Find a Security Clearance Job!


Cold Weather Combat:  What Is The Marine Corps Doing About It?
AUTHOR Major Richard F. Natonski, USMC
CSC 1988
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  Finally, there is the problem of outdated 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
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
		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
	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
	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
	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 
	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
	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.
	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
	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.
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.

Join the mailing list