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Amphibious Support of Air Operations: Implications 
For The Ace Commander
CSC 1993
SUBJECT AREA - Aviation
                               EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Title:   Amphibious Support of Air Operations:  Implications for
the ACE Commander
Author:  Major Barton H. Wohl, United States Air Force
Thesis:  One lesson from General MacArthur's campaign in the
Southwest Pacific during World War II sounds loud and clear for
today's Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF).  The air combat
element (ACE) commander must be able to propose courses of
action for the entire MAGTF.
Background:  A great debate about doctrine has been occurring
in the Marine Corps for the last several years.  This debate
has revolved primarily around two issues, maneuver warfare and
the role of the MAGTF commander as a warfighter.  Subordinate
to the issue of the MAGTF commander as a warfighter is a
question about the roles of the major subordinate commanders in
a MAGTF.  Land-based airpower was Genmeral MacArthur's chief
offensive weapon in the Southwest Pacific during World War II.
MacArthur's air commanders applied this weapon by developing
the airmen's operational art participating fully in the
development of operational and tactical courses of action.  Are
those actions by U.S. Army Air Force and Royal Australian Air
Force officers fifty years ago relevant to the MAGTF today?
The answer is yes, for several reasons.  While there are
parallels between General MacArthur and a modern regional CINC,
the commanders in MacArthur's New Guinea Force operated at both
the operational and tactical levels of war.  Today's MAGTF
commander and his subordinates must operate at these levels of
war.  Also, the ongoing changes in MAGTF doctrine make the
examples from fifty years ago relevant today.
Recommendations:  The ACE commander must be able to propose
courses of action for the entire MAGTF.
                            OUTLINE
Thesis:  One lesson from General MacArthur's campaign in the
Southwest Pacific during World War II sounds loud and clear for
today's MAGTF.  The ACE commander must be able to propose
courses of action for the entire MAGTF.
I.   SW Pacific Campaign of WWII
     A.  Airmen's operational art provided a unique perspective
     on war
         1.  Maneuver
         2.  Logistics
         3.  Offensive
         4.  Mass
         5.  Simplicity
         6.  Persistence
     B.  Development of operational and tactical courses of
     action
         1.  Airlift to New Guinea
         2.  Wanigela Mission
         3.  Lae and Salamaua
         4.  Finschafen
         5.  New Britain
II.  Relevance to today's MAGTF
     A.  Efforts of air, land, and sea forces aimed at airspace
     control
     B.  Parallel to how today's CINCs would fight
     C.  Levels of war relevant to the MAGTF
     D.  Ongoing changes in MAGTF doctrine
              AMPHIBIOUS SUPPORT OF AIR OPERATIONS:
               IMPLICATIONS FOR THE ACE COMMANDER
                by Major Barton H. Wohl, United States Air Force
     A great debate about doctrine has been occurring in the
Marine Corps for the last several years.  This debate has
revolved primarily around two issues, maneuver warfare and the
role of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) commander as a
warfighter.  Subordinate to the issue of the MAGTF commander as
a warfighter is a question about the roles of the major
subordinate commanders (MSCs) in a MAGTF.  Current Marine Corps
publications(8:16) depict a separate but equal ground combat
element (GCE) commander, air combat element (ACE) commander and
combat service support element commander underneath the MAGTF
commander.
     The reality in the minds and experiences of many students
at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, though, is that
the GCE commander still recommends courses of action to the
MAGTF commander and the other MSCs merely state whether or not
they can support the courses of action.  Major John B. Saxman,
USAF discussed this issue in the August 1989 issue of the
Marine Corps Gazette. (14:58)  Major Saxman's article discussed
the occasional need for the ACE to act independently from the
GCE, and perhaps even from the MAGTF, to support the
requirements of a regional commander-in-chief (CINC) or joint
task force commander.
This paper, on the other hand, is about the role of the ACE
commander when the ACE is operating in support of MAGTF
objectives.  The title, Amphibious Support Of Air Operations,
refers to General MacArthur's campaign in the Southwest Pacific
during World War II.  While there are many lessons available
from MacArthur's campaign, one sounds loud and clear for
today's MAGTF.  The ACE commander must be able to propose
courses of action for the entire MAGTF.  This ability of the
ACE commander will make it possible for the MAGTF commander to
achieve the synergistic effects that are possible when airpower
and ground combat power are effectively mixed.
     General MacArthur's campaign in the Southwest Pacific,
particularly in New Guinea, during World War II is not well
known to many Americans.  It is not well known for several
reasons.  Most Americans are unfamiliar with the area,
Australians did most of the ground combat, and little or no
lasting controversy about airpower arose from the campaign.
Unlike many other theaters in World War II, air, land and sea
forces in New Guinea joined to create a balanced team, in which
the components worked well together.
     The team fought a successful amphibious campaign, one
designed to extend the reach of land-based airpower.(4:195)
The campaign was successful because of the excellent
relationships between MacArthur and his subordinate commanders.
Lieutenant General Herring, the Australian commander of Ground
Forces, New Guinea, characterized the relationship between air
and ground commanders by saying, "We just had to be in one
another's complete confidence; we were always thinking ahead
together." (5:129)  These relationships developed during the
period of time from August 1942 to December 1943.  August 1942
marked the assumption of command of Allied Air Forces by
General George C. Kenney.(10:51)  By December 1943 all of
MacArthur's principle subordinate commanders for the rest of
the war were in theater and the campaign had changed from
defensive and land-based to offensive and amphibian.
     Land-based airpower was MacArthur's chief offensive weapon
in the theater.  General Kenney and his subordinates applied
this weapon in two ways.  First, they developed the airmen's
operational art.  Second, they participated fully in the
development of operational and tactical courses of action.
     Developing the airmen's operational art essentially
consisted of applying the principles of war to the use of
airpower.  Among the principles of war recognized by the U. S.
Armed Forces, (1:1-3) the air commanders applied maneuver,
logistics, offensive, mass and simplicity.  The nature of some
missions also demanded persistent application of airpower.
     Air commanders practiced maneuver in the Southwest
Pacific.  When confronted with two major Japanese air bases at
Rabaul and Wewak in August 1943, Allied Air Forces struck first
at Wewak. They knocked the fields at Wewak (Figure 1) out of
the war and then turned their attention to Rabaul.(5:278)
Conceptually, these actions were similar to the maneuver of
Napoleon.  Allied Air Forces also maneuvered by acquiring
airbases.  The stealthy construction and occupation of an
airfield at Tsili Tsili made the attacks against Wewak
possible. (2:133)
     Maneuver by Allied Air Forces was successful.  It was so
successful that General MacArthur recognized his air forces as
a maneuver arm.  The General released the RENO III plan on 20
October 1943, which contained his plan for operations in 1944.
RENO III stated flank protection for future advances would be
provided "essentially by air operations." (4:196)
     The logistics capability of transport aircraft enhanced
the maneuver of Allied ground forces in New Guinea.  General
Robert Eichelberger, commander of I Corps, noted Allied Ground
Forces attacking Buna would not have survived without "George
Kenney's Air."(6:34).  In addition to supplying ground troops,
transport aircraft also transported ground forces into battle,
sometimes discharging passengers under fire. (6:95)
Click here to view image
     Under General Kenney, air commanders took the air battle
to the Japanese.  They initially transformed a defensive
mindset to an offensive mindset by moving resources forward.
Offensive movements included sending a fighter group from
Darwin, Australia to Port Moresby, New Guinea(10:65) and supply
bases from Melbourne in southern Australia to Townsville in
northern Australia and Port Moresby. (4:103)  Near-continual
offensive actions minimized the vulnerability of Allied air
bases to Japanese air attacks as the distance between Allied
and Japanese bases decreased. (2:140)
     One of the keys to effective offensive actions was the
employment of massed airpower.  Mass enabled Allied Air Forces
to destroy 250 Japanese airplanes on the ground at Wewak in
five days. (15:176)  Once MacArthur began conducting amphibious
operations in 1943, massive preparatory bombardments had
decisive effects.  General Walter Krueger, commander of Alamo
Force and Sixth Army, stated, "The Japanese were probably
stupefied by the effective bombardment" at Cape Gloucester, New
Britain. (11:33)  Cape Gloucester was the location of the First
Marine Division's first combat after Guadalcanal, and the
Marines went ashore with little or no resistance because of
effective preparatory bombardment.
     General Kenney was able, in part, to mass his forces
because he provided direction to subordinates with simple
mission orders. (2:214)  In the case of the American Fifth Air
Force, Kenney provided mission orders to his deputy commander,
Brigadier General Ennis Whitehead.  General Whitehead, as the
commander of Fifth Air Force, Advanced Echelon, provided
detailed instructions to the flying units. (4:99)  This enabled
Kenney to supervise both Australian and American units, as well
as remain aware of the operational situation in the theater.
     Some missions demanded not only application of the
principles of war, but also persistent application of airpower.
Destruction of the Japanese airbase at Wewak, as already noted,
involved five days of attacks.  Persistence is one part of the
airmen's operational art that gave the air commanders a unique
perspective on the war against Japan.
     MacArthur's air commanders did more than develop the
airmen's operational art.  They took their unique perspective
on the war and used it to develop operational and tactical
courses of action.  Air commanders did not merely determine if
they could support courses of action for MacArthur and Allied
Ground Forces.  These commanders saw how air forces could
interact with ground and sea forces and they proposed courses
of action for air, land, and sea forces.
     The ability of air commanders to propose courses of action
for all forces did not develop overnight.  In September 1942
American transport aircraft moved over a regiment of the
American 32nd Division from Australia to Port Moresby.  While
airlifting troops is routine today, it was unprecedented in
1942.  General Kenney proposed the movement to General
MacArthur over the objections of MacArthur's staff, (10:99) and
MacArthur approved it.  Kenney used all of his own transports
and drafted all of Australia's civilian transports to conduct
this airlift, the first major movement of American troops by
air in World War II. (6:12)
     Kenney's next proposal affected the ground forces' course
of action.  Australian ground forces had been planning an
advance across the Owen Stanley mountains towards Buna.  Kenney
suggested an airlift of Australian troops into an area known as
Wanigela Mission. (10:102)  Troops operating from Wanigela would
be completely dependent upon aerial resupply but would be in a
position to attack Buna from its eastern, coastal flank.
General MacArthur asked Kenney to coordinate the details with
the commander of the ground forces, and on the day the
unprecedented airlift to Port Moresby was completed, MacArthur
approved the plan.  The first Australian battalion landed at
Wanigela (Figure 2) during 5-7 October. (4:117)
     Follow-on operations from Wanigela were less than
successful because the terrain from there to Buna was virtually
impassable jungle.  As a result, a subsequent airlift mission
was flown on 10 November to Pongani, only 23 miles south of
Click here to view image
Buna. (4:118)  The Americans who operated from Pongani were able
to advance towards Buna and put additional pressure on the
Japanese.
     By 22 January 1943 Buna and the rest of Papua were clear
of all organized resistance(4:126) and Allied Ground Forces
conducted no major operations until June.  Ground forces
conducted an operation in September to capture Lae and
Salamaua.  This time, General Kenney's subordinates proposed
courses of action for ground and sea forces.  First, it became
obvious during planning conferences for the operation that
there would be a large gap in the Allied Air Forces'
ground-based radar coverage.  A wing commander in the Royal
Australian Air Force suggested placing a destroyer between Lae
and Finschafen to fill in the gap.  The U.S.S. Reid filled the
gap by operating 45 miles southeast of Finschhafen.(4:182)
Second, in a brilliant use of American airborne troops and
airlifted Australians, Allied Ground Forces cut off the
Japanese escape route from Lae.  This assault was described by
a Japanese prisoner as having, "inflicted an annihilating blow
on us without engaging in direct combat." (13:268)  General
Whitehead had convinced the Australians to use this course of
action almost a year before during initial planning for the
assault on Lae.(10:128)
     An immediate follow-on to the capture of Lae and Salamaua
was the securing of Finschafen and the Huon Peninsula.  During
the 3 September planning conference, General Blamey, Commander
Allied Ground Forces, General Kenney, and Admiral Carpender,
Commander Allied Naval Forces, all proposed courses of action.
General MacArthur approved a modified version of Admiral
Carpender's plan, (12:215) but the point is all the commanders
proposed courses of action.  The U.S.S. Reid stayed on station
during the battle for Finschafen, continuing to fill in the gap
in Allied radar coverage. (3:4)
     The last major action in the Southwest Pacific theater
during 1943 was the invasion of New Britain at Arawe and Cape
Gloucester.  The original plan included a landing at Gasmata
instead of Arawe.  The Marines objected to landing at Gasmata
and preferred Arawe.  General Kenney had instigated the landing
at Gasmata but had a change of heart. (9:17)  After Kenney
weighed in on the side of the Marines, the plan was changed.
The first plan for landing at Arawe contained three small
forces, including paratroopers and Marines.  Both the Marines
and General Kenney opposed what they viewed as piecemeal
employment of the paratroopers and Kenney wanted "no part" of
it. (12:278)  He persuaded General Krueger to replace the
paratroopers with Marines by telling Krueger the cost of
transporting paratroopers was moving a heavy bombardment group
across the Owen Stanley mountains from Dobodura to Port
Moresby.  Krueger decided he'd rather have the bombers
available than the paratroopers.(11:28)
     While the preceding review of planning for the invasion of
New Britain finishes the summary of the action of MacArthur's
air commanders during August 1942 to December 1943, one major
question remains.  That is, are those actions by U.S. Army Air
Force and Royal Australian Air Force officers fifty years ago
relevant to the MAGTF today?  The answer is yes, for several
reasons.
     First, the nature of the campaign was of a type still
relevant today.  The efforts of air, land, and sea forces were
aimed at airspace control, with air and amphibious operations
supporting each other.(15:186)  Allied airpower dominated air
and sea almost as effectively in the Southwest Pacific as
allied airpower dominated air and land during DESERT STORM.
Allied airpower in the Southwest Pacific from August 1942 to
December 1943 was primarily land-based.  As a matter of fact,
with the exception of the Battle of Coral Sea in May 1942 and
the invasion of Hollandia in April 1944, all airpower in the
Southwest Pacific was land-based.(15:183)  While Marine air is
considered naval air, the ACE commander controls only
land-based aircraft and the limited quantities of aircraft that
can be placed on amphibious ships.  The ACE commander's control
over the aircraft on amphibious ships is limited because the
Commander Amphibious Task Force controls all air operations in
the amphibious operations area until control passes ashore.
     Second, there are some obvious parallels between how
General MacArthur conducted his campaign and how one of today's
regional CINCs would conduct a campaign.  MacArthur provided
operational direction to three subordinate functional
commanders and approved their plans.(11:9)  Therefore, the
Southwest Pacific theater is a model for the joint environment
in which the MAGTF of today will have to fight.
     Third, while there are parallels between General MacArthur
and a modern regional CINC, the commanders in MacArthur's New
Guinea Force operated at both the operational and tactical
levels of war.  Today's MAGTF commander and his subordinates
must operate at these levels of war.(7:13)  Therefore
MacArthur's campaign has lessons for today's MAGTF commander.
     Finally, the ongoing changes in MAGTF doctrine make the
examples from fifty years ago relevant today.  The MAGTF
commander is supposed to be a warfighter, commanding separate
but equal components just like MacArthur.  The ACE commander
possesses a perspective on war different from the GCE commander
just like MacArthur's air commanders possessed a perspective
different from the ground commanders.  If the ACE is supposed
to be equal to the GCE, then the campaign in the Southwest
Pacific provides a model for how the commanders in today's
MAGTF should interact.
     Since the lessons of the Southwest Pacific from fifty
years ago are relevant today, what is the lesson to learn about
the role of the ACE commander?  The evidence from New Guinea
and New Britain suggests that aircraft can indeed form a
maneuver arm, commanded by individuals with a unique
perspective on the maneuver of air and ground forces.  If the
evidence is correct, then the MAGTF commander must not limit
the relationship between the GCE and ACE to one of supported
and supporting, respectively.  The ACE commander must be able
to suggest courses of action for the entire MAGTF.  Only the
MAGTF commander can choose from courses of action recommended
by his major subordinate commanders to achieve the synergistic
effects that are possible when airpower and ground combat power
are effectively mixed.
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