U.S. Army Doctrine: From the American Revolution to the War on Terror

By Bonin, John A. | Parameters, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

U.S. Army Doctrine: From the American Revolution to the War on Terror


Bonin, John A., Parameters


U.S. Army Doctrine: From the American Revolution to the War on Terror

By Walter E. Kretchik

Lexington: University Press of Kansas, 2011

408 pages

$39.95

U.S. Army Doctrine: From the American Revolution to the War on Terror is an ambitious book. Walter Kretchik attempts to capture a previously ignored complex and esoteric subject in a comprehensible manner. He is a member of a small group of contemporary military historians who are unafraid to study previously unappealing topics in institutional history, in this case, Army doctrine. Kretchik is a retired Army officer and an associate professor of history at Western Illinois University.

Kretchik seeks to provide an overview of the US Army's dominant doctrinal publications and some of the individuals who shaped its operations from 1779 to 2008. Kretchik considers doctrine to be a subcategory of military literature distinguished by two characteristics: approval by a government authority and mandatory use. As an approved and prescribed publication, doctrine stands juxtaposed to "informal practice" which evolves from custom, tradition, and actual experience. His primary focus is how Army leadership perceived the conduct of military operations, with less attention paid to administration or sustainment. The author acknowledges he does not consider every Army doctrinal publication during this long period, but establishes what constituted the service's "keystone" manual during a particular era and judges its impact in preparing the Army to accomplish its mission.

Prior to 1779, no American warfighting doctrine existed as Colonial militia and Ranger units followed "informal practice." According to Kretchik, General George Washington realized by 1778 that the Continental Army needed a standardized doctrine to regulate tactical warfare procedures. Baron von Steuben's Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States Army were approved by Congress in April 1779 and constituted the US Army's first doctrine. Adaptations of French or Prussian tactics, essentially branch tactical drill manuals, constituted the first era of Army doctrine from 1779-1904. This changed in 1905 when the Root reforms fixed doctrinal responsibility with the new Army general staff. The Field Service Regulations of 1905 shifted from pure tactical branch matters to regulating broader combined arms service behavior in the field, with the division as the basic combat organization. Post-World War I, the Field Service Regulations of 1923 captured the lessons of that war and emphasized field forces within a theater of operations from groups of armies to divisions, while including considerations of tanks, the air service, and chemical weapons. On the eve of World War II in 1939, the Army split Field Service Regulations into three parts: FM 100-5, Operations; FM 100-10, Administration; and FM 100-15, Large Units. Unfortunately, from this point on, Kretchik only traces FM 100-5 and its successor, FM 3-0. …

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