The Navy-Marine Corps Team: Myth Or Reality CSC 1984 SUBJECT AREA Topical Issues THE NAVY-MARINE CORPS TEAM: MYTH OR REALITY The Writing Program COMMAND AND STAFF COLLEGE Major Clifford L. Stanley UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS April 6, 1984 THE NAVY-MARINE CORPS TEAM: MYTH OR REALITY OUTLINE Thesis Sentence: The Navy is not committed to operational competence in amphibious warfare, and its noncommitment to teamwork seriously de- grades our nation's ability to maintain maritime superiority. I. INTRODUCTION A. Background on Navy-Marine Corps special relation- ship B. Subtle evidence regarding lack of teamwork C. State of readiness of amphibious navy when Reagan administration assumed office D. Reasons for personal concern II. A LOOK AT HISTORY A. Influence of Mahan on advance-base work B. Disparity in Navy-Marine Corps efforts toward advance-base work C. Lessons of World War II III. A LOOK AT TODAY A. The Soviet threat B. Examples of stumbling blocks to Navy-Marine Corps teamwork IV. A LOOK AT THE FUTURE A. Secretary Lehman's message to leaders B. The need for amphibious doctrine changes C. The importance of teamwork THE NAVY-MARINE CORPS TEAM: MYTH OR REALITY The Navy is not committed to operational competence in amphibious warfare, and its noncommitment to teamwork seri- ously degrades our nation's ability to maintain maritime superiority. Admittedly, I have made a serious indictment, particularly when considering that the Navy and Marine Corps have enjoyed a special relationship for over 200 years. Sailors and marines have sacrificed their lives while work- ing as a team. The cement of the teamwork that we have can be found between the many excellent personal relationships that have developed between our service members. In fact, I have been indoctrinated so well on the issue of our spe- cial kinship, that I feel uncomfortable suggesting that there is a problem. Put simply, there is no doubt that my indictment about the Navy's poor commitment to teamwork could be viewed by many sailors and marines as tantamount to heresy or the airing of dirty linen in public. Like all families, our special relationship has expe- rienced growing pains. Both services have clearly defined missions, separate organizational heads, and a host of paro- chial interests. As if sensing the sensitivity of our strained relationship, Secretary Lehman declared himself the Secretary of Navy and the Secretary of the Marine Corps when he assumed office in 1981.1 His symbolic gesture was well received by marines and served as a boost to morale. His gesture also focused positive leadership on a problem that has plagued our services since the early 1900s. Since then, we have shared the common mission of amphibious war- fare. By the end of World War II, amphibious warfare had become the "raison d'etre" of the Marine Corps. Conversely, the Navy had assumed a more neutral position and considered amphibious warfare to be more of a Marine Corps matter. Navy support was provided when necessary, but its support often flirted dangerously close to courting disaster because of a "laissez-faire" attitude toward coordinated efforts to perfect amphibious operations during peacetime. Amphibious warfare is a complicated science that re- quires the closest cooperation among participating forces. It requires teamwork and coordination in order to integrate all types of ships, aircraft, weapons, and landing forces against hostile shores or when defending advance naval bases. Ideally, the relationship between sailor and marine should be symbiotic. In reality, we are far from it. Supporting evidence regarding our lack of teamwork is often subtle. The brotherhood between the Navy and Marine Corps is of such long-standing and so smooth in operation, that the casual observer may be readily pardoned the erro- neous conclusion that the Marine Corps forms part of the Navy.2 We share many of the same duty stations ashore and at sea. Marines serve aboard ships, provide security for naval bases, serve on navy staffs, and attend navy schools. The Navy generally reciprocates in kind by sending its mem- bers to Marine Corps duty stations. There is a difference, however, in the quality of our commitment which is not so obvious to people not attuned to the subtleties of our service personnel management systems. To avoid sweeping general- izations on this complex issue, I will limit my comments to a few simple examples. I will limit my examples to those of personal experience and to those that relate to Navy and Marine Corps teamwork in the area of amphibious operations. 1. The Navy typically assigns doctors, lawyers, reservists, and an occasional aviator to Amphibious Warfare School and Command and Staff College. Al- though both schools place heavy emphasis on teaching amphibious warfare doctrine, surface warfare officers rarely attend. Navy officers who do attend rarely apply what they have learned in subsequent assign- ments. 2. The best surface warfare officers are generally steered away from the amphibious navy. Command of a destroyer is considered to be much more career enhancing than command of an amphibious ship. 3. A tour of duty as a naval gunfire liaison officer with marines is not considered to be career enhancing. Although naval gunfire officers are critical to the success of amphibious operations, the best surface warfare officers are rarely assigned such tours of duty. 4. Unlike the Navy, marines send their best officers with the appropriate background to navy schools and other navy assignments. Selection for the Naval War College, for example, typically involves a competitive screening process to ensure that the best officers represent the Corps. The same philosophy is evident when assigning marines to shipboard and joint navy staff tours. There are, of course, more examples. The aforementioned merely focus on a narrow sampling of assignment issues and do not address navy amphibious schools where marines train with the navy. Although navy sponsored amphibious schools support the teamwork concept, they do not address in suffi- cient detail unique marine concerns such as infantry tactics Marine Air Ground Task Force organization, and control of marine air. When the current administration took office, the am- phibious navy was in deplorable condition. Over twenty years had lapsed since an amphibious keel had been laid, while during the same period approximately 300 keels of other vessels were laid.3 Thus, the first keel laying ceremony for the LSD-41, a new amphibious ship, was more than a symbolic gesture to marines. It served as tangible proof that the Navy-Marine Corps team had the potential to be more of a reality than a myth. It takes more than ships, however, to successfully execute an amphibious operation. Increased lift capability does not necessarily equate to success in amphibious warfare, nor does it guarantee teamwork. Teamwork can only be achieved by working together doing clearly defined jobs while subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole. The kind of relationship I envision between the Navy and Marine Corps is not overly idealistic. I merely want to be able to train the way I expect to fight. I am not doing that now. My concern is borne out of frustration after studying history and learning about the needless loss of thousands of lives that could have been saved if our services had cooperated. The October 1983 Grenada operation provides a more recent example. Although the Grenada operation re- sulted in minimal casualties and was successful, it is not difficult to imagine the countless number of casualties we could have suffered if our forces had been opposed by a larger, better trained enemy equipped with today's conven- tional and nuclear weapons. Yes, we go to sea together, fight together, and occasionally train together, but there is something missing. The missing variables become pain- fully obvious when one reviews history, looks at the present, or looks into the future. A Look At History Shortly after the Spanish American War, the General Board of the Navy embarked on a determined effort to set up a permanent advance-base force within the naval establish- ment. During those formative years, Navy leaders were literally under the spell of Alfred T. Mahan's persuasive doctrines. According to Mahan, it was axiomatic that war- ships powered by steam were tied to their bases by the dis- tance of their steaming radii. Since it was impractical to maintain permanent bases in all parts of the world where the fleet might conceivably engage in action, it would be inevitably necessary in wartime to seize temporary bases against opposition. The defense of such bases was also a problem. The Marine Corps, an organization consisting of ground troops with naval experience and under naval authority, was the obvious solution. Thus, tentative steps were taken to prepare the Corps for this new line of activity.4 Initially, advance-base work appeared to be aggressively approached by both the Navy and Marine Corps. In 1901, for example, guns were taken from battleships and mounted on shore, and a class of officers and enlisted men formed at Newport, Rhode Island, for instruction in the preliminaries of advance-base work. In reality, neither the Navy nor Marine Corps had institutional unanimity on the issue of advance-base work during the formative years. Regardless, the Marine Corps literally carried the torch in the develop- ment of amphibious doctrine, and more than one commandant openly commented about the obvious widespread indifference to advance-base work among navy circles in general. In 1914, the Commandant of the Marine Corps remarked: The impression seems to prevail that advance-base work is essentially a marine matter. This is an error, as there can be no doubt that advance- base work is essentially a naval matter in which the entire service is deeply interested, and while execution of the work is placed in the hands of the Marine Corps, it is nevertheless necessary for successful results that it be given earnest coop- eration by and coordination with various branches of the naval service.5 The Navy did not have a monopoly on the "market of poor cooperation." Different mission and budget priorities created differences, as they do now, in the operational philosophy of all services. Alfred T. Mahan recognized such organizational and human frailties. Although his theories did not directly address the issue of poor cooperation between the Navy and Marine Corps, they did imply a degree of teamwork. More specifically, Mahan addressed an issue dealing with a weakness he observed in the Navy. He was particularly concerned about navy leaders who assumed that an incompatibility existed between mastery of theory and skill in practice.6 Thus, while the Navy eagerly adopted Mahan's advance-base philosophy in theory, they were reticent in putting his philosophy to skillful use through practice. The lack of practice and teamwork became painfully obvious during World War II. Amphibious warfare techniques were developed, practiced, modified, and fine tuned throughout World War II. Proper combat loading, the importance of preparation fires, close air support, the evolution of the fire support coordination center, the training of individual infantrymen, the develop- ment of special assault craft, the use of radar, and the importance of effective communications equipment are some of the areas that required teamwork. Knowledge gained dur- ing early amphibious campaigns served to improve our ability to fight successfully in subsequent operations. It was evident that cooperation between our services before the war would have reduced the trial and error testing of doctrine we were forced to endure. Earlier cooperation would have also facilitated teamwork during the war. Tactically, lessons learned were widely disseminated. The necessity of coordinating supporting arms and of timing everything around the moment the first troops actually touched the beach was recognized by all. Air and naval gun- fire support emerged the stronger, and the means for obtain- ing a smoother flow of supplies from ship-to-shore proved invaluable for subsequent operations ashore. Navy and ma- rine leaders also learned valuable tactics that improved the assault capability of amphibious forces. More control boats with better communications equipment proved to become the nerve center of both the tactical and logistical aspects of future operations.7 The strategic implications of hundreds of lessons learned resulted in the United States emerging as the victor of World War II. Mahan's perception of incompatibility between theory and practice quickly dissolved during the heat of battle. Parochial differences continued to exist, but the Navy and Marine Corps were much closer to being a team than they had ever been. Thousands of lives were lost during amphibious operations, but the mood of the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor made the shock of personal loss easier to absorb. Indeed, for the first time since the American Revolutionary War, American citizens appeared to be functioning as a team. They were behind their fighting men. Thus, amphibious oper- ations in both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters exercised trial and error privileges that would be difficult to justify today. A Look At Today During World War II, our enemies were unfamiliar with the potential of amphibious warfare. The Japanese, for example, were superb fighters, but they grossly under- estimated the United States' ability to conduct amphibious operations. Today, we no longer enjoy the luxury of facing an enemy who is uninformed about the far-reaching strategic implications of an amphibious assault. While we were learn- ing the lessons of amphibious warfare, so was the rest of the world. Thus, our principal opponent, the Soviet Union, is well attuned to the business of amphibious warfare. The Soviets maintain several Sverdlov class cruisers, with 12 six-inch guns, and a large short-range assault force of amphibious ships and naval infantry (marines). Their military doctrine calls for the small naval infantry force to be followed by army units trained in amphibious operations. Several army divisions periodically practice amphibious landings, and a large and readily adaptable merchant fleet is available to supplement amphibious ships. Airborne oper- ations are often conducted in conjunction with amphibious exercises. Also, the diesel and nuclear powered submarines armed with short-range ballistic missiles apparently have theater strike roles in support of ground operations.8 Soviet forces train the way they expect to fight. They are a land power with large land forces. They are cognizant of their vulnerability to attack from the sea, primarily because they have been historically plagued by a weak navy. As a result, they maintain a large navy for strategic of- fense, maritime security of the Soviet Union, interdiction of sea lines of communication, support of ground forces, and to support state policy. For over 30 years, the Soviets have expanded their Navy from a coastal defense role to a long-range ocean-going fleet. Since 1956, they have had one principal architect, Admiral Sergez Georgizevich Gorschkov. Admiral Gorschkov wears several "hats." In addition to being the Navy Commander-In-Chief, he is also a Deputy Minister of Defense and a full member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. His "hats" make him the approximate equivalent of our Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations. The continuity and longevity of Admiral Gorschkov's leader- ship combined with the relative authority that he has over the navy has been favorable for the Soviet Union. Teamwork to ensure successful amphibious operations does not appear to be a problem.9 Soviet threat briefs have become routine in the American military, but institutional reactions have been slow to crystalize. As a result, organizational idiosyncrasies continue to serve as stumbling blocks to Navy-Marine Corps teamwork. Though not conclusive, the following examples illustrate the extent of the problem: 1. Approximately 45-50 amphibious ships are required to lift the assault echelon of a Marine Amphibious Force (MAF). There are only 64 amphibious ships available in the entire navy. The geographic location of our three MAFs would require a major redistribution of ships in order to lift a minimum of one MAF, be- cause 31 ships are in the Atlantic and 33 are in the Pacific.10 Our limited lift becomes more of a problem when considering the fact that army units also conduct amphibious operations and require amphibious lift. If we went to war today, it would not be unreasonable to expect to lose a few ships. What would we be able to lift then? How would we secure advance-bases if troops, landing craft, and equipment had no way of reaching the amphibious objective area? 2. Control of supporting arms requires communications equipment, familiarity with weapon systems, familiarity with the landing force scheme of maneuver, and detailed coordination between navy and marine leaders. Although the Commander Amphibious Task Force has overall respon- sibility for control of supporting arms, the nature of amphibious operations may require supporting arms con- trol to be passed from command to command within the amphibious task force.11 Doctrine provides for flexi- bility for the control of supporting arms, but success will be dependent on the experience of commanders, unit training, equipment maintenance, and available shipping. 3. The lack of naval gunfire training is a particularly difficult problem area to reconcile. Most marines have never participated in a training exercise when naval gunfire was actually integrated with the scheme of ma- neuver. The lack of naval gunfire training takes on increased significance when considering that over 5,500 marine, navy, and army personnel were killed during the battle of Iwo Jima as a direct result of poor coopera- tion between our services on the issue of naval gun- fire.12 History should not be allowed to repeat itself. A Look At The Future Secretary Lehman has provided words which transcend the incomplete listing of examples I have provided. Although his words were not directed toward Navy-Marine Corps team- work, they were prophetic nonetheless. According to Secre- tary Lehman, an important prerequisite to maritime strategy is to pay attention to those military leaders who possess the foresight to recognize the requirements ahead and the seasonal judgment to grasp the strategic implications of those requirements. Such leaders clearly foresaw the re- quirements of amphibious warfare in the decades before World War II.13 His message poses a challenge for today's leaders. It takes courage, foresight, and intestinal fortitude to study new ideas and to develop doctrine for concepts that are neither supported nor understood. As a team, we can forge new doctrine and techniques much better than we can individually. It is incumbent upon navy leaders to recognize the urgency of our unique problems. Amphibious doctrine changes are definitely needed, and those changes will be difficult to make without cooperation between our services. Adherence to the World War II doctrine of assaulting a force beachhead line, normally drawn from a trace of the final terrain objec- tives of the landing force, should be considered obsolete. The advent of the vertical envelopment concept and the land- ing craft air cushioned vehicle also make the term "beach- head" obsolete. Technology has literally revolutionized amphibious warfare making over 70% of the earth's litorrals assailable by amphibious assault. Such a feat would have been impossible during World War II. Technological advances, new ships, air cushioned vehi- cles, helicopters, AV-8 aircraft, and improved weapons will not make much difference if we have to face the Soviet's without adequate training. As the Israeli's learned during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, unit and crew training are funda- mental to success. The lethality of our weapons will not be achieved unless our sailors and marines are trained as a team. We cannot afford to lull ourselves into a false sense of security because of our recent success during the Grenada operation. Quite frankly, we were lucky. We extend a hand of fellowship to the Navy. Our amphibious warfare relation- ship should be more of a reality than a myth. Teamwork will be the vital link to success in the next war. FOOTNOTES 1John Lehman, "Amphibious Capability and Maritime Strategy," Marine Corps Gazette, Oct. '81, p. 38. 2Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr., USMC(Ret.), The Marine Officer's Guide, 4th ed. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1977), p. 80. 3Brigadier General Hudson, Director of Education Center, Marine Corps Development and Education Command, personal interview about Navy-Marine Corps Teamwork, Quantico, Virginia, January 31, 1984. 4Jeter A. Isely and Philip A. Crowl, The U.S. Marines and Amphibious War (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1951), p. 22. 5Ibid., p. 23. 6Allan Westcott, ed., Mahan On Naval Warfare (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company,1920), p. 8. 7Isely and Crowl, p. 251. 8Director of Naval Intelligence and Chief of Information Understanding Soviet Naval Developments, 4th ed., Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, January 1981, p. 11. 9Ibid., p. 7. 10Commander Laskey, USN, Amphibious Instruction Dept., Marine Corps Development and Education Command, personal interview regarding amphibious shipping, Quantico, Virginia, February 23, 1984. 11U.S. Marine Corps, FMFM 7-1: Fire Support Coordination, April 23, 1981, p. 4-4. 12Isely and Crowl, p. 444. 13Lehman, p. 40. BIBLIOGRAPHY Books Heinl, Robert D., Jr., Col. USMC(Ret.). The Marine Officers Guide. 4th ed. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1977. Isely, Jeter A. and Crowl, Philip A. The U.S. Marines and Amphibious War. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1951. Westcott, Allan, ed. Mahan On Naval Warfare. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1920. Magazine Lehman, John. "Amphibious Capability and Maritime Strategy." Marine Corps Gazette, October 1981, 38-40. Interviews Hudson, Brigadier General, Director of Education Center, MCDEC. Personal interview about Navy-Marine Corps Teamwork. Quantico, Virginia, January 31, 1984. Laskey, Commander, USN, Amphibious Instruction Dept., MCDEC. Personal interview regarding amphibious shipping. Quantico, Virginia, February 23, 1984. Government Publications Director of Naval Intelligence and Chief of Information. Understanding Soviet Naval Developments. Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, January 1981. U.S. Marine Corps. FMFM 7-1: Fire Support Coordination. April 23, 1981.
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