THE INAUGURATION OF THE PLANNED ACTION
(The Third Step The Formulation
and Issue of Directives)
Scope of the Third Step. As previously
stated, the inauguration
of the planned action (the third step) begins when
the commander forms the intention of immediately promulgating,
as one or more directives, his solution of the problem
represented by the second step. The third step
ends at the moment when the problem becomes one of
supervising the planned action in the course of its
Military Plans and Military Directives.
A plan is a proposed scheme, procedure, or method
of action for the attainment of an objective.
It is one of the essential links between decision
A directive, in the general sense,
initiates or governs conduct or procedure. It
is the means by which one’s will or intent is
made known to others. Sometimes the word is employed
as a synonym for “order”; at others, it
carries the significance of various instructions ranging
from the simple to the complex; at still others, it
denotes a plan formulated to be placed in effect in
a particular contingency or when so directed.
In all cases, a directive, to be suitable as a guide
for others, has as its origin a plan.
The words plan and directive are used
herein as follows: A plan may exist only
in the mind. Even if formulated and set down in
writing, it may receive no distribution. A plan
continues to be exclusively a plan so long as it concerns
the originating commander alone, and it never loses
its identity as a proposed procedure or method of action.
When, however, the commander forms the intent of promulgating
the plan immediately, the plan becomes also a directive.
At this point, as noted in the preceding paragraph
("Scope of the Third Step"), the execution phase begins,
from the standpoint of the exercise of mental power,
with the inauguration of the planned action.
A directive may therefore be (1) an
order effective upon receipt, in which case it may
be an order placing in effect a plan already issued;
or a directive may be (2) a formulated plan which the
commander intends to issue immediately to his subordinates.
Accordingly, certain written instruments
prepared under the designation of plans are also included
under the classification of directives. In the
use of these terms hereinafter, the distinction between
a plan viewed as a basis for a directive, and a plan
intended to be promulgated as a directive, will be
indicated in the context.
Whether written or mental, the complete
plan will cover the scope of the Decision, and will
be the commander’s method of procedure for his
future conduct of operations. A commander may,
or may not, formulate his complete plan in writing,
or embody it in a formal directive which will provide
for the execution, in full, of the Decision of his
estimate. He may find that his plan divides into
several parts, and he may make separate provision
for the execution of each of these parts. While
the integrity of a plan depends upon the soundness
of its essential details, the plan is properly formulated
as a directive or directives projected in detail,
only so far into the future as the commander’s
estimate of the situation assures him of reasonable
freedom of action.
Where the commander divides his plan
into parts for separate accomplishment, he will naturally
exercise care that each part is, in itself, the suitable
basis for a complete and homogeneous plan. Successful
execution of all these plans results in the complete
accomplishment of his Decision.
Directives required to further the
success of a particular operation may be issued without
awaiting formulation of the entire plan. Parts
of the plan may be transmitted as fragmentary directives
to guide the action of subordinates in instantaneous
or early execution. Such cases are far more frequent
than are those in which a formal written plan, to
guide either the operations in their entirety or a
part thereof, is prepared and distributed as a directive.
Effective action by the subordinate is thus not delayed
by the absence of complete written directives.
The commander, more especially during
war, may be the only individual who is conversant
with the entire plan. He may consider that the
necessity for secrecy is paramount, or that there are
features to whose details he is unwilling to commit
himself until the situation is clearer. However,
he may usually expect to disclose its scope and general
features to his immediate superior, and the plan in
its entirety to his next junior; or, in the interests
of mutual understanding, to all his subordinates of
the next lower echelon or even to his entire command.
The scope of the plan also may be a determining factor.
If the plan covers an entire campaign or an extended
series of operations, its dissemination is less likely
and less general than if it is concerned with only
a minor operation.
During peace, in exercises simulating
war, the complete plan is frequently given circulation
for purposes of training.
Subsidiary Plans. Subsidiary
plans, are frequently
issued as annexes to the Operation Plan
which carries into effect the basic Decision.
The commander will be the judge as to whether alternative
subsidiary plans are necessary or desirable under
Essentials of Military Directives.
General. By the issue of directives,
a commander communicates to his subordinates his plans
or such parts of them as he desires. Directives
may be oral or written, or may be transmitted by despatch.
Whether a directive is to be effective
upon receipt, or under specified conditions, or at
a specific time, or upon further instructions from
the commander, will be evident from its nature, or
will be prescribed in the body of the directive itself.
The manner of determining the details
of a plan has been discussed.
The matter contained therein is pertinent to the preparation
of a plan that is not to be issued as a directive as
well as to one that is to be so issued.
The various categories of directives
customarily employed in our naval service, and standard
forms for these, are described hereinafter.
The essentials of a military directive
which is designed to govern the execution of a plan
(a) That it indicate the general
plan for the common effort
the entire force.
(b) That it organize the force
with a view to the effective
of this plan.
(c) That it assign tasks to
the subdivisions of the force,
that the accomplishment of these tasks will result
accomplishment of the plan adopted for the entire
(d) That it make appropriate
provision for coordination among
for logistics support, and for the
of information and the dissemination of
that it state the conditions under which the
is to become effective; and that it indicate the
of the commander during the period of execution.
Some of these essentials may have
found their expression in previous instructions, or
may be unnecessary because of the state of mutual
understanding. On the other hand, the directive
may include annexes in the form of alternative and
subsidiary plans, letters of instructions,
and other material designed to be of assistance in
the intelligent accomplishment of the assigned task.
In issuing a directive, whether written
or oral, except such a fragmentary order as has previously
been described, a commander has the following
(a) To ensure that subordinates
to give them pertinent available
(b) To set forth clearly the
general plan to be carried out by
entire force, as well as the tasks to be accomplished
each subdivision of his force.
(c) To provide each of these
subdivisions with adequate means
accomplish its assigned task.
(d) To allow subordinate commanders
the limits of their assigned tasks, without,
sacrifice of the necessary coordination.
He will also bear in mind that a directive
will best convey his will and intent and will be most
easily understood by his subordinates if it is clear,
brief, and positive.
Clarity demands the use of precise
expressions susceptible of only the desired interpretation.
Normally, the affirmative form is preferable to the
negative. The importance of clarity has been summed
up in the saying, “An order which can be misunderstood
will be misunderstood”. If misunderstandings
arise on the part of trained subordinates the chief
fault often lies with the person who issued the directive.
Brevity calls for the omission of
superfluous words and of unnecessary details.
Short sentences are ordinarily more easily and rapidly
understood than longer ones. Brevity, however,
is never to be sought at the expense of clarity.
The attainment of brevity often requires considerable
expenditure of effort and of time. But time is
not to be sacrificed in the interests of obtaining
brevity in directives, when the proper emphasis should
rather be on initiating early action.
Positiveness of expression suggests
the superior’s fixity of purpose, with consequent
inspiration to subordinates to prosecute their tasks
with determination. The use of indefinite and
weakening expressions leads to suspicion of vacillation
and indecision. Such expressions tend to impose
upon subordinates the responsibilities which belong
to and are fully accepted by a resolute superior.
Restatement of the Decision for Use in the Directive.
Except where special considerations
exist to the contrary, it will be found that the expression
of the Decision for use in a directive will most clearly
indicate the intent of the commander if stated in terms
of the objective to be attained by his force (i.e.,
of the situation to be created or maintained) and
of the outlined action for its attainment.
Such expression is usually possible in problems of
broad strategical scope. In other cases
difficulty may be encountered. For instance,
in tactical problems dealing with the detailed employment
of weapons, the action may necessarily be couched
in the terms of a series of acts.
No precise form is prescribed; thoughts
clearly expressed are more important than form.
It is customary to begin with “This force (or
group) will”, and then state with brevity the
Decision as (and if) modified, adding the motivating
task which is the purpose of the Decision. The
motivating task is connected with the preceding statement
by words such as “in order to”, “to
assist in”, or “preparatory to”,
as the case may be.
Since his original expression of the
Decision in the first step, the commander
has studied the operations required to carry it out.
He therefore has gained a knowledge, which he did not
then have, of how his action is to be carried out.
He may now be able to compile a brief of these operations,
applicable to all of them and therefore informative
to all subordinate commanders. He may be able
to say how, or even where and when, the effort of
his force will be exerted.
As an illustration, if his Decision
is “to destroy enemy battle-line strength”,
his operations might be described “by gun action
at long range during high visibility”.
Should the commander, solely for the purpose of making
his intent clearer to his subordinate commanders,
now decide to include the latter phrase in the re-wording
of his Decision, he may do so at this point.
It may sometimes be necessary to restate
the Decision for another reason. It will be recalled
that the commander is frequently obliged to recognize
that he cannot carry out all of these operations, and
that he therefore decides to issue a directive to carry
out certain ones selected for the first stage. In such a case, he may not now be able
to use the full Decision as originally determined.
In that event he couches the Decision in terms of
the partial accomplishment inherent in the operations
to be undertaken.
Standard Forms for Plans and Directives
Form. Experience has shown that
military directives usually give best results if cast
in a standard form well known alike to originator and
recipient. Such a form tends to prevent the omission
of relevant features, and to minimize error and misunderstanding.
However, a commander may find that lack of opportunity
to facilitate mutual understanding by personal conference
requires that one or more subordinates receive instructions
in greater detail than a standard form seems to permit.
A letter of instructions may then be appropriate.
The commander himself is the best judge as to the
application of a form to his needs of the moment, and
as to the necessity for adherence to form in whatever
Useful as form is, it is important
to keep in mind that it is the servant and not the
The standard form in use in our naval
service, long known as the Order Form, is applicable,
with certain modifications, to all written plans and
The Order Form will now be described
in detail from the standpoint of its general application
to all classes of directives, including the commander’s
written plan, whether or not promulgated as a directive.
The Order Form. Because of established
usage, and for other reasons noted hereinafter, it
is desirable that certain clerical details be handled
(a) To minimize errors, all
numerals are spelled out, except
numbers and those in the heading.
(b) For emphasis, and to minimize
errors, all geographical
and names of vessels are spelled entirely with
(c) To standardize arrangement
and facilitate reading, a
left-hand margin is left abreast the heading and
task organization, and a wider margin is left abreast
(d) For the same reasons,
the main paragraph numbers are
in the wider margin.
(e) For emphasis, the task-force
or task-group titles of the
organization, wherever occurring, are underlined.
The sequence in which the subject
matter is presented is a logical arrangement which
experience has shown to be effective. Since every
item has a definite place in the form, formulation
is simplified, and ready reference is facilitated.
In a written directive, the prescribed
paragraph numbering is always followed, even if no
text is inserted after a number. This practice
serves as a check against accidental omission, and
as confirmatory evidence that omissions are intentional.
For example, if there is no new information to be
disseminated, the paragraph number “1”
is written in its proper place, followed by the words
“No further information”.
When the subject matter to be presented
under any one paragraph is voluminous, it may be broken
up into a number of subparagraphs. Except in
paragraph 3, these subparagraphs are unlettered.
The Heading contains:
In the upper right-hand corner in the following sequence:
(a) The title of the issuing
officer’s command, such as
scouts, or advanced force, etc.,
preceded by the
in proper order within the chain of command, of
superior echelons or of such higher echelons as will
(b) The name of the flagship,
as U.S.S. Augusta, Flagship.
(c) The place of issue:
for example, Newport, R.I., or, At
La deg.-40’ N., Lon deg.-20’
(d) The time of issue:
that is, the month, day, year, and
for example, July 12, 1935; 1100.
In the upper left-hand corner in the
(e) The file notations and
classification: Secret or
the classification being underlined and
with capitals. This classification is repeated
(f) The type and serial number
of the directive, such as
Plan N, the words Operation Plan being
This is repeated on succeeding pages.
The Body. The task organization,
which consists of a tabular enumeration of task forces
or task groups, the composition of each, and the rank
and name of its commander, is the beginning of the
body of the directive. It is customary to omit
the name of the issuing officer from any task force
or task group commanded by him. Any unit included
in a force named in the task organization is, by virtue
of that fact, directed to act under the command of
the commander of the specified force.
When so desired for additional ready
identification, task forces and their subdivisions
may be numbered. In our naval service, systematic
methods for such numerical designation are indicated
from time to time by proper authority. Numerals
for this purpose are entered in the task organization
to the left of the title of each appropriate task force
or subdivision thereof. The numerals may be placed
The directive is addressed for action
solely to the commanders of the task forces or task
groups listed in the task organization.
Train vessels assigned exclusively
to particular combatant task forces are listed among
the units of those forces in the task organization.
If the directive is to be used for assigning tasks
involving strategical or tactical movement directly
to the Train, or to any Train units, such units are
grouped together to form a separate task force.
If instructions to the Train are to be issued in another
directive, the Train need not appear as a separate
force in the task organization. As a matter of
general custom, the Train is usually not included
as a task force unless it is to accompany, or act in
tactical concert with, some one or more of the combatant
task forces listed.
Each task force named in this table,
together with its numerical designation, is preceded
by a separate letter, (a), (b), (c), etc., and
its assigned task is set forth in a similarly lettered
subparagraph in paragraph 3.
Paragraph 1 is the information paragraph.
It contains such available information of enemy and
own forces as is necessary for subordinates to understand
the situation and to cooperate efficiently. Paragraph
1 contains no part of the tasks assigned by the commander.
Information of the enemy and that of own forces, and
assumptions where pertinent, are usually set forth
in separate unlettered subparagraphs.
When deemed advisable, unless secrecy
or other considerations forbid, paragraph 1 may include
statements of the general plans of various higher
echelons in the chain of command. A statement
of the general plan of the next higher commander will
frequently be included. For the same reasons,
the commander will often include in this paragraph
a statement of his own assigned task, unless, of course,
this point is adequately covered in the statement
of his general plan in paragraph 2. Inclusion
of such matters may enable subordinates to gain a clearer
visualization of the relationships existing among the
several objectives envisaged by the higher command.
To promote cooperation, paragraph
1 may also state the principal tasks of coordinate
forces of the commander’s own echelon; for like
reasons, the principal tasks of other task forces
of the command not listed in the task organization
may be included. Where the immediate superior
has prescribed particular methods to other forces for
cooperation and security, these may also be set forth
as a matter of information.
In this paragraph, distinction is
drawn between information which is based upon established
facts, and that of merely probable accuracy.
The latter is not to be confused with assumptions which,
in Operation Plans, are accepted as a basis.
When writing their own information
paragraphs, subordinate commanders do not necessarily
copy verbatim the information contained in the order
of their superior. Good procedure calls for them
to digest that information, select what is essential,
and present it with any additional information considered
necessary. Care is taken to include necessary
information of coordinate task forces.
Paragraph 2 states the general plan of the complete force
under the command of the officer who issued the directive. If several directives
are issued for carrying out a single, complete plan, then paragraph 2 is usually
the same in all of them. The amount of detail given in this paragraph is
sufficient to ensure a clear comprehension by the subordinates as to what is to
be accomplished by the force as a whole. It is customary to begin with the
words, This force will, followed by a statement of the general plan and,
unless secrecy or other considerations forbid, by the purpose of the effort
Paragraph 3 assigns individual tasks
to all of the task forces listed in the task organization.
This paragraph is divided into as many subparagraphs,
(a), (b), (c), etc., as there are task forces
enumerated in the task organization. Each subparagraph
commences with the designating letter in parentheses,
followed by the title of the task force, underlined.
Normally the tasks for each task force
are stated in order of their importance. If preferred,
however, the sequence of tasks may be chronological,
i.e., in the order of their execution. Each
method has certain advantages, according to the nature
of the situation. Where the chronological sequence
is utilized, that fact is clearly indicated, in order
to avoid confusion. After
the statement of the tasks, these subparagraphs conclude
with such detailed instructions as are necessary.
In cases where the entire force is
listed in the task organization, the proper formulation
of tasks requires that the accomplishment of all the
tasks of paragraph 3 result in the accomplishment of
the general plan set forth for the entire force in
paragraph 2. On the other hand, where several
directives are issued, each to a different part of
the force, with a paragraph 2 common to all, then the
accomplishment of the tasks of all of the paragraphs
3, of the several directives is properly equivalent
to the accomplishment of the general plan prescribed
in the common paragraph 2.
Where two or more task forces have
identical task assignments, only the common subparagraph
need be written after the title of the task forces
(a) Submarine Detachment,
(b) Air Patrol, (assignment
of the common task or tasks).
If the Train has been included as
a separate force of the task organization, it will
be given its tasks as to tactical and strategical
movement in a separate subparagraph of paragraph 3.
In order to avoid repetition, task
assignments and instructions which apply to all task
forces, or which pertain to the general conduct of
the operation, are embodied in a final subparagraph,
designated as 3(x). It is particularly necessary
that there be included in this subparagraph the measures
(e.g., as to cooperation, security, intelligence,
and the like) pertaining to freedom of action and
applicable to the force as a whole. Any tasks
or instructions applicable to individual task forces,
only, will have been included in the appropriate earlier
subparagraph(s) (i.e., 3 (a), (b), (c), etc.).
To avoid repetition in these subparagraphs, coordinating
instructions applying to more than one task force
may also be included, when convenient to do so, in
paragraph 3 (x).
Paragraph 3 (x) of Operation Plans
and Battle Plans prescribes, in addition to other
applicable matters, the time and/or manner of placing
the plan in effect.
Paragraph 4 is the logistics paragraph.
It sets forth the availability of services and supplies,
and describes and gives effect to the general plan
for the logistics support of the operation. If
the information and instructions as to logistics are
long and detailed, they may be embodied in a separate
logistics plan, which is referred to in paragraph
4, and is attached as an annex.
Paragraph 4 is not used for assigning
tasks as to movement, either for the Train or for
any other subdivision of the force.
Paragraph 5 is the command paragraph.
It contains instructions considered necessary for
the control of the command during the operation, such
as the plan of communications, zone time to be used,
rendezvous, and location of the commander. Paragraph
5 completes the body.
The Ending consists of the signature,
the list of annexes, the distribution, and the authentication,
as noted below:
The Signature of the commander
issuing the directive, with his
rank and command title, is
placed at the end, for example:
John Doe, Vice Admiral, Commander
Annexes consist of amplifying instructions
which are so extensive as to make them undesirable
for inclusion in the directive itself. They
contain detailed instructions, in written form
or in the form of charts or sketches. Separate
Communications, Logistics, Sortie, Movement, Cruising,
Intelligence, Scouting, Screening, Approach and
Deployment Plans may be, and frequently are, disseminated
as annexes to a directive. Alternative Plans
may also be annexed.
Annexes are referred to in the appropriate
paragraph of the body of the directive, and are
listed and serially lettered in capitals at the
end near the left-hand margin, immediately below
the body and the signature, and above the distribution.
The Distribution indicates to whom the
directive will be transmitted and the medium of
transmission. The recording of this distribution
in the directive is essential for the information
of all concerned.
Standard distribution may
be indicated, as Distribution I, ii,
Authentication. Unless signed by
the issuing officer, each copy of the directive
distributed is authenticated by the signature,
rank, and designation of the Flag Secretary, with
the addition of the seal whenever possible.
Campaign Plans. Campaign Plans, when communicated to officers on the
highest echelons, are usually, in the Order Form,
modified as follows:
Heading. No change.
Task Organization. Not usually used.
Paragraph 1. In addition
to the information to be furnished,
statement is given of the assumptions
the basis of the plan.
Paragraph 2. No change.
Paragraph 3. This shows
the stages into which the campaign has
divided; the several operations which will be
in each stage, and the order of their
and usually the forces to be made
for the first stage.
Paragraph 4. No change.
Paragraph 5. No change.
If it be found desirable, however,
to employ a letter of instructions instead of a formal
directive, this may be done. In this case the
letter sets forth the essential features of the subject
matter as above described for the Order Form.
Sample Outline Form. For convenient
reference, the outline form of an Operation Plan is
appended. The Operation Order follows
the same form, the essential difference being that
the Operation Order makes no provision for assumptions,
and is effective upon receipt unless otherwise provided
in the body of the Order.
Types of Naval Directives
Naval directives in common use are:
War Plans, Campaign Plans, Operation Plans, Operation
Orders, Battle Plans, and Battle Orders.
Basic War Plans designate operating
forces, assign broad strategical tasks to these forces,
and, where required, delimit theaters of operations.
These plans also assign duties to the supporting services
such as naval communications, etc. Requirements
as to logistics plans are also included. Accepted
usage designates, as Contributory Plans, the subsidiary
plans which are prepared in support of Basic War Plans.
Campaign Plans. A campaign, as initially visualized, is a
clearly defined major stage of a war. A campaign, after it has passed into
history, sometimes bears the name of a leader, or a seasonal or geographical
designation. It may consist of a single operation, or of successive or
concurrent operations. The operations of a campaign have properly a definite
objective, the attainment or abandonment of which marks the end of the campaign.
A Campaign Plan indicates what might
be called the “schedule of strategy” which
the commander intends to employ to attain his ultimate
objective for the campaign. Such a plan usually
sets forth the stages into which he proposes to divide
the campaign, shows their sequence, and outlines:
(a) The general plan for the entire campaign.
(b) The general plan involved in each
stage and the order of accomplishment, so far as the
commander has been able to project his action into
the future, and usually,
(c) The forces to be made available
for the first stage. The Campaign Plan is primarily
for the guidance of the commander himself. When
necessary for information or approval, it is forwarded
to higher authority. To provide the necessary
background, it may sometimes be furnished to the principal
subordinates. In any case, the interests of secrecy
demand that its distribution be extremely limited.
Operation Plans. An Operation
Plan may cover projected operations, or may be contingent
upon the occurrence of a particular event, or combination
of events. It may be issued in advance of the
event. It is placed in effect at a specified
time or by special order, as prescribed in the body
of the plan itself. It provides for either a
single operation, or for a connected series of operations
to be carried out simultaneously or in successive
steps. It is prepared for dissemination to task-force
Usually, an Operation Plan covers
more complex operations than does an Operation Order,
and projects operations over a greater time and space.
It allows more latitude to subordinate commanders,
and provides for less direct supervision by the issuing
officer. It has typically the distinguishing
feature of including, in paragraph 1, the assumptions
upon which the plan is based.
To provide for eventualities under
varying sets of assumptions, the commander may formulate
several alternative Operation Plans.
Operation Orders. An Operation
Order deals with an actual situation, usually of limited
scope, in which the commander considers that he possesses
sufficient reliable information to warrant an expectation
that certain specific operations can be initiated and
carried through to completion as ordered. The
Operation Order does not include assumptions and,
unless it contains a proviso to the contrary, is effective
Under the conditions obtaining in
modern warfare, there are few occasions where the
Operation Plan will not accomplish the full purpose
of the Operation Order. The use of the Operation
Plan removes the undesirable feature of imposing possible
restriction on the latitude allowed the subordinate
without, in any degree, lessening the authority of
Battle Plans. A Battle Plan sets
forth methods for the coordinated employment of forces
during battle. If prepared in advance, it usually
is based on certain assumptions which are clearly stated
in the plan.
Battle Plans may merely include provisions
for a particular combat, or they may include provisions
for a connected series of separate or coordinate engagements,
possibly culminating in a general action, and all
directed toward the early attainment of a specified
tactical objective. Such combats may range in
scope from engagements between small forces to engagements
between entire fleets.
Battle Orders are generally limited
to the despatches required to place a Battle Plan
in effect, and to direct such changes in plan, or
to initiate such detailed operations, as may be necessary
during the progress of battle.