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Reevaluating Our Amphibious Doctrine
CSC 1992
SUBJECT AREA National Military Strategy
AUTHOR:   Major R. J. Johnson, United States Marine Corps
THESIS:   Although many things were done right in
Southwest Asia, we need to reexamine our lessons learned.
We need to record those lessons that will serve us well in
the future and consider the rest to be an anomaly of the
Southwest Asia campaign.
BACKGROUND:   Even though the Southwest Asia campaign was
a huge success.  We still need to examine our lessons
learned.  Most of our success was in the areas of
strategy, tactics, and technology.  The most disturbing
problems existed in the areas of command and control.
Since Desert Storm was our first large conflict since
Vietnam, we tended to send as many Marines as possible to
the theater.  Unfortunately, this caused more problems
than it did solutions.  No where was this more evident
than in the amphibious warfare community.  Maybe it was
because our amphibious doctrine is about as old as the
last time we conducted a large scale amphibious assault.
No one person or agency is directly to blame.  Although,
it was very apparent that the Marine Corps is still
capable of conducting amphibious warfare.   The show
stopper in Desert Storm was not the mines, but the lack of
understanding that doctrine needed to modified, when the
situation dictated.  Amphibious operations must be planned
and executed in close cooperation with other events
happening simultaneously.   If amphibious operations is
going remain the forte of the Marine Corps, than we must
modify our doctrine and match it to our present
RECOMMENDATION:   The Marine Corps must be instrumental in
the development of current amphibious doctrine.
Thesis:    Although many things were done right in
Southwest Asia, we need to reexamine our lessons learned.
We to record those lessons that will serve us well in the
future and consider the rest to be an anomaly of the
Southwest Asia campaign.
  I.  	The MEF as a warfighter
      	A.  	The loss of the MEB command elements
      	B.  	The MEF organization
      	C.  	Liaison teams
  II. 	Maneuver from the Sea
      	A.  	Over the horizon capability
      	B.  	Historical example
III.  	CATF/CLF Relationships
      	A.  	Historical development
      	B.  	Responsibilities of CATF
IV. 	The AOA and the Deep Battle
      	A.  	The necessity of the AOA
      	B.  	Control of the Deep Battle
               Reevaluating our Amphibious Doctrine
          	For the past year, I have been fortunate to attend
Command and Staff College which has provided me the time to
reflect and analyze on the recent conflict in Southwest Asia.
This unique opportunity has allowed me to conduct countless
interviews,  listen to cassette tapes and review the vast
amount of lessons learned.  Desert Shield and Desert Storm has
proven the Marine Corps' capability to deploy rapidly and
readiness to fight, when we arrive.  During my studies, I have
concentrated  principally  on  the  Marine  Corps  forte  of
Amphibious Warfare.
          	Many  innovative  tactics  and  techniques  were
developed while the amphibious forces were rehearsing for a
possible assault upon the beaches of Kuwait.  Our constant
pursuit of technological advantages has enhanced our abilities
to move rapidly throughout the today's modern battlefield.
The Global Positioning System (GPS) was probably the highest
regarded piece of technology to come out of Southwest Asia.
During the ship to shore movement phase, the assault waves
were able to verify their position in the water and navigate
to a precise landing point. This was accomplished without the
directional aid from the Primary Control Ship (PCS) under
emission control (EMCON) conditions and in hours of reduced
          	However,  with all the  improved technology and
techniques that were developed,  several areas of concern
arose.   Primarily,  these dealt with command and control
issues.   When amphibious doctrine was first written and
developed many of the systems that are in existence today were
not even imagined then.  Doctrine has never been able to keep
up with changes in tactics and technology but nowhere is this
more evident than in the field of amphibious warfare.
          During operations in the Gulf many modifications
were made to doctrine, whether these served a purpose or not
is open to discussion.  Our amphibious doctrine is still in
many ways very solid.  It has been battle tested and offers a
foundation in which we can build upon.  Although many things
were done right in Southwest Asia, we need to reexamine our
lessons learned.  We need to record those lessons that will
serve us well in the future and consider the rest to be an
anomaly of the Southwest Asia campaign.
Fighting as a MEF
          During the force structure review, BGen Krulak and
his Force Structure Review Board recommended that the MEB
command elements be eliminated in an attempt to comply with
the force reductions, directed by DOD.  By doing so the MEF
command elements will now have to provide command elements to
brigade size deployments.  This is going to force the MEFs to
compose a staff from within to operate these MAGTFs.  Whether
or not these Marines have trained together is a mute point,
when we consider that up to one third of MEF staff could be
deployed upon amphibious shipping.   This might not be a
problem if the deployment is short in duration but what
happens if is an extended period as was the case in Southwest
Asia.   This would require the MEF to train additional
personnel, to possibly fight the MEF later.
          JCS Pub 1-02 states that a Marine Expeditionary
Force is the largest of the Marine Air-Ground Task Forces
(MAGTFs) , is normally built around a division/wing team , but
can include several divisions and aircraft wings together with
an appropriate combat service support organization.   The
scenario in Southwest Asia has certainly proven that a MEF can
operate with more than one division at a time.  With the MEF
commander designated as a warfighter, he is going to need a
staff to fulfill that mission.  It was a noted discrepancy
that the current standing MEF staff was not sufficient to
fight the MEF as it was tailored to and that it required
additional augmentation to fulfill a wartime T/O. With the
possibility of the MEF being tasked to provide MEB command
elements, where will the additional augmentation come from and
how long can the MEF operate with some of its key operators
deployed afloat.
          During a critique of the Southwest Asia campaign,
BGen Van Riper stated: " ... In short, MEBs should be viewed
as a "slice" of a MEF, not permanent organizations that join
temporally  to  form the MEF,  or worse yet,  stand-alone
organizations that operate under the MEF.   Looked at in
another  way,  MEBs  should  routinely  be  considered  as
MEF(Forward)."   If this is the case what happens if the MEF
(FWD) is now deployed on Amphibious shipping and the remainder
of the MEF deploys later ashore ?   This is a particular
concern considering that Marines afloat on Amphibious Shipping
according to present doctrine belong to the Naval Force
          In the Marine Corps Capabilities Plan, chapter 3
discusses MAGTF Crisis Action Modules.  It states that "Crisis
Action Modules are building blocks which allow the sequential
flow of Marine Corps Combat Forces to the Warfighting CINC".
These building blocks or deployment pillars are: Strategic
Airlift, Amphibious Ready Forces, and Maritime Preposition
Force.  This deployment plan works very well in describing how
forces can deploy to theater but fails to address the point on
how to employ the entire force later.   If we lose the MEB
command elements and still have the responsibility to deploy
rapidly, we must find a way coordinate between the forces
afloat and ashore.
          An example of why close coordination is necessary
occurred in Southwest Asia.  The amphibious assault upon Ash
Shuaybah in Kuwait would have required a linkup with I MEF
forces coming from the southwest. Although linkup points were
designated, no other control measures were given.  What was
necessary was to have direct communication between the CLF and
the supported ground force commander (I MEF) to agree on
mutually determined control measures such as restricted fires
lines, recognition signals, etc. ...  The objective of these
communications and control measures are to ensure, to the
maximum  extent possible,  the  success  of  the  amphibious
assault, the safety of the ATF, the safety of the forces on
the  ground  from  friendly  fires  and  the  continuous,
uninterrupted engagement of enemy forces.  (9:6)
          It comes as no surprise that the MEF Cmdr in
Southwest Asia had trouble coordinating efforts with the
Marine forces afloat.  Although the lack of communications
capability and equipment between the two forces seemed to be
the most dominant factor.   It can be argued that a basic
misunderstanding of concepts and issues existed between the
Naval and Marine components.  In an attempt to rectify the
situation, MajGen Sheehan was then sent to Admiral Arthur's
Naval Force staff as a liaison officer for LtGen. Boomer, the
MEF Cmdr ashore.  Having MajGen Sheehan on the flagship seem
to bridge the gap that had been lacking concerning amphibious
issues.  It has been suggested that maybe this type of liaison
officer become "doctrinal" for future amphibious operations.
This in my opinion would be a mistake to add yet another staff
in the planning process.  Currently each Naval Fleet has a
Fleet  Marine  Officer   assigned  to  the   staff.   His
responsibilities is to recommend and advise the Fleet Cmdr on
employment of Marine forces.  The actual plan for employment
should be between the CLF and the Fleet Cmdr.    Although
MajGen Sheehan and his staff did an admirably job it seems
awful redundant to have a Commander of the Landing Force that
could have perform the exact same task.
Maneuver From The Sea
          Over-the-Horizon (OTH) was an operational concept
for positioning amphibious forces further offshore in the
execution of a ship-to-shore phase of an amphibious operation
which is intended to enhance the survival of the amphibious
task force.  This employment can increase the likelihood of
achieving tactical surprise at the point of power projection
ashore.  (2:16)   The title for this concept has changed to
maneuver from the sea.   I believe that this will better
describe the concept that we as Marines are trying to achieve.
It provides an understanding that our movement or maneuver to
a lightly defended beach or landing zone will provide us that
tactical surprise.
          This is not a new concept. During the Vietnam War,
the Seventh Fleet maintained two Special Landing Forces (SLF)
for a reinforcing capability.  The two Special Landing Forces
of the Seventh Fleet were each comprised of a Marine Battalion
Landing Team and a Marine helicopter squadron, and provided
ComUSMACV/ CG III MAF with a highly-flexible,  amphibious
striking  force  for  operations  along  the  South  Vietnam
littoral.    During the  amphibious  operation,  operational
control of the SLF remained with the Amphibious Task Force
Commander designated by Commander, Seventh Fleet.  However,
this relationship may not have persisted throughout the
operation  if  coordination  with  forces  ashore  dictated
otherwise.    When  the  Special  Landing  Force was  firmly
established ashore, operational control was passed to CG III
MAF who,in turn, may shift control to the division to whose
area the Special Landing Force was operating.  Operational
control of the helicopter squadron was then passed to the 1st
Maine Aircraft Wing.  (7:19)   The Special Landing Forces,
cruising off the Vietnamese coast, provided two battalions
that could very quickly come ashore and add to the to the III
MAF inventory.
          In Southwest Asia, we could have operate in the
exact same method as in Vietnam.  Both scenarios had Marine
forces established ashore, that could have coordinated the
necessary  control measures  needed to  conduct  operations
ashore.  The plan in Southwest Asia would have required the
4th MEB to establish a lodgement on the enemy flank and then
conduct a link-up with I MEF forces. By having Marine forces
operating off the coast, and ready to support Marines ashore
makes sense.  What we need is to have a command relationship
established between those forces in doctrine.
          We now have the opportunity to reevaluate and
restructure our amphibious doctrine to match our present
capabilities and changing force structure. The probability of
conducting a large scale amphibious assault into a defended
beach will continue to be unlikely.  First, we will not have
the sufficient resources in Marines or amphibious lift to
carry out such an operation.  Second, the cost of carrying out
such an operation would be too high in terms of casualties.
This is not to say that we should not train for such an
assault,  just that we need to  focus on our amphibious
capabilities,  and maximize its potential.   By conducting
combined  operations,  utilizing an amphibious  assault  in
conjunction with an already established ground force, we force
the enemy to react to us.   Maintaining our amphibious
capability will allow us to retain our operational and
tactical edge.
CATF/CLF Relationships
          The debate over the CATF/CLF relationship has been
an on going battle since its inception.  During the evolution
of amphibious warfare, it was decided that the Naval Commander
would have overall command of the  landing force.    The
Tentative Manual of 1938, stressed the particular problems of
amphibious  warfare  in  those  days.     As  for  command
relationships, it assigned overall command of the landing to
the Naval Commander, since the landing force was only one
element of a complex task force organization designed to
protect the landing force from enemy sea and air attacks.
Unanswered was the question of transfer of command ashore to
the landing force commander once the campaign developed,
because the planners were only thinking of short operations to
secure the beachhead only. (4:331)
          Modifications continued to be made throughout the
Second World War.   After Guadacanal,  Commandant Holcomb
persuaded Admirals Halsey, Nimitz, and King to accept an
important modification of Fleet Training Manual-167,  the
doctrinal manual for amphibious operations.  " Henceforth, the
Navy agreed, the landing force commander would subordinate
himself only during the movement phase to the objective area
and the initial landings.  During the planning stages and the
land campaign, the Navy and Marine commanders would be co-
equal; they would submit their disagreements to the common
superior (presumably a Navy theater commander) for resolution.
(4:371)  This only shows that if doctrine can be modified in
the middle of a war, then there is no reason why we can not
modify it now.
          The CLF is responsible for planning and executing
the landing plan in coordination with the Commander of the
Amphibious Task Force.  One has to ask who really was the CATF
in Southwest Asia?   As set forth by JCS Pub 3-02  the
Amphibious Task Force consists of the Transport Groups,
Control Groups, Tactical Air Groups, Fire Support Groups,
Shore-Based Navy Tactical Air Groups, Support Carrier Groups,
Screening Group,  Mine Warfare Group,  Reconnaissance  and
underwater Demolition Group, Tactical Deception Group, Inshore
Undersea Warfare Group, Close Covering Group, Patrol Plane
Group, Air Transport Group, Administrative Group, and Naval
Beach Group.  Ever since PhibLant/PhibPac were disbanded in
1973 and the functions passed to SurfLant/SurfPac and then
further  delegated  to  the  PhibGru's,  the  importance  of
amphibious warfare has diminished in the Navy.   (1:17-18)
Unfortunately the PhibGru's in Southwest Asia were unable to
perform the task as CATF.  Two problems are apparent: (1) He
does not have authority over the assets required to support
operations of this size, and (2) His primary responsibility
and the majority of his efforts centered around the duties as
the transport group commander. (1-18)
          The  responsibilities  of  the  CATF  are  all  the
functions now listed under control of the Fleet Cmdr. or the
Officer in Tactical Control (OTC). When the Composite Warfare
Commander concept was introduced it was originally defensive
in nature.   Although it eventually recognized the strike
warfare community it failed to designate an amphibious warfare
function.  Additionally each separate fleet has interpreted
the CWC concept in their own way.  The Third Fleet Tac Memo PZ
1010-1-88 recommends that the Amphibious Ready Group be
redesignated the Amphibious Warfare Commander.  It would also
have the CLF as a composite commander as well.  This would put
the AWC and the CLF on the same command level.  This can be
interpreted to mean that the need for a CATF no longer exist
and the responsibilities for CATF now rely with the OTC.  The
changes that have occurred in the command and control area
have alleviated the need for redundant command systems.
The AOA and the Deep Battle
          We must be cautious of the traditional roles and
missions that have existed for so long.  For the most part,
people in the ATF were resistent to change.  Being resistent
to change failed them to realize, that the doctrine they were
relying on, needed to be modified.  One of the biggest problem
of the ATF, was on the subject of the Amphibious Objective
Area  (AOA).   This was a highly debated issue then and
continued way after the hostilities had ended.  JCS Pub 1-02
defines the AOA as a "geographic area, for purposes of command
and  control"  providing  "sufficient  area  for  conducting
necessary sea and land operations." Although it was never
determined who in the ATF requested the necessity of the AOA,
it was finally assigned by the CINC to be implemented if
either plan was executed.   There is no reason for such a
severe  control  measure  in  a  well  established  theater.
Especially considering there was absolutely no air or sea
threat to  speak of,  and the  fact that CENTAF who was
designated the Joint Forces Air Component Commander (JFACC)
and had control of the airspace. All locations of the planned
assaults were in a friendly Tactical Area of Responsibility
(TAOR)  and involved a linkup with I MEF forces within a
relatively short period of time after the landing. (1-19)
          In draft form FMFM-2 has addressed the AOA issue.
Its definition basically cover both an austere theater and an
established theater: " The three dimensional AOA is necessary
for amphibious assaults occurring in areas not in close
proximity to concurrent friendly ground or air operations.
However, when an amphibious assault is planned in support of
and/or in proximity to an already established ground force,
which is employing a fully functioning air command and control
system, the AOA may be inappropriate.  What may be necessary
is .. .mutually determined control measures...
          The discussion of the AOA, relates directly to the
fighting of the deep battle.  The Marines on both sides had to
be careful, if the assault had taken place.  The AOA would
have prevented anyone from firing into it without prior
authorization by CATF\CLF.  The deep battle seem to be claimed
by both the ground force commander (who's TAOR it belonged)
and the ATF.  In this case, it would seem obvious that the
deep battle belong to the ground force commander.  Instead of
using a Fire Support Coordination Line  (FSCL),  I would
advocate using another TAOR for the forces coming ashore. This
would allow a sufficient control measure to prevent one
friendly side from engaging another.  If sufficient control
agencies are established ashore (TACC), then the control of
ACE  assets  that  can  interdict  deep  targets  should  be
transferred to the Wing supporting the MEF. Doctrine not only
needs to address the AOA issue but the deep battle as well,
when entering a friendly TAOR.
          After completing this study, I believe that the
feasibility to maintain two standing amphibious MEBs, needs to
be reexamined.   Presently,  we don't stand to gain any
additional lift capability, besides the two MEBs worth that we
already have now.   This limitation of amphibious shipping
alone stresses the need to apply more emphasis into our
amphibious capability.  The two present MEBs, the 4th and 5th
maintain a good working relationship with their counterparts
in the Amphibious Ready Groups.  It would be a shame to lose
that.   Although we had a problem with personalities and
compositing, I believe that the continuity must remain in the
          If we do disband the MEB command elements and fight
as MEFs than our MEF staffs need to increase more than
previously reported.  We also need to design doctrine so that
the MEF Cmdr can more easily talk to his forces afloat.  If
the CINC determines that the Amphibious Task Force would be
better served by landing in the MEF TAOR, than those forces
should become supporting forces to the MEF.
          We must always remember that the Amphibious Task
Force is one of the CINC's most valuable assets.  This combat
multiplier can be an extensive strategic,  operational or
tactical value to the CINC.  If it is to remain that potent
than we must improve any chance we get.
1.  	Amphibious Operations in Southwest Asia. Marine Corps Research
Center Research Paper #92-0001.   The Marine Corps Research Center, MCCDC,
Quantico, VA:  1992.
2.  	Goodman, LtCol J. F.  "The MAGTF Command Element."  Rough Draft
FMFM-2, chapter 2. Quantico, VA: 1991.
3.  	Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Joint Doctrine for Amphibious Operations. 
JCS Pub 3-02. Washington: November 1986.
4.  	Millett, A. R.   "The History of the United States Marine Corps."
New York: Macmillian Publishing, 1980.
5.  	Pierce, LCDR T. C.  "Who's in Charge." Naval Proceedings, August 1991: 
6.  	U. S. Marine Corps.  DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms;
Marine Corps supplement.  FMFRP 0-14. Quantico, VA: 1989.
7.  	U. S. Marine Corps. History and Museums Division. The Battle of Khe 
Sanh, Washington, D. C.  : 1969.
8.  	Van Riper, BGen P. K.  "Observations during Operation Desert Storm." 
Marine Corps Gazette. June: 91. 54-56.

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