Principles of War

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Dennis Mahan's son, Alfred T. Mahan , joined the college in and a year later became its president. Never divide the fleet, Mahan admonished.

Principles of War

Seek out your opponent and strike him down in an overwhelming display of massive and concentrated seapower. Among naval officers, Mahan's seapower themes remained popular well into the twentieth century. For the most part, not until the demise of the Soviet Navy in the late s did the U.

Navy begin looking beyond Jomini and Mahan for other strategic concepts. On occasion, strict adherence to the Mahanian principles proved to be unproductive. During the Battle of Leyte Gulf , Adm. William F. Halsey elected to sail his main fleet from the San Bernadino Straits and throw it, in mass, upon the Japanese carriers, which proved to be decoys.

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In an effort never to divide the fleet, Halsey vacated San Bernadino, allowing a second Japanese force to sail through the straits, defeated surprisingly by a small if aggressive U. During the early twentieth century, the Principles of War slowly became an essential part of the military's lexicon. British Gen. Fuller, in an attempt to establish a science of war, was one of the first to codify Jomini's postulates into short, easy to understand concepts.

Writing in various military journals, Fuller helped popularize their use. Urged on by the rise of corporate scientific management, American officers also searched for new ways to make warfare subject to a rational analysis. Thus, in the s, for the first time, the War Department included these principles in its training manuals.

Because they were practical, logical, teachable, and above all easy to test, the principles quickly became preferred classroom topics. Today, these lessons remain an important part of the military's educational process. Despite their popularity, some claimed the principles were not adequate in explaining war. Prussia's Karl von Clausewitz affirmed that any attempt to rationalize war into postulates was flirting with fantasy. War, he said in his unfinished work On War , was too involved with immeasurable moral and other factors to be reduced to a science.

Two centuries later, America's Bernard Brodie observed that the principles provided an inappropriate insight into war's ambiguities. Finally, a few scholars claimed that violation of the principles has prompted more successful operations than when they were rigidly observed. Had Halsey not insisted on concentrating his fleet leaving San Bernadino Strait undefended, for example, he might have prevented a vicious Japanese attack against American escort carriers off Samar Island. Despite criticisms, the Principles of War remain popular because they provide strategic planners with some basic considerations.

Brevet Colonel J. Bernard Brodie , Strategy in the Missile Age , Russell F. Carl von Clausewitz , On War , trans. John I. Armed Forces , Joint Warfare of the U. Armed Forces , It is the wrong kind of caution, which, as I have said already in my "General Principles," is contrary to the nature of war. For great aims we must dare great things. When we are engaged in a daring enterprise, the right caution consists in not neglecting out of laziness, indolence, or carelessness those measures which help us to gain our aim.

Such was the case of Napoleon, who never pursued great aims in a timid or half-hearted way out of caution. If you remember, Most Gracious Master, the few defensive battles that have ever been won, you will find that the best of them have been conducted in the spirit of the principles voiced here. For it is the study of the history of war which has given us these principles.

At Minden, Duke Ferdinand suddenly appeared where the enemy did not expect him and took the offensive, while at Tannhausen he defended himself passively behind earthworks.

Nine Principles of War

At Liegnitz, the Austrians found the King at night in a position very different from that in which they had seen him the previous day. He fell with his whole army upon one enemy column and defeated it before the others could start fighting. At Hohenlinden, Moreau had five divisions in his front line and four directly behind and on his flanks. He outflanked the enemy and fell upon his right wing before it could attack. At Ratisbon, Marshal Davout defended himself passively, while Napoleon attacked the fifth and sixth army-corps with his right wing and beat them completely.

Though the Austrians were the real defenders at Wagram, they did attack the emperor on the second day with the greater part of their forces. Therefore Napoleon can also be considered a defender. With his right wing he attacked, outflanked and defeated the Austrian left wing.

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At the same time he paid little attention to his weak left wing consisting of a single division , which was resting on the Danube. Yet through strong reserves i.

The Battle of Austerlitz and the Principles of War

He used these reserves to retake Aderklaa. Not all the principles mentioned earlier are clearly contained in each of these battles, but all are examples of active defense. The mobility of the Prussian army under Frederick II was a means towards victory on which we can no longer count, since the other armies are at least as mobile as we are. On the other hand, outflanking was less common at that time and formation in depth, therefore, less imperative.

General Principles For Offense. We must select for our attack one point of the enemy's position i. This is the only way that we can use an equal or smaller force to fight with advantage and thus with a chance of success. The weaker we are, the fewer troops we should use to keep the enemy occupied at unimportant points, in order to be as strong as possible at the decisive point. Frederick II doubtlessly won the battle of Leuthen only because he massed his small army together in one place and thus was very concentrated, as compared to the enemy.

We should direct our main thrust against an enemy wing by attacking it from the front and from the flank, or by turning it completely and attacking it from the rear. Only when we cut off the enemy's line of retreat are we assured of great success in victory. Even though we are strong, we should still direct our main attack against one point only.

The US Army’s Nine Principles of War - Wes MD

In that way we shall gain more strength at this point. For to surround an army completely is possible only in rare cases and requires tremendous physical or moral superiority. It is possible, however, to cut off the enemy's line of retreat at one point of his flank and thereby already gain great success. Generally speaking, the chief aim is the certainty high probability of victory, that is, the certainty of driving the enemy from the field of battle. The plan of battle must be directed towards this end. For it is easy to change an indecisive victory into a decisive one through energetic pursuit of the enemy. Let us assume that the enemy has troops enough on one wing to make a front in all directions.

Our main force should try to attack the wing concentrically, so his troops find themselves assailed from all sides. Under these circumstances his troops will get discouraged much more quickly; they suffer more, get disordered—in short, we can hope to turn them to flight much more easily.