March 23, 2015 | Commentary on National Security and Defense, Armed Forces

The Art in War

The attention lavished on AirSea Battle and the controversy swirling around the pivot to Asia often seem to ignore the U.S.’ long history of major land combat in the Asia-Pacific Theater from World War II to Korea and Vietnam. None of these were optional wars; each responded to a perceived threat to U.S. vital interests. Forgetting America’s land-war heritage in Asia makes no sense. South Pacific Cauldron: World War II’s Great Forgotten Battlegrounds by Alan Rems makes that point well.

In truth, the great land campaigns of the Pacific War are not nearly as forgotten as the book flap suggests. While the scales of published history tilt heavily toward the Western Front, there are an awful lot of very good studies on the campaigns on the other side of the world. The official Marine Corps and Army histories of these battles are particularly strong and have held up pretty well over the years. For example, War in the Pacific: Victory In Papua by Samuel Milner, part of the Army’s official “green book” histories, remains a solid and valued work. The Australian histories are equally impressive. In recent years, much more of the Japanese side of the story has appeared in English as well.

That said, Rems, an independent scholar, has assembled a competent and complete summary history of the South Pacific. He doesn’t neglect the role of the joint force, giving appropriate coverage of the naval and air forces. He adds in the strategic context in which the campaigns occurred and sketches out the plans of the Japanese strategic and operational commanders. This book is also good at pinpointing the key operational debates and controversies of the various campaigns. Rems interjects his own sober and reasoned judgments on many of them.

The great value of collecting these campaigns in one volume will be for students of war interested in how militaries learn and adapt over time as well as the role of improvisation in campaign planning. The commanders and troops that landed at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands performed, thought and looked quite differently from the forces that fought at Okinawa. The evolution of American land and amphibious power really emerges from reading these campaign histories in one integrated narrative.

In particular, the book ought to be of great interest to those who study the art of operational design. It is no small feat to plan operations to fit the enemy, circumstances, geography, logistics and mission requirements of a unique theater rather than force military decisionmaking into a cookie-cutter process that tries to turn every task into the same problem. Even Pacific commanders often engaged in operational design may never have had a name for it.

They may not be household names in history, but many Pacific ground commanders were some of the best in the business—powerful leaders and imaginative tacticians. Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger is a case in point. He succeeded in the Papua New Guinea campaign with far more efficiency than what could reasonably be imagined under the circumstances. Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins did such a competent job in the Pacific that he was shipped to Europe to command a corps where he performed equally well under very different conditions.

There are few aspects of operational design on which South Pacific Cauldron can’t offer food for thought.

Lt. Col. James Jay Carafano, USA Ret., Ph.D., served in Europe, Korea and the U.S. Before retiring, he was the executive editor of Joint Forces Quarterly, DoD’s professional military journal. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Carafano holds a master’s degree and a doctorate from Georgetown University as well as a master’s in strategy from the U.S. Army War College.

- See more at: http://www.armymagazine.org/2015/03/12/book-reviews#sthash.E22O8CNW.dpuf

The attention lavished on AirSea Battle and the controversy swirling around the pivot to Asia often seem to ignore the U.S.’ long history of major land combat in the Asia-Pacific Theater from World War II to Korea and Vietnam. None of these were optional wars; each responded to a perceived threat to U.S. vital interests. Forgetting America’s land-war heritage in Asia makes no sense. South Pacific Cauldron: World War II’s Great Forgotten Battlegrounds by Alan Rems makes that point well.

In truth, the great land campaigns of the Pacific War are not nearly as forgotten as the book flap suggests. While the scales of published history tilt heavily toward the Western Front, there are an awful lot of very good studies on the campaigns on the other side of the world. The official Marine Corps and Army histories of these battles are particularly strong and have held up pretty well over the years. For example, War in the Pacific: Victory In Papua by Samuel Milner, part of the Army’s official “green book” histories, remains a solid and valued work. The Australian histories are equally impressive. In recent years, much more of the Japanese side of the story has appeared in English as well.

That said, Rems, an independent scholar, has assembled a competent and complete summary history of the South Pacific. He doesn’t neglect the role of the joint force, giving appropriate coverage of the naval and air forces. He adds in the strategic context in which the campaigns occurred and sketches out the plans of the Japanese strategic and operational commanders. This book is also good at pinpointing the key operational debates and controversies of the various campaigns. Rems interjects his own sober and reasoned judgments on many of them.

The great value of collecting these campaigns in one volume will be for students of war interested in how militaries learn and adapt over time as well as the role of improvisation in campaign planning. The commanders and troops that landed at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands performed, thought and looked quite differently from the forces that fought at Okinawa. The evolution of American land and amphibious power really emerges from reading these campaign histories in one integrated narrative.

In particular, the book ought to be of great interest to those who study the art of operational design. It is no small feat to plan operations to fit the enemy, circumstances, geography, logistics and mission requirements of a unique theater rather than force military decisionmaking into a cookie-cutter process that tries to turn every task into the same problem. Even Pacific commanders often engaged in operational design may never have had a name for it.

They may not be household names in history, but many Pacific ground commanders were some of the best in the business—powerful leaders and imaginative tacticians. Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger is a case in point. He succeeded in the Papua New Guinea campaign with far more efficiency than what could reasonably be imagined under the circumstances. Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins did such a competent job in the Pacific that he was shipped to Europe to command a corps where he performed equally well under very different conditions.

There are few aspects of operational design on which South Pacific Cauldron can’t offer food for thought.

Lt. Col. James Jay Carafano, USA Ret., Ph.D., served in Europe, Korea and the U.S. Before retiring, he was the executive editor of Joint Forces Quarterly, DoD’s professional military journal. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Carafano holds a master’s degree and a doctorate from Georgetown University as well as a master’s in strategy from the U.S. Army War College.

- See more at: http://www.armymagazine.org/2015/03/12/book-reviews#sthash.E22O8CNW.dpuf

The attention lavished on AirSea Battle and the controversy swirling around the pivot to Asia often seem to ignore the U.S.’ long history of major land combat in the Asia-Pacific Theater from World War II to Korea and Vietnam. None of these were optional wars; each responded to a perceived threat to U.S. vital interests. Forgetting America’s land-war heritage in Asia makes no sense. South Pacific Cauldron: World War II’s Great Forgotten Battlegrounds by Alan Rems makes that point well.

In truth, the great land campaigns of the Pacific War are not nearly as forgotten as the book flap suggests. While the scales of published history tilt heavily toward the Western Front, there are an awful lot of very good studies on the campaigns on the other side of the world. The official Marine Corps and Army histories of these battles are particularly strong and have held up pretty well over the years. For example, War in the Pacific: Victory In Papua by Samuel Milner, part of the Army’s official “green book” histories, remains a solid and valued work. The Australian histories are equally impressive. In recent years, much more of the Japanese side of the story has appeared in English as well.

That said, Rems, an independent scholar, has assembled a competent and complete summary history of the South Pacific. He doesn’t neglect the role of the joint force, giving appropriate coverage of the naval and air forces. He adds in the strategic context in which the campaigns occurred and sketches out the plans of the Japanese strategic and operational commanders. This book is also good at pinpointing the key operational debates and controversies of the various campaigns. Rems interjects his own sober and reasoned judgments on many of them.

The great value of collecting these campaigns in one volume will be for students of war interested in how militaries learn and adapt over time as well as the role of improvisation in campaign planning. The commanders and troops that landed at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands performed, thought and looked quite differently from the forces that fought at Okinawa. The evolution of American land and amphibious power really emerges from reading these campaign histories in one integrated narrative.

In particular, the book ought to be of great interest to those who study the art of operational design. It is no small feat to plan operations to fit the enemy, circumstances, geography, logistics and mission requirements of a unique theater rather than force military decisionmaking into a cookie-cutter process that tries to turn every task into the same problem. Even Pacific commanders often engaged in operational design may never have had a name for it.

They may not be household names in history, but many Pacific ground commanders were some of the best in the business—powerful leaders and imaginative tacticians. Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger is a case in point. He succeeded in the Papua New Guinea campaign with far more efficiency than what could reasonably be imagined under the circumstances. Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins did such a competent job in the Pacific that he was shipped to Europe to command a corps where he performed equally well under very different conditions.

There are few aspects of operational design on which South Pacific Cauldron can’t offer food for thought.

Lt. Col. James Jay Carafano, USA Ret., Ph.D., served in Europe, Korea and the U.S. Before retiring, he was the executive editor of Joint Forces Quarterly, DoD’s professional military journal. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Carafano holds a master’s degree and a doctorate from Georgetown University as well as a master’s in strategy from the U.S. Army War College.

- See more at: http://www.armymagazine.org/2015/03/12/book-reviews#sthash.E22O8CNW.dpuf
The attention lavished on AirSea Battle and the controversy swirling around the pivot to Asia often seem to ignore the U.S.’ long history of major land combat in the Asia-Pacific Theater from World War II to Korea and Vietnam. None of these were optional wars; each responded to a perceived threat to U.S. vital interests. Forgetting America’s land-war heritage in Asia makes no sense. South Pacific Cauldron: World War II’s Great Forgotten Battlegrounds by Alan Rems makes that point well.

In truth, the great land campaigns of the Pacific War are not nearly as forgotten as the book flap suggests. While the scales of published history tilt heavily toward the Western Front, there are an awful lot of very good studies on the campaigns on the other side of the world. The official Marine Corps and Army histories of these battles are particularly strong and have held up pretty well over the years. For example, War in the Pacific: Victory In Papua by Samuel Milner, part of the Army’s official “green book” histories, remains a solid and valued work. The Australian histories are equally impressive. In recent years, much more of the Japanese side of the story has appeared in English as well.

That said, Rems, an independent scholar, has assembled a competent and complete summary history of the South Pacific. He doesn’t neglect the role of the joint force, giving appropriate coverage of the naval and air forces. He adds in the strategic context in which the campaigns occurred and sketches out the plans of the Japanese strategic and operational commanders. This book is also good at pinpointing the key operational debates and controversies of the various campaigns. Rems interjects his own sober and reasoned judgments on many of them.

The great value of collecting these campaigns in one volume will be for students of war interested in how militaries learn and adapt over time as well as the role of improvisation in campaign planning. The commanders and troops that landed at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands performed, thought and looked quite differently from the forces that fought at Okinawa. The evolution of American land and amphibious power really emerges from reading these campaign histories in one integrated narrative.

In particular, the book ought to be of great interest to those who study the art of operational design. It is no small feat to plan operations to fit the enemy, circumstances, geography, logistics and mission requirements of a unique theater rather than force military decisionmaking into a cookie-cutter process that tries to turn every task into the same problem. Even Pacific commanders often engaged in operational design may never have had a name for it.

They may not be household names in history, but many Pacific ground commanders were some of the best in the business—powerful leaders and imaginative tacticians. Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger is a case in point. He succeeded in the Papua New Guinea campaign with far more efficiency than what could reasonably be imagined under the circumstances. Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins did such a competent job in the Pacific that he was shipped to Europe to command a corps where he performed equally well under very different conditions.

There are few aspects of operational design on which South Pacific Cauldron can’t offer food for thought.

 - Lt. Col. James Jay Carafano, USA Ret., Ph.D., served in Europe, Korea and the U.S. Before retiring, he was the executive editor of Joint Forces Quarterly, DoD’s professional military journal. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Carafano holds a master’s degree and a doctorate from Georgetown University as well as a master’s in strategy from the U.S. Army War College.

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow

From ARMY Magazine, Vol. 65, No. 4, April 2015. Copyright 2015 by the Association of the U.S. Army and reprinted by permission of ARMY Magazine