“Marines support Marines” Washington Post

Until earlier this month, McChrystal lacked operational control over the Marines, which would have allowed him to move them to other parts of the country. That power rested with a three-star Marine general at the U.S. Central Command. He and other senior Marine commanders insisted that Marines in Afghanistan have a contiguous area of operations — effectively precluding them from being split up and sent to Kandahar — because they think it is essential the Marines are supported by Marine helicopters and logistics units, which are based in Helmand, instead of relying on the Army.

After concern about the arrangement reached the White House, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who heads the Central Command, issued an order in early March giving McChrystal operational control of Marine forces in Afghanistan, according to senior defense officials. But the new authority vested in McChrystal — the product of extensive negotiations among military lawyers — still requires Marine approval for any plan to disaggregate infantry units from air and logistics support, which will limit his ability to move them, the defense officials said.

"At the end of the day, not a lot has changed," said a Marine general, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, as did several other senior officers and officials, to address sensitive command issues. "There's still a caveat that prevents us from being cherry-picked."

The Marine demand to be supported by their own aviators and logisticians has roots in the World War II battles for Guadalcanal and Tarawa. Marines landing on the Pacific islands did not receive the support they had expected from Navy ships and aircraft. Since then, Marine commanders have insisted on deploying with their own aviation and supply units. They did so in Vietnam, and in Iraq.

Despite the need to travel with an entourage, the Marines are willing to move fast. The commandant of the Corps, Gen. James T. Conway, offered to provide one-third of the forces Obama authorized in December, and to get them there quickly. Some arrived within weeks. By contrast, many of the Army units that comprise the new troop surge have yet to leave the United States.

"The Marines are a double-edged sword for McChrystal," one senior defense official said. "He got them fast, but he only gets to use them in one place.""  Chandrasekaran


The US Marine Corps continues to seem to think itself the army of some other country.  "Marineland?"  This is a country that they apparently believe thinks marine independence from the army to be all important.  I doubt that the citizens of the United States would support that view.

This situation, one in which the marines have acted as though the US Army is the real enemy, has been building since World War Two.  Before that they were too small to be much of a factor in the world.  In the '20s and '30s they found a niche for themselves in the doctrine for amphibious operations that they developed.  They fought valiantly, if sometimes foolishly, in the Pacific (Peleliu would be the prime example of that).  In fact, the Philippine Campaign of 1944-45 was a bigger operation than anything the marines conducted in the Pacific.  There were no marines in that.  There were no marines in Europe at all.  In Korea their one division did well, especially in the disastrous winter of 1950-51.  No one should deny that.  In VN, they fought bravely at places like Hue, but were notorious for failing to fully entrench defensive positions.  "We are assault troops.  Don't take the offensive edge of the men!"   

The US Marine Corps has long seemed to think that it has some esoteric, perhaps "gnostic" perception of the counterinsurgency business.  In Central America and Haiti in the interwar period the marines conducted largely successful COIN operations on the basis of control of the local governments.  Using that experience they produced a useful book, "The Small Wars Manual."  Nevertheless, marine lore ignores the fact that the US Army had conducted a larger and decisive COIN campaign in the Philippines against the Filipino Insurrectos.  In that campaign, under army control there was one marine infantry battalion.  They had an unfortunate experience on Samar.  IN VN, the marines insisted on carrying on their own version of COIN in the north within their area of responsibility and without much reference to the country wide COIN effort (CORDS).

In Afghanistan, we now have the spectacle of the marines building barriers around themselves to escape the effective control of an army general who is their commander. They negotiated a legal impediment to prevent McChrystal from using their assets as he saw fit?  Gentlemen, that is not soldierly behavior.  Would they behave this way if a marine general were the theater commander?

In WW1, the army did not hesitate to place Lejeune in command of the army's Second Infantry Division.  In WW2 the army did not argue against having a marine general in charge of the 10th Army on Okinawa when Buckner the 10th Army commander was killed.  On Peleliu, the army did not hesitate to reinforce the 1st Marine Division with US Army troops from the 81st Division who were available nearby on Angaur having captured their island objective.  Those army troops served on Peleliu under marine command.

I continue to be in favor of eventually merging the two forces but marine behavior in Afghanistan calls into question the issue of whether or not the marines can be team players.  pl


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47 Responses to “Marines support Marines” Washington Post

  1. Mad Dogs says:

    I’m no jarhead, but as a former member of the Senior Service (Navy for the ignoranti), I feel a small need (a very small need as long as it doesn’t require us to doff our sunglasses and put down rum and cokes on the fantail) to come to the defense of our distantly related crazy cousins.
    If the Army had been assigned to take Fallujah, they’d still be “making progress” there today while awaiting more reinforcements.
    Shorter Dogfaces: “Yeah, but in taking Fallujah, the Marines destroyed Fallujah!”
    Shorter Jarheads: “So, what’s your point?”
    All of the above written with no other intent than humor for the Junior Services. *g*

  2. Patrick Lang says:

    Your grasp of military history is appalling. Question for you – How many US Army troops were in the Fallujah battle?
    BTW, the US Army is the senior service by date of establishment. It is the Royal Navy that is the senior service over there. pl

  3. Neil Richardson says:

    Mad Dogs:
    “If the Army had been assigned to take Fallujah, they’d still be “making progress” there today while awaiting more reinforcements.
    Shorter Dogfaces: “Yeah, but in taking Fallujah, the Marines destroyed Fallujah!”
    Shorter Jarheads: “So, what’s your point?”
    All of the above written with no other intent than humor for the Junior Services. *g*”
    Actually the Marine Corps asked for the Army’s help. In fact during the Second Battle of Fallujah, the RCT-1 and RCT-7 had to rely on armored support from First Cav (esp. 2-7CAV). I know for a fact that the Corps units lagged behind in small unit tank infantry coordination which seemed like almost a joke to seasoned combat journalists.
    Of course back in my day, there was a rhyme that went something like:
    Hey diddle diddle. Here come the ____ Marines straight up the middle.

  4. Patrick Lang says:

    2/2 Inf, my old regiment were first into Fallujah. pl

  5. Patrick Lang says:

    Go read some serious military history and then come back and talk about something other than USMC propaganda. pl

  6. mike says:

    Colonel Lang:
    As I recall it was McArthur who wanted Pelelieu taken so that the Japanese could not use it as a staging airfield for attacks on his forces in the PI. Bull Halsey was against it as he felt that he could keep Japanese air off of McArthur’s back without taking Pelelieu. So the foolishness was not on the part of the Marines.
    As far your claim that the PI landings being a much bigger operation, that is true. And yes there were no Marines involved in the PI landings. But were they needed? it seems to me and it seemed to Admiral Nimitz at the time that the Phillipine landings were not needed at all. The Japanese troops on those islands were starving due to US Navy submarine operations against Japanese shipping. Nimitz wanted to bypass it altogether like he did with Truk and other points. The only reason Roosevelt gave in to McArthur’s paln was politics.
    You have posted on Pelelieu previously. Is your opining on that battle taught as gospel in Army command and staff schools and other circles? Or is that your father who served with McArthur talking through you? You should pay more attention to your uncle the Navy man.

  7. Kim Viner says:

    The thing I did not understand in the article was this,
    “After concern about the arrangement reached the White House, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who heads the Central Command, issued an order in early March giving McChrystal operational control of Marine forces in Afghanistan, according to senior defense officials. But the new authority vested in McChrystal — the product of extensive negotiations among military lawyers — still requires Marine approval for any plan to disaggregate infantry units from air and logistics support, which will limit his ability to move them, the defense officials said.”
    Are they kidding? Has it gotten to the point that military lawyers negotiate chains of command? I certainly don’t recall that during my joint staff tours. But, maybe I am wrong.

  8. Patrick Lang says:

    I suspect that at some point the marine legislative liaison effort succeeded in having their friends in Congress write into law something that ties marine aviation to their ground force. pl

  9. curious says:

    Hey watch it navy, when the marine is done building their new 5 aircraft carriers, next they will ask for full size nuclear aircraft carrier and submarines too. Then you’ll be out of your job. heh heh…
    incidentally, someone explain to me, how the marine LHD carrier suppose to work? It has no landing craft capability. no well deck. transporting marine would be strictly by V-22/helis. Isn’t that why we have regular aircraft carrier? Yes I know, living space for 1500 marine as well, but I thought the marine classic problem is not being able to bring along big fire power during landing. So now they have a ship that can only carry V-22 during landing and no vehicles? Shouldn’t they ask for a system that can send along heavy tank with the landing instead?
    What is the chance an LHD will be able to do low profile insertion without getting involved in naval shoot out with such huge ship and air presence. So now they need to protect that LHD with several ships. Pretty soon they gonna need a carrier battle group.
    If the marine is prepared to spend and maintain such elaborate battle group, then why not spend the money developing a submersible small aircraft carrier? At the very least this type of craft will have far less chance getting detected and fighting open naval battle. It can go in alone quitely (eg. go right to do what marine suppose to do, landing on the beach, instead of doing work what navy suppose to do) Submersible amphibious aircracft carrier is exotic, yes. But was already explored during WWII.
    I really don’t understand how the marine decide to invest on their big gears. Why be “little navy” when they suppose to have gear for landing.

  10. Patrick Lang says:

    Macarthur wanted that early on to protect the flank of the Leyte invasion before the 2nd Battle of the Philippine Sea which effectively eliminated Japanese naval aviation. After that happened Nimitz and senior marine officers decided to continue with the Palau group operation. As for the Peleliu operation itself, surely uou know what a poor job Rupertus did there.
    I have said before that I do not admire Macarthur. I am not my father. My US Navy uncles had no particular use for marines. On Makin my uncle John very nearly had a fist fight with Holland Smith who had come over from Tarawa to harass Ralph Smith the Army commander there. My uncle John was with the naval beach group and since he knew the marine Smith from China was walking over to talk to him when Holland Smith hit Ralph Smith. My uncle stepped between them. Holland Smith should have been tried for assault.
    The PI was American soil. We had a responsibility for the Filipino people. Strategically, we could have bypassed and gone to Taiwan. We could have bypassed a lot of those little islands in the central Pacific as well. “Politics?” An interesting concept. The Japanese Army killed a hundred thousand Filipinos in Manila. We should have left them to that? How about American PWs in the islands? Leave them also?
    Is that what marines teach in their schools” How superior they are to the Army? You confirm my suspicions. pl

  11. Tyler says:

    I have a better joke for you MD:
    Q: How do you kill a platoon of Marines?
    A: Throw a handful of sand against the wall and tell them to hit the beach.
    You also forget to mention that the reason the Marines had to retake Fallujah (with significan ARMY aid) was because they lost it in the first place, with GEN Matthis thinking he was some sort of warrior poet.
    Not to mention the clusterfuck that was Ramadi over there…

  12. Mark Logan says:

    Landing craft for the Marines went the
    way of the parachute for the Army PIRs. The helicopter regulated them largely to tradition. Cornering yourself on a beach? Only if you have to.
    If I were Gates, I would start floating notions of
    creating “MIR’s” along the lines of the Army PIR’s to
    scare some people into better coordination and less bureaucratic competition. Lawyers..how silly is that?
    I was a Jarhead, but I felt those that felt the need to repeat the propaganda were
    not true believers, and suspected their faith just a bit. (humor)
    Always resented the way the Navy tends to reserve higher brain functions to those who can steer ships.
    Army leadership? How much worse could it be? (humor alert 2)

  13. Patrick Lang says:

    We are just kidding. i have the greatest of respect for US Marines. I think of them as having much the same mentality as La Legion Etrangere.
    But- a couple of punch lines from army jokes about marines:
    “Green side up!”
    “Aren’t we getting to be a long way from the road?”

  14. Okay was is the best analysis of first and second Fallujah battles in print? Would like to read!

  15. shortwall says:

    Colonel Lang,
    I am surprised that you seem to accept the assertions in the Chandrasekaran article at face value. Unfortunately, in its shallow and headline-seeking treatment of an important issue, it illustrates the worst type of reporting on national security issues. Maybe the author was unable to look much deeper because he had to leave Afghanistan in a hurry to make it back to the US for the premiere of Matt Damon’s “Green Zone.” Regardless, to draw major conclusions from such an incomplete and narrow analysis as that contained in the article does little to support a professional discussion on an important topic. The idea that General McChrystal lacked “operational control” over Marine forces in his area of operations and that such control rested with a three-star Marine general at CentCom is simply ludicrous. And the “new authority” which was the “product of extensive negotiations among military lawyers” is likely neither new nor lawyer-driven.
    But let me first point out that your comments about the historical contribution of the Marine Corps are incomplete at best, and disingenuous at worst. You note, for example, that there were no Marines in Europe at all during WWII. Besides being inaccurate (a small number of Marines did serve in the OSS in Europe and on various ships and staffs in the theater), Marines helped train Army infantry divisions prior to the North Africa landings and later also helped train the assault divisions for the Normandy landings. As for being a force “too small to be much of a factor in the world,” I would suggest that a more useful question would be how such a small force could see the future need for an amphibious assault capability or, later, see the potential for helicopters.
    But on to the article — As you know, the Unified Command Plan, which is really an order approved by the president, defines a strategic commander’s area of responsibility (AOR). In turn, a combatant commander assigns an area of operations (AO) to a subordinate commander to define tactical responsibilities. As the theater commander, General Patraeus could certainly delegate authority to members of his CentCom staff in Florida any way he thought best, but the idea that he would retain operational control over major elements of combat forces which were evidently the main effort in recent operations in General McChrystal’s AO flies in the face of the operational DNA of the military’s leadership. Simply put, it makes no sense to do so and, on its face, would even seem counter-productive. Moreover, aside from the Washington Post article, there is little evidence of such a non-traditional command relationship. To embrace the author’s assertion as accurate, without more, is surprising, to say the least.
    As for General McChrystal’s “new authority” that was evidently only obtained after “extensive negotiations among military lawyers,” I suspect the author was trying to address the tension that exists whenever higher headquarters seeks to employ for other uses some integral part of a subordinate tactical force. Often, this tension focuses on the aviation assets of Marine air-ground task forces (MAGTF). And here the author’s shallow analysis is most evident. Current US Army doctrine considers Army aviation assets to be maneuver units. USMC doctrine treats organic aviation units as an essential part of the MAGTF. Army aviation units train closely with their ground brethren but can also doctrinally be employed independently. Marine aviation assets are critical “joined-at-the-hip” components of the MAGTF. Without its organic aviation element, the effectiveness of a MAGTF is significantly degraded, if not crippled. Why? Because the tightly integrated nature of a MAGTF, as well as its inherent capability to operate with a relatively small logistical tail, produces operational speed and exponentially enhances the combat power of the separate elements of the MAGTF. The parallel relationship is like that between a weapons platoon of a rifle company and the rifle platoons of that company. Only in the most dire of circumstances would a smart commander strip this operationally integrated combat team of its weapons platoon. For the same reason, Marines hold the MAGTF near sacred. The author’s portrayal of the issue as little more than a fight between lawyers is grossly poor reporting.
    In the end, the question of whether Marines can be team players is not to be answered by the likes of the Chandrasekaran article.

  16. VietnamVet says:

    The Washington Post article is a strange hodgepodge; Marines verses the Army, COIN, and Kandahar overrun by bad guys.
    Your picture of John Wayne brings back memories of John Ford and all those great old movies he directed; “They were Expendable”, “Fort Apache” and “My Darling Clementine”.
    The USA doesn’t teach history anymore, just passing tests. The Texas Board of Education has written out Thomas Jefferson and presumably the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark since they had nothing to do with the Lone Star state.
    Watch those old movies to see real history. The retreat from Bataan with not enough troops. Fighting insurgents with a screwed up commanding officer. The Wild West won by the coming of women, schools and civilization.
    The Marines will pacify all they want but sooner or later they will pull out to go to another hot spot. The Taliban will come back. I saw history. The Bong Song valley where Americans died in Vietnam from 1965 on, where I spent a year, was retaken by the Communist in 1972 after the last American troops left. Afghanistan is the same. History is history. Women, schools and Western Civilization are not coming to Delaram or Kandahar. An unwinnable war is unwinnable.

  17. Brian Hart says:

    Col. The article also mentioned the lack of strategic significance to the area they occupied and the fact that only 1% of the Afghan population lived there. In other words we have some of our best fighting forces, part of this so called surge, in an area of little strategic significance and few people. Gen. Nicholson is great for a headline or letting Taliban know what we are about to do next in marineistan, but what about Kandahar? Perhaps its time for a leadership change in the marine corp.

  18. Mark Logan says:

    I know. My favorite was:
    “Damn, this one doesn’t have any shoes either!”

  19. Fred Strack says:

    “…fewer than 1 percent of the country’s population lives in the Marine area of operations.” Sounds like the Marine Corps is doing what it does best, defend its reputation. Two quotes that negate one another:
    “Despite the need to travel with an entourage, the Marines are willing to move fast. The commandant of the Corps, Gen. James T. Conway, offered to provide one-third of the forces Obama authorized in December, and to get them there quickly. Some arrived within weeks.”
    Followed by: “Because the Marines cannot easily be moved to Kandahar,…”
    Yes indeed, the Marines can move half-way around planet Earth in weeks, but can’t get to Kandahar without ‘negotiations’. How many Americans soldiers will die because of this?
    Oh, and let us not forget that the Marines have female troops to interact with Afghan women, or a Muslim chaplain to lead prayers…. As if after almost a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan NO ONE else in the entire armed forces had thought of that!
    “Nicholson contends that if his forces were kept only in key population centers in Helmand, insurgents would come right up to the gates of towns.” And the Afghan people can rise right up and defeat them; for if the Afghan people won’t fight for their own country why the hell should any American die for it?
    How nice of the post to label this Obama’s war, especially since the reporting fails to note the complete and utter failure of the Bush Administration to succeed in Afghanistan 6 years. Now we have the Marine Corps engaging in its own strategy in its own way. And you thought Aipac gave the administration trouble.

  20. Fred Strack says:

    I believe your response to KV is correct, marine aviation was written into law in the late 50’s, back when the army was still fighting the Air Force for tactical air support and transport; at least that was my father’s description to me when he was a senior NCO at the JCS. He had an interesting anecdote about the Marines requesting Iwo Jima to be an all Marine Corps operation. I’ve never researched the historical section at JCS to see if that is true, but so he claimed.

  21. Tyler says:

    Isn’t there a monument somewhere dedicated to the “continued friendship” between the USMC and the Foreign Legion in the SW desert somewhere?

  22. Patrick Lang says:

    If you want to dispute Chandrasekaran’s facts, go argue with the Post!
    How do you know that he is wrong? you merely assert that he is.
    The number of marines you mention in Europe is a handful and no combat units. You know that. Shipboard detachments on capital ships? Do you really want to count them? How about the legation guard in London?
    Your remarks about the sanctity of marine aviation merely mean that you like things the way they are.
    You sound pretty defensive, marine. pl

  23. Ian says:

    “I continue to be in favor of eventually merging the two forces…”
    Why not go all the way and have a unified command structure? American interservice rivalries seem to cause all kinds of problems. To give another example, the apparent unwillingness of the air force to prioritize close air support.
    Canada went to a unified command structure back in 1968, merging the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force to form the Canadian Forces. This seems to be working out tolerably well.

  24. JMH says:

    Hot topic, statutory law mandates the number of USMC MEF’s. Whether they be active or reserve is anonther issue.

  25. shortwall says:

    Sorry if I sounded defensive. I prefer to focus on accuracy and effectiveness. Your comments were inaccurate so I called you on them. And besides, you essentially presented the Post’s article as factual, so be prepared to defend thyself!
    More importantly, I learned a long time ago that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. The real issue is how such a small force has had such an outsized impact. And that includes the ETO in WWII. The landing craft, fire support, embarkation and debarkation procedures, to say nothing of the control measures for the actual landing in Normandy and elsewhere, were not developed in London or Ft Polk. So, yes, the numbers of Marines in Europe were small. The impact of the USMC on the efforts to reenter the continent were anything but.
    As an aside, your point about the Army’s extensive COIN experience in the Philippines is well founded. But your assessment of the Marines’ view of that experience is way off base. There is little question but that the USMC learned far more from the Army experience in the Philippines than the Army did. The lessons the Army internalized during that era were those of the Indian fighters who had risen to leadership positions. Marines did not have that Western frontier experience so they studied how the Army conducted operations that were similar to USMC missions.
    As for the sanctity of Marine aviation, the point was really about the MAGTF, an operationally tailored organization that has been mimicked by the Air Force (Expeditionary Air Wings) and the Army. It has been copied because it is effective. So if arguing in support of a widely copied and highly effective approach sounds defensive, so be it. If someone wants to propose an effective change, convince me that it is an improvement and I will be first in line to advocate for it. The blood of our warriors and the treasure of this nation are too precious to risk over dogmatic adherence to ineffective approaches.

  26. mike says:

    Colonel Lang:
    I have never claimed any superiority to the Army. Not here on your blog or not anywhere else, ever! My father was a combat engineer in the Army and earned a battlefield commission, he was wounded gravely at the Rapido River. My grandmother’s baby brother, my great-uncle Dinty, got a taste of mustard gas when he served in the Army in France in WW-1. And with a father from Virginia and a mother from Maine, I have ancestors who served in both the Union and Confederate Armies. I also had an uncle in the SeaBees during WW-2 and a cousin (the smart one) in the Air Force during Vietnam. Not sure why I ended up with the Marines, perhaps I was the dumb one in the family or perhaps the crazy cousin as Mad Dogs might say.
    You say that: ”As for the Peleliu operation itself, surely you know what a poor job Rupertus did there.” Yes, I know. If you check your archives I think you will find that it was I that told you of General Rupertus’ bad decisions there. This was after you and I had a disagreement about a certain one time VMI cadet from a small Tidewater village in Virginia by the name of Lewis Burwell Puller.
    You say that: ”Macarthur wanted that early on to protect the flank of the Leyte invasion before the 2nd Battle of the Philippine Sea which effectively eliminated Japanese naval aviation. After that happened Nimitz and senior marine officers decided to continue with the Palau group operation.” You dust over the fact that the Palau operation was already in progress. It started on September 6th. Bull Halsey, after seeing weak Japanese air and ground defenses in the Philippines, sent his famous message on September 13th: “recommending that MacArthur skip his November 15th invasion of Mindanao and go directly to his eventual objective of Leyte as early as October 15th”. Nimitz decided not to cancel an ongoing operation. Yes Pelelieu was tragic, but not for some reasons that are proposed.
    As for the Smith-vs-Smith controversy, you may be right. I know that Ralph Smith was a hero in the 1st World War. I was not aware of the slapping incident. But then the Marines did not call him Holland M, they called him ‘Howling Mad” Smith for good reason. I do not believe he ever served in China. He did have pre-war service on the USS Galveston in the Asiatic Fleet, so perhaps your Uncle John had served with him there. Admiral Turner, in charge of the landings there claimed that General Ralph Smith’s excessive caution and dithering around on Makin cost them a carrier torpedoed because it was tied to the beachhead and the island should have been secured days earlier. The Smith-vs-Smith thing got worse on Saipan when Ralph was relieved of command by H.M. That was a tragedy. But then the relief was approved by General Jarman the senior Army General at the scene. And I also understand that Ralph Smith was exonerated by the Army, and given a command in the European theater. What unit was that, do you know? H.M. Smith did not escape the controversy either he was kicked upstairs to an administrative position where he would never again command troops in combat.

  27. Patrick Lang says:

    You clearly are not accustomed to people arguing with you.
    It is merely your opinion that my remarks were inaccurate.
    Come on, what was the end strength of the regular USMC in 1935? Liddell Hart, JFC Fuller and a couple other people revolutionized mobile warfare. Why does it bother you that a handful of marine officers were able to do the same for landing operations. I went through the Landing Force Training Unit with the brigade I was in when I was a kid and learned to load ships and all that. It didn’t seem all that difficult.
    Hell, they held the officer’s basic school at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in the ’30s. Why does it bother you that your tiny little service had so little real status before WW2? I just watched the 1st episode of “The Pacific.” Considering how few active marine regiments there were on Pearl Harbor day, it is quite commendable that the corps was able to put together a whole division by August, 1942. Six marine divisions in WW2 altogether. Ten Army divisions and five separate regiments on Luzon alone in 1944-45.
    I realize it must be frustrating that there were no marines in all the big European landings including the biggest one in history at Normandy as well as in all of the hated Macarthur’s landings in SOUWESPAC. Did you see “Saving Private Ryan?” Yes, I suppose that there were a few marine officers on Eisenhower’s staff. Too bad they didn’t teach the Army to “smoke” the beaches, but, I don’t remember the marines doing that in the Central Pacific either.
    Yes, the Army does not like COIN and will stop doing it as soon as it can.
    So, why aren’t marines team players? My real question is why you people are so easy to provoke. pl

  28. Patrick Lang says:

    The Peleliu operation had not actually begun when Halsey stated his opinion and Nimitz decided to continue.
    Rupertus was certifiable. As for HM Smith, Marshall eventually sent General Richardson, USARPAC CG to tell him that if he contiued to act in the same way toward the Army, Marshall would go to FDR and ask that HM Smith be removed.
    Puller’s medals and mine hang a few feet apart at VMI. L-P. I knew a lot about Peleliu before you wrote anything abotu it to me.
    Rupertus let the 1st Marine Division destroy itself attacking on Peleliu while an excellent Army division sat idle a few miles away on Angaur. His reason? He hated the Army. Puller tried desperately to get reinforcements for his men. Rupertus turned a deaf ear to that. I guess that it is not a good idea to recruit officers because they are good competition marksmen.
    Ralph Smith was “taking his time” on Makin. He told HM Smith that. That is why he was struck with a closed fist and knocked down by that lunatic.
    Mu uncle’s various gunboats were usually homeported in Shanghai. That was where the facilities and flagship of the Asiatic Squadron were located. pl

  29. Neil Richardson says:

    “As for General McChrystal’s “new authority” that was evidently only obtained after “extensive negotiations among military lawyers,” I suspect the author was trying to address the tension that exists whenever higher headquarters seeks to employ for other uses some integral part of a subordinate tactical force.”
    Assuming your guess is correct on aviation assets of MAGTF, well I don’t think it is a strong reason to fight tooth and nail over it. A lot of my relations have served and are still serving in the Corps and I hear this all the time regarding MAGTF doctrine. Well to be honest, I think it’s baloney. Every Marine (including my son) cites Guadalcanal as the reason for the sanctity of organic CAS component, but does the Corps think it’s the only service that’s ever been stranded by the Navy? There were over 80,000 Army personnel who were in much worse circumstances in the Philippines back in 1942. This is an institutional problem of the Corps. My experience is limited compared to Col.Lang and some others here, but I’ve seen similar arrangements in ROK in the 1970s and 1980s. Essentially the EUSA left the eastern sector to the Marines because they didn’t want to have anything to do with helping to cauterize what likely would’ve been massive armored thrusts along the Uijonbu corridor if the KPA had decided to come down.
    This was repeated in 1990-91 during Desert Shield, when Checkmate and the JFACC were putting together air tasking orders. The Marines consistently ran obstruction against any efforts of coordination by CENTAF. Horner essentially told Glosson to let the Marines do what they want, because he didn’t want the headache of going over to Schwarzkopf over and over again to nitpick what the Marines were doing. Dave Deptula detailed how the Marines would repeatedly undermine CENTAF’s development of the Master Attack Plan. (The MC staff would essentially list their primary targets that were unapproved by CENTAF as *secondary targets*. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that depending on who made the call, secondary would be struck rather than primary targets on any given ATO) Even if the Corps is distrustful of other services, one would think common sense would dictate that airspace deconfliction would take priority over service parochialism.
    The Corps has made a conscious doctrinal decision to rely more on tactical aviation as it decided to shortchange maneuver units of organic indirect firepower (On aside, while towed arty might work against third and fourth rate armies we’ve been fighting for the last few decades, I seriously doubt it would work against even a second rate ones such as the KPA. The days of towed artillery’s survival against semi-competent adversary’s counterfire have passed some time ago). You claim that this doctrinal force mix allows the Corps to rely on shorter logistical tail. I think that’s fanciful thinking as I know that the 7th MEB didn’t fully receive its fixed wing aviation component until early October 1990 despite the Corps repeated advertisement that it had deployed the first real ground forces in Saudi Arabia. The reason for this was the Air Force’s refusal to prioritize Marine units transfer for tanker sorties. What’s next? Will the Corps buy up its own organic air tankers for aviation wings? The whole reason d’etre of the Marine Corps is its expeditionary capability.
    I do appreciate the espirit de corps of the Marines as much as anyone, but there’s a fine line between parochialism and doctrinal enthusiasm. AFAIC, those A-10 drivers were among the finest Army aviators whether they were Air Force or not. Plenty of infantrymen and tankers in 1991 and in 2003 would gladly buy these men drinks if they’d happen to meet them somewhere. And A-10 drivers are essentially orphans of the Air Force who always saw them as stepchildren. The Marines have always used the 1986 Omnibus Agreement to limit opcon of its air assets (WTF is “excess air” in high intensity ground operations?). Well, if the doctrinal soundness (or at least flexibility) of the Corps had foreseen that its armor component wasn’t sufficient in Kuwait, perhaps they could’ve done without either the 1st British Armoured or the Tiger Brigade (Gen. de la Billiere forced Schwarzkopf to take the UK division away from the Marines in November 1990, because he felt they were doing their best to reenact Tarawa. In fact as LTG Bernard Trainor recounted Commandant Gray wanted to fire Boomer after a briefing in December 1990. Gray actually said “This is going to be another Tarawa. You are going right into their teeth.”). That’s why the Tiger Brigade were under tacon not opcon as the Brits weren’t the only ones who were distrustful of the Marine Corps doctrinal efficacy in those days.
    Institutional parochialism hasn’t been just limited to air assets. Just look at the whole SOC-capable nonsense. It took SOCOM decades to bring the Marine Corps to play ball. When we fight a capable adversary, our future force has to rely on our ability to leverage technological advantage through jointness of operations. Just think of an analogy to the interwar period when leading proponents of armored mechanized warfare were trying to overcome institutional obstacles. The Germans were successful in integrating major components (infantry, artillery, armor, engineer) into a very potent combat formation namely the panzer division. They also had their own RMA as radio communications advances were allowing superiors means of command and control. The Germans were fortunate that they had Guderian (who was originally a signals officer) and Erich Fellgiebel in working out the doctrinal details of achieving information dominance during mobile operations. However what is less well known is the fact that the British Army got there first, and could’ve easily maintained its early lead in mechanized combined arms operations. Their Experimental Mechanized Force exercises revealed all the future lessons of integration that the Germans fully exploited in the early years of Blitzkrieg. However, the British Army wasted this early and decisive lead for a number of reasons. Just as it had been the case in the US Army, the Reichsheer as well as the French army, service branch rivalries (infantry/artillery versus nascent armor as well as obsolescent horse cavalry) hampered integration. As Rommel noted the Brits never quite got the jist of combined arms operations as they continually repeated their mistakes of inflexible deployments of tank and infantry brigades.
    I’d like to think of the services as branches during the interwar period (Both infantry and artillery wanted to subordinate armor. In France, the doctrinal failure proved fatal. In the US Army the tank destroyer doctrine was the brainchild of the artillery branch. While it wasn’t fatal, this decision probably cost a lot more lives especially in NW Europe.). Whether we are able to jointly operate to fully utilize *all* our assets will determine our status as the predominant military power well into the future.

  30. HJFJR says:

    Rather than continue the fight about the Marines let me give you some Operational perspective.
    Beginning with OIF I, the C2 relationships has been. Army assigned to Commander MNFI/USFI OPCON (Operational Control); Navy, USAF, and USMC assigned to service component OPCON (operational control) and further assigned to MNFI/USFI TACON (tactical control). Special Operations forces likewise assigned to SOCCENT OPCON further assigned to MNFI/USFI TACON. The same Command and Control relationship was established in Afghanistan from the very beginning. Having served as a plans officer in Iraq in 2004 these command relationships worked, as the USMC never balked at any order or direction. I might add it helped that my BR was the CofS of the I MEF so a lot of BS was cut out.
    TACON as you are aware allows the Senior Commander limited ability to assign missions outside a designated Area of Operation; however in Iraq at least the USMC did not fall hard over on this–they were always willing to go to the sounds of the guns, often with Army augmentation. The service which was the biggest cry babies about changing missions under TACON was the USAF. While the USAF did not have many units in country the few they had were a pain in ass to get to do anything particularly in a crisis situation.
    From the time the I MEF crossed the border in the initial invasion of Iraq, the Army has augmented the USMC logistically and is augmenting the USMC logistically today in Afghanistan. The USMC lacks the logistics structure to provide long term support to its force.
    The biggest impediment to the Command and Control relationships was in the Army, as the Army component for CENTCOM had the responsibility for providing Army support to both Iraq and Afghanistan yet had no ability to direct Army units to comply with specific requirements. Here I am talking about the administrative requirements for logistics etc and not Operational requirements. Having served in the CENTCOM Army Component from the time I returned from Iraq to when I retired I can tell you that depending who was the Senior Army Commander in Iraq (read Corps) depended on the cooperation received.
    Lastly, while they can be a pain the ass at times I would want no other fighting force on my flank except the USMC.
    Hank Foresman

  31. steven gandy says:

    Colonel et all. I believe the Marines might want total operational control in the current Afghan operations because of the recent disasters involving army units deploying in outlying valleys near the Pakistan border. Colonel Lang commented at length about these. Not only were they untenable due to poor intelligence, the placement in low lying areas with no high ground control is contrary to all military concepts. Likewise, airsupport and logistics were almost non-existent. Would you trust the current group to watch your back? If I recall the Colonel suggested they all be replaced. Most likely they were promoted. Is there competitive tension between organizations? Absolutely. Which came first the military or corporate competiveness. As a Marine
    with the 1st MAW in the Vietnam 69 and 70 I saw first hand the incompetence of many officers and senior enlisted and the derision aimed at our army bretheren. Sending you on a fools errand to make the command look good is endemic to the modern military and possibly the military in general. We are all expendable.

  32. Patrick Lang says:

    I lost your comment. but if you think that FDR would not have had HM Smith removed at Marshall’s request, then you are just mistaken.
    “Like a shavetail?” Richardson? Sober up. Look at his wiki article. pl

  33. Patrick Lang says:

    This a good point, but it also argues the point that the marines are seeking “independence.” Can we afford that? pl

  34. Patrick Lang says:

    “I might add it helped that my BR was the CofS of the I MEF so a lot of BS was cut out.”
    Yes, that may have helped.
    For the uninitiated Hank means a classmate at VMI. (BR) pl

  35. JoeC says:

    Some comments on Peleliu:
    1. One hopes that Hamas in Lebanon has not looked too closely at the very effective Japanese approach to defending the rough terrain on Peleliu. Read any of the detailed accounts (for example, Seldge or even Hough’s official USMC campaign report).
    2. Agree completely with Col. Lang about Rupertus. His leadership was in my view criminally negligent and driven by some combination of personal and “Old Corps” arrogance combined with his hatred of the Army.
    3. Roy Geiger, the USMC task force commander ould have relieved Rupertus early in the campaign – particularly as Rupertus had hidden his leg injury from Geiger, but apparently Geiger chose not to do so to spare the damage to Rupertus. Geiger more or less dictated to Rupertus that an Army regiment be brought in to relieve Puller’s First Marines.
    4. This does not appear to be Puller’s finest hour. Most accounts suggest Puller had some form of breakdown and pushed his troops far beyond sensible limits. Among other critics, Peleliu Medal of Honor winner Everett Pope, a lieutenant in the First Marines, has been outspoken about Puller’s leadership.
    5. The worst account I have read about this senseless battle is in Admiral Layton’s book “And I was There: Breaking the Secrets – Pearl Harbor and Midway”. Layton served in Halsey’s Pearl Harbor communications intercept unit and was close to day to day deliberations in Halsey’s HQ. Layton indicates that it became clear that a landing on Peleliu was not needed only after the assault task force ships had been loaded and in progress to Peleliu and that the decision was made to go ahead with the landing as it would be too much work to turn the assault force back and unload the task force ships. While I hope on behalf of the 6000+ Peleliu casualties that Layton’s account is not correct – but it certainly is in keeping with the many other leadership failures in this campaign.
    6. The First Marine Division would have been far better prepared for the bloody challenges of Okinawa had reason prevailed at Peleliu.

  36. Patrick Lang says:

    Completely agree. Geiger was an aviator. Did ths play a role?
    THere were Army units in Europe that suffered fates similar to that of the 1st Marine Division. One that comes to mind was the 28th Infantry Division which went through three complete or nearly complete sets of riflemen and junior infantry officers in 1944-45. pl

  37. JoeC says:

    Col Lang –
    I am not sure whether Geiger being an aviator was a factor – but it might well have been. I will go back to my sources and see if they provide any insight on this point. Ground vs. air (zoomies) was a long-term conflict within the Corps at least through my RVN-era time there. Most likely Geiger’s reluctance was just a “good old boys” thing (as you note, the Corps was a pretty small family before the war broke out), although Rupertus was a Vandegrift (USMC Commandant after Guadalcanal) protegee – which might also have given Geiger pause to relieve Rupertus.
    I have read about some pretty terrible Army unit situations in Italy and also of Canadian forces engagements there, which as I recall raised some high-level leadership issues as well.

  38. Patrick Lang says:

    If you are referring to Mark Clark I think he was as bad as Rupertus. The Canadians i don’t know much aboot. pl

  39. mike says:

    Colonel Lang:
    Marshall never asked FDR to relieve H.M.Smith. He and Admiral King decided to let the matter drop. Richardson and MacArthur had a private conference with FDR in late July when FDR visited Ft Shafter, so that MAY be why H.M. Smith was kicked upstairs and never again had a combat command? Or maybe Nimitz did that on his own? Nimitz tried to keep the whole thing quiet to spare R.C. Smith’s reputation. Richardson was the one that would not let it drop and gave it to the press. I do not say this to denigrate General Richardson. I am aware of his sterling record in the Philippines during the Moro Insurrection where he was wounded and received the Silver Star. He was an outstanding officer and a good advocate for the Army.
    My source for the ass-chewing of LtGen Richardson by Admiral Turner was E.B. Potter’s bio of Nimitz. He relates that Richardson had chewed out H.M. Smith for relieving R.C. Smith from command in front of a subordinate MGen Harry Schmidt. Howling Mad supposedly held his temper during the ass chewing but passed it on to his superior Admiral Turner. Kelly ‘Terrible’ Turner was never one to be a shrinking violet and when Richardson visited his flagship he “reminded him of the chain of command and the requirements of protocol. Richardson replied that he was in no way accountable to any officer in the Marianas. At that, Terrible Turner let loose a blast that caused the visiting general to turn white with anger. Restraining his wrath, Richardson went at once to the Indianapolis to complain to Spruance. The latter tried to make light of the situation. ‘That’s just Kelly Turner’s way,’ he said, ‘and no one takes him seriously’.”
    But Admiral Turner was pissed, he forwarded a report titled “Reporting unwarranted assumption of command authority by Lieutenant General R. C. Richardson, Jr., USA”. He was already down on R.C. Smith because he had previously blamed him for the loss of the USS Linscome Bay torpedoed and sunk off of Makin with 53 officers and 591 enlisted KIA while R.C. was ‘taking his time’. This was more than three times as any KIA sustained on the ground at Makin itself. Some other Navy KIA at Makin included several Naval Shore Party working with your Uncle.
    I would love to read some detailed history of MGen R. C. Smith or of Richardson. Are there bios out there on them? Or are there any historical references of the incident on Makin that your Uncle John witnessed. I do not dispute his account. But would love to read more detail about it. Sounds like a great movie, a la Patton. I find no mention of it in Potter’s book and none in a bio on Marshall. Cannot at this time check My copy of Samuel Eliot Morison’s history of the Pacific War as I have that loaned out.

  40. Patrick Lang says:

    If you are a retired senior officer with service in Washington, you know that the way things are handled is exactly like the process you describe. HM Smith was probably removed because he had become an embarassment to the senior officer collectivity who very much wanted Marshall not to go to Roosevelt. pl
    Richardson was eventually promoted to full general. In addition to the combat stuff you mentioned he was a very cultured military diplomat who spoke several languages. He was at home in a wide variety of settings. Could that be said of HM Smith or Turner?
    Turner’s ourburst would have angered him but no more. The causal connection attributed by Turner to the sinking of that escort carrier is just bullshit. He was merely rude. Turner’s complaint about Richardson was meaningless in the context of what was going to happen.
    My uncle was a brave and selfless man. He had two awards of the Navy Cross and 14 Purple Hearts. He did not accept your judgement of Ralph Smith. He would have said as I do that Ralph Smith’s reputation did not require protection. pl

  41. Bart says:

    “We could have bypassed a lot of those little islands in the central Pacific as well.”
    Well, who sent the marines to those rocks?

  42. Patrick Lang says:

    Not the Army, not Macarthur. The Navy was the deciding organization. pl

  43. hotrod says:

    Little to contribute to this (for now), other than to point out that Curious is mistaken. The Tarawa/Wasp type assault ships (LHDs) have well decks and do carry landing craft. The old Iwo Jimas were helo only, but have long since been retired. I’m not a Marine and have no idea how the (very limited) armor of a MEU or MEB is apportioned between the LHDs and the LSTs of a strike group/task force/whatever.

  44. Charles I says:

    Wow, school is in today. Thanks to all.

  45. curious says:

    The Tarawa/Wasp type assault ships (LHDs) have well decks and do carry landing craft.
    Posted by: hotrod | 16 March 2010 at 09:01 AM
    Sorry, I meant the LHA
    My big questions:
    1. These are pretty big ships that will last 20-25 years. A $1B+ a piece. But to me it seems it will become obsolete in less than 5 years. While readily available alternative to accomplish same task is available.
    2. Observing the speed coastal defense development, pretty soon these LHA have to be parked 150 miles off coast unless one can track where all the anti ship missiles going to be. (Think C-802/c-706/brahmos with better electronic) This will effectively cut the airplane effective range to about 100 miles inland or so. Which is pretty much classic beach landing.
    3. since it has no catapult. It can only carry “slow” and easy to shoot down aircraft. heli/V-22 has giant radar signature and can’t fly very high. (just about everybody will have low portable anti aircraft missile) helis/V-22 are unsuitable for war period. They are cute, but useless. Unless we are talking war against taliban or somalias guerillas…etc. F-35 might have a chance, but it has no range.
    So in a serious war (say, Lebanon, syria, iran, taiwan, north korea,) in 2018-2020. LHA+V-22 are useless. Someone has to clear the coast for the slow aircraft and gigantic ship to safely operate. Which is what marine suppose to do in the first place.
    so instead of that V-22 vortex machine to drop marine at turtle speed half a platoon at a time, why not:
    1. For dropping marines anywhere on the map. a capsule/pod + GPS guided kit + parachute system, put marine and his gear in the capsule, under F-18 and fly at mach 1.8, drop him within 5 inch of landing target. There will be no arms and leg flailing around trying to do manual parachute landing. Or better yet, get that useless B-1B, fit it with several hundred marine pod and drop all of them like large precission munition. 200-300 marines for each flight. At 3 times the speed. Hey if this system is good enough for bringing back astronouts from low orbit. It’s more than enough for dropping a marine at leisurely speed of mach 1.8 at 5-6 miles beyond air defense range. Why bother with “ship” and V-22 at limb ripping 300mph and get shot down? Cheap, fast, effective. Use a full size aircraft carrier and load it up with “real” transport plane (C27J) with 10 times the effective distance. V-22 is a toy.
    2. underwater landing craft. under 20 feet deep, no bullet can reach it. Under 300 feet, electromagnet transmission drop to zero. Wrap a tank in plastic sheet, give it zero buoyancy and disposable propulsion for one way 60 miles trip 100 feet underwater. You get a slightly moist heavy tank on the beach. What is the chance somebody develop an advance enough mine/torpedo that can chase small craft rig? if they can, then deploy anti mine underwater robot.
    I imagine, landing marine using disposable submersible from LHD in case of normandy style landing is even easier. Underwater warfare is far more primitive and simply doesn’t develop compared to air combat. 20 years from now it’s will still be some guy trying to listen to bleep and ping on headphone because computers are just too dumb and easily confused.
    I for one think a modified conventional submarine would make better 20 years investment.
    I don’t know, the whole thing seems oddly antiquated to me.

  46. DevilNutz says:

    What the hell are you talking about “Curious”?
    Submersible carriers and deploying Marines in capsules from bombers? I doubt you’d strap your corpulent ass into anything of the sort.
    How about we train dolphins to use SAWs and hand grenades? Maybe genetically engineer some unicorns to frolic along the beach and gore the enemy before we even land?
    This isn’t Halo you turd. Go troll the gamer forums.

  47. Kevin Flynn says:

    I am a Staff Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and Iraq War Veteran. I feel it is my duty to weigh in on this debate. I have no ill will towards my Army Brothers and have a number of “Army Friends”. Now, with that being said, All Marines believe we are the product of superior training. Our Esprit de Corps is also second to none. Our Standards and training are also the best in the US. Armed Forces. Our discipline and Physical fitness and Martial arts training is not for everyone.
    In the opinion of this Marine Staff Non-Commisioned Officer America needs a United States Marine Corps. America deserves a Small, Proud, and sometimes Eccentric group of Warriors who at a moments notice will go anywhere and fight anyone no matter what the odds.
    We may act like the “Drunk Uncle”, at the party but you will never find a more dedicated and professional group, We may have our hair cut way too short and Yes, Our Dress Blues do impress the Ladies. But, Let me say that We earned the right to have a little swagger.If Generals want to argue about who is in charge of what, that means nothing to me. But, when People start talking about dissolving My Marine Corps… I say, NO WAY !!!

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