The Logistics of Withdrawal

300pxclocktowershermangrantsheridan Ladies and Gentlemen

We have received the two appeals posted below from Major Ed G. now at a student in the Army schools at Ft.Leavenworth, Kansas.

I ask that you help him with his research to the extent that it is possible for you to do so.  pl



I came across this string and found it quite interesting.  I thought this would be a great topic for a class I am taking at CGSC.  My proposed topic is "What can our military history teach us that can be applicable to our eventual departure from Iraq." 

My problem is that redeployment / demobilization is not sexy and there-fore not covered as extensively as deploying to war or conducting operations in a campaign.  The data that is prominent is how many service members were released back to society. Nothing about how much equipment we left or logistical challenges faced when someone gave the green light to head home.   If you can share a search string or vector me towards some sources then I will be happy to share the final product. Regards, Ed"



Missed the trackback URL. Trying to find data (historical) from previous wars that should assist any planners in developing a redeployment / demobilization from Iraq. My internet searches have proved to be limited in content.


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20 Responses to The Logistics of Withdrawal

  1. COL M says:

    MAJ G – recommend that you contact the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

  2. Annie says:

    Would it be OK to post your query to a reference librarians’ list dealing with difficult research questions?

  3. Andy says:

    Maj G,
    You’re not going to find much through internet searches. I recommend you do some searches in gray literature databases at the Ft. Leavenworth library – the librarian should be able to guide which databases and sources to focus on. Alternatively, you can use the databases available at
    The one great place on the internet for such information, however, is DTIC, which will probably be your best source on the topic, at least for recent conflicts. Here are some possibles from a quick search I did in the technical reports section (BTW, “KEYSTONE” was the name given for the plan to withdrawal from Vietnam, so a search on that will get you some good hits.):
    Operation KEYSTONE ROBIN. Abstract:

    The after action report is the official account of Operation KEYSTONE ROBIN: the redeployment of the 3d Brigade, 9th Infantry Division from the Republic of Vietnam during the last quarter of 1970. The redeployment concluded the role of the 9th Infantry Division–THE OLD RELIABLES–in Vietnam conflict. With the departure of the 3d Brigade, Long An Province and 25th Infantry Division (ARVN) forces assume total responsibility for the military role and pacification in the Province. Early planning combined with both administrative and operational flexibility enabled the brigade to conduct a smooth phased withdrawal for redeployment/inactivation.

    There’s No Place Like Home – Considerations for the Redeployment of a Corps. Abstract:

    The purpose of this paper is to determine and analyze the considerations for the redeployment of a US Army corps. The redeployment of the 1st Infantry Division from Vietnam in Operation Keystone Blue Jay, Military Traffic Management Command’s after action reviews (AAR) from various Return of Forces to Germany (REFORGER) exercises, and AAR’s from the redeployment from Operation Desert Storm form the basis of the study. This paper begins with a discussion of the need to consider redeployment as the US Army downsizes in a changing world environment. The author’s belief is that a smaller Army must be efficient in its redeployment in order to meet its various contingency missions. Headlines from the redeployment from Operation Desert Storm indicate a four to nine month lag time between return to the United States and readiness to deploy. The lessons from Operation Keystone Blue Jay, REFORGER exercises and Operation Desert Storm are examined to identify common ground.

    One other option is to head over to the Small Wars Journal council. Several of the staff at Leavenworth, USMA and others are active participants (among many other knowledgeable people). I’m sure they could provide some more direction and resources.
    Best of luck to you on this important topic.

  4. JfM says:

    A couple considerations as I recall from my earlier C&GSC reading on the expansive issue of military withdrawal operations. Obviously there are a number of assumptions (some quite complex and often conflicting with one another) made in any broad estimate and planning calculation. One the first is the issue of residual presence; is the US going to maintain a diminished presence and with what role? Next the issue of available backhaul resource and how much time is available? A ‘grab yer cheeks and run for your life’ operation is very different than a phased orderly withdrawal. The ‘what is desired’ in the withdrawal scheme must pass the ‘what is possible’ test before being made part of the plan. Certainly a friendly supportive or even neutral civilian population geometrically simplifies the actual withdrawal. Security considerations rule the logisticians’ limits and capabilities.
    But in the end, the pacing element for the forthcoming eventual but assured US withdrawal lies to the TBP diplomatic agreement between the sovereign government of Iraq and the United States. I am confident the United States military will execute to the best of their ability whatever given them The final challenge lies on this side of the water with the need for enlightened civilian leadership only agreeing to conditions which facilitate the military’s success on the ground far away.

  5. Assume the question is different than conducting retrograde movements while in contact with the enemy? Certainly not expert in this area but wonder what will our system be to aid Iraqi’s that really helped the US forces? I would like to see that policy written down. By the way how being is the heliopad on the roof of the new Baghad Embassy?

  6. rst says:

    An excellent and important question-set, which raises many others. For example, what happens to “abandoned” weapons (and why were they abandoned)? If the answers are sometimes obscure or unexplained, there may be reasons other than that they are “not sexy.”
    For example, excellent investigative journalists like Joseph Trento (see PRELUDE TO TERROR) or the late Jonathan Kwitny (see THE CRIMES OF PATRIOTS) have looked into the covert and criminal uses of abandoned weapons. And for a more recent example, i.e., what happened to the vast storehouses of Soviet weaponry at the end of the Cold War, have a look at Misha Glenny’s McMAFIA.
    In short, some of the mist around this issue shares precipitation with the mist around the global arms-trafficking business, and the literature around that is voluminous.
    Perhaps a start might be the annual “Small Arms Surveys” released by Geneva’s Graduate Institute of International Studies (look especially at the data on stockpiles), the many UN reports on transnational organized crime, or the works of criminologist scholars like McGill University’s R.T. Naylor.
    Hope this helps – I wish you the best on your research, and look forward to reading whatever you discover.

  7. Jim Bouman says:

    I’m not at all familiar with military questions of movement of armies–aside from the astonishingly tragic and heart-breaking story told in this– –graphic by Joseph Minard. The subject: Napoleon’s Moscow campaign of 1812.
    Merely looking at the map of Iraq shows the evident difficulties in removing hundreds of thousands of men and women and tens of $billions of material and equipment out of that place. Iraq’s bordering states: Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia present a simple fact: everything has to leave by way of the single port on the Persian Gulf, on ships that must travel practically within hollering distance of the Iranian coast, then make a hairpin turn while wriggling through the 30- mile-wide Straits of Hormuz.
    I don’t know whether the Armed Forces of the US have been training for the coordinated withdrawal of all those people and all that gear.
    If they haven’t, they better get started PDQ.

  8. Patrick Lang says:

    I haven’t heard from Major G on this but I think you should post the query. I would be curious to see what you get as response. pl

  9. Maj G says:

    Folks thanks so much for the wealth of information and recommendations. Since I might get on a soapbox stance later on I need to put this out first: The views stated by me are mine alone and not the views of the US Army, CGSC or DOD.
    COL M – Sir, WILCO and found some useful items this evening.
    Annie – Sure as a taxpayer I am curious to see what can be turned up.
    Andy – Greatly appreciate the info and will do on the recommendations.
    JfM – Concur on “security considerations” however in OIF1 we ran convoys without external security for 8 months – we were lucky a few times. I can’t see a “grab your cheeks” scenario occurring there is too much at stake for the Iraqi power brokers though there are powerful lessons from 1968 – 1975 to be remembered.
    Mr Cumming – A retrograde under fire example we studied was TF Smith (Korea)- excellent point for any operation is leadership. I believe there is an agreement with the ISF.
    rst – interesting will look into the recommendations.
    Mr Bouman – Sir, The difficulty is in the diplomacy with the countries you referenced if we (Army) need to do another Red Ball Express the units could handle it.(WWII) One change I would add to your statement is “hollering distance to an Iranian speedboat”.
    What I have found so far is that we will not have the personnel drawdown dilemmas of previous wars. We are growing our Army. We will continue our reliance on contracted air (Vietnam/Desert Storm) for unit (WW1/Vietnam/DS) redeployments.
    We can’t afford to leave behind our major combat systems as we need equipment for our growing force HOWEVER we will continue to outfit the ISF with enough gear to maintain security for their country (Vietnamization?).
    We have a system in place to return small units directly out of Iraq but the main fighting forces and larger units will still need to ensure that their gear gets on the boat. Therefore no change to the current system (Vietnam/DS).
    We have a decent operation already in place for redeploying and should make if necessary very minimal changes. (Vietnam/DS)
    What is going to be an interesting piece in the eventual redeployment is how do we handle our contractors/ I am not sure if TO 139 / Logcap 4 have any provisions covering this topic. Any thoughts?
    Thanks again for the helpful comments and continued dialogue

  10. Henry Foresman says:

    I have recently been looking at this subject also; it is going to take a great deal digging to unearth useful information. From the little research which I have done, the United States Army has not done this well. While we managed to bring a great deal of equipment back from Europe at the end of World War II; quite a bit of equipment was left and ultimately was used by the Armies of Europe. On the other hand our withdrawal from the Pacific was poorly executed; the United States often abandon equipment in a rush to return to the States. Vietnam also offers a lesson on how not to do it. The magnitude we face today is greater than in WWII; as we were not worried about environmental cleanup–a fact we will have to consider in any withdrawal.

  11. Patrick Lang says:

    I would like to see SST and TA serve as this sort of channel of communication between SSTers and the military.
    Major G
    Thanks for providing feedback. In re COL M, she is an old friend of mine.
    Mr. Foresman
    Which VN departure are you thinking of, the one that lasted for four years and was quite “deliberate,” or the the panic driven one that followed the rout of the VN forces?

  12. Mike Martin, Yorktown, VA says:

    MAJ G, assuming you’re referring to the movement of pax & cargo back to the CONUS. Recommend you see if there’s not an Army liaison at USTRANSCOM at Scott AFB, IL who could point you to someone in the J3 shop. The good news is that the movement channels are in fact mature channels, so, in a large sense, the redeployment should be fairly smooth.

  13. Mike Martin, Yorktown, VA says:

    MAJ G, if I might suggest, perhaps you could address what effect, if any, the Army’s modular organization – the various BCTs – has on redeployment.

  14. Alex says:

    Allan Rosenberg, CPA South chief in 2003, career Maersk Line container shipping executive, now with KGL.

  15. s4atwar says:

    I am in no way an expert on such large movements. I’m a Battalion S4 in a unit currently deployed in Iraq and can tell you that this is a problem set that is being given serious consideration. I’m not on one of the major COBs (i.e. Balad, Victory, Speicher) but am located on one of the numerous outlying FOBs which cover the entire country. As I’m sure MAJ G is initmately aware, the military has been deploying and redeploying units into and out of this theater for years now. When the withdrawal occurs it will be phased, we won’t be lifting people off of the Embassy roof.
    On the smaller FOBs there is already discussion of turning patrol bases and JCCs over to the IA. Once the Battallions can consolidate on their FOB, out of the cities, then its a matter of further consolidation back to the major COBs. Further consolidation allows for further drawdowns.
    That, however, isn’t the most interesting, or challenging, dilemma. Readers who have deployed know that you only take a certain amount of equipment with you to Iraq, the rest is theater provided equipment (TPE). All of our HMMWVs, MRAPs, a large number of our heavy machine guns, and a host of other pieces of property belong to whichever unit is currently deployed. We’re certainly not going to give all those Bradley’s and MRAPs to the IA (maybe we are, like I said I’m small time). Even with the equipment we’ve already provided them, will they be able to sustain themselves for very long? Do they posses the logistical capacity to maintain all of their equipment? What is going to happen when their supply network can no longer support the logistics-intensive materials we’ve given them, especially if, during our withdrawal, we give them even more. Similar events happened at the end of Vietnam and the results were perilous for the ARVN.
    There is a brief discussion of it here on my blog. But this is an outstanding piece on logistics more generally in an insurgency.

  16. s4atwar says:

    COL Lang, sir, If I may add to my last comments.
    Regarding contractors and how best to handle them, they are already leaving. The public hears about KBR, L3, and the major players. Just like the U.S. Army they have a significant logistical infrastructure in place capable of handling the withdrawal. The smaller ones, the hundreds, or thousands if you include third country nationals running stores on American bases, that the public never hears about, are already leaving, being downsized, or pulled from the country. One South African security company I’ve worked with is leaving here and heading straight to Afghanistan. As the military starts its withdrawal, I believe the free market will play its part and the contractors will slowly withdraw as well.

  17. Maj G says:

    Thanks again for the vaulable input and thoughts.
    From my research last night I found something that may be how OIF is depicted in the history books.
    ‘The last phase of American involvement in Iraq was carried out under a broad policy called Iraqization. Its main goal was to create strong, largely self-reliant Iraqi military forces, an objective consistent with that espoused by U.S. advisers as early as 2003. But Iraqization also meant the withdrawal of 200,000+ American soldiers, sailors, airmen, coasties and contractors. Past efforts to strengthen and modernize Iraq’s Army had proceeded at a measured pace, without the pressure of diminishing American support, large-scale combat, or the presence of formidable forces in the country. Iraqization entailed three overlapping phases: redeployment of American forces and the assumption of their combat role by the Iraqi Army; improvement of the Iraqi Army’s combat and support capabilities, especially firepower and mobility; and replacement of the Military Assistance Command by an American advisory group. Iraqization had the added dimension of fostering political, social, and economic reforms to create a vibrant Iraqi state based on popular participation in national political life. Such reforms, however, depended on progress in the pacification program, which never had a clearly fixed timetable.’ American Military History Vol XX Chp YY. The U.S. Army in Iraq from Fallujah to the final withdrawal, 2004 – 2011
    This protrayal of the future is based upon actual events listed: “The last phase of American involvement in South Vietnam was carried
    out under a broad policy called Vietnamization. Its main goal was to create strong, largely self-reliant South Vietnamese military forces, an objective consistent with that espoused by U.S. advisers as early as the 1950s. But Vietnamization also meant the withdrawal of a half-million American soldiers. Past efforts to strengthen and modernize South Vietnam’s Army had proceeded at a measured pace, without the pressure of diminishing American support, large-scale combat, or the presence of formidable North Vietnamese forces in the South. Vietnamization entailed three overlapping phases: redeployment of American forces and the assumption of their combat role by the South Vietnamese; improvement of the South Vietnamese Army’s combat and support capabilities, especially firepower and mobility; and replacement of the Military Assistance Command by an American advisory group. Vietnamization had the added dimension of fostering political, social, and economic reforms to create a vibrant South Vietnamese state based on popular participation in national political life. Such reforms, however, depended on progress in the pacification program, which never had a clearly fixed timetable.” American Military History Vol II Chp 11. The U.S. Army in Vietnam from Tet to the final withdrawal, 1968-1975
    The logistic units in theater will make the exodus happen with our wonderful magical bag of spells. However our plan really hinges upon the linkage into the strategic goals and desired effects of our higher commands both military and civilian.
    Just food for thought and many thanks again. V/R MAJ G

  18. MAJ G:
    Not sure if this is relevant to your query, but my father (77th Division Artillery, Pacific WW II) saw perfectly serviceable vehicles pushed into the sea at the end of the war. In the early ’90s when I was a US Foreign Service Officer in Algeria, a local archaeologist/diver told me there were US Army jeeps in a corner of Oran’s harbor, apparently pushed into the water. That’s one way to demobilize.

  19. Paul R. Petty says:

    Major G,
    My brother, who was a Navy Lieutenant serving on USS Towers (DDG-9) in Vietnam, sent me this link to an article on withdrawal from Iraq and note on his recollection of how it happened in Vietnam.
    “When I was in DaNang and Quang Tri in 1972, there were vast, VAST expanses
    (probably hundreds of acres, maybe square miles) of abandoned American
    equipment sitting on portable steel roadway plates on the beaches and around
    the harbors. Spiked guns, trucks, ruined tanks, APCs, jeeps, helicopters,
    metal containers, etc etc. The locals had moved in and were living in lots
    of it. By the time I was there and we were running our gun runs up the coast
    to North Vietnam to punch the Commodore’s combat ticket , their gun
    emplacements were already equipped with American 105s and 155s and when we
    swept up the shell fragments from their airbursts on our decks and had them
    analyzed, it was American ordinance.
    The attached article about the “stuff” which will control our exit from Iraq
    is on point, unless we just leave most of the shit behind. I say, blow all
    fixed positions in place, blow all the runways and strategic assets, take
    only our frontline weapons and equipment, and get out before they start
    shooting us with our own guns.”
    Paul P.

  20. adam says:

    The last week has seen the final reason for staying in Iraq… its just too hard to leave. The strength of the argument is that its nothing to do with Iraq or war or Shi’ite v Sunni or American politics. Its more an argument about the American way of life.
    So what was this argument? Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen said “We have 150,000 troops in Iraq right now. We have lots of bases. We have an awful lot of equipment that’s there”. Getting the kit out would take: “two to three years.”
    This is, unfortunately, amusing. The US military, possibly both the most expensive and profligate organisation on Earth, is now claiming frugality as a guiding principle. Its like watching a giraffe on rollerskates – at the start its amusing as anything as legs flail around wildly, but ultimately we all know that there’s going to be a big mammal on the floor crying for help.
    Still its good that the US military is protecting its valuable equipment. Just think how proud American parents will be to hear that their little Jimmy died so that a state-of-the-art ice cream maker could be withdrawn from Baghdad. Still, these things do make many, many different flavours of ice-cream, and who could object to someone else losing life and limb over that, eh? After all, being unwilling to die for an ice-cream maker is practically un-American.
    The US military is now arguing that they have too much stuff to leave Iraq any time soon. This is impressive as it took less than a year to get the military in a position to invade Iraq in the first place.
    To be fair Iraq has been a very happy time for the US military (which is a different thing from the poor squaddies in Baghdad). On a per-soldier basis, no military has ever cost more money, or occupied such a comparatively poorer nation, with such a huge baggage train. This included PXs, gyms, cinemas, Burger Kings, traffic lights and working electricity. All this to occupy a country which had none of these things.
    So – if we can leave the gym equipment, cinemas, air conditioned Burger Kings and Subway Sandwich shops behind – the evacuation becomes a bit easier. We might even leave the office equipment behind. The ice-cream makers are going to have to be brought out, possibly under fire. Little Jimmy’s parents will just have to accept his sacrifice.
    But beyond the static stuff there are, apparently, 10,000 flatbed trucks, 1,000 tanks and 20,000 Humvees. I’d assume that they can be driven out of Iraq. But even this is problematical. The US military worries about the problem of moving stuff through Kuwaiti ports. It all has to be washed… In the desert… Its to avoid rats coming to the US under Department of Agriculture regulations. Really.
    Now, back in Vietnam, as so many have noted, Americans simply shoved helicopters off the decks of aircraft carriers, burned cash in oil drums, and left tons of military equipment and massive bases behind for the enemy. And even in the short term none of that made a jots worth of difference to anyone.
    Withdrawal then was unsightly and probably very bad for global warming. On the other hand it was good for the US military, which spent the next few years become rather more professional and effective. The defeat was too public to ignore.
    But now, as the Iraq fiasco winds down US military leaders are now saying that withdrawal will upset the de facto ownership of ice-cream-makers and some points of principle have to be fought over.
    The bad news is that this means that the odds of this bunch learning the lessons of Iraq are not high.

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