Can We Be A Clean, Cold, Fighting Machine?
SUBJECT AREA Manpower
CAN WE BE A CLEAN COLD FIGHTING MACHINE?
The Writing Program
Command and Staff College
Major Richard F. Holihan
United States Marine Corps
April 6. 1984
Can We Be A Clean, Cold, Fighting Machine?
The Marine Corps must be able to identify, deal with and
solve the large unit level sanitation and hygiene
problems which exist when conducting military oper-
ations in cold weather environment.
A. Organizational pride
B. Public confidence
C. Worldwide contingencies
D. Cold weather contingencies
E. Training initiatives
F. Hygiene and sanitation requirements
1. Define terms
2. Distinguish individual and unit respon-
B. Historical examples
1. Soviet Finnish War 1944
2. Soviet mistakes
3. Finnish success
4. Moscow Battle Winter 1941-2
5. German mistakes
C. Marine Corps present posture
1. Renewed interest
2. Individual training
3. Publication for individual training
4. Individual hygiene and sanitation measures
5. Small unit leader training
6. Small unit hygiene and sanitation measures
7. Recapitutation of present position
8. Present equipment assets
D. Marine Corps proposed posture
1. Logistics identified as key item
2. Northrop Study
3. Medical initiatives
4. Personal hygiene and sanitation initiatives
5. Unit problems as a concern
6. Need to establish overall environment
E. Areas requiring further strdy
1. Take up "too hard to handle" questions
2. Key CSS functions
3. Two key problems
4. Heated medical facilities
5. Outdoor sanitation
6. Clean clothing exchange and proper shower
A. Focus of action for the future
CAN WE BE A CLEAN COLD FIGHTING MACHINE?
Those of us who proudly snap to attention whenever
the words or lyrics of the Marine Corps Hymn are being
played have ample reason for the air of confidence about
us. The Marine Corps is the Nations force in readiness.
We pride ourselves and the collective organization on
our reputation for preparedness. Whenever called upon
to be the leading edge of the country's sword of justices
we have responded well and admirably. The Marine Corps
as a small group within the populations as well as that
population as a whole, believe that we have always been
ready to respond for service whenever called. After all,
if we evaluate Marine Corps history it will show that we
have answered time and again the call to serve. We are
held in high esteem by the public, but with that respect
comes the obligation to respond.
To some of us who can remember and to all of us
who can read know the power of popular support and associated
prestige that the Marine Corps holds, was never more
thoroughly tested than in 1947. After the Second World
War a movement was initiated to streamline the United
States Armed Services. Among others, President Truman
wanted to have the U. S. Army absorb both the functions
and the physical entity known as the United States Marine
Corps. The shocked indignent uproar from the country was
so resounding that the consolidation idea was dropped.
President Truman was reported to have remarked to the
effect that the Marine Corps had a better propaganda
machine than Stalin. We overcame that hurdle due to the
trust the American people had in us to do what was ex-
pected. Namely, the American people were saying to carry
on as the force in readiness.
Part of a single line of the Marine Corps Hymn will
produce the words of committment. "in every clime and
place". The words are patriotic and stirring but look
at the meaning those two words, clime and place connate.
As I understand both the meaning of our contingency plans
around the world and the words to the Marine Corps Hymn
say the same thing. Todays Marine Corps must be able to
move, work, and fight in any geographic area of the world
that our government chooses to send it. Besides the more
traditional contingencies in the Western Pacific. we have
begun to see places like South Korea and NATO's northern
flank in Norway creep into our daily venacular.
In my mind those last two countries spell one thing.
COLD WEATHER OPERATIONS. As sure as I am that my spelling
can stand some improvement, I am also of the opinion that
the Marine Corps could stand some improvement in the area
of cold weather operations. Since the early 1970's
when the Marine Corps reopened the Mountain Warefare
Training Center at Bridgeport, California, renewed em-
phasis has been placed upon training for combat in a
cold weather environment. Add to this the real world
contingency and recurring training operations in Norway,
which has been going on since the mid 1970's and the Marine
Corps' concern for being able to move, work, and fight
in a cold weather environment has been both obvious and
Much has been written on this broad area of cold
weather operations. However, many individual facets have
neither been studied nor really understood. One of those
areas has been the matter of hygiene and sanitation in
cold weather. Maybe this topic doesn't sound too inter-
esting, but I am convinced it is both interesting and
more important vitally essential. This then will be the
theme of this paper. The Marine Corps must be able to
identify, deal with, and solve the large unit level sani-
tation and hygiene problems which exist when conducting
military operations in a cold weather environment.
Now that I have drawn the reader from the wide to
the narrow end of the funnel, I think it is important
to lay some basic ground work. The concepts of hygiene
and sanitation have been around the military as long as
men under arms have gathered. However, it is an area
which if properly tended to can be easily handled.
Similarly, ill or unattentiveness to these two subjects
will produce more losses in terms of non-battle casualties
than any hostile action ever could inflict. Quite simply,
"hygiene is the science of health and its preservation".(2:698)
"Sanitation is the establishment of environmental condi-
tions favorable to proper health".(3:1341) I think it is
painfully obvious that cold weather operations are in
themselves quite different and more demanding than the
normal military operations conducted in temperate climates.
Cold weather introduces an entirely new demension to the
battlefield which is basic human survival. This new and
dominant force must be reconciled and overcome before the
tactician draws his first big blue arrow across a map.
The theme of this paper has been stated as hygiene
and sanitation in cold weather operations. I will not
dwell on the individual but rather the unit. All evidence
points to the fact that we are doing a fine job with
preparing the individual for cold weather operations.
However, it appears that the unit as a whole is not pre-
pared to support the individual beyond the very basics for
a very short period of time. I will look at where we are,
where we are currently headed, and where I think the larger
unit should be heading in this matter of maintaining a
healthy and viable fighting machine. However, before I
discuss those three areas it would be worthwhile to
evaluate a few historical examples of what hygiene and
sanitation problems left unsolved have caused the military
History is replete with operations conducted in a
cold weather environment but modern day examples dating
from the Second World War will do nicely to demonstrate
the focal issue. The Soviet Finnish Winter War of 1944
provides proof for both ends of the spectrum regarding unit
preparedness for hygiene and sanitation.(6:5-7)
The Finns were fighting in their own homeland
against the attacking Russians. Winter had set in and
the cold weather environment was unbearable for the
uninitiated. The Russians were equipped for a mechanized
attack but due to the tremendous amount of snow all of
road movement was out of the question. Additionally, the
Russian command did not contemplate that the cold weather
would cause the campaign to take so long, let alone that
they would loose. By not identifying the environment as
a problem and setting about to solve those problems the
Russians were doomed from the beginning. They had too
many vehicles and those they had were the wrong type.
The clothing they brought was not adequate nor was there
sufficient amounts to permit frequent changes. Mess halls
which served hot meals were few and far between. As a
result, hot meals and sufficient nutrition were practically
non-existant. Field showers were more rare than field
kitchens. Adequate shelter was not available. This caused
the Russians to gather around open fires for warmth. The
result was a cold, dirty, ill clothed, ill fed, and
unmotivated Russian soldier.
On the other hand the Finns had proper clothing,
shelter, and dining facilities. The most junior troop to
the highest level commander were perfectly adapted to oper-
ate in a cold weather environment. The Finns were prepared.
They had identified and overcome the problem. The results
were staggering. The Russians lost both Divisions, the
163rd and 44th and one separate regiment with the 163rd,
nearly anhiliated. Personnel losses were 22.500 men for
the Russians, of which 12% had been from frost bite and
only 2,700 for the Finns.(5:29) The Finns made it a point
to seek out and destroy the Russian field kitchens and
shower facilities. In the end they had destroyed all 55
of these installations.(5:25)
The Finns proved that even large numbers of men were
able to live, work, and fight in the desolate region
north of the Artic Circle.(6:8) The Russians proved that
leaders who do not plan for operations in cold weather
will suffer the consequences in terms of defeated armies.
In Finland it was both bullets and the environment that
defeated the Russians. Failure to maintain the overall
health of their fighting force by not tending to clothing
hot food, cleanliness, and shelter was just as debilitating
as a Finish artillery round.
On the eastern front during the Second World War,
the Germans also failed to consider the cold weather in
their planning to attack Moscow in the winter of 1941-1942.
Assuming a quick victory after the fall campaign started,
only enough winter clothing and provisions were planned
for the occupation force. The strong Russian resistance
extended the battle from fall to winter in an area similar
to the weather found in the Hudson Bay area of Canada.(5:31)
Proper clothing for the Germans was never provided despite
last minute attempts by German civilians to donate clothing.
As a result, 100,000 Germans were cold weather non-battle
injuries. A full 14,000 of these injuries required ampu-
tation of at least one appendage. Again the leaders failed
to provide for the health and well being of their followers.
In the U. S. Marine Corps of the 1980's the subject
of cold weather operations has not fallen upon deaf ears
nor found a disinterested audience. The organization is
well aware of problems similar to those in the previous
paragraph. However, the organization has a real term
commitment to participate in cold weather operations.
As such, it can not ponder the past but must be prepared
for today and future contingencies. Most experts when
talking about cold weather operations will state that,
"warfare in the north follows its own tactical rules".(6:4)
This means you must learn to survive before you can fight.
Considering the Marine Corps recent renewed interest in
cold weather operations, we should rightfully expect, and
do in fact find, that this is an area the Corps is con-
centrating upon today.
The vast preponderance of literature, classes, instruc-
tion and training schedules have been focused on the indivi-
ual Marine's ability to function and survive in cold weather
environment. The Marine Corps Development and Education
Command at Quantico, Virginia has been tasked with developing
doctrine, publishing and updating field manuals. In the
area of cold weather operations we have found a few
operational handbooks which were published as quickly as
possible. The attempt was to provide the fleet units with
some written guidance while the more detailed field manuals
were being prepared. The operational handbooks have been
well developed and provide excellent guidance in the areas
addressed. Remember though that while getting to first base
on this ones the Marine Corps has concentrated on the indi-
vidual and keeping him alive and functioning. Subsequent
steps haven't had time to fall into place.
The Cold Weather Operations Handbook was published in
December 1979 and "serves as a basic guide to prepare Marines
to survive and conduct operations for extended periods
under moderate through extreme cold weather conditions".(10:1)
This publication was well written and covered the
of information for the individual on what he would be
expected to encounter. Included are chapters on personnel
equipment and clothing, cold weather injuries and first
aid, encampments, shelters and field fortifications, move-
ment, combat service support, and many others. The
intended audience and basic training considerations are
well served by this publication.
Unquestionably, sanitation and hygiene are addressed.
The chapter titles show that but what of the information
provided. The individual is given guidance on placement
and basic construction of toilet facilities. One toilet
should be constructed downwind for every three or four
tents or platoon size organization. The toilet will nor-
mally be a pit or cross tree typed which allows the
individual to sit on a trunk lashed perpendicular across
two vertical trees. The toilet should be wind proofed
and comouflaged.(10:35) Urinals should be constructed
relatively close to the shelters but not too close. A
distance of ten to fifteen meters is recommended.(10:39)
Guidance on garbage pits is similarly curt. These pits
should permit burial or open burning and every effort to
reduce bulk should be exercised.(10:39) One of the
problems in a cold weather environment is providing
adequate potable water. Discussion about providing
heating shelters to treat the water is made but specific
guidance is lacking.(10:155)
The next level of concern above the individual is
the small unit. The Marine Corps has published a hand-
book for small unit leaders to use in cold weather oper-
ations. Published in December 1982, it is OH8-5.1. It
addresses many of the same topics the earlier handbook
addressed, expanding the range and depth of information.
Also discussed are areas such as: group equipment, rations
and diet, cold weather medical considerations, vehicular
movement and helicopter operations.(12:IV-VII) By evalu-
ating the text the obvious check on the first level
appears. The cold weather handbook has addressed bathing,
clothing requirements, and other sanitation concerns. The
small unit leaders handbook has now set out recommended
parameters and suggested frequencies for individual action
to be both accomplished and checked. For example it provides
a list of personal items each individual should carry which
can help make the difference between comfort and discomfort.
Some of the personal items listed are: a small sharp knife,
waterproof matches, sunburn preventive cream, emergency
rations, chapstick and sunglasses.(12:2-18)
The topics of hygiene and sanitation may not seem
pertinent in the discussion in the preceeding paragraph,
but in fact they are. Remembering the definitions of
sanitation and hygiene, the two revolve around the
maintenance and conditions leading to a healthy environ-
ment and an individual surviving in this environment. I
don't want to make the statements now, which rightly
should be made at the conclusion of all three main topics
of discussion. However, I do feel I must put my discussion
in perspective. The historical examples provided demonstrate
how the larger unit failed because the leaders did not
properly plan for the establishment and maintenance of a
healthy environment. Today, the Marine Corps is working
on this problem from the lowest to the highest level. The
method is sound but the problems become more difficult as
the units and their logistical demands grow. We must not
put the subject of large level hygiene and sanitation in
the "too hard basket".
At present the Marine Corps' inventory of equipment
which can provide shelter, heat, food, water, and clean
clothing reflects the training and initiative to date in
the area of cold weather operations. The Table of Authori-
zed Material NAVMC 1017, lists the equipment available
for use in the fleet. The shelters provided are tents.
The heat provided is squad and general purpose tent heaters.
The food preparation equipment is the same as used in
temperate climates. Water is provided using standard water
purification equipment. (9:2-2,2-8,2-15) In short, when
the Marine Corps goes to the field in a cold weather
environment it takes along its standard issue equipment.
With the exception of some very fine individual clothing
and small unit equipment, which has been recently
developed and added to the inventory, we do not have
equipment designed to support a unit in the field in cold
weather. So where we are now is in excellent shape at
the small unit and individual levels with a menacing
void hanging over our heads in the area of combat service
support from large units in the area of sanitation and
Todays Marine Corps has made significant strides in
coming to grips with the issue of fighting in a cold weather
environment. The stated accomplishments have been to pub-
lish "how to" manuals for the individual and small unit
leader. Efforts have not been limited nor finalized.
Numerous studies have been commissioned and sister service
cooperation and sharing of information has been fostered.
One study completed in 1982 was principally designed to
study the tasks required of an infantryman in a cold
weather environment. The study emphasized personal equip-
ment, marching, loads carried, eating and sleeping.
Interestingly, the summary moved from the individual to
the unit as a whole. "If Marines are to fight in the cold,
then technology would be brought to bear in the common
sense area of logistics. Antiquated supplies and equipment
are undermining our chances for success. Logistics has a
crippling if not fatal affect."(8:72)
Another study which has become a corner stone in
identifying areas of concern devotes considerable attention
to the areas of sanitation and hygiene was commissioned by
the Marine Corps and done by Northrop Services Inc. It
identifies a requirement for heated showers and laundry
facilities.(5:7-26) Present assets are poor and not
designed for cold weather operations. The study suggests
that a combined self contained unit is needed to permit the
individual to shower while his clothing is being laundered.
To meet this requirement the Marine Corps has proposed an
8'x8'x2O' shelter with a combined laundry and bath unit
(CLAUB).(7:7-26) The unit will recycle its water and is
intended for use with forward units.
In the medical area the study discusses such areas
as developing systems for keeping liquid medication from
freezing or substituting dry medications.(7:7-29) Of
critical importance, a need for heated treatment rooms
and operating rooms is highlighted. Presently heat in
tents can only be provided by the use of sooty pot belly
stoves. This produces unacceptable operating conditions
due to infection and filth.(5:7-3O) In a cold weather en-
vironment both medical and dental requirements increase.
Medical increase due to the severity of the environment.
Cold weather also produces unusual dental problems not
the least of which is that prolonged exposure to sub-zero
temperatures cause an inordinate loss of dental fil-
In the area of personal hygiene and sanitation the
study demonstrates the need for forced regular cleaning,
shaving, clothes changing, and teeth brushing. In short,
an individual will be more concerned with sleep and food
and will not attend to his body's cleanliness. The unit
leaders must ensure that proper sanitation and hygiene are
enforced. If this situation is not corrected it will and
does lead to non-battle injuries.(7:7.32) A minimum
requirement is for a change of clean underwear at least
every third day. The unit must be able to provide this
clean clothing, which of course is where the new laundry
unit is vital because the present one will not function
in a cold weather environment.
It should be apparent that the "where we are going"
is in the direction away from the individual problem to
the question of how do we as the unit support this effort.
This is the only direction to move but many areas have
been untouched or more commonly glossed over. An effective
plan for cold weather operations must explore all aspects
of the subject and must never leave for chance any item
which may effect the hygiene and sanitation of the in-
dividual or the unit. Of course this paper concentrates
on the Marine Corps, but we are not alone in closing one
eye or sprinkling fairy dust on a too hard to handle
problem. The Army has produced numerous volumes on the
subject. One of which dedicates the vast majority of the
discussion to getting vehicles ready for cold weather
operations. To the issue of the individuals' cold weather
injuries it curtly stated, "commanders are responsible for
preventing cold weather injuries".(4:2) To our northern
border, the Canadians have extensive experience in the
area of cold weather operations. They too have produced
individual and small unit "how to" handbooks. However, it
is interesting to note that only one paragraph is devoted
to toilet facilities and two sentences on delaing with
garbage. Hygiene and first aid rate five pages out of a
publication nearly one-hundred and fifty pages long.(1:13-4)
Establishing an environmental condition favorable to
health and then developing a system to preserve that
environment is no small task in any part of the world.
However, the cold weather environment aggravates and
elevates these concerns exponentially. In order for the
Marine Corps to come to grips with the preparation for cold
weather operations a number of new areas must be addressed
and some old silent areas must be resurrected.
The "Northrop Study",(7)as it has come to be known is
one of the best documents written on the subject. It is
a guidepost to be used for near term initiatives. The prob-
lem area appears to be the "too hard to handle" questions
which are alluded to or passed over in most current publica-
tions. In order to be an effective force that can function,
move, and fight in cold weather environment the Marine
Corps must resolve these large unit problems.
To begin, the twenty-four functions of Combat Service
Support (CSS) will continue and at an ever increasing level
in a cold weather environment.(11:1-2-1-10) Sponsors in
these areas should be tasked with developing concepts and
requirements when faced with providing CSS in cold weather.
Most important of these areas are: supply, medical, dental,
food service, and engineer support. The supply types must
be able to prodcor and distribute the required clothing and
equipment. The medical and dental communities must develop
plans and proceedures for effective care and evacuation
of casualties. The food service community must develop
meals which provide the increased caloric intake needed as
well as develop equipment and proceedures to provide hot
meals whenever possible. The engineers must develop means
to treat and distribute potable water. Also, they must
be able to launder large quantities of clothing and provide
adequate field showers for the front line troops.
Two areas which are significant obstacles to over-
come are heated medical facilities and proper out door
sanitation. Both present unique opportunities to excel.
The medical area must move from the tent to a better
shelter. The Marine Corps as part of a DOD wide effort
to standardize, is developing a family of shelters which
will be in the 8'x8'x2O' configuration. By developing this
concept adequate medical facilities can be developed by
using multiples of these shelters and most importantly they
can be heated by a cleaner heat source. Additionally. this
family of standard shelters can be used by food service
personnel and engineers who have requirements for enclosed
health spaces to provide their combat service support. The
proper development of the family of standard shelters will
go a long way in resolving many of the CSS cold weather
Outdoor sanitation in terms of human waste and refuse
probably poses the most significant problems. Frozen
ground can not be excavated easily for either garbage pits
or outdoor toilets. While on the move, standard field
techniques will have to be used, but while in a comp
facility other methods must be utilized. In 1954 the Navy
produced a manual called, Low Temperature Sanitation, and
Cold Weather Medicine.(14) Though the text is old, it is
still appropriate to camp facilities. The proceedures for
chemical treatment and incineration of waste are still
appropriate today and should be adapted to the Marine
Earlier, the requirement to exchange clothing and
to take showers for the front line troops was discussed.
Of course this was not a new problem, but maybe we have
forgotten the solution. The Army, during Korea, came to
realize the problem and their solution is still valid
today. They set up showers and clothing exchange points
at regimental levels where units came back a company at a
time to shower and exchange their old clothing for new.
Sometimes this was all a fatigued outfit needed to perk
itself up. The rear echelon troops then assumed the
responsibility for laundering the exchanged clothing so
the progress could be repeated.(15:177) The current
problem is inadequate assets to launder clothing which is
one more obstacle for the engineers to overcome.
"All operations in an Artic environment revolve
around an external heat source."(13:5) This statement
is as true now as it was when it was made. To a large
degree it symbolizes the problems confronting a planner
in this arena. My concern has been hygiene and sanitation
but these are inextricably woven within the source of the
problem - cold. Marines no matter how well trained or led
will not willingly perform the individual tasks needed to
maintain proper levels of individual hygiene or contrib-
ute to unit sanitation in a cold weather environment. The
reason being that doing it right causes personal discomfort.
The efforts that have been initiated to understand and
identify the larger problems must continue. Efforts to
place functions inside a family of standardized shelters
must continue, allowing the proper facilities at least at
the camp level. The Marine Corps can and should be proud
of the advances it has made on the individual and small
unit levels to provide guidance on operating in the cold
weather environment. However, to be successful and able
to fight in a cold climate the Marine Corps must address
the areas that only the large unit can resolve. If we
are to be a clean, cold, fighting machine we must continue
to press on in our efforts to identify and solve the
problems of surviving, moving, and fighting in a cold
weather environment. After all, we have a reputation for
preparedness and the publics' expectations and confidence
1. Canadian National Defense Headquarters. Specific
Operations Volume 2 Northern Operations Part Three
A Soldiers Guide to the Cold, CFP 302(2). Ottawa,
Canada, 27 June 1975.
2. "Hygiene", Dorlands Illustrated Medical Dictionary
(1965), 24th Edition, 698.
3. "Sanitation", Dorlands Illustrated Medical Dictionary
(1965), 24th Edition, 1341.
4. U.S. Army. Army Safety Center Publication. Countermeasure
Volume 3. No. 9. Reducing Cold Weather Training
Injury and Losses. Ft. Rucker, AL., August 1982.
5. U.S. Army. Combat Studies Institute. U.S. Army Command
and General Staff College. Fighting the Russians in
Winter: Three Case Studies. Ft. Leavenworth, KS.,
6. U.S. Army. Department of the Army Pamphlet No.20-292.
Warfare in the Far North. Washington, D.C., October 1951.
7. U.S. Marine Corps. Headquarters Marine Corps. Cold
Weather Combat Operation Study Final Report. Arlington,
VA., November 1980.
8. U.S. Marine Corps. Headquarters Marine Corps. Physical
Performance Tasks Required of U.S. Marines Operating
in a High Altitude Cold Weather Environment. Langley
Park M.D., July 1982.
9. U.S. Marine Corps. Headquarters Marine Corps. Table of
Authorized Material. NAVMC 1017. Washington, D.C.,
10. U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Corps Development and Education
Command. Cold Weather Operations Handbook. OK 8-5.
Quantico, VA., December 1979.
11. U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Corps Development and
Education Command. Combat Service Support. FMFM 4-1.
Quantico, VA., September 1981.
12. U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Corps Development and Education
Command. Small Unit Leaders Cold Weather Combat Oper-
ations Handbook. OH 8-5.1. Quantico, VA., December 1982.
13. U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Corps Schools. Marine Corps
Education Center. The Effects of Artic Conditions
on Aviation Operations. Quantico, VA., 1950.
14. U.S. Navy. Department of Navy Medicine. Low Termperature
Sanitation and Cold Weather Medicine. P5053. Washington,
15. Westover, John G. Combat Service Support in Korea.
Washington, D.C.: Combat Forces Press, Publisher, 1955.
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list