
A commander can scarcely expect to
receive in full the intelligent support of his subordinate
commanders, unless he makes clear to them the character
of his own planned effort. It is customary, therefore,
when assigning an objective to a subordinate, also
to inform him of the purpose which its attainment
is intended to further. Stated differently, a
commander, when imposing upon an immediate subordinate
an effect which he is to produce, informs him, at the
same time, of the nature of the military result which
he, the immediate superior, has determined to bring
This is the part of wisdom, not merely
of choice. It acquaints the immediate subordinate
with the objective of the immediate superior and thus
enables the former to comprehend wherein the attainment
of his own assigned objective is expected to contribute
to the attainment of the effect desired by his superior.
Since the attainment of the assigned
objectives will represent the consummation of the
general plan of the immediate superior, the purpose
of each of these assignments is to assist in the attainment
of the objective announced, for his entire force,
by the immediate superior.
From the viewpoint of the subordinate,
the objective thus assigned by the immediate superior
becomes the appropriate effect desired, essential
to the determination of the accomplishment which the
former is to effect by his own effort. On occasion,
also, the full scope of the appropriate effect desired
may require consideration of the objectives of higher
echelons in the chain of command, so far as such objectives
may be known or deduced.
The responsibility of the immediate
superior, in the matter of ensuring that his immediate
subordinates understand the purpose of their assigned
objectives, is in no respect less than that which falls
upon these subordinates in the execution of their own
assignments. By failing to provide subordinate
commanders, through whatever methods, with a knowledge
not only of the details of his plan but of the general
objective which their integrated effort is calculated
to attain, the superior may actually subject his undertaking
to the risk of failure.
The decision as to the general plan for the attainment of his assigned objective
provides the commander with an objective which he
himself has originated. With the plan for the
attainment of his general objective clearly fixed
in mind, the commander may now proceed to the selection
of one or more objectives of a specific nature, the
integrated attainment of which will ensure the attainment
of his assigned objective. The instructions which
he may then give, severally, to his immediate subordinates
in a detailed plan of operations, thus indicate to
the latter their assigned objectives.
The source of the incentive has an intimate connection with the assigned objective.
Furthermore, whatever the origin of the incentive,
the ability to select correct objectives is an essential
element in the mental equipment of the commander.
For example, if the incentive arises
by reason of a directive received from higher authority,
such directive will presumably assign an objective,
specific or inferred. The commander to whom such
an objective is assigned is responsible for a correct
understanding of all the implications involved, including
the relationship between the assigned objective and
the general objective of the next higher commander,
which represents the purpose of the assigned objective.
On occasion it will also be necessary for the commander
to consider the relationships involved with the further
objectives of the higher command. Again,
without any suggestion of cavilling at orders received,
the commander may also find occasion to examine, with
care, the implications of his assigned objective, because
of his responsibility for taking correct action in
If the incentive arises from a decision
previously made by the commander, it follows that
such decision will have embodied an objective, selected
by the commander himself.
If the incentive arises because of
the demands of the situation, the commander is responsible
for recognition of the necessity for action and for
the correct selection of an appropriate objective,
to be adopted by him as a basis for his own action
as if it were assigned by higher authority.
An assigned objective having been
established with respect to the basis for his problem,
the commander is always responsible for the correct
selection of an objective to serve as the end in view
for the general, integrated action of his subordinate
Once such an objective has been selected,
the commander is further responsible for selecting,
on the basis provided thereby, correct objectives
to be assigned to his subordinate commanders.
For various practical reasons, therefore,
the responsibility of the commander requires of him
the ability to select correct objectives. On
the basis of classification with respect to the authority
making the selection, analysis will demonstrate the
existence of two types of objectives.
These two types of objectives are, namely,
(1) the assigned objective ordinarily indicated
by higher authority, exceptionally determined by the
commander for himself, and (2) the objective typically
selected by the commander, himself, as the end in
view for the integrated effort of his subordinates.
It will be noted that in the latter category there
will fall, not only the general objective referred
to immediately above, but numerous other objectives
for whose attainment provision may be needed during
the actual prosecution of the effort or in anticipation
Procedure for Selection of Correct
Military Objectives. The Fundamental Military
Principle, properly applied, is the basis
for the selection of any or all of such objectives.
The procedure involves the direct application of the
corollary Principle of the Correct Military Objective.
According to this principle, the selection
of a correct military objective depends on due consideration
of the salient features noted, i.e., correct
physical objectives, advantageous relative positions,
proper apportionment of fighting strength, and provision
for adequate freedom of action. These features,
discussed in greater detail hereafter,
are determined by factors cited in the Principle.
The first factor being the appropriate
effect desired, a correct military objective is selected,
in the first instance, by reference to the requirement
of suitability as to this factor. This appropriate
effect desired may be indicated by the higher command,
or may be determined by the commander himself
as hereinafter explained.
When the appropriate effect desired
has been established, the next consideration is, “What
physical objective (or objectives) can be found, action
with relation to which will, if successful, attain
For example, if the appropriate effect
desired were the “reduction of enemy battleship
strength” in a certain area, then an enemy battleship
appearing therein would manifestly be a correct physical
objective. A suitable action with relation thereto
would be “to destroy the enemy battleship”,
in which case the objective involved in the action
would be “the destruction of the enemy battleship”.
Any lesser accomplishment, such as
infliction of damage on the enemy battleship, or its
repulse, or its diversion elsewhere, would also be
suitable to the appropriate effect desired, though
not in the same degree. Each such visualized
accomplishment, suitable to the appropriate effect
desired, may properly be considered as a tentatively
An objective having been tentatively
selected on the basis of the appropriate effect desired,
its final selection will naturally depend, as indicated
in the Principle, on the feasibility of the effort
involved in the attainment of each such objective,
and on the acceptability of the consequences as to
In investigating such feasibility,
account is taken of the relative fighting strength.
With relation to the enemy battleship, for example
(see above), the commander would consider the means
available to him and the means opposed (including
the enemy battleship and any supporting forces), as
influenced by the characteristics of the theater.
This investigation will include, necessarily,
a sufficient analysis of the salient features of the
operation required to attain each objective.
Such features include the nature of the physical objectives
(the battleship and any other forces, for instance),
the possibilities of relative position, the problems
involved in apportioning the forces on either side,
and the proper considerations as to freedom of action.
A similar study with respect to the
acceptability of the consequences to be expected,
as to the costs involved in the operation, will provide
a basis for a conclusion as to that factor.
If the attainment of an objective
is found to be infeasible, or feasible only at the
expense of unacceptable consequences, the proposed
objective will naturally be rejected, and some other
objective will be considered.
The objective finally adopted as the
best will be that which, all things considered, is
best adapted to the requirements of suitability, feasibility,
and acceptability, as outlined in the Fundamental
The Appropriate Effect Desired, as
the Basis for the Objective. As will be appreciated
from the foregoing discussion, the first factor in
the selection of a correct objective is the “appropriate
effect desired”. The evaluation of this
factor is not always easy, for reasons which will
The procedure is the same as for the selection of an objective.
This identity of procedure is natural, because the
appropriate effect desired, used as a basis for selecting
the commander’s general objective, itself involves
the appreciation of an objective. The latter
is, in fact, one of the “chain of objectives”
Under conventional conditions this
objective is selected by higher authority, and is
assigned to the commander in his instructions from
the next higher echelon. The objective
so indicated will of course, under sound procedure,
have been selected by higher authority on the basis
embodied in the Fundamental Military Principle.
When an established chain of command
is in effective operation, the path to the
appropriate effect desired will therefore normally
be indicated through an assigned objective, by the
immediate superior. This assignment, however,
or the failure to receive such an indication, does
not relieve the commander from the responsibility for
taking correct action on his own initiative. Such
necessity may arise should he find, in the exercise
of a sound discretion, that his instructions need
modification or alteration, or even that it is necessary
for him to depart from his instructions under circumstances
of great emergency.
Furthermore, the objective may be
adopted by (rather than assigned to) the commander
concerned, on his own initiative, in order to meet
the demands of a situation as to which the
higher command has not yet had time or opportunity
Moreover, even when an objective is
assigned by higher authority in the usual course,
it may be expressed in such terms as to require examination
in order to enable the commander to appreciate it, as to its bearing on his operations. In fact,
studious analysis may be necessary for this purpose.
For example, if the objective so indicated
does not specify a clearly-defined goal, the commander
will need to make a thorough study in order to appreciate
the full implications intended. He may find it
necessary to analyze his immediate superior’s
instructions pertaining to the entire force of which
his command is a part, and to consider, also, the
objectives indicated for other commanders, on his own
echelon, who also belong to that force.
On occasion, also, higher authority
may acquaint the commander with the general plan adopted
by the superior, and may order action such
as movement in a certain direction or to a certain
locality without assigning a more definite
objective. Should it happen in emergency that
later developments prevent higher authority from making
such an assignment, the commander may find himself
under the necessity of selecting, for himself, an
appropriate objective, to be adopted by him as if
it were assigned.
Should the commander find that his
instructions do not clearly indicate an objective,
or should he find that the one indicated is not applicable
under the circumstances of the case, he will select
an appropriate objective for his own guidance as if
it were assigned by higher authority. He will
make such selection through use of the same procedure
already described herein as applicable to the selection
of an objective of any sort. In such case he
puts himself in his superior’s place, in order
to arrive at a reasoned conclusion such as the higher
commander, if apprised of the circumstances, would
desire to adopt. Circumstances permitting, the
commander will of course communicate with higher authority,
and will make constructive representations.
The appropriate effect desired, as
the first factor to be applied in selecting such an
objective, will naturally involve the objective indicated
in the general plan for the immediate superior’s
entire force. This general plan is normally announced
by the superior for the guidance of the commander
and of other commanders on the same echelon.
If, however, this further objective is not known to
the commander, he will endeavor to obtain a proper
point of reference. To this end, he will use
his knowledge of the objective assigned to his immediate
superior, or of the further intentions of the higher
command with respect to the conduct of the operations,
or of the campaign, or of the war.
The provisions for the formulation
of plans and orders take account
of the fact that the commander may require definite
information as to the objectives of higher echelons.
In organizations where a state of mutual understanding
has been well established, the commander will rarely
be without some guidance in the premises, by reason of the chain of objectives indicated
in plans and orders of the higher command.
From the viewpoint of the commander,
this relationship among objectives presents to him
a series, from the present or immediate objective
to others more distant in time. Thus there may
be one or more intermediate objectives, leading away
from the immediate one to the ultimate objective,
so far as the concern of the moment is involved.
This relationship of immediate, intermediate,
and ultimate objectives may also exist in situations
where the commander, operating on his own initiative
and responsibility, determines such a chain of objectives
Such a situation frequently arises
in a campaign or a major operation, and is normal,
also, as to minor operations.
As already observed, the relationship
of objective and further objective is the criterion
for distinguishing between strategical and tactical
considerations, from the viewpoint of the commander
What has been noted in the foregoing
as to the objective (singular) is also applicable
to situations where such an objective involves two
or more objectives collectively considered.
III. DETERMINATION OF EFFECTIVE MILITARY OPERATIONS.
As noted with respect to the Fundamental
Military Principle, the effort required
for the attainment of a military objective involves
military operations, whose salient features
are listed in the Principle. These features,
including physical objectives, relative positions,
apportionment of fighting strength, and freedom of
action, will now be discussed to indicate how they
are correctly determined by the factors, also cited
in the Principle, pertaining to suitability, feasibility,
and acceptability. Such determination is accomplished
through application of the corollary Principle of
Effective Military Operations.
Fundamental Considerations. An
operation, however splendidly conceived and faultlessly
executed, involves waste of effort if directed with
relation to wrong physical objectives.
Since a physical objective constitutes
the tangible focus of effort toward the
attainment of the effect desired, its correct determination
is of paramount importance both before and during the
prosecution of operations.
As has been demonstrated,
the consideration of possible physical objectives
(in space) is essential to the selection of suitable
objectives (in mind). Moreover, action with reference
to one or more physical objectives is the necessary
basis for determining the feasibility and acceptability
of a plan.
Military objectives can be achieved
only through the application of power, actually or
by threat, with reference to physical objectives.
The determination of correct physical
objectives is followed, if more than one such objective
is found, by the selection of the one or more which
are best adapted to the requirements of the situation.
The procedure for determination and for selection
is a matter for painstaking mental effort, based on
the considerations now to be presented.
The term “military objective”
is frequently used in military literature to distinguish
physical objectives which are combatant in character
from those which are noncombatant. The considerations
which follow are applicable to physical objectives
of all categories.
Procedure for Determination and Selection
of Correct Physical Objectives. In a particular
set of circumstances, the field wherein correct physical
objectives may be found and the best selected, is
that of an existent or probable theater of action.
The determination of a physical objective,
when correct, initially satisfies the requirement
of suitability with respect to the nature of the objective, this
being, in such case, the appropriate effect desired. Physical objectives not suitable, with
relation to the objective to be attained, are manifestly
incorrect physical points of orientation with respect
to the operations involved in the effort to attain
such an objective.
It may be found, however, that the
selection of a single physical objective will not
fulfill this requirement. A commander may find
it necessary to direct his effort simultaneously,
or in succession, with relation to more than one physical
When a succession of physical objectives
has to be dealt with, the selection will necessarily
include such a series. Such a case might occur
where a campaign has been found necessary in the form
of successive stages as essential features. The
visualized termination of each successive stage may
be marked by the successful application of effort
with respect to one or more physical objectives.
Such a series of physical objectives may frequently
also occur in operations on a smaller scale; even
in very minor actions such a succession of efforts
The choice as to the specific nature
of physical objectives will extend, for example, from
the enemy’s organized forces as a whole to the
physical body of an individual combatant. Within
this range will be included all manner of physical
elements of enemy fighting strength, singly and in
combination, such as troops, ships, geographical points,
lines and areas, fortifications, bases, and supplies.
The physical objective may take the
form of a fixed geographical position, the occupation
of which, because of its inherent advantages, may
be, for example, an essential preliminary to further
progress. The position may, for instance, be merely
a point in the ocean, a rendezvous beyond
which, although its occupation may be uncontested,
it has been deemed unwise to proceed without further
information or additional strength.
The physical objective, therefore,
does not always take the form of some element of the
enemy fighting strength; not infrequently, the occupation
of a correct physical objective may be uncontested
by the enemy. However, intervening armed forces
of the enemy may constitute the physical objective
for application of successful effort before a further
physical objective may be dealt with. The possibility
of enemy opposition may, therefore, place the selection
of one or more physical objectives on an indeterminable
basis at the time of the original solution of the
problem. This may require a commander to defer
his choice until the situation has become more fully
For example, his objective may be
the occupation of a certain harbor, preliminary to
the establishment of a base. The harbor is then
a correct physical objective, perhaps the only physical
objective which need be dealt with, if there are no
other obstacles to prevent or interrupt the operation.
Armed forces of the enemy may, however, stand as an
obstacle to the undisputed occupation of the harbor
and, therefore, to the attainment of the objective.
In such case they become, for the time being, the
correct physical objective.
While the armed forces of the enemy
may frequently present appropriate physical objectives,
this is not always the case. It is
true that, in war, the armed forces of the enemy, until
they can no longer offer effective resistance, prevent
the full attainment of the objective of the State.
Accordingly, from the broad viewpoint, they may constitute
the legitimate and proper physical objective of the
opposing armed forces. Armed forces of the enemy
which are present in opposition to any projected operations
are likely to offer proper physical objectives.
These facts, however, do not restrict
a commander, in his choice of a physical objective,
to the armed forces of the enemy. Nor do these
considerations require him to search for and destroy
the enemy forces before directing his effort toward
the attainment of an objective under circumstances
where the enemy is seen to be incapable of presenting
The correct physical objective may
change several times during the course of an operation.
This is particularly to be expected in a naval tactical
engagement of considerable scope. While the enemy
fleet, as a whole, may properly be considered in such
a case to be the physical objective, the component
parts of each fleet, the types of vessels and their
combinations, may, from time to time, find in their
opponents a variety of physical objectives, the particular
identity of which can scarcely be predicted with assurance.
It is here that the importance of the correct selection
of physical objectives stands out in bold relief.
Infliction of loss on enemy forces,
or support of own forces hard pressed, may always
seem tempting immediate objectives in war. However,
there may be occasions when disengagement or refusal
to engage an enemy force, even though it be of manifestly
inferior strength, may be appropriate to the attainment
of the end in view. Necessity for speed or secrecy,
or other demands, may make the required operations
Land, as the natural habitat of man, is always the principal store-house of
his indispensable resources, as well as the primary
scene of his activities. Naval operations, therefore,
have always in view the eventual maintenance or creation
of a favorable military situation in critical land
areas. From this fundamental viewpoint, the eventual
physical objective of military operations is always
a land objective.
The suitability of a physical objective
having been determined, the next consideration is
the feasibility of taking such action, with
relation thereto, as will, if successful, attain the
objective in mind. Feasibility is determined
by evaluation of the factors of means available and
opposed, as influenced by the characteristics of the
theater, in order to assess relative fighting strength. In connection with the effort
involved with relation to any physical objective,
questions of feasibility may make it desirable or necessary
to visualize the detailed operations which arise from
considerations of relative position, of apportionment
of fighting strength, and of provision for freedom
Of particular interest with respect
to such operations, it is noted that the premature
disclosure of a selected physical objective is a military
error. By appearing, however, to operate against
more than one physical objective, a commander may
lead the enemy to overstrain his resources in the
effort to protect them all. Thus the commander
may reduce the resistance to be encountered in dealing
with what have already, or may finally, become the
selected physical objectives. Feints in several
directions may even divert all of the enemy’s
effective defense from the vital points.
After the suitability of a physical
objective has been established, as well as the feasibility
of the contemplated action with relation thereto,
such action is next considered from the standpoint
of acceptability with reference to the consequences
as to costs. The specific factors involved in
acceptability as to consequences have previously been
When the requirements of suitability,
feasibility, and acceptability have been satisfied,
the locality, the opposing force, or other subject
of consideration may be regarded as a correct physical
When more than one correct physical
objective has been determined and a choice is indicated,
such selection will also be founded on the foregoing
No doctrine, no advance instructions,
can replace the responsible judgment of a commander
as to his correct physical objectives. On occasion,
higher authority may request recommendations with respect to such objectives.
The duty of a commander to depart from his instructions
under certain conditions, and the grave responsibility
which he thereby assumes.
Fundamental Considerations. The
relative positions occupied or susceptible of occupancy
by armed forces are matters which demand constant
and intelligent attention before and during hostilities.
Being fruitful sources of advantage or disadvantage,
such relative positions assume primary importance
where enemy forces are concerned, and are scarcely
of less importance from the standpoint of the correct
apportionment of the subdivisions of one’s own
forces, and from the viewpoint of their freedom of
During periods of actual tactical
contact, the successful delivery of the decisive thrust
against selected physical objectives is greatly furthered
by the occupancy and maintenance of advantageous relative
The fundamental significance of relative
position lies in the fact that position is the basis
of movement, for movement is merely a change of position.
Speed is the rate at which movement takes place.
The particular factors to be reckoned with are, therefore,
time and space. In skillful utilization of these
elements lies the successful employment of relative
position in the creation or maintenance of a favorable
military situation, whether the movement be by land,
sea, or air.
The necessity for movement may be
an important consideration in determining possible
or likely theaters of operations. Where transportation
between two or more positions within a certain area
is essential to the successful conduct of a war, the
area which includes the routes between these positions,
or a portion of such routes, becomes at once a possible
or likely theater. Such an area may be normally
within the control of one or the other of the belligerents,
or the control may be in dispute. Certain of the
positions themselves may belong to neither of the
belligerents. The area itself may be a land area,
or a sea area, or a combination of the two. It
may be an area which borders upon the sea, or an island
area. In any case, the air is a common characteristic.
The movement of a force is properly
regarded, not as an even flow, but as a series of
steps from one position to another. The movement
may or may not be continuous. Pauses are usual,
their occurrence and duration being a matter dependent
upon circumstances and calling for the exercise of
sound professional judgment. Intermediate positions
may be utilized, successively, so as to facilitate
occupancy of the final position which is the goal
of that phase of operations. This procedure
often effects an ultimate saving of time. In many
cases, other advantages also may accrue.
The foregoing considerations are applicable
to changes of position whether in the direction of
the enemy, toward a flank, or to the rear. Flanking
maneuvers and retrograde movements, both sometimes
profitably employed to decoy the enemy, may frequently
be utilized to gain advantageous relative position.
The proper objective of each is the maintenance of
a favorable situation, or the alteration of an unfavorable
one, either locally or with reference to the larger
phases of operations, through measures involving apportionment
of fighting strength, or obtaining advantages of position,
or retaining or gaining freedom of action. Combinations
of forward, flanking, or retrograde movements are
frequent in war, the skillful combination of the offensive
and the defensive being no less applicable
to the problem of relative position than to the other
elements of a favorable military operation.
Procedure for Determination and Selection
of Advantageous Relative Positions. Since the
various positions to be occupied become physical objectives
for the time being, their proper determination and
selection are governed by the same considerations which
apply to physical objectives.
Thus, it becomes necessary to consider,
first, as to suitability, whether the position, once
gained, will permit the attainment of the appropriate
Secondly, consideration is required
as to feasibility. Are the available means adequate
to gain or to maintain such position? In answering
this question, due regard is paid to opposing means
and to the characteristics of the theater.
Finally, there is to be considered,
as to acceptability, whether the consequences as to
costs, in terms of relative fighting strength, will
be such, if the position is gained or maintained, as
to permit the attainment of the objective. The
possible effect of these consequences on future action,
whether the attempt succeeds or fails, may be vitally
With regard to suitability, the factor
of the appropriate effect desired calls for special
consideration of the requirements with a view to future
action. This is true because of the relationship
which naturally exists between successive positions if changes of location from one to another
are to be integrated into movement calculated to accomplish
the effect desired. Each position, itself for
the time being a physical objective, offers certain
advantages or involves certain disadvantages with
relation to a further physical objective. The
position of the latter, in turn, presents possibilities
(or denies them) with respect to future movement.
The influence of considerations with respect to time
(in addition to those noted above with regard to space)
is also a factor whose importance increases when urgency
is a matter of immediate concern.
With regard to feasibility, the technical
capabilities and limitations of the armed forces are, of course, among the principal factors.
These capabilities and limitations are respectively
promoted and imposed primarily by considerations peculiar
to the particular medium of movement involved.
With specific regard to the areas
within which military operations may suitably be undertaken,
the fundamental distinctions created by recognized
political sovereignty require attention. That
part of the surface of the earth which comprises its
land area is recognized as the property or the charge
of one or another of the sovereign states, although
in certain cases the title may be in dispute.
The air above a nation’s territorial domain
is generally understood to be part of that domain.
The point to be observed is that there are no land
areas which belong equally to all nations. Accordingly;
because of the factor of neutral sovereignty, both
land and air forces of belligerent States may be under
the necessity of following indirect routes to their
In the case of the sea, however, all
those portions of the earth’s surface which
are covered by water (exclusive only of the recognized
territorial waters of the several nations), i.e.,
the high seas, are presumably common property.
The same applies to the air above the sea.
These considerations, and the fact
that the surface of the sea is a broad plane, permit
open sea areas to be traversed by a variety of routes
to an extent not applicable in the case of land areas
and the air above them. In addition, the fact
that technological developments have been such as
to permit movement, not only on the surface of the
sea and through the air above but also beneath the
surface, gives distinctive characteristics to the
sea when considered as a theater of operations.
The surface of the sea has, from the
earliest days to the present, provided roads over
which human beings in greatest numbers and the resources
of the world in greatest weight and volume can be
transported in single carriers. From the standpoint
of any belligerent it is imperative that, during war,
these roads be kept open to the extent demanded by
the needs of the State. It is equally imperative
that an enemy be deprived of the advantage which their
use might otherwise afford. In both cases localized
(even though temporary) control, not only of the surface
but of the water beneath and the air above, may be
essential. It is pertinent, also, to note at this
point the interest of neutrals, or of unneutral nonbelligerent
Powers, in keeping open the trade routes via the high
seas. Such interest may constitute an important
factor in the calculations of a belligerent State.
Considerations of maximum capacity
for speed represent the utmost possibilities with
respect to movements (i.e., change of positions) in a given medium within a given time limit.
A knowledge of maximum speed potentialities, one’s
own and those of the enemy, is required if changes
in position are intelligently to be made. A knowledge
of the variety of conditions, controllable and otherwise,
which affect or preclude the employment of maximum
speed, is likewise a requisite. Poor material
condition, inadequate training, and incorrect methods
of operation are preventable or correctable. The
limitations on speed which are imposed by logistics,
and by natural obstacles such as the hydrography,
the climate, the wind, the weather, and the state
of the sea, are susceptible of greatest possible adjustment
to circumstances only by the exercise of foresight
and judgment. All these conditions indicate the
close relationship that exists between relative position
and freedom of action.
The same observations apply to considerations
of maximum capacity for endurance, the ability to
operate without necessity for replenishment from an
outside source. Radius of action is decreased
or increased accordingly with resultant restrictions,
or otherwise, on freedom of action.
With respect to the freedom of action
of armed forces, also a consideration in relation
to feasibility, the logistics of a military operation,
of whatever scope, constitutes a problem which begins
when the plan is in process of formulation. This
problem ends only when the necessity for sustaining
the movement, and for retaining the position gained,
no longer exists.
Ships and other means of conveyance,
surface, subsurface, and air, are incapable of providing
the necessities of life and the implements of warfare
beyond the capacity built into them. Operations
which extend beyond the limits of such capacity must
cease unless replenishment and support, possible only
from other sources, are provided. The logistics
problem may be so difficult as to cause rejection of
a course of action involving distant operations.
From the standpoint of supply, military movements
by land, sea, and air are, therefore, vitally associated
with positions on land and with their relation to the
area of operations.
The same observations apply in larger
scope to the State itself, which, because of economic
vulnerability with respect to certain essential raw
materials, may be compelled to seek support from outside
sources lest supplies on hand become exhausted.
In all cases, great importance attaches to the geographical
location of sources of supply in their relation to
a required point of delivery and to the routes which
It follows that enemy sources of supply
may be suitable physical objectives.
Their destruction or capture, or the severance of
the enemy’s lines of communication with them,
may seriously restrict his freedom of action.
From the standpoint of the relative
position of its features, and apart from their inherent
military value, the characteristics of the theater
of military operations may exert an important influence
upon the shaping of events. Each characteristic
merits consideration as a potential means of facilitating
or obstructing movement. Some localities may
have been developed as repair, supply, or air bases.
Others may be sources of essential raw materials.
Certain points may be heavily fortified. Island
formations may be valuable to either opponent, or
to both, because of the capacity and security of their
harbors, the character of their terrain, or their positions
relative to each other. The inherent military
value of the several features of the theater may be
enhanced or vitiated by the relative position which
each occupies with respect to other features, and with
reference to the location of the armed forces involved.
So-called “strategic points”,
historically significant in connection with military
operations, derive their importance by reason of their
relative position with reference to routes of movement.
The possibilities of utilizing or of changing the
characteristics of a theater of operations, to assist, hamper, or deny movement,
are governed by considerations previously discussed
In planning the creation or maintenance
of a favorable military situation from the standpoint
of relative position, there may, therefore, profitably
be included an examination into:
(a) The relation which may exist between
the geographical location of the subdivisions of one’s
own forces and
(1) Those of the
areas under one’s own control, and
within those areas,
areas not under one’s own control, and
within those areas,
(4) Areas coveted
or in dispute,
(5) Fixed actual
and potential repair and operating bases
sources of supply and replenishment, own and enemy,
(b) The relation existing among the
geographical locations listed immediately above, including
the effect of possible changes in control.
(c) The bearing of the sun and moon,
and the direction of the wind and sea.
(d) The length and vulnerability of
possible lines of communication.
(e) The time and distance, and resulting
relative speeds, involved in movements necessary to
change or to maintain an existing relation.
(f) The measures incident to adequate
freedom of action.
A more detailed analysis of the factors
influencing relative position is made in Section I-B
of the Estimate Form.
In connection with the factor of consequences
as to costs, the requirement as to acceptability is
a weighing of expected gains and of reasonably anticipated
losses, a balancing of the one against the other,
with due attention to the demands of future action.
Military movement normally involves
an inescapable expenditure of military resources.
The characteristics of the theater, alone, will exact
their due toll, even if no enemy be present. In
the presence of the enemy, such expenditures may increase
with great rapidity. The fundamental consideration
here is whether the resultant losses are disproportionate
to the gains.
Avoidance of movement is frequently
the correct decision, because movement, if it offers
no advantages, is scarcely justifiable even if it
entails no material loss. Movement, merely for
the sake of moving, is not a profitable military operation.
However, the conduct of military operations without
major movement is a concept inherently defensive, even apathetic, whose outcome, against an energetic
enemy, can rarely be other than defeat. In the
execution of advantageous movement to achieve correct
military objectives, the competent commander is always
ready to accept the losses which are inseparable from
The foregoing considerations as to
advantageous relative positions are applicable, not
only in the realm of the commander’s decisions
as to his own action, but also to his judgments rendered
when higher authority calls for recommendations.
Apportionment of Fighting Strength
Fundamental Considerations. The
assignment of a task may be expected to carry with
it availability of fighting strength deemed adequate
by higher authority for accomplishment of the operation
In appropriate instances, the higher
command may call for recommendations as to the amount
and character of the means deemed adequate by the
subordinate for performance of the task with which
he is, or is to be, charged.
In any case, means having been made
available, it remains for a commander to whom an objective
has been assigned to apportion these available resources
in such manner as to provide the requisite strength
at points likely to be decisive, without unduly weakening
other points. In effect, he is charged with a
practical adjustment of means to ends. This responsibility
is discharged by the effective utilization of means
and prevention of waste nicely balanced through full
consideration of all essential elements of a favorable
military operation. The procedure involved has
The relation between the strength
to be brought to bear in dealing with a selected physical
objective, the tactical concern of the moment, and
that necessary to the attainment of the strategical
aim, constitutes a fundamental
consideration in effecting such a balance.
In making a correct apportionment,
there will be involved not only the physical elements
of fighting strength, but the mental and moral as
well. With respect to mental and moral factors,
the capabilities of particular commanders and organizations
may be an important factor in apportioning forces
to tasks. In the physical field, numbers and types
occupy a prominent position, each however, requiring
consideration from the standpoint of the existing
Thus, forces composed of appropriate
types and suitably equipped and trained may exercise
greater effect than numerically larger forces not
so well adjusted to the requirements of the situation.
On the other hand, numerical considerations become
predominant under conditions otherwise substantially
These considerations, viewed in the
light of the relationship of naval operations to land
areas, indicate the importance which may
attach to immediate availability, with a naval force,
in addition to its own air strength, of a proper complement
of land forces (with appropriate air strength) which
are organized, equipped, and trained for amphibious
The same considerations point also
to the vital importance of due provision, with respect
to the armed forces of a State, for joint operations
involving concerted action on land, by sea, or in the
In connection with the capabilities
of particular commanders, it will be appreciated
how important it is, more especially in amphibious
or joint operations, for responsible officers to have
a correct understanding of the powers and limitations
of the several types of military forces involved,
be their primary medium of movement the land, the
sea, or the air.
Factors of dispersion and concentration
are also involved in apportionment of fighting strength.
While undue dispersion may result
in lack of adequate fighting strength where required,
a certain degree of dispersion may be necessary to
meet the demands of movement and of freedom of action.
Serious errors in this regard, however, may result
in inability to furnish support where needed, and
in consequent punishment or isolation of one or more
In distant operations some dispersion
is required to safeguard long lines of communication.
The requirements for this purpose may sometimes be
so great that, unless the total available strength
is adequate, a due apportionment to the guarding of
long lines of communication may so weaken the main
force as to prevent the attainment of the objective.
Proper dispersion is, therefore, a
requirement to be met, while undue dispersion is to
be avoided. But realization is also necessary,
in this connection, that there is an equal danger
in over-concentration. An undue concentration
of means at any point may subject such a force to
unnecessary loss. Another disadvantage may be
lack of adequate fighting strength elsewhere.
Accordingly, axiomatic advice that
it is unwise to divide a total force, while containing
a sound element of caution, is misleading and inadequate,
for division is often necessary or desirable.
To be adequate, a maxim or rule relating to division
of force should indicate when, and in what measure,
such division may or may not be necessary or desirable.
Similarly inadequate, however true
as a generality, is the statement that the requirements
of effective warfare are met by bringing superiority
to bear at the decisive time and place. Such an
injunction is of little assistance in solving practical
problems as to the appropriate degree of superiority,
and as to the proper time and place.
In like manner, any rule is faulty
which advises a commander to seek the solution of
his problems by always bringing to bear his elements
of strength against the hostile elements of weakness.
It may be found, on occasion, that it is necessary
or desirable to act with strength against strength.
But it is equally faulty to maintain
that action, to be effective, seeks always to deal
with the enemy by first destroying his elements of
strength. Even when the strongest opposition cannot
be defeated by direct action of this nature, success
may still be possible by first disposing of elements
of weakness. When the stronger elements of a
hostile combination cannot be defeated without undue
loss, yet cannot stand without the weaker, consideration
may well be given to an apportionment of fighting
strength on the basis of seeking a decision against
the latter. The defeat of a relatively small force
at a distance from the area where the main forces
are concentrated in opposition, may hasten the attainment
of the ultimate objective.
The main effort, where the greater
force is employed, may be identical with the effort
contributing most directly to the final result.
This identity, however, does not always exist, and
the decisive influence is frequently exerted by a
relatively small force, sometimes at a distance from
the principal area of action.
Diversions are not likely to be profitable unless constituting
a sufficient threat, or unless offering apparent advantages
to the enemy which he feels that he cannot forego.
Success will attend justified diversions if they lead
the enemy to reapportion his fighting strength to
meet the threat, either because he expects repetitions, or because the area involved
may become a new theater of action, or for other pertinent
Means which are inadequate for the
attainment of an objective if used in one effort may
sometimes be rendered adequate by utilizing them in
a series of successive impulses. Similarly, the
effect of employing means otherwise adequate may be
intensified by the delivery of attacks in waves.
Procedure for Determining Proper Apportionment.
The fundamental considerations outlined above as to
apportionment of fighting strength have application
both to the offensive and the defensive. As to all of these considerations,
the solution for the particular situation is to be
found only through an analysis of the factors applying
to the particular problem.
Thus, the first consideration relates
to suitability, and requires that the apportionment
of means be suitable both as to type and as to amount,
in order to produce the appropriate effect desired
in view of the means opposed and of the influence
of the characteristics of the theater. The fundamentals
involved, applicable in all human activities,
are the factors cited above. These are also,
of course, indicated in the Fundamental Military Principle.
The correct apportionment may also
be influenced by any military changes to be effected
in the characteristics of the theater. Thus, the establishment
of a well defended base may operate, properly, to
reduce the requirements for apportionment of a force
for a particular duty in that locality. Similarly,
the proper use of fortifications, obstacles, demolitions,
and routes by land, sea, and air, as well as facilities
for exchange of information and orders, all operate
to increase fighting strength relative to that of
The next consideration, that of feasibility,
takes account of the type and of the amount of means
that can be apportioned in view of the means available.
In connection with the foregoing there
will be appropriate requirements for the operation
as a whole and for its component operations.
All of these requirements may call for analysis of
the relative positions to be utilized, with reference
to the selected physical objectives, and of the requirements
for adequate freedom of action.
Finally, the requirement of acceptability
as to the factor of consequences will call for consideration
of the results of the allotments of forces to particular
tasks. This is necessary in order to arrive at
reasonable conclusions as to the military costs involved
either in event of the success of the effort or in
event of its failure, and with respect, more especially,
to the effects on future action.
The attainment of the objective, however
suitable as to the effect desired, may be found, on
the basis of due study, to be infeasible or to involve
unacceptable consequences. The inescapable conclusion
is then that an increase in relative fighting strength
is required or that another objective, feasible of
attainment and acceptable with respect to consequences,
is necessarily to be adopted.
Freedom of Action
Fundamental Considerations. In
providing for proper apportionment of fighting strength,
a commander may attain the end in view by increasing
the physical, mental, or moral elements of his own
strength, relative to the enemy’s, or by decreasing
the enemy’s strength through imposing restrictions
on hostile freedom of action.
Freedom of action will enable a commander
to prosecute his plan in spite of restrictive influences.
That enemy interference will, to a greater or less
extent, impose restrictions on freedom of action is
to be expected. Restrictions may also be imposed
by physical conditions existing in the theater of
operations, and by deficiencies and omissions which
are within the field of responsibility of the commander
Even with fighting strength adequate
to overcome enemy opposition and physical handicaps,
deficiencies and omissions within a commander’s
own field may become effective checks to further progress
unless avoided through the exercise of foresight.
To this end, it is desirable to consider certain possibilities
which are likely to promote freedom of action if properly
exploited, and to restrict it if neglected.
To a considerable extent, a commander
has within his own control the degree of influence
which his force will exert in the creation or the
maintenance of a favorable military situation.
The power applied by a military force is determined
not only by the fighting strength of its component
commands, but also by the degree of coordination of
their several efforts in the attainment of the objective. Whatever the inability of
the commander to influence the other aspects of a
situation, the ability of his command to act unitedly
is a matter largely in his hands.
When time permits, subordinate commanders,
apprised of contemplated tasks in general terms, may
be called upon to submit recommendations as to the
detailed instructions to be issued them, as well as to the means to be allotted for the purpose.
By this procedure, individual initiative
is fostered and the higher command enabled to utilize
the first-hand knowledge and experience gained on
lower echelons without, however, divesting the higher
command of any of its responsibility.
The command system may provide for
unified action through unity of command or through
cooperation resulting from mutual understanding.
On the assumption that commanders are competent and
that communications are adequate, unity of command
is the more reliable method. However, it cannot
be obtained everywhere and at all times, because of
the necessary decentralization of the command system
in areas distant from the commander. In such
areas, unity of effort may sometimes be assured by
provision for local unity of command. At other
times, unity of effort may depend entirely on cooperation
between adjacent commands within the same area.
Organization, the mechanism
of command, is most effective when, through the establishment
of authority commensurate with responsibility and through the assignment of tasks to commanders
with appropriate capabilities, the
highest possible degree of unity of command is attained.
The command organization and mutual understanding
are of primary importance as methods of ensuring maximum
power with available fighting strength, and of affording
consequent maximum contribution to freedom of action.
Deficiencies in technical training
are capable of imposing grave restrictions upon freedom
of action. Material equipment, even though it
may represent the acme of perfection in design and
construction, will not surely function unless skillfully
operated and maintained. Even though mobility
and endurance be otherwise assured, the capacity which
they represent is not susceptible of effective employment
unless the methods of movement, i.e., of effecting
change in relative position, are intelligently
planned and are developed to a point which assures
facility of operation when in the hands of skilled
Tactical training, not omitting that
required for joint operations, is one of
the vital factors of fighting strength, with respect,
more especially, to its contributions to freedom of
A state of high and stable morale, founded upon sound discipline, is an invaluable
characteristic of fighting strength. An understanding
of the human being is therefore an important feature
of the science of war.
Discipline, in its basic meaning,
is the treatment suitable to a disciple. The
objective of discipline is therefore the creation and
maintenance of the spirit of willingness to follow
where the commander leads. The exercise of leadership
is not restricted, however, to those occasions when
the commander can be physically present. The exigencies
of war and the requirements of control prevent the
commander from being always, personally, in the forefront
of action. These restrictions as to considerations
of space however, impose no limitations on leadership
in terms of time.
The influence of the competent commander
is a factor always acting to shape the situation according
to his will, though the necessities of the
moment may compel his presence elsewhere. The
ability to create and maintain a faithful following
who will execute the commander’s will wherever
he may be is, accordingly, a primary attribute
With this objective in mind, the true
disciplinarian runs no risk of confusing harshness
with the exercise of justice. He understands the
difference between an overbearing arrogance, arising
from unconscious ignorance, and the pride which springs
from a justified self-respect. He appreciates
the distinction between mere stubbornness, which would
alienate his followers, and the necessary firmness
which binds the bonds between the leader and the led.
He realizes that comradeship, without presumptuous
familiarity, is the firmest foundation for mutual
loyalty. He knows that kindness and
consideration, without suggestion of pampering, will
not be mistaken for weakness by any subordinate worthy
of the name.
Military subordination, which implies
a proud obedience without trace of servility, is the
essential basis for the development of the qualities
of command. It is an old adage that, to know how
to command, one must know how to obey. In the
profession of arms, every man is at once a leader
and a follower; the uncertainties of war may suddenly
confront any individual, even on the lowest echelon,
with the call to exercise command.
The requirements of sound discipline
are thus the correct basis for all training.
By proper training of his command, by instilling in
it a spirit of resolute determination and by otherwise
fostering its morale, and by weakening the morale
of the enemy, a commander may increase his own fighting
strength and reduce that of the opposition. When
a command is inured to the ill effects of fear, despondency,
lack of confidence, and other weakening influences,
it may more effectually employ measures calculated
to upset the morale of the enemy.
In connection with these measures,
surprise, when judiciously conceived and successfully
employed, may be a most potent factor. Surprise is the injection of the unexpected for
the purpose of creating an unfavorable military situation
for the enemy. Its effect is particularly telling
when it results in disruption of enemy plans, and
thus promotes the execution of one’s own.
The raid, an offensive measure swiftly
executed, often by surprise, and followed by a withdrawal,
may be a valuable operation when employed to attain
objectives within its capacity. The collection
of information, the destruction of important enemy
equipment or supplies, the neutralization of enemy
positions, the severing of physical means of communication
and transport, and the like, are suitable objectives.
The attritional effect of repeated raids may be very
great. Skillfully executed raids frequently produce
panic among the populace and thus, by political pressure,
cause a change in the existing apportionment of fighting
strength to the extent of upsetting military plans
in other theaters. This is particularly likely
to occur when there is fear, justified or otherwise,
However, because a raid necessarily
includes a withdrawal and cannot, therefore, accomplish
the occupation of territory, it can
have only indirect bearing, however important, upon
the final outcome of the hostilities against a strong
and competent enemy. Like other forms of surprise,
the raid, injudiciously employed, may serve only to
disclose one’s presence, and thus to betray more
important future plans. If the raid fails to
attain its objective, it may even strengthen enemy
The form which surprise may take is
not confined to the stratagem, the ruse, or the sudden
appearance. Any unexpected display of novel methods
or of fighting strength, moral, mental, or physical,
the last-named sometimes assuming the character of
new and especially effective weapons or equipment,
is included in the category of surprise. The
potential value of such methods or weapons is, however,
reduced or even completely vitiated by the leakage
of advance information concerning them, not only as
to their details, but as to the fact of their existence.
Other conditions remaining unchanged,
an offensive surprise measure is therefore more likely
to be effective when the opponent has not been given
time to prepare a defense against it. On the other
hand, where there is knowledge that an opponent or
possible opponent is taking steps of a new or unusual
nature and no adequate defense is prepared, the equivalent
of surprise has been granted him.
Security measures are necessary in
order to minimize or prevent surprise, or to defeat
other efforts aimed at disruption of plans. Protection
brings security; its basic objective is the conservation
of fighting strength for future employment. Primarily
requiring the maintenance of secrecy and the exercise
of vigilance and foresight, security may be furthered
by efficient scouting, by appropriate dispositions
and formations within the command, and by the use of
protective detachments and of various types of works
in the sphere of engineering. Previous discussion, with respect to relative position
and to the apportionment of fighting strength, has
indicated how, through fortification and related measures,
the commander may increase relative fighting strength
and thereby promote his own freedom of action while
restricting that of the enemy.
A commander will be hampered in maintaining
his fighting strength at its maximum unless he has
arranged for, and has at his disposal, adequate logistics
support. Because of its intimate relationship
to mobility and endurance, such support is an essential
to freedom of action. Logistics support requires
provision for procurement and replenishment of supplies,
for evacuation, proper disposition, and replacement
of ineffective personnel, and for material maintenance.
Freedom of action is restricted beyond those limits
to which logistics support can be extended.
The initiative is of paramount importance
in ensuring freedom of action. If the initiative
is seized and maintained with adequate strength, the
enemy can only conform; he cannot lead. If initiative
is lost, freedom of action is restricted in like measure.
The offensive, properly employed,
is a method of seizing the initiative, and of regaining
it if lost. Even though there be an actual numerical
superiority in fighting strength, an offensive will,
however, seldom assume practical form unless founded
on an offensive mental attitude, which ever seeks
the favorable and suitable opportunity to strike.
Completely to abandon the offensive state of mind
is to forswear victory.
Whether physically on the defensive
or the offensive, the competent commander is always
engaged in a mental and moral attack upon the will
of the enemy commander. By effective
attack upon the hostile will, the commander disintegrates
the enemy’s plan, i.e., the enemy’s
reasoned decision, as well as the detailed procedure
on which the enemy relies to carry this decision into
It does not follow that offensive
action is possible or even desirable under all circumstances.
Even with superior strength the most skillful commander
will scarcely be able, always, to apportion forces
in such manner as everywhere to permit the assumption
of the offensive. Without adequately superior
strength, it may be necessary to adopt the defensive
for considerable periods. If the offensive mental
attitude is retained, together with fixed determination
to take offensive measures as soon as appropriate
to do so, the calculated and deliberate adoption of
the defensive, for the proper length of time, may
best promote the ultimate attainment of the objective.
It is of the utmost importance, however, that a static
defensive be not adopted as a settled procedure beyond the time necessary to prepare for
an effective offensive.
Both the offensive and the defensive
have their places in an operation whose broad character
is primarily either defensive or offensive. In
operations which involve movement over a considerable
distance, a combination of the offensive and the defensive
is usually found necessary. Though
the movement itself be offensive, the ensurance of
freedom of action may require both defensive measures
and tactically offensive action. The enemy, primarily
on the defensive, may be expected to seize every opportunity
to employ the offensive.
Thus, a judicious combination of the
offensive and the defensive has been found to be sound
procedure, provided that the general
defensive is always viewed as a basis for the inauguration,
at the proper moment, of the offensive. The methods
employed during the period of the defensive are best
calculated to promote freedom of action if they are
designed to facilitate a ready assumption of the offensive
as soon as conditions favorable to the offensive have
Familiarity with the physical characteristics
of the actual and possible theaters of operations,
and accurate intelligence of the strength, distribution,
and activities of enemy forces likely to be encountered,
are of primary importance in the promotion of freedom
of action. Additions to this store of knowledge
may be made by a continuous interpretation and dissemination
of new information collected, analyzed, and evaluated
by persistent effort. Of equal importance is
the denial of information to the enemy.
In connection with counter-information
measures, the scrutiny of information
of a military nature intended for popular consumption
demands the exercise of sound professional judgment
prior to publication. A resourceful enemy is
ever alert to evaluate and turn to his own advantage
all available information, including that ostensibly
As to all of the foregoing considerations,
a fund of professional knowledge, previously acquired
through study, or experience, or both, and coupled
with a sound concept of war, is the best basis for
devising suitable, feasible, and acceptable measures
for freedom of action.
With a given fighting strength, the
ensurance of freedom of action, within the field of
responsibility of a commander, requires consideration
of such matters as:
(a) Efficient provisions for exercise
(b) Effective training,
(c) A state
of high and stable morale, founded on
(e) The offensive spirit,
Adequate logistics support,
(j) Adequate intelligence
A more detailed analysis of such factors
is provided hereafter. With proper provision
made in these respects, the commander will be better
able to deal with those restrictions on freedom of
action imposed by the enemy and by adverse geographical
conditions. With respect to restrictions that
in a particular situation may be due to the latter
cause, it will at once be appreciated how greatly
freedom of action may depend on the selection of correct
physical objectives, on utilization of advantageous
relative positions, and on an effective apportionment
of fighting strength.
Each measure, or each operation, for
freedom of action, if it is to meet the requirements
of suitability, feasibility, and acceptability, will
be planned on the basis of the foregoing considerations
and will take account, also, of the inherent requirements
of that measure, or operation, for freedom of action
On occasion, higher authority may
request the recommendations of the commander with reference to provision
for freedom of action. Such recommendations will
properly be based on the elements considered in the
All these considerations involve the
proper evaluation of the factors applicable to the particular problem. Each objective,
prior to its selection, and each operation, prior
to its adoption, will require examination of its suitability
with regard to the appropriate effect desired; of
its feasibility with respect to the action contemplated
as to physical objectives, relative positions, the
concurrent apportionment of fighting strength, and
freedom of action; and, finally, of its acceptability
with reference to consequences as to costs.