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Doctrine Development: A Look At History

Doctrine Development: A Look At History


CSC 1993








TITLE: Doctrine Development: A Look at History


AUTHOR: Major M.A. Kachilla, United States Marine Corps


THESIS: The manner in which the Marine Corps developed and implemented amphibious doctrine during

the 25 years preceding World War II has relevance to the development and implementation of the Marine

Corps doctrine in the 1980s and 1990s.


BACKGROUND: At the turn of the century, Naval planners had identified the need to reevaluate the

navy's strategy to meet US policy objectives. After the Spanish-American War, the US was expanding its

sphere of influence to include islands in the Pacific Ocean. Germany was identified first as a potential enemy

in this region. However, by 1910, Japan was added to the list of concerns. Many Marines realized that the

Navy would require a force to seize and defend advance support bases that would be necessary to support

Naval strategy in the Pacific. Thus, the Advance Base Force concept was born. This force was the

foundation for what eventually would develop into the Fleet Marine Force. Before WWI, Marines made

some advances with this new concept, but expeditionary duties and limited manpower hindered their ability to

fully develop it. However, throughout this period, a few Marines kept the idea of service with the Fleet alive.

In 1920, MG John A. Lejeune became Commandant of the Marine Corps and actively pursued the concept.

He implemented several decisions that improved the basic concept and laid the groundwork for later Marines

to build upon. Other factors also influenced the development of amphibious doctrine. Against the backdrop

of a changing political climate, increasing fiscal constraints, and the review of Service missions, Marines

continued to advocate their ideas. In the early 1930s, BG John Russell pursued the amphibious role for the

Marine Corps. He, like MG Lejeune, implemented several decisions that resulted in a Marine Corps that

possessed the basic doctrine to conduct the amphibious assaults of WWII. Finally, several conclusions may

be drawn from an analysis of this period of Marine Corps history.


RECOMMENDATION: The Marine Corps should analyze closely the development and implementation of

amphibious doctrine prior to WWII to avoid making costly mistakes during the 1990s.





Thesis: The manner in which the Marine Corps developed and implemented amphibious doctrine during the

25 years preceding WWII has relevance to the development and implementation of Marine Corps doctrine in

the 1980s and 1990s.



I. The Marine Corps at the Turn of the Century

A. Background

B. Advance Base Force (ABF)

C. Recognition of a Mission


II. The 1920s and General Lejeune as Commandant of the Marine Corps

A. Background

B. General Lejeune's Actions

1. Reorganization of HQMC

2. Reorganization of ABF

3. Reorganization of Marine Corps Schools

C. Fleet Exercises (FLEXs)


III. The Developmental Years -- 1929-1937

A. Background

B. The Fight for a Mission

C. Doctrine Development

1. Fleet Marine Force (FMF)

2. 1933 Development Group

3. Reorganization of Marine Corps Schools

4. FLEXs


IV. Conclusions







On 20 November 1943 at 0910, the Marines of 2nd Division landed on RED BEACH 1 on Betio


Island, Tarawa Atoll. At approximately 0440, naval gunfire (NGF) ships of the US Navy commenced firing


on this obscure Pacific island. At 0612, the NGF ships ceased fire and Navy fighter aircraft and divebombers


strafed and bombed the beaches. The NGF again ceased fire at 0854 to allow the aircraft to make their last


run along the beach before the Marines landed.


On 30 July 1943, Adm Nimitz had ordered an invasion of the Gilbert Islands. The Gilberts were


necessary to continue the attack on the Marshall Islands. Their possession would shorten supply lines into the


south and southwest Pacific and provide an airfield for US forces. The 2nd Marine Division was ordered to


"land on Betio Island, seize and occupy that island, then conduct further operations to reduce the remainder


of Tarawa Atoll."(5:205) The island was defended by 4,600 regular and labor troops. On the three-mile-long


island, the Japanese commander had constructed an integrated defense of more than 200 guns placed in


hardened bunkers and pillboxes. Admiral Shibasaki is reported to have stated that the Americans could not


capture Betio Island in a million years.(2:4O7)


After the initial landing, Marines continued to land throughout the day. Slowly, the Marines cleared


each Japanese position. By the end of the second day, the Marines knew that victory was theirs. They


secured the island on 24 November. The US Navy and Marine Corps proved that amphibious assault was


possible. As Robert D. Heinl, Jr. stated, "Once and for all, Betio proved the validity and the soundness of the


Marine Corps' prewar amphibious doctrine."(2:415)


Many detailed analyses of the battle for Tarawa indicate that mistakes were made and lessons learned


during that battle. However, the techniques, skills, and procedures that had been developed during the first


part of the 20th century ensured success of the first amphibious assault of WWII. This doctrine was


developed during a time when the Marine Corps, and the rest of the military, stood on the verge of changes


that defined the first part of this century. Changes of similar magnitude may define the last part of this


century as well. Perhaps some lessons about the way Marines managed change 60-70 years ago may be put to


use today. The manner in which the Marine Corps developed and implemented amphibious doctrine during


the 25 years preceding WWII has relevance to the development and implementation of Marine Corps doctrine


in the 1980s and 1990s. To better grasp the nature of such relevance, we'll set the stage for why and how the


Marine Corps formulated and implemented doctrine beginning in the 1920s.


At the turn of the century, the US saw a need to project its influence farther from its shores. This


ambition forced the US Navy to reevaluate its strategy. After gaining the Philippines and other Pacific


islands, the US required a force to maintain lines of communication and protect its newly acquired


possessions. Very early, Naval planners realized the threat posed by Germany in this region and by 1910,


these planners had identified Japan as a real threat as well. But because of budget constraints, the Navy could


neither establish advance bases in this strategic region nor purchase support ships. Only a force that could


land on selected islands and establish defended support bases could protect US possessions in the Pacific.


Many planners looked to the Marine Corps as the logical choice. Thus was born the Advance Base Force


(ABF) concept.


The ABF mission was added to the Marine Corps' more traditional missions. In 1910, the Assistant


Secretary of the Navy directed the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) to plan for Advance Base


operations. "You will prepare for the care and custody of advanced base material and take necessary steps to


instruct the officers and men under your command in the use of this material."(7:276) As a result, the CMC


established a formal school. This school trained officers and men in the handling, installation, and use of


advance base material.(5:23) It became the central force in the development of the ABF concept. By 1914,


1,700 officers and men had completed the course.(5:23)


By 1915, the Marine Corps was organizing its forces to execute the advance base mission. MG


George Barnett, CMC, and others, recognized this as the Marine Corps' primary mission. Col Eli Cole,


Commandant of Schools and commander of the 1st Regiment, advocated the need for the Marine Corps to be


the Navy's advance base force. Capt Earl Ellis lectured at the Naval War College about the seizure and


defense of advance naval bases. Col John Russell made many appeals. In the first Marine Corps Gazette,he


wrote an article entitled "A Plea for a Mission and Doctrine." By the beginning of WWI, these Marines and


others had established the foundation for what would evolve into the amphibious assault force of WWII.


However, the mission was still defense-oriented. Maj Dion Williams stated during a 1915 speech to the Naval


War College that training should concentrate on the use of heavy artillery, mines, searchlights and other


equipment. He went on to say that the advance base force was defensive and temporary.(5:24)


Although many Marines believed in the ABF concept, there were conflicts. Traditional missions--


ship's detachments and expeditionary duty -- required many Marines, leaving few to fully develop the


concept. Efforts to continue the refinement of the ABF concept were hampered because, beginning in 1914,


the Marine Corps was committed in so many areas. After WWI, many officers believed that the Corps needed


to pursue the ABF mission but with an offensive twist to it. Because the Treaty of Versailles ceded German


possessions in the Pacific to Japan, she became even more powerful. Because many strategic planners were


convinced of a threat to US interests in the Pacific, the need for a force to seize and defend advance bases


became more urgent.


In June 1920, a longtime advocate of the seizure and defense mission for the Marine Corps, MG John


A. Lejeune, became CMC. Two other significant developments occurred during 1920 that affected the future


of the Marine Corps. In January, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) told MG Barnett that War Plan


ORANGE, the plan for war against Japan, would drive all naval planning. Second, the Joint Army and Navy


Board formally declared the ABF mission for the Marine Corps. MG Lejeune immediately set out to


strengthen the Corps' position in the US Defense Establishment. He believed that the future of the Corps lay


in service with the fleet as a force in readiness. He advocated the need for a force that could respond quickly


to crisis, and because the US was a maritime nation, the Navy would be the force of choice. And with the


Navy, a force would be needed to seize and defend advance bases. This force should be the Marine Corps.


As part of his overall plan, MG Lejeune reorganized HQMC and formed an Operations and Training


Division. He also reorganized and moved the ABF, and by 1922, he had restructured the education system of


the Marine Corps. The Operations and Training Division played a central role in the evolution of amphibious


doctrine. MG Lejeune assigned this department the task of developing a Marine Corps plan that supported


War Plan ORANGE. He appointed LtCol Ellis to do this. LtCol Ellis had gained a superb reputation in


France during the WWI and was a Naval War College graduate. On the staff of the War College, he


participated in the development of war plans against Japan. He wrote Operation Plan 712, "Advanced Base


Force Operations in Micronesia," a brilliant document that provided detailed information regarding US


requirements in a Pacific war with Japan. He noted that a successful amphibious operation depended on


rapid ship-to-shore movement, support from naval gunfire and air, and daylight for execution.(7:326) LtCol


Ellis believed that a force using the necesscry techniques could seize even a defended beachhead.(7:326) In July


1921, MG Lejeune signed the Ellis Plan, and he stated that it would drive training, exercises, equipment


development, and officer education for the Marine Corps.


Coincident with Ellis' work, MG Lejeune reorganized the ABF. He moved the force from


Philadelphia to Quantico. He lobbied Congress to increase the manpower strength of the Corps. With an


increase of more than 25 per cent by 1922, the Marine Corps was better able to meet its commitments


worldwide, including the ABF. As a final act of the ABF reorganization, MG Lejeune renamed the unit the


East Coast Expeditionary Force to reflect more accurately its mission. This force was the forerunner of the


Fleet Marine Force (FMF).


With Plan 712 to drive Marine Corps planning and the Expeditionary Force to execute the plan, MG


Lejeune proceeded to reorganize the officer education system. First, he consolidated the old courses under


one command, Marine Corps Schools. In addition to the Basic School, he established two schools that would


be instrumental to the development of amphibious doctrine. By 1922, the Company Officers' Course and the


Field Officers' Course provided students with requisite education and training. Before the reorganization,


landing operations received only two hours of attention, but by 1927, the school devoted more than 100 hours


to this subject. These changes laid the initial groundwork for future doctrine development.


Although many Marine officers were enthusiastic about this new role, some officers believed that the


Marine Corps should focus on the traditional missions of serving aboard ships and on Naval Stations.


However, MG Lejeune took every opportunity to articulate the Marine Corps' role in wartime. During a


speech to the Naval War College in 1923, he stated,


...on both flanks of a fleet crossing the Pacific are numerous islands suitable for utilization by an enemy for radio

stations,aviation,submarine, or destroyer bases. All should be mopped up as progress is made.... The presence of

an expeditionary force with the fleet would add greatly to the striking power of the Commander-in-Chief of the

fleet.... The maintenance, equipping, and training of its expeditionary force so that it will be in instant readiness to

support the Fleet in the event of war, I deem to be the most important Marine Corps duty in time of peace.(2:257)


The 1924 US Fleet exercise tested the recent work of the Marine Corps and Navy. From December


1923 to February 1924, Marines from the East Coast Expeditionary Force participated in operations in the


Panama Canal Zone and on Culebra Island. Part of the force, led by BG Cole, conducted an opposed landing


and "won." BG Cole's evaluation was not pretty, however. Many boats missed their beaches and arrived late,


the offload went poorly, NGF was inadequate, and landing craft did not pass the test. The 1925 exercise was


conducted on Oahu, Hawaii with better results. The West Coast Expeditionary Force, formed in 1920,


participated with staff augmentation from the Field Officers' Course. As a result, staff work greatly


improved. Lessons included the need for better communication, more debarkation drills, and better landing


craft. Although the Marines were benefitting from these exercises, commitments again were to interfere with


further amphibious training. This time, Marines were deployed for duty to China, Nicaragua, and as mail


guards. The next fleet exercise would not occur until 1932.


While Expeditionary Forces continued to train throughout the mid-1920s, other events were


occurring that influenced the development of amphibious doctrine. A review of Army and Navy missions was


conducted in 1925. In a pamphlet to the Secretary of the Navy, MG Lejeune emphasized that Marines should


have sole responsibility for "initial seizure and defense" of advance bases. In 1927, the "Joint Action, Army


and Navy," stated, for the conduct of a naval campaign, that the Marine Corps would


...provide and maintain forces for land operations in support of the Fleet for the initial seizure and defense of

advanced naval bases and for such limited auxiliary land operations as are essential to the prosecution of the naval



This document linked the Marine Corps to the Fleet for the conduct of amphibious operations.


While worldwide commitments diverted Marines from continued refinement of landing operations,


external forces also took a toll on the Marine Corps. The Great Depression caused many politicians to closely


examine the federal budget. Although the War Department was convinced of a Japanese threat, the Hoover


Administration did not agree. Instead, the domestic economy became President Hoover's number one


concern. Dramatic manpower reductions were forced on the Marine Corps. The Corps was cut from 18,000


enlisted in 1931 to 13,600 in 1932. Manpower reduction percentages for each service are as follows: Army-0


percent, Navy-5.6 percent, and Marine Corps-24.4 percent.(2:296) The Marine Corps faced a threat to its


continued existence.


Along with budget reductions, Marine Corps missions were reviewed by the Navy's General Board in


1931. With extraordinary pressure on the Marine Corps to defend itself, the CMC, MG Ben H. Fuller,


argued that the Marine Corps' primary mission was its wartime role as a force to seize and defend advance


naval bases. The Marine Corps was a force that was totally integrated with the Navy Fleet. He also said that


not only would a force have to seize advance bases, but that force would need to seize any enemy-held


positions that interfered with fleet operations. Based on these arguments, the board concluded that the


Marine Corps should be organized to execute its wartime mission with the secondary mission to protect naval


installations.(7:330) Again, in 1934, the Board reviewed the Marine Corps missions and came to similar


conclusions, emphasizing the Corps' amphibious assault role.


While the CMC was fighting the political battles, Marines at Quantico were studying amphibious


operations. Although many events influenced the doctrine development during the 1930s, I will address the


four most important: formation of the Fleet Marine Force, the 1933 doctrine development group, the


reorganization of the Marine Corps Schools, and Fleet exercises.


Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, the East Coast Expeditionary Force executed many tasks It


conducted some of the first landing operations and operated in Central America in pursuit of US policy


objectives. However, with increasing emphasis on the amphibious assault role and the relationship with the


Fleet, BG John Russell, the Assistant CMC, believed that the name should be changed to better reflect its


purpose and organization. In an August 1933 Marine Corps Gazette article, BG Russell unveiled his idea.


He advocated that the Marine Corps was the force required by the Fleet to seize advance bases and that it


should be an integral part of the Fleet, equal to other ship divisions. In his proposal to the CNO, BG Russell


emphasized the link between the Marine Corps and the Fleet. The Navy Department published General


Order 241 in December 1933, officially changing the name to the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) and recognizing


the link. Although the General Order was published, BG Russell continued to advocate the new concept. As


Dr. Donald Bittner states in his paper on MG Russell, articles appeared in the New York Times, the Quantico


Sentry and the Naval Proceedings. When he became the CMC in 1934, MG Russell continued to sell the


concept. He developed, articulated, and marketed his vision.


General Order 241 gave the Marine Corps the organization to seize and defend advance naval bases.


BG Russell, still as Assistant CMC, set out to produce a doctrine to direct training of the FMF and educate


Marine officers.


...he persuaded the Commandant that a formalized, written body of amphibious doctrine was needed. It should be

prepared by the Marines themselves, it should be in great detail, and should exhibit that they possessed a unique

capability not shared by anybody particularly not by the Army.(6:80)


Although some work had begun in March 1931 by a small group of officers, the development proceeded in


earnest under BG Russell. He pooled the vast resources of the Marine Schools at Quantico. In November


1933, he stopped all classes at the schools and directed the students "toward developing the formal


doctrine."(6:81) This new group was headed by BG James Breckinridge, Commandant of the Schools, and Col


Ellis B. Miller. Each officer of the group listed his thoughts about how an amphibious operation should occur


in chronological order. An intermediate committee reviewed this work and organized the results into


categories that were reviewed by a committee headed by Col Miller. This committee produced chapter


outlines. After review of the outlines by officers of the FMF, separate committees drafted the individual




Interestingly, these writers relied primarily on "the meager practical experience available and,


probably more so, on their own reasoning and convictions."(6:81) The process took seven months. The


resulting document, "Tentative Manual for Landing Operations, 1934," covered topics from command


relationship to naval gunfire and aviation support to logistics. With this document, the Marine Corps had the


"how" of amphibious operations. Almost immediately, the manual underwent review and revision. For the


next few years, Marines received feedback from all corners, especially the Fleet exercises. This feedback


resulted in an improved manual that was officially accepted by the Navy in 1938 and the Army in 1941. This


was the manual that was used for training of amphibious forces during WWII.


The Marine Corps now possessed the official mission, the unit organization to execute the mission,


and the doctrine to train and educate its Marines. The next step taken by MG Russell was to reorganize the


Marine Corps Schools. Key individuals in this process again were BG Breckinridge and Col Miller. In 1932,


Col Miller, a graduate of two top-level Army schools and the Naval War College, refocused the curriculum


from Army-related subjects to those which better reflected Marine Corps-unique areas of study. He increased


the hours devoted to landing operations, for example, and concentrated on a detailed study of the Dardanelles


campaign. Also, he established the Advance Base Problem, a joint venture with the Naval War College. It


required students to examine a particular base, usually an island in the Pacific, and determine the


requirements to seize and defend that base.


By the 1930s, the Marine Corps possessed the organization, doctrine, and educational system needed


to perfect amphibious operations. The final element of the formula was the annual Fleet exercises. In May


1934, the Navy-Marine Corps conducted a landing during a Caribbean exercise with results similar to those


observed during the 1920s.(7:337) The next year, Fleet Landing Exercise (FLEX) 1 was conducted from


January to March. Although the "Tentative Manual for Landing Operations, 1934" had been written, the


exercise highlighted many shortfalls in the conduct of an amphibious landing. Areas of needed improvement


included NGF and aviation support, communications equipment, and landing crafts. FLEX 2, conducted in


1936, revcaled many of the same mistakes seen in FLEX 1 as well as several new problems. FLEX 3 was


conducted in 1937 and "...the problems identified during FLEXes 1 and 2 reemerged with a vengeance."(7:338)


However, improvements were noted: "For the first time the troops used cargo nets to disembark over the side


of their destroyer-transports; new Army radios provided better communications; and Marine pack howitzer


batteries showed they could quickly go into action ashore."(7:339)


Although mistakes were made during these exercises, their importance cannot be overstated. Marines


corrected many shortcomings and improved many techniques. Improvements to landing craft probably are


among the most notable. Great strides also were made in ship loading, bombing techniques of aviation, and


firing techniques of NGF. The FLEXs and other exercises throughout the 1930s greatly improved US


amphibious capability. They provided a feedback mechanism that was vitally important for doctrine


refinement. The FLEXs played a key role in the amphibious capability of the US.


From a close examination of the Marine Corps' amphibious doctrine development and


implementation, we can identify certain criteria that apply as well in the 1990s as they did during the early part


of this century. The first criterion is the need for patience. The development of doctrine is an ongoing process


that spans years, even decades. An evolutionary, not revolutionary, approach must be adopted. MG


Russell's achievements of the 1930s were accomplished as a direct result of the groundwork laid earlier.


The importance of the identification of a viable threat cannot be overstated. Before a sound doctrine


can be formulated, the Marine Corps must identify the threat or threats against which that doctrine will be


applied. In the 1920s and 1930s, this criterion was met more easily than in today's world; however, it cannot


be ignored. Once the basic tenets of the doctrine are identified, the CMC and senior officers must articulate it


throughout the Marine Corps, the DoD, and Congress. Before the details of doctrine can be written, e.g.,


"Tentative Manual for Landing Operations, 1934," doctrine writers and most Marine officers must have a


clear understanding of the CMC's intended goals regarding new doctrine.


Knowing that doctrine development requires a significant investment of time is not enough.


Successive CMCs must maintain continuity of direction. The actions of MGs Lejeune, Fuller, and Russell


indicated that they shared a vision for the Marine Corps, ensuring the evolution of doctrine. Additionally, an


important element of amphibious doctrine development in the I920s and 1930s was the various organizational


changes carried out by the Marine Corps. Although Marines had to make adjustments to their organization


to meet the particulars of the evolving mission, the changes also demonstrated the magnitude of the


progression to a new doctrine. The changes represented movement toward a desired and lasting end.


The final and possibly most important criterion is the use of Marine PME schools. Without schools


aggressively pursuing, teaching, and questioning the development of new doctrine, the Marine Corps loses an


invaluable resource. In the 1920s and 1930s, many Marine officers arrived at school skeptical of the new


amphibious role, only to graduate and return to their units as advocates. The schools-faculty and students-


played an enormous role in the research and development of data required to formulate a sound doctrine.


Throughout this paper, I have presented a picture of the evolutionary process of doctrine


development that placed the US in an advantageous position for WWII. That process began in the early part


of this century. Marines such as BG Cole, Maj Williams, and MGs Lejeune and Russell carried and passed


on an idea that they believed was the key to the future of the Marine Corps. They took what their


predecessors had built and improved on it. The role that organizational change played should not be


overlooked. It not only improved the efficiency of the Corps, but it showed that the Marine Corps was


moving in a new direction. The importance of a challenging school system cannot be overstated. Many


faculty and students left their schools and returned to the ABF or FMF intent on employing much of their


newfound knowledge. By examining the past, Marines today can learn important lessons that have relevance


to present and future doctrine development.







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Marine Corps Air and Ground Training and Education Center, Marine Corps Combat Development

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Marine Corps, 1775-1962. 1962; rpt. Baltimore, Maryland: The Nautical & Aviation Publishing

Company of America, Inc., 1991.



3. Heinl, Colonel Robert D., Jr., USMC (Ret.). "The U.S. Marine Corps: Author of

Modern Amphibious Warfare," in Assault From The Sea: Essays on the History of Amphibious

Warfare. Ed. Lieutenant Colonel Merrill L. Bartlett, USMC (Ret.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval

Instiutue Press, 1983.



4. Hough, Lieutenant Colonel Frank, USMCR, Major Verle E. Ludwig, USMC, and Henry I. Shaw. Pearl

Harbor to Guadalcanal: History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II; Volume I,

Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Headquarters, USMC. 1958; rpt. Washington, D.C.: 1989.



5. Isley, Jeter, and Philip A. Crowl. The U.S. Marines and Amphibious War: Its Theory,

and Its Practice in the Pacific. 1951; rpt. Quantico, Virginia: Marine Corps Association, 1979.



6. Krulak, Lieutenant General Victor, USMC(Ret.). First to Fight: An Inside View of the

U.S. Marine Corps. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute, 1984.



7. Millett, Allan Reed. Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps.

New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1980.



8. Updegraph, Charles L., Jr. U.S. Marine Corps Special Units of World War II.

Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1977.



9. Vandegrift, A.A., and Robert B. Asprey. Once A Marine: the Memoirs of General A.A.

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