Doctrine under Trial: American Artillery Employment in World War I

Doctrine under Trial: American Artillery Employment in World War I

Doctrine under Trial: American Artillery Employment in World War I

Doctrine under Trial: American Artillery Employment in World War I

Synopsis

Artillery proved to be the greatest killer on the Western Front in World War I, and the use and misuse of artillery was certainly a determining factor in the wars outcome. While many books explore the artillery forces and employment of the European powers, this is the first study to examine artillery employment in the American Expeditionary Force. Grotelueschen follows one AEF division through its entire World War I experience, from preliminary training to each of its battles in France. This approach allows for great investigative depth and an opportunity to explore the implementation of doctrinal changes throughout the war.

Excerpt

Mark Grotelueschen has written a clever book, in which an initial investigation of the artillery methods of the 2nd U.S. Division in World War I turns into a larger analysis of the evolution of American doctrine. At the same time, Grotelueschen takes on the two main historical schools of thought about the American role in World War I, the Pershing advocates, and the revisionists, and finds a more accurate position in between these two schools.

The connection between artillery methods and doctrine emerges as Pershing and his General Headquarters (GHQ) pursue their well-known “open warfare” ideas, while the divisional commander of the 2nd U.S. Division and his commander of artillery soon find out that what their French trainers have been telling them is correct. This is that open warfare was not likely to work even in the more mobile environment of 1918, while carefully prepared set-piece battles were the key to success. Eventually, after hard won and bloody experience, the 2nd U.S. Division chose to adapt to the set-piece battle, although Pershing and his ghq managed to keep their doctrine alive by insisting on deep objectives and open warfare exploitation after the set-piece battle ended. Did this finally work? Grotelueschen comes to his own conclusions about that question.

Grotelueschen’s story of the struggle between competing doctrines also illuminates the nature of innovation. Where do changes and new ideas come from? Conversely, why do some commanders fail to change and adapt? This book is valuable also for comparative purposes. the reader who is familiar with the French, British and German commanders and their armies can find some interesting parallels in 1918. For the French, Foch and his prewar aggressive attack doctrine, like Pershing’s, does not

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