Naval Maneuver Warfare
SUBJECT AREA - Warfighting
Title: Naval Maneuver Warfare
Author: Lieutenant Commander Gary T. Cooper, United States Navy
Thesis: What is new about maneuver warfare and the conduct of
Background: In March 1994, the Department of the Navy pub-
lished Naval Doctrine Publication (NDP) 1 Naval Warfare which for-
mally adopts maneuver warfare and Operational Maneuver From the
Sea (OMFTS) as the preferred method of warfighting for the U.S.
Navy and Marine Corps. Counter to the perception that the U.S. Navy
is adopting and marinizing concepts considered developed for ground
combat, the concept of maneuver warfare is more conducive in its
application to naval warfare than land warfare. By the nature of war
at sea and the independent characteristics of the maritime environ-
ment, naval warfare naturally employs the tenets of maneuver war-
fare. Historically, the success of naval forces engaged in combat at
sea required sound commander's intent in order to exploit movement
and maneuver, tempo, flexibility, and coordination of naval fires.
While OMFTS is a significant step in the right direction in maturing
naval doctrine with the technological and sociopolitical challenges of
the next generation, its focus does not incorporate the nonamphibi-
ous missions of the U.S.Navy. Within the context of joint operations,
the U.S. Navy historically employed OMFTS principals beyond the
amphibious warfare environment by providing Navy fires to shape
the deep, close and rear battle. With maneuver warfare, there is
nothing new to the conduct of naval operations outside amphibious
operations. What is new the U.S. Navy is the institutionalization of
maneuver warfare doctrine and terminology parallel to that of the
other armed services.
Recommendation: Expand NDP-1 to doctrinally address the U.S.
Navy missions currently utilizing OMFTS tenets and expand the con-
text of maneuver warfare as it applies to overall naval operations.
Naval Maneuver Warfare
II. Theory of Maneuver Warfare
III. Theories of Naval Warfare
...The Beginning of Naval Maneuver Warfare
IV. Modernization Towards Maneuver
V. Naval Maneuver Warfare
Naval Maneuver Warfare
In March 1994, the Department of the Navy published the first of
A series of naval doctrine publications, Naval Warfare (NDP-1),
formally put into print the naval doctrine necessary to incorporate
the new naval strategic direction outlined in the Department of the
Navy White Paper "...From the Sea."1 Naval Warfare, published as
the doctrinal corner stone for future naval operations, formally
accepted maneuver warfare as the preferred method of warfighting
for the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Termed Operational
Maneuver From the Sea, Naval Warfare introduced the concept of
operational maneuver by the U. S. Navy and Marine Corps as part of
Naval Expeditionary Forces to project power ashore in the littoral
regions of the world. While it seems that Operational Maneuver
From the Sea is a significant step in maturing naval doctrine with the
technological and sociopolitical challenges of the 21st century, and is
parallel to the evolving maneuver doctrine of the other armed
services, its focus as naval doctrine is not a significant change to the
way the U. S. Navy has operated since the turn of the century. The
U. S. Navy, by the very nature of the maritime environment, utilizes
the concepts and elements of maneuver warfare in its day-to-day
operations in peacetime and at war. What may seem like a new and
dramatic shift in the way the U. S. Navy conducts war at sea, is really
just a formalization of unwritten institutional doctrine that evolved
with the transition to modern naval warfare.
This paper will demonstrate that the characteristics and
fundamentals of maneuver warfare began incorporation into U. S.
Navy doctrine during the technological evolution of modern naval
fighting beginning in the late 1800s. The very nature of the physical
and mental challenges of war at sea, inherently dependent on
movement and maneuver, are similar to the maneuver warfare
theory accepted today. Counter to the perception the Navy is
adopting and marinizing warfighting concepts considered developed
for a ground combat environment, the concept of maneuver in many
respects is more conducive in its application to naval warfare than
Operational Maneuver From the Sea described in Naval Warfare is
only new in its application to Navy and Marine Corps amphibious
operations. It is not new to the strategic and tactical influence of
war at sea traditionally conducted by the U. S. Navy. Numerous
events throughout the history of modern naval warfare, such as the
Allied invasion of Sicily in World War II; the attack on Pearl Harbor
by the Japanese Navy in 1941; Doolittle's Raid against Tokyo; the
use of naval air and surface fires in Vietnam; and most recently the
naval war in Operation Desert Storm, are among numerous examples
of maritime forces influencing the strategic, operational, and tactical
land battle "from the sea" using the principles of maneuver warfare.
To explore maneuver warfare and its relation in naval warfare we
must examine the theory of maneuver warfare; the basic theories of
modern naval warfare; the impact of technology on the evolution of
naval warfare; and finally address the design of naval maneuver
warfare as it should apply to naval operations in the 21st century.
II. Theory of Maneuver Warfare
The basic tenets of maneuver warfare are inherent to the
maritime environment and the conduct of naval operations.
Maneuver warfare was not formally recognized or institutionalized
until the publication of NDP-1. Before addressing how it applies to
naval warfare it is necessary to define the basic principles of
maneuver warfare and how they apply to naval warfare.
Maneuver warfare is the indirect approach to warfighting that
focuses on the enemy's weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Unlike the
direct force-on-force approach of attrition warfare, maneuver
warfare concentrates on destroying elements of the enemy's power
that give strength and cohesion to its leadership. By contrast to
other forms of warfare, maneuver warfare focuses on the enemy
vice terrain. The goal is to invoke confusion and disorder within the
enemy to break his will to fight. Properly executing maneuver
means being more agile and efficient than the enemy. Instead of
engaging in mutual slaughter, maneuver warfare focuses on those
peripheral things which are important to the enemy to survive.2 It
is characterized by adaptability and is not limited to particular
doctrines developed for specific environments.3 Maneuver is
movement relative to the enemy to put him at a disadvantage.4
Because of its indirect approach to the enemy, maneuver warfare
allows a smaller military force to engage and win against a larger
The War of the Second Coalition between France and England
demonstrates the indirect nature of naval warfare. The Royal Navy,
along with subsidized allies, drove at the heart of Frances economy
by controlling the seas and blockading French ports. The British also
took the indirect approach of striking around the edges of
continental France and her overseas possessions by strangling
France's overseas commerce and taking possessions.5
In World War II, the deployment of surface forces to the North
Sea by the British and Germans demonstrated how a small force
could briefly achieve local equality and even superiority. When the
smaller German forces deployed, the British naval forces were
spread thin over a large area to have forces present to interdict the
Germans if they attacked. The objective of the German navy was to
deploy in a manner so as not allow the British time to react and
assemble sufficient forces to concentrate an attack against the
Germans.6 Even though the British had a significantly larger force,
the Germans were able to exploit the advantages of time and space
to gain the operational and tactical advantage.
More than brute force, maneuver warfare is an analytical thought
process tempered by judgment that focuses on the enemy's
command and control. Lethality of arms is important, but maneuver
places a higher demand on military command and judgment.7 The
basis of this thought process and the foundation behind maneuver
warfare theory is the competitive decision cycle synthesized by John
Boyd. A retired fighter pilot, Boyd observed patterns in decision
making during air-to-air and ground combat engagements. He
summarized these patterns as a time-competitive observation-
orientation-decision-action cycle or "OODA Loop." Boyd concluded
that the commander who could execute his decision cycle faster than
his opponent would usually gain the operational and tactical
advantage. The effect of executing a faster cycle caused confusion,
disorder, ineffective and time-late decisions by the opposing
The "OODA Loop" process is a feature of human nature. It begins
with each opponent observing the operational or tactical situation.
Each notes the forces, physical surroundings and the enemy
situation. These observations orient and form a mental picture of
the situation. From his analysis, he chooses a course of action and
places this action into effect. The commander begins the decision
cycle again by observes the reaction of the enemy, reorients,
executes a follow on action to begin the cycle again. The functional
goal of the "OODA Loop" is to complete the decision cycle faster than
the opponent. Ultimately, by the time the opponent reacts, the
"faster" commander is executing another action causing the opponent
to fall behind as the battle unfolds.9
The process of the decision cycle is evident in naval warfare at the
tactical and operational levels of war. From the early days of sail to
present day naval operations, war at sea is the process of competing
commanders. The physical characteristics of the sea as a warfighting
medium, places a greater emphasis on movement, maneuver and
commander's tactical ability. It is evident to the naval decision
processes by the way ship combat information centers structure to
provide combat essential information needed for the decision cycle.
The decision cycle, or Boyd's Theory, is what is meant by the term
"maneuver" within the context of maneuver warfare. It is "cycling"
of the enemy until he no longer can keep up with the battle which
inhibits his ability to fight as an effective and efficient force. The
ideal outcome in a combat engagement is for the opponent to become
passive in his operational and tactical actions, opening him up to be
annihilated or captured at the lowest risk to friendly forces.10
A key element during the decision cycle not directly addressed by
Boyd is surprise. Carl von Clausewitz stated, "Surprise lies at the
foundation of all undertakings." "When it is successful...confusion
and broken courage in the enemy's ranks are the consequences...
these multiply a success." The surprise element of maneuver
warfare is critical. Remaining unpredictable through a fast decision
cycle increases the tempo of the operation.11 Doing the unexpected
increases the observation and orientation time of the opponents
The method for a fast and efficient "OODA Loop" is through a
decentralized command structure in that decisions are made at the
lowest operational and tactical level. This is done organizationally
through commander's intent.12 Commander's intent is a concise
expression of the purpose of an operation, description of the desired
end state, and the way which the objectives facilitate follow on
mission.13 Commander's intent only states the mission and
objectives, its does not direct the "how" of the mission.
Commander's intent is inherent to naval operations.
Communications during the early days of sea travel were extremely
limited or nonexistent. Success of naval missions relied on issuing
commander's intent prior to deployment. Captains of naval vessels
were given their mission with liberal latitude on how to execute that
mission. It creates an independence and initiative within the officer
corps of naval service that allow it to operate effectively without
oversight. Even with the improved "real time" communication
systems in place today, captains of U. S. Navy ships are still given the
latitude of how to execute their mission.
Of many examples during the Pacific campaign in World War II,
Admiral Nimitz issued this sample of commander's intent to Vice
Admiral Fletcher before the Guadalcanal amphibious operations
regarding the Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers:14
"You will be governed by the principal of calculated
risks which you shall interpret to the the avoidance
of your force to attack by superior force without
good prospect of inflicting, as a result of such
exposure, greater damage to the enemy. This
applies to the landing phase as well as during
preliminary air attacks."
As can be seen, Admiral Nimitz gives direction, but leaves the
latitude of "judgment" and the "how" to Vice Admiral Fletcher. The
"independent" nature of naval warfare requires commander's intent
and the competence of subordinate leadership to execute it.
Commander's intent and Boyd's decision cycle are the mental
mechanical tools required for executing maneuver warfare. In order
for maneuver warfare to be successful, it requires the integration of
four additional areas to provide further focus to the mission: center
of gravity, critical vulnerability, focus of effort and main effort.15
Centers of gravity are those things the enemy gains his strength
and will to fight.16 These centers can be strategic or operational in
nature. The destruction and exploitation of the center of gravity
produces disorder and causes the opponent to loose cohesion and the
will to fight. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 focused
on the destruction of the operational center of gravity for the U.S.
Pacific Fleet, the carriers and battleships. During Operation Desert
Storm, the Iraqi operational center of gravity was the Republican
Guard. Because of its inherent strategic nature, naval warfare
focuses on enemy centers of gravity. This has been demonstrated
during the numerous blockade actions and merchant ship
interdictions. It is still ongoing in naval operations today enforcing
the United Nations embargo of Iraq.
Critical vulnerabilities are those elements of a military force
susceptible to attack and whose degradation or destruction will lead
to defeating the enemy's center of gravity and ultimately his will to
resist.17 In naval warfare these critical vulnerabilities include the
weaknesses in the warfare areas within the naval battle space.
These areas consist of the air, surface, subsurface, and electronic
warfare elements and include logistics, and command and control. A
surface combatant deficient, or "blind", within one of these battle
space elements has a critical vulnerability within that area.
More than a month after the beginning of World War II, German
U-boats began an interdiction campaign against coastal shipping just
off the eastern shore of the United States. From the end of January
1942 and for the next nine months, the Germans had unparalleled
success against American shipping. Sinkings of merchant ships
began to exceed the new ship construction by 200,000 tons a month.
The primary reason for the German success was due to the failure of
the United States Navy to prepare for and react to the U-boat
operation against American shipping. Two key illustrations can be
drawn from this scenario: the Germans successfully exploited a
critical vulnerability of sub-surface warfare element and the
Germans successfully engaged a numerically superior force with only
a few number of U-boats by using the tenets of maneuver warfare.18
Focus of effort is the primary task or mission to be accomplished
by a force. Its goal or mission is the exploitation of an enemy's
critical vulnerability or the paramount objective the commander
wishes to accomplish during an operation. All actions and
supporting actions are oriented in achieving the objective.19 The
main effort is the unit, controlled by a single designated commander,
that is constitutes the principal means by which the mission is
accomplished. The commander ensures the success of the mission by
providing the preponderance of force and directing the command
structure in support of the mission.20
In April and May 1994, the U. S. Atlantic Command sponsored
exercise Agile Provider 94. The purpose of the exercise was to
validate the "...From the Sea"concept and demonstrate the transition
of a naval force from blue water to the littoral and execute an
opposed amphibious assault. This transition phase of this exercise
illustrates the shift of the main effort in order to accomplish the
mission or main effort.21
The focus of effort, or mission, for Agile Provider was
establishment of a lodgement in to vicinity of Camp Lejeune. During
the blue water and transition phase, the main effort was battlespace
dominance. After suppressing the submarine, surface, air and land
threats, the main effort shifted to the amphibious operation. The
designation of the main effort is central to the completion of the
mission and as shown with Agile Provider, is a phased process with
the deployment and arrival of naval forces. Commander's intent
focuses the supporting units to the main effort which creates a
synergistic effect of combat power critical to the success of the
This pattern of main effort and focus of effort is evident in every
successful major naval operation. During World War I and II, the
convoy system across the North Atlantic, and amphibious operations
in the Mediterranean and Pacific theaters demonstrate designation
of main effort and focus of effort.
Maneuver warfare is not only the positioning of ships and forces,
it is also the discrete employment of fires through indirect means.23
The Soviet Navy adopted maneuver into its doctrine in the mid
1980s. They define naval maneuver as the coordinated movement or
redirection of forces during combat to a new sector, line, or area, in
order to assume an advantageous position, create a required
grouping of forces, employ weapons effectively, or evade an enemy
strike. Maneuver includes not only the organized movements of
one's own forces but also the switching of fires.24 A skillfully
executed maneuver makes it possible to seize and hold the initiative,
to thwart the opponent's intentions, and to concentrate superior
forces in the main sector of the strike.25 Tactical maneuvers are
accomplished through the physical movement of individual ships,
their tactical groups, or tactical and operational tactical forces, or by
shifting the fires of missiles.26 The Soviet Navy today, successfully
uses maneuver warfare to organize combat power during an
operation to increase survivability and protection of forces during
transit to and operation in the area of interest.27 This has not
always been the case.
In the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese successfully utilized
maneuver coordinated with concentrated fires. When engaging the
Chinese, they would bring the main force against one of the Chinese
provincial squadrons and defeat it before the other Chinese
squadrons were committed. During the Russo-Japanese War, they
learned the value of the column and broadside fire. Using speed and
maneuver, they would break up the enemy formations and
concentrate fire against each fraction of the enemy fleet. Operating
in semi-independent divisions, with clear commander's intent, the
Japanese attained the greatest flexibility and efficiency in battle.28
The basic tenets of focusing on the enemy, commander's decision
cycle, commander's intent, centers of gravity, critical vulnerability,
main effort and focus of effort are a part of naval operations. The
terminology is different. But, how did the theories of naval warfare
develop to what they are today? What is the history to naval
III. Theories of Naval Warfare...The Beginnings of Maneuver
Maneuver warfare is subliminally inherent to the way the U. S.
Navy conducted naval operations strategically, operationally, and
tactically. How and when did it start? The prime impetus to the
theory of "how navies fight" began at the turn of the century when
the inventions of the industrial revolution fundamentally changed
the conduct of warfare. Before the industrial revolution, war on land
was the dominate form of aggressive political action. War at sea, and
movement on the sea, was relatively inefficient and only played a
minor role in the overall conduct of war. The world was essentially
in a regional concept and had not developed to the global
interdependent society it is today. Navies were assigned missions to
protect commerce, look after imperial interests, exploration and
research, and "show the flag."29 Improvements in the efficiency of
maritime travel during the industrial revolution opened the focus
and opportunity from a regional to a global view.
For most of the nineteenth century, maritime strategy was
nothing more than practical seamanship linked to local
circumstances, shaped by immediate demands, with no general
theories of war at sea. No body of historical data had been
accumulated to base naval theory, and no analytical methods
developed to sift through the every day maritime facts and shape
them into broad principles.30 Up to this point in history, strategic
objectives were focused on territory and thus the dominate form of
warfare in national strategic power was the effectiveness of ground
combat. The sea had relatively little influence on the outcome of
land battle other than limited transportation of supplies an troops.
In of itself, the sea had little intrinsic property value because it
could not be occupied or fortified as land could be.31 As such,
theories of land warfare were well established and documented
before the serious study of naval warfare.
At the turn of the century two key figures emerged forward in
the first step in the development of modern naval doctrine: Alfred
T. Mahan and Julian Corbett. Drawing from the influences of Jomini
and Clausewitz, Mahan and Corbett were instrumental in attempting
to apply the existing theories of land warfare for war at sea. Mahan
and Corbett foresaw the growing dependency and necessity of
maritime power. Their primary objective was to fill the void in
naval doctrine by formalizing the theories and principles of naval
warfare. Mahan and Corbett had the foresight to interpret the
influence of seapower on history and its role in the future. In the
growing global environment, the sea would be the catalyst of the
making of a major world power. Julian Corbett quoted in his works
Maritime Strategy in 1991, "If England were to lose command of the
sea, it would be all over for her."32
Alfred Mahan, the fore father of twentieth century U. S. Naval
doctrine, turned to Jomini and his well-tried principles of land
warfare to try to cultivate a naval doctrine applicable for a modern
navy.33 From Jomini, he learned the importance of massing force at
the decisive point in battle. Using the fleet as an offensive weapon,
it followed that direct engagement with the enemy was the central
criteria of war at sea.34 Mahan felt that this direct head-on
engagement with the enemy was the most effective and essential
element in all naval strategies. To Mahan, naval warfare needed to
adopt the fundamental elements of attrition warfare. Mahan also
learned that in order for attrition warfare to be effective upon the
sea, the most important principle was concentration of firepower.
Ships in concentrated formations the most effective in defeating the
enemy. Splitting the fleet as the Russians did during the Russo-
Japanese War weakened the overall strength of the fleet and the
stage for defeat.35
Attrition warfare, fundamental to the early days of naval war at
sea, is the direct approach to warfighting. It is the application of
force directly on the strength of the opposing force. Based on mass
and concentration of firepower, attrition warfare confronts the
enemy directly. It is slow, calculated, linear and more predictable.
The goal of attrition is to inflict as much damage on the enemy as
possible to compel your opponent to stop, quit, surrender or compel
him to do what you want him to. Attrition warfare is an effective
form of warfare for military powers with little experience and is
easier to be proficient at. To be effective in attrition warfare, a
military power need only to master the basics of military skills and
possess sufficient quantities of personnel, weapons and munitions.36
In land warfare, attrition's most vivid illustrations occurred
during some of the battles of the American Civil War. Massive
formations of ground forces engaging head on with the goal of
destroying the opponent before he could destroy you. Pickett's
charge at Gettysburg vividly illustrates the force on force and
tremendous number of casualties associated with attrition warfare.
Ship-to-ship engagements during the age of sail demonstrated
similar examples of attrition warfare at sea. In the Battle of Lepanto
in October 1571, the ships of the Turkish and Christian fleets
opposed each other in three squadrons abreast, each squadron
deployed line abreast. The squadrons would close, fire their guns
and maneuver to grapple, board, and fight men against men.37 All
very characteristic to combat engagements on land. The attrition
style of warfare was used up to the American Revolution and the
War of 1812, British and American vessels would maneuver and
position themselves relative to each other broadside, and pound the
opponent with naval gunfire until sinking or surrendering.
Attrition warfare can be an effective type of warfare in certain
type of scenarios. The serious drawback to attrition warfare is the
high casualty rates in both men and material associated with it. The
operational and tactical advantage is usually given to the opponent
who has the most in men and material before the engagement.
Lethality of weapons and the multi-dimensional naval battlespace
make the inherent risks of this direct approach undesirable and
more costly in modern naval warfare.
Unfortunately, Mahan, in all his wisdom, conceded to the mistaken
belief that attrition warfare strategy was durable and immune to
inevitable technological advancements.38 With the evolution of
modern weaponry, pure attrition warfare became more costly in
terms of men and materials.
By contrast to Mahan, Julian Corbett offered no general theory of
warfare at sea. Instead, Corbett focused his thoughts on the nature
of maritime strategy and what the meaning of naval warfare meant
to the power of a nation. Corbett drew his theories from the works
and experiences of Carl von Clausewitz who summarized war as a
direct "extension of politics by other means."39 While many theorist
of naval warfare tried to mechanically adopt land warfare concepts
to the maritime environment, Corbett countered that the interest
and requirement of naval warfare differed in fundamental ways
from those of land warfare. For example, the adage that lines of
communication "must be protected" is much more difficult to enforce
at sea than on land. This difficulty was the physical geographical
differences of the sea and land. Because of these physical
differences, Corbett analyzed naval warfare in its own terms, having
its own unique characteristics. He stated that "you cannot conquer
the sea because it is not susceptible of ownership."40 This led to
Corbett's most important contribution to the early theories of naval
warfare. What mattered most was not Mahan's concept of physical
destruction of the enemy, but the act of passage on the sea. To
Corbett, command of the sea was a relative and not an absolute.
Command could be general or local, temporary or permanent.41
Today, this concept is defined as "sea control."
Amplifying the studies of Corbett, John R. Thursfield in 1914,
made direct comparisons between the physical and philosophical
differences of war on land and war at sea. He analyzed, compared
and contrasted what was common and uncommon between the these
two different warfare environments. These forms of warfare, he
concluded, held similar goals in the destruction of the enemy and
appropriation of the enemy's resources. The major difference of the
two forms of warfare was the decisive impact of a conflict through
the physical occupation of territory. Naval warfare by its very
nature does not acquire portions of the sea as territory. The sea is
not territory in the sense land is; the sea is a common avenue of
transportation for all nations and is exclusive to "possession" by
Continentally, man lives from the land; at sea, man can only
survive on it. The only strategic or operational objective naval
warfare can accomplish on the sea is to "control" the use of it.42 A
warring nation that has achieved a predominant capacity to use the
sea, and control its use by others, is said to have "command of the
sea." Specifically, command of the sea, or sea control, is the ability to
defend's one's own sea communications and have ability to deny to
the enemy the freedom of sea communications he requires to carry
Some of these differences of war at sea and war on land are so
obvious they function as a barrier to achieving a deeper
comprehension of the individuality of the two environments.
Strategically, navies and armies represent two reasonably
distinctive "cultures." As a result, naval warfare and land warfare
accomplish different kinds of objectives, they wage war differently
and as a consequence have different perspectives on the actual
conduct of war. Armies have occupation or possession goals, and
navies have use or denial-of-use goals. Naval warfare is not about
the direct military effect of fighting ships, which is the realm of
tactics. It is the exploitation of maritime lines of communication for
the interconnection, organization, and purposeful application of the
war-making potential of nations.44 Naval warfare is about sea
control; and only through sea control can nations, through their
navies, achieve the desired strategic effect ashore, where people
Mahan and Corbett defined two fundamental methods of control
the sea: the actual physical destruction or capture of enemy
warships and merchants, and naval blockade. Among the numerous
examples of sea control there are two classic examples in the War of
1812 between the United States and Britain and the Cuban Missile
During the opening months of the War of 1812, the American
Navy was extremely successful in sea control, through interdiction,
against the British. Within the first year of the war, the Americans
captured three British frigates, several smaller men-of-war and
interdicted up to 500 merchant vessels. By 1813, the British,
realizing the tenacity of the Americans, and reacting to the legend
the Americans had won the war, reacted by deploying an
overwhelming naval strength along the American coast. This
increase in the number of ships deployed along the coast bottled up
many of the
American frigates in their ports for the duration of the war.46
The Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960s serves as another
example of sea control and denial-of-use. Threatened by the
deployment of Soviet strategic nuclear missiles to Cuba, the United
States mounted an extensive armada of naval warships which
effectively blockaded, euphemistically known as a "quarantine,"
Cuba on all "offensive equipment under shipment to Cuba." This
strangulation of Cuba effectively compelled the Soviets to back down
and cease shipment and withdraw the missiles deployed in Cuba.47
The theories of naval warfare by Mahan and Corbett focused on
the art of naval warfare and defined the differences of land warfare
and war at sea. They set the initial mind set towards the
employment of maneuver type doctrine. The principles of sea
control, focus on the enemy, and maneuver for tactical advantage
form the foundation which naval maneuver warfare is today.
IV. Modernization Towards Maneuver Warfare
The greatest impact on "how" navies fight is the tools they fight
with. Mahan and Corbett formed the theoretical foundation for the
conduct of naval warfare, but the modernization of naval weapon
systems had the most dramatic effect. Theories of the purpose of
sea power and "sea control" coupled with the modernization of naval
warfare formed the need for naval warfare to become more indirect.
The lethality of weapons made direct attrition tactics less effective
and more costly in national strategy. Naval strategy needed to
emphasize efficiency in battle while preserving costly assets.
The transformation of the U. S. Navy into a modern fighting force
began a full decade before Alfred Mahan published his doctrine of
sea power during the early 1900s. The initial catalyst for change
and modernization of the U. S. Navy began with William H. Hunt,
then secretary of the navy. Hunt convinced that as international
relations expanding globally, the strength and political clout of the
United States depended on a strong and respectable navy.48 He set
forth the initiative to increase naval funding to modernize and
expand the U.S. fleet. This modernization of the U.S. Navy led to
improved efficiency of movement upon the sea; expanded
effectiveness and diversity of weapons; and expansion and fusion of
the naval battlespace with that of land warfare.
The introduction of steam propulsion made movement on the sea
faster, more efficient, and more maneuverable. This was the third
major milestone in the evolution of naval warfare. After 2,000 years
of oar propulsion and 300 years of sail propulsion, naval warfare
moved into the third form of propulsion, steam.49 In addition to the
advent of steamships, steel hulls and improved metal construction
techniques increased the size and speed of ships.50 These
improvements to naval construction had a tremendous impact upon
the tempo of operations within the naval battlespace by increasing
the speed and maneuverability of ships. It expanded the tactical
and operational flexibility of surface combatants so that they could
engage, disengage, and advantageously maneuver to the best
position for offensive or defensive operations.
Steam propulsion stimulated naval theorists into extensive
speculation about its impact on tactics. For example, during the days
of sail, navies adopted the simple column due to the difficulties of
keeping station. With steam propulsion, theorists believed there was
no longer any limit to maneuver and any formation was now
possible.51 This lead to innovations in formations from the indented
line to the echelon, or inverted V formation. The significance of
these formations is that they began to accentuate relative position to
the enemy and exploit the freedom to maneuver. This opened the
options available to the commander. He could "maneuver" at will for
the best positional advantage.
Along with the development of steam propulsion, the industrial
revolution offered improvements in the efficiency and lethality of
naval weapons. Naval ships incorporated armor; the iron hull;
rifled, built-up guns; and the percussion-fused shell.52 These new
innovations improved the physical protection of ships and the
accuracy and range of naval gunfire allowing them to engage at
greater distances. Combined with the speed and maneuverability of
steam propulsion, the effectiveness of these weapon systems
affected the naval battlespace by expanding it out giving it greater
depth and speed.
Bernard Brodie in his works Sea Power in the Machine Age
studied the debate between guns and armor in 1812. He observed
that at a range of 1,000 yards, the USS Constitution was invulnerable
to enemy ships of the same class. In 1860, with the improvements
in armor, ships at the same range could not inflict catastrophic
damage to each other. If however, an armored ship engaged an
unarmored one, the armored ship could close with impunity. The
unprotected ship would have to keep the range open to survive the
engagement.53 Maneuver was inherent to the survival of the
Steam surface navies never gained enough experience in combat
to mature the doctrinal transition from sail to the modern navy.
Before the Navy developed a doctrine, the aircraft and the aircraft
carrier arrived to present new problems to naval warfare.54
The introduction of aviation and the submarine into naval warfare
expanded the naval battlespace by adding air and subsurface
warfare to the two dimensional surface problem. Sir Peter Gretton
in his study, Maritime Strategy, characterized these new expanded
dimensions as the four 'environmental forms of warfare.' He
described these as amphibious warfare, undersea warfare, to include
submarines and mines; surface ship warfare; and air warfare above
the sea.55 The naval commander faces not only the problem of
surface warfare, but the added asymmetrical elements of aviation
and subsurface warfare. Initially deployed as an observation
platform, the airplane could influence naval operations from over-
the-horizon either from a sea platform or from a land base.56
Aviation provided the ability to observe and attack the enemy
without direct commitment of naval forces. Later in the War in the
Pacific during World War II, the full effects of armed naval aircraft
were demonstrated during the carrier battles. The submarine
exploited the undersea vulnerability of surface ships by being able
to maneuver within striking distance, virtually undetected, upon its
opponent. A far greater impact that the submarine had upon naval
warfare was the uncertainty of whether or not it was actually there,
could affect enemy decision making. The expansion of war at sea by
these four forms of warfare and the additional dimensions to the
naval battlespace complexes the naval problem more by adding a
higher level of uncertainty and fluidness to the situation.
In the battle for the Atlantic during World War II, the Germans
initiated a tactic of "tonnage warfare," the strategic corollary of
earlier wolf-pack tactics. Founded on concentrating U-boat activity,
"tonnage warfare" deployed in areas where the most Allied
merchant tonnage might be sunk at minimum cost to the Germans.
It was also located where Allied defenses offered little retaliation.
When Allied defenses became strong in one area, the Germans would
redeploy to another to capitalize on "soft spots."57
Naval modernization took a simple war and complicated it. The
naval battlespace grew into a complex environment that is
multidimensional, larger in size, and faster in tempo. The lethality of
weapons pushed the naval battlespace horizons out. The airplane,
with its speed and range, and the submarine, with its ability to close
virtually undetected, increased the overall tempo of the naval battle.
During the initial modernization program of the U. S. Navy, naval
warfare was relatively simple with the interactive influence of the
land and sea warfare environments ending at the beachline. Each
environment existed in its own entity. With the exception of
embryonic amphibious operations, there was relatively no influence
between the battlespaces. The modernization of warfare marked the
beginning of a fusion process between the sea and land battlespace.
The efficiency and lethality of weapons combined with aviation
created the ability for land and naval elements to influence the other
from beyond the beachline to deep within each battlespace. Now,
naval forces could influence the land battle through naval fires and
land based forces could execute limited range sea control.
What is important about the advances and modernization of naval
warfare is it marks the beginning of an institutionalization change in
naval doctrine. The battlespace and doctrine expanded from the
addition of new battlespace dimensions that influenced the conduct
of war at sea and land. The incorporation of aviation in to modern
warfare merged the continental and maritime battlespace. In
addition, aviation initiated the successful fusion of land and sea
strategy. This began to break down much of the barriers which
existed between the two warfare environments. With modern
weaponry, a land power could influence the naval battlespace and
naval warfare now had an important impact on the land battle.
The "from the sea" influence was effective in World War II when
aircraft launched from ships and successfully attacked land targets.
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and Doolittle's
raid on Tokyo are successful employments of naval fires, influencing
the land battle, from the sea. During the Battle of Savo Island in
August 1942 the Japanese were successful in sea control by land
based aviation. Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, commanding the
carrier battle groups covering the Marine amphibious landings,
requested he be given permission to withdraw because of the
increasing threat of land based Japanese torpedo planes.58
World War I demonstrated the initiative to influence the ground
battle through maneuver warfare. When ground combat in France
reached stalemate in the fall of 1914, Britain sought means of
outflanking the Western Front to join hands militarily with Russia to
strengthen the Eastern Front. Britain used the mobility available
from sea supremacy to strike at the weak points around the edges of
the enemy's position. Sound in concept, it was a failure due to
inadequate intelligence, poor planning, and a series of tactical
errors.59 The focus from this plan was to hit the weak points, a key
element of maneuver warfare.
The British learned this lesson in the campaign in Norway during
World War II. The Royal Navy with its shortage of aircraft carriers
would not operate successfully in area dominated by land-based
aircraft. The German assault on Denmark and Norway showed how
an inferior navy with limited objectives, time and a secure supply
line could maintain it in the face of British sea power.60
Another case in point exists today. Iran is geographically situated
along the Straits of Hormuz and can effectively execute sea control
from its anti-surface ship missile sites along the coast. This can
effectively cutting of commercial and military lines of
communication into the Persian Gulf. Any land based nation
geographically situated at strategic choke points can employ limited,
but effective sea control. The Royal Navy learned this lesson during
the Faulkland Island War. Unable to provide the fleet complete
battlespace superiority, they lost a number of ships within range of
the unsuppressed land-based air power of the Argentines.61
The strategy and expansion of influence on sea control, by land
and sea powers, coupled with the technological advances propelled
the Navy toward the indirect approach to warfighting.
Advantageous position, usually in terms of weapon range and sensor
reach, became the frame of reference. Movement over greater
distances, over a shorter time is the means, but position is the end.62
V. Naval Maneuver Warfare
As illustrated in this paper, the tenets of maneuver warfare are
inherent to the way navies have conducted naval operations. What
is new in the publication of Naval Warfare (NDP-1) is the formal
institutionalization of maneuver into naval doctrine. This
institutionalization of doctrine will bring the terminology of naval
warfare in line with the other armed services maneuver warfare
doctrines. It will allow the senior U. S. Navy leadership to "speak the
language" in joint operating environments. However, Naval Warfare
also accepted a concept of maneuver warfare as it applies to the U. S.
Navy and Marine Corps. Termed Operational Maneuver From the
Sea by the Marine Corps, this new method of warfighting introduces
the use of operational maneuver by U. S. Navy and Marine Corps
expeditionary forces to project power ashore. While this is in line
with the institutionalization of naval doctrine, its focus as overall
doctrine is limited only to the projection of Marine ground forces
ashore. It does not address the other tasks and responsibilities of U.
S. Navy forces. As defined, Operational Maneuver From the Sea will
not get the serious attention it deserves from those Navy Officers in
the non-amphibious elements of naval warfare.63
Maneuver warfare as it applies to naval operations needs
definition to encompass the missions assigned to the naval services.
As discussed previously, naval warfare encompasses two
fundamental styles: attrition and maneuver. Within an overall
concept of Naval Maneuver Warfare there are two sub elements:
Operational Maneuver From the Sea and Naval Operational
Operational Maneuver From the Sea (OMFTS) addresses the
elements and requirements of the sea-land fusion. It is this fusion
of land warfare with the uniqueness of the naval battlespace which
expands the maneuver medium from the beachline to the limits of
movement or weapon systems. OMFTS exploits the flexibility of the
adjacent littoral waters and adds additional elements of firepower,
logistics and maneuver to the continental battle. This naval
influence to the land battle creates a synergistic effect of naval
capabilities from the rear area and will have a direct impact on the
deep, close and rear battles.
Within the naval context, OMFTS is a "positional" relationship to
the geography of the coast and inland area of operations.
Dimensionally, OMFTS defines the battlespace as left, right, deep,
close, on the surface and air. Maneuver warfare executes the actions
and reactions relative these positional aspects of the battlespace.
OMFTS is more than just the influence of naval power during an
amphibious operation. It also offers naval firepower, lethal and
nonlethal, to the Joint Task Force Commander to shape and react to
the evolving battlespace. Effective naval firepower consisting of
naval surface fire support, naval aviation, land attack cruise missiles,
and electronic warfare systems has proved effective in land
The culmination of the development of modern naval warfare and
the fusion of the sea-land battlespace demonstrated during
Operation Desert Storm was extremely effective. Naval surface fires
shaped the battlefield in Kuwait; naval aviation launched air strikes
against close and deep targets; Tomahawk cruise missiles destroyed
strategic targets; and naval amphibious forces created a multi front
threat to the Iraqis. Operation Desert Storm demonstrated the
viability and effectiveness of OMFTS.
Despite the successes of Operation Desert Storm and the potential
successes using maneuver warfare, modern weaponry raises serious
questions about the potential costs of amphibious operations.64
Historically, a typical amphibious assault took place within visual
range of the landing site. In today's environment the proliferation o
effective lethal weapons and improved sensors, the direct method of
amphibious assault has a significant risk of mounting high casualty
rates. The Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) and the introduction of
the MV-22 into the amphibious inventory will enable naval
amphibious forces to launch assaults from up to 200 miles offshore.
This will allow amphibious operations to come undetected from
over-the-horizon, using the sea as a maneuver medium and land at
the weak points of the enemy's defenses. The time involved in
successfully executing operational maneuver from over-the-horizon
is significantly more extensive than that of traditional amphibious
Striking the enemy's weaknesses through sea maneuver is a key
element of OMFTS. Maneuver warfare reduces the risk of friendly
casualties. The American people hold elected government officials
responsible in the commitment of military forces only after satisfied
a thorough consideration of the options and likely outcomes have
been explored. If military forces are committed, national values
play an important role in what is acceptable conduct by those
military forces. The media's ability to bring the Vietnam War into
every home revealed the real horrors of war causing a generational
shift in what is acceptable for the American way of war. It is
expected the values of the American public placed on the elected
official are also applied to the military services in their conduct of
war.65 The American populous will be intolerant of any operation
that involves high casualty rates. OMFTS reduces the potential of
high casualties on both sides while still accomplishing the mission.
By contrast to OMFTS, Naval Operational Maneuver is the
application of maneuver warfare theory to the pure maritime
environment. It is "situational" maneuver vice the "positional"
aspect of land warfare. In Naval Operational Maneuver, the
battlespace drives the "situation" naval forces meet with. Because
ships at sea inherently maneuver, the left-right aspect constantly
changes. To complicate the problem the constantly changing
situation is magnified by the four warfare environments of the naval
battle space: air, surface, subsurface and electronic environments.
The "flanks" of the naval battlespace are not physically defined as
they are in ground combat or in relation to an amphibious landing.
The flanks in Naval Maneuver Warfare include the individual
warfare environments of the naval battle space. The goal in Naval
Operational Maneuver is to compel the enemy through his decision
cycle, to concentrate more attention to one warfare area over
another. This creates a gap and vulnerability of another warfare
area to exploit.
OMFTS and Naval Operational Maneuver draw from the same
tenets of maneuver warfare doctrine. The breakdown of Naval
Maneuver Warfare into two distinct categories emphasizes the
particular idiosyncrasies of these dynamic environments. While the
basic concepts are the same, the widening of the naval doctrine from
just amphibious operations and OMFTS will ensure a broader
institutionalization in to naval warfare. The application of maneuver
warfare becomes universal to all of naval operations; and universal
to joint warfare.
There is nothing new about Naval Maneuver Warfare. The
concepts of maneuver warfare are fundamental to the conduct of
naval operations. Naval forces have used maneuver on the sea to
gain positional and situational advantage from the inception of naval
warfighting. Focusing on the enemy, positional advantage, indirect
application of force, and commander's intent are concepts not new to
naval warfare and have evolved from the modernization of warfare.
The bulk of U. S. Navy doctrine has been unwritten and passed along
through the shared experiences of its officers. These shared
experiences do not need to be written as doctrine. A large part of
U. S. Navy doctrine exists in commander's intent.66
What has changed is the institutionalization of a tactical and
operational naval strategy parallel with the strategy adopted for
land warfare. Naval Warfare has taken these unwritten concepts of
navy doctrine and published a starting point the for the U. S. Navy
and Marine Corps to formally publish how it intends to conduct war.
With the technological developments incorporated into naval
warfare and future systems in development, the battlespace for the
next war will involve elements of land and naval warfare. There
will be few operations in the future that will rely solely on naval or
Institutionalization of maneuver warfare places the Navy on a
level playing field with the other armed services and the Navy itself.
Naval doctrine now becomes institutionalized rather than the style of
a particular naval commander. Naval commanders from all
warfighting environments of the naval battlespace will have a
greater understanding and easier translation of the joint operation at
hand. Confusion or short sidedness as demonstrated during
Guadalcanal can be prevented before it happens. Because doctrine
will have a common thread between ground combat and naval
operations, each service will have a better understanding of the
capabilities of the other. The full potential of what each service
brings to the table creates the absolute maximum synergistic effect
From a selfish standpoint, the Navy only stands to gain from
universally adopting a common "joint" vocabulary by
institutionalizing Naval Maneuver Warfare. The results will be
better amphibious and naval component commanders, as well as,
experienced Joint Task Force Commanders. Not only will the Navy
have the doctrinal background to execute the mission, but it will
have the credibility with other component commanders to ensure
the efforts of combat power are focuses and efficient.
For the nation, maneuver warfare is the only doctrine acceptable.
The mass media increases the public awareness of the horrors of war
virtually "real time" and decreases the tolerance of human suffering.
Maneuver warfare if conducted properly, minimizes casualties and
decreases destruction. In addition, national military assets are
becoming increasingly more costly to procure and maintain.
Maneuver warfare will allow the nation to do more with less.
Maneuver warfare must be practiced to be effective. It is not a
doctrine which can be pulled out of a play book. It is not tactics.
Because of the intense coordination between numerous assets from
different warfighting capabilities, it is absolutely critical that these
warfighting capabilities be engaged and synergistically tuned to
perfection. Effective warfare proficiency cannot be done solely from
reading and studying. It is a hands-on evolution. The practice of
maneuver in actual combat without adequate training has the strong
potential to backfire and generated unacceptable levels of casualties.
Frank Uhlig, Jr. in his article "How Navies Fight, and Why" stated
there were five robust, resilient missions of naval warfare. These
include: the strategic movement of troops, acquisition of advanced
bases, landing of armies, blockage, and struggle for mastery of the
local sea.67 Naval Maneuver Warfare supports these missions while
staying within the sociopolitical environment that exists today.
The U.S. Navy does not need to change course with maneuver
warfare; it has been on course.
1 Department of the Navy White Paper," ...From the Sea",(Washington DC: Department of the
2 James F. Dunnigan, How to Make War (New York: Westview Press, 1988), 574.
3 William S. Lind, Maneuver Warfare Handbook (Boulder:Westview Press,1985),7.
4 Field Manual (FM) 100-5, Operations (Washington, DC: Department of the Army, June 1993),
5 Potter, Sea Power A Naval History (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1960), 148.
6 Potter, 517.
7 Fleet Marine Manual (FMFM) 1, Warfighting (Washington, DC: Department of the Navy,
Headquarters United States Marine Corps, March 1989), 29.
10 Lind, 6-7.
11 Carl von Clausewitz, On War (London: Penguin Books, 1982), 269.
12 Naval Doctrine Publication(NDP)1, Naval Warfare (Washington DC: Department of the Navy,
March 1994), 35.
14 George Carroll Dyer, The Amphibians Came to Conquer (Washington DC: Department of
the Navy, 1969),384.
15 NDP-1, 35.
16 NDP-1, 72.
17 Naval Doctrine Publication (NDP)2, Naval Intelligence (Washington DC: Department of the
Navy, September 1994), 63.
18 Eliot A. Cohen and John Gooch, Military Misfortunes, The Anatomy of Failure in War (New
York: Vintage Books, 1991), 59-62.
19 NDP-1, 73.
20 NDP-1, 73.
21 Executive Summary for Agile Provider 94, May 1994.
22 NDP-1. 38.
23 Milan Vego, Soviet Naval Tactis (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1992), 45.
24 Vego, 45.
25 Vego, 45.
26 Vego, 46.
27 Vego, 48.
28 Potter, 364-365.
29 Potter, 229.
30 John Gooch, "Maritime Command: Mahan and Colbert". In Seapower and Strategy. Ed.Colin
S. Grey and Roger W. Barnett, 25-56. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1989.
31 Colin S. Gray, "Seapower and Landpower".In Seapower and Strategy. Ed. Colin S.Gray and
Roger W. Barnett, 25-46. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute, 1989.
32 Julian Corbett, Maritime Strategy (London: Longman. Green and Co, 1911),87.
33 Alfred T. Mahan, Naval Strategy (London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1911), 17 and
Gooch, pp 25-46.
34 Mahan, 8.
35 Mahan, 386.
36 Dunnigan, How to Make War,, 574.
37 Potter, 18.
38 Wayne P. Hughes,Jr.,"Maritime Command: Mahan and Corbett". In Seapower and Strategy.
Ed. by Colin S. Gray and Roger W. Barnett, 45-73. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1989.
39 Clausewitz, 109.
41 John Gooch, 25-46.
42 James Thursfield, Naval Warfare (Cambridge: University Press, 1913), 12-15.
43 Potter, 14.
45 Colin S.Gray, The Leverage of Sea Power (New York: The Free Press, 1992), 1.
46 Nathan Miller, The U.S. Navy, A History (New York: Quill, 1990), 68.
47 Miller, 260.
48 Miller, 148.
49 Potter, 241.
50 Edward L.Beach, The United States Navy, 2OO Years (NewYork: Henry Holt and Company,
51 Potter, 242.
52 Potter, 241.
53 Beach, 514.
54 Potter, 338.
55 Peter Gretton, Maritime Strategy (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1999), 102.
56 Potter, 636.
57 Potter, 547.
58 Stephen D. Regan, In Bitter Tempest (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1994), 191.
59 Potter, 474.
60 Potter, 518.
61 James F.Dunnigan and Austin Bay, A Quick and Dirty Guide to War (New York: William Morrow
and Company, Inc., 1985), 128.
62 Hughes, 62.
63 Peter F. Herrly's review of NDP-1 Naval Warfare in Proceedings (December 1994), 82.
64 Lind, 37.
65 FM 100-5, page 1-3.
66 James J. Tritten, Naval Doctrine...From the Sea (Norfolk: Naval Doctrine Command,December
67 Frank Uhlig, Jr.,"How Navies Fight, and Why,"in Naval War College Review (Winter 1995), 35.
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