Combined Arms Warfare in the Twentieth Century

By Fontenot, Gregory | Parameters, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview
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Combined Arms Warfare in the Twentieth Century


Fontenot, Gregory, Parameters


By Jonathan M. House. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001, 364 pages. $45.00 ($19.95 paper).

Jonathan House's Combined Arms Warfare is a revision of his earlier Research Survey No. 2, Toward Combined Arms Warfare: A Survey of 20th-Century Tactics, Doctrine, and Organization, published in 1984 by the Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth. In this version, House successfully delivers on two promises: first, he has updated his original work to complete the story of combined arms warfare through the end of the century; second, he has written for the general reader rather than for the professional soldier. The result, a consequence of delivering on the second promise, is a far better book. It is cogently argued and tightly written. The author has also eliminated jargon and military euphemisms. The result is a first-class analysis of the trends in combined-arms warfare over the last century, including weapon development, doctrine, and organization.

A thoughtful student of the subject, House concludes with an excellent essay on the future of combined arms. Juxtaposing it against the sections on Desert Storm and Chechnya, he avoids predicting the future, but ably amplifies the tenets of the book. Chiefly, he examines the key trends in combined-arms warfare of the 20th century, including the continued improvement of weapon systems and the move toward "integration" or combining arms at lower levels. He cautions against both rigid structures and the deployment of temporary or task-organized units without adequate training. This apparent contradiction stems from the competing and differing requirements posed by rapidly changing missions, the environment, and the enemy--in the vernacular of the Army, METT-TC (mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support, time available, and civil considerations).

According to House, the issue is to achieve balance and assure sufficient means to exercise command and control. While accepting the possibility that information technology may ease the command and control problems, House is not convinced that information technology alone is the answer. Training and the cohesion that comes from regularly working together are, in his mind, the keys to successful "extemporaneous" combined-arms formations.

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