Cold Weather Combat: What Is The Marine Corps Doing About It? AUTHOR Major Richard F. Natonski, USMC CSC 1988 SUBJECT AREA Training EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TITLE: COLD WEATHER COMBAT: WHAT IS THE MARINE CORPS DOING ABOUT IT? I. Purpose: To provide an overview of the Marine Corps' program to improve its ability to fight and win in the cold. II. Discussion: Warfare in cold weather is characterized not only as a battle against the enemy, but also as a battle against the elements for survival. The effects of the cold were clearly illustrated in the unsuccessful campaigns of both Napoleon and Hitler in Russia. The Marine Corps' principal experience with cold weather warfare took place at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. Today, as the Corps faces potential contingencies in Norway, Japan, and Korea, there is an increased awareness of the need to improve our cold weather fighting capabilities. During the decade of the 1980's, cold weather conferences, exercises, and operations have brought about a new enthusiasm towards this endeavor. Four categories of deficiencies have been identified in order to improve our cold weather performance. These categories are doctrine, manpower, training, and equipment. The Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Warfighting Center has launched an extensive effort to upgrade the publications and doctrine for cold weather warfare. Manpower issues are limited and are being addressed at this time. There have been great strides in training. The Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MCMWTC) has new facilities and is supporting a Fleet Marine Force driven program emphasizing mobility, tactics, and survival. Finally, there is the problem of outdated equipment. This is the most expensive deficiency to correct, but through a program of clearly defined requirements and innovative development the Marine Corps is acquiring the equipment necessary to survive, move, and fight in the cold. The Marine Corps has progressed significantly in the last decade. III. Conclusion: The Marine Corps' program to improve its cold weather fighting capability is fully underway. The new awareness in the Corps towards fighting in the cold should carry the momentum of the current program to a successful conclusion. COLD WEATHER COMBAT: WHAT IS THE MARINE CORPS DOING ABOUT IT? OUTLINE Thesis Statement: The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the Marine Corps' program to improve its ability to fight and to win in the cold. I. Historical/operational perspective A. Napoleon/Hitler in Russia B. Chosin Reservoir C. Current USMC operations/exercises II. Evolution of USMC cold weather program A. 1982 Norwegian-U.S. Cold Weather Conference B. Impact of COLD WINTER 85 Exercise C. 1987 Norwegian-U.S. Cold Weather Conference D. Indentification of current deficiencies III. Doctrine A. Current doctrine and publications B. Program to update/revise doctrine IV. Manpower A. Force structure B. Identification of cold weather leaders C. Exchange billets V. Training A. MCMWTC 1. Courses of instruction 2. Facilities B. FMF deployment work-up training C. NATO training films VI. Equipment A. Identification of requirements and goals B. Impact of -25 degrees F policy C. Deveolpment and procurement 1. Non-developmental items 2. Joint programs 3. Unilateral programs COLD WEATHER COMBAT: WHAT'S THE MARINE CORPS DOING ABOUT IT? Warfare in cold weather is characterized not only as a battle against the enemy, but also as a battle for survival against the elements. Despite the fact the Marine Hymn states, "We have fought in every clime and place where we could take a gun," the Marine Corps experience in fighting in the cold during its more than two hundred years of existence is limited and relatively recent. The assignment of a Marine brigade to an operational mission in Norway, in addition to exercises held in Japan, Korea, and Alaska, has raised the consciousness of the Marine Corps toward the difficulties and complexities of fighting in the cold. With this increased awareness, a concerted effort to improve our capabilities to fight in cold weather has been initiated during the decade of the 1980"s. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the Marine Corps' program to improve its ability to fight and to win in the cold. Before examining the approaches the Marine Corps has taken to improve itself, a historical examination of the impact of winter warfare is worthwhile. Most military personnel are familiar with the effect "General Winter" had on the capaign's of Napoleon and Hitler in Russia. Both the French and German armies were ill-prepared to fight in the sever cold of Russia. In a description of his campaign, Napoleon stated that until the temperatures started to drop in November his army moved with great success, but when the cold commenced, the Russian winter, not their army, defeated him.1 A graphic example of the effects of the cold on soldiers is plainly visible as the German Army spent their first winter in Russia in 1941-1942. The Germans, fighting with inadequate clothing, suffered 100,000 cases of frostbite by the end of December 1941 of which 14,000 required amputation. As winter concluded, over a quarter of a million of their soldiers were frostbite victims. The impact of non-battle casualties was tremendous; German dead, missing, and disabled were irreplaceable.2 The cold also affected equipment, freezing the firing mechanisms on German weapons and literally cracking parts. By contrast the Soviets had weapons designed for fighting during the winter and used the proper lubricants.3 German officers, writing after World War II, acknowledged that the climate was a dynamic force in the Russian campaign. The commander who recongnized and respected that force could overcome it, but he who disregarded or underestimated the climate was threatened with failure or destruction.4 The campaigns of Napoleon and Hitler illustrate the effects lack of preparation for cold weather battle can have on an army. More recently, the experience at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War is the most signficant Marine Corps involvement in cold weather warfare. The First Marine Division was inadequately outfitted to meet the harsh winter that they faced in the mountains of Korea. Robert Moskin has described some of the hardships experienced by Marines at the Chosin Reservior: The day on the high plateau, winter struck. the sub-zero cold and severe wind put hundreds of Marines into shock. They were getting their first taste of the ordeal to come. The cold became a vicious enemy. To survive, men had to live with great care; the penalty was frostbite, frozen feet, hands and faces. They piled on layers of clothing. They carried their canteens inside their clothes, extra socks next to their bodies. Only the dry portions of rations could be eaten safely. Entrenching tools would not break the frozen earth. Oil froze weapons. They had to be wiped almost dry; when possible, lubricated with light hair oil. Artillery fire was slowed and ranges shortened. This cold-weather Shoe Pac made feet sweat when marching and freeze when standing still. A new vapor-barrier boot was rushed out from the United States. Vehicle engines had to be warmed up every few hours; mechanics could not expose their hands while making repairs. Jeep ambulances were useless; the wounded would freeze to death.5 Until the 1980"s, Marine Corps cold weather equipment, training, and thought was based on out Korean War experience. After the Vietnam War, the United States showed an increasing emphasis on strenghthening the NATO alliance and increasing cooperation with its European allies. The significance of Norway and its importance in controlling the Norwegian Sea to prevent Soviet access to the Atlantic was recognized. As a result, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with Norway in January 1981 to permit the prepositioning of equipment to support a Marine Brigade.6 In the years since, Marines have trained and exercised in Norway on nearly an annual basis gaining an appreciation for the difficulties associated with fighting in the cold. In addition to our Norwegian commitment, Marines are participating each year in TEAM SPIRIT in Korea, training at Camp Fuji in Japan, and conducting company sized combined training exercises with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces in Northern Japan. Additionally, several Marine units have operated in Alaska during the last several years. As a result of the increased exposure to cold weather operations, Marines and their leaders have make a detailed examination of the difficulties of fighting in the cold. In addition to Marine efforts in Norway, there have been several other events that have directed attention towards a concerted effort to improve cold weather fighting capabilities. In 1976 the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MCMWTC) was reactivated to provide a source of cold weather combat expertise for Marines. A Cold Weather Operations Conference conducted in 1979 at Quantico, Virginia, identified equipment deficienceis and established a working group to oversee the development of new equipment. In May of 1981, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, Policies, and Operations at Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, was designated by the Commandant as the coordinator and focal point for all cold weather matters. Marine Corps cold weather capabilities and deficiencies were defined and identified in a Cold Weather Combat Operations Study approved by the Commandant in February 1982. In March 1982, a joint U.S.-Norwegian Cold Weather Conference was held for the purpose of continuing the Corps' training in cold weather warfare and determining solutions to cold weather operational deficiencies. A second joint U.S.-Norwegian Conference in 1987 utilized operational experience and knowledge gained since the previous conference to identify cold weather deficiencies in order to recommend courses of action to eliminate or reduce them.7 The sum total of all of these events and the annual exposure of Marines conducting cold weather training and exercises has been a new awareness of the difficulties of cold weather operations. Furthermore, this increased awareness is obvious when reviewing the frequency of cold weather articles appearing on the pages of the Marine Corps Gazette. COLD WINTER 85, an exercise conducted by Marines and other Allied nations in Norway, was a significant milestone in Marine Corps' operations. For the first time, whole battalions of Marines equipped with skis, left the roads they had been tied to in previous years and demonstrated a level of training and mobility comparable to that displayed by the Finnish Army in their war against the Russians in 1939. COLD WINTER 85 helped to convince the NATO Allies that the U.S. Marine Corps was taking cold weather operations seriously. As a result of its experiences in the cold, the Marine Corps has indentified deficiencies in various areas of cold weather operations. In order to address and to resolve these deficiencies, they were divided into four primary categories: doctrine, manpower, training, and equipment. Some of the deficiencies in the Marine Corps' program to improve its cold weather fighting capabilities can and have been solved easily and at low cost. Other deficiencies, especially those involving equipment, cost money as well as time. In order to gain a perspective on how far the Marine Corps has to go, an examination of these four categories of deficiencies is in order. The Doctrine Center, now known as the MAGTF Warfighting Center, has always been the leader on the development of doctrine in the Marine Corps. In the past the Marine Corps has relied heavily on the U.S. Army for the doctrine necessary for operations in cold weather. The U.S. Army Field Manual FM 31-70 Basic Cold Weather Manual was the basic all-around manual. This manual was augmented when necessary by Army technical manuals and training circulars covering such topics as the effect of cold on weapons and ordnance, ski techniques, and cold weather flying sense. By the end of 1979 the Marine Corps published its first operational handbook (OH) on cold weather. OH 8-5 Cold Weather Operations Handbook was the Marine Corps' first in-house effort to prepare Marines to survive and to conduct operations in moderate to extreme temperatures. A second manual, OH 8-5.1 Small Unit Leaders Cold Weather Combat Operations Handbook was published in 1982 in order to provide the small unit leader with a pocket reference guide for use during cold weather operations. These two operational handbooks and a third dealing with helicopter operations in the cold were the extent of the Corps' effort to develop doctrine on cold weather operations until recently. During 1987 the Doctrine Center embarked on an extensive and exciting effort to touch thoroughly on all aspects of cold weather combat. Whereas, in previous manuals the emphasis was primarily on survival and techniques, the new effort addressed the role of each element of the MAGTF during cold weather operations. For the first time, the Marine Corps will have a publication to address the concerns of the ground combat, air combat, and combat service support elements of the MAGTF. In addition, a commanders guide is being developed to discuss the characteristics of cold weather and planning concerns. 8 Although some of these manuals are still a few years from completion, they will provide the Marine Corps with one of the most comprehensive series of publications dealing with all aspects of cold weather operations and survival. Manpower is the second category that has been examines with respect to improving cold weather capabilities. This is one area that has not required significant change. The current structure of the Corps is adequate to fight in the desert or the arctic. However, there are several areas under the heading of manpower that are worth further discussion. In the event the Marine Corps became involved in a war where low temperatures were expected to have an impact, it would be necessary to indentify those Marines who had cold weather experience. Today, the only way to accomplish this is through the use of school codes. This is not a reliable nor accurate method. A proposal that has gained a lot of support is the assignment of a secondary MOS to those individuals who have attended a formal course of instruction on cold weather operations. Unfortunately, this suggestion has met resistance from the manpower establishment. Another area under the manpower umbrella is the officer exchange program. Currently the Marine Corps has an ongoing program with the British Royal Marines. During the 1987 Cold Weather Conference the recommendation was made to expand this program to include the Norwegian Army. With annual deployments to Norway such a proposal has great merit; the feasibility of commencing such a program is being studied. Although few manpower changes are necessary, the implementation of a Norwegian exchange program and the assignment of a cold weather MOS would certainly enhance cold weather capabilities. General R.H. Barrow, the 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps, said that training in cold weather was the closest you could come to simulating the stress of combat in a peacetime environment. The burden of fighting in the cold places tremendous responsibilities on the small unit leader. One of the most signigicant reasons for recent successes during the Norwegian exercises has been the revamped training program. The MCMWTC at Bridgeport, California, has been the keystone of training efforts. Established in the early 1950's as a training center for replacements going to Korea, MCMWTC was later shut down. With the increased emphasis on cold weather operations brought about by the Norway mission, MCMWTC was reopened and an extensive program was launched to improve missions are the test and evaluation of cold weather equipment and the instruction of units and individuals. Courses cover a varied format, such as: battalion operations, designed to cover survival, mobility, and tactics; concept; cold weather medicine, for Doctors and Corpsmen operational planning, for unit staffs; and survival, for aircrews. MCMWTC has become very sophisticated in its training. It emphasizes cross-country skiing and helicopters as a means of mobility while encouraging the use of tent sheets to decrease logistical burdens.9 MCMWTC teaches a wide range of subjects pertinent to fighting and surviving in the cold. To illustrate the importance the Marine Corps is placing on MCMWTC, it is worthwhile to look at the extensive military construction going on there. New quarters, administration, messhall, motor transport, and multi-purpose buildings have been built or are scheduled to be built in the near future. Additionally, new housing has been built for the families of those Marines permanetly stationed at MCMWTC.10 This effort illustrates the Marine Corps' commitment to MCMWTC and the cold weather training program. MCMWTC is just one part of the total equation. The commander in the operating forces of the Fleet Marine Force is ultimately responsible for the training and readiness of his unit. COLD WINTER 85 was significant for the elaborate training package developed to support the exercise in Norway that year. As has been noted previously this was the first time whole battalions operated on skis. In order to attain this goal, training began while still at Camp Lejeune and was followed with a month at MCMWTC, several weeks at an Army cold weather base, and concluded with some pre-exercise training in Norway. The results of this effort were increased mobility of Marines on the ground, success in their operations, and establishment of a standard to achieve for future units deploying to Norway. One final area of training worthy of mention is a series of NATO cold weather training films. These films were a joint effort put together by the Marine Corps, Norwegians, Dutch, British, and Canadians. They were prepared to cover a myriad of different aspects of cold weather techniques for use by units deploying to cold weather areas. They can be used in garrison or on ships to familiarize troops with what they can expect when operating in the cold. Equipment is the final category and the most expensive when trying to correct deficiencies and to improve cold weather capabilities. In the three decades following the Korean War, very little was done to improve the fighting man's clothing and equipment developed in the late 1940's and early 1950's. The increased popularity of winter sports and development of new technologies and fibers has opened the door to an improvement of our equipment. The Marine Corps has initiated a program to improve the individual's over-snow mobility, lighten his load, and enhance his ability to survive the cold. In order to accomplish this, requirements had to be clearly defined and costs kept down. During the joint U.S.-Norwegian Cold Weather Conference in 1982, the need to develop a policy defining the Marine Corps' temperature range for procuement of clothing and equipment was identified. In September 1986 the Commandant approved a memorandum specifying that with certain exceptions, -25 degrees F would be the coldest temperature for which equipment would have to be developed. This temperature was selected after a careful analysis of all potential Marine Corps operational areas around the world. The importance of this policy cannot be underestimated. For years, many items of cold weather equipment could not proceed beyond the developmental phase because of unrealistic requirements that were beyond the realm of current technologies. For example, there was the requirement for a glove for troops handling petroleum products at temperatures as cold as -60 degress F. Present technology could not develop a glove that was flexible enough to permit the dexterity necessary to operate a pumping nozzle while keeping the troop's hands warm in this extreme temperature range. For the first time a specific extreme was placed on the temperature requirement for equipment under development. In order to keep costs down and obtain the gear required, the Marine Corps is pursuing three different methods of equipment procurement. They are non-developmental, joint development, and unilateral development. All three options are being pursued in order to keep costs to a minimum, to acquire equipment as rapidly as possible, and to ensure the equipment meets the needs of the operating forces. A non-developmental item (NDI) is a piece of equipment that has been developed already and exists in the market place. The procurement of NDIs reduces research and development costs to the minimum needed to evaluate such an item as to whether it meets stated requirements. Since the item already exists, procurement can begin immediately after testing is completed. Two examples of NDIs are the NATO ski-binding and British assault snowshoe. Procurement of these items allows the Marine Corps to meet quickly a stated need while establishing a degree of commonality among the equipment of our NATO Allies. The U.S. Army, with its wide range of cold weather missions, has been a partner of the Marine Corps in the joint development of certain items of cold weather equipment. This cooperative effort had enabled the Corps to share research and development costs on varied items of cold weather equipment, while at the same time reducing procurement costs due to the large quantities required by the Army. The Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) and the improved vapor barrier boot are examples of joint Army-Marine Corps programs that benefit all concerned. In certain instances the Marine Corps had been forced to pursue alone, new and improved cold weather equipment. This had been the case when an item that is required could not be found in the market place and the Army indicated no interest in a joint development. This, of course, is the most expensive option; however, it does allow the Marine Corps to procure certain required items unique to this service. A unilateral development takes longer and costs more but does allow for the procurement of specific items the Marine Corps might not get otherwise. The cold weather small shelter system is an example of a unilateral development item. In this time of decreasing budgets, every effort must be made to define clearly and to limit the cost of new cold weather equipment. By utilizing a combination of options the Marine Corps has been able to keep costs affordable and to replace outdated equipment. As the combat load carried by the individual Marine is lightened, his ability to move over the snow is improved, and his chance to survive the cold is increased, the chances for victory on the cold weather battlefield are greatly improved. The Marine Corps has come a long way during the last decade in its effort to fight and to win in the cold. The Norwegian mission has created a new awareness and positive influence that has impacted on everything from doctrine to manpower and training to equipment. Some of the improvements discussed in this paper will not happen overnight; however, the enthusiasm to see the program to a successful conclusion exists throughout the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps has come a long way from its harrowing experience at the Chosin Reservoir thirty years ago. FOOTNOTES 1 Albert S. Britt III, The Wars of Napoleon (West Point, N.Y.: U.S. Military Academy, 1973), p. 181. 2 Allen F. Chew, Fighting the Russians in Winter: Three Case Studies (Ft. Leavenworth, KA.: Combat Studies Institute, 1981), p.34. 3 Ibid., p. 38. 4 Dept. of the Army Pamphlet No. 20-291, Effects of Climate on Combat in European Russia (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 1952), p. 79. 5 Robert J. Moskin, The U.S. Marine Corps Story (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1977) pp 730-731. 6 CMC ltr 3000/PL 41r-scp, Subj: Prepositioning for the Airlanded Marine Amphibious Brigade to Norway dtd 28 Oct 1987 with talking paper #009-87 (Washington, D.C.), pp. 1-3. 7 Norwegian-U.S. Cold Weather Conference Final Report (Arlington, VA.: Northrop Services,Inc., 1987), pp.1-1 to 1-3. 8 LtCol. A.W. Powell, USMC, MAGTF Warfighting Center, personal interview about cold weather doctrine,Quantico, VA., 18 February 1988. 9 Col. J.F. Stennick, "USMC Cold Weather Training," Norwegian-U.S. Cold Weather Conference Final Report (Arlington, Va.: Northrop Services, Inc., 1987), pp. 3-130 to 3-134. 10 Ibid., pp. 3-135 to 3-136. BIBLIOGRAPHY Britt III, Albert S. The Wars of Napoleon. West Point, NY.: U.S. Military Academy, 1973. Chew, Allen F. Fighting the Russians in Winter: Three Case Studies. Ft. Leavenworth, KA.: Combat Studies Institute, 1981. CMC ltr 3000/PL 41r-scp, Subj: Prepositioning for the Airlanded Marine Amphibious Brigade to Norway dtd 28 Oct 1987 with talking paper #009-87. Dept. of the Army Pamphlet No. 20-291, Effects of Climate on Combat in European Russia. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 1952. Hammel, Eric M. Chosin. New York: Vanguard Press, 1981. MCDEC, USMC. Cold Weather Operations Handbook OH 8-5. Quantico, VA., 1979. Moskin, Robert J. The U.S. Marine Corps Story. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1977. Norwegian-U.S. Cold Weather Conference Final Report. Arlington, VA.: Northrop Service, Inc., 1987. Powell, LtCol. A.W., MAGTF Warfighting Center. Personal interview about cold weather doctrine. Quantico, VA., 18 February 1988.
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