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U.S. Marine Corps - Small Wars Manual (1940 Edition)

Chapter I. Introduction.


The basis of the strategy 			17
Nature of the Operations				1-8
National war 							19

17. The basis of the strategy. -- a. The military strategy of small wars is more directly associated with the political strategy of the campaign than is the case in major operations. In the latter case, war is undertaken only as a last resort after all diplomatic means of adjusting differences have failed and the military commanders objective ordinarily becomes the enemy's armed forces.

b. Diplomatic agencies usually conduct negotiations with a view to arriving at a peaceful solution of the problem on a basis compatible with both national honor and treaty stipulations. Although the outcome of such negotiations often results in a friendly settlement, the military forces should be prepared for the possibility of an unfavorable termination of the proceedings. The mobilization of armed forces constitutes a highly effective weapon for forcing the opponent to accede to national demands without resort to war. When a time limit for peaceful settlement is prescribed by ultimatum the military-naval forces must be prepared to initiate operations upon expiration of the time limit.

c. In small wars, either diplomacy has not been exhausted or the party that opposes the settlement of the political question cannot be reached diplomatically. Small war situatims are usually a phase of, or an operation taking place concurrently with, diplomatic effort. The political authorities do not relinquish active participation in the negotions and they ordinarily continue to exert considerable influence The military leader in such operations on the military campaign. thus finds himself limited to certain lines of action as to the strategy and even as to the tactics of the campaign. This feature has b~n so marked in past operations, that marines have been referred to as State In certain cases of this kind the Department Troops in small wars. State Department has even dictated the size of the force to be sent to The State Department materially influences the strategy and tactics by orders and instructions which are promulgated through the Navy Department or through diplomatic represent at ives.

d. State Department officials represent the Government in foreign countries. The force generally nearest at hand to back up the authority of these agents is the Navy. In such operations the Navy is performing its normal function, and has, as a component part of its organization, the Fleet Marine Force, organized, equipped, and trained to perform duty of this nature. After the Force has landed, the commander afloat generally influences the operations only to the extent necessary to insure their control and direction in acordance with the policy of the instructions that he has received from higher authority. He supports and cooperates with the Force to the limit of his ability. In the latter stages of the operation the local naval commander may relinquish practically all control in orcler to carry out routine duties elsewhere. In such case the general operations plan is directed by, or through, the office of Naval Operations in Washington.

e. Wars of intervention have two classifications; intervention in the internal, or intervention in the external affairs of another state. Intervention in the internal affairs of a state may be undertaken to restore order, to sustain governmental authority, to obtain redress, or to enforce the fulfillment of obligations binding between the two states. Intervention in the external affairs of a state may be the result of a treaty which authorizes one state to aid another as a matter of political expediency, to avoid more serious consequences when the interests of other states are involved, or to gain certain advantages not obtainable otherwise. It may he simply an intervention to enforce certain opinions or propogate certain doctrines, principles, or standards. For example, in these days when pernicious propagnda is employed to spread revolutionary doctrines, it is conceivable that the United States might intervene to prevent the development of political dissatisfaction which threatens the overthrow of a friendly state and indirectly influences our own security.

1-8. Nature of the operations. -- a . Irregular troops may disregard, in part or entirely, International Law and the Rules of Land Warfare in their conduct of hostilities. Commanders in the field must be prepared to protect themselves against practices and methods of combat not sanctioned by the Rules of War.

b. Frequently irregulars kill and rob peaceful citizens in order to obtain supplies which are then secreted in remote strongholds, Seizure or destruction of such sources of supply is an important factor in reducing their means of resistance. Such methods of operation must be studied and adapted to the psychological reaction they will produce on opponents. Interventions or occupations are usually peaceful and altruistic. Accordingly, the methods of procedure must rigidly conform to this purpose; but when forced to resort to arms to carry out the object of the intervention, the operation must be pursued energetically and expeditiously in order to overcome the resistance as quickly as possible.

c. The campaign plan and strategy must be adapted to the character of the people encountered. National policy and the precepts of civilized procedure demand that our dealings with other peoples be maintained on a high-moral plan. However, the military strategy of the campaign and the tactics employed by the commander in the field must be adapted to the situation in order to accomplish the mission without delay.

d. After a study has been made of the people who will oppose the intervention, the strategic plan is evolved. The military strategical plan should include those men which will accomplish the purpose in view quickly and completely. Strategy should attempt to gain psychological ascendancy over the outlaw or insurgent element prior to hostilities. Remembering the political mission which dictates the military strategy of small wars, one or more of the following basic modes of procedure may be decided upon, depending upon the situation:

(1) Attempt to attain the aims of the intervention by a simple, clear, and forceful declaration of the position and intention of the occupying force, this without threat or promise.

(2) By a demonstration of the power which could be employed to carry out these intentions.

(3) The display of the naval or military force within the area involved.

(4) The actual application of armed force. During the transitory stage or prior to active military operations, care should be taken to avoid the commission of any acts that might precipitate a breach. Once armed force is resorted to, it should be applied with determination and to the extent required by the situation. Situations may develop so rapidly that the transition from negotiations to the use of armed force gives the commander little or no time to exert his influence through the use of the methods mentioned in subparagraphs (2) and (3) above.

e. The strategy of this type of warfare will be strongly influenced by the probable nature of the contemplated operation. In regular warfare the decision will be gained on known fronts and probably limited theaters of operations; but in small wars no defined battle front exists and the theater of the operations may be the whole length and breadth of the land. The operations are carried out in one area, other hostile elements may be causing serious havoc in another. The uncertainty of the situation may require the abolishment of detached posts within small areas. Thus the regular forces may be widely dispersed and probably will be outnumbered in some areas by the hostile forces. This requires that the Force be organized with a view to mobility and flexibility, and that the troops be highly trained in the use of their special weapons as well as proper utilization of terrain.

f. Those who have participated in small wars agree that these operations find an appropriate place in the art of war. Irregular warfare between two well-armed and well-disciplined forces will open up a larger field for surprise, deception, ambushes, etc., than is possible in regular warfare.

19. National war. -- a. In small wars it can be expected that hostile forces in occupied territory will employ guerilla warfare as a means of gaining their end. Accounts of recent revolutionary movements, local or general, in various parts of the world indicate that young men of 18 or 20 years of age take active parts as organizers in these disturbances. Consequently, in campaigns of this nature the Force will be exposed to the action of this young and vigorous element. Rear installations and lines of communications will be threatened. Movements will be retarded by ambuscades and barred defiles, and every detachment presenting a tempting target will be harassed or attacked. In warfare of this kind, members of native forces will suddenly become innocent peasant workers when it suits their fancy and convenience. In addition, the Force will be handicapped by partisans, who constantly and accurately inform native forces of our movements. The population will be honeycombed with hostile sympathizers, making it difficult to procure reliable information. Such difficulty will result either from the deceit used by hostiIe sympathizers and agents, or from the intimidation of friendly natives upon whom reliance might be placed to gain information.

b. In cases of levees en masse, the problem becomes particularly difficult. This is especially true when the people are supported by a nucleus of disciplined and trained professional soldiers. This combination of soldier and armed civilian presents serious opposition to every move attempted by the Force; even the noncomabatants conspire for the defeat of the Force.

c. Opposition becomes more formidable when the terrain is difficult, and the resistance increases as the Force moves inland from its bases. Every native is a potential clever opponent who knows the country, its trails, resources, and obstacles, and who has friends and sympathizers on every hand. The Force may be obliged to move cautiously. Operations are based on information which is at best unreliable, while the natives enjoy continuous and accurate information. The Force after long and fatiguing marches fails to gain contact and probably finds only a deserted camp, while their opponents, still enjoying the initiative , are able to withdraw or concentrate strong forces at advantageous places for the purpose. of attacking lines of communication, convoys, depots, or outposts.

d. It will be difficult and hazardous to wage war successfully under such circumstances. Undoubtedly it will require time and adequate forces. The occupying force must be strong enough to hold all the strategical points of the country, protect its communications, and at the same time furnish an operating force sufficient to overcome the opposition wherever it appears. Again a simple display of force may be sufficient to overcome resistance. While curbing the passions of the people, courtesy, friendliness, justice, and firmness should be exhibited.

e. The difficulty is sometimes of an economical, political, or social nature and not a military problem in origin. In one recent Campaign the situation was an internal political problem in origin, but it had developed to such a degree that foreign national interests were affected; simple orderly processes could no longer be applied when it had outgrown the local means of control. In another instance the problem was economic and social; great tracts of the richest land were controlled and owned by foreign interests; this upset the natural order of things; the admission of cheap foreign labor with lower standards of living created a social condition among the people which should have been remedied by orderly means before it reached a crisis.

f. The application of purely military measures may not, by itself restore peace and orderly government because the fundamental causes of the condition of unrest may be economic, political, or social. These conditions may have originated years ago and in many cases have been permitted to develop freely without any attempt to apply corrective measures. An acute situation finally develops when condiions have reached a stage that, is beyond control of the civil authorities and it is too late for diplomatic adjustment. The solution of such problems being basically a political adjustment, the military measures to be applied must be of secondary importance and should be applied only to such extent as to permit the continuation of peaceful corrective measures.

g. The initial problem is to restore peace. There may be many economic and social factors involved, pertaining to the administrative, executive, and judicial functions of the government. These are completely beyond military power as such unless some form of military government is included in the campaign plan. Peace and industry cannot be restored permanently without appropriate provisions for the economic welfare of the people. Moreover, productive industry cannot be fully restored until there is peace Consequently, the remedy is found in emphasizing the corrective measures to be taken in order to permit the orderly return to normal conditions.

h. In general, the plan of action states the military measures to be applied, including the part the forces of occupation will play in the economic and social solution of the problem. The same consideration must be given to the part to be played by local government and the civil population. The efforts of the different agencies must be cooperative and coordinated to the attainment of the common end.

i. Preliminary estimates of the situation form the basis of plans to meet probable situations and should be prepared as far in advance as practicable. They should thereafter be modified and developed as new situations arise.

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