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Joint U.S. Army-Navy War Planning on the Eve of the First World War

Authored by Colonel Adolf Carlson.

February 16, 1998

39 Pages

Brief Synopsis

This paper traces the development of U.S. strategic appreciations, and the planning that went along with them, in the years prior to the American entry into the First World War. In its conclusions, the paper will endeavor to demonstrate the ways in which the challenges faced by that generation of Americans were similar to the ones we face today


All the histories of the First World War devote considerable attention to the impact of war plans and war planners—how in the foreign relations among the great powers war plans became factors in their own right. Many of these plans revealed volumes about the attitudes of the officers who wrote them, from the offensive a l’outrance of French plan XVII (“even the customs officials attack”) to the cold calculation of the Schlieffen plan, which called for the invasion of an unoffensive neutral country to achieve a military advantage.

Americans usually exclude themselves when they discuss the pre-war military plans, but there were U.S. war plans in 1914. How these plans were developed, and their impact on the development of American strategic thought will be the theme of this paper, revealing a United States less militarily naive than commonly thought and suggesting insights relevant to U.S. strategy on the eve of the next century.

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