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Amphibious Raids: An Historical Imperative For Today's Marines
AUTHOR Major James N. Mattis, USMC
CSC 1985
                        EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
I.  Purpose:  To demonstrate the necessity for maintaining
our amphibious capability in general, and our raid capability
specificially, if the Marine Corps is to provide its most
valuable contribution to national defenses.
II.  Problem:  In the wider scenario of conventional war in
Europe, our assets dedicated to non-amphibious capabilities
(e.g. maritime prepositioned brigades, mechanized units, etc.),
will draw down on our amphibious capability.  To understand
the need for amphibious forces at a high state of readiness
for immediate employment in NATO's area, one need only refer
to the British experience, early World War II, when success or
failure of local British initiatives depended on forces
similar to today's Marine Corps.
III.  Data:  If general war comes to Europe, it will be
initiated by the Soviets for purposes of extending their
hegemony.  The Soviet attack will make every effort to make
rapid gains and thus confront the NATO countries with a fait
accompli to prevent their resort to nuclear weapons.  A well
constituted amphibious raid force could vastly complicate
this equation because it would draw off many times its own
strength as the enemy attempted to defend along its vulnerable
coasts.  The historical example illustrated by British
attacks on German occupied Europe in 1942 make this capa-
bility obvious.  The two major raids on St. Nazaire and
Dieppe demonstrate the right way and the wrong way to carry
out this type mission.
IV.  Conclusions:  The Marine Corps must remain oriented
to the amphibious mission.  Its capacity to conduct the
full range of amphibious operations must not be diminished
by accepting additional missions, inappropriate equipment,
etc.  No support we might provide to NATO's defense is more
valuable than tying down large numbers of Soviet troops
along coasts removed from the central objective of their
V.  Recommendations:  That the Marine Corps use the historical
basis of World War II to prepare for future amphibious opera-
tions in Europe.  While techniques and equipment have
changed, we must remain wedded to our most effective form
of combat, that of forcible entry from the sea.
                      AMPHIBIOUS RAIDS:
                       TODAY'S MARINES
THESIS:  The Marine Corps of 1985 needs only to study Britain's
1942 response to the Germans' occupation of Europe to discern
that the Corps' greatest contribution to NATO's defense today
lies within its traditional amphibious calling.
I.   St. Nazaire Raid
     A.  Military Situation
         1. Worldwide
         2. Atlantic Ocean area
            a.  Impact of Tirpitz
            b.  Importance of port
     B.  Formulation of Raid
         1. Concept
         2. Raid Force Composition
         3. Training
     C.  Description of Raid
         1. Approach
         2. Attack
         3. Withdrawal
     D.  Analysis
         1. Accomplishments
         2. Impact of Specific Factors
            a.  Reaction of Germans
            b.  Effect of Air Support
II.  Dieppe Raid
     A.  Military Situation
         1. Worldwide
         2. Pressure for Second Front
            a.  American
            b.  Russian
     B.  Choice of Dieppe
         1. Proximity to England
         2. Lightly held
     C.  Formulation of Raid
         1. Operation "Ripper"
            a.  Concept
            b.  Cancellation
         2. Operation "Jubilee"
            a.  Changes to "Ripper" plan
            b.  Raid force composition
            c.  Training
     D.  Description of Raid
         1.  Approach
         2.  Attack
         3.  Withdrawal
     E.  Analysis
          1.  Accomplishments
          2.  Impact of Specific Factors
              a.  Reaction of Germans
              b.  Effect of Fire Support
III.  Comparison of Raids
      A.  Similarities
          1.  British initiative
          2.  Maintenance of Surprise
          3.  German Reaction
      B.  Differences
          1.  Difference in Military Aim
          2.  Training/Composition of Raid Force
                   AMPHIBIOUS RAIDS:
     At a time when the American people are demonstrating
their belief in the traditional need for a strong national
defense, it is well that we in the Corps remind ourselves that
it hasn't always been so.  Only a few short years ago, after
the Vietnam debacle, the need for any amphibious capability
was questioned by many Americans, notably some highly placed,
vocal critics, in and out of government.  Conversely, today
we are living in the "Halycon Days," as our expanded budgets
provide equipment and capabilities we could only dream about
years ago.  Prepositioned equipment, additional mechanized
vehicles, integration into NATO's command structure--all
these show how widely the Marines' role has been accepted,
and even expanded, beyond the forcible entry capability (the
prepositioned equipment must be "married up" with airlifted
troops in a benign environment where ship offload facilities
and airports are available).  But as the political winds blow
more favorably for us in the budget process, it is essential
that we do not permit outselves to be led astray from our
primarily amphibious mission.  Historical examples give
credibility to this position, as the Marine Corps contributes
its best when it performs in the amphibious role.
     NATO today is primarily focused on deterrance of the
Soviet Union's expanionist designs.  A continental power with
virtually no sea lanes of communication (SLOC's) to the main
theaters in Europe, the Soviet Union can advance into NATO
countries from Norway to Turkey without exposing itself to
interdiction at sea.  Barring an unforeseen, revolutionary
change in political orientation in the West, NATO will be on
the defensive initially in any future conflict with the
Soviets.  The strategic initiative thus will undoubtedly rest
with the Soviet empire's forces, and we can realistically
assume some gains on their part in territory seized and demo-
cratic peoples subjugated.  The response of the majority of
the people in the conquered territories can be assumed in
advance to be contrary to the designs of the Soviets.  The
practical men in the Kremlin will not, I assume, push us so
far as to incite a nuclear exchange.  However, depending on
the political will of the NATO countries, Russia will conduct
a limited objective attack designed to militarily change the
balance of power in Europe, and thus the world, at a time
when their political philosophy and economy are no longer
capable of creating favorable conditions for the success of
their ideology.  In today's fast paced world, our response to
such a situation will be largely dictated by our military
capability at the time war is initiated.  If the Soviets are
allowed to consolidate any gain unimpeded by us, our status
vis-a-vis the rest of the world will be undermined, with
the resultant threat to democracies worldwide.
      The United States, by dint of its economic and mili-
tary power coupled with its leadership of the democratic
world, will play the critical role in any NATO response to
Soviet aggression.  Our response must take a form that will
restrain further Soviet advances, give hope to subjugated
peoples, and support our ground forces' (U.S. and other
NATO armies) attempts to regain the initiative and reverse
the Soviets' successes.  The Marine Corps, as a naval force,
can figure largely into any such equation.  This can be
demonstrated by a review of the situation that arose as a
result of Hitler's seizure of Europe during 1939-42.  The
Allies (primarily British), response to that situation, in
which the British fought for time and attempted to keep the
Germans off balance in conquered Europe, provides a similar
circumstance which demonstrates the utility of amphibious
      One aspect of history is the timeless relation we have
to our surroundings.  While there are many differences in
the world of 1985 when compared to the world of 1940, certain
aspects of history will obviously recur should the Russians
repeat the German occupation of Europe, or some part of it.
Faced with such a threat, I believe the Marine Corps must
remember its naval character and concentrate its efforts on
the amphibious capability, if necessary to the exclusion of
other missions the present national mood might wish to assign
us.  The examples provided by the British can accurately
portray the direction the Marine Corps should follow in
preparation for conventional war in Europe, and amply demon-
strate the consequences should we not maintain our amphibious
skills at such a high level that we are ready at all times
to conduct those amphibious operations our political leaders
may call for.
      This paper assesses two amphibious raids conducted by
the British early in World War II.  The raids are viewed from
the perspective of their purpose, their execution, and their
effect.  I chose the raids of 1942 on St. Nazaire and Dieppe,
France from among the many raids conducted because, unlike
the others which had propaganda or tactical significance
only, these two possessed strategic importance.1  They used
land, sea, and air forces such as are available to today's
Marine Corps, and had far reaching consequences.
      My report presents both raids in a similar manner,
although the convoluted decision making process that prefaced
the raid on Dieppe is addressed at greater length than is
the straightforward process that preceded the decision to
raid St. Nazaire.  While comparisons between two raids so
dissimilar in many aspects presented some difficulties, I
have attempted to do so through the methodology described
above.  By the study of these two key raids, a student of
amphibious warfare can identify the critical planning and
execution aspects inherent in raids, and thus identify the
utility of such attacks.  Last, I compare  the two raids, and
generally address the usefulness of Marine forces today in
similar assignments should the need arise.
                       Saint Nazaire
      Sometimes referred to as the "greatest raid of all,"
the St. Nazaire raid stood out as a lone British strategic
success at a time when any reversal of Axis designs was
desperately needed.2   By March, 1942 the British faced a
worsening situation.  The 1940 fall of France to Hitler's
armies had led to the evacuation of British troops at
Dunkirk.  Behind them now was the Battle of Britain when the
Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) had fought off the German Luft-
waffe.  But the British continued to fight on alone, the
effect of America's entry into the war just four months
earlier not yet measurably felt.  Singapore, the Pacific
bastion, fell to the Japanese in February, 1942.  In North
Africa, Rommel's leadership resulted in British defeats, and
earned him Churchill's praise "across the havoc of war."3
On the Eastern Front, German troops were entrenched deep in
Soviet territory, and the Russian army braced itself for
Hitler's spring offensive.
      The Atlantic, with its critical supply lines to England
and Russia, grew in importance to the Allies.  Allied ship-
ping, critical to Britain's survival, was taking some of its
heaviest losses of the war in January and February, 1942, as
German submarines cast a shadow of doubt over Britain's
ability to continue to resist.  To complicate the Atlantic
situation, an additional threat existed:  Germany's remaining
battleship, Tirpitz, was now ready for sea.  The possibility
that she might break out into the Atlantic (like her sister
ship Bismarck had done), had a riveting effect on the Allied
leadership.  Churchill stated that "the whole strategy of
the war turns at this period on this ship, which is holding
four times the number of British capital ships paralyzed,
to say nothing of the two new American battleships.... "4
Even with hindsight, this cannot be considered an exaggera-
tion, since on one occasion when Tirpitz put to sea, an
Allied, Russian-bound convoy had been ordered to disperse
to save itself.  Although Tirpitz had returned to port
without contacting the convoy, the scattered ships, without
escorts, were easy prey for German submarines and aircraft:
twenty-three of the thirty-four ships in the convoy were
      As the British examined the problem posed by Tirpitz,
their attention was drawn to the German occupied, French
port town of St. Nazaire.  It contained the enormous Nor-
mandie drydock, originally built for the French oceanliner
of the same name.  St. Nazaire had been the battle-damaged
Bismarck's destination when the British fleet had finally
caught and sunk her.  Its drydock was the only one along the
Atlantic coast capable of accommodating the large German
battleships.  The drydock thus assumed strategic importance.
The British believed the dock's destruction would deter the
German high command from ordering the newly commissioned
Tirpitz to sea, because such destruction meant there would
be no facility on the Atlantic coast to repair any battle
damage Tirpitz might sustain.5   The British resolved to
destroy the dock.
      While nearly two dozen additional tasks would eventually
be assigned to the raid force, its primary mission would
remain the incapacitation of the dock.  The potential for
failure in an attack of a defended port five miles up a river
estuary after a long sea voyage through German observed
waters was obvious, but other methods of accomplishing the
mission (air and sea bombardment) were ruled out as unfeas-
ible.  Planning for the operation was thus assigned to Lord
Mountbatten's Combined Operations staff.  Utilizing bomber
forces for distraction of German defenders, swift motor
launches to carry the commandos, and an explosives laden
destroyer to ram the dock's gates, the raid was planned in
great detail.
      The men utilized for the raid force were drawn from
the commandos of the Special Service Brigade.  The commandos
were born largely of Churchill's desire to remain on the
offensive, albeit a limited offensive, after the fall of
France.  They were lightly equipped, and primarily organized
and trained for raids on Nazi occupied Europe.6  Maintained
at a high state of readiness, these troops required minimal
special training for the raid.  This was extremely fortunate
as only six weeks elapsed between the time when the commandos
were alerted and the date when the raid was executed.
Utilizing selected men with special knowledge of demolitions,
they were trained in British dockyards by experts who knew
the critical parts of drydock mechanisms.  Voluminous intell-
igence reports aided the detailed planning.  Specific demoli-
tion charges were fashioned in England, tailored to certain
pieces of equipment that were to be destroyed at St. Nazaire.
Extensive crosstraining was conducted at night as the twelve
to fifteen man teams rehearsed their own and other teams'
missions.*  On 18 March 1942, these men were told what they
      *This account of the preparations for the raid, and the
conduct of the raid itself, is drawn largely from Christopher
Buckley's, Norway, The Commandos, Dieppe (London:  Her Majesty's
Stationary Office, 1977), pp. 203-225, and C. E. Lucas Phillips,
The Greatest Raid of All (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1960),
entire book.
were training to do although they were not told their actual
destination until they were underway a week later.  They
numbered one hundred sixty-six men in the fighting teams
which would provide protection for the ninety-one men in the
demolitions teams.7  A total of three hundred forty-five
naval personnel crewed the destroyer and eighteen motor
launches.8  The carrying capacity of the latter had greatly
limited the number of commandos on the raid, and resulted
in no option for the raid force to constitute an effective
      Utilizing radio silence, deception (German flags,
recognition signals, etc.), and the distracting air attack
(diminutive in the instance, and may have even worked against
the raid force), the force sailed four hundred miles through
the Bay of Biscay, penetrated five miles up the Loire
River estuary after dark, and was identified by the Germans
as hostile only six minutes prior to the destroyer's
ramming of the drydock.  Commandos from the destroyer
debarked rapidly and put the essential pumping equipment out
of commission, and destroyed the winding house as well,
leaving the gates to the dock inoperable.  When the
destroyer blew up the next day, the gates too were destroyed
for the duration of the war.  The Germans' rapid reaction
prevented the commandos from accomplishing some of their
ancillary missions and cost them heavy casualties, including
over two hundred killed, wounded, or captured.10   Naval
losses were high as well, and all of the wooden motor
launches were lost during the raid, or were so badly damaged
that they were sunk shortly after their rendezvous with
British destroyers in the morning off the French coast.
      The German high command's failure to anticipate the
British action was a key factor in the raid's success.  By
failing to anticipate a repeat of the World War I Zeebrugge-
Ostend raid* (as well as by their inability to recognize the
importance the British would assign to the dock's destruc-
tion), they were left vulnerable.  Only the outstanding
reaction of the German troops prevented both further de-
struction to the port (i.e. submarine pens were untouched),
and the coordinated execution of the raiders' withdrawal
plan.  The "brilliant and audacious raid" was a costly
success.11  Churchill described it as "...a deed of glory
intimately involved with high strategy."12  Characterized
by a sound plan, operational security, and the use of troops
skilled in amphibious raids, St. Nazaire is a model for
those who would plan future raids.
      *The Zeebrugge-Ostende raid in April, 1918 was the
successful blocking of port canals through which German
submarines transited to the North Sea. See Captain Alfred
F. B. Carpenter's, The Blocking of Zeebrugge (New York:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922).
      The worldwide situation facing the British worsened in
the months following the successful raid on St. Nazaire.
In India, the government had imprisoned Gandhi in reaction to
the sabotage of their war efforts there.  Tobruk in North
Africa fell to Rommel in June, 1942.  This defeat resulted
in yet another newly assigned general, Montgomery, to command
of the British 8th Army, entrenched at El Alamein.  The
island fortress of Malta in the Mediterranean was under
constant German air attack, and convoy resupply was exceedingly
costly.  In Russia, the German Army was fifty miles from
Moscow, and was advancing toward the Caspian Sea in the south.
Due to excessive losses, the North Atlantic resupply convoys
to Russia had been suspended in July, 1942.  Stalin was call-
ing for a second front, specifically a British-American
landing on the continent of Europe.  This second front, Stalin
believed, would force Germany to redirect a major portion of
their combat power away from the eastern front and his hard-
pressed army.
      The United States, too, pressed for the opening of a
second front during 1942, much to the dismay of the British.13
While the British were able to persuade the Americans to
lower their goals and accept a landing in North Africa in
lieu of a landing in Europe, it was an uneasy compromise.
Churchill faced an even more difficult experience when he
attempted to convince the Russians of the value of such an
idea.  Churchill flew to Moscow in August, 1942 in an
attempt to convince Stalin that a 1942 cross-channel
invasion was militarily impossible.  Churchill was convinced
that "a premature invasion would end in ... [an] open-ended
      Planning for the raid on Dieppe began in April, 1942
following the successful destruction of St. Nazaire's
facilities.15  Urged on by the Americans who had bombed
Tokyo only four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor, the British planned a raid which they thought would
be massive enough to draw off German divisions from the
Russian front.  The British believed the operation would
also prove to their U.S. ally that Britain was serious about
rapidly bringing the war cross-channel to Europe.  Concomi-
tantly, however, the British wished to avoid the disaster
they felt awaited a major, cross-channel invasion during
1942.  Churchill was also aware of additional information
which gave added impetus to the raid:  British intelligence
had discovered that Stalin had investigated German peace
offers.*   As the British had no desire to lose Russia as a
       *Even a year later (June, 1943), the Russian foreign
minister journeyed behind German lines to discuss peace terms
with Hitler's emissaries.  See William Stevenson, A Man
Called Intrepid (New York:  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976),
p. 381.
war-time ally, a prompt raid would be the British bid to 
appease Stalin on the subject of a second front.  Thus on
the horns of a dilemma, and against their own military
analysis, the British alerted the Canadian Army in England
to Operation "Rutter."
      The choice of Dieppe as the site for a raid was
influenced by several factors.  A primary consideration was
its location on the coast within range of R.A.F. airfields
in England.  The British believed that German occupied ports
were vulnerable to raids as a result of St. Nazaire, and
the German garrisoning of Dieppe by what were believed to
be second rate troops made it a logical choice.  The conven-
tional wisdom at the time also assumed that the eventual
cross-channel invasion would require a landing in a port
area for logistical reasons.  Dieppe, a port town, could be
used to test the theory of how to seize such a port.  The
lessons learned at Dieppe would then be applied to the
planning of the eventual cross-channel invasion.
      The Canadian Army had rushed to England's defense
early in the war, but it had chafed for two years in England
without firing a shot.  Their defensive training, befitting
a force preparing to repel German invaders, did not satisfy
their desire for action, and their officers were concerned
that if they did not see action soon, there might be a
breakdown in discipline.16  On 13 May, 1942, the plan was
approved by the British Chiefs of Staff.  It called for a
Canadian division to land frontally and seize the port and
town area while paratroopers knocked out coast defense guns
on the flanks.  The Canadians were to remove the German
invasion barges in the harbor; destroy the coastal defences,
the airfield, the radar installations and other military
facilities; and return with documents and prisoners from
the German headquarters.17
      The troops were not adequately trained for amphibious
operations, and their first rehearsal on 11-12 June made it
clear they were not ready.  The operation, then scheduled
for 20-21 June, was delayed and a second rehearsal was
conducted on 22-24 June with better results.  The troops
were fully briefed after their embarkation on 2 July.  The
date for the raid was set as 4 July.  Unfortunately, weather
caused a postponement, which eventually resulted in the
cancellation of the raid and the debarkation of the troops.
The troops were dispersed to their various camps, however
on 20 July, the plan was resurrected by the Chiefs of Staff
and assigned a new code name, "Jubilee."
      "Jubilee" involved some changes in concept from
"Rutter," in addition to some changes which were incor-
porated in the techniques for carrying out the raid.  The
flanking coast artillery positions would be silenced by
shipborne commandos instead of the paratroopers whose drop
was dependent on optimum wind conditions along the coast.
No heavy air bombardment would occur due to the impossibility
of precision bombing at night which might cause heavy French
civilian losses.18  The provision of only six small
destroyers for naval gunfire support meant that the frontal
landings across three and one-half miles of beach would be
made without any substantive naval fire support.  The
upshot of all this was that the raid would rely on surprise
and the fighting power of the ground troops, with little or
no fire support to add to the shock action of the raid
itself.  Landed by two hundred fifty-two ships and landing
craft, the 6100 men of the raid force would be preceded
ashore only by an unsubstantial, five minute preparatory
fire by the destroyers.19
      The raid force sailed after dark on 18 August.  The
commando raids on the flanks were scheduled to go in at 0430,
19 August, the beginning of morning nautical twilight (BMNT).
The Germans were unaware of the British approach until 0347
when a small German convoy blundered into the British ships.
The ensuing fight was indecisive, but it caused a thirty
minute delay in the landing.  The commandos effectively
destroyed the coastal artillery they had been ordered to
silence, but the German defenders were fully alerted when
the main landings commenced thirty minutes after BMNT.
Confusion, which was a problem specifically among the men
piloting the landing craft, caused additional delays, and
as a result, they landed their troops well after sunrise
and frequently in the wrong position.  Although some of the
troops pressed nearly two miles inland, others never made
it to the beaches as heavy fire drove their landing craft
off.  The majority who were landed were pinned down on the
beaches by fire from the dominating cliffs or encountered
very difficult fighting in the town and port area.  As
British aircraft strafed the enemy in uncoordinated attacks,
the Canadians became hopelessly bogged down.  All twenty-
seven of the Canadian tanks were lost.  The withdrawal plan
was implemented, but it failed in more cases than it worked
as the German defenders put up a tough fight, virtually
unhampered by any British fire other than that which the
raid force could muster on the ground.  The Royal Navy lost
a destroyer and many landing craft, and only the R.A.F.'s
maintenance of air superiority prevented worse losses.  Of
6100 men in the raid force, 3648 became casualties or were
taken prisoner by the Germans.
      With the exception of some information gained about
the German radars, none of the raid's tactical objectives
were achieved.20   However, if one were to accept Churchill's
definition of the raid as a necessary "reconnaissance in
force," or preface, to the eventual cross-channel invasion,
some successes can be noted.21  The lessons learned were
invaluable, he stated, and ensured that future assaults on
the German defended coast would be more successful.  The
need for adequate numbers of landing craft, the requirement
for air bombardment and naval gunfire support, and the
necessity for using only "trained and organized amphibious
formations" were all adequately demonstrated to the Allied
high command.22  The criticality of timing, and the need to
land somewhere other than a German defended port were
lessons reflected in the Normandy landings nearly two years
later.  Skeptics feel that such lessons were available
without the experience of Dieppe (i.e. Gallipoli in World
War I provided some of the same lessons).  To grant the
thesis that it was a successful reconnaissance does not
conceal the fact that Dieppe was a failure as a raid.  It
may have had the strategic effect of taking some of "the
weight off Russia" as Churchill claimed, but a successful
raid could have done so at least as effectively as an
unsuccessful raid.23  The American and Russian pressure
for a second front may have declined for a short time, but
the British felt their concerns about a premature invasion
were justified by the shocking results of the raid.
      The Germans also learned some lessons from the Dieppe
raid.  Hitler was aware that "...a major landing in the
west could precipitate a real crisis" for his far flung
armies.24  The plan to build defenses at enormous cost all
along the coast of Europe was given a sense of urgency as
a result.  However, the raid also built his confidence in
the German Army's ability to repel any future invasion
      Both St. Nazaire and Dieppe were fought while Germany
was on the strategic offensive and the British were on the
strategic defensive.  On the tactical level, both battles
were initiated by British offensive forces operating out of
England on naval vessels against German defenders in ports.
Thus the tactical initiative in both cases lay with the
British without regard to Germany's strategic dominance
of the time.  This seizure of the initiative was largely
dependent on the British forces' maintenance of surprise
in both operations, and it is to their professional credit
that surprise was sufficiently maintained.
     The purposes of the raids were markedly different.
St. Nazaire's raid had a strategic purpose, which directly
translated into tactical missions that were straightforward
and capable of being fulfilled by a bold force with an
audacious plan.  Dieppe lacked such a clear aim.  One cannot
help but see in its failure the inner doubts of the British
Chiefs of Staff who felt there was no chance of success in
a 1942 cross-channel operation of such magnitude.  Forced to
conduct the raid for political reasons, they failed to give
it a clear aim or the necessary support.  The British "demon-
stration of sincerity" (which the raid was designed to
provide) was for grand strategy reasons, and Churchill, on
the horns of a dilemma, advocated the raid for those reasons
only.  Lessons learned (if they were not known already), were
a by-product of the failure, and do not take the place of
a clearly stated objective born of rational military require-
ments.  The specific choice of Dieppe as the objective area
was followed by the selection of those objectives which were
in the neighborhood.  The objectives thus were mere after-
thoughts.  As the political, or grand strategic, mandate
evolved into a military operation, it could not rival the
aim of a plan born of a true military requirement (e.g. St.
      Regardless of the process which led to the selection of
the objective areas, only a sound plan executed by trained
troops could provide for the raids' successes.  In reference
to the troops used, a stark contrast can be noted between
the two raids.  The use of commandos in the attack on St.
Nazaire reflected sound military judgment.  Their aptitude,
their level of training, and their equipment all reflected
their proven usefulness for such operations.  Trained to
the degree that each man had a thorough knowledge of his own
task as well as the tasks of the men around him, the
commandos were well suited for the mission.  The commandos
functioned well at Dieppe also, knocking out the flanking
coastal batteries.  Thus their proper training, etc., may be
assumed to have played a role in their effectiveness.  While
the amount of time to prepare for the operations was about
the same in each case (eventually longer for Dieppe due to
postponement, cancellation, etc.), the Canadians' training
was focused primarily on landing practices.  After two years
of training to repel German invaders, they were assigned a
mission entirely different, and one for which they were not
sufficiently prepared.
      In both raids the lack of air support was obvious.  At
St. Nazaire, the R.A.F. was to conduct a bombing raid which
would direct the German defenders' attention to the sky vice
to the estuary.  However, due to cloud cover over the port
and the R.A.F.'s failure to brief their aircrews concerning
the operation going on below, the bombers dropped only a few
bombs.  This served only to heighten the Germans' alert
status.  At Dieppe, an objective chosen largely because it
lay within support range of the British airfields in England,
a political decision prevented air bombardment.  The fear
of French civilian casualties deleted fire support from the
plan, and resulted in the raid force's vulnerability during
the critical landing period, and during the initial phases
of combat ashore as well.  Thus the desire to reduce non-
combatant casualties greatly diminished the raid's opportunity
for success, and contributed to an unknown degree to the
heavy casualties of the raid force.  Without fire support, the
lesson of Gallipoli was relearned at enormous cost.
      Operational security met different levels of achievement
in the raids.  The force bound for St. Nazaire was told their
objective only after they were embarked.  A similar scenario
was used for the Canadians who were briefed only after they
embarked for "Rutter."  That operation's cancellation and the
subsequent debarkation of the raid force should have necessi-
tated an entirely new plan/objective area.  The political
urgency left no time for such a change, however, and the
German convoy's stumbling upon the British shipping less than
an hour prior to landing, while an unfortunate occurrence,
amply demonstrates that the raid was a surprise to the
      At St. Nazaire as well as at Dieppe, the German sailors
and soldiers reacted with their customary vigor in combat-
ing the raid forces.  They reacted well to the shock of both
raids, and directed such effective fire on the attackers
that in both cases, the raid forces suffered severe losses.
The German's ability to respond rapidly (in some cases in
ad-hoc groupings), against constituted raid forces thus
characterized both battles.  This made it obvious that
against such an enemy as the Germans, only missions which
can speedily be accomplished will be accomplished at all.
As a result of this, the last phase of an amphibious raid,
the withdrawal, was most marked by widespread failure as
the German defenses coalesced during both raids.  It should
be noted that although favored by conducting the raid
entirely after dark, the St. Nazaire raiders had only a
limited opportunity to withdraw anyway; they had conducted
the raid in a sacrificial destroyer and aboard wooden motor
launches.  The opportunity for them to withdraw on wooden
launches down a five mile gauntlet, the defended estuary,
whose guns were now manned by fully alerted troops, was
probably academic at best.
      These two raids were clearly far reaching in their
effects.  Both raids vividly demonstrate the initiative
which lies with the attacker who chooses the time and place
of battle.  These raids also show the necessity for sound
planning, effective support, and trained troops to take
advantage of that initiative once ashore.  At Dieppe, the
British concept of (a) using a fine fighting force, but one
that was ill-prepared for such a mission, and (b) failing to
provide the necessary fire support, was discredited.  St.
Nazaire's success is a valid measure for future amphibious
raids, including those conducted by Marines today or in the
      It would be a delusion if we were to assume that a
Russian attack on NATO today would not meet with a certain
amount of success.  The Soviets could realistically expect
to have the initiative in the opening days of any war, and
would attack only where the chances were most promising for
rapid gains.  Such success would, of course, cause some
enemy units to be diverted to rear area population control,
providing for the imposition of Soviet control over occupied
areas, and other elements would be charged with maintaining
the lengthening supply lines.  This would draw men off from
the fighting front.  Also, as quickly as any Soviet success
uncovered coastlines, a greater vulnerability would begin
to surface.  The NATO allies would not have the time to
create amphibious raiding forces on a large scale such as
was the British experience in World War II.  But if already
constituted, trained, and equipped at the outset, such forces
could draw off enormous quantities of men and material from
the Soviet main effort.  More than having to establish
control over subjugated civilians and main supply routes,
the defense of coastlines against naval raiding forces would
be a vastly more difficult task.  The Marine Corps, capable
of conducting a broad spectrum of amphibious operations from
company to division size with a supporting air component,
would draw off many times its own number of enemy because
it would have the tactical initiative to determine where and
when it would strike.  The U.S. Army and NATO do not need a
few more regiments, mechanized, artillery, or other, from
our Corps when our offensive capability could have such a
disproportionate effect on diluting the enemy's efforts.
Soviet successes will present us with opportunities if we
are ready at the outset to conduct raids.  As Churchill
noted after Dieppe, large formations of amphibious troops
were necessary, and I believe that this esoteric form of
combat must remain our hallmark.  If an urgent need or a
unique opportunity presents itself, we must be fully capable
of providing this service to NATO.  We must be able to
provide a success like St. Nazaire, and not a failure like
Dieppe.  We cannot be everything to everybody, even when
provided with larger budgets, and we must maintain a clear
resolve to provide the best deterrance and combat capability
possible.  This lies in our amphibious forcible entry capa-
bility.  The Russians must see that a capable amphibious
force lies waiting to violently turn any success they might
achieve into a larger vulnerability.  This is a lesson the
British applied during the darkest hours of World War II.
Should the Soviets impose their rule on any members of the
NATO alliance, our forcible entry capability will be the
greatest contribution we can make.
     1Christopher Buckley, Norway, the Commandos, Dieppe
(London:  Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1977), p. 229.
     2C. E. Lucas Phillips, The Greatest Raid of All (Boston:
Little, Brown and Company, 1960), pp. 10-12.
     3Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War:  The Hinge
of Fate (Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950), p. 67.
     4Ibid., p. 112.
     5C. E. Lucas Phillips, p. 12.
     6Christopher Buckley, p. 161.
     7C. E. Lucas Phillips, p. 90.
     8Ibid., p. 90.
     9Christopher Buckley, p. 208.
     10Ibid., p. 223.
     11Winston S. Churchill, p. 509.
     12Ibid., p. 121.
     13Ibid., p. 432-447.
     14William Stevenson, A Man Called Intrepid (New York:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976), p. 374.
     15Winston S. Churchill, p. 509.
     16Terence Robertson, Dieppe:  The Shame and the Glory
(Boston:  Little Brown and Company, 1962), p. 31.
     17Christopher Buckley, p. 230.
     18Terence Robertson, pp. 92-94.
     19Christopher Buckley, p. 233, and Terence Robertson, p.
     20James Leasor, Green Beach (New York:  William Morrow and
Company, Inc., 1975), p. 255.
     21Winston Churchill, p. 511.
     22Ibid., p. 511.
     23Ibid., p. 511.
     24David Irving, Hitler's War (New York:  The Viking Press,
1977), p. 428.
     25Ibid, p. 626.
Buckley, Christopher.  Norway, The Commandos, Dieppe.  London:
    Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1977.
Carpenter, Alfred F. B., Captain, V.C., R.N.  The Blocking
    of Zeebrugge.  New York:  Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922.
Churchill, Winston S.  The Second World War:  The Hinge of
    Fate.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950.
Irving, David.  Hitler's War.  New York:  The Viking Press,
Leasor, James.  Green Beach.  New York:  William Morrow and
    Company, Inc., 1975.
Phillips, C. E. Lucas.  The Greatest Raid of All.  Boston:
    Little, Brown and Company, 1960.
Robertson, Terence.  Dieppe:  The Shame and the Glory.  Boston:
    Little, Brown and Company, 1962.
Stevenson, William.  A Man Called Intrepid.  New York:  Har-
    court Brace Jovanovich, 1976.
Thompson, R. W.  At Whatever Cost:  The Story of the Dieppe
    Raid.  New York:  Coward-McCann, Inc., 1956.
Webb, Daniel J., Lt.Col., U.S. Army.  "The Dieppe Raid--An Act
    of Diplomacy.   Military Review, 60 (May, 1980), 31-37.

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