American War Plans

By Mendel, William | Military Review, July/August 1997 | Go to article overview

American War Plans


Mendel, William, Military Review


AMERICAN WAR PLANS, Edited and introduced by Steven T. Ross. Garland Publishing Inc., New York. 1995. 1919-1941: Volume 1, Peacetime War Plans, 1919-1935. 212 pages, 589.00. Volume 2, Plans for War Against the British Empire and Japan, The Red, Orange and Red-Orange Plans, 1923- 1938, 412 pages, $139.00. Volume 3, Plans to Meet the Axis Threat, 1939-1940, 345 pages, $123.00. Volume 4, Coalition War Plans and Hemispheric Defense Plans, 1940-1941. 365 pages, $127.00.

Volume 5, Plans for Global War, Rainbow-5 and the Victory Program, 1941, $110.00.

Volume 6, American War Plans,19451950, 189 pages, 1996. $32.50. Frank Cass, London. Distributed by Intemational Specialized Book Services Inc., Portland, OR.

In the five American War Plans volumes published by Garland Publishing, Steven T. Ross reviews the development of 21st-century US military strategy. With little accompanying narrative, these volumes provide declassified war plan photocopies from the National Archives. Ross' sixth volume, published by Frank Cass, is a detailed narrative of war planning before the Korean War but without the supporting plans. Despite contrasting styles, all six volumes are useful research resources for military historians and strategists.

Ross' books look at the evolution of the Joint Board, made up of US Army and Navy war planners, which was established in 1903 mainly because of poor Army and Navy staff performance during the Spanish-American War. Unfortunately, the board scuttled itself on the eve of World War I because of Army-Navy bickering over Pacific region strategy.

After World War I, a reorganized Joint Board guided US contingency and war planning until World War II began. The Army and Navy chiefs and their plans and operations deputies developed the strategies for peacetime contingencies and for launching the US World War II effort.

The reader probably will go to the key World War II plans first. The war plans against the British Empire and Japan-Red, Orange and Red-Orangewere early planning scenarios. For example, Plan Red-Orange pointed out logistic, operation and force structure requirements.

Ross shows how Plan Rainbow 5 was transformed from a major regional European contingency plan to a global war plan. After a US, British and Canadian agreement in 1941, Rainbow 5 became the framework for the strategic global plan-win in Europe first while defending in the Far East. Ross writes, "The real value of the plan . . . was in training staff officers to cope with the range of problems associated with global war."

Of equal interest are the US plans for dealing with lesser contingencies. Plan Yellow was developed to land a China Relief Expedition of 40,000 troops to maintain communications along the railroad from Peking to the sea. The theater of operations encompassed "the territorial limits of China. …

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