Academic journal article Military Review

Into the Breach: Historical Case Studies of Mobility Operations in Large-Scale Combat Operations

Academic journal article Military Review

Into the Breach: Historical Case Studies of Mobility Operations in Large-Scale Combat Operations

Article excerpt

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead. In peace there's nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility: But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger                                         --William Shakespeare, Henry V 

The operational environment the U.S. Army faces today has changed significantly from that of recent years. Emerging regional threats like Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran have resulted in a need to shift the U.S. Army's doctrine to address possible future large-scale combat operations (LSCO) against peer or near-peer competitors. While the U.S. Army has been "bogged down" in counterinsurgency and stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last seventeen years, our potential adversaries have studied our existing doctrine and capabilities with the intent to develop means to counter our once-guaranteed land domain overmatch. (1) As a result, for the first time since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military and coalition forces face adversaries that have the ability to compete and in some instances even outmaneuver and overmatch our forces.

The U.S. Army's recently published Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, provides a doctrinal approach for theater armies, corps, divisions, and brigades to address the challenges associated with large-scale ground combat. The FM mentions that "historically, battlefields in large-scale combat operations have been more chaotic, intense, and highly destructive than those the Army has experienced in the past several decades." (2) Large-scale exercises, as were seen in the 1980s in Europe, have not been conducted for decades. The skills to participate, lead, and fight in such large-scale combat operations as described in FM 3-0 have atrophied and, as a consequence, the Army needs to rebuild itself and foster institutional and cultural changes to successfully fight tomorrow's multi-domain operations.

Fortunately, the U.S. Army is a learning organization that is proud of its history and heritage, and capable of adjusting rapidly to meet new challenges and threats. To achieve the necessary adjustments, we can gain valuable insights through the study of history, which is why Lt. Gen. Michael D. Lundy commander of the U.S. Army's Combined Arms Center, specifically instructed the Army University Press to produce the Historical Case Studies in Large-Scale Combat Operations book set. The purpose of this initiative is to introduce Army commanders and their staffs to some of the challenges one might encounter in LSCO, to teach situational critical thinking, and to open the discussion of warfighting issues of mutual interest to the Army and joint community.

Due to the simple reason that without mobility maneuver forces would go nowhere, the LSCO book set would not be complete without a volume specifically addressing mobility operations. As the command historian for the U.S. Army Engineer School, I immediately volunteered to lead this endeavor and bring home this project to the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence (MSCoE) at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. MSCoE consists of the U.S. Army Engineer School; the Military Police School; and the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear School, which all have their place in mobility operations in LSCO.

Into the Breach: Historical Case Studies of Mobility Operations in Large-Scale Combat Operations is a collection of ten historical case studies of mobility and countermobility operations drawn from the past one hundred years with insights for modern LSCO. It is organized chronologically to include World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, and Desert Storm.

Andrew Huebner starts the book with a closer look at the Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive on the eastern front during World War I. Even though the offensive is seen as one of Germany's greatest feats in the war, it is still one of many understudied topics by military historians of the West. …

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