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The Marine Corps Way of War

The Marine Corps Way of War

Anthony J Piscitelli
ARRSE Rating
2 Mushroom Heads
This is a 'civilian' account of the USMC getting back to manoeuvre-based strategy and tactics after the aberration of sometimes using an attritional approach, with its heavy butcher's bill, in WW2 and Vietnam. What 'manoeuvre' means is to some extent explained in the text but what it boils down to is using common sense and the sort of leadership long ago practised by Nelson. Not visible is what I think is the real reason for the USMC getting back to its own basics, which is that whereas a conscript army, with its less well-trained men and junior officers, can only fight the attritional way, drawing on a bottomless pool of draftees to fill the resultant vacancies; an all-volunteer force with its longer-serving and better trained people can fight smarter, and indeed must as it cannot afford irreplaceable numbers of casualties. It s also to the point that circumstances may dictate the choice of attritional or manoeuvre methods, or a mixture of the two. The strategic concept of Gallipoli, a vast out-flanking of the enemy, was 'manoeuvre'; its execution was disastrously attritional.

This tome reads like an academic thesis except that the English is not well written. Infelicities of grammar and vocabulary meant that it was sometimes quite difficult to construe the actual message. 'Denigration' on p.29 is, I suppose, meant to be 'degradation' and 'intersession' on p.119, 'intercession'. There is a lot of repetition, for instance half of p.66 is a verbatim repeat of half of p.57. This is a pity because buried in the verbiage are some very good accounts of a number of 'Small Wars' in which the USMC has been involved, albeit mostly told from an exclusively USMC viewpoint. The narratives here of Gulf War 2 and Afghanistan and of failures therein deserve a wider readership.

The book is he product of deep research, as shown by the copious lists of references and interviews which provide the jargon-ridden duff with a number of interesting currants. The in-service education programme for USMC personnel, together with its rank-striated reading list are worthy of note. For an early application of the actual techniques, particularly in keeping the enemy off-balance, one need look no further back than Germany's 1940 Blitzkrieg in Western Europe, although the defeat of Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne at Saratoga in 1777 suggests that the US armed forces have always had manoeuvre and fieldcraft in their genes should they choose to deploy such. The largely British-organised deception programmes for WW2's Sicily and Normandy landings show what can be done to tie down enemy forces where they are completely out of the battle. It would have been generous to note that the idea of arriving from the sea by helicopter was, very successfully, originated by the Royal Navy in 1956.

An interesting book, but it was hard work reading it.

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